A New Story! Cheap Novellas! Crazy Writing Plans! EXCLAMATION MARKS!

Dead End AllyZOMBIE STORIES

I had a new story out at the start of November. The folks behind the mobile/tablet game Dead End Alley commissioned a bunch of Australian horror writers to put together a micro-fiction based on the prompt:

A blind alley, a swarm of hungry zombies, a chainsaw, and you.
What could possibly go wrong?

Naturally, when asked to write a story about an apocalyptic zombie uprising, I went and wrote a love story. Originally I’d intended to dedicate it to my friends Al and Nic, who did actually have a zombie survival kit in their house when I first met them, but it ended up being a downbeat for that kind of thing.

In any case, you can my contribution over on facebook, along with zombie stories from Alan Baxter, Deborah Biancotti, and the delightfully creepy Kaaron Warren.

CHEAP NOVELLAS & E-BOOKS

Exile, the first novella in the Flotsam series, has been added to the Under an Enchanted Skyline boxed set, featuring eight e-books of magic, adventure and mayhem for under $1.

Over seven hundred pages of epic reading, featuring:

  • Exile by PETER M. BALL–Keith Murphy kills things from the Gloom. On his latest job, he swallows a bullet with his victim’s soul trapped inside. The thing’s followers want the soul back…
  • Demonspell by EPPIE award-winning novelist PHOEBE MATTHEWS–“My trip toward death began the morning the realtor bugged me.” Elaine’s immortal relatives need constant attention, even when she’s struggling with a band of demons.
  • John Golden: Freelance Debugger by DJANGO WEXLER–John Golden is a debugger. He goes inside the computer systems of his corporate clients to exterminate the gremlins, sprites, and other fairies that take up residence. With the help of his sarcastic little sister Sarah (currently incarnated in the form of a Dell Inspiron), everything from man-eating genies to disgruntled Dark Lords is all in a day’s work.
    • BONUS! John Golden: And the Heroes of Mazaroth by DJANGO WEXLER–In the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, players battle the forces of evil. Nobody ever asked the forces of evil how they felt about it. John Golden find a depressed Dark Lord and then finds himself playing a villain, with an army of adventurers ready to thwart his “evil schemes.”
  • Dream Along the Edge by CEDAR BLAKE–Mermaids, dolphin-men, and New Age weirdos collide in this rather salty tale of love, lust, and the bracing cold at the borders of sanity and risk.
  • Fire and Frost by DOUG BLAKESLEE–At the intersection of our modern world and the world of Fae magic, fiery changeling Theonious March stands at a different type of crossroads. To save the woman he loves, he’ll have to storm the frozen gates of Arcadia’s Winter Realm. Will the meeting of Fire and Frost steam up, or fizzle out?
  • Eye for an Eye by ERIK SCOTT DE BIE–A restlessly retired Stardust meets Lady Vengeance, on the run from a vengeful former ally. Can he diffuse the situation before Cobalt City burns around him?
  • getAvailable until December 30 on Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, and Amazon. It’s a great chance to pick up Exile cheap before Frost comes out next month.

CRAZY WRITING CHALLENGES

I’m nineteen days into my attempt to write 600k in a year and still confident that I can achieve my goal and prove Alan Baxter wrong. My standard writing day seems to have settled at about 1,800 words, which is achievable without feeling like I’m pushing myself, and even on my “holy crap, I don’t feel like writing today” days, I’m still managing to get a couple of hundred word’s down.

After a couple of discussions with people about the project, I’ve set up a publicly accessible Google Doc where I track daily word counts, writing patterns, and potential disruptions to my workflow, as well as a list of projects worked on as part of the 600k (this blog post, for example, doesn’t count).

The Sustainable 600K: A Writing Dare Courtesy of Alan Baxter

Last week my friend Alan Baxter posted his annual link to a post about why he thinks NaNoWriMo is a stupid idea for writers, and ‘cause I was fresh off a teaching gig and looking for distraction, I accidentally clicked through and read said post for the fourth year in a row.

I’m not quite the anti-NaNo grump that Alan is, although I do kind of dread this time of year as a natural by-product of working at a centre that exists to help new writers. NaNo usually results in a slight uptick in calls, activities, and other new-writer craziness that carries us through to the end of the December (I’ve also seen how useful it is when it comes to helping aspiring writers carve time out of their schedule, especially when they’re still at that early stage where no-one takes their writing ambition seriously, which is the same theory behind the weekly Writing Races we run via AWM).

So, by and large, I skimmed over the arguments and went straight to the comments where the interesting stuff happened. And what caught my eye this year, however, was a complaint Al made in the comments:

50k words in a short time is not unreasonable, but in 30 days it’s unrealistic to be sustainable. Once, sure, but on a regular basis? It’s unsustainable and unnecessary. 

When he first made this argument, back in 2011, I probably would have nodded and gone along agreeing with him. Even last year, when I was first settling down and getting back into a writing routine, I would have been like “well, yeah, for those of us who work, it’s pretty ambitious.”

But this year, well, I look at that and think 600,000 words in twelve months isn’t that hard, is it? I’ve been pretty crap at keeping track of my actual word-count this year, but I’ve been writing pretty fast for the last twelve months. 2,400 word days aren’t unusual anymore, even if they were unthinkable when I started writing again back in January.

And since Facebook is a place where I throw almost every half-formed idea that runs through my head, I put this up on Alan’s comment thread: Now I kinda want to go write 600,000 words between now and next November, just to test if its as unsustainable as you think it is.

His response was characteristically succinct: I fucking dare ya! 

And in that moment I was committed.

Between November 1st, 2014, and October 31st, 2015, I’m going to endeavor to write 600,000 words of fiction to test Al’s argument about sustainability of big monthly word counts. I’m not planning on posting daily word counts or anything, but I will be checking in on the project periodically and taking a look at what’s working for. I’m expecting there will be a level of hacking involved, since I’m basically aiming at “holy fuck,  how do you do that and work a part-time job” levels of productivity. And, ’cause I have a mortgage and a desire to eat, I’ll be doing my level best to make sure everything is a salable quality work rather than writing 50k a month for its own sake (my one concession to Al’s complaint against NaNo).

So that start tomorrow.

Today, however, I’m reading through my draft of Crusade (aka Flotsam novella) and filling in the final few scenes that need to be finished.

What I Am Doing These Days

ONE

I’m reading Courtney Milan’s Unraveled at the moment, picked up courtesy of this review over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and thus far it’s proving to be every big as glorious as the review promised it would be. Highly recommended if you’re the kind of person whose into Historical romance.

TWO

I’m at the tail end of writing Crusade, the third off the Flotsam novellas I’m doing for Apocalypse Ink.My current estimate is that I’m about 85% of the way done, and I’ll officially be writing The END on the current draft sometime this week. This means I’m taking a serious look at what gets done next, since I’ll officially be done with all my contracted work for the year and I’ve got about two weeks of leave coming up in November where I plan on locking myself away in my house and writing.

THREE

I’m fighting off the tail end of a cold that’s been with me since Thursday afternoon, and generally caused me to sleep 20 hours out of every 24 over the weekend. I barely remember Saturday existing. I only know I woke up at some point because I apparently wrote 100 words on my work in progress so I could tick the calendar marking my consecutive writing days (current total: 50 days).

FOUR

I’m eating left-over shredded pork pizza.

 

Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishing

 

SO HERE’S THE THING

I’m still getting the hang of this writing, blogging, and working thing. And I still haven’t quite gotten to the point where it’s sustainable when I’m writing, blogging, working, and recovering from illness. I’m still getting knocked around by the throat infection, feeling exhausted, doing that thing where I fall asleep at the keyboard from time to time.

It’s frustrating as hell.

Which is why, this week, I’m instituting rule zero: writing comes first. I’m going to let the blog fall silent for seven days while I do some focused work on getting my current novella draft up and running.

I am, officially, gone fishing writing until next Monday.

See you all then.

Embrace Complexity

So…shit, I dunno. The world just makes no sense to me these days. I’m still recovering from the throat infection, which isn’t helping much; I sleep more than I mean to and struggle to maintain my energy levels. This means I fret a bit about the work I’m not doing, and spend far more time than I should on the internet.

Which means I’m there when people start responding to the deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall.

Which means I’m watching a major publisher and a major bookseller engage in a public relations war using writers and books as their kickball.

Which means I’m watching what happens in Ferguson, Missouri, and what’s happening in the Middle East, and I find that there’s so many things happening locally that terrify me.

Which means I’m online when my government starts engaging in yet more stupidity, claiming poor people don’t drive cars, and blithely continues to destroy the few elements of Australian culture I actually respect. Or when one of the state governments floats a bill offering compulsory voting to businesses.

I’m slightly terrified by the realisation that if I’d turned twenty under Australia’s current government, I wouldn’t be a writer sixteen years later.

Hell, I’m not entirely sure I’d still be alive.

The world scares me far more than it used to. Mostly, I think, because we the internet feeds me far more information than I used to have and couples it with a wide exposure to our culture’s desire to easy answers.

There are no easy answers anymore.

I’m not sure there ever were.

I understand the desire for easy answers, the tendency towards golden age thinking and looking for scapegoats that will simplify things. There are days when I just don’t have the energy to deal with one more complex problem and think it through from every angle.

But I understand the need for it.

I embrace complexity, ’cause that’s the only way to engage with the modern world. The acknowledgement that many things are far more complicated than they used to be, and accepting that none of the answers we’re offered are inherently right or wrong.I hold my tongue on many things, ’cause I acknowledge that I haven’t spent enough time wrapping my head around the topic to offer an informed opinion.

And that’s okay. There are people out there – smart people, well-informed people – who put energy into understanding these things. When enough of them start saying similar things, I’m willing to take it as truth. When enough of them disagree about things, I’m willing to acknowledge that said thing is really, really complicated and I need to be better informed about it.

When people talk like there are easy answers – or even that they’ve got the one true answer – I look on them with distrust (or, occasionally, write them off as utter dicks. I’m looking at you, misogynist dude-bro types mourning the rise of feminism).

There are no easy answers.

Embrace complexity. I suspect it’s the only real hope we have of surviving the next hundred years or so.

Re-Visiting Flotsam’s Photographic History

When I first pitched the Flotsam series to Edge of Propinquity, long before it was ever transmuted into a novella trilogy, part of the appeal of doing twelve stories about the Gold Coast was getting the chance to work with my sister. You see, Edge of Propinquity accompanied all shot-stories with photographs, and at the time my sister was developing her chops as a semi-professional photographer, so I figured getting to work together to document bits of the Gold Coast would be kinda fun.

In the end, it probably ended up being more stress than fun, and a lot of that’s on my head as the guy who was late getting the stories together. This occasionally meant I’d simply work from images Sally already had in inventory, or we’d put together a more general image rather than putting together something specifically reflective of the story. Occasionally, we’d get really lucky: there was a family holiday at the start of the year where a storm rolled in that looked like the end of the world in progress, which was pretty much a no-brainer when it came to an image we wanted to use.

Flotsam02

Flotsam03

Photography by Sally Ball

Flotsam09

Photograph by Sally Ball

Flotsam07

Photograph by Sally Ball

I’ve been going through the photographs for the Flotsam series this week, revisiting them as I start putting together the plan for Crusade (aka Flotsam Novella 3). There’s a couple of instances where my sister has made some moderately weird requests work, like “can you photograph an octopus tentacle” and “can you make me feel like I’m trapped in a hotel room?”, a couple of shots from my favourite places on the Gold Coast (I’m amazed, two novellas in, that the Currumbin Alley hasn’t yet made an appearance in the series), and some pretty neat hotel shots (hotels are…prominent…on the Coast).

Flotsam08

Photograph by Sally Ball

Part of me is tempted to go write a whole new series of stories with these images, now that Flotsam has gone off in another direction. Something less dark than Flotsam, but still kinda strange and magical. Magic realist postcards from one of the weirdest cities on earth, rather than demons and Gothic assassins.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how my to-do list keeps expanding, even when I do my best to keep from adding in new projects.