Tag Archives: short stories

The StarShipSofa has landed!

I got to unlock another achievement on my writing journey recently–having a story adapted into audio form!

My story “Our Land Abounds” had a difficult path to publication, and was rejected over ten times. I have been so happy that, since its release as part of Cold Comfort and Other Tales, it has found such a positive reception from reviewers.

When that most excellent of podcasts, StarShipSofa, offered to adapt it I was understandably over the moon, and after hearing the end result I couldn’t be happier. Narrator Veronica Giguere did an exceptional job–a big thank you to her and StarShipSofa for bringing my story to life!

You can listen to the podcast here (and check out the amazing back catalogue–what stellar company I find myself in!).


Expiration Date Anthology

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while, but I am delighted to reveal that a story of mine, “To Dance, Perchance to Die”, will be appearing in a new anthology from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing–“Expiration Date”.

ExpirationDate-A-270px-100dpi-C12From the press release (follow the link for more information):

(Calgary) EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing is pleased to announce the featured authors of the new anthology “Expiration Date” edited by Nancy Kilpatrick. The new anthology from EDGE focuses on the what-ifs of the “end-dates” that surround us, and how they impact our lives and our world, and ourselves.

“Modern lives seem littered with expiration dates” says anthology editor Nancy Kilpatrick. “Packaging tells us when our food will go bad; when we can expect appliances to cease functioning; when contracts for the internet finish! But as annoying as these small expiration dates are, they fade to nothing compared to the larger events: when a species goes extinct; when a body of water evaporates, or dies because the PH balance alters; when giant icebergs break apart and glaciers melt forever, threatening the ecosystem of this planet.”

Kilpatrick reminds us “From the micro to the macro in terms of expirations, we are faced with the one termination with which we are all too familiar— the up-close-and-personal end of life for each of us and for the ones we love. It’s the personal that terrifies us most because it feels the most real.”

Expiration Date features 25 original pieces of short fiction by some of the world’s top Dark Fiction writers. The anthology includes works by:

Kelley Armstrong, Daniel Sernine (translation by Sheryl Curtis), Elaine Pascale, J. M. Frey, Steve Vernon, Ken Goldman, David McDonald, Lois H. Gresh, R. B. Payne, Mary E. Choo, Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem, Morgan Dambergs, Patricia Flewwelling, Christine Steendam, Ryan McFadden, Tobin Elliott, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, George Wilhite, Paul Kane, Rebecca Bradley, Sèphera Girón, Amy Grech, Kathryn Ptacek, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Nancy Holder and Erin Underwood

Their stories span a range of emotions. Some will make you laugh, other will make you cry. They are grim and hopeful, sad and joyous, horrifying and comforting. Each has its own personality and will touch you in its own way.

It’s wonderful to see my name amongst such a fine list of writers, and I am looking forward to being able to reveal the full TOC very soon.

Review Love for Cold Comfort and Other Tales

Cold Comfort and Other Tales has been live now for a bit over a month, and there are a few reviews out there already. I was pretty nervous about how it would be received, but I have been delighted with the feedback so far. Writing is so full of rejections that it is always a major boost when people not only read your stories (which is still, at this point, a shock to me) but like them!

I am sure that the stories may not to be to some people’s taste, and that’s fine, but the good reviews are the sort of thing that makes this all worthwhile–knowing that someone has connected with your story. It’s definitely something to hold on to when you are slogging though edits (as I am doing at the moment), or when the next rejection arrives.

So, at that risk of boasting, here are some excerpts from a couple of the reviews floating around the interwebs. You can follow the link for the full review.

From Ventureadelaxre:

McDonald surely is one to keep an eye on – you only have to look at his list of achievements for confirmation. I can safely rate this collection five out of five with the knowledge it was deserved, as it has action, thoughtful commentary and excellent characters – I always love the character-driven pieces. And, as stated in my bit about his first short Cold Comfort, I’d love to see his work in a longer sense to see what he can do with more room and time. If he can achieve that much world building in so few pages, what else can he accomplish? No pressure, David.

From Stephanie Gunn:

This is a brilliant collection, and especially recommended if you haven’t read any of McDonald’s work before.  The stories are well described by the collection title Cold Comfort: these are not easy worlds, but McDonald manages to place hope even in the middle of despair.  Vanya discovers that her world isn’t as lost as she thought, Nick and his sentient ship will find a way through, and even in the depths of dystopia, people still speak out.

Highly recommended.

And, I think this is my first international review, so this was doubly exciting. From The Little Red Reviewer:

Beginnings are important.

Like a first impression, an author has one sentence, one chance to make in initial impression on the reader. We’ve all come across lackluster openings, openings that didn’t inspire, or confused, or simply made you scratch your head. Maybe you kept reading, maybe not.

For me, the ideal opening sentence is a perfect balance between nowhere near enough information, and just enough to draw me in. Not unlike that first floral nose of a glass of wine – you get the aroma, a suggestion of what’s to come, but little to no information about the mouthfeel or finish you’re about to experience. You take a sip because that first scent was intriguing. The titular story of Cold Comfort and Other Tales has just the kind of opening I dream of: perfectly balanced yet minimal information with just the barest hints of the entire worldbuilding of the story:

A big thanks to the reviewers for such kind words and–most importantly–taking the time to read my stories!


“Cold Comfort and Other Tales” Ebook Release

A few months ago, I was delighted to announce that I had reached an agreement with Lindy Cameron of Clan Destine Press to reprint my short story, “Cold Comfort”, which first appeared in that most excellent anthology, Epilogue.

After some discussion, we decided to bundle it with another of my already published short stories–and to throw in a completely new story!

Now, in an awesome way to finish off the year, “Cold Comfort and Other Tales” is available for purchase here (direct from Clan Destine) or here (for Amazon users)–just the thing for people looking for something to load onto their new eReader!

Ambelin Kwaymullina (the author of the YA dystopian series, the Tribe, and amazing Continuum X guest) was kind enough to offer these words of praise for Cold Comfort:

“She began to run, following the blue line, not knowing were it lead but oddly sure it would take her to safety. Numbers appeared, counting down from three hundred, and she focussed on them to stop herself looking behind her. The shrieks were louder now, and mixed with grotesque slurping sounds, but she knew that to look would steal the last shred of courage from her body.”

What a great story. A believable world of snow and ice, and a tough, engaging protagonist. Vanja is a trader moving between isolated settlements, navigating the hazards of a harsh environment and sometimes prejudiced attitudes towards women as she searches for relics relating to the mysterious ‘Builders’. This story has it all: ice spiders, snow bears, and terrific action sequences – immersive and beautifully paced. More! More! More!

To say that I was happy to hear that sort of feedback from such a talented author is a bit of an understatement!

As well as helping select the right stories for this format, Clan Destine had a spiffy cover designed, which you can see below:


Inside, you’ll find the following three stories:

Cold Comfort (first published in Epilogue, from Fablecroft Publishing)
Ice spiders, snow bears and deadly cold are only most obvious of the dangers a young trader faces as she searches for the secrets of the Elders on a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Through Wind and Weather (first published in Deck the Halls, from eMergent Publishing)
A rebellious pilot races against time to make a vital delivery to a planet in need. But in the face of the worst solar storm in years, his only ally is a sentient spaceship who is an outcast even to its own kind.

Our Land Abounds (appearing for the first time)
In a world divided by war and wracked by food shortages, the Republic of Australasia is an oasis protected by its isolation and the Border Patrol. But, a chance encounter leaves a weary veteran asking whether the price of plenty is too high.

I hope that you enjoy all three of the stories, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds in my association with the lovely folk at Clan Destine Press!

Galactic Chat 58 – Ken Liu

In this latest episode of Galactic Chat, I get to talk to one of my favourite writers – Ken Liu! I have to apologise to all our listeners, because I was completely starstruck, and not very articulate. Fortunately, Ken more than makes up for it with one of the most fascinating interviews I have done.

We cover a huge range of ground, from the art of short stories to the challenges and pleasures of translating into English. We also get to hear about Ken’s upcoming “silkpunk” novel, which sounds absolutely amazing.

Anyone who loves short stories, epic fantasy, going out into the broader culture of spec fic or sweeping sci fi will get a huge amount out of this podcast. Actually, any spec fic fan is going to love it!

In this week’s episode David interviews Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Ken Liu. They talk about the short story form, the difficulty in translating from Chinese to English, Ken’s translation of the Chinese sci-fi masterpiece The Three Body Problem by  Liu Cixin and Ken’s own epic fantasy”Silkpunk” series called The Grace of Kings. 

The blog post they reference in the cast is  http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2014/8/want-to-be-a-successful-writer-avoid-short-stories

You can find Ken at his website.


Reprint deal with Clan Destine Press

Observant followers of the scene may have noticed that Clan Destine Press have launched a new website, and have been signing some new authors – including fellow SuperNOVArians Jason Nahrung and Pete Aldin.

I am delighted to announce that Clan Destine have asked to reprint my story “Cold comfort” (originally published by Fablecroft in the anthology, “Epilogue”). Details are yet to be completely hammered out, but it looks it will be part of their new fiction imprint and it is likely that it will be paired with another of my shorts.

Clan Destine have a great catalogue of writers, and have produced some wonderful books, so I am very excited to have a chance to work with them.

More details to follow!

CDP Poster


ReDeus: Beyond Borders

Very excited to announce the upcoming release of ReDeus: Beyond Borders from Crazy 8 Press. This is my first time working in a shared world environment of this type, and it has been a great experience. There is a great line up of writers, and the editors have been amazing – not surprising given their backgrounds and experience in the industry!

On their website, Bob Greenberger says:

When Aaron Rosenberg, Paul Kupperberg, and I conceived ReDeus–our world if all of the gods from all of the pantheons suddenly returned and demanded worship once more–some years back, we initially thought it would be a fun playground for the three of us to explore, telling stories that we’d hope would find an audience. Last year, we decided to invite our friends to come play with us, resulting in ReDeus: Divine Tales, an anthology of eleven stories that debuted at Shore Leave, marking Crazy 8 Press’ first anniversary.

We had so much fun with that, and got such excellent response from readers in person and online, we decided to do more. In fact, coming this year there will be two more collections. First up is ReDeus: Beyond Borders, a collection of tales exploring how the gods settle back in around the world.. We’ll see some returning characters from the first book and some very familiar gods, but our writers have also chosen to explore some nooks and crannies about life within the first two decades after the gods of myth have all returned. Everything has not necessarily turned out for the best, especially in some lands, nor is it all bad as we will discover. And with so many gods vying for worship, there’s some interesting jockeying going on, for lands and for people. It’s a vastly different world the gods have discovered and while some embrace the new technologies, others find it abhorrent. That in itself makes life among the mortals complicated, an ever-changing struggle to live and provide for the families.

The anthology will be launched at Balticon in late May, and I will be posting more information soon.


Tales of the Shadowmen 9 Now Available

Tales of the Shadowmen is now available to purchase. With a great lineup of stories (even if I do say so myself), it is  guaranteed to be packed full of action and adventure! You can find it here.

Matthew Baugh: Tournament of the Treasure starring Steve Costigan, Townsend Harper, The Black Coats.
Nicholas Boving: Wings of Fear starring Harry Dickson, Bulldog Drummond.
Robert Darvel: The Man With the Double Heart starring The Nyctalope.
Visions of the Nyctalope (illustrated portfolio)
Matthew Dennion: The Treasure of Everlasting Life starring Allan Quatermain, Dr. Miguelito Loveless, The Black Coats.
Win Scott Eckert: Violet’s Lament starring Sir Percy Blakeney’s daughter, Countess Nadine Carody, The Black Coats.
Martin Gately: Wolf at the Door of Time starring Doctor Omega, Moses Nebogipfel, The Nyctalope.
Travis Hiltz: What Lurks in Romney Marsh? starring Doctor Omega, Doctor Syn.
Paul Hugli: As Time Goes By… starring Doctor Omega, Rick Blaine.
Rick Lai: Gods of the Underworld starring The Black Coats, Vautrin, Doctor Lerne.
Jean-Marc Lofficier: Dad starring Glinda.
Nigel Malcolm: To Dust and Ashes, in its Heat Consuming starring Harry Dickson, Professor Quatermass.
David McDonald: Diplomatic Freeze starring Flashman’s son, The Nyctalope’s father, The People of the Pole.
Christofer Nigro: Death of a Dream starring The Phantom of the Opera, The Black Coats, The Domino Lady.
John Peel: The Benevolent Burglar starring Maigret, J.G. Reeder, The Saint.
Neil Penswick: The Conspiracy of Silence starring Fantômas.
Pete Rawlik: Professor Peaslee Plays Paris starring Pr. Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee, Hercule Flambeau, The Black Coats.
Joshua Reynolds: Nestor Burma Goes West starring Nestor Burma, Jim Anthony, Irma Vep.
Frank Schildiner: The True Cost of Doing Business starring Mr. Big, The Black Coats.
Bradley H. Sinor: The Silence starring Michel Ardan, Colonel Moran, John Carter.
Michel Stéphan: Vampire in the Fist starring Irma Vep.















If Edith Piaf liked to sing about la vie en rose, this volume of Tales of the Shadowmen, the first and only international anthology devoted to paying homage to the world’s most fantastic heroes and villains, is dedicated to la vie en noir, the darker side of life.

And what could be darker than the sinister brotherhood of criminals known as the Black Coats and their legendary treasure, a malignant self-aware entity that is the embodiment of greed and avarice?

You will also find gathered here stories about the evil Fantômas and the mysterious Yellow Shadow, the crafty Doctor Cornelius and the megalomaniacal Sun Koh, the ruthless Irma Vep and the frightful Bride of Frankenstein; in these pages, you will read tales of creatures and zombies, and things from otherworldly reals, and likely gasp at the most monstrous couple of parents ever imagined…

Wednesday Writers – Greg Mellor

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being asked to be one of the interviewers for the 2012 Aussie Snapshot. Not only did I get to work with some of my favourite people in Aussie Spec Fic, it also gave me the opportunity to meet a whole heap of new people (and an excuse to email them lol) who were all doing exciting things and having a big impact on the scene.

One of those people was Greg Mellor, and there is no doubt that he is a writer to watch. Not only is he a regular contributor to markets of the calibre of Cosmos, with an impressive list of overseas sales, he is also one of the most qualified science fiction writers going around! It is not always the case that people who are talented writers of science fiction have such a background, or that people with this academic pedigree are any good at writing quality fiction. Greg has that rare combination of both, and there is no doubt this a big part of why he is one of the rising stars of Aussie Spec Fic.

Science (and Philosophy) in Science Fiction

I think one of the major challenges for science fiction writers is getting the right blend of ideas and entertainment in each story. Hopefully this should result in a narrative that provokes the reader to ask questions about what is going on and why, but also presents the reader with a narrative that has an enjoyable kinesis leading to a satisfying conclusion. I think another major challenge is achieving the right mix of science and humanity. Too much science, and the story may as well be a thesis; too much humanity, and it’s just not science fiction.

As I continued to produce more short stories for Wild Chrome during 2010 and 2011, I found that the cross roads of ideas, entertainment, science and humanity is also the stomping ground for reflection and a little philosophy. I don’t claim to do the philosophy very well, but damn it, I like having a go.

For example, terraforming is a well worn scientific idea involving modifications of extra-terrestrial atmosphere, surface and ecology to achieve Earth-like conditions. I like the idea but I can’t help but think it’s a little arrogant. Do we really think we could replicate a biosphere that has emerged over billions of years of deep time? Hmm, still, imagine if we could use some form of technology to create an Earth-like environment. Now imagine if we quickly followed this up and took our supply-chain economics out there to feed the hungry colonies.

To me this represents the intersection of two seemingly mutually exclusive ideas: could we go to the extremes of creating something as beautiful as a habitable biosphere and ruin it with supply chain madness? We’re doing it with our evolved world because we don’t know any better right now. But will we ever know any better? If I were the terraformer I’d be livid, wouldn’t you? Or would you still hold out hope for humanity? Maybe there’s a chance we would get it right on some planets. It’s not just an ethical dilemma; it’s a deeply philosophical one that goes to the heart of our humanity.

When I wrote “Terra Q” I thought these ideas and the science alone would make for an interesting thesis, but it wouldn’t be fiction. Then I put myself in the shoes of the terraformer. That would probably give me an angry thesis. Then I thought: what if I interviewed the terraformer? How do you feel, dude? How did you get into this gig? How the hell does this technology work? Why are half your planets being ruined? Why do you keep building new ones? That might give me a thought provoking narrative, hopefully entertaining, with science and humanity all mixed in. And no, I didn’t resolve the philosophical dilemma!

My writing also tackles traditional intersections of science and philosophy. For example, I like the theme of technology and death. There are very few stones unturned in the SF genre, so rather than tinker at the bleeding edge, I try to produce stories with heart, even if the protagonist has a black heart. In my Urban Decay series, I wrote about a world after decades of GFCs and climate change, where the middle and lower class are disavowed into the badlands or “mulch” surrounding the shining cities. The really rich people – the ones running business and government – live in orbitals.

In this setting, the protagonist in “Beyond Winter’s Shadow” is a humble store owner who helps a homeless kid reconstruct his dead mum’s persona using an app that responds to external stimuli, but in the process finds some kind of personal enlightenment after the years of service to the community. In “Hollow Places” a desperate mum tries to save her brain-dead son by rebuilding aspects of his personality through a virtual interface, but still struggles to reconcile her own selfishness. I think technology can give us the sense (delusion) that we have some control over the uncontrollable. In these stories it is control over the inevitability of death. We never give up, we’re always, and I mean always trying to avert the course of fate or nature. Are we saving others, seeking our own salvation, or a little bit of both? I suppose there’s also an element of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” in this struggle to recreate life. I think future technologies will give us more options and thus more hope, so taking us to even more extreme “solutions” – just find it in the cloud!

I think the antithesis of this is the use of technology to extend the experience of death and decay. In “Time Capture” a deranged father prolongs his own pleasure and despair through a bizarre virtual interface with his murdered daughter. Publishers Weekly said “Time Capture” is “truly disturbing”. I never quite set out for it to be like that, but the protagonist took me on a nasty journey. I imagine that an imbalanced killer with advanced technology at his disposal would seek to fuel his own perversions.

I venture further along the science and philosophy path in several post-human stories in Wild Chrome where society is either on the cusp of, or just beyond the technology singularity. In “Autumn Leaves Falling” the protagonist struggles with the idea that uploading his mind is tantamount to suicide. He wonders whether it is really okay to hope for a richer experience in an uploaded collective, even if it means sacrificing his corporeal body.

In “Heaven and Earth” the very rich families have created the singularity and taken their secrets with them into the galaxy. The story follows a human woman trying to reconnect with her post-human lover. The post-human collective has retained the bigotry of a regular society. As the protagonist evolves, she dares to speak out and be one voice in a billion seeking change. It’s hard enough these days standing out from the crowd, never mind in a collective consciousness where all your hopes and fears are known by others.

In “Fragments”, the Earth has suffered a botched technology singularity, leaving many people in a kind of half-uploaded limbo. The protagonist is a guy left behind looking for the fragmented remains of his wife in the ruins, living in hope that something of her can be salvaged. I think hope drives many of my characters. There is true despair in the singularity event, but there is also hope borne from sacrifice and darkness.

In “Ethos Anthropoi Daimon” the post-human world is dystopian, a reflection of the dark nature of men. The gothic bad guy called Spain lives in hope of something more than the drudgery of dystopia, but in the end it is the character of men that has created his world – character is fate. Try as he may, Spain struggles to escape his own flawed character.

Finally, the theme of morality plays out in several stories of alien contact. “Alien Intent” is set in a colony world on Sirius where the humans have slaughtered the indigenous species. “The Trouble with Memes” is set in the near future Earth where humanity has made contact with an interstellar network of post-corporeal societies. The stories ask, in different ways, whether we are worthy of the responsibility of being an interstellar species, but from the POV of the aliens. In both cases we come up short. The aliens can see us for what we really are, but we struggle to achieve any level of introspection and therefore conscience until the situation forces us to. It seems we are wired to evolve like this, but not yet advanced enough to make the collective choice necessary to lift ourselves out of the “red in tooth and claw” evolution and make moral choices about our future and the well-being of the species around us.

I delve into this theme a little more, but in a sardonic way, in “Ravenous”. Again, I took the alien POV on a world where humans are simply out of control – an interstellar blight. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but there’s some gallows comedy and therefore some dark truth in it. The story basically suggests that we are what we are, and we’ll always be oblivious to this fact. The alien civilisations out there shall accept and suffer us, until the day one of them decides to fight back.

So, in conclusion, I enjoy injecting the philosophical stuff into my science fiction. Of course, it’s not all deep and meaningful in Wild Chrome, and there are stories that are purely action and entertainment, or stories that are purely about one person’s journey.

Producing the book has certainly been a hell of a journey for me and I don’t regret a minute of it. I hope you find it entertaining reading – be it intriguing, funny, gritty, heartfelt or all of the above!


Greg Mellor is a Canberra-based writer of science fiction, and occasional writer of horror, paranormal, romance, erotica, fantasy and any combination thereof.  He is also a totally awesome husband and dad – well, at least that’s what he tells everyone. Ask his wife if you want to find out the “home truth”.

Greg has worked and studied in and around Canberra all his life, with a ten year residency in the UK somewhere in the middle. For some reason he felt compelled to do an Honours Degree in Astrophysics, and as if that wasn’t enough punishment, he also completed an MBA in Technology Management. He has worked in professional service firms for the last 15 years and will continue to do so for a while yet to ensure he leaves enough inter-generational debt for his son and future grandchildren. There’s a long, puzzling journey from astrophysics to consulting, involving shelf-packing, builder’s labourer and general dog’s body, technical drawing, business reporting, IT systems trainer, electrical power-line maintenance, four wheel driving, writing science articles and . . . you get the gist. Don’t ask him “how” or “why”, suffice to say there were many “sliding doors”.

He is a regular contributor to Cosmos Magazine with “Defence of the Realm”, “Autumn Leaves Falling” and “Day Break”. His work has also appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, Aurealis, AntipodeanSF and Daily Science Fiction, plus several Aus and US small press anthologies including “Winds of Change”, “Flesh & Bone”, “Hit Men”, “Novus Creatura” and others. Greg reached the finals of the 2009 Aurealis Awards, Best Short SF category. His stories regularly receive mentions (honourable and otherwise) and tend to crop up on recommended reading lists around the internet.

In his spare time (is there such a thing?) he reads about consciousness, philosophy, psychology, physics, astronomy, history and evolution. This is usually followed by a self-help book so that he can still feel good about the world. Occasionally he’ll flick through the books of Paul Davies, one of his professors at uni  . . . spot the name drop. Then he’ll follow this up with the odd fiction book or two, referencing Keats for soulful quotes and Wilde for the brutal truth about human nature. Then, when he can’t cram any more in, he will occasionally get back to his writing in the hope that the collage of ideas makes more sense on paper than it does in his head.

Greg was delighted when Ticonderoga Publications accepted his debut collection, “Wild Chrome”. Now he faces the daunting prospect of the SF novel.

He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (CSFG), and the ACT Writers’ Centre.

Visit www.gregmellor.com to see pictures of his cat.


Wednesday Writers: Tracie McBride

Australia has a long and glorious tradition of – how shall we put this – adopting New Zealanders as our own. Sometimes, one can’t help but feel that we got the raw end of the deal and that our Kiwi cousins are quietly sniggering to themselves after off loading undesirables on us, see Russell Crowe for an example. But, more often, we benefit immeasurably from the export and end up with a Phar Lap. Tracie McBride falls squarely in the latter category. A talented short story writer, her short fiction is creepy and haunting and will make you very uncomfortable and her “little collection of short stories” as she calls it is one of the best investments of time and money you will make. And, not content to stop there she is also trying her hand at publishing! *sigh* The problem with Wednesday Writers is that my guests always make me feel like an underacheiver!

Meet The Local Authors (How I felt the fear and did it anyway)

When David invited me to contribute a post to his Wednesday Writers series, I went through an emotional process that is common for me. First, blind optimism – “Sure! I can do that! I’d be happy to do that!” Then, after looking at all the accomplished and eloquent Wednesday Writers who had gone before me, came crushing self-doubt and despair – “Waaaah! I can’t do this!” And finally came a grim, fatalistic determination – “Well, I said I would do it, so now I’ll just have to get on with it.”

I went through the same process when I attended a Meet the Local Author session at my local library recently as part of their annual Booklovers Festival. I saw the flyer, and thought, “I’m local. And I write stuff. Even got a book to prove it.” So I signed up. About an hour out from the event, I got the jitters. Aside from the venue and the time, I knew nothing about what to expect. What if there were so many accomplished authors there that my little collection of short stories published by a start-up small press was laughingly dismissed? Or worse, what if I were the only author to attend and wound up sitting on a table by myself? I briefly considered not going. But no – I had put my name on the List. And Lists are Sacred. I put on my Big Girl Panties and my best nervous smile and got on down there.

Upon arrival, the librarian gently herded me in the direction of the Local Authors table and introduced me to fellow author Daniela Zannoni. Daniela had arrived early and set up. She had flyers and posters. Her book “My Mother’s Memories (The Successes and Tragedies of An Italian Migrant Family)” was lovingly displayed on gilt book stands in two different editions, English and Italian. I was duly intimidated. I laid out my half dozen copies of “Ghosts Can Bleed” at the other end of the table and tried to look halfway competent.

For a while there it looked like Daniela and I were going to be the only authors in attendance. Then along came Arthur Yong. Before coming to Australia from Malaysia, Arthur Yong was a biochemist (let’s just ratchet up the intimidation factor a little bit more…) Unlike Daniela and me, Arthur didn’t have a stack of books for library patrons to peruse; the librarian found his book on the shelves and brought it over to display between ours. It is a handsome A4-sized volume entitled “Chinese Settlement in Whittlesea” which tells the story of sixteen different Chinese migrants and descendants of migrants living in the Whittlesea region of Melbourne. On the surface, the niche market sounds extremely small. And indeed, Arthur doesn’t even think in terms of ‘market’ for his book; when I asked him where and how he sells his book, he looked surprised and said, “I don’t. I got a grant to write and print it, so I just give it away.”

It was an interesting concept which, as a genre fiction writer, I had never considered before. Of course, I had heard of writers obtaining literary grants to complete works of fiction, but they generally went on to sell the book they’d been paid to write, and it got me thinking about the nature of the capitalist model for book publishing and marketing versus a model of literary patronage. In any case, after leafing through Arthur’s book and having to force myself to put it down lest I appear rude for reading instead of talking to people, I thought it would be of interest to a much wider audience than the handful of local libraries, historians and contributors to the book to whom he had gifted a copy.

The fourth author to join our group was Ian B G Burns, a prolific author and self-publisher, mostly of historical children’s novels set in Australia. With Ian I felt on more familiar ground as we discussed the various merits of Smashwords, Lulu and Createspace and the grave limitations of Spellcheck. Being a third-generation author, Ian has an impressive pedigree, but by this point I’d run out of emotional energy to be intimidated and had settled into enjoying the company of fellow wordsmiths. My usual writers’ social network consists primarily of independent genre fiction writers, so it was refreshing to learn of the experiences and journeys of other local writers.

And how did the afternoon rate as a promotional activity? The vast majority of library patrons avoided us in droves, being too engrossed in their free internet access (the librarian wryly commented that they could probably get rid of all the books and just run an internet café, and the numbers coming through the door would not change). But about halfway through the afternoon a visibly nervous young woman (even more nervous than me!) approached our table and introduced herself. She ran a programme at a local high school for creative writers, and would any of us like to come along and talk to the kids and maybe run a couple of workshops?

“Sure!” I said. “I have kids. I write stuff. I can do that. I’d be happy to do that!”

“By the way,” she said, “I have a budget, so I can pay you.”

“Money?” I said. “You’ll give me money to do it? Oh, I never even thought of that…”

Arthur Yong invited us all to be interviewed on his local – very local – radio show that broadcast at 10.30pm on a Friday night.

“Sure!” I said. “I can talk. I write stuff…”

Expect in a couple of weeks’ time as I make good on all these promises to hear lots of “Waaah! I can’t do this!” swiftly followed by mutterings of, “I said I would, so now I have to.”

And the fourth and final reaction – “I’m really glad I did that. Imagine what I would have missed out on if I hadn’t.”

Tracie McBride is a New Zealander who lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 80 print and electronic publications, including Horror Library Vols 4 and 5, Dead Red Heart, Phobophobia and Horror for Good. Her debut collection Ghosts Can Bleed contains much of the work that earned her a Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2008.  She helps to wrangle slush for Dark Moon Digest and is the vice president of Dark Continents Publishing.  She welcomes visitors to her blog at http://traciemcbridewriter.wordpress.com/