Tag Archives: Fablecroft

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

More review goodness…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insert Title Here

My 2014 in Review

So, 2014 has come and gone. Wow. Time flies, huh?

Looking back, 2014 was a much better year than I realised. Even though I only had one story published, there were a number of significant milestones that are well worth celebrating.

But, first, let me get the negatives out of the way.

We lost some good people last year, and some people I care about had some tough times. That puts my problems into perspective, in the scheme of things I was very fortunate. So, I don’t really want to go into details as so many others have it so much worse, but during 2014 I struggled with some medical issues and, when added to my talent for taking too much on, I had a bit of a meltdown. The medical stuff is nothing life threatening, or anything for anyone to worry about, but enough to cause some issues. It’s not an excuse, but this did contribute to me messing up a couple of deadlines and letting some people down. You know who you are and, again, I apologise. It’s something I am very disappointed with myself in, and I hope that 2015 will be a much better year for that!

Looking back at the goals that I had set myself, I am disappointed to note that I still haven’t caught up on Doctor Who! Hopefully I can remedy that before Easter for reasons that will become clear later in this post.

I also haven’t made that first pro rate sale, though I do feel that I am getting closer and closer, and I might have another announcement to make soon..

But, on to the good things! There really were some wonderful moments, and I have a lot to be thankful for. And, it’s been great to feel like I am actually making some progress with my writing.

Unfortunately, I can’t share my biggest piece of news yet, but stay tuned as it will be announced around February.

Amongst the things I can talk about are:

  • After an eighteen year career in the field (pretty much straight out of Year 11), I left IT. I was seconded to our Editorial Department for 6 months in the position of Deputy Editor of one of our magazines (though I was essentially doing the Editor’s job). I can now announce that last  week I signed a contract extending my contract and naming me Editor. So, I guess I can say that I am a full time editor and writer now! There are not many people who get the chance to make a living from writing, so I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity– it really has changed my life. And, this has been so beneficial to my own writing, both in what I am learning from editing, and  because I am excited to be at work everyday instead being stressed and frustrated all the time. (which I know makes me very fortunate). I also think it has made me more productive, too, if there is a writing muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets
  • From a fiction writing POV, one of the highlights of 2014 was being shortlisted for the WSFA Small Press Award. As I said at the time, seeing my name alongside all the past nominees and winners was a huge thrill and I was gobsmacked when I found out. I never expected to be nominated, let alone win, so I wasn’t that disappointed to lose–especially to a great story.
  • After two previous nominations, winning a William J. Atheling Jr Award for the New Who reviews. I have felt very privileged to get to work with Tehani and Tansy, and humbled to tie with Galactic Suburbia, one of my biggest influences. Hopefully I can catch up on the latest seasons soon!
  • The Ditmar for Galactic Chat. A huge amount of the credit for this needs to go to Sean Wright, our podcast overlord, and it was great to see him recognised for his hard work. It felt a bit weird winning an award for having the opportunity to get to talk to some of my writing heroes. Seems like a bit of a rort, really! lol
  • Which leads on to the interviews with Ken Liu and Kameron Hurley. Wow, talk about gushing fanboy moments. Just a hint: next year wills ee even more fanboying! I have a few more writing superstars lined up for you.
  • Being asked to return as part of the Aussie Snapshot team. This one was even bigger than the last one, and we managed to cover a huge cross section of the Aussie Spec Fic scene. If you haven’t read it yet, you are really missing out!
  • Even though I had a quiet year in publications, I managed to sell some stories and I have already have three new stories confirmed for 2015 (including a sale to Fablecroft and coeur de lion) as well as something a bit longer which I can’t talk about yet (and that is killing me).
  • The release of a bundle of my short stories from Clan Destine Press, including a brand new story that I am rather proud of, and am very glad to see find a home. It already has a great review!
  • Managing to make a good start on the collaborative young adult novel I am working on, It’s definitely starting to take shape now and has gotten to that point where it has developed some momentum, and the process that we decided to use seems to be working (big thanks to Amie Kaufman for her generosity with her time and advice. I am very excited about where it is heading, and you can expect to hear more about it in 2015
  • Helping my good friend, Laura Goodin, perform a radio play at Conflux. Hopefully there will be a version available for your listening pleasure soon
  • Beating “Hold Over Funds” to become the FFANZ delegate. I am really excited about heading over tot New Zealand in 2015, i am sure that it is going to be a blast. It looks like I need to be caught up on Doctor Who by then, though!
  • Amazing fun at Continuum X and Conflux 10

Aside from all these, there is something even more important to mention. I got to spend time with existing friends, made a number of new friends and, most of all, was continually reminded of what an amazing community we have in Australia. A number of my friends had some great moments of their own, and I was delighted to see their successes (and quite often got to help celebrate them, which is always fun).

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

And, that’s probably enough for now!

Hopefully I will be at a few cons in 2015. I always try and get to Continuum, and I have brought my membership and booked my hotel for the Worldcon on in Spokane. And, of course, I will be in NZ for their Natcon.

I am looking forward to 2015, which I think might be my biggest yet, and I will be hoping for the same for you!

A delightful short list surprise!

So, yesterday morning I woke up to an email. It was very early by my standards, my eyes were a bit fuzzy, and to be honest I wasn’t sure why I had been sent it. I could see that a story from an anthology my friend had published had been shortlisted for an award, which was lovely in of itself, but I wouldn’t normally expect a direct email about it at that time of the morning. Normally I’d find out about something like that from Twitter or Facebook  when I was awake enough to process it.

Then my eyes opened properly, and I realised I had been shortlisted, too! To say I was surprised would be an understatement….

The WSFA Small Press Awards have had a number of illustrious winners and nominees…I started listing names here but it really is a glittering list of some of my writing idols. They have also historically been very good to Aussies, with the wonderful Tansy Rayner Roberts winning TWO, and people like Jason Nahrung and Jo Anderton nominated in the past. I mean, seriously, talk about quality!

And the shortlist this year is no less impressive. Seeing my name next to writers of that calibre is…surreal. As you can guess, I am honoured and humbled and hyperventilating. I certainly don’t expect to win, but I truly am just happy to be on the list.

It was also very nice to two other Aussies on the list. I’m delighted for D.K. Mok, an extremely talented writer, and also thrilled that Fablecroft are represented again – Fablecroft are one of my favourite publishers. And, another story from the anthology I was in is there, the amazing Sean McMullen making an appearance. The fact that two Satalyte Publishing stories appear tells you what a great job Steve and Marieke are doing. and why Satalyte is rapidly becoming one of the top publishers in Australia.

The full list  and details about the awards are here. Congrats to all the nominees!

  • “Acts of Chivalry” by Sean McMullen, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “Bits” by Naomi Kritzer, published in Clarkesworld Magazine, edited by Neil Clarke (October 2013)
  • “Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma” by Alex Shvartsman, published in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, edited by Edmund R. Schubert (Hatrack Publishing, April 2013)
  • “Like a Bat Out of Hell” by Jonathan Shipley, published in After Death, edited by Eric C. Guignard (Dark Moon Books, April 2013)
  • “Morning Star” by DK Mok, published in One Small Step, an anthology of discoveries, edited by Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Publishing, May 2013)
  • “Set Your Face Towards the Darkness” by David McDonald, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land, edited by Stephen C. Ormsby and Ellen Mae Franklin (Satalyte Publishing, December 2013)
  • “The Traditional” by Maria Dahvana Headley, published in Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams (May 2013)
  • “Trap-weed” by Gemma Files, published in Clockwork Phoenix 4, edited by Mike Allen (Mythic Delirium Books, July 2013)


Story sale to Fablecroft: Insert Title Here

I am thrilled to announce I will be appearing in Fablecroft’s next anthology, “Insert Title Here”. Looking at the ToC I am delighted to find myself in the company of so many amazing writers. Fablecroft is one of my favourite publishers, and Tehani one of my favourite people, so this is a wonderful sale!

This story is a bit of a different style than I usually write. It’s got angels, steampunk and heresy, and a bit nastier than my usual sort of thing.

You can find out stats and details at the Fablecroft website.

Kathleen Jennings The Last Case of Detective Charlemagne
Joanne Anderton 2B
DK Mok Almost Days
Matthew Morrison Sins of meals past
Tom Dullemond The Last Voyage of Saint Brendan
Dirk Flinthart Collateral Damage
Dan Simpson The Winter Stream
Darren Goossens Circle
Alan Baxter Beyond the Borders of All He Had Been Taught
Thoraiya Dyer The Falcon Races
Robert Hood Footprints in Venom
Caitlene Cooke Circa
Tamlyn Dreaver Reflections
David McDonald Her face like lightning
Marianne de Pierres Salvatrix
Dan Rabarts Oil and bone
Ian Creasey Ministry of Karma
Stephanie Burgis The art of deception
Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin Empty Monuments
Sara Larner Living in the Light
Alexis A. Hunter Always Another Point

Wednesday Writers: Amanda Rainey

I could do a whole post listing nice things about Amanda, as she is one of my favourite people in the Aussie spec fic scene. But for her sake, and yours, I will refrain and keep it short! Amanda is one of the smartest people I know, and one of the kindest and most genuine. It is fair to say that many of the good things that have happened to me since I came on the scene owe a lot to the fact that she took the time to make me so welcome when I went to my first con.

But, more relevantly to this series of guest posts, Amanda is also one of our foremost cover designers. Her work is instantly recognisable, and you’ve probably seen a great many of her covers, whether you realise it or not. Her work on the Twelve Planets is a classic example of her ability to create totally unique covers perfectly suited to the book inside, while maintaining a consistent style across the range that makes it obvious that they are part of a collection.Outside of the Twelve Planets she has produced some beautiful stand alone work, and I was thrilled to appear in an anthology that featured one of her designs,

If producing a cover that seizes your eye, and makes you want to pick up the book in front of you even before you know what it is about, is a measure of success in cover design then Amanda is right at the top of the game. So, I am delighted to have her here today as I can’t think of anyone more qualified to talk about the subject.

As a cover designer for small publishers, I have the privilege of working directly with editors and authors in designing the covers of their books, rather than through a series of middlemen. The process is always different with each author, and some experiences are more productive than others – not dissimilar to the editor/author relationship, I imagine.


I try to emphasise early to the writers I work with is that they know their book better than me – print deadlines being what they are, in many cases I don’t necessarily get time to even read the book thoroughly before starting work on the design. The main thing I want from my clients is a sense of the feel and atmosphere of a book – I think that’s often as important as talking about what’s actually in the book. For a lot of readers, the cover is the first (and perhaps only) bit of marketing material they will see for it – I try to make covers that do something to tell a reader why they should pick up a book for a closer look.

The cover isn’t an illustration of the story that people will read alongside it. Leave room for the possibility that an illustration that makes sense after you’ve read it may give an entirely different impression to a potential reader. You have only seconds to tell the reader what kind of book it is. Sometimes accuracy is over-rated – more important is giving a potential reader some sense of why they might like the book.


Big publishers have access to the best information about the market, and this can help them design covers that will appeal to all the right demographics and sell lots of books. It’s not a perfect science, but it gives your book a pretty good chance. Most small presses don’t have a market research budget so we have to rely on other information to base our decisions.

Small press at its best isn’t just a cheaper copy of what the mainstream publishers are doing, and the small press publishers I work with try pretty hard to play up their differences. I think it’s worth writers publishing in small press (or those self-publishers commissioning design work for something they’re releasing) be aware of that, and try to play to it too.


In many cases basing a style on what the bigger presses are doing can be a smart strategy – but you need to be skilled at interpreting how and why the style works, in order to figure out which bits speak to the reader, and to what extent they’re helping define reader expectations within genre. But if you can’t do that, then chances are you’ll end up with something so generic, you might as well buy one of those $20 ready-made covers from the net.

You may want to start by showing your designer some recent covers that you think will appeal to a similar target audience. Explain what you like about each one and why, but accept that at the end of the process your ideas won’t look the same. They may be the wrong fit for your book, perhaps they’re more clichéd that you realise, perhaps they appeal to the wrong people, or have the wrong tone. If they’re any good, your designer has probably spent more time analysing design trends than you have, because that’s their job and their passion. Leave room for the possibility that the cover you envisioned isn’t the best option for your book.


At the other extreme from those who want to copy something successful are the authors that want a cover that will blow people’s minds, because it’s soooo original! It’s true, the benefit of small and self-published press is that we can experiment a little more – there’s no point trying to look like the big sellers, because we will always lose. With faster turnaround and a smaller niche audience, small press can take risks that the bigger publishers can’t or won’t. But the best cultural works interact with and build on what went before and what’s happening now. Small press may be pushing the boundaries, but you want to make sure you’re still part of the conversation.

Lastly, and most importantly: a cover isn’t a work of art, it’s a guide to what’s inside. Your cover isn’t necessarily there to impress people, it’s there to spark their curiosity about what’s inside enough to get the chance to impress them with your book.


The trick to getting the most out of a designer is to understand the purpose of a cover, and focus on that. If you feel like the cover is wrong, you’re probably right, so say so. Don’t be scared to voice your opinions. The best results come from a great conversation about why something is or isn’t working. At the same time, accept that your proposed solution to the problem may be wrong, so be willing to let go of your ideas. Trust me, the designer has already rejected hundreds of her own ideas too.

Amanda is a graphic designer and PhD student. She designs for Twelfth Planet Press and FableCroft, and then gets to read the books for free. You can watch her avoid doing all of those things at twitter.com/vodkandlime


Wednesday Writers: Dirk Flinthart

Aussie Spec Fic is full of larger than life characters, but one man bestrides the scene like a wine swilling, feast cooking colossus. Bon vivant, polymath, raconteur – all these words and more apply to Dirk Flinthart. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to spend time in his company knows that there is never a dull moment in the Dirk zone. But, while those who are as smart as Dirk can often be uncharitable, you would not find a more encouraging and welcoming guy. He’s also one of Australia’s most talented writers with a stellar record in producing quality work. This combination of skill and the ability to get the most out of life make Dirk the perfect man to talk about having fun with your writing.

I had dinner with Dave the other night, around at Tehani Wessely’s place here in Tas. It was pretty cool. Tehani makes a mean lasagne, and both she and David are good company. Conversation with the writing crowd is usually fun, I’ve found, and almost never boring.

Anyway, we were about halfway through the evening when David mentioned a ‘brag shelf’ — a reasonably visible bookshelf with published works by the author who owns the shelf. And… um… I don’t have one.

I’ve got lots of stories in print. I’ve got a nifty-looking Ditmar up on one of my shelves, somewhere in the Vault of Chaos I call my study. I’ve got minor awards for this and that, and lots of shortlistings and nominations, but somehow, I’ve just never really got around to a display shelf. In fact, I’m not even very good at keeping track of what I’ve printed.

Part of this is just me. I’m notoriously bad at taking compliments, and I’m not much on self-promotion. Not great for a writer in this day and age. I can do it, of course. I just don’t enjoy it.

And that’s the key, really. It’s also the key to this little piece: enjoyment.  I love writing stories, but once I’ve written a piece and seen it in print, I want to move on and write the next one. Keeping trophies isn’t part of the game for me: I’m all about the next contract, the next gig, the next story.

I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. I figure most writers would say the same thing. I started getting paid in University, writing articles for this and that. Being paid was cool, but the point was much more about having fun. I convinced magazines to let me go to Maleny-Woodford to interview feral babes. I got myself paid to attend the National Festival of Beer. I got paid to ride around in a 4WD-converted Rolls Royce.

I made money, but more: I had a lot of fun.

Fiction is fun for me too. Even the serious stuff. When I get a really good idea, I literally get chills. I’ve been known to pull over by the roadside and stare vacantly into the middle distance, then burst into a triumphant cheer just because I’ve had that ‘click’, and seen how to create something that I like.

The stories that have worked best for me have been the ones that were the most fun. Honestly? I work at all of them, and I enjoy all of them, but its the ones with a bit of fun to the narrative line that I like best. Those Red Priest stories — yeah, I had a great time with them. There will be more.

So, what’s the point here? It’s simple. Like many Australian authors, I’ve spent the last few years working out how to crack the novel market. And like most of us, I’ve cleaned up my act, polished my prose, detailed my structures, concentrated on my Strong Female Characters, and sought ever more elegant style to my writing. I’ve had some excellent feedback, both from my peers in the game (thanks, ROR!) and from publishers. But do you see a big, fat, novel with “Flinthart” on the spine at your local bookstore?

You do not.

And frankly, that’s fairly stupid of me.

Times have changed. The world isn’t reading the way it was. Once upon a time, you needed an agent and a killer pitch and a wicked-sharp MS to catch the eye of the publishers, and even then, you had to be lucky as hell. That’s not true any more. Check the Amazon bestsellers. See how many of them have been self-published, or began life as e-books. Go ahead.

Consider Fifty Shades of Whatever. There’s a great example. Have you read any of it? I make it part of my business to read at least a little of what’s selling. (And believe me, trying to read from Twilight put a serious strain on my gorge.) Do you think Fifty Shades is a painstakingly constructed work of poetic prose, vivid characterisation and clever plotting?

No. Of course not. Let’s be honest: even most of its fans admit that it’s crap.

But lest you assume I’m cherrypicking, shall we consider conventionally published bestsellers? I had to review Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol a couple years back. Reading the bloody thing was purest agony. It’s been twenty-five years five since I skim-read Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard, and loathed almost every page of it. In all those years, I’d never found a book I thought could be called worse until I hit Brown’s effort.  What an unbearable pile of badly fermented hyena squeezings! And yet, the punters loved it.

Think it through. Writing a book the painstaking, artistic, peer-reviewed way takes about two years. And if I’m very, very lucky, I get more than a second glance from a publisher. Maybe I even get a contract. Maybe. But probably not. Meanwhile the people who count — the readers — are happily dumpster-diving, grooving on Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyers and a plethora of equally… errr… talented creators.

Who’s the fool here?

Well, the publishers look pretty dim, I admit. They spend most of their time racing around like beheaded chickens, trying to publish carbon copies of current bestsellers. Their hit rate for finding new stuff has always been poor, and lately, it looks even worse. But that’s okay, because they’ve worked out they can harvest from the ‘Net, and still make a pretty good profit.

And the readers? Heck, I don’t blame readers. That would be stupid. People read what they like. It’s up to people like me to figure out how to get readers to like my work.

Nope. The fool is me. Because I forgot why I started writing. I forgot that it’s supposed to be fun. I learned my craft. I polished. I criticised. I shaped and I shaded and I cut to the bone, and I produced manuscripts that took years  for publishers to finish rejecting them. (Not kidding.)

Folks, I’ve seen the light. Last year, I set myself a little goal. I promised I would write a full-length  novel within a four to six month timeframe, and despite the best efforts of my family, my Masters Degree supervisor, my martial arts commitments and everything else, I succeeded. I have finished that novel, and I have handed it to a small, wicked-fast publisher, and I am told that it is A Good Thing.

What did I do differently?

I had fun. I made the story fun. I made the characters fun. I took the piss here and there. I created action scenes that interested me. I threw some sex into the mix just to see if I could do it. And lo, folks: turns out the book should be coming out in the not too distant future.

No, it’s not a big publishing contract. We’re going electronic, and print-on-demand. But it will be a real book, with a real cover, and real editing, and all the good stuff. I can’t guarantee you’ll have fun reading it, of course — but I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it, and I suspect if you go in expecting to come out with a big grin at the end, you won’t be disappointed.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’m already at work on the sequel. With three more plotted out after that, yep. Why not?

I’m not quitting the painstaking, craftsmanly stuff. I like the challenge. Making a short story really work, folding it back in on itself to create layers of meaning and metaphor — that’s another kind of fun, and I’m not backing away from it. I’m enjoying my Masters Degree studies too, including the twelve thousand-odd words of epic poem I have to write in the formal Ottava Rima style of Lord Byron’s Don Juan.

But the simple truth is that dragging my sorry arse over every individual word in an attempt to create a masterly poetic synthesis — that’s not putting me in print. It’s not giving you new stories to read. It’s taking up my time, and my concentration, and ultimately, it isn’t fun.

We can’t all be bestsellers. We can’t all write capital-ell Litratcha. Most of us found our way into the game as writers because writing was our preferred mode of self-expression. It was fun. Tragically, the Big Press model of publishing doesn’t care about fun, and it’s all to easy to forget about the enjoyment of writing in pursuit of plaudits and contracts. And yet, many of the most successful  Big Press books are complete crap that really should never have been allowed to deforest all those third-world countries for paper.

You’re a writer? Excellent. But don’t lock yourself away and slave over your MS forever. Write something fun. Get it out there. Self-publish, if you must. If it’s any good, it’s got a chance of being noticed by the readers, and they’re the ones that count. And if it’s no good? Well, it was fun, right? So shrug, take another look at what people are reading, then go back and have fun all over again. Eventually you’ll get it right — and if you don’t, at least you didn’t waste your time.


Having said all that, there’s something I’d like to say in response to Jane Routley’s final question on marketing, here in this very forum. Jane pointed out that the ebook world is increasingly crowded, full of voices, and it’s very hard to be heard in all that.

That’s an excellent point. But more, it’s an opportunity waiting to be seized.

The plethora of voices in ebookery is an outcome of a lack of gatekeepers. Hardbook publishing involved effort, and lots of money, and therefore big companies got involved. They took a dim view of expenditure, so they went to great efforts to ensure the works in which they did invest had a decent chance of providing a return. In other words, they acted as gatekeepers, cutting away the worst of the dross.

There’s not much like that in self-publishing and ebookery. What is evolving is a two-tier system wherein authors launch themselves online, and big, monied companies try to make deals with the ones the readers like. But that doesn’t help the readers find new stuff, does it?

Are you a reader? Are you a decent critic? Build yourself a site on the web. Read and review, but make it clear that you will only give space to the works you find rewarding. Be consistent, thorough, and fair. Link to other reasonable sites. Make noise on places like Facebook, etc. If you’re any good at this, and you stick with it, pretty soon you’ll have new authors knocking at your door.

And that’s your opportunity. Right now, the idea of ‘review for pay’ is still thought of as unsavory. And to be fair, as practised by shady marketing companies hired to create ‘buzz’ on the Internet, or by desperate wannabe ‘authors’ spruiking their own stuff on Amazon, it’s a very poor idea. But think about the movies. Consider the influence of critics there. Ever heard of Roger Ebert?

Yeah. I figured as much. So: next question is where is the Ebert of books?

That’s your goal. Build a site. Review the stuff that you actually enjoy. Keep doing it until you start getting free reads. Keep up your standards, though. Make it clear you’ll only put up a review for a book you found enjoyable, and there’s no negotiation on that point.

Finally, when you’re getting more work than you can readily handle and people are coming to your site to check your opinions — set up a deal with the writers. Take a flat fee, or a cut of any sales spike, or any other arrangement you can think of. Make some money.

Does it sound mercenary? Who cares? You’d be doing everybody a service. I would definitely pay at least a little for access to a site that sorted interesting reads out of the vast, unwashed dross of self-published Net-nasties. Likewise, as a writer I would be prepared to pay a reasonable premium to place my works on such a site, if I was convinced that the operators of the site were really and truly keeping up a solid standard. I’d save money as a reader because I could more easily find good things to read, and I’d make money as a writer because it would be easier for readers to identify my books as being of a tasty nature.

That’s for free, folks. I’m a writer. I’ve done critic work. I could do this, too… but then I wouldn’t have time to write my own stories, and where’s the fun in that?

Dirk Flinthart is old enough to know better, but somehow that doesn’t seem to stop him. He’s been writing for most of his life, but has been published over the last twenty years in SF, fantasy, horror, and feature journalism. He holds a black belt in ju-jitsu, and he’s working towards a 2nd dan grading. He also holds a provisional black belt in Iai-do, and is currently studying for a Masters degree in English at Uni of Tas. He’s got three irritatingly bright kids underfoot, lives in Uttermost Taswegia on a mountainside with a view of the distant ocean, and is in the final stages of putting together a novel with Fablecroft Publishing. There’s more, but honestly, aren’t you bored with this stuff yet?


Quick Update

I haven’t had much time for blogging the last week or so due to being feverishly busy with a very exciting and secret project! In a few weeks you will know all about it, but for now a quick update:

  • The Lone Ranger Chronicles have made it into the wild, and features my story Reflections in a Silver Mirror. I am thrilled to see there is a hard back edition, that is a first for me!
  • Congratulations to all the winners at last night’s Aurealis Awards! Judging from the twitter feed, it looks like I missed out on an exciting evening, and that all the people behind the scenes did an amazing job od putting together a spectacular event. The full list of winners is here, but I was especially excited to see Galactic Suburbia get the Peter McNamara Convenor’s Award, Paul Haines’ gut wrenching “The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt” tie for Horror Short Story and Thoraiya Dyer pick up “Fruit of the Pipal Tree” for Fantasy Short Story. The last one makes me feel all the more priviliged to appear in Fablecroft’s upcoming anthology, Epilogue, alongside Thoraiya. Fablecroft keep producing quality work, and that’s what you want to be part of.

Hopefully I will have a more substantial post up soon!