All posts by mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

Writing update – all in the computer

So, about four months back I posted that I’d finally written the words “THE END” in a notebook, signally the first draft of my novel length work was complete.

Of course, that was longhand writing. I still had about 30,000 words that were sitting in notebooks that needed to be typed up.

About 8 weeks ago I posted that, due to starting writing other things, I hadn’t quite got around to writing up those words. I promised you, dear reader, that I would knuckle down and get this bad boy written up. You have been very patient, and as such I am pleased to finally reward that patience by announcing that, last night, I once again wrote the words “THE END” – this time on the keyboard.

As per my current writing process, I have been taking the chance to tweak things as I type them up, but the work is still very rudimentary. Still, it is now at least a complete electronic entity that has been backed up in a few locations. It’s good to know that a freak laptop explosion that causes my writing desk to catch on fire and incidentally burns all my notebooks is no longer the risk it once was.

I mean the likelihood is the same, but the consequences are way less.   I’m downgrading that sucker from “high” to “medium” risk overall.

One of the advantages of typing everything up is getting more accurate stats about the impact of my new writing approach. The total length of the book as it stands is just over 110,000 words. You might recall that I decided to start writing one page a night as a mandatory minimum, and that one page equals around 100 words in my notebooks. This was to try and get some kind of momentum with my writing.

I had been a bit concerned that this would mean that I only ended up writing the 700 words a week minimum, however during the time that I used this technique, I averaged about 2,800 words a week, demonstrating that the “make yourself do something even if it is tiny” technique really works for me.

So, what now? I’m reading through a book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I’m generating a Kindle version of the book so I can read it in a different format and really start to wince at the cliches and gaping continuity errors. And the telling, not showing. Soooo much telling!

(BTW is it a cliche yet for writers who are talking about their first drafts to say there are too many cliches? Ah, what the hell. This is the first draft of this post as well)

From now on I think I will alternate weeks, one week writing new work, one week editing the novel. We’ll see how that goes.

So, that’s the end of my writing update. How is your writing going? If you are not writing or are not a writer at all:

  1. Why not?
  2. Feel free to update us on any other hobbies and pastimes that you happen to indulge in.

Come on. Share with the group.

Watermarks by Jason Nahrung (Cosmos magazine)

I don’t normally mention individual stories that I come across, but one of my favourite authors, Jason Nahrung, has a story in the latest edition of the Cosmos magazine (June/July 2014). The story is called Watermarks.

Cosmos is an Australian popular science magazine, where local speculative fiction luminary Cat Sparks edits the fiction. She usually chooses stories that are related to science in some way, and has a very discerning eye (so discerning that I wouldn’t even dare submit any of my work!). But that eye for quality means that you can always be guaranteed a good read with whatever short story she chooses.

And so it is the case with Watermarks, which represents a vignette of life in a future, drowned Brisbane. It is a story of unrequited love, of the slow erosion of society when faced with unparalleled but sedate disaster and of the importance of sunblock. I enjoyed it very much, and recommend picking up a copy of Cosmos at your local newsagent and giving it a read.

Dimension6 – Issue 2

Dimension6 is a free speculative fiction magazine, produced by Coeur de Lion Publishing and issue 2 is out now!

This website is an affiliate of Dimension 6, where you can download each issue.

Issue 2 – (July 2014)

Issue 2 features:

‘At Dawn’s Speed’ by Dirk Strasser
Swift and her tribe have been running their whole lives, because the touch of the sun brings the ‘silvering’.

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‘Upon a Distant Shore’ by Alan Baxter
Astronaut Anatoly Novikov wanted a mission that would inscribe his name on the ages. Finally he got one.

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‘He Ain’t Dead’ by Robert N Stephenson
It’s simple really. Don’t mess with native American burial mounds.

Monthly round up – June 2014

I took two novella length works for my plane reading when going down to the Continuum convention in Melbourne. Horn and Bleed by Peter M. Ball were published by Twelfth Planet Press a few years back. Both have the same main protagonist, who is a burnt out ex-cop with a strong connection into the world of the fae. I enjoyed both works, I liked the hard boiled main character, the story lines were entertaining and moved along at a good pace. I think both could have stood to be a little longer, but that is probably because I was enjoying them and didn’t want them to end quite so quickly!

I also read the latest Jim Butcher novel, Skin Game. What can I say, I like the series. Not much really to add to previous reviews – this one was a heist novel, moved along at a good pace and I liked the unexpected plot development towards the end involving a particular kind of sword. I think the novels are starting to overly rely on the intervention of the Christian God, with a little too much “let me explain away this giant coincidence that resolves the novel in a  very convenient way by invoking one religion’s God and his/her ineffable plan” for my liking. But hey, when you back your characters into the kinds of corners that Butcher tends to, you probably need an all powerful deity save the day.

Apart from that I’m still working on Ancillary Justice and Winter Be My Shield. I’m enjoying both books but not getting a lot of time to read.

On the TV front, I started watching the new series of Defiance which is being fast tracked from the US on Foxtel. I enjoy the show – feels like a well used universe and I like the interactions between the alien races (feels a bit like Farscape from that perspective). Will be interested to see where they take the season this year.

I’ve also been watching the new season of ArcherArcher: Vice. Ah, Archer. So problematic. So funny.

Continuum is a good Canadian sci-fi series, well worth checking out. I’ve also been watching the remake of The Tomorrow People, but mainly in solidarity from vague but fond memories of the series from my youth. I don’t necessarily recommend it.

That’s all for this month. Stay tuned.

Continuum 10 – There and Back Again

Over the June long weekend, the 53rd annual Australian speculative fiction national convention was held. This year, the “nat-con” was hosted by Continuum 10, an annual SF convention held in Melbourne.

My decision to attend was a little last minute. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get away, even though I do like trying to get to at least one convention each year.

However, due to my very kind wife I was able to free up some time, so Saturday morning I flew down to Melbourne to attend the Con.

I had a great time, it was fantastic to sit in on some interesting panels, attend a couple of book launches (and snag a very limited edition of Kirstyn McDermott’s Perfections) and catch up with lots of people. Some highlights included:

  • Catching up with my fellow Galactic Chat podcasters Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, Alex Pierce and David McDonald. And then winning a Ditmar with them!
  • Catching up with writers like Jason, Kirstyn, Jodi, Ellen, Sean and many others and hearing about where everyone is up to with their writing, getting some advance intelligence on what might be coming next and generally talking shop.
  • Having lunch on Saturday with Tess, who was new to the convention scene and with whom I had an absolutely delightful conversation about her writing ambitions.
  • Attending the launch of Kirstyn McDermott’s book Perfections, which had previously been released as an e-book but was in print for the first time. Unfortunately, the batch of books Kirstyn had just picked up from the printer had the last page missing, however Kirstyn turned disaster into a marketing triumph by promising new copies for anyone who purchased the book, as well as personally writing a little vignette ending in each book purchased (and renaming it “Imperfections“). It was a great reaction to what would have been a very stressful situation, and my copy of Imperfections is now sitting proudly on the book shelf.
  • Attending several panels where people talked about their own experience engaging with speculative fiction from a range of different perspectives than my own, including different religious beliefs, different sexualities, different disabilities and different mental states.
  • Two fantastic guest of honour speeches by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Jim C. Hines. Unfortunately due to my early departure I wasn’t able to hear Danny Oz and Sharon Moseley speak on the Monday.
  • Some great meals and some great bar discussions on a wide range of topics.
  • In between sessions and programs having some time to write and edit some of my work in the hotel room.

I had a great time, and I know the party kicked on after my departure (unfortunately I had to head back to Sydney Monday morning and missed most of the Monday program).

Thanks to everyone who I had a chance to speak with over the weekend, and to anyone I missed out on talking to there is always next time!

And the winner is…

So, as regular readers of this blog know I’ve been helping out with a podcast called Galactic Chat, in which we interview people in the speculative fiction field. Usually authors and usually Australian, although not exclusive on either front.

Recently, our podcast was nominated for a Ditmar (which are the Australian national voted speculative fiction awards) in the Best Fan Publication in Any Medium category. It was a great honour to be nominated, however we were up against some absolutely fantastic competition (the likes of Galactic SuburbiaThe Writer and the Critic, The Coode St podcast - all of which are up for the internationally recognised Hugo award this year). I don’t know about the others, but I spent quite some time practicing my gracious loser face, in case the television cameras panned to me when they announced someone else won.

(What do you mean it wasn’t broadcast on national television? What about local television? You mean that was just some guy with his own video camera? Sheesh)

There were a lot of awards to give out (the Victorian Chronos Awards, the Ditmars and a few additional individual awards that defy classification), but MC’s George Ivanoff and Narelle Harris did an excellent job keeping things moving. Soon enough we got to our category, and I sat in the audience with what I hoped was a congratulatory grin on my face.

And then we won!

It was a shock, I can tell you. Sean Wright, our intrepid leader and absolute backbone of the Galactic Chat podcast, led us up on stage and before I knew it we were each being handed a trophy.

Me and my DitmarAs you can see from the photo, it is a very pretty trophy.

Sean and Alex did the talking for us on stage, but I’d like to use this post to thank my fellow interviewers (Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs and David McDonald) and in particular thank our fellow nominees – I listen to all the other podcasts and always take a huge amount of enjoyment from them and both fanzines listed have a long and distinguished history in the Australian speculative fiction scene. I’d also like to thank Jason Nahrung and Keith Stevenson, who were the very patient subjects of my newbie interview techniques during the qualifying period.

Congratulations to all the winners on the night, in particular Sean Wright who also took home the Best Fan Writer award.

And most importantly, thank you to everyone who voted for us. You know who you are.

For a full list of all nominees, you can go here. At the time of writing, a list of the full results hadn’t been published, but I shall come back and edit this post when they have.

Edit 11/6/2014

The results are on Wikipedia now.

Writing update

It’s been a couple of months since my last writing update and given that this weekend I decided to make an adjustment to how I’m spending my writing time, so I thought it was about time to check in.

As you’ve seen in previous posts, since the start of the year I’ve adopted a “write at least one long hand page each night” strategy, and it’s served me well. I’ve written north of 30,000 words of fiction, about 20,000 words to finish off the first draft of my first novel, then about 10,000 words on something that started off as a short story but now seems to be incorporating a lot of the space opera elements I’ve been thinking about for a while and is growing out of control. Let’s call it a 10% deposit on my second novel manuscript.

This weekend I decided to switch tactics and look at editing my first manuscript. From now on, I’ve dedicated myself to doing some editing each night. I still have a lot of handwritten pages to type up, so for the time being “editing” is defined as writing up at least two days worth of writing, making line edits as I go. Once that is done, a structural edit will be in order. But that’s for future me – one step at a time.

Wish me luck!

Showdown now available at Electric Spec

As reported earlier in the month, I recently sold my short story Showdown to the good people at Electric Spec.

Well, I’m pleased to say that the new edition (Volume 9, Issue 2) has gone live and Showdown is available to read online.

If semi-urban Australian fantasy with an elderly protagonist isn’t quite your style, you can still check out the other excellent offering which include:

  • Girl with the Crooked Spine by Jason Sturner - an unusual fantasy about a unique girl and a misfit boy who meet in the Field Museum in Chicago.
  • A Learned Man by Melinda Brasher is a fantasy inspired by La Leyenda de Bolsa Salgado, an El Salvadorian folktale.
  • Khuminay and the Axe-Wielding Psycho by Barton Paul Levenson. In it, there’s a creature named Khuminay and there’s at least one murder via an axe.
  • Between the Covers by Kathryn Yelinek takes place partly on Earth and partly on another world and explore the topic: what do you do if your memories of yourself aren’t reliable?
  • Forgetting by David E. Hughs is another memory related story.

On the non-fiction side is the ‘Spec Fic in Flicks’ column by Marty Mapes. This edition the topic is “An Alien Perspctive on the Human Condition”.

This edition also contains an interview with author Brian McClellan. McClellan writes epic fantasy, specifically, The Powder Mage Trilogy.

I hope you enjoy Showdown and the rest this edition of Electric Spec.

Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan – review

This review forms part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers 2014 Reading Challenge. All my 2014 AWWC reviews can be found here.



The Traitor Queen cover

The Traitor Queen is the third book in the Traitor Spy trilogy. I reviewed the first book, The Ambassador’s Missionhere and the second book, The Rogue, here.

OK, so I’m starting to see the issue with reading all three books of a trilogy in a row and reviewing each separately – you end up with a lot of repetitive thoughts on the series as a whole. I think from now on if I’m going to read through a series consecutively I might do a single review for the whole series. Lesson learnt!

So, my feeling on The Traitor Queen don’t deviate much from my comments on the previous two books. Strong characters, good line-by-line writing, a little lacking on the plot/tension side of things, great world building and good attempt to integrate same sex relationships as a normal part of the world. If you’re interested in more thoughts on that front, I’d recommend my previous reviews (links at the top of this review).

In terms of a third book in a series, all the major plot points were closed off by the end. The final battle between the Traitors and the Sachakans happened, but was a little anti-climactic. I actually enjoyed the smaller scale drama of the roet/Thieves/Lillia storyline much better.

I quite enjoyed the sense that the Guild was having to adapt on many fronts at once – politically, technologically, internally. It gave a sense of change and time marching forward, which doesn’t always happen in a fantasy world.

Canavan has introduced several younger characters, and if she was to ever revisit this world again (which I don’t believe she has any plans to), I think leaping forward into the future and not focusing on any of the older characters at all would be the way to go. Anyi and Lillia would form a solid basis for a new series, especially if combined with dealing with the results of the world changes mentioned above.

Overall a solid series that I enjoyed reading.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.


Creative Commons License

This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.

May 2014 – mini reviews

So, what have I been reading this month? As it turns out, not very much.

As mentioned in last month’s wrap up, I tackled King Rat by China Mieville – my first Mieville read and quite good. I can see why people love his use of language. There were times where it felt a little self consciously fancy, but generally speaking it was enviably crunchy in its ability to evoke emotion in a really visceral way. I enjoyed it very much.

Apart from that, I haven’t read very much at all. I started Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier (which will be a full review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge) and Auxiliary Justice by Ann Leckie (to see what all the fuss is about), but I haven’t finished either of them.