My Aussie Spec Fic Snasphot 2016 roundup!

In the mad scramble to get things done before my overseas trip, I forgot to do a roundup post for the Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot! There were a heap of amazing interviews (that you can find by following that link), and I was lucky enough interview some incredibly talented people. I’ve listed the people I interviewed below, but I would encourage you to check out the rest, too.

Oh, and if you get really bored, I was snapshotted, too–by the wonderful Tehani, our fearless leader.

Jane Rawson
Trudi Canavan
Donna Maree Hanson
Chris Large
Jason Fischer
Kat Clay
Michael Pryor
AJ Spedding
Tania Walker
Paul Mannering
Jenny Blackford
Faith Mudge
Abigail Nathan
George Ivanoff
Pete Aldin
Shauna O’Meara
Geoff Brown
Jason Franks
Liz Barr
Paul Collins
Tristan Savage
Kimberly Gaal
Raymond Gates
Amanda Bridgeman
Simon Dewar
TR Napper
Mark Webb
Karen Miller
Keith Stevenson
Angie Rega
Catherine (CS) McMullen
Holly Kench
TB McKenzie
Rochelle Fernandez
Bruce Gillespie
Steve Cameron
Amanda Kool
Mitch (Anthony) Mitchell
Maureen Flynn
Stephanie O’Connell
Gerry Huntman
Jay Kristoff

Aussie Snapshot 2016

My MidAmeriCon II Schedule – it’s Worldcon Time!

I have been so caught up with the Aussie Snapshot that I forgot how close Worldcon is! *freaks out a little*

I am delighted to have been invited to be on a few panels, and I have no doubt I will have a blast when not doing programming.

If you are at the con, and want to catch up, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. And, I am always happy to be approached at a convention, in fact I am far too shy to approach people so that works way better for me!

MY SCHEDULE:

Australian SF
Thursday 16:00 – 17:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Australian SF is largely Anglophone, and often considered part of the Anglo-American tradition. Yet, because of Australia’s physical isolation, the development of the book and literary trade here has been very different and Australian writing has a distinct flavour. It has also been heavily influenced by Aborigines, and there is a growing body of speculative fiction published and written by Aboriginal writers. We discuss the SF works coming from Australia.

Ms Clare McDonald-Sims, Mr David McDonald, Mr Jonathan Strahan, Miss Amanda Bridgeman

Writing Tie-Ins
Friday 19:00 – 20:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)

Tie-ins aren’t novelizations, and they’re not adaptations. So, what are they and what purpose do they serve? Moreover, what effect might they have on the source material? Panelists discuss tie-ins and how they affect the universe that they are set in.

David Boop, Jason Heller, Christopher Kastensmidt, Mr David McDonald

The Build-A-World Game Show
Friday 21:00 – 22:00, 2503A (Kansas City Convention Center)

The Build-a-World Game Show is a live action worldbuilding game designed and run by Monica Valentinelli. Two teams of panelists compete to build a fantastic world in under an hour for fun and prizes. The Build-a-World Game Show incorporates audience participation, takes place in three rounds, and results in a fan-voted winner!

Ms. Monica Valentinelli, Tex Thompson, Mr David McDonald, Martha Wells, Catherine Lundoff

Dialog in Game of Thrones: Great Storytelling through Ordinary Conversations
Saturday 16:00 – 17:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)

A single word can convey pages of subtext when it’s the right word. The Game of Thrones television series does an exceptional job of using dialog to convey character, mood, historical context, themes, narrative arcs, and more within some of the simplest (and yet most revealing) conversations. Panelsts discuss some of their favorite moments of dialog from the series and the impact that these exchanges have on the characters and viewers alike.

Charlaine Harris, Erin Underwood, Mr David McDonald, Toni L. P. Kelner

Aussie Snapshot 2016: our own little census

The Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot has taken place five times in the past 11 years. In 2005, Ben Peek spent a frantic week interviewing 43 people in the Australian spec fic scene, and since then, it’s grown every time, now taking a team of interviewers working together to accomplish.

From August 1 to August 14 2016, this year’s team of interviewers have their turn. Greg Chapman, Tsana Dolichva, Marisol Dunham, Nick Evans, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Stephanie Gunn, Ju Landéesse, David McDonald, Belle McQuattie, Matthew Morrison, Alex Pierce, Rivqa Rafael, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Matthew Summers and Tehani Wessely scoured the country (and a bit beyond) to bring you this year’s Snapshot.

You can follow all the action here at the Snapshot site, via Twitter @AustSFSnapshot or on Facebook, and follow our interviewing team to keep up with all the happenings!

You can find the past five Snapshots at the following links: 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2014.

Aussie Snapshot 2016

In conversation with Alan Baxter

To celebrate the release of Alan Baxter’s trilogy (the Alex Caine Series), I asked him a few questions about this funny old game called writing…

How does your background in martial arts affect your writing?

It’s taught me discipline and focus. I’m slowly making notes for a book on the subject, in fact, as the parallels are legion. But being good at anything requires dedication – that’s focus and discipline above all else.

Over the course of your writing career, you have experimented with numerous media, from game writing to podcasting, and different distribution models, from self publishing to big name publishing. What are some of the differences you have noticed? How important is it for writers to be flexible and open to different methods?

There are so many differences, it would take an essay just to touch on them all. But in short, there are all kinds of pros and cons with all of them. No one way is perfect. I think, especially in this day and age, that it’s important for a writer to be open to different methods. We’re seeing more and more people achieve success with the hybrid model (which means some traditional publishing and some self-publishing). I definitely fit into that model and think it’s been valuable for me. It’s also important to consider a variety of different income streams to make a career. If you score a good deal with a big publisher, that’s fantastic, but if that publisher goes down they can take your career with them. At least if your career is diversified over various publishers, various media, you can always have protection if any one thing stops working. And stuff is slow in publishing, so a variety of things means hopefully always having something happening.

Bound

Are there some things that stay the same, or relevant, across the board?

Quality. Regardless of what methods you choose, the simple fact of the matter is that you must have a quality manuscript. You must put out your best work. Of course, we all know about the really successful utter shit that gets published and makes its author a squillionaire, but the simple fact is that while the thing may be subjectively (or even objectively!) terrible, there’s something about it that works for readers. There’s a reason it’s doing so well, and while it may not be quality the way we perceive it, it is perceived value for all those fans. So whatever you’re doing, don’t worry about anyone else’s stuff, just make yours as good as it can possibly be.

Obsidian

How important is social media, or has been, to your success?

It’s very important these days. You can make a career without it, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that. And even if an author isn’t very active on social media, the activity of that author’s fans and readers is essential to continued growth. People are paying more attention to recommendations via social media than pretty much any other source now, so it’s important to be in it in some way. BUT! If you don’t like it, if you don’t enjoy it and can’t act like yourself, don’t do it. There’s no point in forcing yourself and faking it, because people see through that in an instant and you’re wasting your time. I really enjoy the engagement of social media, so for me it’s fun and it definitely helps.

Abduction

What’s one mistake you’ve made as a writer that you would warn new or upcoming writers against?

Only one? Man, that’s a tough question. I don’t want to admit to any mistakes! I’m sure I’ve made plenty, but thankfully nothing so far that’s been devastating for me. I think it’s just important to always work hard, to always learn and try to get better, to always be a decent person to work with. If you constantly strive for those things, everything else should slowly fall into place.

Alan

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. He’s the award-winning author of several novels and over sixty short stories and novellas. So far. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter andFacebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

Continuum XII – Stranger than Fiction

If you’re in Melbourne this weekend, you should come and check out Continuum XII – Melbourne’s very own spec fic convention. From the website:

Continuum is an annual fan run speculative fiction and pop culture convention. From sci-fi to epic fantasy and everything in between, Continuum 12 will celebrate the theme “Stranger Than Fiction”. Continuum runs every year on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. In 2016 the convention will be held between June 10-13.

Run by fans for fans, Continuum features a great line up of writers and creative artists in the heart of Australia’s most artistic city, Melbourne. The guests of honor at the next convention will be Queenie Chan and Kylie Chan.

Friday night is gold coin donation if you want to get a cheap taste, but be warned–it’s unlikely you can stop at one night!

I will be there all weekend, and I am on a number of panels (see below). Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 10
7:30pm
Continuum 101
Tesla, 7:30pm – 8pm
Tags: Panel

New to Continuum? Come chat to Continuum veterans about what to expect and how to get the most out of your convention

10pm
Batman vs. Superman
Tesla, 10pm – 11pm
Tags: Panel, Movies

Enjoyed by some, reviled by others, and with a Rotten Tomatoes score only 2% higher than Green Lantern, BvS has had a rather mixed reception. What happened? Is Batfleck a worthy successor and just how badass is Wonder Woman? Warning: SPOILERS (Duh)

Saturday, June 11
10am
Books That Changed My Life
Granger, 10am – 11am
Tags: Panel

Join us for a discussion of works that had a profound effect on the panellists’ lives.

2pm
Religion vs. Science vs. Philosophy
Tesla, 2pm – 3pm

Most future works tend to avoid the issue, but can they co-exist? Does religion have a place in the far future and can different ideologies truly co-exist?

Sunday, June 12
5pm
Building a Dramatic Fight Scene
Curie, 5pm – 6pm

How do you write a great fight scene? What does it take to make it believable? Come hear some practical tips and watch your moves and techniques demonstrated by some experienced fighters

Monday, June 13
1pm
The Author is a Jerk!
Granger, 1pm – 2pm
Tags: Panel

How do the personal opinions and actions of an author affect the reception of their work and do we really care? Should an author’s personal and professional lives remain separate or should we boycott problematic authors?

Paying for Our Passion – Pete Aldin

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.

I’ve known Pete Aldin almost as long as I have been actively writing–I met him at one of the few first few conventions I went to, and ever since he has been a huge supporter of my writing career.. Pete is one of those guys who keeps quietly in the background, but doesn’t miss much. He is first to be there with congratulations, but also with an encouraging word just when people need it. He’s a very talented writer, but you’d never hear that from him–he would rather talk about the work of others than his own. It’s safe to say that the writing world–and the world in general–would be a better place if we had more blokes like Pete, and I am really happy to have him on board today.

Some blokes build a boat in their backyard. Some work on their handicap over 18 holes. Some tinker with cars. This gives them peace, and meaning, and a skillset that affirms them.

I write.

Ten years ago (almost to the day), I was turning 40 and I decided it was now or never. I’d had this dream since I was 13 years old to walk into a bookstore, look on a shelf, and see a book there with my name on the spine. And so at 40, I put legs on the dream (and fingers on the keyboard).

I started putting words on pages, meeting other writers, learning to critique and be critiqued, and so on and so on.

A passion was born. An obsession formed. An addiction slid its warm hooks into my soul.

We all pay for our passions, our addictions, our obsessions.

B is for Broken

I’ve paid in time lost with friends and family. I’ve paid in the usual author-trope of self-doubt and self-flagellation. I’ve paid in late nights.

I’ve also paid for it financially, hiring a writing coach in the early days, paying for books on writing, seminars on writing. The trickle of money that’s come from selling stories hasn’t reached anywhere close to the costs of writing them.

I am blessed to have a wife and kids who trust me. Who believe in what I do. Who’ve seen that this obsession actually staves off my other mental illnesses. They’ve backed me to work a four-day week for several years so that I can have one day to write.

And here’s the rub. That one day each week is a sacrifice. It’s holy (a word which means devoted, set apart). And I’ve been often irked when people find out I’m not working on that day and assume I’m “free.” (Lee Murray mentioned this in her own recent post on the subject).

igms

“You’re not working this Wednesday, are you? We should catch up,” they say. “Hey Pete, you’re free this Monday; drive over to my work and we’ll have a coffee on my teabreak.” “Hey, Pete, you have Thursdays off. You can drive me to my medical appointment.”

When I try to tell them that I am working on that day, that I’m working on a novel draft, I get that awkward pause that comes when something simply does not compute. Stuttering eyelids. Twitching lips. A fading smile. Then, I suggest Saturday and invariably get the Oh-sorry-but-I-have-something-on responses. And, understanding soul that I am, I think “So it’s fine for me to lose time doing what’s important to me, but it’s not okay for you.”

Oh, sure, I forgive them, for they know not what they do. But I’m bloody well not taking anyone to the airport this coming writing day, lol.

Deathsmith

I think this has been the biggest challenge for me: to protect that writing day and use it wisely. As much as I’d like to blame the intrusions of others into it, I am much more to blame for any time-wasting that might have happened. I am the Great Procrastinator, Doom Looper, New-Music-Hunter. It’s all to let my other job’s admin creep into my home office on a non-work day.

But I must protect that time and I must use it wisely.

To use this holy time for anything but writing is disrespectful above all to my wife who has encouraged my writing day and made her own sacrifices; I’d be better to take an extra day’s pay a week, climb the career ladder, save up for that holiday my wife deserves.

A Canadian author once told me that over his first decade, his writing cost him all his friends and at least one girlfriend. But it had been worth it in the end: he’d made new friends, he’d found the right partner, and people were reading his writing.

I’m grateful. That my wife lets me write. That I do have great friends, many of whom I have met through my writing. That people are reading my writing.

Art is important. And important things cost.

Pete Aldin

Pete Aldin has been writing stories since he was a kid. A few years ago, he finally decided to take himself seriously, and finishing some.

Pete lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife, two sons and their small yappy dog. His addictions include alcoholic ciders, Fallout 4 and the FIFA franchise on Xbox. He doesn’t like pina colada nor taking walks in the rain.

He can be found lurking in the shadows at www.petealdin.com .

Writing Achievement Unlocked – I’m now a SFWA Active Member!

Most writers like to talk about writing more than actually doing it (I know I do!). One of the things that sometimes comes up is the goals we have, or the targets we have set for ourselves. A lot of writers have a list of things they want to acheive, things that act as a measuring stick, a way of feeling like we are making some progress with this crazy writing game, even if it’s only a little bit.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to tick a few of those things of my list this year, and today I was finally able to cross off a big one–I am now an Active Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America!

When I first started writing, and thinking about what I wanted to achieve and how to get there, that was one of the first goals I set myself. To me, because it has requirements based on sales, it has always seemed like a pretty good indicator of having reached a certain level. Not all professional writers are in SFWA, and it doesn’t mean that you have reached some sort of finish line, but the standards required to meet their criteria does indicate that you have managed to cross a certain threshold.

I’ve worked hard on my writing for a long time now, and come very close to a professional sale a number of times only to fall short, so this feels like I have really achieved something.

There is no denying SFWA has faced a number of challenges over the years, even during the relatively short time in the scheme of things that I have been paying attention. But, when I look at everything it does for its members, the people involved giving of their time and energy to improve the scene, and the names of those I will get to rub shoulders with (even just virtually), I am really excited and happy to have made it to this pont.

Now for my next goal!

SFWAcolor

 

Paying for Our Passion – Lee Murray

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.

When I was in the New Zealand I got to meet a whole new group of writers and fans, and realised how much our two countries have in common, and how we face many of the same struggles when it comes to distance from the big markets and smaller support networks. However, I realised that we also shared the same close knit community attitude of supporting and helping one another–the realisation we are all in this together and we need to do what we can to help one another.

I wassn’t lucky enough to meet Lee Murray in person, but it shows the generosity of New Zealanders that she was still willing to share her story with me–and my readers–for this blog series, and I am very grateful for her honesty and for this wonderful post.

A research scientist by training, I left paid employment to care for my children because my husband’s career in medical image software had us gallivanting all over the world—England, France, and the United States. All wonderful places with wonderful cheese, so I was happy to go there, but the children were small and needed stability, which meant having a parent at home. That parent was me.

I’ve always been a bit of a scribbler. I started writing during the children’s nap times and while waiting at karate lessons, when my daughter was at pre-school, and later at school. Raising children is rewarding but, ask anyone, by mid-afternoon, your brain is going to porridge. Okay, so there will be people who will tell you that my brain was already going porridge, but imagine what it might have been, had I not been writing.

Into The MistLater, when  we returned to New Zealand and the children were in school, I considered re-joining the workforce at least part-time, but we discovered our son’s developmental issues were related to Asperger’s and ADHD and as a result he needed my support with his learning. Around the same time, my dad began his slow decline into dementia and blindness, and, naturally, I wanted to maximise the time I spent with him.

Two good reasons not to go back into full-time work. And the third: I wanted to write. Staying at home allowed me to invest in my writing: to study, and to get stuck into actually finishing some manuscripts. Then, two years ago, my dad went into care, and with my son becoming more independent, I moved into the office on the porch and became a full-time writer. My day begins at 8:30am when my family has left for the day, and I work until my son comes home from school, and often again in the evening.

The DogBeing a stay-at-home writer is wonderful. I love it. I make coffee when I want, can work in my pyjamas, and my dog, Maxi, curls up at my feet while I write. But like everyone who works from home, the boundary between home and work is a difficult one to maintain. I have a tendency to spend too much time being my at-home self, or alternatively, to spend too much time working. It’s a delicate balance. And then, there are family and friends and their attitudes to my work:

“You work from home, so would you mind feeding my cat?”
“You work from home, so how about I pop in on Tuesday morning for coffee?”
“You work from home, so can you collect me from the airport?”
“Delivery? Send it to Lee’s. She’s bound to be home.”

I get a lot of interruptions. It’s hard to block out chunks of time to write. I’m exaggerating: I’m always willing to stop for coffee ‒ of course, I am ‒ but  I can’t deny that there’s a tension because people don’t perceive what I do as being a ‘real job’. They think it’s a hobby. A parlour game.

“It’s nice that you can call yourself a writer,” one of my running buddies said once.

I asked her what she meant. Turns out she thought saying you were a writer was a euphemism for being a stay-at-home mum. It was what you said when you didn’t want to admit you did nothing.

“But I am a writer,” I said.
“Oh yes, I know,” she said. “But not really.”

I don’t run with her anymore.

Earlier this year, when I accompanied my son to see a new specialist, the doctor asked me what my profession was.

“I’m a writer,” I said, and he wrote ‘housewife’ in his notes. (The thing about being a writer is that we work with words and that makes us very good at reading things upside down.)

And then there are the lovely people who accept that you are a real writer and therefore think your life must be lifted from an episode of Castle. Making up worlds. Killing off people you don’t like in your stories. Regular critique groups with James Patterson and Michael Connelly. Attending glittering launches. Going to interesting exotic places in the name of research. Going to seedy dangerous places in the name of research. Reading. You know, all the things that Richard Castle does.

These people know nothing of the isolation, the self-doubt, the rejections, the lack of interest in genre writers by our literary funders, the readers who moan about the cost of books, launches where no one turns up, and the pay cheques which tell us we are worthless. To put it in perspective, my daughter earned more in two months at her university holiday job than I did working full time as a writer-editor last year. Yes, that includes my mentoring fees, editing fees, story payments, everything. It’s grim. And in New Zealand, I’m probably doing better than most.

“But hey, you don’t do it for the money, right? You do it because you love it. Because you can’t help yourself. Writing, it’s like breathing for authors, isn’t it?”

Hmmm.

If my plumber whistles while he works, does that mean I don’t have to pay him?

At the EdgeOf course, I’m one of the lucky ones. My husband sponsors my passion. David supports me entirely: both emotionally and financially.

Early on in my collaboration with Dan Rabarts, my co-editor of Baby Teeth: Bite Sized tales of Terror, we emailed each other about our respective time commitments and how we would fit our editing tasks in around our families and our other work. I told Dan that my husband supported my writing as long as I put out from time to time.

Dan replied, “Um, unfortunate typo there. I assume you mean, put out a book from time to time.”

No, I didn’t. I’m a kept woman. My husband supports my writing habit because he loves me. He doesn’t even read fiction, but he reads everything I write. He doesn’t blink when the Amazon account comes in and he sees how many books I’ve bought. He doesn’t flinch when I subscribe to another online mag. “I see you’ve supported another Kickstarter,” he’ll say. Yes, I’m lucky. People tell me all the time:

“You’re soooo lucky.”
“Some of us have to work for a living, you know!”
“I could write a novel if I didn’t have to go to work.”
“God, I wish I didn’t have to go to work.” (To clarify I do work, just from home—at writing.)

These kinds of comments—some from other writers—fill me with guilt. I am lucky. There is no doubt about it. My husband’s income means I don’t have to worry about how we’re going to pay the electricity bill or where we’re going to find the money for the second school jersey to replace the one my son has lost.

A quick segue here, because earlier this year I was the convenor of the New Zealand Society of Authors’ mentorship programme. We received 70 applications from hopefuls across the country, all vying for one of 12 mentorships with experienced writers that we had on offer. One of the criteria we were asked to assess, one which my fellow panel members agreed was the most difficult to determine, was an individual’s commitment to writing. When we looked at the applications, the vast majority were from graduate students embarking on their careers and with few family commitments, or from retirees finally able to commit to that novel. People with children and mortgages and jobs were thin on the ground. Obviously, we could only select from the people who applied, but it occurred to me that our selection criteria precluded busy working parents, people on low incomes, singles. And if that were the case, wouldn’t those voices also be excluded from our literary landscape?

Reminding me again just how lucky I am to be able to write.

Yes, it makes me feel guilty. And because I can do what others only dream of, I feel I should somehow be making it up to everyone. Because I’m so privileged, I should do what privileged people do and give something back to the community. I must do good works.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!

So I offer my editing and mentorship services at cut-down rates—and sometimes for free—because writers have no money. I take on projects that involve writing or editing, sometimes hours and hours of writing and editing, and I do the work for free. I judge competitions, give away critiques, give away books. I facilitate workshops and do presentations in schools. Again, for free. I buy my colleagues’ books and I review, and review, and review. And all these things take me away from my own writing, but that’s only fair because I have time to write.

Often I’ll be so busy contributing to those poor people who are not as lucky as me that I’ll reach the end of the day without writing a single word for myself. Which means that I’m being sponsored to write, and I’m not even writing!

And then there are the anthologies my husband and I have sponsored, are sponsoring. Seed money to cover print costs, guaranteed sums to cover author payments. Projects which would not have had a look in otherwise because New Zealand funders are not interested in speculative projects. In general, if it’s not mainstream, they don’t want to know.

MikaRecently, I applied for funding for an anthology involving six New Zealand literary heavyweights. The application was turned down. I contacted the funding representative and I asked him, among other things, whether it was because the project was speculative in genre.

“Oh no,” the representative said. “No, it isn’t that because we had a meeting six months ago and decided that all genres were eligible.”

And what about the past five years? What about all the other applications I’ve sent in? What about them?

I wasn’t brave enough to ask it out loud. Funders have power after all. I resent (oooh, good pun) the application based on his recommendations. It ran to 37,000 words. For a proposed book project of 42,000 words. But surely a book should have merit enough to pay for itself, I hear you say. Why should it need funding?

Well, that’s right, books should be self-funding, turn a profit even. But margins are so small. Everyone is squeezed. The cost of bringing print books to New Zealand is too high and the cost of printing them here is even higher. The buying market is tiny. New Zealanders don’t rate Kiwi stuff. New Zealanders don’t read fiction. New Zealanders prefer Netflix. Booksellers refuse to stock anything from Ingram or Createspace. Libraries are cutting costs. Schools won’t buy class sets. Publishers are risk averse. There are lots of reasons why books don’t make it here and often it has nothing to do with the quality.

One writer friend of popular mainstream YA fiction tells me she has attended school visits where the school has only one copy of the book—the teacher’s copy—and the teacher would photocopy the pages for the students. Right under the author’s nose. But she should be thrilled, right? Because a whole class of kids were reading her work, and at least the school had bought one copy.

It doesn’t just apply to me—this feeling of guilt. New Zealand writers, on the whole, feel they are privileged to be writing and that they shouldn’t complain. Writing is an exalted thing. Everyone wants to be a writer and those of us who are living that dream need to be grateful.

Perhaps the real problem is readers—not loyal readers who wait faithfully for the release of your next book—but the ones who prefer to pirate a copy rather than pay $2.99 for an e-book. We’re constantly consuming stories, but there is a resistance to paying creators a fair price for that content. It’s not just New Zealanders. Didn’t Ariana Huffington sell the Huff Post for squibillions? Okay, so maybe not that much. But as far as I know, none of the writers of that content saw a cent.

I hosted a Chinese writer in my home a few years ago—another guilt trip thing because I was the writer who didn’t go to work and who had the biggest house. Anyway, this young writer of several books was visiting New Zealand on a fully paid scholarship. Not only had her training been paid for by her government, as a Chinese writer she received a stipend to write and also royalties from her books. Of course, with the government as her employer there might have been some censorship involved, nevertheless all the New Zealand writers in the room swooned with envy.

LeeTime to get off my soapbox here. After all, I’m just that privileged cow whose indulgent husband funds her writing whimsies. I wish every creative had a sponsor as wonderful as mine. But failing that, I’d go for a place where writing is valued and its creators are paid a fair price for their work. That place exists somewhere. I’m sure it does. I read about it in a book.

Lee Murray is a five-winner of the New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction and fantasy writing and an Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work (with Dan Rabarts) for the charity anthology Baby Teeth. In 2016, Lee’s short fiction has appeared in Starquake, SQMag, and Capricious, among others. Her novel Into the Mist was released this month from Cohesion Press, and the speculative anthology At the Edge (co-edited with Dan Rabarts) will be released in June. Visit Lee at her website www.leemurray.info