Lexifabricographer

April 8, 2014

Conflux Writers Day and Aurealis Awards

Canberra turned on a typically miserable autumn day last Saturday for the gala social event of the Australian speculative fiction writing calendar, the 2013 Aurealis Awards. Ignoring the constant, unrealised threat of rain from an oppressive overhead blanket of grey, the tribe gathered to honour the year’s best and fairest in the fantasy, science fiction and horror realms.

But before all that, the Conflux organising committee, spearheaded by the implacable Nicole Murphy, assembled an army of inspirational speakers to present the Conflux Writers Day. The CWD was a one-day mini-convention aimed squarely at writers, with short, sharp sessions on everything from genre to craft, marketing to research, social media to scriptwriting to editing and… Well, with three parallel presentation streams for most of the day, it was impossible to get to everything I wanted to see. One thing we all had in common were the four plenary sessions that bookended the day.

Jo Anderton was first, talking about how she turns simple ideas into fantastic worlds and uses those to find characters and stories. I’m a huge fan of her stories in “The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories”, so hearing the specific ideas that inspired several of those stories was terrific. Kaaron Warren was up next, giving the assembled masses a much-needed (in my case at least) kick up the arse about writing when there’s no time to write. “You can’t always change the way you live your life,” she noted, “so change the way you write.” To prove her point that writing can be done in the margins of free time, she made the audience do an exercise – from the index page of a collection of legal cases, we were to select one and write something inspired by the name for two minutes. I don’t know if the exercise worked for anyone else there, but from those two minutes I have the core idea for what should be an amusing little short story.

The first of the afternoon speakers was Ian McHugh, talking about the accumulation of rejection letters as a way of keeping score on your short story writing. “Embrace insanity,” as he put it. “[Submitting short stories] is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.” It’s a sentiment I’ve heard Ian and others endorse before, and it certainly helped me to persist with my weird Twitter(-ish) story. I submitted that one 12 times before it finally found a publisher who wanted it.[1] Ian reckons an acceptance rate of about one submission in ten is typical – your mileage may vary – so he recommends having at least ten stories out for consideration at any time. I’ve personally got a fair way to go to build up my stockpile!

The final speaker was Keri Arthur, on the trials and tribulations of being a New York Times best-selling author. Keri’s talk was primarily about contract negotiations with her publishers, which seems were at times fraught with poor communications if not outright intransigence. Wrangling over advances is a problem a lot of authors might like to have, but it certainly didn’t sound like much of a party. The big take-home message from Keri’s talk was to keep writing. Keri’s written something like thirty books in the last fifteen years, which is…pretty disciplined of her, I would say.

In between the plenary sessions I crammed as much writerly goodness as I could: catching up with out-of-town friends, making a couple of new acquaintances and of course sitting in on the lightning-quick presentations. The standard of presentations was very high – I could have spent easily twice as long with each speaker picking their brains. My personal highlights were probably Cat Sparks’ talk on the alternate history genre and Alan Baxter’s amusing admonitions concerning writers’ use and misuse of social media.

And then it was home for a quick change into something a little smarter for the day’s main event, the Aurealis Awards ceremony. The Aurealis is one of two major annual awards in the Australian speculative fiction filed (the other being the Ditmar Awards, which will be presented at Melbourne’s Continuum convention in June). While the Ditmars are voted on by eligible members of the spec fic community (basically anyone with membership at the current or previous year’s national convention), the Aurealis Awards are judged by panels. Extraordinarily hard-working ones, at that – in the space of a couple of months they read dozens of novels and sometimes more than a hundred short stories to put together their short-lists. I get tired even thinking about the workload.

The evening was MC’d by spec fiction luminaries Sean Williams and Simon Brown. Their hilarious riffs on the Aurealis Awards of what appears to be an extremely exciting future were sadly probably not recorded for posterity. Sorry you missed their routine, it was bloody great.

The Fildenstar (aka Kate Rowe and Ryan Morrison), whose weird speculative lyrics are married up to some beautiful Kate Bush-y/Tori Amos-ish soundscapes, provided several musical interludes. I was mildly disappointed that they didn’t stay onstage for the whole ceremony. I wanted to see them play someone offstage for having too long an acceptance speech. Nobody did, though, so I suppose the point is moot.

And the awards ceremony was – well, it was an awards ceremony. Not as self-congratulatory as the Oscars, not as unnecessarily glam as the Golden Globes and not anywhere near as unremitting awful as the Logies. Presenters read out lists of names and synopses of stories, then awkwardly tore open envelopes and announced winners. There were ties in at least three categories that I remember. The winners are all listed here.

In terms of winners, I was very pleased to see Joanne Anderton have a win in the Best Collection category for “The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories”, which I liked. And my pal Kaaron Warren won for a science fiction short story I’d not heard of from a collection I’ve still not laid my hands on, The Lowest Heaven. All of the winners are listed on the Aurealis Awards homepage.

My only mild disappointment was that I didn’t get to collect a trophy for my pal Andrea Höst for her self-published YA novel “Hunting” (which I thought was jolly good). If I recall correctly that was Andrea’s third shortlist nomination for an Aurealis. It’s only a matter of time until she picks up a gong, I feel sure. Interestingly, this year the winner of the Best Fantasy Novel was also for a self-published book, Mitchell Hogan’s “A Crucible of Souls”. He looked pretty pleased and surprised.

All in all it was a lovely day (and that’s not even mentioning the informal Friday night burritos-and-beer meetup). Cat Sparks has posted up a photo gallery of shots from both the Writers Day and the awards ceremony. Check out the cool mural from the Australian National University’s Great Hall in the first few photos. I suggest you linger on those early picture so that your eye doesn’t stray down the page to where it might accidentally see me. You’ve been warned.

 

[1] I’ll post details on that one when I can. I don’t expect it to be for a while yet.

February 24, 2014

In-betweening

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery,workin for the man — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 4:22 pm

I’ve been a little quiet lately because things have changed at work. Instead of my previous employment as full-time layabout with literally no responsibilities, I have moved to a new office and team and have started what is effectively a new job (though with nominally the same old tasks). It would be fair to say that the adjustment process is ongoing, not least because I am still waiting on financial advice as to whether I can afford to quit and do something else with my life. I am anxious for a change and ready to move on, but at the same time I’m conscious that if I can’t make the numbers work, I need to stay where I am. The Canberra job market is becoming actively hostile to the archetype of “the Commonwealth public servant found excess to requirements”.

We just bought a new-to-us car: a 2009 Nissan Maxima. Ordinarily that might be a cause for celebration but in this case the imminent self-destruction of our old car forced our hand at a moment when we could have done without a big expense. Which is, I know, the story of everyone’s life. Still, it would be easier to make big, important life decisions without being feeling like our finances are holding a gun to our heads. Well, never mind, moving on.

I’m on the final stretch of my revision of the Sawl novel. I’ve given myself until the end of the month to get to The End, though in practise I might also give myself until the end of the weekend as well. At that point it still own’t be done, nor even close to it. I have structural problems all over the place (too many exposition scenes, too much slow introspection, not enough setup for action scenes, too much information withheld until the last third of the book, and at least one major character who dies in entirely the wrong place in the narrative, to name most of the big issues). Once I’m finished the draft I will put it away again for a month or so, to work on a couple of short stories and to flesh out an outline for the next longer project. then – I promise myself – it’ll be back to Nyssa and Rachel for a manuscript cleanup, for however long *that* takes.

I won’t say this book is taking forever but I will say that I look forward to refining my process.

February 6, 2014

Update: The Barossa, Shakespeare and writing

It’s another day at work with nothing to do while my job and I continue to be ground to a fine powder by the Machinery of Government arrangements. I’ve stood in front of glaciers that get along at a quicker clip than these bloody processes. So apologies to any Australian taxpayers out there, but this one’s on your dollar.

Fiona and I spend the Invasion Day long weekend in the Barossa Valley, north of Adelaide, touring about the vineyards and generally ignoring the rest of the world unless it pertained to a small selection of sporting events. As a side note, the Tour Down Under is quite the popular topic in South Australia around this time of the year. Luckily we arrived the day after the race had moved on from the Barossa itself.

The Barossa, it turns out, wasn’t particulary our favourite wine district to visit – that was probably the Margaret River in Western australia, although bits of New Zealand and Tasmania give it a run for its money. In fairness to the Barossa though, we were visiting just after one heatwave and just before another one, in the middle of one of the hottest summers anyone there can remember. So it was looking a bit dry and sorry for itself – excluding all the rich, well-watered grape vines, of course.

It did turn out, no surpise, that the Barossa is a good place to pick up some quality plonk though. Shiraz is the local speciality, with rieslings popular in the nearby Eden Valley. All very good, but we also picked up some excellent roses and…why am I even telling you this? If you come over to my place we can drink some. Otherwise I don’t have the wine vocabulary to describe what we drank, and if you wanted to read about wine you’d go and get James Halliday’s latest, probably.

(Actually if you do want to read about wine I can recommend The Wine Wankers blog, which is not at all up itself and has meta-tags like “humorous wine images” and “horse piss”)

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing The Essential Theatre Company’s touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Seppeltsfield Winery. It’s a very entertaining interpretation of one of the more fun Shakespeare plays, especially over a few glasses of red. They’re touring about the country (to vineyards, chiefly) for the next few months – check the itinerary and if you happen to be in their vicinity I can highly recommend it. Their Puck alone is worth the price of admission (as should always be the case with Midsummer…). Oh, if you’re in the Canberra region they will be at Flint in the Vines at Shaw Estate this coming weekend (Saturday 8 February) – you probably just about have time to get tickets!

On the writing front, I am closing in on my target of completing my novel manuscript by the end of February as planned. My writing streak of 400+ words is at 35 unbroken days now, and I’m averaging about 520 words a day. When I’m done, I am going to have to return to the drawing board again and review the structure of the novel – the start is too slow, the plot spends a lot of time up some blind alleys and too much of the action is delayed until late in the book. But the meat is there, so all I need to do is trim fat and rearrange some of the bones. Whether that results in fatal trauma to the story remains to be seen.

Yesterday I slapped another couple of scenes onto the short story I’m working on, which means that I think it’s done. I’ll put it away and work on something else for a week or so, then dig it out and see whether it still flows as it’s meant to. If I’m happy then, off it goes for submission somewhere.

In the meantime I’m working on a short story for this excellent little project – Unfettered by Tiny Owl Workshop – which will be an anthology of short stories inspired by a collection of beautiful, quirky illustrations by Terry Whidborne. Some lovely stuff there, and I am trying to work up a concept for each illustration before I decide which one I’ll write (I may write more than one).

And last of all, I’ve received notice that my first short story (or rather, the first one I ever submitted for publication anywhere, which spent some 14 months looking for a publisher) will be going to contract in the next week or so. So I might actually be able to use this blog to Announce a Thing! Not yet, but soon, maybe!

January 16, 2014

Goals for 2014

Filed under: news of the day,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 4:38 pm

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSfG) gathered last night for its first 2014 meeting. After we finished discussing the upcoming business of the year [1], we got on to the discussing of setting our writing goals for the year.

Honestly, I wasn’t going to do it. I had every intention skipping the whole New Year’s resolution thing. Instead of making a collection of half-baked promises that I am in the habit of failing to deliver on, surely it would be better to just knuckle down and produce whatever I could.

Then yesterday I read this essay on what is happening to someone who procrastinates a lot. Someone like me. I have to say I found the essay so eerily descriptive of my state of mind (especially the stuff about the dark playground and self-reinforcing cycles of shame) that I almost couldn’t finish reading it. Which was nuts of me, but there you are.

I highly recommend that essay, whether or not you’re a procrastinator. Someone who is will find it full of useful observations on what you’re doing to yourself and what you can do about it. People who are not procrastinators will learn that it’s completely understandable but utterly useless to offer the advice “Just sit down and do it”.

Anyway, when I accepted that part of the strategy for fixing the procrastination problem is to set tangible goals broken down by simple, specific steps, I realised that I kind of need the goals to keep me honest.

So, long story short, my writing goals for the year are:

1: finish the current draft of my novel manuscript by the end of February. If I keep to my 400+ words a day writing streak, that should mean I will produce at least 14,000 more words by the 28th of February, which *should* be about what I need to wrap up the draft.

2: write 10 short stories to publishable quality, one a month for the remaining months of the year. In theory that one should be a doddle, in that it usually doesn’t take me that long to write a story once I start. The risk will come in stories that blow out beyond what I am picturing as my standard length of 4000 – 6000 words. I am giving myself leeway to redefine this goal if it turns out that everything I want to write this year is really a novella rather than a short. I won’t know until I start though.

3: submit short stories at least 25 times. At the normal rate of submission/consideration/rejection-or-acceptance, this is about the right rate. By the end of the year I should have a good stockpile of stories, such that even if a few of them are accepted (which I hope they will, obviously), I should have enough coming in and going out again to meet this target.

4: I also have some additional non-specific goals about getting my work into various I-consider-them-prestigious Australian genre short story markets, like a Ticonderoga anthology or Cosmos Magazine. Small steps though.

So there it is. I’ll be pretty happy if I meet these goals, and very happy to exceed them. I anticipate the rest of my life getting in the way of my going far beyond expectations, especially if I have a radical career change soon. But writing is something that can keep me grounded and sane, so it gets a high priority.

Did you crack and set yourself goals?

 

[1] Which didn’t take long, but by the way included the informal notification that the editorial team for the next CSfG anthology has been finalised. If you happen to be someone who might want to make a short story keep your eyes open for the announcement of the theme and the call for submissions. [2]

[2] Also: Conflux, our local speculative fiction convention, will take place over the October long weekend this year. Which is a bit of a problem for me, seeing as that’s the time of year of my wedding anniversary. Since I was at a convention around that time last year, the anniversary had probably better win in 2014…

January 9, 2014

Brief update on the novel

Filed under: wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 10:25 am

Streak is at 7 days, and I’ve added about 400 words to the manuscript, taking this draft past the 80,000 mark (I now estimate it will be over 110,000 words in draft, with about 25,000 or so needed to be hacked out later).

I know wordcount reports come across as either tedious boasts or desperate pleas for attention and encouragement (so, you know, sorry for that). The important bit for me is that I think I’ve got the sense of the story back and, more importantly, the desire to tell it. It’s still wretched writing with far too much exposition, flat dialogue and a complete absence of interesting action, but at least it’s getting out. The rest is fixable.

What are you up to?

January 6, 2014

Momentuming the streaky chain

Filed under: fitter/happier,wordsmithery — Tags: , — lexifab @ 4:29 pm

I have goals.

I am easily distracted from those goals. Apart from being married, having kids and being tired all the time, I’m also prone to addiction to television series, I’m an avid consumer of social media, I have still not shed my youthful predisposition for playing video games for many hours at a time, and I have a to-read pile that would exceed a storey in height if most of the items in it were not digital. If my tabletop gaming hadn’t tapered off to a mere trickle during the year it would have continued to be a major non-writing interest.

So, like a lot of writers, I have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to deciding what I would rather be doing than writing. It’s not as if the above list is exhaustive.

Lately – by which I mean, since about last July or so – other things that aren’t writing have been winning the battle for my free time. I’ve read a crapton of books (shallowly, for the most part), played out a few of the games in my collection, knocked off the odd season or two of TV favourites and spent way too much time trawling through Twitter.

Since July or so, my writing productivity on my draft novel dropped from 200-300 words a day (peaking at over 500 words a day in May) to less than 50 words a day by September and more or less nothing between October and the end of the year. The decline coincided with the worst of the lethargy that led to my sleep apnoea diagnosis, but it would be disingenuous to put the sharp downward slide to zero wordage down to a health-inspired break.

What really happened was that I lost my streak. I’d been writing continuously – not necessarily every day, but often enough to hit satisfactory weekly targets – for eight or so months straight. When I hit the wall and lost that uninterrupted run for about three or four weeks, getting started again seemed impossible. I had established an expectation of my own output (I won’t talk about quality here, just word count) that I couldn’t possibly achieve on nights when keeping my eyes open much past 9 pm was out of the question.

Rather than settle for a lesser word count (an option that in retrospect I think may just not have occurred to me) I fled the novel altogether. I told myself that I needed to think about the ending (lie). I told myself that I needed to think about the critiques comments I’d received in September (true but not relevant to finishing the draft). I told myself I didn’t know where the scene I was in the middle of writing was going (true but not very difficult to solve).

Basically I told myself whatever I needed to hear to excuse myself. Then I played Just Cause 2 for a bunch of weeks.

(I also started my treatment for sleep apnoea, which is not irrelevant, but was not the primary obstacle to my writing productivity for the entirety of the fallow period. I’m feeling much better now, by the way).

And to be a bit fair on myself, I wasn’t completely idle during that period. I wrote two 5000+ word stories during that time, one of which went through three rounds of edits in order to get it in its best possible shape before a submission deadline. Both are pretty solid pieces, I think – or will be with a bit more polishing. I’m proud of having written them, but they do represent my failure to meet my primary writing goal for the year.

And now it’s a new year, and while I don’t really do resolutions as such, it seems like a good time to set some goals for the coming year. Finishing the novel remains at the top of the list, but I now recognise that this piece, at least, is a marathon and not a sprint. I can’t sustain late night writing stints, especially not over a protracted period. That’s likely to remain true for the foreseeable future. So I need to have more modest goals for now.

At the same time, I need to build some momentum. I know from past experience that once I am in the habit of regular writing, with a set routine (“sit down, review output of previous session, review notes, start typing”) the words and ideas tend to flow easily. I also know that that is a rhythm that I need to build up to. It’s not my natural starting point.

My solution is to set a modest minimum daily word count (starting at 400 words, which is achievable in under an hour even when I’m having a very rough writing day). I’m going to focus not on producing huge blocks of words, but on hitting my target every single day. I’m going to play up to my gaming instincts and try for unbroken streaks of writing days. The knowledge that if I miss a day I will have to reset the clock should be enough to motivate me to effort when I might otherwise decide to vegetate in front of the telly. (It worked last night).

The other rules I have set for myself are:

1) Until I finish the current draft of the novel, the first 400 words have to be novel writing. I am allowed to work on other projects as well, but only after I’ve hit my daily target of advancing towards a finished draft.

2) If I know that a prior commitment is going to prevent my writing on a given day, then I am allowed to bank up that day’s word count ahead of time (i.e. dedicate some prior days’ writing sessions to accumulating the expected deficit). No retrospective allocation allowed – I can’t declare after the fact that back on Monday I wrote 1000 words so on Tuesday I can take the night off. That breaks the streak – but I can say on Monday that I will write an extra 1000 words, knowing that I am going out to the movies on Tuesday night.

3) As soon as I break the streak I have to declare it here, so as to keep myself honest (and for later reference, when I get around to analysing whether this experiment has been of any benefit whatsoever to my writing…)

Progress to date: I started on the second, and haven’t hit my word count for today (yet). So far my streak is a run of four consecutive writing days.

 

November 11, 2013

TMoRP Day 15 – Sales!

Over the past few days, the family and I did the Canberra Thing of going down to the coast for the weekend. This is a Thing, you understand, that I have done maybe twice in fiften years of living here. It was raining and windy most of the time, which was not so much fun for our two small children, but – really, at the same time the Philippines were being pulverised by a super-typhoon, so I’m not complaining.

I therefore missed three days of posts. This Month of Relentless Positivity is going to elapse across at least two months at this rate. And I’m much too tired to work out whether that was an appropriate sentence structure or not, so sorry to everyone with a vulnerability to toxic grammar. But let’s leave those weakling who rolled up their superhero character with cursed dice and march onward, ever onward!

I returned home to the welcome news that a short story I have submitted to over a dozen markets over the course of the past year has been accepted for publication. (Provisionally. With certain caveats. The whole deal could still fall through if certain conditions wholly beyond my power to influence do not come to pass).

Better still, the market pays professional rates. (If all goes well).

I am (cautiously) over the moon with this news! While I haven’t exactly been frustrated that I couldn’t find a taker for this particular story, which certain readers will know as “the Twitter one”, I was beginning to suspect that I had run out of places that would both find it suitable for their needs and also pay me something for it. I hadn’t quite reached the point where I was going to set some deadline for giving up on submitting it, but I imagine that it would only have taken a few more rejections before I was sending it out for “exposure” rather than compensation.

And you know, I would have seen that a shame, since I am trying to build a writing career here, step by step. While I still have a day job (ahem) the money itself isn’t important, but acknowledgment in the form of people willing to part with their own money in order to have something I made is – for the moment at least – the way I have chosen to keep score.

I would make some sort of extended gaming metaphor about achievement-hunting, but nobody needs to hear it.

Anyway, as my sophomore sale, this represents another milestone on the road. It’s one step further away from my more or less lifelong state of “going to be a writer one day” to, you know, being a writer. And it’s a bit of an ego boost that will be easy to funnel into writing the next story, polishing the next draft or submitting the next finished piece.

So, hooray for sales. Or, if you prefer, hooray for life-goals, slightly incremented.

October 29, 2013

TMoRP Day 11 – Writing Part 2

Filed under: wordsmithery — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 4:25 pm

I made it. Just.

For various reasons I couldn’t sit down to start writing until 8 pm. I started pretty slowly, hammering together a couple of pretty clunky scenes that established a couple of characters and a whole bunch of world building. This is pretty typical of what passes for my method: exploration of setting and character through typing.

(I need an editor, badly)

Fortified by about five cups of tea, I typed until 11:30. Then I realised that I was only on about 1600 words (I think slooooowly when I am breaking a story in my head) and that I hadn’t even hit the standard daily NaNoWriMo mark of 1667 words. So I kept going for another 40 minutes and got to 1750. By 12:30, I couldn’t stay awake any longer.

At 4:15, one of the kids (I can’t even remember which one now) came into the bedroom and demanded to sleep with Mum and Dad. I duly ensconsed [him or her] under the sheets and dragged my sorry arse upstairs to my laptop. Yes, at 4:30 in the morning.

I wrote for two hours, took a couple of hours off for breakfast because I foolishly promised that I would make pikelets, then I dropped a couple of espresso shots down my throat and kept going. My deadline was midday, when the group was due to meet at a cafe to discuss how we went. Fiona took the car to the shops for emergency lunch ingredients, so I overran by a couple of minutes as I frantically hammered out the last few paragraphs.

At 12:05, I slammed the lid of my laptop shut, with about four sentences left to write. I jumped in the car and dashed to the meeting…

…which, it turns out, was really scheduled for 12:30, affording me a comfortable twenty minutes to order a beer and knock out the last hundred words or so. Mission accomplished! Short story (5450 words) completed in 24-ish hours!

Dramatic, right?

I haven’t looked it over yet, but I know it’s rough. I rushed the ending, and I’m still not sure I didn’t cop out with the ending I chose. I took too long to introduce a key antagonist character and her reaction to the climax was under-developed. I soft-pedalled my subplot. I had huge chunks of exposition breaking up the dialogue. A lot of scenes are just two people talking (in between huge chunks of exposition). I have a feeling one character might have changed sex partway through the story. Another one – a female character, I am ashamed to note – contributes nothing to the story that could not have been accomplished by an sexy lamp. (I KNOW!)

But -

it’s a complete story. It’s the bones and some of the more useful sinew of a pretty good story, I think. I can fix the structural issues. I can add a scene to justify the ending and another to strengthen it. I know how to turn the sexy lamp back into a thematically relevant character with a personality. I can deal with the gender-swapping character one way or another (it has *just* occurred to me that it’s something I could turn into a feature, although maybe it might make more sense to keep that for a different story).

In short, if I do another big slab of work, I can turn ‘finished’ into ‘good’. That’s a pretty good feeling.

October 21, 2013

TMoRP Day 5 – GenreCon 2013

Last weekend I went to Brisbane for GenreCon, a convention for writers of genre fiction held at the Queensland State Library. As opposed to the speculative fiction focus of Canberra’s Conflux convention, GenreCon aims a bit wider to include the larger, more popular branches of not-literary writing: romance, thriller, crime and mystery stories.

Ostensibly I was there to build up my writing networks, learn a few writing tricks and gab with other enthusiasts about the state of the industry. But while I did all of those things, the real reason I went was that one of the international Guests of Honour was the inestimable Chuck Wendig, on whom I have a not-especially-well-disguised writercrush.

So if you will permit me a moment of unmitigated fannish glee, I may have swooned slightly on the inside when I got the chance to say hi at the opening reception, because he recognised my name. Or my Twitter handle, at least, which is just as good. As it happens, that sparked a fun chat about how Twitter opens doors between fans and the writers they love, who they might otherwise feel are out of their class (as it were). Chuck admitted feeling exactly the same way about people like John Scalzi and Joe Hill, but he had his own visitation from the Squee Fairy when when Margaret Attwood started tweet-chatting with him. Yeah, I can grok that.

Before I reluctantly set Chuck aside to talk about the rest of the con, let me just add that he was an amazing addition to the con. As a panellist he was funny, insightful and generous with his advice. And I gather from his post-con tweets that he is now uncontrollably addicted to Tim Tams, so he will undoubtedly be looking for opportunities to come back to Australia. Con organisers, take note.

Okay, as for GenreCon itself, it was amazing. There were so many enthusiastic, sharp and gregarious people around that I barely slowed down all weekend. I caught up with several good friends and made a whole bunch of new ones. In particular I want to give a huge thanks to Chris Andrews and Jodi Cleghorn, who introduced me to a small army of friendly people and made my weekend complete. And to my good buddy Evan, who put me up for the weekend. I take it as a sign of the success of GenreCon that he succumbed to writery peer pressure and joined Twitter this morning. (Heh. Sucker.)

GenreCon was amazing. The thing I look for (and indeed need) from a convention is a sense of belonging to a community, and GenreCon had that by the warm, giving bucketload, from the happy crowd of cheeky romance writers who went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome to the charming and hilarious group of horror writers that took me for drinks on Saturday night (White Rabbit Ales at the Archive in West End – highly recommended).

My heartfelt congratulations for a job well done to GenreCon organisers Meg Vann and Peter Ball (well, they were the “faces” of the con, but of course there was an invisible cadre of ninjas slipping about making everything happen. Many of them get a shoutout at that link to Peter’s blog). The next GenreCon proper will be in Melbourne in 2015. I can’t recommend it highly enough for its fun, inviting atmosphere and good cheer.

For the next one, which I will attend if at all possible, I resolve only the following:

1) I will book for all events. This year I passed on the dinner because I figured I wouldn’t enjoy socialising. I understand now that this is, to put it mildly, crazypants thinking. By all accounts the banquet (themed “Kiminos and Cutlasses”) was a glittering affair, and the keynote addresses were hilarious. And dammit, I enjoyed socialising all the rest of the time, so why did I think I would feel shy? Dunno. Won’t make that mistake again.

2) I will stay until the end of the con. I had to catch an afternoon flight home on Sunday, which meant that I had to leave the con shortly before lunch. I missed the final three sessions. I was sad. (Especially since I could read all the tweets joyfulling arising from the sessions I was missing. Damn you, social media.)

3) I will make the time to chat with (among others) Patrick O’Duffy, with whom I was only able to share the most fleeting of encounters. And by not joining the impromptu karaoke outing, I missed out on seeing him to his now-infamous rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Dammit.

Edit: Fixed a name’s spelling because I am dumb.

June 20, 2013

Writing Watch – Short story markets

Okay, before I start, I *am* still working on my novel. But I’m at the horrible late-middle stage where nothing is working properly and I can’t see a clear path (yet) to the ending. It’s doing my head in and all I can think as I work on it is: This story is not coming out how I imagined it in my head. Nothing I’m doing is working. I’ve wasted two years on this steaming heap of garbage and it’s still not readable. I hate writing!

Yes, it gets that bad at times. My brain is a stupid, self-defeating thing. It’s slightly heartening to know that other, more successful writers have similar problems – read this excellent depressing essay by the rather-good Libba Bray about her current work in progress – but that doesn’t help me out of my quagmire.

So I am regrouping and trying some new writing tactics. One of these is to work on a short story at the same time, so that rather than allow myself to stall because I am frustrated with the novel, I can switch modes quickly and still feel like I’m making some progress. Later (in the same writing session or the next) I can come back to the novel with fresh eyes and a calmer attitude. maybe. I dunno. It’s an experiment.

Anyhow, I’m taking the opportunity to list a few short story opportunities for Australian writers that are open at the moment. There are many more, of course, these are just some that have an appeal to me at the moment. Since I appear to have an invisible readership – HELLO IMAGINARY FRIENDS LEAVE A COMMENT – I figure they might also be of broader interest. If not, well at least I have the links handy.

Gold Coast Anthology - Canberra editor Elizabeth Fitzgerald and honourary Canberran Helen Stubbs are editing an anthology of short stories about the Gold Coast, available to authors who live at or have ever visited the Gold Coast. They have a large collection of photographs both modern and historical from the region. Every submission must be based on (at least) one of the photos. Any genre, up to 5000 words, submissions close 31 August.

Kisses by Clockwork – Ticonderoga Publications, who are one of the premier Australian spec fiction small publishers (in admittedly not that large a field) are doing a collection of romantic steampunk stories. Ticonderoga’s anthologies are rather intriguing – last year’s One Thousand and One Nights-styled Dreaming of Djinn is on my to-read pile – and of quite a high standard. Specific genre, 2000 to 7500 words, submissions by 15 October.

This is the one I’m working on now, writing the story while at the same time attempting to overcome my limited familiarity with the genre by poring through, I kid you not, The Mammoth Book of SteamPunk (which is proving itself to be quite an entertaining anthology in its own right).

Finally, Dimension6 will be an in-house journal of novella-length science fiction from Australian publisher Couer de Lion. Publisher Keith Stevenson is pretty open about D6 being a promotional tool for CDL’s other products, but I’ve read Anywhere but Earth and most of the stories from X6 – a novellanthology and on the basis of those I’d be happy to recommend their works. They aren’t reading submissions until January 2014 so there’s plenty of time to get something to them. Unusually D6 will have a minimum word length – 4500 words – because as Keith says “we believe a real story needs at least that much space to thrive”. And why not?

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