Author Archives: David

Paying for Our Passion – Amanda Bridgeman

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 we feature the wonderful Amanda Bridgeman, and get to help her celebrate a very special day–the launch of her new book, Aurora:Centralis! Amanda is the middle of a whirlwind book tour, and you can find out more here.

I’ve only been a writer for about seven years now. The first four years consisted of me just sitting with my laptop and writing a bunch of novels with no thought past just getting them out of my head and onto the page. The last three years, however, after I made the decision to try and get published, have been a busier. And with that increase in workload, choices have had to be made.

My first book was published in May 2012 and this week marks the release for my fourth book, just under three years later. With each book released, the busier I became. It wasn’t just a matter of getting the next book ready for submission or editing it for publication, but there’s the marketing and promotion that comes along with it too (and if you’re not going to market your book, then why bother getting published in the first place, I say). I’ve always been a believer that you should ride the wave while it’s there, because if you don’t, you may never catch another one. So I have held on tight to this Aurora wave and run with it!

Aurora_centralis_FAA lot of the writers have children to contend with aside from everything else in their lives. I don’t. I’m single with no children, and some might think, ‘well hey, you’ve got all the time in the world, right?’. The answer is actually, no, I don’t. Granted, I probably do technically have more time than those with kids, but I still struggle to find the time to juggle all the balls of life, just like anyone else. I don’t have a partner to support me through this journey, nor halve the bills or chores around the house. I am it, so if something needs to be done, then I have to do it, and if I have a bad day, then I alone have to deal with it.

I work a busy day job where I manage several staff and am PA to the Regional Manager. Some days I come home and I’m just knackered, sometimes physically, but usually mentally. And you kind of need mental energy to write . . . When I first started writing, I was so inspired, I’d come home from a day at work and crack out the laptop and start writing at 6pm, then keep going until 11pm or so, then go to bed. But I found that sometimes I couldn’t switch my brain off from thinking about various plotlines. I would lie awake staring at the ceiling, or watching the clock tick over. Four or five hours later the alarm would go off, and I’d get up and head back into the day job. That may sound like plenty of sleep to some, but it wasn’t enough for me to balance working two jobs – the day job and the writing job.

After a while this schedule wore me down. I realised that I was going into the day job tired every day, and that just wasn’t fair on my employer. Especially when it was that job that was paying my mortgage (I have no one to lean on to pay the bills, remember!). I had to reassess what I was doing and learn to take better care of myself. I started limiting myself to 2-3 hours of writing/editing after work and force myself (yes, force myself) to relax by either watching TV or reading for at least an hour every night before I went to bed. My body thanked me. And I’m pretty sure the day job thanked me too. Some days I still come home tired and have to give up a night of working on the books, because I’ve learned to listen to my body and give it a rest when it needs to. It still sucks like hell when I give up a night of writing, because I know I have to wait another 24 hours until I’ll get the chance again, but working 12-15 hour days, day in and day out (weekends too), isn’t good for anyone. Trust me.

AuroraCentralis BTFBAlong with the busy day job, and working nights and weekends on the books, I also spend my 4 weeks annual leave a year travelling to various conventions and basically using them as ‘working holidays’. Sure, I enjoy doing it, but they still can be pretty full-on and physically/mentally taxing. And if I’m not using my holidays to travel to conventions, then I’m using the time to edit or write and meet deadlines. It is my choice to do this, of course, and I do it because I am passionate about my books. Regardless, if I want go to conventions and promote my books and meet my readers, I have no choice but to use my annual leave, and the days run out pretty fast. I sometimes actually fantasize about using my annual leave for, you know, a real holiday. Like lying on a beach somewhere and doing absolutely nothing…

As a writer, aside from writing, editing, and promoting, you also need to keep your finger on the pulse of popular culture. That means you need to find the time to be reading, watching TV and watching films. Sounds great, right? Except it’s not quite the same as a ‘normal’ person just deciding to watch movie or read a book on a whim. Although I love it, I do feel obligated to check out the latest films and TV shows and books, because, well, it would be kind of irresponsible of me not to. And so, in what little ‘free’ time I have, I need to schedule in time for checking out all these films/shows/books. Luckily I enjoy most of what I read and watch, but sometimes I do feel as though I don’t really get to do it at my own leisure.

01Picture1Aside from exhaustion, writing can affect the social side of your life too. Luckily, pretty much all of my friends are married with kids, so their time is limited as well. My books, at the moment, are my kids, so between us, finding time to catch-up is rare. So in the ‘precious’ writing/editing/promotion/pop-culture time I have on nights and weekends, I also need to slot in the occasional catch up with friends and family. And I’ve mentioned that I’m single, right? Try finding time for dating!

When I first came out of my writing closet I was surprised by how supportive people seemed. Although, when I look back now, I think they saw it only as a hobby. I think that they were polite about me pursing this as a ‘real’ thing, as a profession, thinking it would go no further than just me ‘playing around’. But they underestimated my drive. With each book that was published, bit by bit the attitudes changed. I could see it, I could sense it. Although they had been supportive, I don’t think they ever really took it seriously. But a few chart toppings and an Aurealis nomination later, I now sense a stronger acceptance of what I’m doing. The realisation has sunk in, I think, that, yes, this writing thing is actually real. I am in this with the whole of my heart and soul; I’m serious and passionate about my writing. Despite how tiring or demanding it can be, I don’t see writing as a time-suck in my life. It has singularly given me more satisfaction than anything else I can think of.

_MG_0298_CompressedSo like any other writer, yes, I’m pretty damn busy. I’ve sacrificed leisure/relaxing time, sacrificed a busier social/dating life, have spent my spare cash and annual leave on travelling to conventions and marketing my books instead of a new wardrobe or exotic holiday or dining in fancy restaurants, and I’ve fought to prove how serious I am about writing, despite the polite doubt that surrounded me. But that’s life. We all have choices to make, and I have made mine. I am happy with my choices, and the real trick to happiness is not to spend any time considering what others might think about them. No matter how hard that is to do. Your life is your own, so live it your way. Time is too precious not to.

 About Amanda

Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, I hail from fishing and farming stock. The youngest of four children, my three brothers raised me on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. Naturally, I grew up somewhat of a tomboy, preferring to watch action/sci-fi films over the standard rom-com, and liking my music rock hard. But that said, I can swoon with the best of them and I’m really not a fan of bugs.

I lived in ‘Gero’ for 17 years, before moving to Perth (WA) to pursue my dreams and study film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University (BA Communication Studies). Perth has been my home ever since, aside from a nineteen month stint in London (England).

I am a writer and a film buff. I love most genres, but am particularly fond of the spec-fic realm. I like action, epic adventures, and strong characters that draw you in and make you want to follow them on their wild, roller coaster rides.

My debut novel Aurora:Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013, and the sequel Aurora: Pegasus was released in December 2013. Book three in the Aurora series – Aurora: Meridian–was released worldwide on September 11, 2014.

More sci-fi books (both in and out of the Aurora series) are in the works, so stay tuned!

More review goodness…

A busy week at work this week, so this is just a brief update on some lovely reviews I found while wandering the interwebs.

Cold Comfort and Other Tales continues to get a great reception, with a lovely review over at Earl Grey Editing:

Cold Comfort and Other Tales is a short collection that will suck you in and spit you out again before you know it. Perfect for commutes or dipping into when you don’t have a lot of time.

Insert Title Here launches this Easter at Swancon, but there is already a review up and it is a great one. The whole anthology gets an excellent write up, with my story, “Her Face Like Lightning” the recipient of some very generous praise:

The dialogue in this is sharp and witty, starting to remind me slightly of Scott Lynch’s work. We see the beauty and brutality of Heaven, we see a diverse cast with an intensely developed backstory for a short story, and wow, what an ending.

This is easily one of my favourite pieces in this anthology.

I’ll take being compared to Scott Lynch (one of my favourite writers) any day of the week–I just wish I had his luxurious head of hair, too!

You can follow the links for the full reviews. It is always amazing to me that people are reading my work, let alone liking it, so these sort of reviews are definitely a big boost!

Insert Title Here

Paying for Our Passion – Zena Shapter

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. Our next guest is the indefatigable Zena Shapter.

Every writer sacrifices for their art—whether that’s with time, money, health or relationships. We just do it in different ways, at different points in our life.

In the beginning, I used to pursue my passion by fitting writing in around full-time employment. I wrote at lunchtimes on park benches, whether it was cold and windy or sunny and sweaty. I’d write when commuting each day, on the train from London to Reading, then on the ferry from Manly to Sydney. I’d write in the evenings, on weekends, and on holidays. With my trusty palm pilot in hand, I’d balance its flimsy keyboard on my lap, then disappear into my world until I had to be back in the office. I used to love my palm pilot because laptops were bulky and heavy back then, whereas my palm pilot fitted inside a handbag. Nice.

The only problem was when I had to transfer my day’s writing gems onto my iMac at home and the transfer didn’t complete—losing whatever I’d written that day. Eek! I’d scramble for my keyboard and jam everything I could still remember into it, leaving my fiancé to cook the dinner or clean up. He’d understand, and having an understanding partner is key to making this writing gig work. Still, I could never get enough time.

So when the kids came along and I had even less time, he helped again. With two kids under two, I had three goals each day—to eat something, go to the toilet, and have a shower. Most days I’d manage only two of those three things. It was a magical and wonderful time, growing two humans from nothing. It was also hard work, lonely, day-in day-out drudgery. For a time there, I lost myself to the stress of it all…

I had to get out and write!

So once a week, every Saturday, my now-hubbie would look after the kids so I could write in my local library. That day was like heaven to me. Peaceful. Just my fingers tapping on a keyboard…

As the kids got older, I’d write when they were having their day-naps too, if I could get their naps to overlap! Other mums would read magazines when their kids slept, or watch television, just kick back and relax. Whereas I was frantic, trying to get as many words down before the kids woke up—and they always woke up too soon.

Shapter Kids RulesWhen they started school it was like a fresh start for all of us—well, once my youngest started at school anyway… I would finally have more time. I would, wouldn’t I? There was no point going back to full-time paid employment because of the costs of childcare, which for a couple with no family to help out go a little like this:

Before school care: $15 per child per day, $30 for two, every day for 40 weeks = $6,000

After school carer to taxi children to after-school activities, help with homework & make dinner: $100 for four hours, every day for 40 weeks = $20,000

Vacation care: $70 per child per day, $140 for two, for 60 days a year = $8,400

Total = $34,400

A basic full-time Sydney copywriter salary (including super) = $60,000

Net income after tax = $44,521.49

Net profit after childcare = $10,121.49

Although a set-up like this suits a lot of people, for us and what we wanted for our family, the $10,000pa wasn’t worth it. Instead, we decided I’d earn as much as I could between school hours, then be there for the kids as their mum, personal fan club and confidant. It works! When the kids are sick, I’m here. If they need Mummy up at school for some reason, I go. I’m there to help them with their homework, cook meals from scratch every day, and get them ready for bed. I go to their concerts, sports carnivals, teacher-parent meetings, Futsal games and swimming lessons. While I’m working during the day, I can also do laundry and admin.

I can also write.

No, I can’t write everyday, however much I’d like, because money must come first. Kids are expensive! Once the kids were at school I looked at what skills I could offer and started a writing, editing and social media consultancy. I edit, copywrite, ghostwrite, proofread, mentor, consult, format and layout print books, create EPUBs, design websites, set up social media profiles, tweet, post and blog for clients, and heaps more. I don’t advertise, but people find me through word-of-mouth and online. I offer solid advice and always work harder and longer than I should because I’m a perfectionist. Luckily that’s what keeps my clients coming back. Value for money!

Zena Shapter LaptopI also teach, which means I work a lot of weekends. Last weekend I worked all day Saturday and a bit of Sunday, this weekend I’m doing the same.

Yet for some reason, and even though this setup works for us, it bothers other people because I work from home and get to choose my own hours.

You don’t work.

It’s not work.

Oh, you’re working? Doing what? I thought you worked from home…

I thought perhaps you could do [insert errand/task] (because you don’t work)?

What are you doing today?

I get it all the time. Even yesterday at the bus stop when I was playing handball with my kids while waiting for the school bus, and I mentioned how hard the ball actually was on my soft little hand (how do kids do that all day?!), one of the other parents said: it’s because you don’t work.


Should I perhaps work in a field and harden up my hands?

It might actually be worth it if it would ease others’ judgements. Judgement is perhaps the biggest cost I pay for pursuing my passion and I have lost friendships over it.

Before I was a copywriter and editor, I was a solicitor, and every six minutes I had to look at what I was doing and ensure it was billable somehow. I made a great lawyer because I was efficient, and anyone who has ever worked with me knows I still work the same way, irrespective of my location, because of the type of person I am. The fact that I work at home shouldn’t matter, yet it does—to the point that parents take issue if I perchance whinge about my day from time to time.

At first I found their reactions isolating, and I didn’t feel as if I were a complete person anymore. As far as my family was concerned, I was always working. My kids have a rule now that during school holidays I’m not allowed to work after they go to sleep, because they know I otherwise would, and my health would suffer in the form of strange skipped heartbeats or night-grinding my teeth. Did I say kids were expensive?!

Yet my work still doesn’t seem to be valued by others because it’s not full-time or outside of the house.

Now-a-days, I try to surround myself with mothers who do as I do, earning what we can between school hours, at night and at weekends. They understand the challenges of this lifestyle—it isn’t for everyone. You have to be focussed, self-disciplined, and able to go for days on end without really speaking to anyone outside your immediate family.

DitmarSometimes I regret not working in full-time employment, not because it would bring in more money (because now that I have regular clients and teaching gigs it most definitely wouldn’t), but because my work as a mother is so undervalued by society. I wish we could put a monetary value on a mother’s care—and just say that every mother who works from home automatically earns the equivalent of $50,000pa—just to get other people off my back and stop them judging.

But I’ve also learnt that it doesn’t really matter what other people think. I have the lifestyle I do because it’s cost effective for my family and the benefits are priceless. Plus, I’m happy, and that’s the best kind of gift you can give your children. Miserable is the worse kind of parent you can be. So I write when I can around my ‘work’, and if that bothers anyone else – so be it. It’s the price I’ll pay.

Zena Shapter is a Ditmar award-winning author who loves putting characters inside the most perfect storm of their lives, then watching how they get out. She likes close-to-reality books of the unexplained and travels in search of story inspiration, visiting almost 50 countries to date. She’s won ten national fiction competitions and has been published in anthologies such as Award-Winning Australian Writing and magazines such as Midnight Echo. Read her through the links on her website at and follow her on social media as ‘@ZenaShapter’. She also blogs, and is the founder and leader of the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers’ Group, based in Sydney.

Backcountry Novelisation Coming Soon (very soon!)

I’ll be the first to admit that patience is not one of my strong suits, and as a writer that can be a bit of a problem at times (hence why I am writing this a 4am instead of waiting until I’ve had at least one coffee). For a while know I have been sitting–no..squirming–on a piece of news that I have so wanted to share, and now I can!

A few months ago I was given the opportunity to work on the novelisation of the movie, Backcountry, a tense and atmospheric Canadian survival thriller. Directed by Adam MacDonald, it really is an excellent movie–receiving rave reviews at various film festivals–and will get a theatrical release on March 20th.

The novelisation will also be released on March 20th as an ebook from HarperCollins Canada. To say I am thrilled would be an understatement! It is already available for preorder, and the link above has links to all the major ebook retailers.

Over the next few weeks I will talk a bit about the process of writing a novelisation, but right now I just wanted to share this wonderful news with you all, and thank all the people who were involved with making it happen–especially the editorial efforts of Robert Simpson, Stephanie Alouche and Deanna McFadden.  And that cover–wow!

About the Book

Now a major motion picture based on a true story.

A romantic camping trip takes a deadly turn when Jenn and Alex become lost in the remote Canadian wilderness. With no map or cellphone, and running low on food and water, the couple unknowingly stumble into a predatory black bear’s territory—where being lost suddenly becomes the least of their worries.

And when they are eventually cornered by the terrifying animal, Jenn is faced with a horrifying choice—stay with Alex and defend herself as best she can or try to survive on her own.

Backcountry is the haunting story of a woman who finds the courage to survive in the face of almost certain death.

Praise for the movie Backcountry

“A must-see. Does for the woods what Jaws did for the ocean.” Matt Boiselle, Dread Central


Guest Post – Emilie Collyer

I’m very excited to welcome fellow Clan Destine Press author, Emilie Collyer, to my blog to help celebrate the launch of her latest release, Autopsy of a Comedian!

Crossing Over

It’s a real pleasure to be guest contributor on David’s blog – thanks David for the invitation :-)

I came to spec fiction writing via a somewhat circuitous route and would define myself in that sometimes murky but always exciting realm of crossover.

To begin with, I’m a crossover when it comes to form. I started my writing life mostly as a playwright (having come from an acting background), which then stemmed into poetry and fiction. While I loved to scribble stories as a child (that always ended with the phrase: And that is the end of the story) and was a voracious reader, it took me a while to find my fiction voice.

My plays mostly have an element of magic realism, surrealism or fabulism–which makes a lot of sense to me as theatre is a place of make believe. It really is like getting to play with (human sized!) dolls and have them to act out a story, an adventure, a puzzle, a crime, for an audience to enter and get absorbed in.

As a later-comer to writing fiction I wrote a number of short stories that were fine, but seemed to lack bite, that something special, a unique stamp to make them leap off the page.

A Clean JobI fell into fabulist writing by accident when I saw an exhibition of work by an artist who places tiny models of people around the city where he lives. This inspired a story in me about a woman who wants to join the tiny people and has to figure out how she can do it.

The story came quickly, it was published quickly and I had a huge light bulb moment of: Aha! This is the kind of fiction I want to write.

It all clicked.

The thing that excites me most as a writer and a reader is being able to explore questions I don’t know the answer to.

I have continued to write plays and fiction that are speculative, experimenting with science fiction, the supernatural and dystopic worlds because I also find that these genres allow me to delve best into issues about identity, belonging, power, injustice and ethics.

I was lucky enough to win the Cross Genre category in the Scarlet Stiletto Crime Writing Awards in 2012 with my story A Clean Job and the same award in 2013 for Service with a smile. I was then even luckier that Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine Press offered to publish a small e-collection of my stories. A Clean Job and other stories came out in December 2013 and my new collection Autopsy of a Comedian is being launched on Friday 13th March 2015.

Autopsy of a Comedian resizedHere’s another crossover area I’m fascinated by: online versus real world. We all dwell in both spaces, crossing between one and the other every day. I’m flexing the boundaries of this crossover space by having an e-launch (online only) of my book, which is happening today – Friday 13th March.

I’ll be posting snippets of audio and text throughout the day and inviting others to join online and download the book if they like what they hear and read.

I have made some incredible contacts (dare I call them friends) via social media and the online world, especially in the writing community. In particular, I’ve found spec fiction writers of all genres and outlooks to be so generous with their time, links, offers and connections. Like David.

I suspect that those of us who love this world of speculative ideas and stories come to it with what is still maybe a pretty child like view of things – open to possibility, magic, terror, the unknown, the wonder-full and the things that go bump in the night.

What is it about speculative fiction that makes you excited, as a writer or a reader, and keeps you coming back for more?

If you’d like to check out the virtual launch today, you can join the Facebook event here:

Or on my blog here:

You can buy Autopsy of a Comedian and other stories here:

You can buy A Clean Job and other stories here:

EmilieCollyerEmilie Collyer writes fiction, plays and poetry, much of it award winning. Her short stories have appeared most recently in Allegory (USA), Cosmic Vegetable (USA); Scarlet Stiletto: short stories 2013 (AUS); Thirteen Stories (AUS). Emilie writes extensively for theatre. Her sci-fi play, The Good Girl, won the Best Emerging Writer Award at the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival; and Dream Home was shortlisted for the 2013 Patrick White Award and is being produced in May 2015. Emilie lives in Melbourne. You can check out more of her writing here.

Paying for Our Passion – Andrew J McKiernan

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. Our next guest is the dapper double threat, Andrew J McKiernan.

I’ve worked many different full-time jobs over the past 25 years, and I’ve hated every single one of them. I’ve been a bank clerk and a bank teller, a warehouse storeman, a paper salesman, a purchasing and logistics officer, a production manager, publications officer, network manager, web-developer, graphic designer… and none of them have worked out for me. I just don’t play well with people in an office environment. It’s the repetitiveness and day to day drudgery. It’s the need to be always wearing some kind of homogeneous uniform: be it King Gees and a workshirt and steel-capped boots, or a business suit with the old corporate noose around your neck. It’s the politics and the gossip and everyone’s little grabs for power and nobody really caring about the jobs they’ve actually been hired to do. Arghh! I couldn’t stand it. Some jobs, some days, it made me physically ill…

But I did it. I didn’t see there was much choice. Not for me, not for me family.

I didn’t really see myself as a writer back then. I wrote, but just because it was something I did. I never once considered sending anything off anywhere for publication. Wouldn’t have known where to send them if I did. Mostly, I was just trying to hold my shit together and stay in a job long enough to keep paying for food and rent. My record was probably about 2 years in a single job.

My wife and I have two boys, born two years apart. My wife stayed home and looked after them while I worked. She did an amazing job, looking after a newborn while our first son was rampaging his way through his terrible twos. I couldn’t have done it. I don’t know how mums get through that stage of bringing up children at all. It is a harrowing experience. But, by the time the boys were old enough to be starting school, I could tell my wife was getting very bored. She’s an academic with a passion for getting deep into projects, for working with people to solve problems, but here she was cooking and cleaning and washing clothes all day, alone, just waiting for her family to come home.

So, she was starting to hate her job. I always hated mine. When she suggested we swap roles, it was a fairly simple decision for me to make.

She’s more qualified than me. She gets on better with people than I do. She enjoys working in teams. She has drive and enthusiasm and a passion for work that I could never have.

Within a few weeks, my wife had found herself a job. It paid more than any job I’d had before.

11040102_10152781816833479_1041144317_nThat was just on eight years ago now. Since then, my wife has continued gaining qualifications and risen to the top of her field in this country. She’s a Key Speaker at National and International conferences. She loves her work and she earns enough to have bought us a beautiful house in a bushland setting, away from the bustle of city life. It was her suggestion that I spend the time when I’m not being a house-dad to maybe write something with a view to submitting it for publication. She bought me a kitten–my beautiful Cobweb–a writer’s cat, to keep my company while I write.

Not every day is easy for my wife. She works in a very high-stress position, dealing with the safety of people’s lives in war-torn and natural disaster areas. So, even though it seemed a win-win solution for us to swap roles, I still can’t see it as an even trade. She sacrifices a lot more, a hell of a lot more, in terms of time, energy and sheer emotional drain than I ever could endure. She says that fine because she gets to come home every afternoon to a house in the bush, and her dinner is cooked for her a cold glass of wine is waiting.

But I get to sit at home all day and make shit up! And, as long as the washing is done and dinner is taken care of, I pretty much get to do whatever I want.

I’ve tried real hard to make the best of those eight years. I’ve written and published sixteen short stories and/or novelettes. Been nominated for numerous awards. Had my short stories collected and published in a single volume, and picked up a contract with a publisher for a crime novel. And yet…it can’t possibly be enough. Not in comparison to what my wife accomplishes on a daily basis. And she’s doing it not only because it fits her better than the lonely madness of staying home, but because she truly wants me to be able to write.

Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around. Jobs I’ve worked have made me physically ill, I hate them, and yet here is someone who is willing to endure that, day after day, just so that I can stay home and do something that I love. She says she knows one day I’ll be a famous writer and I’ll be able to pay it all back…she’s deluded. But I can’t possibly express how much I love her for that delusion. It means a lot to know someone has that much faith in you. That they’ll work so hard for you, to help make your dream possible.

So yeah, I pay for my passion. Every word I type is to pay back my wife for the faith she has in me. Without her, none of it would be possible.

amck_authorphotoAndrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. First published in 2007, his stories have since been short-listed for multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards and reprinted in a number of Year’s Best anthologies. He was Art Director for Aurealis magazine for 8 years and his illustrations have graced the covers and internals of a number of books and magazines. Last Year, When We Were Young, a collection of his short stories was released in 2014 by Satalyte Publishing. You can find out more at

Fan Fund Auction Items – Request for Donations

As FFANZ delegate one of my responsibilities is to raise funds to ensure that next year’s delegate is able to make the trip from New Zealand. A traditional way to do this is holding fan fund auctions  at various cons through the year.

I always feel bad about asking people for stuff, but I am looking for donations of items and services from the spec fic community to be auctioned off. I thought rather than contact people directly–and put them in the awkward position of having to say no!–I would start by  sending this out publicly so that people who would like to contribute can do so.

Some ideas for things that would be awesome to offer for sale:

  • signed books
  • “tuckerisations” – offering the chance for someone to be  written into a story or book
  • critiques by established authors

But, I am open to other suggestions. You can contact me via social media, email or via the feedback form here.

If you are able to help, or can signal boost this, it would be greatly appreciated–thank you!


Galactic Chat 63 – Pat Cadigan

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to to the amazing Pat Cadigan. In a wide ranging interview, we cover everything from Heinlein to Cyberpunk, look at “fix up” novels, and find out how Pat is ‘punching cancer in the face’.

It’s a wonderful interview with one of the top writers in her field, and I hope you enjoy listening to Pat as much as I did.

In this weeks chat, our first for the year, David talks with Pat Cadigan about her early influences and her friendship with Heinlein.  There’s some brief talk about the honorable tradition of fix-up novels in Science Fiction and some discussion around the early formation of the Cyberpunk Genre.

Pat also talks openly about her response to cancer and gives us an update on how she is coping.

Finally there is some discussion about projects that have been launched in response to the Requires Hate situation to promote and support POC in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community.

Links referenced: A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names

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


Paying for Our Passion – Amanda J Spedding

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. Our next guest is the incredibly hard working Amanda J Spedding.

Paying for my passion; let’s take a look at what that could mean. How do I support myself as a writer? Can I support myself and my family with my passion for writing? What non-monetary price do I ‘pay’ for following my passion to write? What price does my family ‘pay’? What sacrifices must be made so I can follow my passion?

Sounds incredibly self-centred when you break it down, and for me there’s always been an element of guilt associated with what I do, justified or not. I’m an author, editor, mother and partner. I run my own business from home, and the way that all came about has a lot to do with the choices my husband and I made when our children rocked into our world; the decisions we both made as to how we wanted to raise these amazing tiny humans.

I’m a journalist by trade—I worked incredibly long and sometimes stressful hours but loved every minute of it. Once our kids were born, however, well…tiny humans! Our income halved and our expenses increased, but my husband and I went into the decision with our eyes and hearts open and our pockets somewhat lighter.

I still had the hours and deadlines with my adorable little dictator, who was joined three years later by her sergeant at arms. The sacrifices we made during this time were materialistic—we didn’t go out for dinner or to the movies; we rarely holidayed, and leisure activities revolved around anything that was cheap or free. It was hard and it was beautiful.

Writing time was pretty much catch-can—a half hour here, twenty minutes there. But it was sleep I chose to sacrifice. Once the kids were in bed, dogs walked, laundry done…I’d write ‘til midnight or later—it was my time. I treasured it, and if it meant I lost a few hours of sleep, I was more than willing to do so.

But as the kids grew, I began to receive an abundance of “input” as to when I would be returning to work to make a “valuable contribution” to society. When I said I was a writer, it was often met with “no, I mean work-work”. How do you answer that? Identity; I’m not ashamed to admit I lost it for a while. It’s a shitty, shitty feeling, not having a sense of worth. And let me be clear—this was never ever condoned or said by partner, he’s amazing—but it came that I would dread the question: “what do you do?” There was an enormous amount of guilt, too—my “contribution to society” couldn’t be monetarily measured; what did I give back to society?

Apart from raising two awesome kids that would make up part of society, I wrote. When the kids were napping, when they were at pre-school, when they’d been put down for the night. I’d grab time between washing clothes, playing with the kids, doing dishes, picking up after our ever-growing menagerie. So it was sleep I sacrificed during that time. Instead of going to bed, I’d sit up and write, hone my craft. Learn. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Rewrite.

Rinse, repeat.

My husband does shift work, so returning to the workforce posed a whole set of different problems for us. Finding a job outside the home and within school hours was so incredibly difficult, and we did the sums—if I went back to journalism, almost 90% of my pay would be spent on childcare and we’d lose time with the kids. It made absolutely no sense to us, and defeated the purpose of our initial decision to always have one of us home when they went to school and when they returned.

So I went back to school. My journalism credentials were…well, they were old. I studied hard, but I loved it, and earned a Diploma of Publishing (Professional Book Editing, Publishing and Proofreading) and a certificate in Editing. I would work from home.

It hasn’t been easy. Getting the business off the ground took a while. During this time, my husband was the ‘breadwinner’, but he had been for the last ten years—that hadn’t changed. Nor had the guilt, mind. What had changed was my desire to contribute financially to our lifestyle, to improve it for our children and to give my husband back some time. Time for himself, more time with the kids, and time for him to sleep.

We’re at that point where my business is doing well and my husband doesn’t have to work the hours he used to. My contribution isn’t to society as most people believed it should be—it was to him. For supporting my desire to be the writer I’ve always wanted to be. You see he never saw his work as ‘paying’ for my passion, he saw it as a way as giving back to me for all I did for him and the kids.

Now? Well now, I have to be far more structured in my time management. I still sacrifice sleep for my writing as my days are filled with editing others’ work between running the kids to and from school, helping with homework and all the other things needed to keep the house somewhat presentable… well, keeping the kids fed, clothed and clean.

There’s still the guilt, only now it’s based around me sometimes having to sacrifice time with the kids to edit another’s work. My kids are 14 and 11, and pretty self-sufficient (both know how to make me coffee—have I told you how amazing they are?), they have their own social lives, things they enjoy doing, but still there’s the guilt. I don’t know whether that will ever go away.

I don’t have as much time to write now as I’d like (goodbye sleep). A lot of my time is spent editing, and don’t get me wrong, I love working with other authors and helping them with their stories—it really is an amazing job. Writing, however, is what drives me. The editing helps me “justify” my writing time—and as weird as some people may think that is, it’s my truth. There are times when I sit down to write and the guilt rises because I haven’t done the dishes or folded the three baskets of laundry, or that I should be gaming with my kids or the like. There really aren’t enough hours in the day to assuage the guilt.

I’d love to be able to write full-time, to earn a living from writing alone. Thing is, I’d find it pretty difficult to give up the editing side of who I am. If it came right down it, storytelling is always going to win out, and maybe, just maybe, one of these days that will happen. Until then, I ‘pay’ for my passion by working hard and giving back to my family as they give back to me.

Amanda J SpeddingAmanda J Spedding is an award-winning author whose stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, Shovel-Man Joe. Amanda is the owner of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and between bouts of editing, she is writing (and rewriting) her first novel. In June, her horror comic, The Road, will be launched at ComicCon in Melbourne. Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.

Guest Post: Amanda Pillar on Editing and Writing

I was very excited to hear that Amanda was releasing a novel. As well as being one of the best editors going around, she is a very talented writer and her novel sounds fascinating! Amanda has also been very generous in sharing her editing experience with writers and helping them improve their stories–you can read some excellent advice here and I’d highly recommend following Amanda on Twitter where she often talks about writing–and I am delighted to welcome her here today to share some thoughts on being a writer and an editor.

I’d like to thank the wonderful David McDonald for asking me to guest post. I have been really enjoying the ‘Paying for Our Passion’ blog series lately, so I thought I would post something slightly related to the theme: on the sometimes conflicting goals of being an editor and a writer.

Recently, my debut novel, Graced, was released by Momentum. It’s available as an ebook, and I hope people will love it as much as I do! I guess that is the difficulty of every writer’s life – we dedicate ourselves to creating something we love, only to throw it out into the world and wait to discover if anyone else actually likes it.

But in addition to being a writer, I’m also an editor. Originally, I started as a writer in this crazy industry, trying to find markets and learning my craft (which I am still doing). After publishing one of my first stories (I think it was the third?) I was asked to provide a crit by my then-editor, Mark Deniz. I sent his story back with my thoughts and comments, and he asked if I was interested in co-editing an anthology he was thinking of calling Voices.

And so began my anthology career: Voices was the first, and the eighth, Bloodlines, is currently ‘under construction’. The early days of my career was an interesting time, as I was also completing my undergraduate degree, and one of my majors was English and creative writing. While it didn’t really help my writing at all, it did help me approach stories with a critical eye. I like to think that this tactic has aided me in encouraging authors to bring out the best in their stories.

Graced-Ebook-High-Res1I have to admit, it’s difficult to find time to write and edit simultaneously. I often say I need to wear different ‘hats’ when doing both. Both writing and editing are time-consuming. I will often read a story that I’m to edit twice before I sink my teeth into its contents. Then I will edit a story until both I and the author think it’s perfect. This may take one or 10 rounds of edits; each story is truly unique.

While writing helps my editing, in understanding the processes behind the craft, editing has certainly helped my writing more. Certain traits I notice in the stories I edit—like repetition, strange use of capitalisation, tautologies, whether physical actions make sense, etc—make me review my writing more critically. It is difficult for me to stop reviewing everything I write as I write it, and just get the words on the paper. The first draft for me is the hardest, so I have to constantly push myself to just keep writing, rather than editing as I go.

On the upside, however, I love to be edited. I’ve experienced both sides of the proverbial coin. I know every writer has had that gut-reaction to a strong edit at least once—they think what now?—but I can really recommend the following advice: set it aside and come back to it in a few days. I know when I edit someone’s work, I don’t expect people to take every comment and suggestion on board, but I expect the author to think about them. And so I try and do the same. After all, an editor just wants your work to be the best it can.

Amanda_small-1Saying that, there is a difference in editing and re-writing. If you feel someone wants to rewrite your story to fit their ideal, rather than yours, you don’t have to take those ideas on board. Don’t just agree to a re-write to get your story published for the sake of it; make sure you’re happy with it.

I know every author approaches how they write differently; the only advice I can really provide is to do what works best for you. If that is to edit as you go, then do that. If it is to ‘purge’ yourself then come back and edit later, do that. The only really important part is to just write.

Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith.

Amanda has had numerous short stories published and has co-edited the fiction anthologies Voices (2008), Grants Pass (2009), The Phantom Queen Awakes (2010), Scenes from the Second Storey (2010), Ishtar (2011) and Damnation and Dames (2012). Her first solo anthology, Bloodstones (2012), was published by Ticonderoga Publications. Amanda is currently working on the sequel, Bloodlines, due for publication in 2015.

Amanda’s first novel, Graced, was published by Momentum in 2015.

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.