Monday, December 24, 2012

You Need More Ellen Datlow In Your Life!

If you write at all - short stories, novels, any fiction at all,  then you should know who Ellen Datlow is. Multiple award winning editor, Ellen has produced anthology after anthology, working with countless famous authors and editors. If you want to know more about the state of the industry, or how to write better, Ellen is someone you should know.

Special products she is currently offering are:

For $350 (two premiums available): Pick Ellen's Brain: Ellen Datlow will answer all your editing/publishing questions on a one-to-one basis for 1.5 hours in person (at a coffee shop if you're in New York City), or by phone, or by Skype.

For $250:
Short Story Critique: Written critique of your short story, up to 7500 words, by Altered Fluid writers' group members Paul Berger, Richard Bowes, K Tempest Bradford, Kris Dikeman, Alaya Johnson, Rajan Khanna, Matthew Kressel, Eugene Myers, Devin Poore, David Mercurio Rivera, Lilah Wild, Greer Woodward, plus print and e-book editions of Fearful Symmetries, plus acknowledgment in both print and electronic editions of Fearful Symmetries. Plus print and e-book editions of Fearful Symmetries, plus acknowledgment in both print and electronic editions of Fearful Symmetries.

For more information, check out Ellen Datlow's Facebook page

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Little Linkage

Both from John Scalzi's Whatever blog.

The first is a salutary warning on the misuse of social media where a writer mistakes spamming for promotion. Neither the post nor the comments are very forgiving of the unnamed offender.

The second is something quite different. In 2011 Tobias S. Buckell did a Kickstarter for his novel The Apocalypse Ocean and Scalzi's post directs us to Buckell's very interesting summary post on what was involved and how he feels about the process. It's very enlightening.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sexism and History

Tansy Rayner Roberts has a thoughtful post on how women have mostly been rendered invisible in history (because history is usually written by men) and how this has impacted on fantasy writing. This is fascinating stuff and anyone who looks at history sensibly must notice the gaps. For instance who was running the estates while the Crusading knights were wreaking havoc in the Holy Land? Did everything just stop while they were away for years or did the wives and mothers left behind run the family business - the one that funded those warriors? While you're there you might like to have a look at this post as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Clarkes World Subscription Drive

Via Aliette de Bodard's blog some news about Clarkes World, a Hugo Award winning science fiction and fantasy magazine available on-line, which is having a subscription drive - and, as we all know, magazines need subscribers to survive. With fiction from well known writers (recent issues have included Catherynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine and Theodora Goss) as well as top quality non-fiction and cover art why not have a wander over there and check it out. If you like it this might be the time to think about subscribing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Story Arcs and NaNoWriMo

They are related.

This post, on the blog of Western Australian author, Annabel Smith, titled Story Arcs and the Art of Writing a Page-Turner, is about something every writer probably needs to be reminded of from time to time. While it is obvious a novel needs a coherent structure to capture the reader with times of tension to lift it from the banal and ordinary where these actually fit in the novel is just as critical. In her post Annabel Smith analyses this and explains where they belong and why. I was aware of the importance of story arcs but this makes it so much clearer. There's even a diagram. She links to Darcy Pattison's Fiction Notes blog where there is also a wealth of information for writers. I found myself exploring it when I should have been NaNoing.

Okay, I'm pretty sure NaNoing isn't a word but for the uninitiated  NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - takes place in November every year. This is when a multitude of writers from all over the world sit down and try to get the first draft of a novel written. Although I'm actually adding to my WIP and not starting something new I find the buzz around NaNoWriMo useful. The aim is 50,000 words - obviously they don't know much about fantasy novel lengths - but that is only an aim. The rules are few and the encouragement great so, for me, it's well worthwhile.

I don't think I'll ever be a step by step plotter but even for a pantser like me there are rules to make a novel flow and engage the reader and this is a good explanation of one particular aspect of them.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How with your characters.

This article, the title of which I won't transcribe here because it has a swear in it, contains some truly excellent advice on how to make things difficult for your characters, and, hence, exciting for your readers.

I am one of those writers who hate to make things truly awful for their characters. I don't like to make anyone suffer, even if they're fictional. But I have to admit, a main character who doesn't suffer makes a story bland. Conversely, a main character who finds strength, power, and virtue through adversity makes a story fulfilling. At least as far as I'm concerned. And even anti-heroes, for whom the virtue is optional, do better with something to struggle against.

Oh, and as you can probably guess from the euphemistic way I'm handling the title, the whole article is pretty full of swears. Read at your own risk.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


It's always good to see Australian authors doing well outside the small pond of their own country and there are several who have received recognition overseas recently and well deserved it is too.

On September 30, Brisbane writer, Angela Slatter, became the first Australian to win a British Fantasy Award for her short story The Coffin-maker's Daughter which first appeared in A Book of Horrors edited by Stephen Jones and published by Jo Fletcher Books. It has now been reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011 edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene and published by Ticonderoga Publications.

Then on October 14 it was announced that Tansy Rayner Roberts had won the 2012 Washington SF Association Small Press Award for her story The Patrician in Love and Romanpunk edited by Alisa Krasnostein, published by Twelfth Planet Press, and also reprinted in The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011.

Also on the shortlist for the Washington SF Association award was Joanne Anderton for her story Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden in the anthology Hope edited by Sasha Beattie published by Kayelle Press.

Congratulations to all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Characters and How to Make Them Real

I was searching the internet for something else entirely when I came across this on Memorable descriptions (taken from well known speculative fiction) are analysed so we can see just what makes them work so effectively. It sent me back to my latest work in progress where some of my characters, perfectly clear in my mind, were resisting going on to the page. They are not anymore. There's much more information on writing skills too, all well worth reading, I think.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On Getting Published

There's an awful lot about it on the internet and the one consistent thing about it is that none seems to agree with any other so I was pleased to find this on Tansy Rayner Roberts blog where she links to Justine Larbelestier and Diana Peterfreund's blogs where they make it clear that everyone is different whether they be author, publisher or agent and so every experience of the process is different. Given I know writers who have obtained an agent by casually chatting to someone at a book stall at a convention, been published because they went to dinner with a group they had just met (also at a convention as it happens), by relentless querying of publishers or agents or by subbing once, it's clear that getting that first contact comes in many different ways. Some people work their way up by short story publications, some by competitions and others by writing a book that touches a particular editor or agent. They are all different. Why then would you assume that the actual publishing process of companies with different business models and different staff would be identical? But apparently people do. These links are very informative if only to shake those preconceptions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gone But Living On

No, this is not about zombies. As anyone who has read my posts here or on my own blog will know I'm a great admirer of the blogHelp! I Need a Publisher, where author Nicola Morgan shares her knowledge of writing and publishing in the UK. It's full of great advice and useful information in a very readable and entertaining format so I was saddened when she announced a few weeks ago that she was giving up blogging there.

But there is a silver lining. The blog is staying up, just not being added to, and, of course, her books on writing and publishing are available as e-books. Well worth a visit by anyone wanting to learn about writing and publishing in the UK and anywhere else for that matter.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012 Aurealis Awards Nominations

Tehani Croft Wessely reminds us that, although the closing date for Aurealis Awards entries is in December, the sooner entries are in the better. There is a lot of reading for the judges and early entries take some of the pressure off. Below, shared from her blog, is the latest media release.

Reminder: Aurealis Awards entries free to share!
2012 Aurealis Awards – Enter now
The Aurealis Awards are open for entry, with the end of the entry period starting to loom.
The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction, are for works of speculative fiction written by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, published for the first time between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2012.
Categories include novels, short stories, YA, and illustrated works.
Entering work in the Aurealis Awards is easy and free.
All you need to do is go to our website and fill in the online form. We’ll then send you details of where to send your work for judging.
But hurry! Entries close midnight 23 December 2012. Why are we asking for entries now? All our judges are volunteers, and by encouraging early entry, we ensure that all works are given fair consideration. Works received very late in the reading period may only have a short time to be considered (shortlists are released early in 2013), and some categories have very heavy reading loads. We appreciate your support in ensuring all entries can receive the attention they deserve by entering early!
Nominations for the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence also close on 31 December 2012. This award is for achievement in speculative fiction or related areas. It may take into account a body of work over a number of years; it can also be for a work of non-fiction, artwork, electronic or multimedia work, film or TV released in 2012 that brings credit or attention to the speculative fiction genres.
Finalists will be announced in March 2013 with winners presented at a special awards evening in Sydney in May 2013.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

KSP Minicon 2012

The biennial KSP Minicon is on again. For anyone interested in reading or writing speculative fiction this is a must. There are panels, a Kaffeeklatsch program, author readings, a book launch and books for sale as well as a chance to mingle with local authors. Here are the details.

The 2012 KSP Speculative Fiction Writers Group Minicon

Panellists include :
Local Writers: Lee Battersby, Amelia Beamer, Hal Colebatch, Cathy Cupitt, Stephen Dedman, Joanna Fay, Satima Flavell, Sonia Helbig, Elaine Kemp, Pete Kempshall, David Kitson, Martin Livings, Dave Luckett, Juliet Marillier, Ian Nichols, Anthony Panegyres, Carol Ryles, Guy Salvidge, JB Thomas. 

When: Sunday, 9 September, 2012  9.30am-4.30pm

Where: Katherine's Place, Old York Road, Greenmount (Turn into the first driveway after you turn in from the highway and park at the back)

Cost: $15, or $10 if you book in advance. Leave a comment at if you want to do this.

Lunch: A decent meal and tea and coffee will be available for a gold coin donation or you can BYO - there are no eateries in the vicinity.

Discussion Panels: Meeting Room

10:00 Breaking the Rules
“Look, that's why there's rules, understand? So that you think before you break 'em.” - Terry Pratchett
Sometimes the 'rules of writing' need to be broken. But what are they and how and when do you get away with breaking them? And what do you need to be aware of before you do? All the best writers are renowned for breaking rules and new writers are crucified for it, yet there are times when we all need to cross that line.
Lee Battersby
Sonia Helbig
Martin Livings
Anthony Panegyres
Guy Salvidge 

11:00 Is the Internet the New Slush Pile
Google the question: “is the internet the new slush pile?” and the wisdom of the masses will tell you that since mid 2011, there has been a grass-roots change in the world of publishing. The inference given in hundreds of articles unearthed by such a search is that you should no longer submit to slush piles while trying to get noticed. There's a new wave of authors who publish their material directly to the Internet in the hope that their book will attract the attention of publishers and agents. But what does this method of gaining attention achieve and will it replace the tradition of slush pile Monday's? For that matter, with so many new writers self-publishing, is there a need to be picked up at all? Or is it a path to self-destruction of the writer's rights?
Stephen Dedman
David Kitson 
Dave Luckett
Ian Nichols 

12:00 Lunch 

Book Launch, The Corpse Rat King by award winning author Lee Battersby (Angry Robot Books)

Lee Battersby is the author of the novels The Corpse-Rat King (Angry Robot, 2012) and Marching Dead (Angry Robot, 2013) as well as over 70 stories in Australia, the US and Europe, with appearances in markets as Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Year’s Best Australian SF & F, and Writers of the Future. A collection of his work, entitled Through Soft Air has been published by Prime Books. He’s taught at Clarion South and developed and delivered a six-week Writing the SF Short Story course for the Australian Writers Marketplace. His work has been praised for its consistent attention to voice and narrative muscle, and has resulted in a number of awards including the Aurealis, Australian Shadows and Australia SF ‘Ditmar’ gongs.

He lives in Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs, the Goon Show and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as the Arts Co-ordinator for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.

For more about Lee see: 

1:00 Critting and Crowd-Sourced Editing
Should writers have their manuscripts criticised by a broad audience of their fellow writers? What value does it add to your work? Can you lose your ideas by letting others see your manuscript before the editor does? How about crowd-sourcing of editing? Is it possible to let others perform the work for you while reading early revisions of your manuscript? And how do you even take advantage of such services? Should they be avoided completely?

Amelia Beamer
Satima Flavell 
Pete Kempshall
Juliet Marillier
Anthony Panegyres

2:00 Building Characters without Cardboard
In online reviews, a common complaint against many recent authors, especially those who choose to self-publish, is that their characters seem two-dimensional or otherwise lack depth. So what does the aspiring author need to consider in their writing so that their characters seem more real to the reader? And how do they achieve it? Are characters planned or imagined? And what are the pitfalls that many new writer, and even experienced ones, fall into? And how do you write convincing characters from the other gender?

Lee Battersby
Martin Livings
Juliet Marillier
Carol Ryles
JB Thomas

3:00 Has Erotica Become Just another Mainstream Sub-Genre
With Fifty Shades of Grey now the fastest selling book ever, it's difficult to ignore the part that erotica has played in this series’ success. Writers thinking of including sexually explicit content in their novels are often confused by the terms ‘erotica’ and ‘pornography’. How should a modern writer approach this situation? How to avoid mistakes? Should erotica feature in a serious novel at all?

Amelia Beamer
Cathy Cupitt
Stephen Dedman
Elaine Kemp

Kaffeeklatsch Schedule (Library)

1PM – 1:30PM Joanna Fay: Publishing with a small press overseas
Joanna’s Daughter of Hope, the first novel in her epic fantasy sequence The Siaris Quartet, has recently been published as an e-book by Musa Publishing, a relatively new e-press in the USA. From the comfort of her lounge room in the Perth hills, Joanna has taken an intensive 'high learning curve' this year on the road to publication, while coming to grips with both the potential and pitfalls of online promotion.
2PM - 2:30PM David Kitson: Self Publishing – A complete end to end guide for anyone planning on doing it themselves
David’s self-published novel, Turing Evolved, broke into the top 20 Science Fiction book list on and is now rated at four-and-a-half stars with one hundred and fifty customer reviews. Learn about David’s experiences with editing, uploading, customer feedback and eventual contact and representation by a literary agent.

3PM – 3:30PM Juliet Marillier: Theme to be announced
Juliet is a New Zealand-born writer who now lives in WA. Her historical fantasy novels for adult and young adult readers include the popular Sevenwaters series and the Bridei Chronicles. Juliet’s books have won many awards including the American Library Association’s Alex Award, the Prix Imaginales and the Aurealis Award. Her lifelong love of folklore, fairy tales and mythology is a major influence on her writing. Juliet has two books out this year: Shadowfell, first instalment in a fantasy series for young adults (available now) and adult fantasy Flame of Sevenwaters, to be published in November.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cultural Appropriation

After being part of a discussion on this topic recently I've been thinking about it a lot. All writers should  know how important it is to be aware of these sensitivities and factor them into whatever we write. Still it's not always easy to know exactly what is acceptable, however well intentioned we might be, so I was pleased to find this post on Aliette de Bodard's blog. As a woman of mixed ethnic and cultural heritage she is better placed than most to give her views on what cultural appropriation really is. It's a thought provoking piece.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Excellent Video on How to edit a Book

This is a great little video at 3:08 minutes. It's clear, concise, and has some great advice in it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sarah Lee Parker and Jack Gorman Drop By!

Egoboo WA's Sarah Lee Parker drops by my blog to chat about writing, travel, dinner parties and her first publication in Musa Publishing's anthology Jack Gorman Gets Cut By A Girl. She's an inspiration! You can join us here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Page to Stage

I've recently been in the enviable position (and I'm not being ironic) of performing my writing in front of audiences. Note: not "reading", performing. How many times have you gone to hear a writer whose work you really admire, but sat there in dismay — or worse, boredom — because the way they read turned their wonderful words into sawdust? Performing your own writing is an exhilarating opportunity to connect with people and share the excitement you felt when you wrote the piece to begin with. It gives you immediate, warm, vibrant feedback on what works (and doesn't) in your writing. And, to be entirely pragmatic, it introduces potential new readers to who you are and just how intriguing your writing is. What's not to love?

However, many writers seem to have a few misconceptions about performing their own writing.

  • I'll look like an idiot if I read with all that expression. No, you won't. Trust yourself and trust your audience (and trust me). Go to poetry slams and notice which poems really grab an audience and which don't. Pretty much all the time, the ones that are performed with panache and courage end up being the ones that rivet everyone's attention.
  • My writing should speak for itself; I don't need to pretty it up with a flashy delivery. Do you want people to be able to hear the cadences and flow you worked so hard to produce? Do you want them to instantly comprehend the rush of meaning in each sentence? Or do you want them to have to squint, frown, and puzzle out where each sentence begins and ends, which character is speaking, and what emotion they're supposed to be feeling, because you're reading in a dead-flat monotone?
  • People at a reading expect a calm delivery, not a freak show. That may be so, but they'll be a whole lot happier and more excited about what they're hearing if they get the freak show. People have grown to expect the monotonous delivery that seems, regrettably, to be the standard. I've had a number of wonderful surprises at readings when an author has taken such obvious joy in sharing their writing with me that now the flat-style readings seem almost...rude. Why aren't I important enough to the author for them to put a little effort, a little preparation, into their reading?
It's a sad truth that most writers get little or no training — not even a hint — about how to perform their stuff effectively. I've worked pretty hard on it, having been inspired by two of the best I've ever heard (Richard Harland and Robert Shearman), and I've come up with a few strategies that have helped me a lot. I present them here:

  • Pitch. This is probably the most important one. Practice (and I do mean practice, more than once, and not just to the mirror) how to make the pitch of your voice go up and down to maintain interest. This is the single most effective change you can make to your reading, and it's worth a lot of effort. Don't worry about sounding too melodramatic; that's almost impossible to do, and you can always scale it back later if you get feedback that you've taken it too far. (A sympathetic friend can be helpful here while you're getting the hang of it.)
  • Pace. You don't have to read with every syllable as regular as a metronome. Experiment! Don't be afraid of the pause! Love the pause! Trust the pause! And for God's sake, slow down. It gives your listeners time to assimilate and enjoy (in short, to savor) your amazing words. You have all the time you need.
  • Volume. Particularly if you're miked, you can have a lot of fun with this one. (For example, lowering your voice a lot, but leaning in close to the microphone, can involve your audience as though you were murmuring confidences, and yet they can still hear you.) But even if it's just you and your words, don't be afraid to make the exciting bits louder, and the calmer bits a little more gentle.
  • Physicality. While this (obviously) is less relevant when you're reading over the radio or as part of a podcast, your physical presence can add a lot to your performance. As much as you can without losing your place on the page, look up and into the eyes of audience members. (Printing your reading out in a large font so that it's easier to keep track of where you are is useful for this.) If you have a hand free from holding your text, don't be afraid to make the occasional gesture (within reason). And never, ever underestimate the power of your facial expressions: a smile, a frown, the expression that your character has at the moment you're reading their words. The expressiveness around your eyes is particularly important. Me, I have shocking eyesight, and even with contact lenses I need glasses to read. However, glasses are a serious barrier between you and your audience, so I've taken to printing out my text in large type so that I can wear the contacts without the reading glasses and still actually read the words.
  • Sense of fun. We writers are not known for being particularly...jolly. But I've never know a one of us who hasn't had a highly developed sense of whimsy and drama. Use that! Have fun with your audience, and your own words.
  • Courage and trust. The two are very closely related, if not synonymous. Your audience wants you to succeed. They will give you every benefit of the doubt, forgive much, appreciate everything you're brave enough to offer them. They trust you to give them good stuff. You trust them to give you a fair hearing. Isn't that great? For once in this cold, hesitant, suspicious world, people are trusting each other. Don't you want to be a part of that?
So — how do you get started making your performances jaw-droppingly wonderful? First, listen. Go to readings, go to slams, and don't just focus on the pieces, but on how they're performed. How does the author use pitch, pace, volume, and physicality?

Second, choose a piece of your own writing that will work well when performed. In other words, it's short (two minutes is an eternity), it's self-contained (more or less), it's got something happening in it (as opposed to just a long and pretty description of, like, a sunset or something), it hasn't got too many characters for the audience to try to keep track of in their heads as you read, and it's got some interesting language that flows and uses sound well. (Going to slams will be very helpful in starting to figure out what kinds of language work well out loud.)

Third, PRACTICE. You want your brain to pretty much remember how the words go, so you don't sound surprised every time you have to turn a page or start a new paragraph. You also want your mouth to be trained in how the words go, so they flow smoothly. It's like learning a dance: if you don't practice it, the individual motions are disconnected, awkward, tentative.

Fourth, try your performance out on audiences of increasing size: first, one or two trusted friends, who will concentrate on what you did right so you can keep on doing it. Then, as you gain confidence, maybe a writer's group (beware and be ready for feedback of varying levels of helpfulness — it may help if you prime them by saying, "Tonight I'm really looking for feedback on how I'm reading the piece, not on the piece itself"). Work up to a small open-mic night at a coffee shop or pub. Soon, you'll have the hang of it, and you'll start to live for the moment you hear the laughs at the funny lines, and the gasps of wonder at the very place your own heart leapt when you wrote the words.

I've grown to love performing my own writing: it's made me a better writer, it's brought my writing to a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have ever found it, and it's given me great, great joy. I hope you, too, give it a try!

I offer for your listening pleasure two stories that I consider to be fabulously well-read: one by Nathan Hill and one by Richard Harland.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heidi Berthiaume, also from 'Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl'

Heidi  Berthiaume

1) What is your least favourite trait of Jack Gorman?
The man has no remorse or concept that how he behaves is not
acceptable, therefore he has no desire to change his ways.

 2) What was the most fun part to write?
The interactions with Jack and the younger and older versions of the
girl who originally cut him. I got to work in a Doctor Who reference
and fencing!

 3) Favourite line or paragraph from your story?
//"Probably dumb as well as deaf" should be in italics if possible please//

The old woman shook her head, pointing to her ear, and beckoned Jack closer.
Probably dumb as well as deaf, Jack thought as he stepped forward,
almost bumping the woman's pant-clad knees.
"I said—"
"I heard you, you mutant man-ape," the old woman snapped, pushing
herself out of the swing and stabbing Jack in the arm with the quill.

 4) What is the best part of working with a whole bunch of authors in
a collaboration like this?

Seeing the variation of ideas that came from that dinner at WFC when
we all first heard the origin story of this drunken guy getting cut by
a girl. The creativity of these ladies is so much fun.

 5) What sort of stuffed toy do you own or sleep with?
Too many stuffed toys owned to mention and the bed currently has a
leopard, a panda, and a Build-A-Bear Champ teddy bear.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Keyan Bowes from the Jack Gormon Got Cut By A Girl Anthology

This week we have Keyan Bowes,  Clarion survivor, anthology contributor and all round awesome writer.
1) What is your least favourite trait of Jack Gorman?
His limited vocabulary, to stay in character - but that made him more difficult to write. He said "Ow" a lot. Also "fuck!"

2) What was the most fun part to write?
Hmm. The whole story was fun, but I really liked writing the scene where Lashira's trying to save the dragon from the man and the man from the dragon while the whole mountain is catching fire.

3) Favourite line or paragraph from your story?
He ran into the Acme and told Lashira, who was tending bar, “There’s a goddamn big lizard out there!”
“Yeah?” said Lashira, glancing quickly out the window. “How big is 'goddamn'?”
Jack stretched his arms, knocking over a bottle which shattered and spilled Heineken onto the already grubby carpet.  “Its belly was green, like that bottle,” he said, pointing to the shards, “and shiny, like…like, that thing you’re wearing.”
The “thing” was Lashira’s engagement ring (lab-created emerald, surrounded by tiny diamonds set in two circles around it), so she wasn’t especially pleased by the comparison.

4) What is the best part of working with a whole bunch of authors in a collaboration like this?
All the different points of view! They made the narrative come alive... right from the cafe dinner where the idea was born, to the email exchange of ideas, to the Skype conversations to pull it all together. And I loved the different narratives that emerged.

5) What sort of stuffed toy do you own or sleep with?
I have an ancient owl. It sits on my bookshelf looking befuddled.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nancy Greene, another one of the authors from Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl

1) What is your least favourite trait of Jack Gorman?
I know I should like him less than I do, but I sort of like him for all the reasons he's an annoying ass.  His drinking, and search for more beer, is what gets him in the most trouble.
2) What was the most fun part to write?
I probably had the most fun with the bar scene and Raven's discussion with Jack afterwards. In the bar, Jack was the person he always thought he was - a gift to women - and still manages to strike out. When Raven explains what would be expected of him as a male in her world, he realizes that he might not want what he thought. Coming up with ways to abuse well known movie references was also fun.
3) Favourite line or paragraph from your story?
I have a couple of favorites, but the one that takes the prize is the metal bikini discussion. It was nice to be able to poke at the fantasy heroine stereotype.
The sun had finally crested the horizon. The man was wearing some sort of blue hide pants and orange  shirt. His long pale feet and legs poked out of the ends of his breeches. Why in the Goddess’s name wasn’t he wearing boots? She’d never seen anything like it. Curiosity battled caution. And won. She stepped closer. Fresh vomit clotted the man’s greasy straw-colored hair as if he’d rolled in it. He cracked an eye open. His eyes might have been the pale blue of a morning sky if not for the bloodshot whites. A trickle of blood ran from a small cut on his bulbous nose.
 “Hey, dude.” Rolling on to his hands he pushed himself up. “Dude. Aren’t you supposed to be wearing a metal bikini? And what’s up with your hair? It’s purple.”
“A what?”
“Umm, ya’know.” He motioned to the front of his chest and groin area as he spoke. “A bathing suit that only covers your tits and ass. Ya’know for swimming?”
Her brow furrowed. Raven looked down at her serviceable chainmail and plate armor. She hadn’t been able to afford full plate, but why on earth would any shield maiden wear plate only on her most sensitive areas? And there was nothing wrong with her hair. 
“How exactly would a metal bee key ne  protect me in combat?” She shook her head.
What a ridiculous idea. Maybe he was an imbecile. No one would any sense would think this bee key ne would make decent armor.
He grabbed her staff to pull himself to his feet. She was taller than most women and he stood another hand higher.
“Where the fuck am I?” he slurred.
He ran a hand through his hair. Red streaked the strands. His eyes traveled around the circle and widened at the white birch trees and verdant grass. “Toto, it doesn’t look like we’re in Topeka anymore.”
"Are you addled?"
4) What is the best part of working with a whole bunch of authors in a collaboration like this?
Working with a whole bunch of writers. Seriously. For large chunks of time, writing is a solitary profession. This anthology was very different from the one I previusly participated in because of its origin and the publisher. The dinner where the idea was born was wonderful. We then all went to our various writing corners and came up with a story based on one idea "Jack Gorman was cut by a girl." Once we saw everyone's story, we had to figure out a way to knit them together. That also, was a lot of fun. I think the anthology is much stronger for the collaborative effort that went into it, and the group of us were able to form friendships as a result.  
5) What sort of stuffed toy do you own or sleep with?
My husband.  :) He gets annoyed when the critters take up the bed, so he's not giving up real estate to a stuffie. 
Find out more about Nancy's writing here! 

Goldeen Ogawa from the anthology Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl

Author interview time! Today I put for your delectation the delightful Goldeen Ogawa, the writer who started the whole Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl anthology simply by telling an awesome story.

1) What is your least favourite trait of Jack Gorman? 

Besides the fact that he was an idiot (and kinda creepy) drunk? Well, he wore a really ugly shirt.

2) What was the most fun part to write? 
The ending. Where I got to make stuff up. Writing real stuff, I have learned, is not as fun. From now on I'm sticking strictly to fantasy.

3) Favourite line or paragraph from your story? 
"That Jack Gorman, I'm just sick of him. He came to me, you know, saying he was attacked by a gay guy with a sword outside the Waterwheel!"
I have been mistaken for a gay. And I have been mistaken for a man. But never both at the same time before.

4) What is the best part of working with a whole bunch of authors in a collaboration like this? 
My favorite part was working with my friend Heidi (whose story comes after mine) to get our two lined up. Heidi made my job really easy without knowing it, and it was wonderful. Aside from the specific instance, just getting to see this little dinner-table story of mine get inflated and continued by other writers is humbling and astonishing.

5) What sort of stuffed toy do you own or sleep with? 
White Star, the gray and white stuffed horse my grandmother bought for me when I was three. I recall at about the same time I watched The Velveteen Rabbit, and I swore I would never do that to her. We have been best friends ever since. Don't judge. (No judging around here, Goldeen! - Sarah)

Sarah Lee Parker

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Anthology is Coming!

The anthology is coming! The anthology is coming!

If you're a long time reader, you might remember I went to World Fantasy Convention last year in San Diego. Carol and I had a wonderful time in America, my first trip overseas without the family, and the first time to a World Fantasy Convention. One of the many highlights was dinner on the last night at a tiny diner close by the convention hotel that had a dreadful chicken friend steak. It was still a highlight, as this is where the idea for the Jack Gorman Got Cut By A Girl Anthology came to be.

One of the writers at the table told the story of how she had once been menaced through a series of drunken mishaps and misunderstandings by a man who thought she was a boy. The story resonated with all of us, and Celina said "Dammit, this is why I have my own publishing company. Every one send me a story on this character, and we'll put together an anthology and it will be great!" And so we did. There were about nine of us at dinner, but only 6 of us managed to provide a story in time.

I'm really pleased to be one of them. The anthology comes out on the 20th of July, and to celebrate I am running a series of interviews with the authors, and hopefully even Celina, our editor. The first interview will be with Goldeen Ogawa, who was the one to tell us the original story, from which all others have come.

I hope every one enjoys the anthology and our stories as much as we have enjoying writing (and editing!) them.

Sarah Lee Parker

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card

From the blog of Aliette de Bodard comes the Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card put together by her and others to illustrate the bias of many Western writers when they write about other cultures. Born in the US, Aliette de Bodard is Franco-Vietnamese and and has lived in France for much of her life so her views are worth taking seriously. The saddest part of this is she says all these comments or ideas have appeared on the internet. Although I'm of European descent my extended family is a polyglot mix of different ethnicities. I'd like to think that the Western Cultural Imperialism Bingo Card will make us all think about what we write and how we write it. I'd suggest reading the comments too where she and others explain sections in more detail.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Congratulations, Kate Eltham

It's been announced that Kate Eltham, currently the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, is to take over as Director of the Brisbane Writers Festival in October. Kate was part of the team running Clarion South when I attended and I was very impressed by her efficiency and organisational ability. I'm certain she will be a great asset to the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ghost Writing is Legal, for Pete’s Sake!

A guest post today, from Karen Cole, an American writer and editor who specializes in ghost writing. You can find Karen’s ‘spooky’ website at

That’s the most common thing I get when I tell people I’m a ghost writer: ‘Hey, isn’t that illegal and doesn’t it violate copyrights laws?’ Nah, it doesn’t. It’s completely street legal, functions under ‘work for hire’ clauses in each state of the USA and also in other countries, and the clients usually get to keep full rights and copyrights to all of the material you ghostwrite for them.

However, it can be hard to talk about, as it’s kind of ‘hush-hush’ stuff. When I work with famous people, they generally want all the credit for their work, so I can’t really discuss their names with other people. Recently, however, I have worked with a Holocaust survivor of ten different internment camps, who is going on a national book tour to sell his book, and the daughter of the FBI agent who caught Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin, James Earl Ray.

One of the FBI figures in that book was possibly the infamous Blonde Man of Dealey Plaza, who picked up one of the bullets that killed President Kennedy – he was also the agent who arrested Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas movie theater. That agent, however, refuses to admit that he was the Blonde Man, although he was in Dallas at the time. I’ve worked on projects involving the Mafia, which I can’t go on about at length, and the CIA – involving murders. And I worked on a book project concerning the infamous murder case where Amber Frey testified against the killer.

So I have dealt with some interesting people, such as a real life Nazi from the original party, some film stars (Nicholas Cage, Prince, Fabio) several makers of motion pictures, some famous book authors, and lots of publishers and literary agents, as well as music industry moguls and top recording executives. But I can’t talk a lot about any of these people – I’m supposed to be purely a background figure, and I’m not to release a lot of information about my clients or even about my business contacts – just enough about them to let the public know that I deal with them.

Anyway, I only work on commission for select book authors and screenwriters. They have to have a publisher literally all lined up, or a movie studio or producer ready to film their project for me to work only on commission. Our usual practice is to take upfront payments during the course of completion of the book or script project. Sometimes, however, I run a deal when I think a book is likely to be published or a script is likely to be produced, where we take 5-15% of net sales as well as a substantial upfront payment during the completion of the project.

We don’t usually write articles unless it’s part of an overall greater project. And we never do academic writing for students, only editing and proofreading. We also always write and ask for permission for usage of other’s work, and we never plagiarize. As for how it feels not owning all of my hard work, well, nowadays I mostly send out the incoming projects to other ghost writers on our team, and I only do some of the editing work that comes in. But in the past, I guess I have no real regrets. I’ve been paid well enough, and I’ve not had to deal with any of the problems or infamy that a book on a tender subject might bring.

As to advice for would-be ghost writers: write, write and write some more, practise your editing of spelling, grammar and syntax, and become as expert as you can at ‘Show not Tell’ writing and developmental or content editing. You will find that as a ghost writer, you will need thorough editing and rewriting skills. Get some of your own work with your name on it published, so that you can show it to clients, and build up a decent portfolio of your published work. You can get articles published on various sites on the Internet. Sometimes you even get paid for them!

Once you’re ready, you can begin to take on those ‘interesting’ clients for some terrific pay. But don’t be afraid to take on ‘first time’ author ghost writing clients, if they are willing to pay you decently for your services. You don’t always have to work for famous people to get your name recognized (if that’s what you want) or to make a decent living.

Monday, June 11, 2012

'Daughter of Hope' and her origins...

Editor and publisher, Dario Ciriello, has interviewed me about my new novel Daughter of Hope, its origins, and how it is situated in The Siaris Quartet. As I've said to Dario, a bright star was shining when I sent him the novella Daughter of Hope grew from; his astute advice and encouragement along the road to this novel's publication have been a fantastic gift!

You can read the interview at Dario's blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

'Daughter of Hope' released by Musa Publishing

Daughter of Hope, the first novel in my fantasy series The Siaris Quartet, has been released as an e-book   by Musa Publishing!  

 The fate of an entire world will be decided by the actions of one young girl.

The Guardians of Siaris have been warring for thousands of years, torn apart by betrayal and lost loves. Xereth waits patiently for his chance at revenge. The only thing standing in his way is one of his own offspring.

As Xereth's daughter, Revetia’s destiny is to help him destroy Siaris and those who wronged him, but Revetia's will is strong. With hope and help, she might be able to break free from Xereth's tight and treacherous grasp, but at what cost?

Sier has always tried to stay out of affairs that threaten his family's safety. When Revetia asks him for help, she forces him into a position that could cost his family, the elden, and humans their lives. Is he prepared to put those he loves and protects in jeopardy?

With the fate of Siaris resting on Revetia’s shoulders, will her actions trigger a war between gods, slaves, and Guardians?


The baby blinked, trying to clear her eyes. The dim space around her lay in a chilled hush.  A strip of light filtered across the torn covers surrounding her, over a curve of pale skin flecked with red. A long growl sounded from outside the room’s shadowed walls.

Wind, the baby named it.

She’d heard it – and other things – from inside her mother’s belly. Now it sounded much louder, and unfriendly. She wanted to reach for the expanse of flesh beside her, but couldn’t yet control her limbs. Her mother didn’t move. The silence of the room, the gale’s rush at the chamber, grew frightening. She shivered, a naked bundle of feverish heat and ice. She began to cry. The wind fought her voice, but she needed someone to come. Anyone.

Time dragged. The light around her stuttered and grew dull. Her hearing picked up a new sound, cautious steps husking along the hall outside the turret-room, until they came to a halt. A seamed face peered through a rectangle of darkness. Fingers clutched at the edge of a wooden frame, then jerked back as if they’d been stung. The fingers fluttered down over a worn tunic, shaking. The sound of rough breathing met the baby as a woman stepped into the room and edged closer to her.

The woman’s face shrivelled into deeper lines, her gaze roving across the bed. The picture in her mind reflected into the baby’s vision in all its blood-soaked destruction.  An elden woman lying on the shredded velvet cover, the ragged vestiges of beauty still visible through the contortion of her features. Smoke coiling in wisps from her hips and thighs, hanging thick on the air. The baby saw herself curled in a pool of light. Already, despite being so tiny, the sheen of power that had killed her mother during birth glowed out across the bed.

The baby noted her own skin was different to her mother’s. Blue. She felt the word fit itself to her…that this was her natural shade. But even so, couldn’t the bent figure creeping closer see her shock, the crisis gripping her body with shudders?

The intruder’s breath hissed. Her stare now settled on the glittering wings that rustled against the baby’s back, the downy feathers catching in the rumpled bedcover. The baby studied her, and saw that she was elden too, but diminished, improperly aged. The silence grew longer, the gale’s voice harsh. The baby huddled desperately, and fought to focus her mind on this person who still hadn’t come to her side.

She formed a question in her head, and forced it to cross the gap. Who are you?

“My name is Amya.” The woman’s voice sounded strangled, as if her throat had jammed shut.

Are you my – the baby searched for the word – nurse?

Amya didn’t reply. Her damp gaze had shifted back to the body on the bed.

Daughter of Hope is available from Musa here.

For the really keen, you can find out more about the story-world and characters of The Siaris Quartet novels at my blog.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Writing in a dialect, accent or register

In a previous post  I discussed the difference between dialect and accent, and examined the concept of register – the kind of specialised language we use only in certain situations. Yesterday, I was reminded that I hadn’t followed up on my promise to look into these matters from the point of view of the writer. What reminded me was an author friend’s thinking out loud about whether she should incorporate accent or dialect into a Scottish-based story she was writing.
It is indeed a curly problem. Full-on dialect or an entire new language would be too hard to follow, because most readers are not willing to learn a whole new vocabulary. Some readers are willing – just look at the number of SF fans who have learnt to speak Klingon or Elvish. Our own Joanna Fay has even been known to write verse in Elvish now and then! But these enthusiasts constitute an exception, not a rule. Most readers cannot be bothered learning too many new words, especially since reading science fiction and fantasy invariably means learning strange new given names, family names and place names. We might also have to fix entire world-maps into our heads! Expecting us to learn an entirely new vocabulary is probably going a step too far.
How, then, can a writer represent an accent in writing? Let’s say, for instance, that you’ve decided to have a main character who comes from London. George Bernard Shaw did this very nicely in his play Pygmalion, which later became the musical My Fair Lady. He introduces his heroine, Eliza, this way:
‘Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy athaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintelligible outside London.]’
Note Shaw’s directive at the end. Having established the accent, he modifies his representation of Eliza’s speech considerably thereafter, and tells us he is about to do it. But Shaw was a playwright. A novelist can’t step into the text and explain that she’s given up on the accent, so she has to find another way of approaching the problem.
The best way, perhaps, is to pick out a few characteristics of the dialect and show only those in the way you transcribe the character’s speech. To make your point, you can be a bit heavy-handed when you first introduce the character and then tone it down over the course of a few scenes until only hints of the accent remain. But don’t copy Shaw’s efforts by trying to represent the accent by long screeds of text with apostrophes to denote dropped letters. He was giving us a lesson in what not to do!
So can you ever use a seriously full-on accent? Most readers, I think, are OK with an accent that involves just one or two characters, and if those characters are of the ‘cameo’ kind – people who just drop into the story once or twice to fulfil some purpose of the plot – so much the better. But an accent can pall if it is general throughout the book. It is tiresome to read long screeds of text with apostrophes to denote dropped aitches at the start of particular words and dropped g’s from the end of –ing words, for instance, as you would have to do with a Cockney accent like Eliza Doolittle’s. Strange spelling to represent regional pronunciation is also a sticky problem, and without using IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) it’s not reliable. Besides, most people don’t know IPA.
Perhaps the safest way to approach the writing of an accent is by representing not the sounds so much as the patterns and figures of speech that characterise both accent and dialect. For example, using Yorkshire again, we might have a character use expressions such as ‘our lass’ when referring to a daughter or sister, or ‘our kid’ for a son or brother. Idioms such as ‘Put wood in ’ole’ for ‘Shut the door’ and ‘Mash the tea’ for ‘pour boiling water on tea leaves’ would also quickly set the scene as Yorkshire. (West Australian author Anna Jacobs does this kind of thing particularly well in her historical novels, which are set in Lancashire.)
You can, however, get away with introducing a handful of dialectal words whose meaning is always obvious from the context. Greetings are an obvious choice. The standard Yorkshire greetings ‘Eh yup’ (an old Norse greeting – Yorkshire was overrun by Vikings in the ninth century, as any Bernard Cornwell fan will tell you!) ‘Aw reet then’ (All right then) and 'Nah theen' (Now then) will immediately tell your readers where they are, as will the old Cockney ‘Wotcha, cock!’or the Australia 'G'day'. Even people outside the UK will quickly cotton on to the fact that these are greetings. If you’re working with an invented society, it’s easy enough to create a few greetings for your characters to use.
Register likewise needs to be introduced gradually and in a piecemeal manner, dropping in a word here, a phrase there, making sure that the reader has ample opportunity to digest each new word or expression before bringing in more. Let’s say we have a magical system that involves a process called sprunking, that involves taking several different spells then condensing and combining them so that the wizard has only to work one spell for all to take effect. Here’s a bit of imaginary dialogue between a wizard and his apprentice:
‘Shaynee, did you remember to sprunk in the speeded-up turnip-cooking spell when you set up the cauldron for the stew?’
‘Yes, sir, I sprunked it in with the fire spell.’
‘You did what? Demons below, child, haven’t I told you a dozen times or more that you can only sprunk similar things together? A fire spell is a fire spell; a cooking spell is a cooking spell, and you can’t mix the two. First you must deal with the ingredients. You must sprunk in the bit about fast cooking when you call up the turnips.’
That will give the reader a bit of an idea what’s involved in sprunking. To reinforce the idea, the author might show Shaynee working another spell a few scenes later; a spell that involves sprunking, say, a wood-drying spell while making fire.
So, when introducing dialect or register, start with just one or two words, mention each one a couple of times, then introduce one or two more related ‘jargon’ words the third time the first two are mentioned. Repeat from the top until all the required new vocab has been introduced. If you throw too many new words at your reader in the first few scenes, some of them will give up before the end of chapter one and possibly refuse to look at anything of yours again, ever!
Slowly, slowly, catchee reader.

2012 Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot

The fourth Aussie Spec Fic Snapshot is being carried out this week. The team of interviewers, Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, David Mcdonald, Helen Merrick, Ian Mond, Jason Nahrung, Alex Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Tehani Wessely and Sean Wright, are talking to writers in the genre to give a comprehensive idea of the Australian Speculative Fiction scene at this moment. There are some fascinating insights. Among the interviewees are Egoboo WA's own Joanna Fay, Satima Flavell, Laura E. Goodin and Carol Ryles.

They are posting the interviews on their blogs from June 1 to June 8. The interviews will then be archived at ASif! Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus.

You can read individual interviews at

or all of them here at ASiF!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sarah Spotting at Continuum

Oh goodness me, I leave tomorrow morning!

I have been superbusy with home life this year, but one of the most important things that has happened is that John and I won the NAFF race! NAFF is a fund set up to help get Fans to the annual National SF Convention who might otherwise not be able to afford to come, as well as to promote the flow of ideas, friendships and projects across Australia. We were incredibly honoured to win this race, but unfortunately things haven't worked out to plan, and so Continuum will only be getting half the Parker household.

If you're in Melbourne, and at Continuum, please do come over and say hello. One of the key elements of NAFF is to get fans talking to fans. Plus any one who is active in fandom is eligible for the NAFF race, and it's a great project to be a part of.
So, onto the Sarah Spotting!

At the Convention, my panels look like this:

  • Continuum 101 - Friday 20:30 until Friday 21:00 with: Hespa , David McDonald,
  • Continuum 101 - Saturday 11:00 until Saturday 11:30 with: Hespa , Emilly McLeay, Emilly McLeay,
  • Crafts In Space! - Sunday 11:00 until Sunday 12:00 with: Trudi Canavan, Lyn McConchie, Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • Workshop: Dragon Flying School - Sunday 15:00 until Sunday 16:00
  • Readings - Monday 10:00 until Monday 11:00 with: George Ivanoff, Gillian Polack, Michael Pryor
  • What The NAFF Is A Fan Fund? - Monday 15:00 until Monday 16:00 with: Sue Ann Barber, Alan Stewart
PLUS! I will be hosting a NAFF Fundraising party on the Saturday night, after the Masquerade I think it is! There will be some drinks and munchies provided, and I'm really excited! I must buy lots of lollies! Hope to see you all there.