Tag Archives: community

My Aussie Spec Fic Snasphot 2016 roundup!

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

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

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

Aussie Snapshot 2016

Aussie Snapshot 2016: our own little census

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

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

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

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

Aussie Snapshot 2016

Paying for Our Passion – Pete Aldin

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

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

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

I write.

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

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

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

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

B is for Broken

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Art is important. And important things cost.

Pete Aldin

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

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

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

Paying for Our Passion – Lee Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t run with her anymore.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 2015 in Review

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

The big goals for 2015:

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

Let’s see:

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Having fun with some new writer friends!

Having fun with some new writer friends!

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

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

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

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


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


The “Paying for Our Passion” panel

So, not a bad year for conventions!


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


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

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


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


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

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

And that will do for now. 🙂

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

State of the Writer Update – Reviews, Interviews and Guest Posts

While the blog has been reasonably active–due to some wonderful guest posts–I have been a bit remiss in posting what I have been up to. There is a lot going behind the scenes, and I am getting a fair bit of writing done, but I still can’t announce some things that are coming up (which is killing me).

In the meantime, here are some quick updates:


  • My story, Our Land Abounds, got the audio treatment on the wonderful StarShipSofa!


  • The first review of Backcountry is up and it’s a great one! You can read it here


I’ve done a couple more interviews for Galactic Chat, with more on the way.

  • The splendid Amanda Pillar talks being on both sides of the editor’s desk and her new novel, along with plenty more
  • The fascinating Tsana Dolichva talks on a  number of subjects, from necroastronomy to Defying Doomsday


  • I went to the Reconnaissance convention in New Zealand and had an amazing time. Full report to follow!

Guest Posts

I am so grateful for the wonderful contributions I have received of late.

  • I continue to be humbled by the response to the Paying for Our Passion series–check out the wonderful posts that people have made (And you can get involved, too!)
  • Gwen Hernandez gave a masterclass on Scrivener, one of my favourite writing tools
  • D.K. Mok wrote on a subject close to my heart – the spec fic community
  • Holly Kench–as part of the promotion for the Defying Doomsday crowdfunding campaign (FUNDED! OH YEAH!)–with a must read for authors on writing disabled characters
  • Emilie Collyer, fellow Clan Destine author, on her writing journey

Hopefully I will be able to make some more announcements soon!

Guest Post – D.K. Mok

In today’s featured guest post, I have the great pleasure of welcoming D.K. Mok to my blog. D.K. is one of the ascending stars of Aussie spec fic, with a number of critically acclaimed short stories to her name as well as some wonderful novels. I’ve been lucky enough to see my name next to D.K.’s in a couple of anthologies, and on the recent WSFA Small Press Award shortlist, so I feel a bit of a link with her. When I heard about her new book I figured it was the perfect time to invite her to pop by Ebon Shores, and she has written a great post that reflects a lot of what I am trying to do here – to help promote others the way I have been helped.

D.K.’s new book  is called Hunt for Valamon and I have included some links if you want to check out what I am sure will be an excellent read: Paperback copies are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository. The ebook is available on Kindle and Nook.

We Are An Ocean: Bibliodiversity and Community

I recently had the good fortune to attend a talk by pioneering oceanographer Sylvia Earle at the Sydney Opera House. She spoke passionately about biodiversity and climate change, and the desperate need for education, understanding and kindness. When asked about her own trailblazing career, her response again touched on the importance of support and cooperation.

As I left the auditorium, my head swimming with complicated ecosystems and the struggle for resources, I found myself thinking about competition and cooperation, and how these forces interacted within creative communities. I’ve been lucky enough to know wonderful graphic designers, zinesters and sugar artists, but it was my experience of the speculative fiction community that I found myself contemplating.

For most of my life, writing has been a fairly solitary pursuit, and I envisioned most authors to be starving romantics in draughty garrets, or cackling eccentrics holed up in cluttered basements. However, when my stories started getting published, I began to meet other authors, editors, bloggers and readers. I waded cautiously into the world of social media, I joined writing groups and attended conventions. I felt a little like the creature from Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing, stepping through the cryptic doors and discovering a bustling world full of odd and wonderful things, most of them saying “Welcome! Welcome!”

I’m aware that publishing is a highly competitive field, and writers are often competing for readers, publishers, budgets, and spots on a TOC. However, I’ve been fortunate in that my experience within the speculative fiction community has largely been of writers helping other writers. This, I believe, is key to shaping the kind of literary landscape we want to inhabit.
Insert Title HereLast year, I was invited to participate in the Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot for the first time. This massive project featured interviews with one hundred and eighty-nine Australian writers, editors, artists and bloggers, and I was awed by the diversity of voices, interests and intents. It was also around this time that I came across a delightful word I hadn’t encountered before: bibliodiversity.

I come from a background in biology, so when I first heard the term bibliodiversity it conjured images of stately coffee-table books marching across the savannah, and horror novels stretched beside the long grass. I envisioned herds of fantasy books milling around the waterhole, their pages flicking away swarms of handmade zines.

I soon learned that the word “bibliodiversity” was originally coined to express the importance of independent publishers, although it has also come to refer to the need for diverse authors, characters and stories. There’s a growing awareness that diversity is not only desirable, but crucial, to the prosperity of the industry.

Hunt for Valamon CoverIn a sense, the literary landscape is an ecosystem. And much as a thriving ocean has everything from curious squid to amiable whale sharks, the writing community is enriched by its varied population, from poetic horror to subversive sci-fi, haunting folktales to quirky fantasy. It’s this environment of bibliodiversity that supports an innovative, vibrant and resilient community.

Which brings me back to the ideas of competition and cooperation. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy and respectful degree of competition, but the value of cooperation and support can’t be overstated. Writing can be a solitary road, and chasing one’s dreams can be a bruising endeavour. Sometimes, a word of encouragement, a little kindness, can make a lasting impact, and give courage to a voice that might otherwise be lost.

Writers who help other writers cultivate a flourishing ecosystem, because we are a community. We are an ocean. And by giving someone else a place to stand, you firm the ground beneath everyone’s feet.

DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree, published by Spence City. DK’s short story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step, FableCroft Publishing) was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award.

DK graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.

Website: www.dkmok.com
Twitter: @dk_mok

Defying Doomsday – Holly Kench on writing disabled characters

It’s my pleasure to welcome Holly Kench to my blog today. Holly is one of my fave spec fic people, and the Defying Doomsday anthology looks like it will not only be an incredible read (as you would imagine from a Twelfth Planet Press book!), but a very important book. I have already backed it, and I would encourage you to think about it, too.

As an author, it can be a little intimidating trying to write characters who have different experiences and lives to you, but in this excellent post Holly gives us some very handy hints–lessons that I think have applications beyond the remit of this anthology, and helpful for writing any character that is different in anyway to ourselves, whether through gender, orientation, creed or race.

Thanks, Holly!

Tips for Writing Disabled Characters

Apocalypse fiction rarely includes characters with disability, chronic illness and other impairments. When these characters do appear, they usually die early on, or are secondary characters undeveloped into anything more than a burden to the protagonist. Defying Doomsday will be an anthology showing that disabled characters have far more interesting stories to tell in post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction.

Defying Doomsday will be edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench, and published by Twelfth Planet Press in mid 2016. Defying Doomsday is currently crowdfunding via Pozible. To support the project visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday

When writing, stepping outside your comfort zone can be pretty intimidating and I think, for most people, writing disabled* characters seems to fit in the “out of my comfort zone” category.  So I’m here to give a few tips on how to tackle disabled characters in your writing.

  1.      Avoid stereotypes and clichés

A lot of disabled characters currently available to us fit into problematic stereotypes and clichés. Because they are so ubiquitous in our culture, it’s easy to fall into the trap of writing stereotyped characters. Stereotypes are never helpful in general, and they are certainly never interesting in stories, but when it comes to disabled characters, stereotypes can be, arguably, even more damaging than usual, since the views they perpetuate can be so negative and harmful. Some of these stereotypes include (but are not limited to) general disability clichés such as: the disabled character is a burden or inspiration, and the character’s impairment is something that needs to be fixed; and impairment specific clichés such as: albino characters are evil, and blind characters can use echolocation.

A good way to avoid stereotypes is to ask yourself why you are portraying your character in a certain way. Is it because you associate a certain character trait or storyline with disability? Or is it just part of the development of your story and characterisation? For example, while “evil disabled character” is a common cliché, it’s still possible to have a disabled character who is ‘evil’ without it becoming a stereotype. The question is, does the character have a reason for behaving badly? Or was the character written as disabled to seem more frightening?

  1.      Do your research

Try not to make assumptions about life with disability, especially if those assumptions are based on common things you’ve seen in the media or other works of fiction. Do research to find out how your character’s life might be affected by disability. Research the medical realities of your character’s impairment/s, but also realise that disability is about external factors, and research how life might be made difficult for your character by different situations and expectations.

There are a couple of good ways to do your research. Of course talking to a person who has experienced disability is one possibility. It’s great to get information based on real life experiences from disabled people. But remember that people with disability don’t exist to be your human encyclopaedia. It’s not their responsibility to educate you. Always ask politely and understand if this isn’t something they want to talk about. If they are happy to discuss the topic, listen and trust their experiences, even (especially) if they aren’t what you expect. Also remember that everyone is different, so one person’s experience of disability, or even a particular impairment, will not necessarily be the same as the next.

So what if you can’t talk to someone? Use the internet. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to do some research on the internet as well, anyway. There are a multitude of sites available that talk about different types of impairments, from the medical realities, to the day to day implications, as well as sites that talk more broadly about life with disability. There are also quite a few pieces available about how to write disabled characters. My strongest recommendation is to especially read sites and pieces which are written by disabled people, rather than sites that talk about disabled people and their experiences from an outside perspective.

  1.      Make sure your character has depth

While you want to make sure you research the ways disability affects your character’s life, you also need to remember that there is more to any person’s life than disability, and the same should be the case for your character. Just as you want to avoid stereotypes, you want to make sure your character is multidimensional. Interesting characters have identities informed by a range of experiences, their own histories and all those little intangible factors that make people whole and fascinating. This is the same for disabled characters. Disabled people aren’t synonymous with disability. They have identities, personalities and experiences beyond how they are affected by their impairments or how the world treats them because of those impairments. Of course, disability is going to affect your characterisation, because it’s an important part of your character’s history and experience, but it’s not everything. Disabled people have full lives and complex identities, so try to ensure your disabled characters have full characterisations.

  1. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose

The last point to remember is not to be afraid to try to write disabled characters. Disabled people are just like anyone else–complex, interesting, deserving of a place in your storytelling. Stepping outside your comfort zone is good. It’s good for you, your writing, and the genre. But, if you think about it, writing disabled characters might not be as far outside your comfort zone as you think, anyway. After all, disabled people are just people. Disabled characters are just characters, but they might have a story that hasn’t been told just yet.

CDefying Doomsday

Tsana Dolichva and I are currently editing an anthology of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories, featuring disabled, chronically ill, mentally ill and/or neurodiverse protagonists. We are currently holding a crowdfunding campaign through Pozible to fund the anthology. To support the campaign or to preorder a copy of Defying Doomsday, visit: http://pozi.be/defyingdoomsday. Your support is greatly appreciated!

We will also be holding an open submissions period once the campaign is over, so keep an eye out for more information and submission guidelines on our website. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

*For the sake of ease, I’m just using the word disabled, but everything I’ve talked about counts for people who identify as disabled, chronically ill, neuro-diverse, mentally-ill etc; and the characters that might represent these identities.

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!


2015 Ditmar Ballot Announced

The 2015 Ditmar Awards Ballot has been released and, as always, I am surprised and delighted to see my name alongside some of my writing role models. I was very fortunate to have been included in some wonderful projects last year and to be nominated for awards on top of having so much fun seems almost cheating.

It’s always a bit surreal to look at the awards ballot and realise how many of the names on there are not only people I know, but people I am lucky enough to call friends. Of course, that makes voting hard at times!

I was saying on Facebook that when you look at this list and see the amazing talent on display, then think about the works that didn’t get nominated, you get a sense of the depth of the Aussie spec fic scene. You could create another couple of strong ballots without straining yourself, and that is a very healthy thing. That’s not in any way a criticism of the existing ballot–only so many things can get on there–but just an observation of how much great stuff is being done every year by Australians.

I have attached the details of how to vote below. Regardless of who you vote for, I do think it is important that everyone eligible to vote does so, because the more people engaged with the awards, the more validity they have.

Good luck to all the nominees, and whether you win or not, congratulations on your well deserved recognition!

Anyone who is a member of Swancon 40 (including supporting members) and anyone was who a member of Continuum 10 last year (who was eligible to vote in the 2014 Award) can vote in this year’s award. I strongly recommend that anyone who is eligible to vote exercises that right, as the more people voting, the better the views of readers are represented in the winners. You don’t have to vote in every category. Voting has opened, and will remain open until one minute before midnight AWST (ie. 11.59pm GMT+8) on Sunday, 22nd of March, 2015.

If possible, please vote online at:


The online voting system provides a passworded facility to adjust your vote at any time before the close of voting.

Alternatively, votes will be accepted via email to:


An official ballot paper, including postal address information, will be made available shortly, and may be downloaded as a PDF format file from:


The 2015 ballot is as follows:

Best Novel
* The Lascar’s Dagger, Glenda Larke (Hachette)
* Bound (Alex Caine 1), Alan Baxter (Voyager)
* Clariel, Garth Nix (HarperCollins)
* Thief’s Magic (Millennium’s Rule 1), Trudi Canavan (Hachette Australia)
* The Godless (Children 1), Ben Peek (Tor UK)

Best Novella or Novelette
* “The Ghost of Hephaestus”, Charlotte Nash, in Phantazein (FableCroft
* “The Legend Trap”, Sean Williams, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Darkness in Clara”, Alan Baxter, in SQ Mag 14 (IFWG Publishing Australia)
* “St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, Angela Slatter, in Review of Australian Fiction, Volume 9, Issue 3 (Review of Australian Fiction)
* “The Female Factory”, Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter, in The Female Factory (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Escapement”, Stephanie Gunn, in Kisses by Clockwork (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Short Story
* “Bahamut”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
* “Vanilla”, Dirk Flinthart, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “Cookie Cutter Superhero”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)
* “The Seventh Relic”, Cat Sparks, in Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
* “Signature”, Faith Mudge, in Kaleidoscope (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Collected Work
* Kaleidoscope, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios (Twelfth Planet Press)
* The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Phantazein, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Artwork
* Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in Black-Winged Angels (Ticonderoga Publications)
* Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, of Phantazein (FableCroft Publishing)
* Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, in The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings (Tartarus Press)

Best Fan Writer
* Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work
* Tsana Dolichva, for body of work
* Bruce Gillespie, for body of work
* Katharine Stubbs, for body of work
* Alexandra Pierce for body of work
* Grant Watson, for body of work
* Sean Wright, for body of work

Best Fan Artist
* Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Interstellar Park Ranger Bond, Jaime Bond”, “Gabba and Slave Lay-off: Star Wars explains Australian politics”, “The Driver”, and “Unmasked” in Dark Matter Zine
* Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including Fakecon art and Illustration Friday series
* Nick Stathopoulos, for movie poster of It Grows!

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
* Snapshot 2014, Tsana Dolichva, Nick Evans, Stephanie Gunn, Kathryn Linge, Elanor Matton-Johnson, David McDonald, Helen Merrick, Jason Nahrung, Ben Payne, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Helen Stubbs, Katharine Stubbs, Tehani Wessely, and Sean Wright
* It Grows!, Nick Stathopoulos
* Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Andrew Finch
* The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
* Galactic Chat, Sean Wright, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, Alexandra Pierce, Sarah Parker, and Mark Webb

Best New Talent
* Helen Stubbs
* Shauna O’Meara
* Michelle Goldsmith

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review
* Reviews in The Angriest, Grant Watson
* The Eddings Reread series, Tehani Wessely, Jo Anderton, and Alexandra Pierce, in A Conversational Life
* Reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut, Sean Wright
* “Does Sex Make Science Fiction Soft?”, in Uncanny Magazine 1, Tansy Rayner Roberts
* Reviews in FictionMachine, Grant Watson
* The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely