Sunday, October 31, 2010

For the Win!

I've just heard that Margo Lanagan's story 'Sea-Hearts', which appeared in the coeur de lion novellanthology I edited called X6, has won the World Fantasy Award. Maybe it's that I was up very late last night, but I can't help feeling euphoric and slightly disconnected to reality. This is the fourth award the book has won this year.

 My company is an extraordinarily small independent press with no real budget for marketing and promotion and, we have to face it, Australia is a loooong way from the publishing centre of the universe, but that such a small (though not in size) book from a one-person operation has been able to make such a big impact within the speculative fiction arena is really fantastic. Of course the amazing stories my authors gave me are the major cause of our success, but I feel a bit of reflected chuffedness about the whole thing. And, yes, maybe just, the right to pat myself on the back once of twice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an element of creative writing that isn’t often spoken about. It’s the writing equivalent of ‘ask and ye shall receive’. And really it’s what I like to think of as a matter of trust. I’ve been writing for quite a number of years now and in the past I’ve become disheartened with a work in progress because I couldn’t figure out a plot point or I didn’t know where the story was going, and as a result I’d get tied up in knots and things would grind to a halt.

Somewhere along the line I learned to trust myself. Maybe once I had a few stories under my belt. The kind of trust I’m talking about is having faith in your creative ability, in believing that your unconscious side – which is really where all the cool creative stuff happens – will offer up what you need when you need it. After I noticed what was happening, I began to see it more and more (which may simply be the observer effect) but it also made me less prone to worry about my work and seize up.

The Kresh books I’ve been writing for quite a number of years have two plot strands centred on two very different characters. I knew that at some point towards the end the story these two strands had to interact, but I had no idea how that was going to happen. I’ve had no idea how that would happen for the best part of 14 years. I should have been worried, but I wasn’t. I knew my unconscious would be working on the problem and would deliver the solution. That’s what happened just a couple of weeks ago, walking to work and musing idly about my story. The solution came fully formed and entirely organic in the way it brought the two strands together. Like most ideas of that ilk, it was obvious. But only after the fact. 

Trust also works at the micro-level, line by line. There are times where I have no idea what I am going to write next. I may have a goal for a scene in terms of plot but haven’t worked out how that goal will be achieved. So many times now I’ve written a word I didn’t know I was going to write and that’s carried me into a scene or an image or an exposition that does just what I needed done.

I don’t think I’m particularly special as writers go. I think this is an effect that occurs and can be encouraged in just about anybody. The trick is to recognise it and believe it will happen. Trust. It’s a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kresh - Progress and Process

The Way of the Kresh is my (now) two book space opera, currently ‘in progress’. That progress has been fairly non-existent at some stages in my life, but progress now is steady to the point that I’m at the 170,000 word mark and closing in on the finale in the next few months.

Mind you, it’s been a long time coming. Kresh began as a glimmer in my mind on a Melbourne tram ride home from the 1996 Aurealis Awards ceremony held in Justin Ackroyd’s original Slow Glass Bookshop in Swanston Street. I penned a three part short story, which appeared as online fiction on the Nuketown website, which is still going although they don’t publish fiction any more. It was followed up by a five part serial ‘The Kresh War’, again published solely on Nuketown. At some point, I decided I had enough for a novel and started researching and doing background work, because the hero of my little story is Jeldon, who is a nine foot tall bipedal, chitin-covered ‘lobster man’ (for want of a better term) with a cobra-like hood that gives him, like all Kresh, an empathic ability. I even sketched a picture of Jeldon and worked out how the chitinous plates all fit together, how the Kresh reproduce, defecate, what their mythos/ religion is, and how their society is ordered and functions. All standard SF worldbuilding fare. 

I got feedback on an early section of Kresh from a special workshop run as part of Aussiecon III in 1999. In between I completed another novel, Horizon, which is currently lying in the bottom drawer, but despite a number of attempts I never really got past the first section of Kresh. Not until I hit on my current process. It’s simple really. Start writing at the beginning and don’t stop until you get to the end. Don’t go back and polish, don’t get side tracked. At 5.45am every weekday morning, I get out of my warm comfortable bed, make a cup of tea and type on the laptop, or – more recently – write in a spiral bound A4 notepad. The target is 500 words or two pages of handwriting, and regardless of how motivated or otherwise I feel, how well the words flow or don’t, how much of an idea about where I’m going or what’s going to happen next that I have or not, that’s been pretty much it for the last two years. Right now, for what I need to do, it’s the only way that works for me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Mirror, Darkly for ASIM

My 'chick-lit' urban horror story 'A Mirror, Darkly' has sold to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and is due to appear in issue #51 in April/ May 2011. This is my first short story sale for far too long. My last story, '... They  First Make Mad' (which you can hear as part of the Terra Incognita Christmas 2009 podcast) was published in Agog! Fantastic Fiction way back in 2002. Though I haven't exactly been slacking off either in writing or publishing in the intervening years, just not at short story length.

'Mirror' had a significantly geographic  birth and early development, conceived in Broome, parts of it were written in the UK and on a couple of international flights, including during stopovers at Changi International Airport. It's set in Sydney, my recently adopted home, around the Erskineville area and parts of it are liberally lifted from a very boozy party I went to in Glebe, although the house that is 'blessed' with the mirror in the story is based on one in Summer Hill.

'Mirror' also contains a fair bit of swearing, sex and blood. Thankfully Simon Petrie, who selected and is editing the story, is neither squeamish nor a prude.

Web presences

In our lives we all adopt and adapt different personas. And in the 2010s those personas have a digital manifestion - indeed must have such a manifestation - if they are to be known beyond small circles of friends. As a publisher with coeur de lion publishing and a podcaster with Terra Incognita, I've developed visual representations and digital homes for those personas. But probably the most important persona (to me) has lain fairly dormant, at least in any outward way. That's my persona as a writer, which is mainly what this blog will be about, although I'll be touching on happenings in publishing, podcasting, reviewing and other areas in which I'm involved.