Tag Archives: writing

WSFA Small Press Award Winner Announced

The winner of the WSFA Small Press Award was announced today at Capclave 2014. Congratulations to Alex Shvartsman on his winning story, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma!

I know it is one of those things people say so often that can be seen as a cliché, but it really was an honour to simply see my name next to the other nominees, all writers whom I look up to. It is also an honour have my name associated with all the past nominees and winners—talk about being in exalted company!

I think that the WSFA deserve our commendation for creating this award. To me, small press is the heart of the publishing world, and is worth celebrating and promoting. For many authors like myself, small presses are the first place we are given an opportunity to see our work in print, to work with editors and publishers, and learn our trade as writers. Through small presses, I have had a chance to work with editors like Tehani Wessely and Robert Greenberger, both of whom who have had stories appear on WSFA shortlists, and who have gone out of their way outside that initial relationship to take me under their wing, to mentor me, and continue to take an interest in my progress.

I also wanted to acknowledge John McKinlay, my great-great-great-great grandfather. He doesn’t have the same recognition as Sturt or Major Mitchell, but his journeys make incredible reading, and his resourcefulness and achievements make him the rival of any of Australia’s great explorers. It was a truly special experience to be able to take his journals and turn them into this story and I hope that it will lead people to read the originals, which are available in the public domain (you can find a copy here).

Writing this story brought some uncomfortable challenges. As I read, I realised that I couldn’t talk about McKinlay’s journeys without touching on his encounters with indigenous Australians. When writing about a culture that is not your own there is always the fear of getting things wrong or committing cultural appropriation, but it seemed to me that the only other choice was to erase them from this history, and that has been done too many times before. So, I attempted to portray them with respect, disavow the bankrupt idea of an empty land that white settlers filled by default, and acknowledge the place that the first inhabitants of our land have in all its stories. How well I have succeeded I will leave to the reader to decide.

I also need to thank Steve and Marieke Ormsby, the owners of Satalyte Publishing. It is no exaggeration to say that this story would not have been written without Steve’s prompting and coaxing and patience­—thanks for sticking with it, Steve! And, without Marieke, there would have been no were-dingoes! It’s a measure of the quality of what they are doing that two stories from their inaugural anthology made it on to this shortlist and I am sure it is just the beginning.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and especially the winner!

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

2014 Ditmar Award ballot released

Well, the past few weeks have been intense, so much so that I forgot all about this (after the first bit of squeeing), but the 2014 Ditmar Award ballot has been released, and I feature twice (highlighted in bold below)!!!

I have been very fortunate in how many wonderful people I have met since I first entered the scene, not only are most of the names on the ballot good friends, I have also had the chance to work with some amazingly talented people. Both Galactic Chat and the New Who reviewing stuff are so much fun to do, and that comes down to the great company in which I find myself.

Given that in both categories I am up against Hugo nominated works I don’t expect to win, but that’s more than okay. I am just proud to see my name up alongside so many people I respect and admire. Thank you to all those who nominated Galactic Chat and Reviewing New Who!

Whether you vote for me or not, please do make sure you do vote if you are eligible to do so. The more people who do, the more respectability the Ditmars have as the representation of the opinions of the entire Aussie spec fic community.

Good luck to all the nominees!

Voting has now opened, and will remain open until one minute before midnight AEST (ie. 11.59pm, GMT+11),
Wednesday, 28th of May, 2014.

You can vote online here, or visit here for more information.

Best Novel

  • Ink Black Magic, Tansy Rayner Roberts (FableCroft Publishing)
  • Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead, Robert Hood (Wildside Press)
  • The Beckoning, Paul Collins (Damnation Books)
  • Trucksong, Andrew Macrae (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Only Game in the Galaxy (The Maximus Black Files 3), Paul Collins (Ford Street Publishing)

Best Novella or Novelette

  • “Prickle Moon”, Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “The Year of Ancient Ghosts”, Kim Wilkins, in The Year of Ancient Ghosts (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “By Bone-Light”, Juliet Marillier, in Prickle Moon (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “The Home for Broken Dolls”, Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “What Amanda Wants”, Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts (Twelfth Planet Press)

Best Short Story

  • “Mah Song”, Joanne Anderton, in The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories (FableCroft Publishing)
  • “Air, Water and the Grove”, Kaaron Warren, in The Lowest Heaven (Jurassic London)
  • “Seven Days in Paris”, Thoraiya Dyer, in Asymmetry (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • “Scarp”, Cat Sparks, in The Bride Price (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • “Not the Worst of Sins”, Alan Baxter, in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 133 (Firkin Press)
  • “Cold White Daughter”, Tansy Rayner Roberts, in One Small Step (FableCroft Publishing)

Best Collected Work

  • The Back of the Back of Beyond, Edwina Harvey, edited by Simon Petrie (Peggy Bright Books)
  • Asymmetry, Thoraiya Dyer, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • Caution: Contains Small Parts, Kirstyn McDermott, edited by Alisa Krasnostein (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, Joanne Anderton, edited by Tehani Wesseley (FableCroft Publishing)
  • The Bride Price, Cat Sparks, edited by Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Artwork

  • Cover art, Eleanor Clarke, for The Back of the Back of Beyond by Edwina Harvey (Peggy Bright Books)
  • Illustrations, Kathleen Jennings, for Eclipse Online (Nightshade Books)
  • Cover art, Shauna O’Meara, for Next edited by Simon Petrie and Rob Porteous (CSFG Publishing)
  • Cover art, Cat Sparks, for The Bride Price by Cat Sparks (Ticonderoga Publications)
  • Rules of Summer, Shaun Tan (Hachette Australia)
  • Cover art, Pia Ravenari, for Prickle Moon by Juliet Marillier (Ticonderoga Publications)

Best Fan Writer

  • Tsana Dolichva, for body of work, including reviews and interviews in Tsana’s Reads and Reviews
  • Sean Wright, for body of work, including reviews in Adventures of a Bookonaut
  • Grant Watson, for body of work, including reviews in The Angriest
  • Foz Meadows, for body of work, including reviews in Shattersnipe: Malcontent & Rainbows
  • Alexandra Pierce, for body of work, including reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work, including essays and reviews at www.tansyrr.com

Best Fan Artist

  • Nalini Haynes, for body of work, including “Defender of the Faith”, “The Suck Fairy”, “Doctor Who vampire” and “The Last Cyberman” in Dark Matter
  • Kathleen Jennings, for body of work, including “Illustration Friday”
  • Dick Jenssen, for body of work, including cover art for Interstellar Ramjet Scoop and SF Commentary

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium

  • Dark Matter Zine, Nalini Haynes
  • SF Commentary, Bruce Gillespie
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond
  • Galactic Chat Podcast, Sean Wright, Alex Pierce, Helen Stubbs, David McDonald, and Mark Webb
  • The Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
  • Galactic Suburbia, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best New Talent

  • Michelle Goldsmith
  • Zena Shapter
  • Faith Mudge
  • Jo Spurrier
  • Stacey Larner

William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Reviews in Randomly Yours, Alex, Alexandra Pierce
  • “Things Invisible: Human and Ab-Human in Two of Hodgson’s Carnacki stories”, Leigh Blackmore, in Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1 edited by Sam Gafford (Ulthar Press)
  • Galactic Suburbia Episode 87: Saga Spoilerific Book Club, Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Reviewing New Who series, David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and Tehani Wessely
  • “A Puppet’s Parody of Joy: Dolls, Puppets and Mannikins as Diabolical Other”, Leigh Blackmore, in Ramsey Campbell: Critical Essays on the Master of Modern Horror edited by Gary William Crawford (Scarecrow Press)
  • “That was then, this is now: how my perceptions have changed”, George Ivanoff, in Doctor Who and Race edited by Lindy Orthia (Intellect Books)

Another review of Great Southern Land

Yes, it has been quiet around here. However, life continues apace and I am busily engaged in a  few secret projects that will hopefully be ready to announce soon.

In the meantime, I stumbled across another lovely review of Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land. The reviewer had some great things to say about the anthology, and was particularly kind about my story.

“Set Your Face Toward the Darkness” by David McDonald, told in journal style, also hit the spot for me. It’s a dark gothic story that re-imagines the fate of explorers Burke and Wills. While touching lightly on social commentary about the invasion of the country, the tale also shows the characters’ growing understanding about the natives’ “connection to the spirit of the land”, with descriptions of the harsh terrain emphasising the growing terror and isolation they feel. A great sense of place, well-developed tension and all-round, a good story.

It’s a very nice feeling when someone “gets” your story, and seems to understand what you were trying to achieve. I am new enough to all this to be unused to reading people’s thoughts on my stories, and I am thrilled. You can follow the link above for the full review and read about the other awesome stories in the anthology.

And, if you so desire, you can buy both paper and electronic copies of the anthology here!

GSL Cover




Obligatory New Year’s Post

One moment you are making lists of all the things that you want to achieve by the end of the year, and the next thing you know you are dissecting the Hobbit and setting off party poppers to welcome the New Year.

Looking back over 2013 it was a pretty good year, but I have to admit I didn’t achieve all the things I had hoped. Of course, that just gives me some more goals for this year!

Some of the highlights:

Some of the disappointments:

  • Still haven’t cracked that pro sale
  • Not catching up with New Who in time for the 50th anniversary special
  • Not submitting to all the markets I had planned to through procrastination

So, what does 2014 hold, other than plugging away with the short fiction?

  • Another tie -in anthology which I can’t announce yet
  • A  sci fi novel which already has a few nibbles of interest
  • Revising my completed first draft of another novel (fantasy) with a view towards shopping it around
  • A YA novel in collobaration with a US author
  • Another conversational review series
  • Loncon and hopefully another con in the States!

I’ve come to realisation that the only thing holding me back is me, and that I need to develop a better work ethic and stop procrastinating. While I am setting myself some high expectations, there is no reason why 2014 can’t be an even better year than 2013.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me over the last 12 months and I look forward to celebrating all your successes over the next year. May 2014 be a wonderful year for you all! :-)

The Trophy

The Trophy

Review of Great Southern Land

I don’t know about other writers, but I really struggle to judge the quality of my own work so I usually just assume it is terrible! So, it has been nice this week to get some great feedback on a couple of stories. It was an especially pleasant surprise to come across a review of Tales of Australia:Great Southern Land by the industrious Aussie reviewer, Sean the Bookonaut. He covers most of the stories in the book, and has some very kind things to say about mine:

The collection finishes on David McDonald’s Set Your Face Towards the Darkness and having read his work before, this story is a bit of a departure from his normal style.  It is written in journal format – the secret journals of explorer John McKinlay, who was sent to find Burke and Wills.  McDonald does a good job of capturing a reserved 19 century style in these entries written to McKinlay’s sweetheart, Jane.  I think the most challenging thing in writing fiction in journal and letter form, is building and maintaining tension and McDonald does this in his interesting mix of alternative history and pop culture horror trope. If you like Australian gothic horror and reading between the lines of historical journals you’ll appreciate Set Your Face Towards the Darkness.

You can read the complete review here.

And, if you want to pickup a copy of the anthology, either directly from the publisher, or from Amazon. At only $4.99 for the ebook you can’t go wrong!

GSL Cover

My writing space

Over at her blog, the indefatigable Zena Shapter has been running a fun series of posts called #WhereWritersWrite. As the name would suggest, she is posting a series of pictures of the writing spaces of a number of authors. As a writer, I find it fascinating to get a peek at how other authors work so I’ve been following it with interest, and you should go check it out.

Zena has also opened up her Facebook page for anyone to post pictures of their writing space, so I took advantage of that and posted a pic of mine. After a few questions I added an annotated version. I have to say, I am usually a bit neater than this. Enjoy!

My writing spaceAnd in its annotated glory!


Wednesday Writers: Lee Battersby

Lee Battersby has long had a reputation as one of Australia’s leading writers of short fiction – in fact, even I had heard of him when I first came on the scene! The acclaim for his novel, ‘The Corpse-Rat King’, and the buzz surrounding its sequel showed that he is equally adept at the long form. I had the privilege of beta reading CRK and, while I am not sure I was much help, it means that I felt a degree of proprietary interest in its success. For that reason, and because Lee is an all round good guy, I’ve been delighted to see how well it has been received.

Lee is someone who is incredibly supportive of both other writers and the arts scene in Australia (see this amazing exhibition he played a big role in making happen). He also possesses an emotional honesty that is all too rare, something he brings to this guest post. Here, he eschews the usual platitudes about writing being a constant delight and how being a writer is an easy choice to make. It’s something we all think, but are not always brave enough to say aloud. Thank you for doing so, Lee.


 My problem is, I write in bursts: very heavy investments of both emotions and ideas, followed by periods where I lie fallow, exhausted or just plain worked out, and open my receptors to the Universe around me in an effort to refill the idea banks. It’s a great way to create intense, correlation-heavy texts—there’s an amazing synchronicity when your subconscious throws up two unrelated things that suddenly, in a way that neither you nor anybody else has ever seen before, fit together just so—but it’s draining, both mentally and emotionally.

I have down periods; great big down periods, where I question why I even bother writing. It’s a valid question: I have a large family, a job that attracts a lot of pressure and forces me to spend a number of weekends and evenings at work, a monster of a mortgage… writing takes me away from living my daily life. Much of the time I can’t adequately juggle the need to pay attention to all of my responsibilities, so I end up falling between them all and disappointing everybody. I’m not very good at my job, I don’t see enough of my family, I’m constantly under financial pressure, and most days I feel like I’m not a particularly good writer. Certainly, I can’t manage the business side of being a writer as well as some of my peers, because I simply can’t devote the time necessary to learning to be an effective businessman. Like an overweight Southern has-been, I often just rely on the kindness of strangers.


None of this is good for the mindset. Writing is an essentially selfish act. It demands total focus, and all the advice you receive from established professionals reinforces the selfishness—“Write every day”; “Live in the world of your characters”; “inhabit the world of your novel/short story/poem/limerick every single day”. Close yourself off, turn yourself inward, ignore outside influences. Place the imaginary, egocentric world of your imagination above the real, empirical needs of those around you and make them understand that it is more important than them right now and don’t damn well interrupt!

To which my sick son and hungry dog and dripping kitchen sink cry bullshit. Because we live in the real world, and once you’re a husband, and father, and wage-earner, and home-owner—at least, if you’re trying to be a better one than your ancestors—the real world is bigger than you are, and more selfish, and frankly, more important than some figment of your imagination that might, in all likelihood, net you a couple of grand two years after you first start ignoring your family to write the damn thing.

Which begs the question: why do it?

Which would normally beg the answer: I don’t know. And to be honest, 75% of the time, I don’t know why I don’t know. It’s an instinct, like a homing pigeon or an elk that still crosses the same highway, year after year, to get to mating grounds long dried up by an industrial estate, no matter how many times it almost gets run over by 18-wheelers on the way. But every now and again— not often, and sometimes, not often enough—I sit back from my keyboard in the certain knowledge that what I’ve just written, what I can see blinking back at me from the screen, is not only a unique fusion of two thoughts but an amalgam of two concepts that have never, ever, been combined in that way before, and even if it were to happen again it would not be so sweet, so explosive, so goddamned perfect. And it doesn’t matter that I’m eating baked beans for the last three days of the pay cycle, or that the dog’s pulled another work shirt from the line and has chewed a hole through it, or that I’ll be in another meeting tomorrow where the boss who doesn’t believe in me and the subordinates who don’t respect me will take turns to outline all the ways I’m responsible for the world being shit.

Because for that moment, that one, tiny, incandescent moment, I am a creature of sublime thought and purpose.

And apart from my wife and children, there is not a single thing in this world I could not live without to have that one, tiny, moment.

Lee Battersby is the multiple-award winning author of ‘The Corpse-Rat King’ (Angry Robot Books, 2012) and its sequel, ‘Marching Dead’ (2013) as well as over 70 stories in various markets round the round world including Australia, the US and Europe. He blogs at the Battersblog (www.battersblog.blogspot.com) and has a sometimes-belatedly-updated website at www.leebattersby.com. He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife Luscious Lyn, three moderately insane children, a dog he doesn’t like much, and the piles of detritus that come from life-long obsessions with Daleks, Lego, Nottingham Forest and the like.


Wednesday Writers: Tor Roxburgh

The Aussie Spec Fic scene is interconnected enough that even if you don’t know someone, you are friends with people who do. I have to be careful sometimes, there are people whom I have heard so much about from my friends that I feel like I know them and when I do meet them or interact with them online I have to restrain myself from being overenthusiastically effusive and treating them like we are bosom buddies (my apologies to people that has happened to!).

While I hadn’t met Tor Roxburgh in person, there was a pretty big overlap of friends,and I had definitely heard the name. In fact, the week before I did meet her, I had just had two separate lunches with people who had mentioned her, and praised her highly as a writer, and as a person. So, when we caught up at a book launch there could have been two problems – forgetting that she would have no idea who I was, and being disappointed if the reality didn’t match the reputation!

Fortunately, Tor not only proved extremely approachable, but was even nicer in person than I had been told! And, as I chatted to her, I could immediately see that here was someone extremely passionate not only about her writing, but about her artistic pursuits in general – to the point where she had moved in part because her local council was not supportive of the arts. I’m really pleased to have Tor here today, as she talks about a subject every writer can identify with.

Hiding From Your Writing

June hasn’t been a great writing month. It began with an allegedly work-related viewing and reading binge. I was on a couple of panels at Continuum 9 in Melbourne and wanted to be better prepared than I had been the year before.

I’m not one of those lucky people who can remember plot lines and characters so I decided to revisit some of the narratives that the other panellists and I had decided we’d focus on. I watched six movies and a season of Game of Thrones. I also read a couple of Tamora Pierce’s books and lots of scholarly articles on fantasy and mediaevalism and on female warriors in speculative fiction. And I made notes.

It all sounds really worthy but, honestly, it wasn’t called for. Continuum discussion panels are relatively informal and friendly affairs and they don’t demand the sort of preparation that calls for you to halt your writing.

I spent the post-Continuum week getting ready to open my new shop, which was necessary, but which also stopped me writing. I then spent a couple of days on writing-related activities that didn’t actually involve writing (meeting up with my writers’ group and then attending a social media master class). I realised something was up when I found myself reading four of Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels in a classic on-the-couch-wrapped-up-in-a-blanket-feeling-guilty binge.

Before I go any further, I’m going to show you a breakdown of my 2013 word count:

January – 4,547 words
February – 4,363 words
March – 22,497 words
April – 6,406 words
May – 3,915 words
June (with two working days left) – 2,477 words

The obvious stand-out months are March and June.

Productive March is easy to explain. I woke up one morning and decided I was getting lazy. I recalled my late twenties when I used to produce three teen romances a year and I compared that with my most recent fantasy novel, The Light Heart of Stone, which took about five years to write. I resolved to do better, pushed aside the other tasks in my life and wrote.

The slower the writing, the messier the desk.

The slower the writing, the messier the desk.

It felt good but there is a difference between writing a light and simple teen romance and writing a deeply plotted, YA, sci-fi/murder mystery in a fully resolved future world. There is more imaginative work involved in the latter so I wasn’t upset that I couldn’t keep up the pace.

But what about Unproductive June? Well, there was all of that busy, busy stuff that I’ve already told you about, but that wasn’t the real problem. The problem was I lost my vision for my novel and my vision of myself as a writer. Both states are familiar to most writers. Personally, I can manage one or the other but combined… Well, it was a challenge.

A writer friend of mine once told me that when you’re having trouble writing it can be a signal that there is a specific plot, character or a world-building problem. I realised my novel had all three. I forced myself to keep working on the novel while I tried to find the solution (because there’s nothing worse than stopping and having to restart) but mainly I just thought.

I lay in bed and wondered about the world I’d created. I imagined being one character or another and I thought about how I’d feel and what I’d do, what I’d believe in and what values I’d hold. I dwelt on the world itself and took little logical steps: if this, then that. I remembered what that same writer friend had once said to me: think about what’s happening off-stage, when your protagonist isn’t around. In a realistically drawn world there is a momentum beyond the actions of your protagonist and supporting characters.

It all helped, but my plot problem refused to resolve. In the end, my characters had to creep forward, word by word, into the problematic territory that stood between the written story and the envisioned end. Soon enough, things started to order themselves and the problem disappeared. Such an act of faith can be difficult for a hard-line atheist.

The good news is I discovered that losing your vision of yourself as a writer clears up when you find yourself back in the grip of your novel. Evidently, that sort of existential pain only hangs about when you’re disengaged from the sweet siren of narrative.

Tor Roxburgh is a writer and artist. Her non-fiction includes Taking Control, one of the first successful Australian titles about family violence, and The Book of Weeks, a tale of the complex story of the weeks of pregnancy. She was senior writer and researcher on the National Inquiry into Youth Homelessness. She is also the author of 12 teen romances.

Tor’s latest book, The Light Heart of Stone, is an epic fantasy novel that explores many contemporary themes. The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Prue Bentley calls it “very Australian”.

You can find out more at www.torroxburgh.com


Wednesday Writers: Tom Dullemond Returns

As promised, here is the second piece from Tom Dullemond that I wanted to run. All the nice things I said about him here are still true, unless in the time since his last post he has descended into a pit of drug and booze filled depravity from which he hurls abuse at the rest of us. Unlikely, but rejection can do funny things to us all, and no one knows rejection like a writer. Fortunately, Tom has seen fit to share with us some tips for dealing with its ever present spectre – enjoy!

Living with Rejection

(A 10-step guide to coping with the everyday reality of rejection letters)


Tom Dullemond

Rejections come in many forms, and it is interesting to note that the grander the magazine or publisher, the nastier and more impersonal the rejection letter or email. To soften the incessant rain of misery that all writers must at one stage or another deal with on their journey to becoming professional writers, I have drawn upon my own vast experience in this field to provide a quick reference guide to dealing with rejection.

  1. Cultivate your own sense of self-worth

This is an important skill to help you survive the initial shock of receiving a reply email without an attachment, or a SASE without the additional bulge properly associated with an acceptance contract. As you rip open the letter and unfold the tiny slip of paper within, or double-click the ‘New Mail’ notification, you need to hang on to the simple truth that you are a damn good writer. Learn to grow your nails – every extra millimetre helps as you desperately cling to this idea.

  1. Bemoan your misfortune

Remember, it’s not your fault the story was rejected, it’s the magazine’s. Some sub-editor clearly flicked through your story or article in a bad mood. The mantra, If only the idiot had handed it to the editor, everything would be fine now, may be useful at this time.

This acceptance of your misfortune will help you reconcile the rejection note with the fact that you were simply hard done by. You’re just going to attach your submission to another email and send it to another magazine. After all, it’s perfect. You’ll send it right after you read through it again to see why they might have rejected it.

  1. Maintain a professional attitude

Your cover letter should include something to remind the editor that you’re impatient with the rejections you’ve received in the past. Perhaps include something passive-aggressive like ‘I have been collecting rejection slips professionally for about a year now.’

  1. Learn to detach yourself from the natural flow of time

Three months may be a long time in politics, but for a writer, three months is nothing: it’s a perfectly acceptable period of time to wait for a magazine or publisher to get around to looking at your work. It’s possible to wait four months for a magazine to tell you that they like your story, but want you to clear up the ending a little and resubmit it, only to receive a final rejection 2 months later because it is in first person.

Time is completely irrelevant in this industry. Do not fall into the common misconception that, just because it is taking a long time to get a response, the recipient of your submission is considering it for publication. As the days tick over past the ‘expected response time’ and your palms grow sweaty with anticipation, as images of words in ink on paper begin to haunt your dreams, just remember that the delay is most likely due to an accident in the editor’s office, and that your submission may just be filed in the ‘personal’ or ‘insurance claims’ folder on the editor’s computer, because you didn’t follow the submission guidelines.

Detach yourself from the natural flow of time by ensuring you have a handful of stories out to magazines at any one time (preferably different stories). This means that even if you haven’t done anything for a week, someone, somewhere, is being forced to look at your writing.

An unfortunate side-effect of properly mastering this step is that your life will seem a lot shorter, but then no one said writing was easy.

  1. Discover the joys of indignation

So you’ve finally received a personalised rejection letter? Apart from this positive indication that a human being actually laid eyes on your words, you should be prepared to vent your frustrations at the incompetence of the editor who rejected your submission. ‘Not enough dialog’ a cheery checkbox might exclaim, or ‘flat characters’, or even ‘tired plot’.

What the editor has missed, of course, is that you were highlighting the protagonist’s alienation from society through his lack of vocalisation; that the blandness of the main characters is entirely due to their empty childhoods (it’s in the second paragraph, how could they have missed it?); and that the predictable nature of the plot is an ironic commentary on the trivialisation of modern relationships. Duh.

  1. Abandon your friends and family

You friends and family are great. Really, they are. Wonderful, supportive people. Their availability to read your material is a bonus, especially since no magazine seems to be accepting your stories. Your family will tell you how good/bad/exciting/interesting/confused your stories are. When they tell you how good they are, you feel great. When they diverge from your perception of the story, however, you revert to indignation (see step 5) although usually it is wisest to internalise these emotions so as not to jeopardise your inheritance/marriage/friendship.

This repression of emotion is unhealthy, however. It is far more beneficial simply to end the editorial relationship you’ve cultivated with your acquaintances. Do it now! It is easier to accept rejections from faceless (and ignorant) editors.

  1. Remember that you are only being rejected because you’re not famous

It’s a well-known fact that as a writer gains fame, their writing becomes lousy. This is obvious every time you pick up an edition of the magazine you’ve been trying to submit to and you see a famous name on the by-line of a story. After you’ve read the story, sneering all the way, you throw the magazine aside in disgust, because the famous writer’s story was crap. Your last seven have been much better, and not a single one of them was accepted.

Obviously this famous writer’s name is what’s selling her stories, not her inherent ability to write. If only you were famous you’d be published too. Although this logic is so circular you could use it as a spare tyre for your car, you must never forget to ignore the inherent problems of your assertions if you wish to combat the gloom of rejection.

  1. Destroy your rejection letters

Although some rejection letters are helpful, by virtue of positive comments on your writing, the majority of them are either critiques or form letters and these are of no relevance to your work of art. The only solution is to destroy them the moment you have finished reading them. Simple filing them in the trash or archive of your email is insufficient. You will need to print them out in order to tear them up.

Remember: if you destroy a rejection letter, then it never existed and you were never rejected.

NB: Do not forget to delete the email afterwards to avoid recurring trauma.

  1. Your writing is for the elite

It is completely understandable that popular magazines, the ones you want to be published in so badly, are produced for the masses. Your intellectually challenging short story (really a subtle examination of religion’s relevance to today’s society) is all too easily misread, leading to rejection. What you wouldn’t give for an intelligent editor, one who reads your piece with the concentration and devotion which it requires!

If the masses were more intelligent, you would be published by now.

  1. Ensure you always complete every project to which you commit

Tom Dullemond stumbled out of university with a double degree in Medieval/Renaissance studies and Software Engineering. One of these degrees got him a job and he has been writing and working in IT ever since. Tom was a co-editor of The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy and has sold short fiction to a handful of anthologies, including Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper. He writes a regular flash fiction column for The Helix science magazine, and is working on Literarium (www.literarium.net), an online service to help with the project management side of writing. His first middle-grade book, ‘The Machine Who Was Also a Boy’, has just been published through e-Mergent Publications (http://emergent-publishing.com/bookstore/the-machine-who-was-also-a-boy/ ).


Wednesday Writers: Maurice Broaddus

I first came across Maurice Broaddus when I was researching an intriguing market called “Dark Faith”. The idea of an anthology that examined the intersection between horror and faith was one that appealed to me greatly, and I had to know more. While I didn’t manage to get a story up to the standard I felt was necessary in time to submit, I’m glad that I stumbled across Maurice’s blog. By doing so I found someone who not only shares my faith, but lives it in a way that I admire deeply. You can see how Maurice’s faith informs his life in his passionate and outspoken advocacy for social justice. It’s an example of what I aspire to myself.

Maurice is a talented writer and editor, and is even cool enough to have his own Con! You’d think those things might lead to an overinflated ego and a sense of being better than others, but nothing could be further from the truth. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Chicon last year, and found him to be great company and extremely friendly and welcoming to a nervous new writer on his first overseas trip. And, when I imposed on our acquaintance and asked him for a guest post, half expecting such a busy guy to say no, he was gracious enough to send me this great piece – something I think we can all identify with.

Writing Through Tough Times

A friend of mine sent me this note:

“Please teach me how to go on producing writing when things around you are in total disarray.  It seems like no matter what the world throws at you, you can carry on with very little interruption.  At the moment, I’m so stressed out by all the crap life has thrown at me lately that I can’t seem to think straight.  Please advise.  This is a serious question, so don’t give me some flip-ass answer. :-)


Let me say that I’m shocked and offended that someone who knows me would assume I would give up a flip answer to something.*  So since my first response was “I still got bills to pay no matter what kind of drama I’ve got going on,” I’m left with a two part answer.  The first thing is to consider Michael Jackson.  His life was crazy and dramatic pretty much from the word go. Chaotic, dysfunctional family.  Surrounded by temperamental artists.  In a cut throat business.  Trying to navigate childhood.  Nothing we as writers could relate to.  But over the years, he answered the question of producing the same way: the only place he felt at peace and in control was on stage.

Writing is my stage.

The second thing to consider is that with writing the doctor is in and cheap.  No matter the clutter building up in my head and heart, art is a way to process emotion.  Whenever I sit down in front of a page, I am feeling SOMETHING.  That’s the place I write from.  Even if I’m not aware of WHAT I’m feeling, I just know that there is something for me to mine.  When I’m not feeling something, my writing is and reads like an intellectual exercise. So I sit down at the page and begin writing.  It doesn’t matter if I’m not specifically writing about what’s going on.  For example, I might not have written a story about someone being unemployed, but I can guarantee you that I wrote a character who struggled with the image issues (not being a man) or the loathing (from not being able to provide for his family) that comes from unemployment.

Writing is my therapy.

Writing allows you to put some distance between you, what’s going on, and what you are feeling.  You’re able to examine it from a variety of perspectives (not just what the main character is going through but how it impacts those around her/him).  You can talk things through using your character, dig deep within and plumb their heart and hidden feelings and truths.  Apparently this is so true for me that my counselor often began our sessions by asking “what are you working on?”  As you can probably imagine, I am pure joy when someone’s trying to get me to open up, however, I’m always happy to talk about my work.

This is part of how I inhabit the emotional space of my characters.  It’s no different than an actor preparing for a role.  You are standing there needing to cry.  So you draw upon a painful moment in your life and emote it.  It you want your characters to convey a certain feeling, you have to open yourself up to that feeling.  it’s why such great art comes from pain.  Pain is universal.

Writing is my medication.

So if I were you, I’d begin with character who is stressed.  Period.  Just see where the story goes. What are they stressed about?  How is the stress playing out, internally and externally?  How do the relationships change around them because of the stress?  What are they going to do to handle the stress?  Are they going to self-medicate?  Are they going to take a drastic action in order to regain some semblance of control in their lives?  There’s a story in your circumstance.  By writing that story, focusing on that character, I am distracting myself from the pain of life without just numbing myself and checking out.  I’m engaging it, wrestling with it, and not simply letting it have its way with me.

image005 Life happens.  We don’t always see it coming.  It can sneak up on us, break into the secure house of our lives, break our stuff, and make a mess of our routines, leaving us completely unsettled.  Unemployment.  Death.  Sickness.  Homelessness.  Loss.  People.  Each day brings a new challenge and new opportunities to grow.  Writing can be a valuable tool to help navigate those experiences and bring meaning and order to the chaos.  For me, everything gets used.  Every hurt, everything that makes me angry, every tear, every laugh, nothing gets wasted (I may be extreme because I’ve been in some pretty dire circumstances but could only think “this is going to make a cool story.”  The first step is to sit down with the blank page, put a pen to it, and see what comes out.

*Though you should probably also keep in mind that some of us function better in chaos and believe, consciously or unconsciously, that we thrive on it to gin up our creativity.

Maurice Broaddus is an exotic dancer, trained in several forms of martial arts–often referred to as “the ghetto ninja”–and was voted the Indianapolis Dalai Lama. He’s an award winning haberdasher and coined the word “acerbic”. He graduated college at age 14 and high school at age 16. Not only is he credited with inventing the question mark, he unsuccessfully tried to launch a new number between seven and eight.

When not editing or writing, he is a champion curler and often impersonates Jack Bauer, but only in a French accent. He raises free range jackalopes with his wife and two sons … when they are not solving murder mysteries.

The way he sees is, as a fiction writer, he’s a professional liar.

Coming closer to the truth, he was originally born in London, England, but has lived in America most of his life. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Purdue University in Biology (with an undeclared major in English) and comes from a family that includes several practicing obeah (think: Jamaican voodoo) people.

Whiling away his days as a freelance writer (including as a senior writer for HollywoodJesus.com) and ministry worker – he is about the pursuit of truth, be it by art, science, or by religion. He believes that lives should be lived missionally, that people should be about loving and serving one another, a lesson learned in his most important job: that of husband and dad.

Speaking of which, he’s married to the lovely Sally Jo and spends as much time possible with his two sons, Maurice the Second (giving him an excuse to retroactively declare himself “Maurice the Great”) and Malcolm X (named before realizing his son would be blond and blue eyed).

You can find his blog here.