Tag Archives: writing

Paying for Our Passion – Amanda Bridgeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 About Amanda

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

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

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

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

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

Backcountry Novelisation Coming Soon (very soon!)

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

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

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

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

About the Book

Now a major motion picture based on a true story.

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

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

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

Praise for the movie Backcountry

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

9backcountry_

Guest Post – Emilie Collyer

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

Crossing Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It all clicked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’d like to check out the virtual launch today, you can join the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1544971379125101/

Or on my blog here: http://www.betweenthecracks.net/journal/

You can buy Autopsy of a Comedian and other stories here: http://clandestinepress.com.au/ebook/autopsy-comedian

You can buy A Clean Job and other stories here:

http://clandestinepress.com.au/ebook/clean-job

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

Paying for Our Passion – Andrew J McKiernan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paying for Our Passion – Amanda J Spedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rinse, repeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Post: Amanda Pillar on Editing and Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her day job, she works as an archaeologist.

Paying for Our Passion – Laura E. Goodin

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

I’ve run the gamut: living alone and writing while working full time and going to grad school at night; living alone and writing while on the dole; living with my husband and being the one earning more money, less money, no money. I’ve had demanding professional jobs, and demanding menial jobs, and menial jobs that didn’t even begin to interest me. I’ve run my own business while doing my Ph.D. and trying to scavenge writing time. I’ve been at home with a baby; I’ve been a working mom with a working husband and a child with a demanding schedule; I’ve been an empty-nester.

Through all of that, I’ve found that my success (as measured by publications, performances, and participation at cons) correlates almost not at all with my life circumstances. The only time in my life where the writing nearly stalled completely was while I was working in a highly demanding more-than-full-time job where I had to jump to a pager at all hours of the day and night for years. And even then, I held onto my writing dream by my fingernails (one story I wrote during those years eventually got published on the BBC4 web site, which still makes me very happy).

That said, some situations have been easier than others. I had one blissful year where I wrote full-time, supported by my husband, and our kid was old enough not to need 24-hour care, before I had to go back to work. My productivity soared. In contrast, at times when I have a lot of editing work (that’s my small business), I find that it dries up the word juju quite alarmingly. When I was in the throes of my Ph.D., not much else got written. The supply of words may or may not be limited but the supply of my ability to process and produce them is.

At the moment, I’m still running the editing business, and I’m commuting between Melbourne and Sydney two days a week to teach at a tertiary institution. The teaching money helps when the editing isn’t coming in, and – oddly – teaching doesn’t deplete my word juju the way editing does. The editing hasn’t, in fact, been coming in recently, and I’m finding that writing consistently is far less of a problem. Moreover, my husband, who is more steadily employed at the moment, is paying the majority of the bills, which takes a lot of the pressure off.

Several factors have consistently forced their way into my writing equation:

  • Job: the number of hours and amount of word juju, focus, and energy it requires
  • Family: the number of hours and the intensity of interaction required and desired
  • Extracurricular activities (I’m prone to these, and it has probably slowed my writing career down quite a bit, but it’s given me a lot more to write about, and is good for my soul)
  • Degree to which I’m either enthusiastic or discouraged about my writing at any given time

Balancing these – minimizing, maximizing, mitigating – is a moment-to-moment thing. I’ve long since given up on grand announcements (“THIS is the year my writing career really takes off!”), and I’ve begun to recognize that the bouts of black certainty that I completely suck and always will are, in fact, temporary. After eight years of writing seriously, during which all those factors have oscillated wildly, I’m noticing the peaks and troughs are flattening, and my energy is going less into climbing and falling than into just going forward. Some of that is the onset of middle age (which for the most part I’m relishing, by the way), and some is the slow accretion of data that yes, I am a writer. If I haven’t given it over by now, I’m not going to.

11015735_10205190972787882_1039060405_nAmerican-born writer Laura E. Goodin has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Adbusters, Wet Ink, The Lifted Brow, and Daily Science Fiction, among others, and in several anthologies. Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions. She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.

You can find out more by visiting her website.

Paying for Our Passion – Tehani Wessely

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

I’m an editor/publisher rather than an author, but in small press, I guess the same pressures apply. The income is rarely sufficient to support one person (let alone a family) – for me, if each project pays for itself it’s a win, but that’s not always the case. Even if it were, you can’t live on for-the-love, right? Anyway, I happen to love my day job – I’m a full-time teacher librarian (well, Head of Information Services) at an independent boys’ school, working 8am to 5pm most days. It is another facet of who I am, and I’m very lucky that I get to do what I love at work, which helps pay for my other passion!

What’s interesting is that having a day job doesn’t necessarily change my publishing output. I basically had a year off when the youngest was born (I did some online university tutoring and marking, but nothing like full-time) but I think I achieved just as much in the past year with full-time work and an interstate move as I did in that year off. For me, it’s kind of like that story of the jar full of rocks/pebbles/sand – if you put the sand in first, the rocks won’t fit, but when you have the rocks in, the sand fills the gaps. I think publishing is my sand – it’s what I do to fill in the gaps, and while I bemoan the fact I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do to create and market books, I don’t necessarily know if I would achieve much more even with that time. That said, looking back it’s possible a lot of projects got STARTED during that year off which then have taken 12 to 18 months to come to fruition, so maybe that’s the kicker – when you have the time, the creativity has more opportunity to flow freely, even if it’s not an immediate payoff.

In terms of what juggling day job and publishing looks like for me, I have four children from 2 to 12, and a husband who works away half the time and, while he doesn’t always “get” why I publish, fully supports me. This usually means time rather than money, but then, every dollar I’ve put into the press could have been going towards the family holiday or mortgage I suppose. It’s more about the ability to be able to go to things like conventions, to sell books, network with authors and so on though – without his support, I wouldn’t be able to do that as easily.

LogoSometimes I get a bit stressed about whether or not I can actually maintain the financial commitment or time necessary to make the projects happen, but so far, we’ve always managed it. That said, I did make a choice late last year to pull back on some of the projects I’d been considering, due to both financial and time pressure. It was a really tough decision, and they were hard emails to write, because I think if you aren’t trying new things and looking at new opportunities, it’s really hard for a small press to gain traction. But if I can’t make the best effort at the projects I’m doing, they aren’t going to be worth it anyway – publishing has such a long lead time and an even longer follow through, if you don’t want projects to sink without a trace, and I think that’s what I’m trying to find the balance with at the moment. The editing and book production isn’t really the problem. I think I could continue to load or even increase it, if that’s ALL I needed to do. But it’s not. It’s the rest of the publishing process that takes the longest time. And that’s where most of my guilt comes from – taking time away from my family to make these books. I can only hope that my kids see me following a passion and working hard to achieve my goals, and take some of that away for their own lives, not just all the time Mummy spends at the computer rather than playing with them… Yeah, a bit of guilt.

In terms of the sacrifices I make in order to do what I do, although the money is a part of it, I think it’s definitely the time that is the biggest sacrifice. But you know what? If I wasn’t making books, I’d almost certainly be doing something else with that time, and it’s not a guarantee that something would be hanging out with the kids, I’m afraid! It might be something less deadline-specific, I suppose. Maybe it would be exercise…

CLOH cover smallI have been working with small press publishing since 2001 – my first child was born in 2002. I’ve lived in five different states in that time, worked full- and part-time, sometimes with contract work on top. Every time I’ve had a hiatus from a paid job, I’ve upped the ante in publishing – FableCroft was started two months after my third baby was born. The problem is, when I’m not working and have more time to give to publishing, I don’t have an income from my day job. And when I’m working and have perhaps a bit of extra money, naturally I don’t have as much TIME to invest in projects. Maybe I could be a better mother – I’m not sure. If I’m happy and fulfilled, I think I’m a better person which lets me be a better mum, but maybe that’s what I WANT to think because I don’t want to give it up? It’s a balancing act and I don’t think there are any easy answers.

What would be the ideal? I’m not sure there is one. I genuinely love my day job, and at this stage, wouldn’t want to give that up. I am well paid in my role, more so than I would be in most roles even in the mainstream publishing industry, so I can’t see us being in a position for me NOT to have a day job any time soon. However, one day, maybe, I think I would love to be able to either focus entirely on FableCroft or, should an opportunity arise, perhaps take on a position in a large publishing house. You never really know what the future will bring – for now, everything I do is another string in my bow to a potential future prospects. And we’ll see where life takes us!

10847783_10204716753775216_7468526947719541367_n (1)Tehani Wessely was a founding member of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2001. Now firmly entrenched in Australian speculative fiction and independent press, she operates FableCroft Publishing, has edited for Twelfth Planet Press (among other duties), judged for the Aurealis Awards (for which she is the current judging co-ordinator), CBCA Book of the Year and the WA Premier’s Book Awards, reads far more in one genre than is healthy, and writes reviews, non-fiction and interviews. In her spare moments, she works as a Teacher Librarian and enjoys spending time with her husband and four children.

Before FableCroft, Tehani was the editor of ASIM #4, #16, #27, #31 and #37, three Best Of ASIM e-anthologies, co-editor of ASIM #36, the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights and other projects. In 2014, Tehani received the Aurealis Award for Best Anthology for One Small Step (tie) and The Bone Chime Song and other stories by Joanne Anderton received Best Collection the same year. Many stories and works she has published have been shortlisted for (and won) multiple awards including Ditmars, Aurealis Awards, WSFA Small Press Awards, Tin Ducks, Chronos Awards, Australian Shadows Awards and Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and have been honorably mentioned and collected in multiple Year’s Best and other reprint anthologies.

In 2015, Tehani will publish Cranky Ladies of History (co-edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts and crowdfunded on Pozible), Insert Title Here (an unthemed speculative fiction anthology), Havenstar by Glenda Larke (ebook reprint), Focus 2014: highlights of Australian short fiction (ebook Best Of) and probably other projects. She also has a Doctor Who essay appearing in the collection Companion Piece from Mad Norwegian Press.

Paying for Our Passion – Alan Baxter

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. First cab off the rank (and what a great post to kick off with!) is Alan Baxter.

Writing and Making a Living

For me, it’s been a long journey and it’s far from over. More years ago than I care to remember, I decided to take this writing gig seriously. I’ve always written stories, but I wanted to be a professional writer. At the time, I was working nine to five and, as I’m a martial artist and martial arts instructor, training six to nine, five nights a week, and weekends. My days were pretty full. I had no time to write. But I wanted to be a writer. So I made time.

My first novel was written in my lunch hours, Monday to Friday. I took food to work and every lunch break I would make a sandwich, go back to my desk, and work on the novel for about an hour. I wrote a whole book that way, and most of a second one. I also started working on mastering the art of short fiction, mostly in note books whenever I found time, as I had no home computer back then. I carried my novels around on a 3.5” floppy disc!

BoundAlong the way, I decided I needed to turn my life around. I hated the nine to five office drudgery – I was all about Kung Fu and fitness and writing. Then an opportunity came up – I was offered a redundancy. This coincided with another bit of luck – my father gave me a couple of grand as he’d had this big share dividend through his work and wanted to share it. Very decent of him! So I accepted the redundancy (which didn’t subsequently happen for nearly a year), and, before that salaried work actually came to an end, I used the money from my dad to put myself through night school and got my qualifications as a Personal Trainer. I was already fairly highly qualified as a martial arts instructor. Night school meant sacrificing some training time in the short term and I had to study a lot on weekends, but by the time my day job ended, I’d got my full Cert IV certification and I had a few grand of that redundancy payout in the bank to see me through building up a new business. I was taking a hell of a risk, but knew if it all turned to shit, I could fall back on office work again.

So I kept training, and teaching, and I built up a Personal Training business, and I wrote whenever I could. As the PT business began to pay for itself (thankfully just before the redundancy ran out!) it meant I was able to structure my time better. And this is what a large part of the decision had originally been based on – making time to write. I saw PT clients in the mornings and lunchtimes, I taught Kung Fu and saw clients in the evenings, and I had large chunks of time between clients and classes (mid-morning, mid-afternoon) to be a writer. It was tight living – still is! – but I made it work for me. I work my butt off at everything I do (as does my wife) and it just about keeps us going.

alan-2011-500x500-bwWhen my parents died, I got some inheritance, and that allowed us to move from the city to the country. I would much rather still have a family, but it meant we were able to pursue our dreams and lifestyle here. If that hadn’t happened, we’d probably still be doing the same thing in the city. So now I run my own Kung Fu Academy, a small school in a small town. If I concentrated on it 100%, I could make it bigger and make more money. But I want to be a writer, so I concentrate half my time on the Academy and being a PT, and the other half on writing. We never have enough money (my wife is my assistant instructor and a damn fine artist – www.halinka.com.au ) but we’re doing what we love. There is always the temptation to jack it all in and get a “proper job” – we’d have a better, regular income, but we’d be miserable.

We have a one year old son now, so we take turns looking after him. When we’re not teaching or training clients, we write and paint. Nowadays, we each have half the writing and painting time we used to, because we take turns looking after our boy, but we still have the same priorities: we run a martial arts school, we practice our arts and we look after our son. There’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into that lifestyle, but we’re making our lives what we want them to be.

Without the help from my parents along the way, things might be very different. Or not, I have no way of knowing – I would still have made those same decisions around the redundancy. But I certainly recognise that they helped me get to where I am now, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve also worked my ass off along the way and will continue to do so. And until one or both of us makes it big, we’ll always be sacrificing luxuries for our arts – martial, visual and literary – but we’re okay with that.

Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author who writes dark fantasy, horror and sci-fi, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. He lives among dairy paddocks on the beautiful south coast of NSW, Australia, with his wife, son, dog and cat. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website – www.warriorscribe.com – or find him on Twitter @AlanBaxter and Facebook, and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

He is the author of the dark urban fantasy thrillers, Bound, Obsidian and Abduction (The Alex Caine Series, HarperVoyager), and the dark urban fantasy duology, RealmShift and MageSign (The Balance 1 and 2, Gryphonwood Press). He co-authored the short horror novel, Dark Rite, with David Wood. Alan also writes short fiction with around 60 stories published in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US, the UK and France. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Postscripts, and Midnight Echo, among many others, and more than twenty anthologies, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror (2010 and 2012). Alan also writes narrative arcs and dialogue for videogames and wrote the popular writer’s resource, Write The Fight Right, a short ebook about writing convincing fight scenes. He has twice been a finalist in the Ditmar Awards.

Alan is represented by literary agent, Alex Adsett, of Alex Adsett Publishing Services.

As well as fiction, Alan is a freelance writer penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. He’s a contributing editor and co-founder (with Andrew McKiernan and Felicity Dowker) at Thirteen O’Clock – Australian Dark Fiction News & Reviews, and co-hosts AuthorCast with David Wood, a thriller and genre fiction podcast. He’s a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and a full Active Member of the Horror Writers’ Association.

Alan is an International Master of Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu and runs the Illawarra Kung Fu Academy.

Paying for our Passion – A new guest post series

Quite often, an article will come out and make the rounds of my writerly social circles, popping up seemingly everywhere, and exciting much comment and discussion. When it simultaneously gets posted all over the place and by a range of people or sites, it’s a good indication that it has touched a nerve or tapped into a subject that is of concern to a lot of people.

Recently, the provocatively titled “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from” seemed to be everywhere, and have everyone talking. From the article:

Here’s my life. My husband and I get up each morning at 7 o’clock and he showers while I make coffee. By the time he’s dressed I’m already sitting at my desk writing. He kisses me goodbye then leaves for the job where he makes good money, draws excellent benefits and gets many perks, such as travel, catered lunches and full reimbursement for the gym where I attend yoga midday. His career has allowed me to work only sporadically, as a consultant, in a field I enjoy.

All that disclosure is crass, I know. I’m sorry. Because in this world where women will sit around discussing the various topiary shapes of their bikini waxes, the conversation about money (or privilege) is the one we never have. Why? I think it’s the Marie Antoinette syndrome: Those with privilege and luck don’t want the riffraff knowing the details. After all, if “those people” understood the differences in our lives, they might revolt. Or, God forbid, not see us as somehow more special, talented and/or deserving than them.

……

In my opinion, we do an enormous “let them eat cake” disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed. I can’t claim the wealth of the first author (not even close); nor do I have the connections of the second. I don’t have their fame either. But I do have a huge advantage over the writer who is living paycheck to paycheck, or lonely and isolated, or dealing with a medical condition, or working a full-time job.

Thinking back to when I was first starting out (not that I claim to be to much further up the ladder or anything) I remember having some major illusions about the whole writing thing. I assumed that most of the established writers I knew wrote full time and were able to support themselves in doing so through the books and stories they sold.  I have to admit this created some false expectations of what I could expect, and a degree of pressure in my own mind about making money out of writing.

I think that many writers first starting out have similar ideas. We might look at the J.K. Rowlings of the world and assume that with our first book we can quit our day job and write full time. The setting up of false expectations can be very damaging when you don’t immediately take off. Juggling your creative time with a full time job can be draining at the best of times, how much more so when you feel like the time put into writing is being wasted because it isn’t immediately a huge success? And, what about people who have to juggle being a parent or a full time carer as well? People with a chronic illness? How do they cope?

Because this is a personal issue, we often keep it to ourselves. Worse, sometimes we don’t talk about it because we think everyone else is living the rockstar writer lifestyle and we are the only ones struggling to find that balance–and we don’t want to look like a failure. I thought this was a subject worth exploring, and hopefully seeing how others deal with these challenges might a) help new writers realise they aren’t alone b) give us all ideas that might help.

So, I asked  a range of writers and editors if they would be willing to share their experiences, and open up about how they balance writing with more mundane but essential things like paying the bills, or making sure they are spending time with their family. I hope that it helps other authors and editors out there see that they aren’t alone, and helps them set realistic expectations. This is where the title comes from–how do we pay for our passion for writing, whether in money, time or the things we have to give up?

If you want to contribute a piece to this please feel free to contact me – I am after a range of experiences so you don’t need to have been around for years (though more experienced writers are definitely welcome, too).

I am really looking forward to reading these posts, and hearing your thoughts.

Profiled so far:

Alan Baxter
Tehani Wessely
Laura E. Goodwin
Amanda J Spedding