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.

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.

Released: The Flotsam Omnibus

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Currently available from: Apocalypse Ink Productions | Amazon | DriveThruFiction
Note: The hardback signed limited edition of this book is only available on the AIP website.

AND NOW WE ARE DONE

Four years ago, I wrote a web-serial for a small magazine. Two years ago, I started working on that story in novella form, rebuilding it brick by brick, dragging in all the lessons I learned from writing the serial. Today, I hit the end of the journey: The Flotsam Omnibus officially exists as a thing, compiling all three novellas in the series plus another two stories set in the same universe.

There are demons, there are hit men, and there are things from behind space and time.

And, because I could not help myself, there’s a spot of pro-wrestling in one of the stories.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there’s a limited edition hard-cover of this thing (only available directly from the publisher) in addition to the usual trade paperback and ebook versions. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I wrote a trilogy, which wasn’t entirely intentional, but seems to have worked out okay.

I do not have to wrap my head around the awesomness of Mark Ferrari’s cover, because I have been using it as a home screen for the last six months and it just keeps being awesome.

 

An Addendum To Yesterday’s Post

Two quick addendum’s to yesterday’s post.

ONE: NEW STORY AT DAILY SF

My latest story, The Place Beyond the Brambles, deals with bees and mysteries and missing love, and it just went live over on the Daily Science Fiction website.

When last I saw you, my sweet, my love, you were shrunk to the size of Grandma’s thimble and plucked from the porch by the bees of the forest. We heard your cries, your wild shrieks of delight, as they carried you to the place beyond the southern brambles. Listened, after, to the silence that followed, to the empty fields and the dark shadows beneath the trees where no bee remained to hum its evening song.

You’ve been gone now a five-month, and grandma does not remember you, nor does Jordy or Cousin Ferdinand or our dear, sweet Claudette. Whatever magic was used to shrink you, to make your final exit possible, has stolen your memories from those you once deemed close as family.

I don’t write many short stories as I once did, so if you’ve been hanging out for a new, bite-sized piece of fiction from yours truly, get yourself over to the Daily SF.

TWO: BEST OF APEX MAGAZINE, VOLUME 1

Apex have just announced the table of contents for the first volume of the Best of Apex Magazine, collecting the best stories from the first 79 issues of the magazine. It’s a pretty phenomenal listing, all things considered, with one last story due to be included based on a vote by the Apex readers.

In the words of Rocket Red: hokey-smokeys, this thing looks good. The current list of stories is as follows:

  • Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon (Issue 56)
  • If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love by Rachel Swirsky (Issue 46)
  • The Green Book by Amal El-Mohtar (Issue 18)
  • Candy Girl by Chikodili Emelumadu (Issue 66)
  • Falling Leaves by Liz Argall (Issue 60)
  • A Matter of Shapespace by Brian Trent (Issue 51)
  • Blood from Stone by Alethea Kontis (Issue 43)
  • Sexagesimal by Katharine E.K. Duckett (Issue 40)
  • Keep Talking by Marie Vibbert (Issue 67)
  • Going Endo by Rich Larson (Issue 74)
  • Remembery Day by Sarah Pinsker (Issue 72)
  • Pocosin by Ursula Vernon (Issue 68)
  • She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow by Sam Fleming (Issue 79)
  • L’esprit de L’escalier by Peter M. Ball (Issue 16)
  • The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell (Issue 44)
  • Advertising at the End of the World by Keffy R.M. Kehrli (Issue 3)
  • Armless Maidens of the American West by Genevieve Valentine (Issue 39)
  • Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols (Issue 78)
  • Build-A-Dolly by Ken Liu (Issue 47)
  • Still Life (A Sexagesimal Fairy Tale) by Ian Tregillis (Issue 17)

Pre-orders open in a week and more details are available on the Apex website.

Things I’ve Got On The Horizon

I had this crazy idea in my head. I thought things would slow down, once GenreCon was over. Self, I said, if you get through this, it’s all unicorns and nachos. You can finish your writing project, bugger off to Melbourne for a holiday, get ready to kick off 2016 right, you know?

For the most part, that’s still happening: I’ve got a few days away from the office; I head off to Melbourne this time next week; I’m scribbling away on the laptop or a notebook most mornings. I’ve watched too many Jason Statham movies on Netflix, without really meaning too.

But the writer’s life, it’s all about the hustle, and 2015 still has a few things I should mention before it’s done.

THING THE FIRST: CREATING CHARACTERS WORKSHOP On DECEMBER 6

Should you have a burning desire to taught how to write by yours truly – and honestly, I cannot think of any reason why you wouldn’t – you might want to book into the Creating Compelling Character’s workshop I’m teaching for Queensland Writers Centre on December 6.

This is one of my favourite workshops to teach, since it gets right to the heart of stories and storytelling. The last time I ran it was back at the beginning of 2014 and it got perhaps the best response from anything I’ve taught in the last few years. It got me interested in writing the series of posts about what writers can learn from Die Hard (which I’ll now have to finish, I think, seeing as this is on the horizon)

Ostensibly, the workshop is everything I knew about creating characters packed into six hours. When we run out of things that I know about characters, I point folks towards the smart things other writers have said about writing, and keep moving forward.

perf5.500x8.500.inddTHING THE SECOND: FLOTSAM LANDS ON NOVEMBER 18

The Omnibus edition of Flotsam lands on November 18, coming out in both ebook and a limited edition, pre-signed hardback. The Omnibus collects together all three novellas in the series, plus two additional stories set in the Flotsam universe.

That means a whole lot of occult assassins, apocalyptic threats, and Gold Coast Fimbulwinter.

It’s got a goddamn beautiful cover. Mark Ferrari totally killed it, putting the omnibus together, and I literally cannot wait to see his art wrapped around a hardcover volume.

THING THE THIRD: MELBURNIA

Melbourne peeps, I am coming to your city. Next Thursday, in fact. For about five days.

Mostly, it should be said, to hang with some old friends while playing board games, admiring their collection of Captain America shields, and giving their cat a high-give (it’s a very high-fiveable feline). Maybe coax Patrick O’Duffy into letting me sit in on one of his Annihilation sessions, since he seems to have packed them to the brim with former Brisbane gamers.

But if you are in Melbourne, and inclined to hang out for a stretch, hit me up via email or in the comments and we’ll see what can be lined up.

 

Transmission from Conference Land: Things I Should Mention

By the time you read this, you and I are living in different worlds. You are living in the real world, where real things happen. I have travelled to Conference Land, where my head disappears into spreadsheets and phone-calls and a couple of hundred people wanting things done all urgent-like. There is no downtime once you enter Conference Land. There are simply times when you are working on the con, and times where you are sitting quietly, not really doing anything, ready to leap into action the moment the next emergency lands.

GenreCon begins Friday.

One of those phrases that resonates through my consciousness with a big, earth-shattering KABOOM! And in the silent aftermath, amid the desolation where all thought is wiped away, I start thinking of random things I should be telling people about.

Lament for the AfterlifeFIRST: LAMENT FOR THE AFTERLIFE, BRISBANE LAUNCH

If you’re in Brisbane for GenreCon and looking for something to do on Thursday night, might I suggest heading along to Avid Reader bookstore for the launch of Lisa L. Hannett’s novel, Lament for the Afterlife. I’ve been friends with Lisa since she came to Brisbane for Clarion South in 2009 and promptly became the second half of Angela Slatter’s brain, and she was already a fabulously talented writer back then. She’s only gotten better in the years since, and I am looking forward to this book so damn much.

Basically, my recovery plan for GenreCon is over basically consists of reading this book, going to Melbourne to play boardgames for a few days, then mainlining Jessica Jones the moment it goes live on Netflix. After which I will probably read this book again, ’cause I expect it to be that damn good.

SECOND: AND THEN, THE INDIGOGOING OF AN ANTHOLOGY

Back in January, Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine Press emailed about an anthology they were putting together. They were after old-fashioned, rip-snorting pulp stories featuring duel protagonists. “Think Holmes and Watson,” Lindy said. “Xena and Gabrielle; Butch and Sundance; John Steed and Emma Peel.”

“Sounds cool,” I said. “But I don’t really know. This year is really busy.”

“Turner and Hooch,” Lindy said.

God knows why that was the combination that convinced me, but it did the trick. I went and wrote a story about cryogenics and people who think they’re Kaiju and genetically engineered super-soldiers with a heart of gold, and a bunch of other people went and wrote stories featuring two dual protagonists, and suddenly they had a whole lot of stories and a really big book on their hands.

So it became two books. And, for various reasons relating to various writers writing really long stories,  an indiegogo (which is like Kickstarter, but far more awkward to verb).

THIRD: THE FLOTSAM OMNIBUS

I have, more than once this month, had conversations that ran a little like this. Someone says, “so you’ve got a book coming out soon, yeah?” and I look confused and say “no, why would you think– oh, shit, yes.”

The Flotsam Trilogy Omnibus comes out in November, which packs Exile, Frost, and Crusade into a single print volume, along with some extra stories set in the same universe. It features my favourite of the Mark Ferrari covers commissioned for the series:

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Word from the Apocalypse Ink crew is that they’ll have copies of the print edition for sale at OryCon, so I would imagine they’re aimed at a Mid-to-Late November release.