Tag Archives: short stories

Wednesday Writers: Tracie McBride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deck the Halls is live!

Deck the Halls, the Christmas themed anthology from eMergent Publishing is now live! You can read a new story every hour as they are posted on the Literary Mix Tapes blog. follow the link for more details, and the schedule is below (including mine, right at the end).

Tuesday 17th July
9am Touched Rowena Specht-Whyte
10am Drench the School Benjamin Solah
11am Coming Home Rebecca L Dobbie
12pm While You Were Out Sam Adamson
1pm Twenty Five Rebecca Emin
2pm A Jolly Pair Christopher Chartrand
3pm Gays and Commies Graham Storrs
4pm A Better Fit Jen Brubacher
5pm Salvation Nicole Murphy
6pm A Troll For Christmas Jo Hart
7pm Modraniht Kate Sherrod
8pm ‘Til Death Do Us Part Emma Kerry
9pm High Holidays Dale Challener Roe
10pm The Headless Shadow Jonathan Crossfield
11pm Not A Whisper Lily Mulholland

Wednesday 18th July
12am Through The Frosted Window Laura Meyer
1am Lords of the Dance Janette Dalgliesh
2am Midsummer’s Eve S.G. Larner
3am Yuletide Treasure Rob Diaz II
4am Broken Angel Jodi Cleghorn
5am Unfolding Alison Wells
6am Hail The New Trevor Belshaw
7am Softly Sing The Stars Steve Cameron
8am Through Wind and Weather David McDonald

Deck the Halls available for pre order!

Deck the Halls: festive tales of fear and cheer, featuring a story by yours truly, is now available for pre order! Press release below (and what an awesome cover!).

Pre-Order Now for the special price of $15.99 plus shipping (Australia only)

Editor: Jodi Cleghorn
Original Artwork: Andrew McKiernan
ISBN: 978-0-9871126-4-4 (paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9871126-5-1 (eBook)
Size: 203x127cm (Perfect Bound)
Pages: 226
RRP: A$21.99

DECK THE HALLS traverses the joy and jeopardy of the festive season, from Yule to Mōdraniht, Summer Solstice to Years’ End. The stories journey through consternations and celebrations, past, present and future, which might be or never were.

Along the way you’ll meet troll hunters, consumer dissidents, corset-bound adventurers, a joint-toking spirit, big-hearted gangbangers, an outcast hybrid spaceship, petrol-toting politicians, mythical swingers and a boy who unwittingly controls the weather.

Heart-warming and horrifying, the collection is a merry measure of cross-genre, short fiction subverting traditional notions of the holiday season.


Touched Rowena Specht-Whyte
Drench the School Benjamin Solah
Coming Home Rebecca Dobbie
While You Were Out Sam Adamson
Twenty-Five Rebecca Emin
A Jolly Pair Christopher Chartrand
Gays and Commies Graham Storrs
A Better Fit Jen Brubacher
Salvation Nicole R Murphy
A Troll for Christmas Jo Hart
Modraniht Kate Sherrod
Bosch’s Book of Trolls Susan May James
‘Til Death Do Us Part Emma Kerry
High Holidays Dale Challener Roe
The Headless Shadow Jonathan Crossfield
End of a Tradition Paul Servini
Weatherboy Nik Perring
Not a Whisper Lily Mulholland
Lords of the Dance Janette Dalgliesh
Through Frosted Glass Laura Meyer
Midsummer’s Eve Stacey Larner
Yuletide Treasure Rob Diaz II
Broken Angel Jodi Cleghorn
A Golden Treasure Chia Evers
Fast Away Jim Bronyaur
Apprentices to Time Icy Sedgwick
Unfolding Alison Wells
Egg-Ceptional PJ Kaiser
Hail the New Trevor Belshaw
Perfect Light Dan Powell
Softly Sing the Stars Steve Cameron
Through Wind and Weather David McDonald

Quick Update

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

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

Hopefully I will have a more substantial post up soon!

Wednesday Writers: Cat Sparks

Often it is something said as a polite fiction, but Cat Sparks really does need no introduction. One of the brightest lights of Australian spec fic, she has done it all from editing award winning anthologies to writing award winning fiction. As the Editor of Australia’s only pro sci fi short fiction market and as a writer of exquisite short stories sharp enough to cut you if you are careless, there is no one more qualified to talk about the craft of writing. Here, Cat tells us about the importance of finding the right title.

On the importance of titles and why you should put some effort into ensuring yours don’t suck by Cat Sparks

If fiction is a delicious slice of cake, the title is the icing. Titles should be enticing: lush but not too rich. The perfect accompaniment to the dense slab of literary calories beneath. But enough talk of cake, it’s making me peckish. Titles are important for several reasons, yet many writers don’t give them so much as a cursory effort.

To me, it’s a bit like this: when you attend an important event, such as a wedding or dinner party, you dress accordingly and mostly that means smart clothes. To turn up in tracky pants and a dirty t-shirt is lazy, amongst other things. Boring titles are lazy. Writing is hard work. Why top off your efforts with something slack and half arsed?

Your title is an advertisement for your prose. Stylish and intriguing versus dull and descriptive. It’s a story you’ve written, damnit, not a catalogue entry.

Your title should reflect, echo, enhance or qualify your story’s theme. If your story doesn’t have a theme, no need to bother — I’m probably not going to be all that interested in reading it anyway.

A title can be important to the understanding of the work. Your title should be meaningful, memorable or evocative. Your title should resonate.

A title is often the hardest part of the story to write.

Stylish titles speak to professionalism and hint at the possibility of stylish prose to follow.

If a slushpile story title is intriguing, I am automatically predisposed to want to like the story that comes with it. Maybe I won’t end up liking it after all, but isn’t positive anticipation an excellent place to start?

A stylish title tells me that you’ve put some thought into it. It suggests you might be an artist — or at the very least, an artisan.

Some titles are so powerful or beautiful that they scream out for stories to accompany them.

I keep a lookout for potential titles for my own stories long before I have the stirrings of ideas. All the Love in the World and The Sleeping and the Dead are two examples. Both made me think long and deep about what such sets of words might encompass. Eventually the right stories made themselves apparent and I endeavoured to bring them into being. The Alchemy of Light is the title of a story I’ve been trying to get right for years. Still failing miserably, unfortunately — but isn’t the title a stunner!

I’ve never rejected a story from Cosmos or Agog! because it had a crappy title, nor have I selected a crappy story because it had a brilliant title. Most stories we buy for Cosmos end up having their titles changed. The reasons vary. Sometimes they’re too long for the page layout, sometimes too short can look odd when married with the illustrator’s work. Mostly a much cleverer option seems obvious.

Give yourself — and your story — the best chance possible of being chosen. Dress your story in its Sunday best, make sure its shoes are shiny and its nose is clean. Sometimes in life — and publishing — it’s the little things that matter.

Check out this interesting article on titles:
Titles That Didn’t Smell as Sweet

Cat Sparks is fiction editor of Cosmos Magazine. She managed Agog! Press, an Australian independent press that produced ten anthologies of new speculative fiction from 2002-2008. She’s known for her award-winning editing, writing, graphic design and photography.

Cat was born in Sydney and has traveled through Europe, the Middle East, Indonesia, the South Pacific, Mexico and North America. Her adventures so far have included winning a trip to Paris in a Bulletin Magazine photography competition; being appointed official photographer for two NSW Premiers and working as dig photographer on three archaeological expeditions to Jordan.

A graduate of the inaugural Clarion South Writers’ Workshop, she was a Writers of the Future prize winner in 2004. She has edited five anthologies of speculative fiction and more than fifty of her short stories have been published since the turn of the millennium.

Cat has received a total of seventeen Aurealis and Ditmar awards for writing, editing and art including the Peter McNamara Conveners Award 2004, for services to Australia’s speculative fiction industry. She was the convenor of the Aurealis Awards horror division in 2006 and a judge in the anthologies and collected work category in 2009.

An active member of Science Fiction Writers of America, her fiction is represented by Jill Grinberg Literary Management, New York.

She is currently working on a biopunk trilogy and a suite of post-apocalypse tales set on the New South Wales south coast.

Her story ‘All the Love in the World’ is reprinted in Hartwell and Kramer’s Years Best Science Fiction, Volume 16.

In January 2012 she was one of 12 students chosen to participate in Margaret Atwood’s The Time Machine Doorway workshop as part of the Key West Literary Seminar Yet Another World: literature of the future. Her participation was funded by an Australia Council emerging writers grant.

In March she will be embarking upon provisional candidature for a Doctorate of Philosophy – Media, Culture and Creative Arts through Curtin University.

Wednesday Writers: Lincoln Crisler

Writer, editor and combat veteran, Lincoln Crisler is truly a man of many talents! As someone who has sat on both sides of the slush pile divide, Lincoln is well qualified to talk about what lessons he has taken from his stints as an editor and how he has applied it to his own writing. Oh, and buy his anthology – it looks AWESOME!

The Author as Editor, and Vice-versa

Cover by Jessy Lucero

As some of you may know (and if not a single one of you, David’s readers, knows, I really need to stop charging people for my mad marketing skillz), I have an anthology coming out on March 1st. It’s a collection of dark stories about people with superpowers. It’s the second anthology I’ve edited (and you can read more about that here). I learned some stuff in the process. Editing’s made me a better author, and quite possibly, a better human. Continue reading

Wednesday Writers: Kaaron Warren

Through good fortune, rather than good planning, I seem to be doing rather well so far with the timing of my guests. To follow Nicole Murphy’s spirited defense of romance on the day after Valentine’s Day, this week I have the pleasure of hosting the delighful Kaaron Warren who was the talk of the internet this week with Sunday’s exciting announcement that she had made the shortlist for the Stoker Awards. Kaaron is a perfect example of what I call the “Haines Effect”, a writer whose incredibly dark and disturbing fiction keeps you awake at night and makes you wonder whether they would be safe to be around, but turns out to be amazingly warm and friendly in person. Here she talks about her experiences with putting together collections of her short stories.

I’ve always adored short stories. My favourite anthology from a young age was one called Ten Tales, which held The Bottle Imp, by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Exit, by Harry Farjeon. These two stories remain two of the most perfect pieces of fiction I’ve ever read, and they are the example I’ve always wanted to achieve. This anthology also has “The Truth about Pycraft”, by H. G. Wells, another wonderful story, and the horrendously racist (so awful there is no way I could read it to my children) “The Circus” by Booth Tarkington. It is similar in theme to Richmal Compton’s “The Show”, which is so funny, ninety years after it was written, that the kids and I weep with laughter when we listen to it on disc. Ten Tales was edited by A. A. Phillips, who apparently developed the term cultural cringe! It was published in 1951; I think I read it when I was about ten, in the mid seventies.
Continue reading

A Significant Milestone

One of my big goals this year was to make at least one sale to an Australian market. I have been very happy with my US sales, but there is nothing like selling something locally, especially in a scene as vibrant and healthy as the Aussie one. So, I am thrilled to announce my first Aussie sale! And, not only is it wonderful to look forward to seeing a story of mine published in Australia, the fact that it is with Fablecroft Publishing, who have done some great work over the past few years, makes it even more satisfying. Looking at the ToC, this will be an awesome anthology.

From the Fablecroft website:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the table of contents for Epilogue (the anthology formerly known as Apocalypse Hope). I had more than 200 submissions for this anthology, many of a very high quality, and it was difficult task to sift through them to pick out the finest gems. I present the final lineup, and look forward to bringing these stories to you in print.

“Time and tide” by Lyn Battersby

“Fireflies” by Steve Cameron

“Sleeping Beauty” by Thoraiya Dyer

“The Fletcher Test” by Dirk Flinthart

“Ghosts” by Stephanie Gunn

“Sleepers” by Kaia Landelius

“Solitary” by Dave Luckett

“Losses beyond the kill point” by Kathleen Martin

“Cold comfort” by David McDonald

“Mornington Ride” by Jason Nahrung

“The last good town” by Elizabeth Tan

Thank you to every author who sent in submissions, which came from all around the world – some rejections were very difficult to make, and I wish those authors the very best in finding their stories a home.

For those interested, the final contents include 11 stories, nine by Australians, one from the US, one from Sweden. There are six female authors, and five male. The stories are all original to the anthology.

I’m delighted with the line up for Epilogue, and can’t wait to show it to you all!

I have to give a big shout out and thanks to my good friend Steve Cameron (who is also on the ToC) who was a massive help. We spent a few frantic hours in the bar at Conflux proofing and critting “Cold Comfort” and his input there, and at many other times, has been invaluable.

This is the perfect way to cap off what has been a very satisfying year as a writer. Hopefully next year will be even bigger and better!

A productive week

Well, the last few weeks have been crazy busy, but the sort of busy that makes you feel like you have been really productive. Over the last few days I have been able to put a few ticks in the win column! The big one is that I sold two stories over the weekend, which is a wonderful feeling. I try not to talk too much about a story until I have signed the contract but the first one is a big one (my biggest sale so far, and I will definitely be talking about it in a post coming soon!), and I am also thrilled with the second sale.

Last year I submitted a story to  an anthology I desperately wanted to get into, but sadly it was rejected. A bit discouraged, I put the story up with my online crit group and it was absolutely panned. That’s never fun, but reading the feedback I realised that the editor had been quite right to reject it, and it had deserved the negative but constructive feedback. It just wasn’t up to the standard it needed to be. However, I still loved the concept despite there being so many things wrong with it. So, I gutted it and added the things it needed, like conflict and character motivation and made sure there was a real story arc.

As a result of that excellent feedback, and an editor who was happy to work with me on making it the best story it could be, I am excited to announce that Venus Transiens will be appearing in the upcoming Horror, Humor and Heroes 3:  The New faces of Science Fiction.

I also have two stories that have progressed to the second round of reading, both in markets that would mark another milestone, and I finally worked up the courage to submit to a pro market. Add NaNoWriMo, and finishing my uni work for the year (I ended up with a HD, a D and HD), I haven’t had much rest.

I also had a wonderfully convivial writer group meeting on Sunday which, as usual, has left me inspired and reinvigorated, and motivated to keep on writing.

Now all I need to do is catch up my Doctor Who watching!