This is not a reason to panic…

Earlier this week I put together my writing-based to-do list that covers all the stuff I’d like to achieve between now and the end of February. It basically consists of a novel draft, an exegesis draft, a novella draft, and a dozen stories that either need to be written or re-written. It’s the kind of workload that seems reasonable inside my head, but experience says that real life will not let it run as smoothly as I expect. Especially since the work breakdown says I should have a story draft done by this Sunday, as well as a small chunk of novel and a 3500 word outline for the exegesis. My brain is refusing to do any of it and demanding to watch Predator 2 instead (No, I don’t know why Predator 2 has become the topic of fixation, but apparently my subconscious is convinced it’s a reasonable facsimile for work).

I’m not panicking about this, which is my usual modus operandi. For starters, I’m not going to give into the Predator fixation, and I can outlast my subconscious in this kind of stuff. I figure sometime, probably in a week or two, it’ll get on board with this list of stuff and get working on it and everything will be hunky-dory until the next complete lapse of writerly discipline and self-doubt hits in March.

Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy

Years Best Australian SF and Fantasy 4 CoverMy internet access is  wonky at the moment, so I’ll be making this brief and hoping it goes through before the modem crashes again. The page for Mirrordanse Book’s Year’s Best Australian SF and Fantasy 4 has gone up along with a copy of the recommended reading 2007 list from the very back of the back. 2007 wasn’t really a big year for me, publications wise – I was still finding my feet post-Clarion and the stuff I did get published was mostly flash – so I was kinda surprised to spot my little SF Flash “Avenue D: The Tankboy’s Ride” among the list.

Admittedly it wasn’t a surprise I got today – I picked up a copy of the book while I was down at Conflux – but one calls attention to good stuff when the opportunity presents itself. It’s a damn good read by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s one of the three Year’s Best collections I now pick up regularly (alongside the Datlow/Link/Grant Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Dozois Year’s Best Science Fiction). I’m not entirely sure why the table of contents isn’t up when the recommendations are, but trust me when I say you won’t regret picking up a copy (assuming you are, of course, a fan of spec fic and the short story, but I can’t imagine why you’d be reading this if you weren’t).

More Last Short Story

Another mention from Last Short Story today, this time from GirlieJones: “The strongest story for me in Fantasy this year was Peter M Ball’s “On the Finding of Photographs of My Former Loves”, which was also when I perked up my ears and hopped on the Peter M Ball train. It’s tender and odd and sad and bittersweet. And beautifully beautifully written. I’m looking forward to reading what Ball does next. “

Last Short Story

If you’re a fan of the speculative fiction short story, you really do owe it to yourself to be following the Last Short Story blog. It’s maintained by a small group of dedicated readers committed to reading every short story published in the field over the course of a year and making note of their favourites. I was a big fan during the blogs first year, 2007, when it directed me towards some outstanding anthologies I would have otherwise missed – New Space OperaInterfictions – and directed me towards what would become one of my favourite stories of the year, Garth Nix’s Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz Go To War Again.

Being such a fan of the blog, it’s been kind of neat to watch some of the nice things they’ve said about two pieces of my fiction over the last couple of months.

About The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga in Dreaming Again
  – BenPayne: “tells of a young cabin-boy on a pirate ship, taken on his first visit to a whorehouse. Nothing is as it first seems; either boy or whorehouse. But more powerful than the surprises are the deft writing and the fragility and compassion that imbue this story. Not at all what I expected; it’s another deftly written character story, and another writer worth keeping an eye on.”
Cassiphone: “I thought I was over pirate stories after the glut of them in recent times, but Ball has provided a sexy, charming and utterly sinister pageturner, about a crew of pirates who come ashore at an infamous brothel staffed by zombies.”

About On the Finding of Photographs of My Former Loves in Fantasy Magazine
Cassiophone: “… a sinister story about love ending. More magical realism than fantasy, it left me with my stomach all twisty and unhappy.”
BenPayne: :… is a nicely evocative little relationship story, emotionally jagged and well-crafted.”

The Last Short Story crew are at a point where they’re finalizing their recommendations for 2008 and preparing for the onslaught of the new year, so it’s the perfect time to start reading. They’re folks that work hard, they recommend good work, and they attempt the impossible (think about it for a second – *all the spec fic stories published in a year; every magazine and anthology and website* – you’ve got to give them props for that). Setting aside the obvious bias generated by the kind words on display above, I recommend checking them out.

So today it was officially announced…

That Twelfth Planet Press is releasing my novella next year. Nabbed from the announcementTwelfth Planet Press is pleased to announce that the third novella in our ongoing series will be a hardboiled urban fantasy detective story by Peter M Ball. (Warning: may contain unicorns and a formerly dead person)Peter M Ball is an exciting writer, recently appearing in Jack Dann’s Dreaming Again with his story “The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga” and in Fantasy with “On the Finding of Photographs of My Former Loves.” His novella will be released by Twelfth Planet Press in the second half of 2009.

As you’d expect, I’m pretty damned pleased with the news. As my clarion peep Jess notes, “It may have started life as a dare to write a Very Wrong unicorn story that avowed unicorn-hater and week 2 tutor Lee Battersby would like, but it’s become so much more.”

Talking Dirty: Why Writers Should Focus on Being a Business

Over the weekend I headed out to a Professional Writing Seminar held by Marianne de Pierres which covered all sorts of ground that’s common at such things, but also hit a few key points that I hadn’t come across before. Part of what she talked about during the seminar was taking responsible for your own professional development (and, well, your career in general), and as someone whose done a lot of development (as a student) and developing (as a tutor, and a lecturer) it got me thinking about the gaps in my own skill set.

I’ve done a lot of stuff to develop my skills as a writer – undergraduate and post-graduate writing programs, workshops, six-week courses like Clarion South – but more and more I’m starting to feel like I’ve got the writing part down (kinda) but still need to work on the day-to-day business side of things: dealing with page-proofs, handling contracts, and taking care of what little money I make via writing.

We Treat Money Like a Dirty Topic in the Arts

Writers, as a general rule, don’t really talk about handling money in any meaningful way. There have been some good instances of it recent years – it seemed like John Scalzi’s words of advice for writers about money went around the internet in a matter of moments – but as a general rule it’s still a taboo topic once you get past “writers don’t make money; don’t quit your day job.” This is probably why Sean Williams’ post about the taxation, accounting and effective record keeping seminar he held at the South Australian Writer’s Centre fascinates me. He doesn’t really hit the details of the seminar in any meaningful way, but there are some very colourful graphs that give a rough outline of where his deductions come from and where the money he doesn’t get to keep is going.

I’ll be honest; I would have killed to be at that workshop. What advice there is out there is often vague, or slanted to a different tax system, and I think there’s a need for that kind of stuff to be out there and accessible. People spend so much time getting together the writing skills they need to become professional authors that the other stuff tends to get overshadowed.

It’s a lesson that all writers should embrace: think about the business side of things – especially the money management – real early in your career. You’ll be surprised how quickly you find yourself wishing you had those skills down.