Ditmar ballot joy!

The Ditmar preliminary ballot got released today and, holy freaking hell, I’m on it!

The Beast’s Heart has been nominated for Best Novel, A Hand of Knaves has been nominated for Best Collection, and I’ve been nominated for Best New Talent!

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The Ditmars, in case you’re not familiar with them, are Australia’s fan-nominated awards, so I am more than thrilled to find myself on this list. Just to give you an indication of the kind of company I’m in, when I showed my partner the list of other names The Beast’s Heart is up against to take out the gong, he laughed. Any day I find myself on a list with the likes of Sam Hawke for City of Lies, Kaaron Warren for Tide of Stone, Alan Baxter for Devouring Dark, or Amanda Bridgeman for The Subjugate, is a good day.

And, not only has A Hand of Knaves been nommed for Best Collected Work, but the obscenely talented Shauna O’Meara has bagged a well-deserved nomination for her exquisite illustrations.

It’s immensely satisfying to see so many other good friends receive nominations. It’d probably be just as easy to re-post the entire list rather than list them all individually, but I’m particularly pleased to see the noms for Rivqa Rafael & Tansy Rayner Roberts’ anthology Mother of Invention (including a nom for Best Artwork for it’s stunning cover by Likhain) and for Elizabeth Fitzgerald for Best Fan Publication for her review blog on Earl Grey Editing, especially given she’s just announced she will be winding that up in the near future (sad face).

Happily, I have already booked my ticket to Continuum in June (where the awards ceremony will take place). I’m really looking forward to sharing a drink with the others on the ballot and toasting the winners. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for the nominations, and congrats to all my fellow nominees. See you at Continuum in June!

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The birth of a short story

Seeing my name on the 2016 Aurealis shortlist a couple of weeks ago was pretty bloody thrilling. There is a writing goal I’ve had my eye on ever since the moment when I first held a copy of Winds of Change – the anthology in which my first-ever published story appeared – in my hot little hands.

What made the nomination even sweeter was seeing how many of my really good writing buddies were on that list with me. The Australian Speculative Fiction community is pretty small and (in my experience anyway) a really collegiate, supportive bunch of people. I know a fair few people on that list now. But, among all the nominees I know and admire, it was very satisfying seeing how many of my fellow Canberra writers and members of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild appeared on the list:

  • Ian McHugh (nom for Best Science Fiction Short with The Baby Eaters in Asimov’s)
  • T R Napper (nom for Best Horror Short with The Flame Trees in Asimov’s)
  • Dave Versace (nom for Best Fantasy Short with The Lighthouse at Cape Defeat in Aurealis)
  • Shauna O’Meara (nom for Best YA Short for No One Here Is Going To Save You in In Your Face)
  • Kaaron Warren (noms for Best Horror and Best Sci Fi Short for 68 Days in Tomorrow’s Cthulu and Best Horror Novel for The Grief Hole)
  • Simon Petrie (nom for Best Sci Fi Novella for All the Colours of the Tomato in Dimension 6).

Echoing these sentiments, my mate Tim (aka T R Napper) tweeted:

Which got me thinking about the important role my writing community has played in getting Pretty Jennie Greenteeth this far. In fact, in getting all of my stories published.

Just looking at Pretty Jennie Greenteeth, I found out about Belladonna Publishing and the anthologies they were producing through my writing group. Someone (I think it was Dave Versace) pointed me at their submissions call for their Black Apples anthology, which they knew was right up my alley. I didn’t end up getting a story into that anthology (damn), but I was instantly on it when Belladonna put their next call out. That willingness to share information about opportunities is something invaluable about my writing crowd, the CSFG. Especially to a rank rookie writer who had no idea who was who or what was anything. And not only did they help me figure out where in the industry I needed to be sending my submissions, but they also helped me figure out how to submit.

Start at the top. Work your way down. You’re never going to know what level you’re writing to if you don’t start at the top.

 – Ian McHugh

^^That’s one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever been given. Submit to the best markets first. Where do you want most to be published? Go there first. You just won’t know if your piece was good enough for them if you don’t send it.

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Ian McHugh & Tim Napper, celebrating Aurealis noms

Then there’s the frank and fearless feedback offered by the CSFG critiquing circles. I’ve had my work critiqued by almost everyone on the list of nominees above. In fact, these guys are basically my go-to peeps outside the organised critiquing circle, especially when a deadline is looming, or I just want to sit & talk through a piece and really hash out the issues. Pretty Jennie Greenteeth went through CSFG’s short story critiquing circle. I got some really useful feedback on it, including, from memory, advice on dealing with a continuity issue, comment on a difficult-to-pronounce name and warning flags on cliches. But a good critiquing partner will also tell you where you’re going right. We’re all suckers for metaphorical pats on the head in this business, but damn it feels good when someone whose work you admire says they like your story. (Thank you Dave Versace and Tim Napper in this case.)

Then there’s what happens after your story gets published (if your luck is in & you get that far.) Tim Napper, in particular, is fairly tireless in his commitment to spruiking stories by Australian authors that he rates well. He regularly posts about good Australian fiction he’s read and he put this great post up recently with his recommendations on Australian stories that came out in 2016 that are eligible for the Ditmar awards (these are Australia’s fan-voted genre awards, the Aurealis awards are the juried awards). Even if you’re not necessarily eligible to vote in the Ditmars, it is worth checking out his list, because he’s recommended some fantastic fiction. (If you are eligible, you should get your skates on and vote – noms close tonight, 19 March, 11.59pm AEDST: list of eligible works, online voting form.) Full disclosure: he’s recommended one of mine, Breathing (Aurealis #95). But I am far and away the junior partner on that list, so I have no hesitation in adding my voice to his exhortations to read the others’ work.

I’m far from the first to point out writing can be a lonely business. And trying to judge for yourself whether your piece of fiction needs more work or is ready to send out into the world is a tricksy business. Finding your writing community, the right writing community for you, is a gift of incalculable worth. And it can make bringing your stories out into the world just that little bit easier.

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Conflux 12 wrap up – Part I

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Conflux is over for another year, and once again I’m looking back on it through the golden glow of a post-con high. We were incredibly lucky in our Guest of Honour and MC lineup this year, being David Farland, Alan Baxter and Sean Williams respectively.

Sean came along to Conflux 11 last year and his frank discussion about how he manages his RSI made the Paying For Our Passion panel (inspired by David McDonald’s blog series of the same name) one of the standout sessions of the con. He spent September 2016 as the eminent writer in residence at the ACT Writers Centre, so us Canberra folk have been lucky to see a lot of him recently, including a Guest Author session for the CSFG and a session on his 10 1/2 commandments of writing at Old Parliament House last week. We jumped at the opportunity to have him on board for Conflux 12 and he didn’t disappoint. In his typically warm, funny and approachable style, he set the tone for an exceptionally convivial con.

We had the privilege of featuring David Farland in his first trip out to Australia in something like 15 years. He was really something special, providing a feast of stories, knowledge and industry insight. His contribution to our Breaking the US & UK markets panel was a particular highlight of the convention. And getting to hear more stories and ask him questions at his kaffeeklatsch session on Monday afternoon was a personal highlight for me.

Alan Baxter was our Australian Guest of Honour this year. He ran a condensed version of his Write the Fight Right workshop for us, in which he draws on his background as a Kung Fu instructor, and provided a fascinating running commentary on the Lion Dancers that came along on Friday night to open the con. Alan launched his new collection of short stories, Crow Shine, from Ticonderoga, on Saturday evening, complete with Crow Shine moonshine (not for the kiddies, but then neither is his book).

 

Being on the con organising committee I don’t get to go to as many panels and sessions as I’d like to. But those I did get to were great and I heard good things about the others. What stands out for me, though, at each and every Conflux I go to, is the people. Each year I hook up with old friends and make new connections and it’s these relationships that are really the root cause of that lovely golden post-con glow. I just meet such great people at Conflux. Lucky for me and my dodgy phone camera, Cat Sparks takes great photos of people. Here are a small selection of her pics that make me happy.

Whilst I didn’t manage to attend many panels, I did manage to get to a few workshops, so I’ll cover those in my next post. But to finish off, here’s a pic of the gorgeous cover art Shauna O’Meara did for the con magazine (she did the Red Fire Monkey logo at the top of the page, too!)

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Never Never Land – now in ebook!

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The Never Never Land

Hooray! The Never Never Land is out today in ebook! To celebrate, there’s a Goodreads giveaway happening if you fancy winning a hardcopy version. (There’s one for Australia and one for the US, UK & Canada.)

There’s also been a series of blog posts over on the CSFG’s website interviewing some of the authors who contributed to NNL – the most recent of which is the awesomely talented Shauna O’Meara, who is not only a contributing author, but also created the cover and internal art for NNL. She’s also done a new illustration for her story, especially for the CSFG blog – have a look, it is stunning.

 

The Never Never Land is out!

The Never Never Land
The Never Never Land

Hooray! On Sunday evening we launched The Never Never Land, containing my new story “Adventure Socks”, at Conflux 11. Nicole Murphy did the honours, noting that “Everything is better with dinosaurs”,  and that happily Never Never Land does not disappoint on this score. We had readings by Cat Sparks, from her story “Dragon Girl”, and Shauna O’Meara (who also did the amazing cover and interior artwork) from her story “To Look Upon A Dream Tiger”.

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Nicole Murphy – “Everything is better with dinosaurs”
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Editors Ian McHugh, Mitchell Akhurst and Phill Berrie
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Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Shauna O’Meara

I am really proud of my story in this anthology – and I’m thrilled to be sharing a table of contents with such a talented bunch. There are a swag of authors in Never Never Land with established and even award-winning careers, along with a handful of new authors for whom this is their first publication. Congratulations CSFG and everyone involved for putting out another fantastic anthology.

*All photos by Cat Sparks, used with permission.