Paying for Our Passion – Monica Valentinelli

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.

Monica is one of the many wonderful people I have met through my membership in The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and I am delighted to welcome her to my blog today. I have felt incredibly privileged in that people have been willing to share so much of themselves, and be so honest with my readers and I, in this series and this post is no exception. So, when I decided to relaunch the series I knew that this would be a wonderful post to start back with.

I’d encourage you to visit Monica’s webpage to have a look at the amazing work she is doing, and for all you Firefly fans out there (and I know most of you are!), check out her book–shiny!

When David and I talked about the possibility of a guest post for his wonderful website, I didn’t expect to be writing about what debts I’ve paid to be a writer. Normally, when I answer interview questions, it’s about my process or the work itself to show a) there is a writer’s brain locked in my skull and b) maybe, just maybe, you’ll be interested in my work. I don’t talk about myself very often; believe me when I say this post is an exception rather than the rule. For me, however, I want you to know the word “debt” doesn’t just translate to finances. It’s also about making gut-wrenching decisions to pay for the ability to pursue my passion: writing.

Growing up, I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t an artist, in every sense of the word, lost in a psychedelic, frenzied dream. I was always a writer plus. I learned to read as a toddler, I began piano lessons in kindergarten, and I had a gift for language. While music was my primary focus for years, libraries were my sanctuary from bullies on all sides, and making art—all art—was my religion. (It still is.) This bit, right here, is why I’m telling you this: I never cared about the business aspect of selling my art as a child, because I didn’t need to. That was my safety net, because the freedom to create without worrying about failure, food, or homelessness, allowed me to make art whenever I wanted to. So, I wrote school plays, children’s books, essays, short stories, and novellas. Drew and painted, too, of course, but much of my brain was also dedicated to my music. My art leaked out of my fingertips and on to the page or the keyboard, because I always pushing, pushing, pushing to break free, to feel free, to simply…be.

Firefly dictionaryPressure, being what it is, usually means something has to give sooner or later, and I was suffocating from it. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t “supposed” to be an adult and focus on my future to marry “well” and have lots of babies. I never was one to listen, however, but eventually I internalized that pressure and realized that being an artist wasn’t enough. At 16, I knew I had to learn how to make a living at it. I just didn’t know how. To that end, I could’ve applied to Juillard or tried living/working in Hollywood or New York—but I couldn’t afford any of that on my own. There was no chance, no way in hell, I could even scrape together enough money for the plane ticket. Financial and emotional support for my efforts was selective; this meant that I wound up in a constant state of anxiety, worried that there was something wrong with me because I was an artist and not a doctor or a scientist. I was a woman, and not a man. I was smart, too, but that only mattered provided I agreed to take the narrow path before me.

Caught between being an adult (making money) and remaining a child (making art), I gave up my idealism and focused on pragmatism. I all but abandoned music, not only because it carried too much baggage, but because I couldn’t see how I could make it work. In this “new, smart and capable” version of myself, I made some great choices and some really shitty ones. Thankfully, my college degree was paid for, but much of my experiences revolved around fighting for approval with little support. There were a few bright spots, though. Back then, I felt surrounded by worldviews that didn’t feel right to me, so I focused on multiculturism and secretly added several courses into my Bachelor’s program to that effect. This was the beginning of a journey I don’t think I’ll ever abandon and that, to me, was a great choice, because it opened me up to a world of literature I never knew existed. The shitty choices, then, originated from not knowing much about anything other than making art. I felt defined by my container, my body, and not by my creativity. And, when my normally-bright mental capabilities failed me, as I futilely attempted to push myself into the sciences, I felt I had somehow lost there, too.

Gods Memes and MonstersAnyway, after college I knew I didn’t want to go to grad school; I was burnt out by the time I graduated and I couldn’t afford it, either. Thus, I felt extremely naïve and unequipped to deal with the outside world. Instead of building the life that was expected of me, I took every job possible, believing that knowing marketing and sales and basic business practices would help me build a career as an entrepreneur, as a writer. I convinced myself if I just “knew enough”, I would figure out a way to make a living at it. Everybody else thought I was being random, but I felt I needed to focus on the basics, especially since I was secretly afraid that my self-worth was only about having babies—a thought that terrified me. How else was I supposed to earn enough money to pay rent if I didn’t find a real job? How could I keep writing if I didn’t have some other practical skills to fall back on?

I did focus on the real world. In fact, I gave up writing for a while, because I wound up lying to myself, claiming it was a luxury I could not afford. I had a normal, ups-and-downs, run-of-the-mill life, because I was desperate to fit in and “be normal” on my terms. Only, I hated those years, because that wasn’t me at all, but it was all I had. I opted to be near my support network, as emotionally and psychologically draining as it was, because it was either that or go it totally alone—and that scared the shit out of me. So, I wound up internalizing a twisted view of the world, which meant that artists fell into the category of “unapproved” and “frivolous” people unless they were successful classicists. Artistic works evolved into this sticky ectoplasm that only famous (male) artists had the right to capture and collect from the ether; only they are blessed for their greatness with fans, money, acclaim. And, if nobody else can achieve that “level”—a word I have now grown to hate with every cell in my body—that means their art must suck. Everybody else is either selling out, or they’re not worth spending time or money on. Right?

Dread Names Red ListEventually I hit bottom, and I blamed myself for not making the run-of-the-mill life work. I bounced from job to job in every industry imaginable, I was laid off multiple times, I was in near-fatal accidents, and I couch surfed. I felt powerless, unloved, and undervalued as a human being, and it almost killed me. I understood that having food on the table and a roof over my head was more than many people got—especially since my college had been paid for—but at what cost? My soul was ripped in half. I hate that word, too, “soul” because it sounds so cliché, but how else can I describe that pain? It felt as if every time I had the opportunity to be myself, I was punished for it. Every time I tried to be anything but myself, I was punished for that, too.

After surviving too many close calls and near misses, I was desperate for change. The alternative was not an option for me; I had seen too many lives taken unexpectedly, and I thought to myself, “If I died tomorrow, what would I regret the most?” The answer was immediate, and I still remember feeling stupid for thinking it at the time: “Not writing, not making art, not being true to myself.” So, I funneled all of my hope into the unknowable future, instead, and burned that old life to the ground. All the while, I prayed I was doing the right thing, hoping I wasn’t hurting anybody by choosing me. I wanted out, not because I desired an esoteric happiness, but because finally realized I was committing the greatest crime of all: I was betraying my true self by pretending to be something I wasn’t.

Upside Down CoverNow, about a decade and many life-altering moments later, I write full-time. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, and some years have been better than others, but I can honestly say I am happy for the first time in my life. I know very little about the Kardashians of the world or who’s who in Hollywood, and I don’t understand the “people” side of the industry, either, with respect to awards-or-organizational drama, but I am writing. I never regained the stars in my eyes, mind you, but I do have a small but tight-knit supportive network of close friends and family. And, I have a partner who supports me for me, both financially and emotionally; he knows this business is incredibly unpredictable. Sometimes, he supports me. Sometimes, I support him.

While I’m not okay with all he’s done to ensure I can continue to write full-time, I make up for it in other ways because that is the nature of our relationship. We are partners. At the same time, I wouldn’t be writing full-time without him, because I couldn’t afford it. After all, making a living as a writer isn’t about “a” sale or “a” gig or “an” advance, it’s about the ability to earn income based on words written and sold on a consistent basis. Thus, if my partner wasn’t around, I couldn’t do what I do year after year, at least not right now. I’d have to make different choices, about what I wrote and how I sold it, and I’d have to get a day job to pay my bills. My goal right now, however, is to make a living plus, which means writing isn’t my hobby. This, for me, is not a calling, and it’s not “just” a job, either. It is my life, and it’s the only one I’ve got.

Monica-Headshot-300x254So, that’s my story. Those closest to me know I am both haunted and fiery to varying degrees at all times, and they know the debts I’ve paid—emotional, financial, social, even physical. They also understand why I am focused on writing, on filling up those blank pages, on getting that next gig, too. And, despite my best efforts to the contrary, that—writing—is all I have control over. Everything else, I’m simply making up as I go along.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer who lurks in the dark. She writes both original and media tie-in fiction and works on games and comics, too. To date, she has over seven dozen creative credits with more on the way. She is best known for her work related to the Firefly TV show by Joss Whedon. She was the lead writer and developer for the award-winning line of Firefly RPG books, and also wrote the Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse which was released from Titan Publishing in April 2016.

Published stories and games include “Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs” for Extreme Zombies, “The Dig” for the Lovecraft Zine, Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade, and Unknown Armies Third Edition. Monica also recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for a co-edited anthology titled Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling from Apex Book Company. Her debut comic Man Zombie Standing was published in 2013 as part of the Unfashioned Creatures: A Frankenstein Anthology from Red Stylo Media. You can discover more of the author’s creative works through her fiction publications or her game publications.

Her non-fiction repertoire includes online articles, worldbuilding games, reference materials, and essays. She has written for sites including HowtoWrite, Sony’s,,, and Her essays have appeared in books such as Family Games: The 100 Best, The Bones: Us and Our Dice, and For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher.

Monica holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives with two very spoiled cats nicknamed Lord Lardbottom and Captain Whinypants, an albino water frog named Al, and her fiance. In addition to writing and editing, she enjoys traveling, designing jewelry, cooking, taking photos, gaming, watching anime and martial arts movies, exploring old places, and hiking. She is represented by Jennie Goloboy from Red Sofa Literary.

For more about the author, read or listen to an interview with Monica Valentinelli or subscribe to her blog.

Backcountry is a Scribe Nominee!

The nominees for the Tenth Annual Scribe Awards (The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers yearly awards) have been announced and I am delighted to say that Backcountry has been nominated in the Adapted Novel – General and Speculative category.

It’s a huge honour simply to see my name alongside the other nominees (both in my category and across the whole list–which you can see below the pic) and I wish them all the best–anyone of them would be a deserving winner indeed.

Scribe Award


The Tenth Annual Scribe Awards

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is pleased to announce the Scribe Award Nominees for 2016.

Acknowledging excellence in this very competitive field, the IAMTW’s Scribe Awards honor licensed works that tie in with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. They include original works set in established universes, and adaptations of stories that have appeared in other formats and that cross all genres. Tie-in works run the gamut from westerns to mysteries to procedurals, from science fiction to fantasy to horror, from action and adventure to superheroes. HALO, Elementary, 24, Star Trek, Mike Hammer, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Doctor Who: these represent just a few.

The Scribe Award winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. The exact day, time and location of the Scribes Panel including the award ceremony will be announced shortly.

IAMTW says thank you to everyone who sent entries, all wonderful, for consideration.

Congratulations to the following nominees:

Elementary:The Ghost Line by Adam Christopher
Kill Me, Darling by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan: Desert Falcons by Michael A. Black
24: Rogue by David Mack

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry
HALO: Last Light by Troy Denning
HALO: New Blood by Matt Forbeck
Pathfinder: Forge of Ashes by Josh Vogt
Shadowrun: Borrowed Time by R. L. King
Star Trek The Next Generation: Armageddon’s Arrow by Dayton Ward
Star Trek Seekers 3: Long Shot by David Mack

Backcountry by D. E. McDonald
Batman: Arkham Knight by Marv Wolfman
Crimson Peak by Nancy Holder
MANOS ­­­– The Hands of Fate by Stephen D. Sullivan
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Mike Hammer The Strand “Fallout” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
Shadowrun: World of Shadows “Swamp of Spirits” by Jason M. Hardy
The X-Files: Trust No One “Back in El Paso My Life Will Be Worthless” by Keith R. A. DeCandido
The X-Files: Trust No One “Dusk” by Paul Crilley
The X-Files: Trust No One “Non Gratum Anus Rodentum” by Brian Keene
The X-Files: Trust No One “Statues” by Kevin J. Anderson

Dark Shadows “Bloodlust” by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster
Dark Shadows “In the Twinkling of an Eye” Penelope Faith
Doctor Who “The Red Lady” by John Dorney
Doctor Who “Damaged Goods” by Jonathan Morris
Pathfinder Legends: “Mummy’s Mask: Empty Graves” by Cavan Scott

Cover reveal for my latest book – Guardians of the Galaxy: Castaways!

Well, I have had to keep this one a secret for quite a while, and it has been tough. Really tough. The worst thing is that this is only the first half of my big news, but the second half has to wait a little longer….

But, in the meantime, I am very excited to announce the upcoming release of my novel “Castaways” – featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy!

castaways cover

The Guardians of the Galaxy are back in a new adventure, Castaways. Marooned on a mysterious planet that is trapped centuries behind the rest of the galaxy, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot go their separate ways. But when an alien technology threatens their new home, Castaways becomes a race to see if the Guardians can reunite in time to save it.

I loved the movie, and I love the characters, and getting to play in that world was a whole lot of fun. There will be more news closer to the official release (update: it seems like there is now an Amazon entry) but, for now, I am so excited that all I have to say is, “I am Groot!”.

While I was away – Ditmar and Aurealis shortlists announced

I’ve just gotten back from an amazing trip to the States that included attending Boskone, and I had an incredible time. But, as always, readjusting to normal life has been a struggle. Add that to a major deadline, and blogging has taken a back seat (btw, stayed tuned for some BIG news here soon!).

But, while I was away, the shortlists for both the Ditmar and Aurealis awards were released. I was delighted to get two nominations for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review. Big thanks to Tansy and Tehani for letting me be a part of those reviews, and to everyone who nominated us!

As always, it’s wonderful to see such a strong list–it says great things about the state of Aussie spec fic–and really nice that so many of the people are friends of mine. I am particularly happy to see Steve Cameron’s first Aurealis nomination. Not only has Steve been a good mate and a great support to me with my writing, he is one of our best “new” writers (Steve and I started around the same time, so to me that is “new”, but he has achieved a huge amount in that time and is certainly a well-established part of the scene). I am sure this only the first of many nominations for him.

Congratulations to all the nominees, everyone on there would be a deservng winner.

If you are eligible to vote for the Ditmars you can do so here–the more votes, the more representative the awards  are!


Best Novel

  • The Dagger’s Path, Glenda Larke (Orbit)
  • Day Boy, Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)
  • Graced, Amanda Pillar (Momentum)
  • Lament for the Afterlife, Lisa L. Hannett (ChiZine Publications)
  • Zeroes, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti (Simon and Schuster)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood”, Deborah Kalin, in Cherry Crow Children (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Fake Geek Girl”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Review of Australian Fiction, volume 14, issue 4 (Review of Australian Fiction)
  • “Hot Rods”, Cat Sparks, in Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy 58 (Lightspeed Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • “The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin, in Cherry Crow Children (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Of Sorrow and Such”, Angela Slatter (
  • “The Wages of Honey”, Deborah Kalin, in Cherry Crow Children (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story

  • “2B”, Joanne Anderton, in Insert Title Here (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner”, Alan Baxter, in Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2015 (Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • “A Hedge of Yellow Roses”, Kathleen Jennings, in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “Look how cold my hands are”, Deborah Biancotti, in Cranky Ladies of History (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Collected Work

  • Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (Ticonderoga Publications))
  • Cherry Crow Children, Deborah Kalin, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Cranky Ladies of History, edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Letters to Tiptree, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Peripheral Visions: The Collected Ghost Stories, Robert Hood (IFWG Publishing Australia)

Best Artwork

  • Cover art, Rovina Cai, for “Tom, Thom” (
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, for Bloodlines (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Cover and internal artwork, Kathleen Jennings, for Cranky Ladies of History (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Cover, Shauna O’Meara, for The Never Never Land
  • Illustrations, Shaun Tan, in The Singing Bone (Allen & Unwin)

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • The Angriest, Grant Watson
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best Fan Writer

  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
  • Foz Meadows, for body of work
  • Ian Mond, for body of work
  • Alexandra Pierce for body of work
  • Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
  • Grant Watson, for body of work

Best Fan Artist

  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Illustration Friday series
  • Belinda Morris, for body of work, including Belinda Illustrates

Best New Talent

  • Rivqa Rafael
  • T R Napper
  • DK Mok
  • Liz Barr

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Letters to Tiptree, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Rereading the Empire Trilogy series, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
  • “Sara Kingdom dies at the end”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Companion Piece (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • “SF Women of the 20th Century”, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Squeeing over Supergirl series, David McDonald, and Tehani Wessely


Of particular interest is the inaugural SARA DOUGLASS BOOK SERIES AWARD. What a great idea to honour a trailblazer for Aussie spec fic, and what a great shortlist to launch it!

Not so great–no horror novel? I will be interested to see that judges’ report!


A Week Without Tuesday, Angelica Banks (Allen & Unwin)
The Cut-Out, Jack Heath (Allen & Unwin)
A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay (Walker Books Australia)
Bella and the Wandering House, Meg McKinlay (Fremantle Press)
The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk, A.L. Tait (Hachette Australia)


The Undertaker Morton Stone Vol.1, Gary Chaloner, Ben Templesmith, and Ashley Wood (Gestalt)
The Diemenois, Jamie Clennett (Hunter Publishers)
Unmasked Vol.1: Going Straight is No Way to Die, Christian Read (Gestalt)
The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)
Fly the Colour Fantastica, various authors (Veriko Operative)


“In Sheep’s Clothing”, Kimberly Gaal (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61)
“The Nexus Tree”, Kimberly Gaal (The Never Never Land, CSFG)
“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Heart of the Labyrinth”, DK Mok (In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett, Sorin Suciu)
“Blueblood”, Faith Mudge (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)
Welcome to Orphancorp, Marlee Jane Ward (Seizure)


“Bullets”, Joanne Anderton (In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, AHWA)
“Consorting with Filth”, Lisa L Hannett (Blurring the Line, Cohesion Press)
“Heirloom Pieces”, Lisa L Hannett (Apex Magazine, Apex Publications)
“The Briskwater Mare”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Breaking Windows”, Tracie McBride (Aurealis #84)
“Self, Contained”, Kirstyn McDermott (The Dark, TDM Press)


“Night Shift”, Dirk Flinthart (Striking Fire, FableCroft Publishing)
“The Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
“The Miseducation of Mara Lys”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Wages of Honey”, Deborah Kalin (Cherry Crow Children, Twelfth Planet Press)
“Sleepless”, Jay Kristoff (Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, Penguin)
“Ripper”, Angela Slatter (Horrorology, Jo Fletcher Books)


“The Giant’s Lady”, Rowena Cory Daniells (Legends 2, Newcon Press)
“The Jellyfish Collector”, Michelle Goldsmith (Review of Australian Fiction Vol. 13 Issue 6)
“A Shot of Salt Water”, Lisa L Hannett (The Dark, TDM Press)
“Almost Days”, DK Mok (Insert Title Here, FableCroft Publishing)
“Blueblood”, Faith Mudge (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Husk and Sheaf”, Suzanne Willis (SQ Mag 22, IFWG Publishing Australia)


“Lodloc and The Bear”, Steve Cameron (Dimension6, coeur de lion)
“Defy the Grey Kings”, Jason Fischer (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Firkin Press)
“Broken Glass”, Stephanie Gunn (Hear Me Roar, Ticonderoga Publications)
“The Flowers that Bloom Where Blood Touches the Earth”, Stephanie Gunn (Bloodlines, Ticonderoga Publications)
“Haunting Matilda”, Dmetri Kakmi (Cthulhu: Deep Down Under, Horror Australis)
“Of Sorrow and Such”, Angela Slatter (


“2B”, Joanne Anderton (Insert Title Here, Fablecroft)
“The Marriage of the Corn King”, Claire McKenna (Cosmos)
“Alchemy and Ice”, Charlotte Nash (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61)
“Witnessing”, Kaaron Warren (The Canary Press Story Magazine #6)
“All the Wrong Places”, Sean Williams (Meeting Infinity, Solaris)


“Blood and Ink”, Jack Bridges, Prizm Books
“The Molenstraat Music Festival”, Sean Monaghan (Asimov’s Science Fiction)
“By Frogsled and Lizardback to Outcast Venusian Lepers”, Garth Nix (Old Venus, Random House)


The Abandonment of Grace and Everything After, Shane Jiraiya Cummings (Brimstone Press)
Striking Fire, Dirk Flinthart (FableCroft Publishing)
Cherry Crow Children, Deborah Kalin (Twelfth Planet Press)
To Hold the Bridge, Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin)
The Fading, Carole Nomarhas (self-published)
The Finest Ass in the Universe, Anna Tambour (Ticonderoga Publications)


Hear Me Roar, Liz Grzyb (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)
The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (eds.) (Ticonderoga Publications)
Bloodlines, Amanda Pillar (ed.) (Ticonderoga Publications)
Meeting Infinity, Jonathan Strahan (ed.), (Solaris)
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 9, Jonathan Strahan (ed.) (Solaris)
Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction, Tehani Wessely (ed.) (FableCroft Publishing)


In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman (HarperCollins)
The Fire Sermon, Francesca Haig (HarperVoyager)
Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)
Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)
The Hush, Skye Melki-Wagner (Penguin Random House Australia)

No Shortlist Released


In The Skin of a Monster, Kathryn Barker (Allen & Unwin)
Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, Alison Goodman (HarperCollins)
Day Boy,Trent Jamieson (Text Publishing)
The Dagger’s Path, Glenda Larke (Hachette Australia)
Tower Of Thorns, Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Skin, Ilka Tampke (Text Publishing)


Crossed, Evelyn Blackwell (self-published)
Clade, James Bradley (Penguin)
Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (Allen & Unwin)
Their Fractured Light, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Allen & Unwin)
Renegade, Joel Shepherd (Kindle Direct)
Twinmaker: Fall, Sean Williams (Allen & Unwin)


The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin [The King’s Bastard (2010), The Uncrowned King (2010), The Usurper (2010), The King’s Man (2012), King Breaker (2013)], Rowena Cory Daniells (Solaris Press)
The Watergivers [The Last Stormlord (2009), Stormlord Rising (2010), Stormlord’s Exile (2011)], Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)
The Lumatere Chronicles [Finnikin of the Rock (2008), Froi of the Exiles (2011), Quintana of Charyn (2012)], Melina Marchetta (Penguin Random House)
Sevenwaters [Daughter of the Forest (2000), Son of the Shadows (2001), Child of the Prophecy (2002), Heir to Sevenwaters (2009), Seer of Sevenwaters (2011), Flame of Sevenwaters (2013)], Juliet Marillier (Pan Macmillan Australia)
The Laws of Magic [Blaze Of Glory (2007), Heart Of Gold (2007), Word Of Honour (2008),  Time Of Trial (2009), Moment Of Truth (2010), Hour Of Need (2011)], Michael Pryor (Random House Australia)
Creature Court [Power and Majesty (2010), Shattered City (2011), Reign of Beasts (2012)], Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)

Galactic Chat 70 – Peter Clines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Game of Thrones_: Adaptation or Original Material

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

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

Django Wexler (M), David McDonald, Sarah Smith,  Erin Underwood

Loose Ends and Contradictions in Doctor Who

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

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

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

Fantastic Australia!

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

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

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

Appreciating the Historical in Speculative Fiction

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

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

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

Nonfiction on Speculative Fiction

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

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

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

Requiem: They Played the Game of Thrones and Lost

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

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

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

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Seven

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

Supergirl – Episode 7, “Human for a Day”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEHANI: Agreed, they were well done.

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

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

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

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


In Your Face: Stories that pack a punch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Your Face

Obligatory 2016 Ditmar Eligibility Post

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

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

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

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

Ditmar Nominations Open

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

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

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

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

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

1. online, via this form:

2. via email to; or

3. by post to:

6 Florence Road

So. my list:

Best Short Story

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

Best Fan Publication in any Medium

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

William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review