The Cabinet of Oddities is coming!

One of my oldest friends in the spec fic community is the incredibly talented Laura Goodin. Laura has a unique gift when it comes to facilitating collaborations and creating mixed media projects, like the radio play we performed at Conflux.

A few months ago, Laura approached me and asked if I was interested in contributing a story to a new project of hers. She asked for a short piece, and told me that she would then assign a composer to set it to music. I thought this was a fascinating concept and I really can’t wait to hear what sort of musical piece my story might inspire.

More details will be announced soon, but Laura has posted an announcement about it, and I am sharing it here. This is the sort of artistic collaboration that excites me, and I am looking forward to seeing the end result!Cabinet of Oddities

 

Paying for Our Passion – Emilie Collyer

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 am delighted to welcome back the multi talented Emilie Collyer, who was a guest on Ebon Shores earlier in the year. Not only a gifted writer (and a fellow Clan Destine Press author), Emilie is a successful and talented playwright. Welcome, Emilie!

The question of creativity and money is difficult and fascinating. I came to writing in a serious way in my early 20s, after a few years pursuing a career as an actor.

I wrote a piece for a cabaret show at drama school and had one of those epiphany moments: Oh this is what I need to be doing! Telling my own stories, not channelling someone else’s! Truth be told, I also didn’t quite have the personality for an acting career: shy with strangers, sensitive and also critical of how I saw the system working, who got ahead and who got left behind.

Writing, I figured, would be much more suited to me and, maybe, less painful.

Yes on the first front, no on the second – as I found equally as much rejection and uncertainty. But a deep sense that here was a task I could commit my whole life to and that would, I could already tell, sustain me in many ways for a life time.

I actually never really considered that I could earn a full time living as a writer. Coming from acting and theatre, where – as the saying goes – about 95% of actors are out of acting work at any given time, I just assumed that choosing a career in the creative arts meant a life of casual or part time other work to sustain the ups and downs and generally low income.

A Clean Job

This balance has proven itself in terms of my life / work / income split so far. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. I do know a number of people now who make a full time living from their art. For some I can see it is a combination of hard work and good timing – landing that one great job or having something become commercially successful. For others I know that they have willed their situation into existence, by refusing to do anything else and making it work by sheer determination.

I currently work two days a week as a copywriter for an online marketing agency. So I technically make a living from writing. This has pros and cons. I love that I get to use my creative and language skills. But it can also be draining and saps some energy away from my own work.

In the past I’ve worked in administration, hospitality and a range of other capacities – always part time. Other income boosts me up now and then – a payment for a piece of writing, a commission for a new play, a grant. I’ve also taught creative writing and improvisation on and off for many years.

I’ve never worked a full time day job. The thought of it makes me feel a bit suffocated. Even though I know the steady income would make life much easier my sense is that I would get depressed without the 3-4 days each week I carve out to make my own – whether it’s writing, developing or producing a play, or collaborating with others on creative projects.

The commitment to writing has paid off in that I have had nearly 20 plays produced, many stories and poems published, including two e-books of short stories and have been fortunate to win a number of awards and other accolades for my work. But income from this has not yet been enough to replace the income from my part time work.

I would like to reach a point where I can sustain myself fully from my creative writing. This may or may not happen. I’ll keep working towards it but I’m also not too hung up about it. Many factors contribute to whether this happens or not and they aren’t all within my control.

Equally as important to me, in the grand scheme of things, is creative freedom. There is also a strong part of my creative drive that is about experimenting and pushing myself into unknown territories. I love it when my writing gets out in the world and hits a mark, gets a positive response from readers or audiences. But just as valuable are the many pieces that don’t quite make it, where I’m trying something and failing at it. I protect this part of the creative process very fiercely. And the fact that I earn (just) enough money to live off from a separate income and work stream actually allows me that level of risk taking.

Autopsy of a Comedian resized

My partner is also an artist, a performer and writer. So he doesn’t support me financially. We share the load, live modestly and enjoy the small spikes in income when they occasionally come along.

I don’t travel much or buy new things very often. Sometimes I worry about the future: very little superannuation, no savings and no benefits like annual leave or sick leave entitlements – what will this mean as I age?

I also don’t have a family to support. Not having children is a decision I came to via many routes and for many different reasons. My life as an artist was not the sole reason but it did contribute – knowing the kind of financial pressure that would place on me was a factor in the patchwork of that long, slow decision making process.

My life is far from perfect but on the whole I value the shape of it. I don’t take any income or any job for granted. I relish every creative opportunity I get. At times I even enjoy the challenge of living on wavering and unpredictable income. I see it as a healthy antidote to the overt messages of capitalism that tell us to only value the worth of our lives based on the worth of our belongings and our bank accounts.

Paying for my passion has definitely not been easy. But overall it is a price I have been willing to pay and one that brings rewards and benefits in sometimes unexpected ways.

EmilieCollyer

Emilie Collyer is an award winning writer of plays, fiction and poetry. Recent publications include stories in Allegory (USA) and Cosmic Vegetable (USA). Her speculative fiction has won three prizes at the Scarlet Stiletto Awards (2012 & 2013) and she has two collections of short fiction published with Clan Destine Press. Her play The Good Girl (2013) won Best Emerging Writer at Melbourne Fringe & a Green Room nomination. Dream Home (shortlisted 2013 Patrick White Award) premiered at Darebin Arts Speakeasy in 2015. Read more about Emilie and her writing here: www.betweenthecracks.net

Paying for Our Passion – T.B McKenzie

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 a genuine renaissance man! Father, teacher, swordsman–and gifted writer–despite all his excellent qualities, Travis McKenzie still manages to be a humble and all round good guy–lesser men might let it go to their head! Travis is a fellow Satalyte author, and you can check out his new release here (and how awesome is that cover?!), or go along to his launch by joining the Facebook event here.

It hurts to talk about how I fund my writing. It hurts because in doing so I have to admit certain uncomfortable truths. Like the fact that I am a lazy man. That I am full of anxiety and fear of failure. That I am a hypocrite, who spouts the virtues of hard work, persistence and growth mindset theory to his students every day, yet would rather time travel to the point where my books are published, than have to go through the slog of actually writing them. But admitting these problems is only the first step to recovery. And this brings me to my central metaphor, which I intend to twist, stretch and mix to make my point. If writing is my answer to self-actualisation, then not-writing is a dark addiction I must overcome.

I made the drastic choice in 2014 of putting myself into procrastination rehab. I took long service leave and wrote every day. Then, after a term of one long hard-work-montage in which I re-wrote my first novel from scratch, I went back to work, albeit at a much reduced part time load. My money wealth was limited that year, but the time I bought was worth it. I continued to live the Hemingway dream (minus the hunting) and polished up my sequel then outlined book 3. It seemed that I had cured myself forever. But as any addict will tell you, only your behaviour back in the real world counts.

Dragon

I re-entered that real world last December with the arrival of a new baby, and the move to a new home that was needed to keep us in the comfortable upper levels of the Maslow pyramid scheme we had signed up for. I went back to full time teaching because it turns out you can only pay a mortgage by the alchemical process of converting time back into money and then giving it all to the bank. And here is the hardest admission of all. I used that as an excuse and haven’t written a thing since I packed away my study last November.

I lied to myself, of course, like any addict does. I said I’d write at nights, on weekends, in the spare hour on Monday after my Year 9 English class. But I was back on the good stuff: pure procrastination (intermixed with moments of new-baby panic and nappy changing) After all, I consoled myself, I had earned it.

This is where my higher power of anxiety comes to the rescue. Many try to silence this voice, but I have learned to trust a little of the truth it tells me at 4.15am when my son decides to jump in our bed and warm his frozen feet on my lower back. I need to get back on the wagon.

The good news is that I already know the answer. I need to give up my beloved HBO and write at night; I need to stop trawling Reddit posts and write on the weekend; I need to close the Facebook tab at work and use that hour after Year 9 English to, you guessed it, write.

Of course, had I stuck to that last rule I wouldn’t have seen the post from David calling out for a writer to talk about how they pay for their passion, and it turns out that this has been a wonderful moment of catharsis. Mostly, I guess, because for the first time in months, I’m writing.

Travis

 

Born just before the ‘80s began T.B McKenzie grew up in South Gippsland Victoria, where boys either surfed or played football. He did neither and, as this was a time before the Internet, he found his escape in books. Somehow he missed the boat on Tolkien but discovered instead the works of Lloyd Alexander, Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le-Guin, who all had a lot to say about things people seemed to have forgotten.

He never looked back and ever since his first story — written in grade four about a monster, a sword, and a hero — he knew he wanted to be a writer. He lives now with his wife and young son in Melbourne, where he makes money to pay the bills as an art teacher and stays up way past his bedtime writing the sequel to The Dragon and the Crow

Paying for Our Passion – Cat Sparks

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.

One of the first people I met when I became involved in the Aussie spec fic community was Cat Sparks, and ever since then she has not only been a great friend but a mentor who has encouraged and supported me as a writer. I could list all her achievements, but it would end up longer than this post–it is safe to say she is one of Australia’s leading writers, editors and designers. Welcome, Cat! 

David has had to nag me a great many times to get this post for his blog series. Thing is, I thought I’d written it already and that it had been published and, quite possibly, that I had spared a minute to glance over it. Turns out none of those things were true. Right now, I’m juggling way too many plates and everything’s a multicoloured blur.

For the past three years I’ve been engaged in a PhD on YA climate change fiction whilst simultaneously functioning as Cosmos Magazine’s fiction editor and wrestling with an Ausco-funded science fiction novel that never seemed to get finished, no matter how hard I tried. The ending was rewritten many times at my agent’s request. Finally it passed muster and now I’m waiting to see if she can sell it.

I guess you could say my writing career is going well at the moment, the main effect of which seems to be that finding time for actual writing is becoming problematic. As Tansy Rayner Roberts once pointed out, the reward for successful writing tends to generally be more work – which means, of course, more writing and writing related activities such as speaking opportunities: panels, workshops, festivals and the like.

The Bride PriceDon’t get me wrong – I am privileged and I know it. But I worked damn hard across many years to score my luck. Being a professional writer means other people want things from you: help, endorsements, participation, advice. You’re always paying it back or paying it forward.

I recall many years ago Sean Williams explaining that I ought to try to enjoy the pre-pro state I inhabited at the time. What he meant was that having no deadlines aside from the self imposed kind meant I could write whatever I wanted, write freely for enjoyment or experiment. Once I’d reached where I thought I wanted to be, the next rung up the achievement scale, everything would change and get much harder.

He was right because Sean is always right when it comes to the nitty gritty of the publishing landscape. I didn’t get it then, I was so hung up on making the grade, such as I saw it. That grade was everything to me and my passion to catch up with it has cost me plenty. Here are a few once treasured activities that have fallen by the wayside:

Dance: I was part of a group who learned and performed raqs sharqi – Egyptian folk dancing. It was fun and I particularly enjoyed mixing with women from walks of life far different from my own. But I gave it up because of the time and distraction factor.

Art: A fundamental element of my character and had been since I was a child, but art slipped through my fingers, piece by piece, once again, because of the time it took away from words. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to everyone, of course. Many of my colleagues are heavily into art and craft, but things did not work out that way for me.

Sparks_-_Agog!_Smashing_Stories_Coverart

Friendships: I have lost some to this game for a variety of reasons. Sitting around on a sunny deck sipping wine and nibbling cheese with lovely people sucks up valuable storytelling real estate. I am blessed with many friends but some of them I just don’t see much of anymore.

The Home Beautiful: [insert hysterical laughter]. I blame the fact that our house is falling down around us on the fact that we both write. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’m slow. I’m ponderous. I get sucked down infinite rabbit holes of reading and research. I polish everything I write to the nth degree. Long gone are the days when I could dash a story off across 48 hours.

My biggest support continues to come from my partner Rob. He has been the main breadwinner across the past fifteen years, although up until the grant, I always had a day job. In our house, writing is important. It gets to come first, before other things. I cannot imagine successfully co-inhabiting with the kind of guy who wanted to drag me off to boat shows or whatever on the weekends. Rob and I both dig genre. Our house is filled with pop culture crap. Nothing matches anything else, a fact that, fortunately, suits us both.

with jawa-cybermen

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning author, editor and artist whose former employment has included: media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer and manager of Agog! Press amongst other (much less interesting) things. She’s currently fiction editor of Australia’s Cosmos Magazine while simultaneously grappling with a PhD on YA climate change fiction. catsparks.net

Paying for Our Passion – Grant Stone

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 New Zealander Grant Stone. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him on my visit over there earlier this year, but from all accounts that was my loss! Welcome, Grant!

Writing in the Margins

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to do two things: write stories and write code.

I work full time as a software architect. It’s a fairly intense role where I’ve got to try and manage a lot of in-house projects while still keeping up with emerging technology trends. While the hours aren’t necessarily long, by the end of the day my brain’s mush. And I’ve got three kids. By the time they’ve all been taken to ballet and hockey and fed and bathed and had stories read and everything else, I don’t have a lot of energy left. There’s usually no space for writing on evenings or weekends.

I take a ferry to work. It’s a thirty-five minute trip each way. So that’s when I get most of my writing done, five days a week. It’s not ideal. Going to work on a boat may sound romantic, but it’s usually noisy and cramped. But armed with my trusty netbook, it’s extremely productive time. I wrote the first draft of a novel last year in nine months, all in thirty-five minute slices.

To try and make the most of my limited time, I try and avoid getting distracted by fresh new ideas before my current project is complete. This never works. My phone is full of fragments of stories that grow a sentence or word at a time, until they’re too big to ignore. My ‘in progress’ folder is a wasteland of stories that have been trapped there for years.

use-only-as-directed-edited-by-simon-petrie-and-edwina-harveyI think having such a small amount of time has affected my writing. While I don’t get a lot of ‘typing’ time, stories are always bubbling away in my subconscious. When I’m finally able to get to a keyboard the words spill out quickly enough. My first drafts are relatively clean. But given my time constraints I’m unlikely to attempt an epic fantasy any time soon. In my current situation I don’t think I’d ever be able to complete more than a novel a year. And I’m fine with that.

I’m extremely fortunate that I love my day job. I get to hang out with talented and creative people every day and work on exciting projects. I’ve good books in my blood, but I’ve got code too. If someone came to me with a million bucks so I could write full time, I don’t think I’d take it. Well, okay, I’d take the money. But I’m always going to be coding too.

I’m pretty good at stealing little pockets of time, writing in the margins of my life. It would be nice if those margins were just a little wider. But every week I get to write code and I get to write stories.

I’m living the dream.

grant_stoneGrant Stone’s stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and have twice won the Sir Julius Vogel Award. His novella ‘The Last‘ Is available now from Paper Road Press.

http://grant-stone.com/
http://paperroadpress.co.nz/

nEvermore: Tales Of Murder, Mystery & The Macabre ToC Announced

I am very excited to be able to announce the ToC for nEvermore: Tales Of Murder, Mystery & The Macabre edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, which will be released from Edge Science Fiction in October. It’s up for preorder at Amazon and the Edge Website.

I am absolutely thrilled to see my name alongside some of my writing heroes. It’s a little bittersweet, as this was (I think) Tanith Lee’s last anthology appearance–it’s an honour to be in it for that reason alone.

About the book:

nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre is an homage to the great American writer, the incomparable Edgar Allan Poe, and a must-have for every fan of his work.

Compiled by multi-award winning editors, Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles, nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre presents a tantalizing selection of imaginative stories by New York Times bestselling and prize-winning authors.

Featuring works by: Margaret Atwood; Kelley Armstrong; Richard Christian Matheson; Tanith Lee; William F. Nolan (with Jason Brock & Sunni Brock); Nancy Holder; Christopher Rice; Chelsea Quinn Yarbro; Michael Jecks; Lisa Morton; J. Madison Davis; Barbara Fradkin, Colleen Anderson, Robert Bose, Jane Petersen Burfield, Rick Chiantaretto, Robert Lopresti, David McDonald, Loren Rhoads, Thomas S. Roche, and Carol Weekes & Michael Kelly.

This anthology consists of 21 original tales that blend supernatural and mystery elements in unique reimaginings of Edgar Allan Poe’s exquisite stories.

Here’s the table of contents:

  1. “A Rather Scholarly View of Edgar Allan Poe, Genre Crosser” by Uwe Sommerlad
  2. “The Gold Bug Conundrum” by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  3. “Street of the Dead House” by Robert Lopresti
  4. “Naomi” by Christopher Rice
  5. “Finding Ulalume” by Lisa Morton
  6. “Obsession With the Bloodstained” by Rick Chiantaretto
  7. “The Lighthouse” by Barbara Fradkin
  8. “The Masques of Amanda Llado” by Thomas S. Roche
  9. “Atargatis” by Robert Bose
  10. “The Ravens of Consequence” by Carol Weekes and Michael Kelly
  11. “Annabel Lee” by Nancy Holder
  12. “Dinner With Mamalou” by J. Madison Davis
  13. “The Deave Lane” by Michael Jecks
  14. “133” by Richard Christian Matheson
  15. “Afterlife” by William F. Nolan and Jason V. Brock and Sunni K. Brock
  16. “The Drowning City” by Loren Rhoads
  17. “The Orange Cat” by Kelley Armstrong
  18. “The Inheritance” by Jane Petersen Burfield
  19. “Sympathetic Impulses” by David McDonald
  20. “Asylum” by Colleen Anderson
  21. “The Return of Berenice” by Tanith Lee
  22. “The Eye of Heaven” by Margaret Atwood

nevermore-e1436832703764

Galactic Chat 68 – featuring me!

Bit of a belated post, but I found out what it was like to be on the other side of the mic when Sean interviewed me for Galactic Chat! I really have no idea what I said–I was a bit nervous–but if you want to listen, follow the links below:

This week’s chat sees Sean interviewing fellow chatter and recent HarperCollins author David McDonald.  

They talk about David’s new film novelisation and  volunteering in the speculative fiction community.  Of particular interest will be some of the expectations on writers when writing for tie-in properties.

David also talks about the wonderful and enlightening responses he’s got to his Paying For Our Passion guest post series.

The Salon article David mentions can be found here.  If you are interested in his guest post series the initial post is here

You can find more on David McDonald here.

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

Paying for Our Passion – Narrelle M. Harris

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 the splendid Narelle M. Harris, who I met at my first Conitnuum–after which she was kind enough to take the time to give me some excellent writing advice. Not only an extremely talented author, Narelle is also someone who possesses the best qualities of being a passionate fan and I have loved being on panels with her–especially Doctor Who ones!

  • describe your current situation (working full time/part time/stay at home etc)

I work as a freelance corporate writer, essentially part time, though I take on roles for a few weeks solid at a time if that’s the work that comes in.

I live with my husband, Tim Richards, and our cat Petra. We don’t have kids, and that’s given me a certain flexibility all my writing life.

  • how does this situation impact your writing?

Generally, it’s all good. Because it’s part time I still have plenty of time for writing, but actually, for most of my working and writing life, I worked full time and wrote novels by putting aside two evenings a week (minimum) and also writing sometimes on weekends, other nights, at lunchtimes etc.14121137

  • are there other people whose support allow you to write (financially, or even emotionally)?

My husband, Tim Richards, has been the cornerstone of my writing career. He has supported my financially when I’ve been between jobs, but mostly we’ve shared expenses. The primary support I’ve had from him is emotional and also in terms of organising. He knows how important my writing is to me, so he makes sure I’ve had the time to write even when I had full time jobs. He works with me to set aside the time I need, he provides encouragement and positive feedback, he buys me icecream when I have to recover from a rejection letter and he makes sure he plugs my work on social media etc when it gets published.

Even more materially, he looks out for opportunities for me. Alongside writing, I do public speaking at libraries etc, about writing and reading. (I often make more money in a year from the talks and workshops than I have from my books and short stories.) My recent few days spent at five libraries in the Wimmera region came about because he was contacted abuot his own talks, he was going to be overseas for them, so he passed my details on to the library organiser. We spoke, they took me on board and off I went.

Tim also helped to arrange transport for me with Great Southern Rail, so that I could catch the Overland to Horsham and blogged about it for him – so he both helped me make money and to save money.

Tim is fucking awesome.

  • What are some of the challenges your situation brings? (time/guilt/financial hardship)

Making sure I have enough freelance work to pay the bills while still having enough time to write my fiction and to do my talks/workshops which also bring money in for me. Luckily, we live fairly frugally and don’t have kids.

My biggest challenge is that I always want more time for fiction writing; it’s also quite stressful running my own freelance business now, looking for work and finding new clients, as not all clients provide regular periodic income.

  • What sacrifices do you have to make to write?

We’ve made choices about living more frugally, and so we have to plan expenditure carefully. So far it’s worked very well. Sometimes, if I’m approaching a deadline (for my freelance work or for a novel/short story) we have to negotiate time sometimes.

NMHBanner-20131

  • If there have been other scenarios in the past, were they easier/harder, how were they different?

As metnioned previously, when I had to work full time, it was much more difficult. Tim and I always worked together to make sure I had time to write, but it was frustrating for me, especially when I was doing jobs that made me unhappy, but we had a mortgage to pay off as well as bills, and those couldn’t be left to one income.

  • What would you see as the ideal? Full time writing? A different job?

Now that the mortgage is paid off, we’re both much happier and the pressure is off. We both still need to work to pay bills, but we both have a lot more time. I feel like just now I’m in a perfect balance of freelance work and fiction. Obviously my ideal would be to make a living from my fiction (and the talks) but I’m much better off than many writers and have achieved a lot of success in both arenas, so I’m pretty content.

Narrelle M Harris

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer of crime, horror, fantasy, romance, erotica and non-fiction. Her books include Fly By Night (nominated for a Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Novel), fantasies Witch Honour and Witch Faith (both short-listed for the George Turner Prize) and vampire book, The Opposite of Life, set in Melbourne.

In March 2012, her short story collection, Showtime, became the fifth of the 12 Planets series (released by World Fantasy Award winning Twelfth Planet Press). Walking Shadows, the sequel to The Opposite of Life, was released by Clan Destine Press in June 2012, and was nominated for the Chronos Awards for SF and fantasy, and shortlisted for the Davitt Awards for crime writing.

In 2013, Narrelle also began writing erotic romance with Encounters (Clan Destine Press) and Escape Publishing. Six short stories have been published to date and her first full-length work, Ravenfall, has just been completed.

Currently, her fantasy novel Kitty and Cadaver is with an agent, and her pitch for a Holmes/Watson romance was accepted by Improbable Press, so she’s working on The Adventure of the Colonial Boy.

Find out more about Narrelle’s work at her her blog, www.mortalwords.com.au.

Paying for Our Passion – Lucy Sussex interviews Fergus Hume

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.

This week’s post is a very special one. If Australia had a spec fic Hall of Fame, Lucy Sussex would be one of the first names listed (though she is another New Zealander we have appropriated for ourselves). Lucy has a glittering bibliography and a reputation as one of the best in the business. Added to that, it seems Lucy has another talent hitherto unrevealed–as a medium. Below you will find an interview with spirit of 19th Century author, Fergus Hume (the subject of Lucy’s latest book: Blockbuster: Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab) where he tells us about his own struggles to get his work published and his foray in self publishing. It seems that paying for our passion is not a problem limited to the modern era!

How do you find a ghost? Well, take a punt on one of his haunts, which a man, in the afterlife, might find pleasing. So I find him, on a fine autumn day, lazing on a bench in the Fitzroy gardens. The shade of Fergus Hume is at first unremarkable, as he was in life: a small dark man in well-tailored tweeds, only the fruity moustache and the bowler hat in his hand indicating his nineteenth-century origins. Who would think he wrote the best-selling detective novel of the 1800s?

“Mr Hume, I presume?” Damn, it sounds like a musical hall routine, of the sort he wrote. All he wanted to be was a successful dramatist and he ended up a crime writer.

A courteous inclination of the head, and I sit down beside him, with my copy of The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. “I would ask you to sign, but…”

“My apologies. I do not go in for automatic writing. Conan Doyle is the spiritualist, you might try him.”

“Can I at least request a short interview with you?”

Again that inclination. He does not mind.

“It will appear in a series, Paying for Your Passion, with various writers.”

“Ah yes, you can say I did that.”  His voice was described as being like corduroy–soft, warm, and raspy from smoking.

“Did your father really insist you complete a law degree before taking up writing?”

A faint sigh behind the moustache. “He was a practical Scot, and a hard man. It made a successful Madhouse keeper, but was difficult in a parent.”

“It was said you had no enthusiasm for the law.”

“Not at all, but I worked diligently at it. I was ever a hard worker.”

“You never practiced the law?”

“Being a law clerk allowed me more time to write: poetry, light operas, plays. And to attend the theatre and make useful friends.”

“Networking, we call it.”

“An interesting neologism, suggestive of crochet.”

At this point an autumn leaf falls right through him.

“But you couldn’t get the theatre managers in Melbourne to put on your plays.”

“They said colonial brains didn’t pay.”

“We call it the cultural cringe.”

“Apt, that.”

“So you wrote a novel.”

A smile. “I asked the bookshops what was selling: detective novels by Gaboriau. So I bought a passel of them, read them all, and wrote The Mystery of a Hansom Cab. I plotted it first, over weeks, then sat down and wrote.  Then, the villain being insufficiently concealed, I rewrote.”

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“Then you couldn’t get the publishers to take it either.”

This time he grimaces.

“So you self-published. An edition of 5000–huge for the time. Is it true you got the money by playing the stockmarket?”

“It makes for a good story.” Neither confirming nor denying.

“And you delivered the books to shops in a hansom cab and then drove around the suburbs as an advertisment?”

“The things we do for our art!” But the memory is clearly pleasant.

“And then it sold out, and you had to hastily reprint.”

“All I wanted was to draw attention to myself as a writer!”

“It worked.”

“Beyond my wildest dreams.” Drily.

“Famously you sold the copyright to the English edition, because you didn’t believe a colonial book would succeed overseas.”

“I got fifty pounds for it, a good price. But had I known…”

“Indeed.”

“And you never had such a success again.”

“But I could write, which I loved, and made a living from it, and never had to return to the law, which frankly I hated.”

“140 novels. And you never made it as a playwright.”

“It was Karma.”

“In a previous life, you said, you were a French aristocrat, guillotined in the Revolution.”

A shudder. “I can recall the feel of the blade still. What we do in one life, affects the others, through birth after birth.”

“You paid for your passion.”

“Assuredly. But to be Fergus Hume was not such a bad life.”

“So in your later lives, were you reincarnated as a successful playwright? Or movie scriptwriter?”

That smile again, but wide. “Now that would  be telling. I think you have had entirely enough of my time. And I have a film to attend.”

“One of your own, that you wrote in your future life?'”

A very knowing laugh, before he dematerialises, leaving me alone on the park bench, and the sun darting behind a cloud.

I can only conclude I guessed right. Damn, who is he now?

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Lucy Sussex was born in New Zealand. She has abiding interests in women’s lives, Australiana, and crime fiction. She has also edited four anthologies, including She’s Fantastical (1995), shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award. Her award-winning fiction includes the novel, The Scarlet Rider (1996, reprint Ticonderoga 2015).  She has five short story collections; and has edited the work of Ellen Davitt and Mary Fortune. Her Women Writers and Detectives in the Nineteenth Century (2012) examines the mothers of the mystery genre. Her latest project is Blockbuster: Fergus Hume and The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (Text).

Paying for Our Passion – Nicole Murphy

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 one of those people without whose efforts and generous contribution of their time the Aussie spec fic community would probably grind to a halt. Since I have been around, Nicole Murphy has not only made me feel personally very welcome, but has been involved in the organisation of many of the events I have attended and enjoyed the most. She also has an excellent straight face–I wouldn’t play poker with her!  When you realise all that is on top of being a very prolific and talented writer, it gives you an idea of the level of her achievements. Here you can see how hard she has worked to get to that point.

The things you do for your writing career…

The year was 2007. I was working through my ‘Operation No-Regrets’ project—a list of all the things I wished I’d done in my life. I was doing one per month, culminating in my 40th birthday, where I would have no regrets.

Projects like that tend to focus your thinking and bring thing you hadn’t realised to the forefront of your mind. So, I was lying in bed one night and I had this clear mental image. It was me, on my death bed. I’d never had a novel published and as I lay dying, I thought to myself, ‘Maybe if I’d tried harder…’

There’s a lot of reason to never have a novel published (note we’re talking traditional publishing—the rise of self-publishing has turned the ability to have your words out to public on its head). You might have terminal bad timing and always submit a book weeks after the publisher bought something similar. You could write a product so niche a publisher can’t sell enough to make it worthwhile. You could actually not be a good enough writer (a fear that never leaves you). But NO WAY was the reason going to be that I didn’t try hard enough. I swore that writing, and publication, was going to be the focus of my life. If I got to the end and it didn’t happen, it damn well wasn’t going to be because I didn’t give it my all.

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This left me in a dilemma. At the time I was working as a journalist, and I hadn’t written any fiction for some time. For me, the source of words for both jobs was the same, and journalism was running me dry. It just so happened that it was time for me to leave my current employer. I had a choice—continue either as a journalist (or even move into a communications roles in the government and make more money) or leave the industry all together and find a job that freed my mind and soul to focus on my writing (and take a pay cut in the process).

In February 2008 I left journalism and in March 2008 I started working at Aldi. An easy job that didn’t take up my words. A pay cut, true, but Hubby and I made it work.

The new job was just one part of the commitment. I also had to commit fully to my writing. For the next two years I had just one day off per year (Christmas Day). Every other day, I was at the supermarket or I was writing. When I worked the late shift, I wrote in the morning.

It worked. By November 2008 I had a novel I called ‘Love in Control’, the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy, ready for submitting. I bypassed getting an agent and submitted myself. In July 2009 I sold the trilogy to HarperVoyager and in July 2010, ‘Secret Ones’ (formerly ‘Love in Control’) was released. The other two books came out in 2011.

I had to leave Aldi in 2010 because of back injuries. Hubby decided he was doing well enough to support me so I wrote full time for two years, pumping out the words and doing all the promotion I could.

Forward to April 2012—Hubby had a stroke. My lovely writing full time life was over. I nevermade enough money to make writing lucrative, so I had to return to work.
COV_DreamOfAsarlaiI made an error. I forgot my vow that writing and publication were going to be the focus of my life. I think I was lulled into a false expectancy by how lovely my life had been. I write fast, you see. So full-time, I only needed the morning to achieve what I wanted. I had my afternoons free for whatever. Sometimes, I got bored and took on new projects. So I thought I’d have time to focus, and do a cool job.

When I went for jobs, I didn’t look for easy jobs like Aldi. Instead, I got a job as a conference organiser—acknowledged by many work experts as one of the most stressful jobs around.

I kept up my writing. I reset my goals and it now takes 10-11 weeks to draft a 110k novel, rather than seven weeks (faaaast writer). I get up early (and I hate getting out of bed) every morning to write as much as I can before I got to work. For a while, I kept up my promotional work too (generally by giving up at least one day of the weekend). Then, I started to rely on writing weekends or retreats (where I could write full time) to keep up with my deadlines.

Kept up I did—since 2013 I’ve had another six books published, bringing my total publications thus far to nine books (eight novels, one collection of novellas). But each became more rushed, the deadline harder to hit. And the promotional work less and less…

And so begins 2015, which is in the running for the worst year of my life for a variety of reasons. One is work, which has taken over my life. From mid-March to mid-May, I doubt I wrote more than ten thousand words. Thankfully I spoke to publishers I’m contracted with and as a result, I’m not as far behind on my deadlines as I would have been if I’d kept to my original 2015 deadline (I was supposed to write 240k in the year—now it’s just 130k). Nevertheless, in order to ensure the rest of the year works, I’m in the process of drafting an 80k novel in five weeks.

Alleluia annual leave and a writing weekend with friends.

While on my week of leave, I remembered that vow and realised how far I’d slipped from it. I had a book come out June 8. Best you don’t know that. Why? I’ve been too busy/exhausted to do any promotion.

So, once again, I face a choice. Stay in a job that I often love (although the stress is sometimes unbearable) with workmates I like, or go find an easier job that will free my mind and soul to focus on my writing.

I think you can all guess what the answer will be.

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Nicole Murphy is a cross-genre writer who also publishes under the name Elizabeth Dunk. She’s had nine books published: The Dream of Asarlai trilogy (urban fantasy), the Jorda trilogy (science fiction romance), two contemporary romances and a collection of paranormal erotica novellas. She has a further six books contracted to be published over the next three years. Her current day job is as a conference organiser, but she’s hoping to change that so she can re-focus on her dream of a career as a writer. She lives in Queanbeyan with her husband Tim (a champion croquet player) and their two budgies—Freddy and Casper.