Galactic Chat 70 – Peter Clines

One of the first writing websites I started hanging around on when I initially started trying to get published was the Permuted Press message board. The reason I was there was because I had read an amazing book (you can read my review here) and had immediately went on a frantic search to find out more about the author–and when the next book would be out!

It’s hard to believe it has been over five years–disturbing in fact–but, since then, Peter Clines has gone from strength to strength, not only continuing with the “Ex” series, but bringing out other wonderful works.

As he celebrates the latest instalment in the “Ex” series, Peter joined me on Galactic Chat. Yes, I gush, and yes, I had a LOT of fun doing this one. I hope that you enjoy listening to the result!

After a holiday break, Galactic Chat returns! David McDonald interviews author Peter Clines on the eve of the release of his new book, Ex-Isle.

In a wide ranging interview, they cover topics from the”Ex” series to Peter’s Hollywood career, and discuss the nature of heroism and the power of storytelling.

Join them as they fanboy over Classic Doctor Who and Supergirl, and listen in amazement as David tempts Peter into joining him on his soapbox about “Man of Steel”.

NB: Sadly, technical issues mean that David’s first few questions are a bit distorted (though intelligible), but please bear with it as Peter is crystal clear and Skype reins in its anger in time to let you hear David gush.

As Sean is on sabbatical, this is David’s first attempt at creating a podcast so all issues are his fault, and should not reflect on the podcast as a whole!

Peter’s website
Ex-Isle Amazon Page
The Doctor Who episode they are talking about
The Dragon Movie

Credits:
Interviewer: David McDonald
Guest: Peter Clines
Music & Intro: Tansy Rayner Roberts 
Post-prod.: David McDonald
Feedback:
Twitter: @galactichat 
Email: galactichat at gmail dot com
Ex-Heroes 

My Boskone 53 Schedule (I’m shipping up to Boston)

I’ve never been to the United States in winter, but this year that will change when I head over mid-February. I’m also very excited to be attending Boskone 53, their programming looks amazing and a heap of my US friends will be there.

I am also fortunate enough to have been put on a number of panels and, as always, am blown away by the fact I will get to rub shoulders with some of my writing heroes.

If you’ll be attending, I’d love to see you at one of my panels–or in the bar. Don’t be a stranger. :-)

_Game of Thrones_: Adaptation or Original Material

Friday 14:00 – 14:50, Griffin (Westin)

When the first season of Game of Thrones aired, the material was a clear adaptation of the novel. However, in the following seasons, characters and story lines have morphed. Now, some storylines from the TV series are outstripping the books. At what point (if any) does the HBO series set the pace? Do we now have two independent tales? Who rules? And, as we range into uncharted territory, what happens next?

Laurie Mann (M), David McDonald, Sarah Smith, Django Wexler

Loose Ends and Contradictions in Doctor Who

Friday 18:00 – 18:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

*Spoilers, sweetie!* Doctor Who has become infamous for its loose ends and contradictions — most of which get explained away with a little timey-wimey flash and sparkle. Yet, we still love The Doctor. In fact, many of those seeming problems tend to open future storylines and plot points. Which do we most want to see resolved? Which seem too far gone to pull back? And will we see River again … or has that loose end been tied?

Susan Jane Bigelow (M), David McDonald, Lauren Roy

Fantastic Australia!

Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Burroughs (Westin)

A guide to the wide, wonderful, and quite active world of Australian science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Bob Kuhn (M), D L Carter, David McDonald, Garth Nix, James Minz

Appreciating the Historical in Speculative Fiction

Saturday 14:00 – 14:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Stories set in historical times present a special set of challenges and benefits: from the wonders of worldbuilding to the disguising of infodumps to the artful overcoming of a reader’s knowledge about the way things actually are (or were). Why do we love it? What time periods and cultures are the most fun to recreate? What sets historical fiction apart from its speculative cousin? And do the stories of Tim Powers, Eric Flint, Connie Willis, Naomi Novik, or Cherie Priest qualify as hist fic?

Brendan DuBois (M), Walter H. Hunt, David McDonald, E. C. Ambrose, Walter Jon Williams

Nonfiction on Speculative Fiction

Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Griffin (Westin)

We often forget about the nonfiction that is being published: literary criticism, reviews, analyses. Nonfiction helps to inform, sustain, and push the genre forward. The proliferation of nonfiction is often a sign of a very healthy literary field. So, how are we doing? What qualifies as nonfiction? Where do you go to find it or publish it?

David McDonald (M), Kate Baker, Daniel Hatch, Christopher Weuve

Requiem: They Played the Game of Thrones and Lost

Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Some were good and some were bad, but all of them are dead. They have ceased to be. Rung down the curtain. Joined the choir invisible. Stiffs. Ex-Westerosi. Let’s pause to pay homage to characters who met their untimely ends at the bloody hands of George R. R. Martin, and recall their glorious or dubious or just plain icky ends. And while we’re at it, let’s speculate about who’s the next to go. Because there’s no use hoping that anyone will make it out alive.

Laurie Mann (M) , David McDonald, Lauren Roy, Michael Sharrow

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Seven

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 7, “Human for a Day”

TEHANI: I have watched this episode three times and I’m still struggling to come up with anything terribly *interesting* to say about it! I mean, it wasn’t awful. The dialogue didn’t suck horribly. The effects weren’t eye-rollingly bad. The characterisation stayed true to the established story so far. So why do I feel so “meh” about it?

DAVID: I don’t know! There was actually a lot happening in this episode, and some really good moments.

TEHANI: There were some very cool bits. I LOVED the reveal at the end that Hank is J’onn J’onzz – I got goosebumps! Although tell my why Alex has to keep it secret from Kara? And I teared up when Supergirl talked down the thugs in the store, and James’s face when he took those photos was great.

J'onn J'Onzz DAVID: Well, I am big enough to admit when I am wrong! I didn’t see that coming at all, so it was a great reveal to me. Now that it doesn’t matter, a bit of background. Hank Henshaw is a scientist/astronaut who is rescued by Superman when a space mission goes wrong, but his wife dies and he goes insane and blamed Superman—it’s a bit like the story they gave for Reactron. He comes back as cyborg, and is one of the Superman impersonators in the Death of Superman story arc. So, when I heard the name and saw the red glowing eyes, you can imagine what I assumed.

J’onn is a great character, so I am excited to see what they do with him. But, I am a little worried that it will suffer in comparison to Smallville where he plays a similar sort of protector/guide role. I am going to suspend judgement though.

TEHANI: Here’s where my advantage of not having seen Smallville pretty much at all comes in handy – no preconceptions! I think maybe it was just that the episode felt a bit scattered? Even after my second watch I still had to go to Wikipedia to find out what the explosions were from – I couldn’t figure it out myself, and had assumed some villainous incident that wasn’t explained. And some things actively made no sense – a fire on the floor above but not a problem for Kara and her crew? What?

DAVID: They were from an earthquake, right? That’s what I assumed, anyway. With most of these television shows, though, you they don’t always bear close examination! But, the disaster was really a plot device, rather than being the main focus—it was just there to give the rest of the events a reason to happen.

Stand OffTEHANI: Yes, they were, but I couldn’t TELL. I did like the exploration of Kara without her powers, and the parallel of Cat inspiring people to do good, and be good. It was also nice to see James, Winn and Cat making stuff happen, which dovetailed neatly with the idea that a superhero at your service doesn’t necessarily equate to a populous unable to save themselves, as sleazy (but over-qualified for everything) Max Lord suggested. Also, pretty heartbreaking to see Kara realise she can’t save everyone.

DAVID: Those are two things that every superhero story needs to explore—are they more than simply the sum of their powers, and dealing with the realisation that they can’t save everyone, that they aren’t God. I thought they handled both pretty well in this episode. I found the scene where Kara was almost begging someone to save that heart attack victim more powerful than the one with the robber, but they both were very well done.

TEHANI: Agreed, they were well done.

HelplessDAVID: And, I have to say, a superhero with Kara’s idealism and hope is a breath of fresh air given the current focus on grim and gritty! I like the fact that her failure to save that guy, and her loss of powers, reinforce her desire to help rather than diminish it. Maxwell represents cynicism, and the “if you can’t save everyone why bother,” and Kara represents hope and the “make whatever difference you can and if everyone does that it will all add up”.

TEHANI: The DEO parts were a bit odd – just one long set up for Hank’s reveal, I think, and it showed. Overall? A bit of a meh episode, with a fantastic payoff in the reveal, and then finally some more Kryptonian presence to cliffhang us into next week!

JailDAVID: Perhaps that’s why you thought it was a bit “meh”? It really is two episodes in one, and the jump between the two is often quite jarring, throwing us out of the episode a little every time it flicks back and forth. But, the DEO stuff was worth it if we got J’onzz out of it in the end!

“Pilot”
“Stronger Together”
“Fight or Flight”
“Livewire”
“How Does She Do It?”
“Red Faced”

 

In Your Face: Stories that pack a punch

When Tehani (editor and publisher for Fablecroft) contacted me and asked me if I had a story idea for her upcoming anthology, In Your Face, I knew right away what story I needed to write—or finish, to be accurate—for it. The question was, was I brave enough?

A few years ago I read a blog post that had a huge impact on me. Written by Elizabeth Bear, it was called “what is the sound of one heart breaking?”. If you haven’t read it, you should, and you can find it here. The essential premise is that *any* man can be a danger to women, that there is no way of knowing who is “safe” and who is not. The reality for women is that they are surrounded by potential threats, that any man they come into contact with could be the one that kills them.

Elizabeth is a very talented writer, and the imagery in the post is visceral, leaving me feeling like I had been punched in the guts. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days—weeks—afterwards and I struggled to process it.

I am surrounded by women I care about—I am a son, a brother, a husband, a friend, a colleague or even just a fellow human being. The idea that this is the reality for women made me feel a whole range of emotions—anger, sadness…and guilt. It made me question my behaviour—and wonder about the times I might have made women feel unsafe.

Of course, being a writer, my brain immediately started bubbling with ideas, and the first thing that came to the surface was “wouldn’t it be great if there was some way that you could know if someone was thinking violent thoughts?”, and from there it went to “what would that do to society?”.

There were lots of challenges in writing this story, and reasons why I never finished it. I wondered not only whether I could write this story, whether I had the technical ability, but—more importantly—whether I had the right to write it. And, I worried about it being misinterpreted or being read as some sort of MRA paranoid persecution fantasy. In the end I put aside as too hard and never came back to it.

Tehani’s invite prompted me to rethink this, and revisit the story. The concerns I had about writing it hadn’t gone away—in fact, I was probably more aware of them than I had been before! With trembling fingers I sent it off to Tehani, and we discussed getting some people whose opinion we trust to have a look, too.

What had convinced me to write this story in the end were two very important ideas. The first one is that if, as writers, we aren’t willing to go outside our comfort zone we are never going to be the best writer we can be. It’s a huge honour to see my name alongside all the writers on ToC (a massive incentive to complete my story despite my discomfort), but it seems particularly apt to share the same pages as Paul Haines when writing a story meant to provoke discomfort.

Sadly, I never got to know Paul as well as I would have liked, but I was lucky enough to not only read his work, but get to talk writing with him on a number of occasions. One of the (many) things that made him such an amazing writer was his willingness to push the boundaries, to cross lines that many other authors. The depth of contrast between what a lovely person he was, and the disturbing nature of his stories is perhaps rivalled among Australian writers only by the amazing Kaaron Warren—who is, perhaps not coincidentally, also on the ToC!

The other idea was this: if we want to solve this problem men need to be actively engaged, too. That doesn’t mean trying to take over the conversation, or mansplaining. But, it means doing everything we can to change a toxic culture. Any number of women can write articulate posts like the one Elizabeth did, but men need to be shining a spotlight on sexism and misogyny and violence, too, or the sad reality is that many men will simply ignore it. It’s not right that that’s the case, but we need to work in the reality we have been given until we can change it.

Part of changing this culture is writing stories that force us to confront these uncomfortable truths, and make us think about the way things are—and work towards the way they should be. Two of the most powerful stories I have ever read about misogyny and sexual violence were by men—Daniel Abraham’s “Dogs” and Paul’s Australian classic, “Wives” (reprinted in this anthology). I am not half the writer that either of those two are, and I don’t claim my story is a patch on theirs, but all I can do is try and do what little I can. If enough men do, we will see a change. Or so I pray.

Do I think the future portrayed in my story is a likely one? Of course not. My story doesn’t have any answers to the issue raised in Elizabeth’s post, because I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is that a world where half the population has very real reason to fear the other half might kill them is an untenable one, and something has to change—before it’s too late.

The crowdfunding campaign for “In Your Face” still has 6 days to go. If you would like to find out more, or wish to support the campaign, click here. Any support, whether financial or raising awareness, is greatly appreciated!

In Your Face

Obligatory 2016 Ditmar Eligibility Post

I’m aware of the discussion online about the propriety of award eligibility posts. My personal opinion is that there is nothing wrong with making people aware of what you have done, there is so much out there that it is easy for people to lose track. Soliciting votes–well, that’s another thing and something that I have a huge problem with.

So, I’ll list what I have done, and if people think it is award worthy that’s wonderful. But, far more important is that people nominate and vote for whatever works they think worthy of note. The more people who participate in award, from the Ditmars to the Hugos, the more legitimacy it has, and the wider range of works noticed.

My works are right down the bottom of the post, but don’t feel you need to read down that far, the important message is: make sure you nominate and vote in the Ditmars! There are so many amazing people in the Aussie scene, and they are producing so much good work. The list of eligibles will blow your mind. So, if you have loved someone’s work last year, why not nominate them?

Something that I do want to highlight (that I didn’t create, but was part of, and that I think was amazing not through anything to do with me, but because of the creator) was Laura E. Goodin’s spectacular , “Cabinet of Oddities”. I am not sure what category Laura would be eligible for that under, but I wanted to highlight it as something worth considering (ETA: so far the most likely seems to be “Best Collected Work”). It really was one of the stand out experiences for me in an all round amazing year.

Ditmar Nominations Open

Nominations for the 2016 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are now open
and will remain open until one minute before midnight Brisbane time on
Sunday, 31st of January, 2016 (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+10). Postal nominations
must be postmarked no later than Friday, 29th of January, 2016.

The current rules, including Award categories can be found at:

http://wiki.sf.org.au/Ditmar_rules

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be
accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or
supporting members of Contact 2016, the 2016 Australian National SF
Convention. Where a nominator may not be known to the Ditmar
subcommittee, the nominator should provide the name of someone known to
the subcommittee who can vouch for the nominator’s eligibility.
Convention attendance or membership of an SF club are among the criteria
which qualify a person as “active in fandom”, but are not the only
qualifying criteria. If in doubt, nominate and mention your qualifying
criteria. If you received this email directly, you almost certainly qualify.

You may nominate as many times in as many Award categories as you like,
although you may only nominate a particular person, work or achievement
once. The Ditmar subcommittee, which is organised under the auspices the
Standing Committee of the Natcon Business Meeting, will rule on
situations where eligibility is unclear. A partial and unofficial
eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here:

http://wiki.sf.org.au/2016_Ditmar_eligibility_list

While online nominations are preferred, nominations can be made in a
number of ways:

1. online, via this form:

2. via email to ditmars@sf.org.au; or

3. by post to:

Ditmars
6 Florence Road
NEDLANDS WA 6009
AUSTRALIA

So. my list:

Best Short Story

  • “Her Face Like Lightning”, David McDonald, in Insert Title Here, FableCroft Publishing.
  • “Red in Tooth and Claw”, David McDonald, in Dimension6 5.
  • “Sympathetic Impulses”, David McDonald, in nEvermore!, Hades Publications.
  • “To Dance, Perchance to Die”, David McDonald, in Expiration Date, Hades Publications.

Best Fan Publication in any Medium

  • “Galactic Chat”, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker and Mark Webb.

William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review

ditmars

My 2015 in Review

Wow – another year is just about to say good bye! Where has it gone? It has been an action packed year for me, so maybe that’s why it seems to have flown past. It’s been pretty successful year, too, with lots of highlights, but before I get into that, let’s look at my goals from 2014 and get the unachieved goals out of the way! Then I can move on to the good stuff…

The big goals for 2015:

  • Get that elusive pro sale!
  • Finish the YA novel and get it off for submission.
  • Catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Get my solo novel done.
  • Start another conversational review series about a series of books that are very dear to my heart
  • Try and get involved in some sort of news/discussion podcast

Let’s see:

  • Nope. I came close with one sale at 5c a word, and an anthology that would have given me a pro sale being put on hold.
  • Nope, but as you will read in the achievements section I made some good progress with this one
  • Nope. Don’t even want to talk about that!
  • Nope, but again feel happy with what I did achieve in that area.
  • Started a conversational review series, but not that one!
  • Nope, but have found the idea and other person, so that’s a start

So, as you can see, I didn’t do so well with the goals. But, now that the self flagellation is out of the way, here’s what I did achieve in 2015!

WRITING

Considering I only had one short story published in 2014, 2015 was a pretty good year on the writing front. I’ve given a comprehensive breakdown on my writing statistics here for those of you who love graphs and stuff, but the upshot was that I had:

  • Five short stories published
  • Managed to crack couer de lion, a market I have coveted for years
  • Sharing a ToC with David Morrell AND Margaret Atwood AND Chelsea Quinn Yarbro AND Tanith Lee (in what was sadly her last appearance) – all in the same amazing book!
  • A reprint
  • A story turned into a podcast at the most excellent StarShipSofa

While I didn’t meet my goal of having my own original solo novel published, the big news was that my first novel length work came out.

9backcountry_

This has led to more tie-in work, and I am looking forward to being able to announce what I think will be my biggest news yet.

While the Secret Young Adult book isn’t finished yet, we made real progress, with the first ten chapters refined to the point we were happy to send them off to test readers. I got the first feedback email today and it is look good!

2016 is already shaping up to be an even bigger year, so stay tuned for more news as it comes.

CONVENTIONS

2015 was a bit of a jetsetting year for me. I was lucky enough to get visit New Zealand for their Natcon, and discovered that NZ fandom is incredibly welcoming and friendly. I also met some wonderful authors, and made some new friends.

Having fun with some new writer friends!

Having fun with some new writer friends!

I had a great time at my home con of Continuum, getting to be on some great panels and generally just having fun.

This panel on Religion in Spec Fic was much more fun than I am making it look here!

This panel on Religion in Spec Fic was much more fun than I am making it look here!

I managed to make it back to the US this year for an incredible 4 week trip that took me from LA to New York, and plenty of places in between. While over there I went to Sasquan, the Worldcon in Spokane, Washington. As well as hanging out with the Brotherhood Without Banners, the greatest fan group in the Universe, I had the honour of accepting a Hugo for Galactic Suburbia. The Hugo Awards night will be indelibly etched in my memory, it was a truly wonderful night that was capped off with the Hugo Loser Party to end all parties!

Sasquan

And, last but not least, I went up to Canberra for Conflux, and as usual had a great time. There were many highlights, like a Paying for Our Passion panel, and experiencing the Cabinet of Oddities performance, where I had the privilege of hearing one of my stories set to music composed especially for it and played on flute.

Conflux

The “Paying for Our Passion” panel

So, not a bad year for conventions!

AWARDS

I was lucky enough to be nominated for a couple of Ditmars this year, including another Atheling nod. I was a little sad that the Snapshot didn’t win, but given the quality of the category it was in I am not complaining–any of the winners would have been deserving!

BLOGGING

While we didn’t finish the New Who stuff, we did get some reviews done, and I also started a new series of reviews with Tehani as we Squeed Over Supergirl!

By far the most successful series on my blog was Paying for Our Passion, and again I must thank all the writers and editors who were willing to make themselves so vulnerable with some excellent posts on the sacrifices we make to pursue or passions.

PODCASTING

Galactic Chat had a quiet end to the year, but I did get the chance to interview some amazing people. If you haven’t already, you should check out the podcast. I also had my first ever podcast interview when I appeared on it myself.

GOALS FOR 2015

So, looking back, it was a pretty good year! Despite my abject failure to meet last year’s, I am going to set some goals for 2016:

  • FINALLY catch up on Doctor Who
  • start the new podcast I have planned
  • get the full version of the YA book out to test readers, if not an agent
  • make that elusive pro sale

And that will do for now. :-)

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the course of the year, and to those who have supported and encouraged me in so many ways. I couldn’t have achieved any of the things I have listed without you. Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and hoping that 2016 is your best yet!

A Year of Writing Statistics (or quantifying my obsession).

I am by nature a disorganised, lazy person. As such, I have always found that I work better when I try and impose order on my chaos. I prefer having hard deadlines to nebulous ones, because it forces me to to meet them (or not). I love Google Calendar, and have multiple calendars set up. I use lists a great deal. And, when I lost 20+ kilograms it was because I counted calories rather obsessively and tracked my exercise and diet using an app on my iPhone. Keeping statistics has always helped me because that way I can actually see whether I am making progress or not, and it gives me a measuring stick that I can use to see whether I am ahead of where I need to be–or falling behind.

I have always tried to do the same with my writing. I keep a record of submissions and deadlines (I used to use Duotrope, but I now use an app called StoryTracker), but it was hard to find something to record daily writing stats that met my needs. One of the people in my writing group created an excellent spreadsheet to use during NaNoWriMo and I adapted that to use in other months, but it wasn’t quite as customisable as I needed (more the fault of my Excel skills than the spreadsheet itself). I also helped develop an iOS app to record writing stats and targets, but in the end it didn’t get the necessary uptake to make it worthwhile for the developer to continue to work on it (again, my fault for not putting enough time in to publicising it).

f54c12b15fad1747dbaa71805c4cebe3

In late 2014 I was given a great opportunity to do the novelisation of a Canadian movie. I only got the chance because a number other people were unable to do it, so by the time it got to me the timelines were pretty tight–well, very tight. After watching the movie and reading the script I had about 15 days to produce a 75,000 word draft which, as you can imagine, is a pretty high pressure deadline. I am going to go into the details of how I managed this in another post, but one of the key things was making sure I met a daily word count.

Around the same time, I had found another spreadsheet that seemed to do the things that I wanted to do and I used to help keep on top of my daily goals. After writing non stop for 15 days I had some pretty cool stats, and I decided that I would continue to record them, and try writing every day–no matter what.

I set myself the following rules:

  • A day ended when I went to bed. I do most of my writing between 10pm-2am so I would count that early morning time as part of the day I started on.
  • I didn’t count words written as part of my day job as part of this spreadsheet. As I spent most of that period as the editor of a fortnightly magazine–and writing about 50-60% of the content–I estimate that’s about 100,000-150,000 words I haven’t counted.
  • However, I  counted blogging and writing related tasks because they are words I felt I have to write as part of being an author.
  • When editing a manuscript I would take the ending word count minus the starting word count as the word count for the day, not just changed words.

So, onto the graphs and stats!

Overall Word Count 29/11/14 to 29/11/15 – 224,053 words

Overall

I have divided this into five sections, most of which are self evident. The “Writing-Misc” is stuff to do with the business of writing, which I will break down further a little later on.

Drilling down, there is some useful information:

Daily Breakdown

So, in the course of a year I managed to write over 80% of days, which I am pretty happy with. Add day job stuff and I am writing pretty much every day! Only taking days I did write I averaged almost 750 words a day, but even the actual average of over 600 words a day isn’t too bad–though not amazing. My goal for the coming year is to get it up to 1000.

For a sense of perspective you can check out this fascinating list. I feel better knowing I am beating Hemingway, but I plan to work through Lee Child and end up as Stephen King.

Daily

I am not sure how useful the above graphic is, but I may as well throw it in.

Now to breakdown the category statistics.

Novels –  143,316 words

Novels

Backcountry made up the bulk of the words here, and created a really strong foundation for the rest of my year. It did nearly kill me, though–you can see why below.

Backcountry

If you are wondering what happened on the 13th, I had a rapidly approaching deadline for a commissioned short story! I will talk about the writing process in another blog post but, as tough as it was, that fortnight or so gave me the confidence to believe that I really could write fats and reasonably well when I needed to. Incidentally, on the 14th I set  my record for most words in a day – 8156.

I had promised myself I would never put myself in a position (through factors I could control, though I’ll take any opportunity I get if I can make the deadline even if it is a killer) where I had to write that many words in such a short time (or at least do my best to avoid it), but my trip to the States late last year (where I didn’t get much writing down through September at all) meant I had to do something similar towards the end of they year. 

The “Secret Tie In” project is in the final stages of edits and I hope I can announce it soon–but for now it will have to wait. And it is not easy to keep it secret, it is probably my biggest piece of writing news yet!

Secret Tie In

The “Secret Young Adult” is a collaborative novel I am working  on, and is going along slowly but surely–the first ten chapters are out with some test readers and I am nervously awaiting their feedback. More to come on that one soon, I hope!

Short Stories – 37,778 words

I had a good year for short stories, ending up with five stories (if you count the one performed at Conflux, which I certainly do) being published. However, most of them were either written in 2014 or revised versions of older stories.

Short Stories

The flash piece was called “Guardians of Her Galaxy” and performed as part of the amazing Cabinet of Oddities, and the Poe piece found a home as “Sympathetic Impulses”. The Dystopia story will be part of an upcoming Pozible campaign.

The Tie In story is neither fish nor fowl, the anthology it was slated for has been put on hold, but I remain hopeful.

The rest, well some of them are stories I didn’t finish in time to submit, while others have been been kicking around for far too long. My goal is to either finish them or chuck them out completely if they aren’t worth the time and effort.

Blogging – 12,997 wordsBlogging

I’ve tried to be a lot more consistent with my blogging this year, but the majority of posts have been guest posts, either as part of the excellent (due to the contributors, not as a result of any work on my part!) “Paying for Our Passion” series or as part of my goal to help promote other people’s work.

Despite the fact that we are still way behind (mainly due to me), I did manage to get some posts done for the “New Who Conversations“, as well launching a review series of Supergirl with the wonderful Tehani Wessely.

The saddest one is the “Blogging – Guest” segment–I haven’t been a guest on very many blogs at all!

Writing – Misc – 15,496

Ah, “misc”. It really does cover a multitude of sins.

Writing Misc

I’ve gradually been working my way towards a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. At my current rate of progress I should be finished around 2020, but it is something I would like to finish, if only to prove to myself I can.

Generally I don’t count critiques if I am using comments and track changes, this was one that I had to do a broad assessment, and I think I was trying to preserve my writing streak.

I have applied for a number of writing related jobs this year, and for some I had to do some writing exercises, so that goes down as well.

One of the things you discover when you start getting more work in the Tie In field is you just don’t just get an idea and start writing. In most cases you first need to pitch an idea (generally a paragraph or two outlining the concept) and then, if it interests the publisher enough, you go on to do a chapter by chapter outline. 

As a “pantser”, this came as a rude shock to me but it has actually been really beneficial in showing me that outlining and preparation can actually help. I can write a lot quicker when I am working to an outline–that pain at that start pays off as you start to get closer to the deadline!

Conclusion

So, how did I do with the writing every day? Well, for a long time, I did pretty well. I made a rule that I couldn’t go to bed until I had written something, anything. I didn’t really set a minimum word count, I just made sure I got something down. It didn’t matter where I was, or how I was feeling, I always managed–even on my trip to New Zealand (Norman Cates–who shared a room with me) could tell you a story about that!).

I finally broke my streak on the 22nd of August, after 266 days of consecutive writing. If you look at that date, it is a few days into Worldcon in Spokane. I have to say, it was a relief to finally end it. If I am honest, it had become a bit of a millstone around my neck. I found myself becoming anxious if it looked like I was going to struggle to find time to write on a particular day. I would stay up later than I should have, procrastinating before writing. I often didn’t care about the quality of the writing, as long as I got something down.

But, saying that, there were a number of positives to come out of it. It got me in the habit of writing regularly, and it gave me a whole heap of stats to play with–and learn from. It showed me what I was actually capable of if I applied myself properly. And it gave me a reference point that I can compare against the same time next year, and see how I am going.

As you can see, it was novels that kept me really busy. Because they paid advances and had a guaranteed income, I had to prioritise not only the novels themselves, but the pitches an outlines and revision that come with them over short stories that were not a sure thing or blog posts that might not get many readers. A good problem to have, though!

This is obviously a fairly limited examination of the stats, as I am not sure how much interest there would be in going deeper. But, I am happy to expand on anything covered here–or anything that is shown in the stats that I haven’t noted. You can post your questions in the stats, and I’ll either answer there (if simple enough) or look at doing another post.

Paying for Our Passion – Donna Maree Hanson

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Donna Maree Hanson is one of those people who continuously put in to the community, and without whom many of the things we take for granted would not exist. As well as working tirelessly for the Aussie spec fic community, she is also a talented and successful writer who has overcome a number of obstacles to get to where she is–and so is the perfect person to cap off the year for the Paying for Our Passion series .

This is part of Donna’s blog tour celebrating her book Shatterwing being available FREE – check it out

What I gave up for writing.

This is a topic true to my heart. I don’t think I can count the dollars I gave up to write in the past. Right now I work full time and write in between. These days, I am an empty nester and my partner is also a writer. Between us we forego a tidy house most of the time in order to write. However, that’s not suffering really. Right now the demands on me are more physical. I have arthritis in the neck and thoracic spine. I’ve also had RSI in the right arm. It doesn’t help that I write in my day job for about half the year. I can’t write as much as I want to anymore. The 10,000 word days are fond memories. These days achieving 5000 words is a rarity and a cause for celebration.Headshot

For many years I worked part time, having a writing day once a week. I was more or less productive at this time. Often, though, my writing day was taken up with an aging mother, medical appointments, and teenager stress. My more productive time was on writer retreats—two weeks of blissful immersion in writing. These though are expensive, being smack in the middle of the school holidays and I can’t rely on them anymore to get a good project nutted out.

In my early days, I was obsessed with writing. I wanted to write all the time. I wanted to hone my skills, develop my craft and get lots of words under my belt so I could be published. It meant the world to me. I think that obsession damaged relationships with my then partner and also my children. I tried to balance that now, but then there are other things to come into play.

Dragonwine

It wasn’t until I was published that I started working full time. I calculated that I had foregone more income than I’ll ever earn from writing and that insight coincided with my first publication. And since being published, I know I won’t be living off that money any time soon. I may have a number of publications now, but I’m flying below the radar in the number of readers and resulting dollars department. I’m lucky that I have some financial back up if I ever did decide to give up my day job.

Hat

Now faced with increasingly bad physical problems, I have to make even harder choices about my writing versus working full time. I have so many stories to write. I have a white board full of titles I know I’ll never ever write. I have to weigh up now whether I need to focus more on my writing than on earning money. I earn good money. I like earning good money. Worse, I like spending money. Working less means no more cons, or shopping trips or freedom to do what I want or travel where I want. It means taking a risk on myself and that writing is what I want to do. It’s scary–let me tell you.

AnimatedI can’t tell you what I’m going to decide. So now I write when I can, balance the physical pain with the demands of grandchildren, children and the desire to be with them and with friends and sometimes just vegging. Writing for me now is a privilege. Something I can’t take for granted. I have to make every word count, every minute I apply myself count. But I wouldn’t stop doing it. I love writing too much. I don’t know  how I lived before I started writing. I had stories in my head all my life. I need to be creating stories and characters and more. It’s what I need to do to feel like I’m living.

Donna Maree Hanson is a Canberra-based writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and under a pseudonym paranormal romance. Her dark fantasy series (which some reviewers have called ‘grim dark’), Dragon Wine, is published by Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan digital imprint).  Book  1: Shatterwing and Book 2: Skywatcher are out now in digital and print on demand. In April 2015, she was awarded the A. Bertram Chandler Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction” for her work in running science fiction conventions, publishing and broader SF community contribution. Donna also writes young adult science fiction, with Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Rae and Essa’s Space Adventures out with Escape Publishing. Under her pseudonym, Dani Kristoff, she writes paranormal romance and is published by Harper Impulse and Escape Publishing.

Dragon Wine Book 1:Shatterwing ebook is free during December and early January 2016.

 

 

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Six

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 6, “Red Faced”

DAVID: Well, we are now at Episode 6, and in some ways the show is starting to hit its stride—but in some ways not so much. I feel like the show is trying to say some really important things about sexism and equality, but I’m afraid that sometimes the execution doesn’t measure up. I know the feeling, sometimes when I am writing I feel like I can’t do certain subjects justice, that I don’t have the the necessary tools or ability, and it can be incredibly frustrating. But, I am not a professional screenwriter, either!

TEHANI: Did you catch the line about the President being a woman? It was blink and miss, but cute. I agree though, the spirit is definitely willing in what they are trying to do but the flesh is sometimes weak. Having said that, I think it’s great that the attempt is being made, particularly considering the audience the show is aimed at.

Stupid Motorist

DAVID: I liked the exploration of acceptability of being angry, and I think Cat nails it when she says women can’t be angry in the business world. You only have to look at the difference in terminology that people use to describe the same mood depending on gender, or even the jokes about hormones etc that men never get, to know how true this is. James makes a good point though, about black men not being encouraged to show anger either, and I think that is probably one of the best lines of the episode—subtly inserted in to point out an inequality, lacking some of the clumsiness of other equally valuable societal observations.

TEHANI: Agreed! This stuff was handled well, I thought. Cat Grant is totally my favourite thing ever – they are using her as a mouthpiece and doing it quite successfully. And isn’t it just so fantastic that we HAVE James to be able to say these sort of things? Red-headed, white Jimmy Olsen wouldn’t quite get away with it. Oh look, diversity, see what can be done?!

Promo Picture

DAVID: The romance elements were handled quite well. Seems that maybe Maxwell Lord will be a love interest—but not for Kara!

TEHANI: I like to hope Alex is smarter than that – surely she’s just playing him, right?

DAVID: I thought the scene with James and the Kara was excellent, where their friendship and willingness to be vulnerable with one another was the focus, rather than the URST, and Kara had a bit of an epiphany about what she is looking for. This scene felt much more real to me than some of the others we’ve seen with these two. And, of course, James and the General over dinner was great viewing, I almost thought the General was going to say something much nastier! He did have a good point though about James surrounding himself with special people to make himself feel special. There might be an element of truth in that.

TEHANI: I found that interesting, because James is a successful person in his own right, and it’s tricky to consider that he got there partly (or only) because of his connections. Because let’s face it, in real life how much of success is who you know, rather than what? I’m not sold on Lucy+James. I don’t know how the show is going to resolve this happily (for me), because I am shipping Kara+James pretty hard but Lucy is not an awful person and I’d really like to see she and Kara and Alex eating icecream and giving each other pedicures while talking about boys… But that scene at “game night” was fairly telling – James and Lucy clearly know each other very well and are extremely comfortable with each other again. That doesn’t, of course, mean a forever relationship, but it’s interesting to see the portrayal of their relationship changing.

Supergirl and Lucy

DAVID: We finally got to meet Cat’s mother, and it does explain a fair bit about Cat. However, I don’t like the ongoing trend where we are shown a softer or more vulnerable side to Cat, and then meant to excuse her behaviour towards Kara and other employees. She may care under that gruff exterior, and have reasons for who she is, but it doesn’t change the fact that she is a bully and creates a pretty hostile work environment, is arbitrary in handing out discipline and has done some ethically questionable things. Maybe I am less forgiving of this because she is female, thus proving the premise of the episode, but I don’t think so—I dislike Peter Parker’s boss for exactly the same reasons. Anyone who has worked for someone like them would.

TEHANI: But Kara snapped back at Cat! That was AWESOME! The ongoing presentation of a variety of women’s relationships are making me happy in this show. I hope at some point we get to see a mother/daughter relationship that is positive, though! I agree with your thoughts here, except that in this particular episode, I actually think it was a fair point. And I’m hoping that by having to interrogate her mother’s behaviour, Cat can also turn that spotlight on herself as well. Also? Cat’s mum is an EDITOR!

And Lucy’s dad is a focused and not-very-nice general. I agree with James and Kara – I don’t like him!

Cat's mother

DAVID: The actual villain of the week is almost reduced to a sideshow by all this character development, which is a shame. Red Tornado is a great character in Batman:The Brave and the Bold and is used as a wonderful foil for Batman. Here he is just a remote controlled robot, and we don’t get the full value out of his sentience that we should.

TEHANI: Eh, I didn’t really care because I know so little about the villains of canon. I think we’re getting that a lot though, where the monster of the week is really just an excuse for all the character stuff. And I’m kind of okay with it, because I’d rather see those relationships develop and grow than care about the big bad of the episode. That may be just me… I do like how we’re seeing Alex portrayed. The fact she is so darn kick-ass and kills in the line of duty is not something we’re used to seeing in a female role, particularly on a show with this audience. But why shouldn’t we? If Alex was male, it wouldn’t even be commented on, so I’m all for it.

Red Tornado on his knees

I also want to make note of the progression in the plot of who the heck is Hank, and what happened to Alex’s dad. I like that Winn got to show off his white hat hacker skilz to find that out. It’s quite nice to see things moving along, not being dragged out over an entire season (or more…). I’m still excited to find out!

Super Sisters

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

“Pilot”
“Stronger Together”
“Fight or Flight”
“Livewire”
“How Does She Do It?”

Paying for Our Passion – T.R. Napper

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Today’s guest is T.R. Napper, who has been blogging about this stuff for a while. His post on the economics of being a writer, (GEORGE R. R. MARTIN’S SISTER: THE ECONOMICS OF BEING A WRITER), went viral and is a must read (as is the rest of his blog). So, I was thrilled to have him come and contribute a piece for this series! 

The article David links to in his initial piece that heralds the start of this series, sponsored, needs mentioning at the outset. The author – Ann Bauer – makes the crucial point that her writing life is, in part, sponsored by a husband who works full time. She points out that there are a lot of authors out there who get to devote themselves to writing full time not via their earnings, but through the wealth they were born (or married) into. Sobering stuff.

In a sense I am sponsored. My wife works, I write; she pays the bills and puts food on the table, I write science fiction. How awesome is feminism?!

But it’s not quite that simple. We both worked in the Australian foreign aid program (AusAID), so were taking turns in overseas postings. I worked in Lao PDR from 2008 – 2011; my partner has a position in Viet Nam from 2013 – 2016. Writing aside, I was always going to to a break from paid full-time work – for the first time since I was 18 – in order to take care of our son, who was 16 months old when we moved to Viet Nam. Raising a child is still work, of course – and work that I love – but unpaid nonetheless.

Hear Me Roar

However, when AusAID was drawn and quartered by the Abbott government, I took a redundancy and the qualified degree of financial flexibility that comes with it. When we return to Australia I’ll have to go back to work (our second child is due), but we’ve organised our life in a way that it need not be full-time work. So perhaps you could say I was semi-sponsored.

My path to writing was different than most. While always a voracious reader, I never felt destined to be an author; didn’t attempt my first novel at twelve, any of those born-to-write tropes. My calling was aid work, and I did that for over a decade. My second calling, discovered a little over three years ago at the age of 37, is writing.

At the start I had to write during my son’s daily nap – getting words down during those two hours in the middle of the day when he was asleep was crucial. Now he goes to pre-school I have a bit more time each day, and am producing a reliable number of words each month. Something I’ll be able to continue when we move back to Australia.

Amok

The more I write and become part of the genre community, the more I learn about the challenges we face, big and small.

On the micro-level, in my opinion, the obstacles myself and other writers face are largely trivial.

It’s hard to get terribly moved at someone bemoaning a rejection, or at having to write on the weekend in addition to work, or some other first-world problem,  when you’ve dealt with starving ethnic minority children who’ve never seen the inside of a schoolroom. It’s hard to feel much sympathy at all when writing is such a satisfying, rewarding, and interesting profession (or hobby, or semi-profession).

The things required in a writing life: reading a lot of books; watching old movies (for research, of course); writing discipline; and letting the imagination run rampant and out onto the page, are all pretty straight-forward, positive items.

808_large

On the other hand, on the macro level, I’m increasingly worried at how egregiously undervalued books are in contemporary society.

Writers do pay for their passion with sweat and tears (and blood after one of those particularly nasty paper cuts), but readers are less willing to repay them for that work. Most readers take books for granted, and seem to think they should be cheap or even free. Consumers don’t blink an eye at a five dollar coffee, a ten dollar pint of artisan beer, or thirty dollar breakfast at their favourite café – but ask them to buy a book and they’ll cry poor or complain about the price.

The ability to earn a living from writing is diminishing every year. Every year the median earning for professional writers go down, advances shrink, and royalties peter off. This impoverishes the genre. It means the potential output of a writer is reduced as they spend their productive hours in a day job taken purely to pay the bills.

It also means that some are shut out of the profession.  In the case where someone is, say, working class, or a single mother, or otherwise not able to be ‘sponsored’ – writing dreams shatter  when run up against the hard reality of that next electricity bill.

GrimDark Magazine

So I’ll pay for my passion insofar as a writer earns next to nothing. When I return to Australia I’ll have to get back to work, support my wife, and make sure I take on my share of raising two very young children.

Writing will be tougher, as I’ll have less intellectual energy at the end of each day. I’ll write less than I could, because society undervalues books, because the market is so fragmented, because cutting through is harder than ever, and because, hell, I’m no Kim Stanley Robinson.

But to my mind, none of these things represent sacrifice. It’s just life. Being able to write is a privilege, and I feel lucky to be able to do it.

WOTF - TIM NAPPER

T.R. Napper is an aid worker, stay-at-home parent, and writer. He has spent the last decade living and working throughout South East Asia, and currently lives in Viet Nam.

T. R. Napper’s short fiction has appeared in Interzone (several issues), Grimdark Magazine, Ticonderoga’s Hear Me Roar anthology, and others. He has an upcoming story in Asimov’s, and is a Writers of the Future winner.  

Online he can be found here: www.nappertime.com and here on twitter: @DarklingEarth