Temporarily elsewhere

In a few hours I’m catching a plane to some far-flung corner of the earth. Or maybe not that far-flung, but I will cross more time zones and lines of latitude than I’m used to.

The wide teal-and-orange yonder

I know there are people who travel regularly for work and love it. I’m not one of those people. My stress levels tend to spike in direct correlation with my unfamiliarity with the people, places and situations I find myself in. My job for the next week will be training strangers in a foreign country – hello, stratospheric anxiety levels.

There’s a silver lining for my writing. I have a stack of editing to do, and a couple of short story ideas gnawing the back of my brain. Travel involves a lot of downtime in airports. I won’t have much access to the internet.

Three great problems that taste great together.

With luck – and if I can hold off the cold everyone else in my house caught this week – I can make up for the unproductive couple of weeks that led up to this trip. I could hardly do worse!

See you after next weekend, folks.

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Fauxcon and the Aurealis Awards

Headlining this after-action report: I did not win an Aurealis Award.

Watch this, Lise. You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half.

The gong in my category, Best Fantasy Short Story, went to the very deserving “Where the Pelican Builds Her Nest” by Thoraiya Dyer from the In Your Face anthology. (I highly recommend the anthology, although be warned that many of the stories are confronting, if not gut-wrenching). My sincere congratulations to Thoraiya, who is one of my favourite Australia fantasy authors.

A dozen or so Canberra writers gathered in the chilly northlands to follow the action on Twitter and Facebook, whilst swilling various warming beverages in a convivial air. Our host Ian McHugh even stoked the fire pit so we could sit outside toasting marshmallows and more effectively disturbing the neighbours.

For lingering evidence of how the evening went, you can search Twitter for the hashtag #Fauxcon. I accept no responsibility for anything you may find if you conduct that search, but consider this a content warning for bad language and ribaldry.

Writers in their natural environment, gathered about the cheese platter

And happily, we had winners in attendance on the night. Tim Napper picked up his first Aurealis Award for “Flame Trees” in the Best Horror Short Story category, and Kaaron Warren won Best Horror Novel for “The Grief Hole”. Both were over the moon at their wins (“over the moon” was not the expression we used on the night, by the way).

Leife Shallcross, who graciously agreed to deliver my acceptance speech in the event of an incredible upset, got to deliver her own speech – she won Best Young Adult Short Story for “Pretty Jenny Greenteeth”. So it was a pretty good night for the CSFG crowd.

And I was delighted – very loudly so – when my friend Andrea K Höst won Best Fantasy Novella for “Forfeit” from her self-published collection The Towers, The Moon. “Forfeit” is a fabulous romantic adventure set in her Trifold Age series, and might be my new favourite work in her impressive catalogue.

Huge thanks to the Aurealis organising committee for another fantastic effort in coordinating the judging panels, trophies and ceremony. They do an amazing and important job each year – thank you Katherine Stubbs, Tehani Croft, the judging panels and everyone else involved.

Thanks too to the committee for providing a live stream of the ceremony on Facebook so that we could watch the action unfold. My phone reception wasn’t up to the burdens of streaming video, so I missed the announcement in the moment, but for the record you can scroll to 13:30 on that video to see my category being presented by the lovely Satima Flavell.Congratulations to all this year’s winners and commiserations to my many fellow runners-up. I feel like I am in the very best of company. And I’m not heartbroken in the least.

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When the waveform collapses

Tonight, at a Swancon event in Perth, the Aurealis Awards winners will be announced. By 10 pm local time (or so), I’ll know if I’m an award-winning short story writer or – far more likely – someone who gets to add “Aurealis Award finalist” to his submissions cover letter for the foreseeable future.

Still a potential winner at the time of writing

I will spend the evening in the company of a cadre of lovely Canberra writers, several of whom are also up for awards. There will be conviviality and cheer, the odd spot of drink, and fervid checking of Twitter for the latest updates from across the Big Dry.

If you’d care to join us, the official Twitter hashtag is #AurealisAwards. The unofficial one will be #fauxcon. I don’t know what shenanigans to expect, but I feel confident a language warning is called for.

Good luck to everyone.

I’ll be sending out a newsletter as soon as possible after the results are announced,
because it’s not as much fun to celebrate/commiserate alone.
If you want to get it, along with a great chunk of exciting adventure
fiction and some upcoming publishing news, sign up here:


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Talking Touchstones

Today I’m over at Leife Shallcross’ blog, talking about inspirational touchstones.

Leife’s running a rather excellent series of posts with Australian speculative writers, talking about where their inspiration to write began and how their story touchstones have influenced their writing over the years. The essays are thoughtful explorations of those resonant aspects of our lives that move and guide us, to which we return time after time to replenish our creative wells and forge new connections.

Naturally, I took the opportunity to talk about a television program I’m rather fond of.

Legitimately terrifying

I heartily recommend the other essays in Leife’s Touchstones series, which are themselves inspiring and provocative, unlike my lowbrow response.

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My Life with Newsletters

When I was in primary school, one of my mates – I want to say his name was Scott, but I think I’m misremembering – had a newsletter.

Heeeeey, wait a minute Mister Postman

As best I can recall, it being a very long time ago, it was basically a schoolyard gossip rag full of anecdotes, jokes, and rumours (fabricated, in all likelihood) concerning teachers and students. He filled spare space with word searches and hard-to-comprehend song lyrics (which he may or may not have researched). He wrote it by hand and got his mum to run copies off on her office Gestetner.

Badly smudged, shakily laid out and riddled with libels. One look and I was smitten. With the concept, if not the execution.

My high school foray into print journalism, along with my besties Chris and Evan, was the legendary absurdist comedy magazine “APG”, which stood for something different each issue. APG was laid out in high-tech Apple IIe dot-matrix splendour and run off at the considerable expense of 10 cents per page on the school library photocopier. Jam-packed with faux news, weird in-jokes, sketch comedy scripts and an oddly popular soap opera parody, it was a beloved institution to its audience – as many as a dozen of our school friends – for its enduring run of six or so issues.

(Obviously we were mostly writing it to amuse ourselves, but by all accounts it was pretty entertaining material. There’s a very strong possibility that my career as a humourist peaked when I was sixteen. Certainly I’ll never again have so receptive an audience as I did in those days).

I told that story to tell this one.

Received wisdom for the modern author is that you have to have a mailing list (yes, that’s seven different links to essays on the subject) to help build and maintain your audience. It makes sense – if a reader is sufficiently informed, entertained or intrigued enough by your writing to give you their email address, you want to do everything you can to keep them around long enough to buy your next book.

Upon hearing that even modestly successful authors can find themselves in possession of unmanageably large lists of email addresses, I decided to get on the front foot. If there’s a pinnacle of accomplishment plausibly within my grasp, “modestly successful” probably covers it.

Call me gullible if you must, but it made enough sense to me that I duly set up a Mailchimp account.

Mailchimp is an online marketing service that manages email lists and distributes bulk communications without getting caught in spam filters. It’s just one of several such tools – other low-cost options include AWeber, Constant Contact and Active Campaign, but there are dozens of these things. I picked the one with the cartoon ape mascot.

Through various online mechanisms, ranging from the static signup form at the right side of this page or the bottom of this post, through to harder marketing techniques like competitions, free giveaways or paid advertising, Mailchimp collects the email address of potential readers and holds them ready for the moment when you have something to say.

The newsletter is the basic unit of currency for communicating with a mailing list.

Oh boy. When I figured that out, the old quasi-journalistic instincts kicked straight in.

It required a tremendous act of will not to immediately turn my regular author newsletter into a madcap recreation of my high school glory days. I’m not entirely sure I achieved it.

I think I’ve managed to curb the impulse to go the Full Gonzo. Where news appears, it’s by and large accurate. References to my peers and associates will not, under ordinary circumstances, attract lawsuits. There appear no pictures of amusing lewd vegetables.

Should you feel moved to sign up to my newsletter, every six weeks or so an email will appear in your inbox. It will typically include brief comments on what I’m working on, directions to any upcoming fiction publications, and perhaps a wry observation about current events, possibly containing a joke or two. An amateurish illustration is not out of the question.

It will also contain free fiction. Sometimes quite a lot of it, depending on what I’ve been up to. It may be a complete flash fiction piece, part or the whole of a short story, or an excerpt from a novel. When it’s not one of those, it will be the latest part of my YA fantasy adventure series Orphans’ Moon.

I like to think I’m offering good value in exchange for that email address.

But if you disagree, I can always resurrect the crowd-pleasing soap opera comedy. I’m not above pandering.

If you’ve read this far, you might as well seal the deal.
I personally guarantee your life will be marginally improved
or at least not made significantly worse for having read my newsletter
which you can obtain by signing up here:

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