General ramblings – Part 2

I know, I know. I’m going to have to come up with a better line of blog posts than this. You’re all busy people, and you can’t afford to have your time wasted by some stream of consciousness malarky by a blog writer obviously running out of things to say. I mean, come on. This first paragraph alone has taken seconds off your life. And seconds can be the difference between success and failure, life and death, pancakes and burnt, inedible frisbees.

I read a good review of an advanced copy of Vigil by Angela Slatter over on Alex Pierce’s blog. I remember the short story that the novel is based around, from the anthology Sprawl. It was excellent, so I’ve pre-ordered the novel. Go and read Alex’s blog post then think about doing the same, unless you’re visiting this blog from the future, in which case just buy the damn book already.

Speaking of Alex, she also runs a great series of posts over on focusing on Australian and New Zealand speculative fiction called Aurora Australis. It’s a great way to keep up with author and publishing news from the antipodes, well worth adding to your monthly reading list.

David McDonald, who I did some parallel podcasting with a couple of years back, is going from strength to strength in the tie in novel space. He recently posted a teaser cover with Captain America on it, so that has to be a good sign. Great guy and all round good egg – well worth checking out his work.

My daughter’s love of the Teen Titan Go! series has morphed into a desire to own some of the comic books of the same name. We ventured into the city today, and my little girl got her first proper comic books. I could never really afford comic books growing up – pre-internet it was a bit difficult to know where to start, and south-west Sydney wasn’t exactly nerd heaven. Besides, the unrelenting cost! I never could have afforded to follow a series, even if I could have found a reliable source. I’m hoping my daughter might have better luck falling in love with this branch of the speculative fiction tree than I did. And Teen Titans seems like a good place to start.

Well, I hope you’re all doing better than me on the interesting culture news front. If you’re engaged with something fascinating, make sure you drop me a line and let me know.

General ramblings – Part 1

I find myself a little devoid of topics to wax lyrical about this week. My reading is at a low ebb, as the time pressures of a new job and other activities take my focus away from more word-based pursuits. I am without sensible comment to make about any other pieces of popular culture that I have consumed. No topic raging across the internet is grabbing my attention.

I like my new writing group, but there isn’t really a lot to say about it. I got a chance to beta-read for one of the authors this week, which was a good experience (the writing was good – thank goodness! – and I made a few suggestions, but there is always that slight nervousness when you provide feedback to someone for the first time. Will they find it valuable? Will I be dead to them from now on because of a poorly worded critique? Who knows, or dares to dream).

With less commuting time, I find myself listening to less podcasts these days. It is interesting to see which ones survive the war of attrition. The Coode St Podcast remains on the list, as does Galactic Suburbia, The Writer and the Critic and Tea and Jeopardy. New comer Sheep Might Fly has managed to worm its way in there. I’ve also got quite a back catalogue of Writing Excuses to catch up on, which I find a useful way of getting me into a writing mood. Because I create the eBooks for the Antipodean SF web-magazine, I tend to read the fiction that way, so haven’t kept up with the Anti-SF podcast.

I haven’t updated my Podcast page on the website for a while – perhaps I should add that to my to do list.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that the fantastic Rivqa Rafael won the Best New Talent Ditmar this year. I met Rivqa at GenreCon last year, and she was the one who was kind enough to invite me to pop along to her writing group, which I’ve enjoyed. It was an enormously well deserved award.

Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure there is something else interesting to say, but I cannot bludgeon it out of the slightly headache-y brain. That will have to do for this week, Internet. Rest assured, I feel that I owe you a significantly improved post for next week. I shall begin work on it at once (*).

(*) that is, technically, a lie. OK, it may actually move the dial from “technical lie” to “outright fabrication”. But there is at least a 34% chance that I will start work on next week’s post earlier than late Sunday night.

How to Market Your Book Online by Nicola Hardy – a promotion

Now, disclaimers out of the way first up. I’ve known Nicola Hardy (the author of How to Market Your Book Online) for many years, and she is one of my longest standing and closest friends. As such, I’m not going to be able to give an unbiased discussion of her book. Hence the “a promotion” tagline, instead of my normal “a review”.

How to Market Your Book Online is a practical guide to setting up aspects of an author platform online. The book focuses primarily on Facebook and Twitter, but also briefly covers Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and blogging in general.

There is a heavy emphasis on the practical – Nicola draws on her experience helping authors to get into the nitty gritty. There are screen shots, and hints and tips that go beyond the mechanics of the various platforms, to include issues of etiquette and protocol.

There are two editions – a global one, and an Australian/New Zealand version that has some customised content for the local region.

If you’re an experienced author who has been promoting yourself through social media for years, this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you’re just getting started, and considering how to establish your “author platform”, the book is a great way to get going with the basics.


Editors note: apologies to regular readers for missing last week, I’m afraid family time over Easter got in the way. Back to regularly scheduled programming now.

Antipodean SF

It’s been a while since I mentioned my friend Ion “Nuke” Newcombe, and the excellent publication he edits and produces, Antipodean SF. Antipodean SF has been running online since February 1998, meaning its 18th birthday has just come and gone. And given the publication is now old enough to drink, I thought it was well worth celebrating with a little shout out.

I’ve had ten or so flash fiction pieces published at AntiSF over the years, and I’m not the only Australian writer to get early publication credits with Ion. I’m always amazed to look back and see how many of my favourite Australian speculative fiction authors got their start with AntiSF.

There have been 212 issues of AntiSF since 1998, each issues publishing between 6 and 10 flash fiction pieces of around 500 words (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter). By my calculations, averaging 8 stories at 500 words for 212 issues equals approximately 850,000 words of flash fiction, a large portion of which has been from Australians.

Ion is very generous with his time, and considering he is not making any money out of the publication, he gives a very generous amount of editorial feedback to his authors. He cares deeply about the Australian SF field and is well worth a chat if you ever see this man at the bar at a convention somewhere.


So, if you fancy writing a short piece, you could do a lot worse than submitting to Antipodean SF. Who knows, you could be the next great talent that Nuke discovers!

Some things I liked in 2014 that didn’t make the Ditmar ballot

I recently posted that the Ditmar ballot had been released, and focused in on some of the items that I really liked that were on the list. I’ve been subsequently dwelling on a few things that I would have liked to see represented in the shortlist. This takes nothing away from the nominees – they are all fine human beings and worthy selections to a woman/man. But if there had been an extra voting slot available in a few categories, there are a few endeavours I would have liked to see represented.

Coode St podcast. Seriously, when are these guys going to win a Ditmar? Jonathan and Gary come together week in and week out to bring some of the most in depth discussion of the speculative fiction genre there is, but as far as I can tell they haven’t ever got a Ditmar gong. Perhaps with their recent move to they might get more recognition.

AntipodeanSF had its 200th issue recently and has been a stalwart of the Australian speculative fiction scene for so long, it would be great to see Nuke’s work recognised again. Maybe next year!

Horizon a science fiction novel by Keith Stevenson, mainly ’cause I liked it.

Ian Mond – I like his current project reading and reviewing award shortlists, with some emphasis on genre fiction. Maybe that will get him up on the nomination list next year.

So, what did you like that didn’t make the shortlist this year? Feel free to signal boost in the comments below.

Rabbits, turtles and binge TV watching

Does anyone else remember the time in the 90s when commercial TV wasn’t showing Star Trek: TNG or Deep Space 9 in any kind of consistent order, and you suddenly discovered that your local Video Ezy was bringing VHS tapes in a couple of episodes at a time? There was a glorious period where you realised that the video stores were a good couple of years ahead of what you’d been watching on TV, and you were able to gorge yourself renting out videos and watching  as many episodes as your sleep deprived brain could cram in each night.

It was a feast. A fiesta. A good time was had by all. Right up until the time when you caught up, and then suddenly you were finding excuses to pop into the store every few days on the off chance they had the next tape.

There’s a word for that. Rhymes with pladdiction.

Now, of course, we engage with TV series this way as a matter of course. They build up on our Foxtel until our hard drives groan with their weight. I recently bought my wife series 1 and 2 of Orphan Black. The actual heart of the gift was not the DVDs themselves, rather it was the sensation of relief she felt when she was able to delete all those episodes from our IQ hard drive and get our “percentage free” figure up into double figures.

And then you find yourself tearing through a season, watching a couple of episodes each evening, having debates about whether you should head off to bed at 10:45 or whether you could fit just one more slice of Walking Dead action in. And it is excellent, consumerism at its best. A constant sugar rush high.

But – and I grant you this may be old age setting in – but…. do you remember any of it?

I enjoy watching series that way. I know I do. I remember enjoying myself. But the episodes all blur together and 6 months later I’ll catch 5 minutes of something while I’m channel surfing, and be struggling to remember whether I’ve seen it before or not.

Recently, I’ve been watching a few shows where I’m seeing the episodes week to week. And, while the shows haven’t necessarily been the highest quality in and of themselves, I’m finding my recall of them is much better. I spend a small amount of time each week wondering what’s going to happen next, testing out particular scenarios in my mind. I’m engaging with them better.

So, culture vultures I’m wondering – is your experience of a TV series changed by the manner in which you consume it? And do you think this will have an impact on future fandom? Will the next generation of fans be as across the detail (“No, I didn’t spend a week obsessing over what happened to the bump on the eye of the lead actress in Continuum. I just pressed play on the next episode”)? Or will they engage utterly differently with the material?

Go on. Be honest. This is a safe space.

I promise.

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!

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!

Time management and the art of maintaining a blog

I don’t spend enough time writing.

As we’ve established in previous blog posts, I am somewhat time poor. Between a busy job, a busy family, the ever increasing health related demands of middle age and wanting to keep my writing going, I’m not giving everything the attention it deserves.

Over the last 18 months, exercise and writing have taken a back seat to work and family. Life hasn’t been feeling particularly balanced though, and in the last few months I’ve been trying to find ways to carve out a bit more time for writing (and exercise for that matter – although with less success).

One of the things that has dropped away as a result is regular posting on this blog. Last year it was generally time pooredness (that’s not a word) that kept my updates infrequent. But this year, as a part of my write-at-least-one-page-before-you-go-to-bed strategy, I’ve said to myself that the one page has to be done before any blog writing.

And that has meant significantly less blog writing.

I want to keep the blog up, but something has to give. And I’ve decided that thing is a full review of every book that I read.

I’m lots of books behind at the moment. I read quite a few books over the Christmas break that haven’t made it onto the blog yet. I’ve been doing some reading particularly for the 2014 Australian Women Writers’ Reading Challenge, which are way back in the queue. And I can’t see me ever catching up.

So, I’m going to try something different. Each month I’m going to put in a blog post that summarises the books I’ve read through the month. I’ll save a full review for those books where I have something particular to say, or where there is some specific purpose to me writing a review.

And I’ll try to keep most of my blog writing focused on the process of writing and publication.

If any regular readers of the blog see a book that I’ve skipped over in terms of reviews and want to know more, just leave a comment and I’ll add some more detail. Otherwise, lets try this new approach and see where it leads us!

Getting to “The End” – novel first draft finished

Well, last night I wrote the words “The End” in the notebook I’ve been writing my novel Unaligned in. Those that have been following along with the blog know that I’ve been trying a new approach to getting regular writing done this year, and because of it I’ve managed to get to the end of the first draft of the novel I started back in 2011 (and pretty much abandoned throughout 2013) over the last three months.

Of course I still have to convert the last 20,000 words from freak-localised-household-fire-could-ruin-me notebooks to backed-up-in-about-4-different-places-should-survive-the-apocalypse electronic form. And then do a structural edit, because I’m pretty sure the end doesn’t connect up properly with the beginning given the 2 years between writing the two parts. And even a cursory read over my early work makes me blush, as, now that I think of it, does a cursory reading over my later work. So lots of copy editing. And the dialogue could use some work. And there are a lot of dodgy/lazy metaphors. And I’m worried the ending doesn’t have the right level of crescendo.

But apart from that, it’s excellent.

But despite all that it feels like an achievement. At GenreCon last year, crime author John Connolly talked a lot about finishing the things you start. While I was listening to him, my normal cynical self was parsing his words as self help clap trap. But despite that initial reaction, those words stuck with me and I began to realise that not finishing the novel was subtly bugging me. My reasons for leaving it to one side had been sound – there was a lot of life going on at the time that quite rightly demanded my attention and I decided that in what little time I had available to write I wanted to practice my craft on shorter length pieces, where I could get more immediate payback/feedback. But not finishing was creating friction in my subconscious, that tiny irritation that’s always there but hard to detect until its gone.

Well now its gone.

I’m excited about the challenge of editing and making the story the best it can be. There’s a lot of work ahead – more than the effort of getting this first version down, that’s for sure. But I am left feeling that a milestone has been met, and I didn’t want to let that pass by without note.

So, let it here be noted.