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.

The Ground Floor

So here’s the short-version: My names Peter M. Ball and I’m writer of speculative fiction, a gamer, a lover of good food, and a wrestling fan. I tend to talk about my works in progress, use public word counts, and pimp my publications (and those of my friends, and those I just plain like a whole lot) with moderate enthusiasm. Throw in some references to popular culture, a strong undercurrent of arts-theory, a deep love of gothic films/literature and punk rock, and you’ve probably got a good idea of where the blog is going to go from here on in.

Right now you have stumbled over this site while we’re in set-up mode (or you’re in the future and you’ve backtracked here to see the beginning, in which case you may be interested in the livejournal that served as my web-presence prior to December 2008).

At its heart, this website is about promoting my writing. A partial list of what I’ve done in the past is available in my bibliography, but right now I’m excited about the following stories coming in the future:

·  The Clockwork Goat and the Smokestack Magi in Shimmer’s Clockwork Jungle book issue
·  On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the Warmachines of the Merfolk in Strange Horizons
·  The Dragonkeeper’s Wife in the Black Dragon, White Dragon anthology from Ricasso Press
·  And a yet to be titled novella that’s yet to be announced