Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vale: Harold Ramis.

I remember clearly the first time I saw Animal House. It was the early 80s, I was at a friend's house, and we watched it on his Beta VCR.

I loved it.

Of course I went on to watch anything that had anything to do with those involved in that film, including such films as Stripes, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and, of course, Ghostbusters.

Harold Ramis, who played the ultra-nerd Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, has passed away at the age of 69. Ramis was involved in all those films, either writing, directing or as an actor.

If, there is indeed a ghostly afterlife, I sure hope he comes back to haunt the others.

"Don't cross the streams."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

After Death Is Shortlisted.

More great news.

After Death, the anthology which includes
I Was The Walrus, my John Lennon reincarnation story, has been voted to the 2013 HWA Bram Stoker Award® Final Ballot!

Congratulations to Eric J. Guignard, an amazing editor who is truly deserving of this recognition. Well done, mate.

If you haven't read this anthology yet, you should.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Story Is Coming In Galaxy's Edge.

How on earth did I manage to squeeze in between Cherryh and Sheckley? I still can't believe it.

Add Malzberg, Sprague de Camp, Benford and you'll find me all a quiver. Huge fanboy moment. I mean, these are names that have been on my bookshelf since I was a teenager.

In more recent years I've been impressed by Torgersen and Shoemaker. I'd go as far as calling them online friends. And I feel honoured to share a TOC with these guys as well. I know most of the other names, I'm sorry I'm just not familiar with their writing. So little time, so many books.

My story, Holland: 1944, goes live in Galaxy's Edge #7 next Saturday. It'll be free on the website until the following issue. And it's available for purchase as an ebook or in print.

Thanks Mike Resnick, Shahid Mahmud and Laura Somerville.

Contributor copies appear to have arrived in the U.S., which means mine is hopefully somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Teaching And Learning.

Another experiment. This time with the notorious Show, don't tell rule.

I showed my high-school writing students the opening paragraph of The Hunger Games, and then asked what information we could elicit from that piece of text. I disallowed anything that was prior knowledge, from previously having seen the film or read the book. I think we were all surprised at what an information packed opening that is. And none of it is told, it's all shown.

To make the whole thing even clearer for the students, I then showed my version of the opening, rewritten to be all told rather than shown. It was obvious which piece of writing was more interesting. (and no, it wasn't mine.)

I know some people who have trouble understanding the whole Show, don't tell thing. And yes, I am aware that it's a guideline and there are times when telling is perfectly acceptable. But if you want to lock the concept into your brain, try this for yourself.

I think I learned something myself. And the kids certainly understood it. Let's hope they start applying it.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Memberships And Associations.

In the great SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) uproar, it appears battlelines are being drawn with personal attacks, accusations, and petitions flying in all directions. I haven't followed it so closely that I know all the ins and outs, but I do know it has escalated wildly out of control.

I read a post on Facebook this morning by William Ledbetter detailing his views on SFWA membership. Like William, I have held membership as a personal writing goal since the days I first started writing, Unlike William, I am not yet eligible - although I am a third of the way to full membership, and about to qualify for Associate membership.

But there are a number of members who are currently questioning the value of being part of the Association, which gives those of us on the cusp reason to question our impending membership. Like William, I think I will join when eligible, simply because it's been a goal. And after a year of membership I'll consider whether to renew or not.

Currently, I am an associate member of the HWA (Horror Writers Association), and I have found them to be fantastic, relevant, and full of great resources.

In Australia we have the AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association). I've been a member for several years now, although I'm not primarily a horror writer. Having said that, I have made a number of horror sales, and twice been in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror recommended reading list. I think I joined in the final days of the AHWA's glory years. I loved being a member back then, but the AHWA seems to have become increasingly less relevant over the past few years. Now their decision to axe the print version of Midnight Echo seems like a death warrant. It's short sighted and pointless, particularly when other options were seemingly ignored by the committee. And communication? There is none. There was a general public announcement regarding these decisions, but the membership is yet to be told officially. I regret renewing my membership a few months ago, and don't plan to renew it later this year.

Midnight Echo has been a fantastic publication. I've only ever subbed to it once. The horror I write tends to be gentle, and every editor seemed to call for horror that pushed boundaries

A few of years ago, someone started the ASFFWA. (The Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association) I joined, but nothing really happened with it. I believe it was created with the best intentions, but I found it to be little more than a facebook for writers. It seems to have disappeared, and that is a shame.

Is it time for the AHWA to expand genre-wise? Is it necessary to remain solely horror, or can that be a sub-branch within a greater organisation? Does Australia have the horror writer population to maintain an organisation such as this? Could we create the Australian Speculative Fiction Writers Association, catering to horror, science fiction and fantasy? That would increase the membership.

Whatever happens, an association needs to have value for money. It needs to assist and represent its membership, and that appears to be where each of these organisations has ultimately failed.

I'm hoping the AHWA sorts itself out. I'm really hoping that once the dust has settled, the SFWA emerges re-focused, re-energised, re-unified and with clearly defined goals and aims.

Oh, and being an international organisation, isn't it about time they changed their name to reflect that, and the new start?

How about the Science Fiction Writers Association?

Friday, February 14, 2014


All sales are good, but some are better than others.

I'm thrilled to announce that I've sold a story
, The Last of the Butterflies, to award winning publisher Keith Stevenson at Couer de Lion.  

Keith's new emagazine venture, Dimension6, is due for launch in April. My story will be available in Issue 3. (due October, 2014). I previously published So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper with Keith in Anywhere But Earth.

This means I (once more) share space with the fabulous Cat Sparks, Rob Hood, Richard Harland, Jason Nahrung and Alan Baxter  in this magazine's first year.

And if you haven't subbed yet, the reading period is still open for another 8 days.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Quotes From The Week.

It's been a very busy week at Chateau Cameron. Not only have I been out virtually every night, but it's the beginning of the school year and I've had lots of meetings and planning. And I have a couple of deadlines due. 

I've stumbled across a few quotes this week, and I thought I'd share them here. One of them is apt due to my experiences, and how I might apply them to my stories, while another is about other creative pursuits but, with a simple word exchange, could easily be about writing.

"Being a police officer is like having a front row seat to the greatest show on earth."
            - S.I. (Mick) Miller. 

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
            - Anton Chekhov. 

"Artists - musicians, painters, writers, poets, always seem to have had the most accurate perception of what is really going on around them, not the official version or the popular perception of contemporary life."
            - Billy Joel.

"Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. Tell them it's research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone."
            - Jennifer Weiner.

"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple."
            - Jack Kerouac.

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that"
            - Stephen King.

"Don't make music for some vast, unseen audience or market or ratings share or even for something as tangible as money. Though it's crucial to make a living, that shouldn't be your inspiration. Do it for yourself."
            - Billy Joel.

"Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either."
            - Meg Cabot.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Myth Of Writers.

'A writer is someone who writes.'

I've seen this written many times, as a definition, as some kind of motivational mantra, as a badge of honour. I'm not convinced by it at all. I find it a bit like someone who removes a splinter from someone's finger calling themselves a Doctor.

Yes, I know. It's not the best analogy. Writing is quite different. There's a lot of training required to be a doctor but no qualification is necessary to be a 'writer'. Of course you can study writing and improve and receive a qualification, but when I submit a story to a magazine the editor never asks to see a copy of my university transcription. And this is true for much of the creative arts field.

Here's a better analogy.

If I met someone who told me they were a football player, my first question would be about which team they play for. If they told me they just kicked the ball around their backyard or occasionally played with a couple of friends in the park, and had never actually been selected in a team, I doubt I'd consider them a football player. They're just someone who kicks a ball around with friends.

And I think this shows the difference between a writer and someone who writes. To be a writer there needs to be some kind of validation. My writer friend defines it as someone who is paid for words. This is a more accurate description.

Last night I went to see a 'musician'. One of the descriptors used in the advertising was 'amazing', and 'as good as they get', and so on. It was a very respectable venue, and I thought I might be on to someone hot very early in their career. I must admit I was taken for a ride - a bit of false advertising. I should have realised when the tickets were as cheap as they were.

Eight people were in the audience. The 'musician' was terribly unprofessional, no stage presence whatsoever, awful karaoke style backing tracks, and couldn't play their instrument very well at all.

My friend and I suffered all the way through a dreadful support act, only to leave during the second song.

My guess is this 'musician' and 'support' (who turned out to be good friends) booked the venue for themselves, advertised it in a few places, made a giant loss on the whole thing, but can now claim to have played there on their websites.

A musician? Absolutely not.

What about someone who has knocked together a couple of thousand words and stuck them up on smashwords? A writer?

Possibly, possibly not. As I said, there has to be some validation, sales or similar that can be seen as some level of recognition.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

If You Love It, Let It Go.

My friend and fellow traveller in writing, Gitte Christensen, wrote a blogpost this week about what it can be like to be a writer of speculative fiction.

Maybe it's because I came to writing quite a bit later than most, but my experience has been a little different. I don't think I've ever made excuses for writing SF, or tried to fudge the genre too much.

There are a couple of reasons for this - the first being that I write across a couple of genres. My first published story, in a horror anthology, is not considered horror by many people. Most see it as a paranormal romance. I guess it doesn't matter how much the walls of pigeonholes are blurred (or completely bent) these days, speculative fiction is still considered speculative fiction. And I guess that's what I mostly write.

Yes, I've been caught in those conversations with people who declare they loved The Road, or Avatar, or The Matrix, and then tell you in the next breath they don't like watching SF. And yes, I spend time pointing out that SF is more than just robots and spaceships.

I'm almost certain I don't consider writing SF as an elite pastime. Within the SF community I've found both writers and fans to mostly be extremely inclusive and encouraging. Outside the community I've found most readers to find my work accessible. Whether they read it or not is another matter.

As a teacher at High School, teaching mainstream English and a writing course, I've generally found it to be evidence of credibility among my students. Of course teenagers don't have the same issues with genre that adults have.

It's about time we stepped off the back foot, stop being apologetic for what we love, and allow our genre to spread beyond the confines we often place around it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

New Experiments In SciFi.

I recently had a long discussion with a poet who always carries a notebook and writes down what he sees.

We were talking about where ideas come from, and we found we had different approaches to our creative minds. I talked about how I asked 'what if' to situations and events, and he mentioned his ever present notebook. I spent a week or more thinking about it before I started keeping one handy and writing down snatches of conversations, descriptions of people, places, and events. Of course you can't be an obvious voyeur, or an eavesdropper, but it's surprising how much stuff I've started noticing.

OK, so my notes are a little self-conscious at the moment, and maybe I'm trying a bit hard and they appear pretentious. But I've already had a whole bunch of ideas from them. And I find that I'm remembering things I'd have otherwise forgotten.

I worked on a story yesterday, and even dragged out my notebook to use some dialogue I could rip off.

So far, so good.  Maybe one day I'll even be confident enough to post bits of my notebook here.