News & Upcoming Events

The latest news regarding my writing, work with the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, and any upcoming events or workshops I’m involved in.

Horn & Bleed on sale at Twelfth Planet Press

So I’d ordinarily show up here and talk up The Birdcage Heart and Other Strange Tales, given that it’s the new kid on the block right now, but we’re heading into the holiday season and ebooks aren’t particularly good presents to give people.

On the other hand, I have written some print books and right now the publisher who backed Horn and Bleed is having a sale where you can pick up both novellas for $15 dollarydoos. If your’e still after a copy (or just want to traumatize your loved ones this Christmas), head on over to the Twelfth Planet Press website

5 Reasons to Go Buy The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales This Week

So this book I’ve been banging on about is finally out in all it’s digital glory. For those who have just arrived on this blog, or keep losing to goldfish when challenging them to memory games, I’m referring to this book:

“Only Peter M. Ball’s fiction makes falling down the rabbit hole feel like flying. Funny and surprising, with moments of extraordinary grace.” Angela Slatter, Author of the World Fantasy Award-winning The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings

Click Here To Purchase From Your Preferred Digital Retailer

It contains twelve short stories, all in the slipstream/magic realism/fantasy line, all of them written by me. If that’s enough to convince you that it’s a must-have item, you can go ahead and click on the link above to acquire your copy. If you’re still up in the air, I’m going to dedicate the rest of this post to convincing you that The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales is worth parting with your hard-earned bucks.

Without further ado:

Five Reasons You Should Go Buy The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales This Week

ONE: TWO NEW STORIES THAT NO-ONE HAS EVER SEEN (AND ONE THAT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO TRACK DOWN)

Ten of the stories in this collection have been previously published. A large chunk of those were published online, and thus remain available for reading if you are willing to spend some quality time Googling my name and hunting down the stories one-by-one. This is the nature of short story collections, which is why authors do evil things like sneak shiny, brand-new stories that no-one has ever read into the collection. This collection contains two: one is a tale of wizards and government bureaucracy, and the other is an short story I wrote to entertain Alan Baxter that draws its influences from Lovecraft, 80s action movies, and one of my favourite short stories in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.

I love both these stories and I’m really excited for people to read them, but what I’m even happier about is including On the Arrival of the Paddle-Steamer on the Docks of V—. This is one of my favourite stories that I’ve written, originally published by Jonathan Strahan in the late, lamented Eclipse Online just a month or so before the the publisher behind the magazine changed hands and Eclipse closed it’s doors (and the archive disappeared offline). Tracking this one down is incredibly difficult…until now.

TWO: YOU GET ABOUT 46,000 WORDS OF PRETTY KICK-ASS FICTION

I’ve written some pretty good stories over the past ten years. And yes, I know, check out the ego on me, but I’m not saying you need to take my word on this. I mean, holy shit, have you seen some of the editors and magazines who have published some of these stories? For your reference, here’s a short list: Jack Dann; Cat Rambo; Strange Horizons; Jonathan Strahan; Shimmer; Catherynne M. Valente. Some of the stories in this  collection have ended up in Years Best collections and on the Locus Recommended List. If you travelled back to 2007 and told me I’d sell stories to them inside of a decade, I would have laughed and thought you were crazy.

THREE: YOU LIKE YOUR FICTION STRANGE

Let’s be honest: I write odd stories. Much as I love a good sword-and-sorcery tale, they aren’t my wheelhouse when it comes to storytelling. I sit over on the other side of fantasy, hanging out with the slipstream and the weird tales and the magic realism.

There are no swords in this collection, but there are steampunk mecha built out of old shipwrecks by angry merfolk, clockwork goats used as pawns in a game of status between magi, fey that travel the world on paddle-steamers, and endless stairwells descending to god-knows-where that have become tourist attractions. There are stories about men with birdcages for hearts and small towns trying to stop the end of the world.

There’s a story about government bureaucracy and the people forced to work the desks, but there might be a wizard in it.

FOUR: YOU WANT TO SEE BRAIN JAR PRESS DO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS

Right now, Brain Jar Press is tiny. It’s me and a handful of software, some drafts-in-progress and a bunch of things I hold the rights too. The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales is the first release, but it’s the tiny seed from which all the other projects grow.

Let’s be clear: I have plans. Oh my, do I have plans. But those plans are adaptable, balancing long-term needs against the short-term desire to do things like pay my mortgage and eat. I’m spending the next week putting together my quarterly plan, outlining all the projects and deadlines I’m working towards across December, January, and February. Early support for projects like this justify putting a lot more effort into the things that come next.

Buying The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales now is an investment in future cool things coming your way.

FIVE: YOU WANT ME TO BLOG MORE

I love blogging, and I really love blogging about writing and publishing. It’s also a project that requires an enormous amount of time, which means that it’s the first project to get moved down the to-do list when paying projects (or day-job gigs) starts putting pressure on my writing time.

This means there’s a direct correlation between how well the writing side of my income is doing and how much I tend to blog about writing. Therefore, the easiest way to get more blogging out of me is to buy my books and put me in a position where I don’t need to go find a part-time gig to pay my mortgage.

I’ve looked at options like Petreon before, but I prefer to keep blogging for free and making an income from other parts of my writing.

You know, like fiction.

I really like writing fiction. And working on fiction, thinking it through, is where I start getting ideas for blog posts that feel interesting enough to talk about it.

So here I am, with this book all shiny and new, where a large chunk of the money comes my way every time it sells. You don’t have to pick up a copy via a link from the blog, but every sale is a little reminder that there’s an audience here on this blog that digs what I do.

 

Notes From the Brain Jar, or An Argument for Giving Me Unfettered Access To Your Inbox

With GenreCon over, I get to turn my attention to the ignored parts of my writing life that I haven’t yet talked about much. One of these is Notes from the Brain Jar, the more-or-less weekly email newsletter I send out every Wednesday that contains process notes, sneak peaks, thoughts inspired  on recent reading, and the occasionally curated series of links to interesting things.

You can subscribe, if that sounds like your kind of thing, via the sign-up page or just head over to the sidebar on this here site.

You can also check out the archive of previous newsletters. Sometimes I talk about writing or starting a small press. Sometimes I talk about the philosophical problems presented by soup. Sometimes I remind you that I’ve got a new book coming and it would be peachy-keen if you bought it.

Coming November 30: The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales

I’ve dropped hints about this on Facebook and the mailing list over the last week, but now that the details are up in the major ebook stores it’s time to make it official: my first short story collection, The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales, will be released in ebook on the 30th of November (with a print edition following in 2018).

PRE-ORDERS ARE AVAILABLE NOW

Rat descends a staircase that never ends, following the rules laid out by his guidebook.

Copenhagen is invaded by angry merfolk piloting war-machines crafted from old shipwrecks.

A musician with a grudge upsets the delicate balance of a very unusual seaside town.

The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales collects twelve weird and unusual fantasy tales from Peter M Ball. Within these pages you’ll meet an executioner tasked with killing a man who cannot be killed, a young man with a birdcage where his year should be, and a frustrated public servant trying to deal with an unruly wizard determined to prove his powers.

You’ll watch a relationship unravel as a young man’s former lovers are revealed to be creatures of myth, reminisce with the residents of a city overrun with giant thorns, and visit Isla Tortuga’s last, great house of ill repute where no-one is exactly what they seem on the surface.

Often strange, always magical, these stories will take you on a journey through love, joy, and sorrow.

Coming Full Circle with Brain Jar Press

I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my major project in 2018: launching Brain Jar Press and getting its first book ready for release.

I did my first stint with indie publishing back in 2005. It’s strange, looking back, because indie publishing hadn’t really taken hold in fiction publishing yet and I was still a few years away from writing fiction anyway. I focused on short, useful products for the D20 system, the open-sourced rules for the edition of Dungeons and Dragons that was in vogue way back then.

It taught me a lot about the difference between writing and publishing, and it shaped the way I thought about everything I did in writing after that.

2005 is another world, given the pace publishing moves at these days. We didn’t call it indie publishing back then – I set out to be a micropress, producing content by me and a small group of other people, and in the space of two years we managed to get out 50 odd products. I had a blast, and I enjoyed the process of taking a book from a raw idea to a finished product, and it represents the single-most focused chunk of time I ever had writing because I knew where everything I did fit into the overall plan.

I made a pretty good chunk of money, too, courtesy of some forward thinking and an attempt to hit niches that needed to be filled. The products I got rebadged after the end of the D20 system still sell, and I imagine the rest would too if the death of my PC and back-up drive hadn’t wiped out all the production files at the end of 2006.

In another place, another time, I’d have settled into RPG publishing for good and probably done okay with it. Instead, a computer failure forced me to sit down and replan my next few years, and I noticed four things:

  • First, the yet-to-be-diagnosed sleep apnea was kicking my ass, making it harder to focus on the business side of things. Since I wasn’t anywhere near being willing to admit that something was wrong, I focused on conserving energy.
  • Second, the writing was on the wall for the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and the d20 system would lose marketshare as a result; this would result in some pretty significant shifts in the business plan and a lot of product rebranding, which the computer death made…problematic.
  • Third, I had just been exposed to the fairly toxic streak of ideology among some gamers that would eventually harden into things like Gamer Gate, and I was disheartened by the idea of writing for that audience.
  • Fourth, I had just gotten into Clarion South and was about to focus on fiction for the first time in nearly fifteen years, so it was time to pivot and try something new.

And with that, the Clockwork Golem Workshop shut it’s doors and I started writing fiction. Then I got a job at Queensland Writers Centre, and eventually found myself running GenreCon. I watched the rise of indie publishing in the fiction and non-fiction space from the sidelines, passed on what I knew from the RPG side of things to folks who came to QWC’s indie publishing workshops. I learned a lot from researching those seminars and following the evolution of the indie side of things, and I learned even more by comparing the way indie publishing evolved in the gaming space with the way the nascent self-publishing options transformed into viable strategies.

The thought of getting back into publishing has been around for a while. I started putting together plans for how I would approach indie publishing back in 2012, but that was three years before the sleep apnea was diagnosed and the upside of knowing the effective business models for indie publishing is being able to gauge whether it’s an effective thing for you, your goals, and your process. The thing eager beginners often miss about going indie is that it works best when you’re dealing in quantity, producing multiple books a year and building up a long series. It’s a business model that works based on a deep, readily accessible backlist. If you’re not starting out with that backlist – and most writers diving into this aren’t – then your first few years are basically building that list from the ground up.

In 2012, I knew I wasn’t going to produce solid work at the speed I’d need to in order to make self-publishing viable, given my long-term goals. In 2015, I felt like I was getting closer, but still wasn’t able to hit it. In 2016 I started looking at the changes I’d need to make going indie viable for me and my long term goals.

A few months back I put together the business plan and did all the paperwork for making Brain Jar Press an official business. Next month, on November 1st, I put a collection of my short stories, The Birdcage Heart & Other Strange Tales,  up for pre-order.

On November 30, it becomes an actual book, and I gear up to hit the ground running in 2018. The things I know about indie publishing will come up against the thing that I need to learn, and I test the long-term plan I’ve been tinkering with for nearly five years against the reality of actually writing, releasing, and commissioning books.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the publishing side of things, after nearly a decade away from it. I’m looking forward to the learning curve as I figure it all out in a whole new era.

Next Friday: In Conversation With CS Pacat

Next Friday I’m doing an In Conversation with the writer behind The Captive Prince series, CS Pacat. Details and tickets can still be acquired up until 6:00 PM on the 28th.

This is one of my rare public appearances in 2017, because I have been steadily saying no to teaching and presenting gigs for a little over a year now. I would have turned down this one as well, it not for two things:

  • First, I’m there as a representative of the GenreCon Ninja team, and I will always make an exception when it comes to flying the GenreCon flag.
  • Second, CS Pacat is incredibly fucking smart about genre and writing, and I would be an idiot to turn down the opportunity to pick her brain.

Spend enough time around writers and you’ll quickly realise that a number of them are incredibly smart when it comes to matters of craft and business. The trick, once you’ve been around long enough, is to start paying attention to the smartest writers you’ve met and listen when they start talking about the smartest writers they know.

I first heard about Pacat through one of Australia’s best romance authors, Anne Gracie, who raved about the rapid development of complex characters and plots. Then she appeared as a guest at Genrecon 2015 and blew people out of the water by being smart, articulate, and (lets be honest) incredibly well dressed. What cemented me as a fan wasn’t just her work, but the series of writing essays on her website which explore different aspects of writing.

Pacat is fascinating because she focuses heavily on technique. She thinks about the craft of writing, analyses it and pulls it apart. Looks for connections between the works she enjoys and the skills required to make those works.

There is an intangible thing that is present in some writers works – a sense of control that makes you realise just how loose some writers are playing within a similar genre. Pacat has it, and she talks about how she acquired it.

To say that I cannot wait until next Friday would be an understatement.

New Story At Daily Science Fiction

My latest story, Counting Down, went live at Daily Science Fiction on Friday.

There are all sorts of reasons to write a short story. Sometimes you write them because you have something you want to say, or because you’re trying to chip away at a problem that you can’t seem to tackle any other way. Sometimes you write them because you want to entertain one of your friends, and you think there’s a good chance that you can write something you think they’ll like.

Sometimes you listen to Release the Bats on repeat, and after the fiftieth time you’ve shrieked HORROR, VAMPIRE, BAT BITE! you start getting nostalgic for the time you were stuck in Brisbane, overnight and without a place to stay, because the DJ dropped the Birthday Party at a goth club you were at and you decided that dancing to Release the Bats was more important than catching the last train back to the Gold Coast.

There were four or five of us who made that decision. We did not regret it.

The gulf between conception and execution is wide and stories change as you work on them, so you do not need to be familiar with the song to read the story. That said, it cannot hurt, so…

Hornets Attack Your Best Friend Victor

Hornets Attack Your Best Friend Victor and Other Things We Called the Band is probably the longest title I’ve ever used for a short story, and it’s still shorter than the working title I used all through the first draft. The finished version is currently published at Speculate, the short-story series hosted by Evil Girlfriend Media.

The title for this one is a pretty direct homage to REM, who used the name Hornets Attack Victor Mature to book a secret gig in their home town back in the 80s. It’s the sort of thing one picks up when one is seventeen and obsessively reading band biographies, and it stuck in my head for twenty-two years before I finally started building a story out of it to justify the mental bandwidth it’s taken up over the years.

Seven Days Left at QWC

So, let’s just rip this band-aid off: I’m leaving my job at Queensland Writers Centre at the end of next week.

*Takes a deep breath*
*Exhales meaningfully*
*Gets a little misty-eyed*

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I started with QWC, coming aboard to work on a arts project on a six month contract. I thought I would finish up at the end of 2011, pack up my stuff and head off to Melbourne for the next phase of my life. Instead, I kept signing new contracts and getting new gigs. Managing the Australian Writers Marketplace. Convening the GenreCon writers conference and shepherding it through its first three years. Going out and talking to writers, new and established, about business and craft and networking and all the other things I’m passionate about when it comes to writer’s careers.

I got to meet and befriend an incredible number of talented writers, publishers, and agents. I got to give people advice in my first year, then have them come back and tell me how it helped a few years later.

QWC has, for the last five years, been a pretty sweet gig for someone with my interests. I’m still vaguely shocked that I made the decision to leave. It basically took a perfect storm of someone offering me a similarly interesting gig doing social media content, with compatible hours that still allowed for writing, and a better paycheck attached. The better paycheck helped make the decision, what with the mortgage and all. And even then I was on the fence, because…well, lets be honest, 2017 is a GenreCon year and I love running that event.

Then, when I told my boss I was leaving, they were all, “so if I wanted you to come back and work on GenreCon…”

Which means, essentially, I’m leaving my job at QWC next week, except for the bit that I really, really enjoy. And I’ll still be convening Genrecon in 2017 and getting a chance to implement the program that’s half-built already, in my head. That makes the whole leaving thing a little less sad.

But just a little. It’s been a great five years and I’ve had the chance to meet all sorts of awesome people. If you were part of that, thank you. You all fucking rocked.

And with that, I’m off to Melbourne for the weekend to catch up with peeps. See you all when I get back to Brisbane next week, yeah?

Three Random Things

JESSICA JONES

I stayed up and watched all of Jessica Jones in one hit on Friday night.Turns out, and I’m still paying for that – no matter how many times all-nighters kick me in the arse, I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that they’re no longer an option.

Still, totally worth it. I regret nothing.

The Netflix/Marvel shows are…well, not really shows. They’re more like thirteen hour movies and this is far more prevalent with Jessica Jones than it was in Daredevil. The arc here is distinct and heavily focused – where Daredevil‘s arc genuflected in the direction of episodic television, taking its time building up to the revelation of a big-bad being behind everything, Jessica Jones goes straight for the throat. When it comes to bad guys, it’s all David Tennant, all the time, and the story is driven by Jessica’s reaction to his arrival.

Let me just say: the plotting in this is exquisite. Little, throw-away things prove to be the foundation upon which big things are built. No character is wasted.

HORN & BLEED ON KINDLE

HORNcover_600px-220x300News from Twelfth Planet Press – both Horn and Bleed are now for sale via the Amazon kindle store. Which is awesome, ’cause I’ve got a folder full of emails from people all, like, yo, why can’t I get this on kindle? and now the answer is yo, you can and they can be all yo, that’s awesome, while I ponder this sudden proliferation of the word yo in our dialect.

BULLETS FOR THE DEAD

I’m not saying this movie seems like it would appeal to a number of people that I know, but lets break this down:

First: Gun-slingers.

Second: Zombies.

Third: Gunslingers +  Zombies + two young Queensland film-makers putting together their first feature film.

There is no world that exists where that combination doesn’t appeal to a huge swathe of my friends. It certainly appeals to me, and I’m quietly excited for the film’s release.