Monday, December 20, 2010

The year in review, and looking forward to next year...

Not a bad year, writing wise (and otherwise actually..). It kicked off in style with a rare burst of activity that saw me submitting three different stories by the end of January; two of which have since been published:

"Something Unpleasant" - in Masters of Horror: The Anthology
"Miramar is Possum Free" - in A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction

Inspired by these successes, I managed to finish two other short stories (involving a lot of re-writing):

"Everybody goes to hell" - wild west horror, submitted and waiting for responses...
"The Big Three-oh" - hard-ish, future war sci-fi, already rejected twice (which was quick) but submitted again and waiting...

And, I managed to find a home for a story I wrote about 4 years ago:

"Trip Hawker and the Asteroid of Vengeance" - to be published in Rockets, Swords and Rainbows: New Tales of Science Fiction

AND - I actually got paid for both published stories - I won't be giving up my day job anytime soon, but hey, I'm a PRO.

Of course, my greatest achievement was assisting in my wife's baby (due mid-January).

Coming up for next year...

Finish and submit my superhero story - when I saw the call for submissions, the story just jumped into my head, supporting cast and backstory have followed very all I have to do is cram it all in to 5000 words. Deadline is March, but it would be good to have a first draft done in the next couple of days...

Conitnue with my sci-fi novel - fitting in around the demands of a new baby.

And, of course, help my wife give birth (as much as one can..), and all the fun stuff that comes with a new baby.

And today's Drabble - hmm, Xmassy theme....

Flehm was a miserable sod; worse at Xmas. The Under-Scroggins at Flehm’s Grommitworks had to work through with fewer breaks. On Boxing Day the sadistic swine would always fire someone at random.
So Flehm chucked a dart, as usual while blindfolded, onto the crowded factory floor. Deggles, a worker of some fifty years got it, literally, in the neck.
Poetically, Deggles killed Flehm by sticking a javelin through his head. Flehm stayed miserable to his painful end.
The authorities drowned Deggles in a vat of cider, but, by golly, he died happy. Sometimes, you’ve just got to do what’s right.

And a very Merry Xmas to all...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Foreign Country Podcast and an "ACCEPTANCE"!!!!

Thanks to the efforts of Matt Cowans, you can now hear my reading of "Miramar is Possum Free" as part of a Foreign Country podcast:

The podcast also contains Ripley Patton's competition winning "The Future of the Sky".

That's the first time I've read and recorded one of my stories - always weird hearing my own voice, and weirder when I'm attempting angry Aussie or Brazilian accents. And you'll just have to accept that I have performed the mutant possum accent perfectly - that is how they really speak, honest.

So huge thanks to Matt for putting the whole thing together and sticking on the web.

Other news...

My story "Trip Hawker and the Asteroid of Vengeance" has been accepted for an anthology called "Rockets, Swords and Rainbows- New Tales of Science Fiction", to be published next year by the sci-fi offshoot of the Library of the Living Dead Press. As a rule, it's a site big on zombies but they're happy to branch out into all kinds of pulp, genre stuff.

I wrote the Trip Hawker story about 4 years ago (at least in its first form). Spec Fic NZ's newsletter had the submission details and it just clicked that it would be the ideal place for it.

So, to pay tribute to the zombie-lovers of "Library of the Living Dead", here's 100 words of zombie action:

The undead lurched towards Brian and Jess. She climbed up some scaffolding and Brian followed. It creaked.
“It’ll break,” she shrieked. “Stay there. Fight them.”
“No way,” he shouted. The scaffolding wobbled.
Two zombies lurched forward, grabbing at their feet. Jess screamed and kicked Brian.
He fell between the two zombies. In a moment one had bit into his neck.
The pain was furious, filling his soul. His blood pumped out. The cold, alien virus streamed in.
Brian died.
The zombie dropped his dead flesh; turning back to the girl.
Brian felt hungry. He saw Jess and licked his lips.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

At last, I am writing a novel....slowly....

After two and a bit weeks I am now 6500ish words into my novel - being a sort of spin off from my story "The Big Three-Oh". At this, very early stage, I think I can see where it is all going, but there is enough vagueness about how we're going to get there to keep it interesting. The good thing with writing something so much larger than a short story is the way that ideas pop into being as you're writing and there is plenty of room (at least in this first draft) to let them fly. For example, I had just started writing about my character getting tortured and then rescued, but, to my surprise he started hallucinating before the torturers arrived which has led to an interesting story development. And who knew that someone had shoved pins into his tender parts? Which makes getting slung over your rescuer's shoulders no fun at all....

Todays drabble -  a wee bit of gothic horror. Only 100 words to play with, but again, this shows how things change as I write them - it just seemed a very gothic-y idea to start with someone digging up a grave.....

“This is monstrous,” wailed Lady Charlotte as I dug up her husband’s grave. When I saw her furious expression, I realised it was not this act of desecration that horrified her; but the mud that splattered her dress.
“Save your complaints,” I replied, “this might save you from the gallows.”
My spade crunched against the wood of the coffin lid. Lady Charlotte looked down in fury as I prized it off. The tattered skull of Lord Hawsham looked up at us.
“Who disturbs me?” hissed the rotting body.
“Your wife,” she spat, “now, tell the police I didn’t murder you.”

The problem with stuff like this is that I find myself asking loads more questions - so how come Lord Hawsham is in some kind of undead form, and what did Lady Charlotte have to do with it? And who is the narrator - he's not particularly polite to our Lady...hmm, something going on between them, did Lord Hawsham know? And do you know what? I have a suspicion that even if Lady Charlotte didn't murder her husband (and I'm not convinced on that one) I reckon she's got more than a few skeletons in her cupboard...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rejections - YES, I am a WRITER!!

A couple of rejections in the past week - 'The Big Three-oh" got knocked back by 'Lightspeed' - I was a bit hasty chucking it at them to be honest, but was very impressed by their response speed, and "Trial of Blood" was knocked back by a heroic fantasy anthology - nice rejection though, saying that it was not a reflection of the quality of writing but just not a fit for their book - and an invite to submit to the press's other open submissions - which was nice....

I've made a start at a novel for "National Write a Novel in a Month" - a online group writing project, basically helping to motivate people to bash out 50,000 words in 30 days - it comes out at 1667 words a day. So far I'm about 3 days behind.

Anyhoo - "Trixie goes to work" is the title of this latest masterpiece of sci-fi - it feels pretty good so far, so we shall see if we can reach the magic 50k, and even more magic, actually get to the end without being scared to death of the inevitable re-write (and re-write and re-write...).

A bit of sci-fi drabble - Wide-Screen Space Opera - in 100 words:

The ring habitat was doomed. The swarm closed in on Humanity’s last outpost; a whole species about to be wiped out.
The Voorks cared not.
Commander Blunt of the Human defence force chuckled.
The humans had blundered through Voork space a century ago, seeding Voork worlds with their colonies. No more. The Voork had hunted down their nests and now were poised to destroy the last one.
Too late, thought Blunt as the anti-matter beams lashed through the ring. Humans were out there. Destroy as many nests as you want. Still breeding, still spreading. You can’t kill pests that easy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What am I going to write?

Having trimmed my 13000 words down to a more sensible 4900ish, and got some reasonable feedback, I think "The Big Three-oh" may be ready to send out there.....and for it to join the three other submissions that are out in the world and waiting for someone to ACCEPT (let's be optimistic here).

I've also dug out a Dark Fantasy tale I first wrote about 8 months ago and polished it up. It was written for a particular market which promptly closed for submissions, so the story went into limbo for a while. Then, having been pointed towards Duotrope and it's vast search engine of writer's markets, and I feel I've found a new home for it. So, I've sent it to a few readers, and once we have a final nip and tuck, it too will join it's chums out in the big wide world.

But, with November, and thus NaNoWriMo, coming up fast, I want to decide what novel I should attempt to write...

1) True Cosmic - teen girl in backwater world discovers cosmic powers, while evil corporation are about to rip the community apart.
2) Tales from the Edge - dark sword and sorcery in bizarre otherworld where the eternal war between Sanity and Madness is about to be consumed by an even more chaotic threat..
3) Citizen of FreeSpace - episodic life of a citizen of a very advanced society and the consequences of that society.
4) Darkness Rides - fantasy where a small child and his mother are hunted by the forces of darkness with only a retired accountant and the ghost of his dead partner to protect them.

Or maybe something else....

Bah - here's a hundred words of fantasy action:

Herak Goblin-Slayer jumped back as the rampaging Orc swung its axe. It smashed the table to firewood.
The Orc snarled and charged at the warrior. Herak ducked, slashing upwards as he rolled past. The Orc hit the wall, then realised it had been disembowelled. Herak’s backslash took its head off.
“Did you have to kill him?” asked the innkeeper.
“It’s what you do with rampaging orcs,” replied Herak.
Growls rumbled from the backroom of the inn and a larger horde of orcs stomped through.
“They are good customers,” said the innkeeper.
“Can I get you guys a beer?” asked Herak.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Current Activity

13000 words have been delicately sliced back to just under 5000 - it's surprising what can get jettisoned when you focus on the real guts of a story. All part of the learning process, with a short story I just can't spend so much time on creating exciting action scenes - if it was a full length novel I'd have that luxury, but with the short form, I have to make sure that I'm focused on what the scene is bringing to the story.

I'm currently reading "The Neutronium Alchemist", being part 2 of Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy. Each book is a mammoth 1200 odd pages, and it's not large print either. There are hundreds of characters spanning dozens of worlds - it is about the grandest space opera I've come across, and is terrific stuff - however, Hamilton uses that space to create vast scenes that suck you in, take you on a rollercoaster, fill you with wonder and, more and more frequently, scare the crap out of you. And that's fine when that's what the story demands - but my short story (provisionally called The Big Three-oh) does not have such a huge scope, does not demand such enormous scenes - and when it was filled with that, frankly, it was just getting in the way of the story.

So - The Big Three-oh is provisionally finished, and now is out with various friends awaiting feedback. And I need to trim a few hundred words from an old dark fantasy story. With a bit of luck, I'll have two stories ready to send out there in a couple of weeks. Which will lead neatly into NaNoWriMo....and what the hell am I going to write 50,000 words about in 30 days?

Today's drabble - you may be able to guess what I spent the afternoon doing. And perhaps the lesson here is to make sure the area is well ventilated, clearly bleach fumes have unpleasant side-effects:

At last, the bathroom was cleaned.
“I thought you were a vegetarian,” said the voice.
No-one was there. Must be the bleach fumes.
“No, not the bleach, this is the gestalt mind of the lifeforms you were conducting genocide upon. And you said you respected other living things.”
“The mould?”
“Yes,” raged the voice. A pinkish splot appeared in a corner. “Yes,” it said again as more dark patches swarmed behind the toilet. “YES,” screamed trillions of voices as across the world as the obsession with cleanliness came raging back to bite.
Civilisation fell; at least, the damp bits did.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Writing is re-writing...oh yes it is...

I have found an annoying aspect to my writing - for me to do a 5000 word short story, I have to write a 10,000 word story first, make a stab at trimming it then realise that I have to really start from scratch and blast out the desired 5000 words. It happened with "Miramar is Possum Free". Its earlier incarnation was an 8000 word sort of take on Blade Runner, set in a dystopian New Zealand where a private eye with a past hunted for a mutant cow. 8000 words and various attempts at editing made me produce a grim, gritty story, set in a ruined environment with a backstory of a tragic romance. While hunting a mutant cow.

Eventually I realised that no matter how grim and serious the underlying message of the story was, it was still about a huge great cow with an attitude. So I went for broke with a far more bonkers story of mutant possums - which turned out to be far more fun, certainly for me as a writer and, as far as some feedback is concerned, for a few readers.

And this is exactly where I find myself with my latest story - the big 10,000 word monster that I started with is bogged down in grim and violent detail, and, having re-written the opening section, I've managed to make it a reasonable 900 words as opposed to 3000...

There's still a lot of work to do before its ship-shape and ready to submit, but now, I can see something that will hopefully be fun, sparky and a bit satirical but without being too damn grim.

Am I going to have to do this when I write a novel - as in churn out some dark, weighty tome of 300,000 words before starting from scratch again and distilling the one decent idea in it to about 100,000 words? Yikes, that's a lot of work....

Ah well, 100 words is a little easier....

The alarm was going off and slowly burning my brain into mush. Was anyone listening? Who knew what the alarm was alarming people about? TURN OFF THAT BL**DY NOISE!
I had to finish the report and the procedure about writing the report but still that BL**DY NOISE carried on.
I grabbed my gun and stormed out of the office.
It wasn’t a car or burglar alarm. It was a trap.
The only sounds I hear now are the strange shrieks and moans of the other inmates when they open the padded door to feed me. It’s much more peaceful here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review of "Tourists" by Anna Caro..and today's drabble - a bit of romance

Anna Caro's story "Tourists" (in A Foreign Country) has a lot of the qualities of a short story that I aspire to. The story starts with a great Sci-Fi idea - time travel being used for "disaster tourism", taking tourists back to see disasters happen like the Titanic sinking, great earthquakes etc. From there, Anna draws on two of the characters to give us a great story about people, relationships and our views on death and the afterlife.

There's lots I love about this story - as an example of craft, it's great - Anna gives us enough detail to accept how the time travel happens without burdensome description getting in the way of the story. I was drawn in by the intriging idea and then drawn in by the well-crafted characters to find the story reaching a different level.

It's not a long piece of work - maybe 7 pages - yet Anna makes you think about what tourism is all about, how we relate to "disasters", both from a distance and at a personal level, along with a warm story about three-dimensional characters we come to care about. A teacher of mine once said that the essence of great art is achieving much with little - Anna achieves just that.

I read it at a good time - I'm trying to cut back a story of mine from 13000 words to 5000 - so it's a great reminder that I don't really need all that action-packed description, at least, not in a short story. Time for me to go back, strip back to the core of what the story is about, beef up my characters and get rid of the rubbish. As has been said, writing is re-writing - ain't that the truth?

Today's drabble - a bit of romance, which will make sense mostly to anyone who has had to use the London Underground on a daily basis (around 6 million people a day, apparantly). For those unfamiliar with this marvel of Victorian engineering, there are a lot of very long escalators allowing you to descend to and ascend from the depths of London to get to and from work...maybe we'll call it "Very brief encounter".

You never make eye-contact on the Underground. Except today, riding the escalator up, he does.
A quarter of the way up he touches eyes with a blond woman coming down. She smiles.
He can’t help but smile back. She bites her bottom lip. He looks away for a moment but she is still looking back, and smiling.
They meet in the middle.
They turn their heads and hold the look but then they are past each other.
At the top he looks down.
And she looks up at him.
He rubs his wedding ring, remembers hers and goes to work.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Action packed drama in 100 words...

While I procrastinate about finishing a piece of conspiracy theory flash fiction, here's 100 words worth of action packed thrills..

10 minutes before the nuclear bomb at the top of the building goes off.
9 flights of stairs for Trip Hawker to climb.
8 kicks to smash in the door to the room with the bomb.
7 laser-sword wielding, robot-ninjas between Trip and the bomb.
6 shots from Trip’s gun to take out most of the robots.
5 super-fast, kick-ass moves to destroy the last one.
4 fiendish codes to break through to get to the bomb.
3 seconds before the city is destroyed in nuclear fire.
2 possible wires. A whole lot of people to save.
1 little snip...

Did he make it??? What do you think?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Inspiration comes from the strangest places....

A frequent question about the US of A is "what the hell is wrong with you people?" - a question very relevant during these mid-term election times. Yesterday the remarkable political rise of Christine O'Donnell came flying past me - I'd seen her come up as a poor man's Sarah Palin, but an article in "The Daily Mash" made me find out a little more. Googling her name I discovered that even such suspect characters as Karl Rove (ex oppo of George W Bush) had serious questions about her funding and qualifications - although O'Donnell said that his allegations were 'unfactual'.

It soon set my twisted mind a twisting...

The inner circle watched the brunette on TV and jaws dropped.
“Did she really say ‘unfactual’?” said Brother Phil.
“And she’s poised to become a state governor?” said Sister Angelina. More heads shook in wonder at the drivel being spouted on the TV. Those humans…
Brother Rod, the Chief Lizard, Grand Poobah of the Illuminati, Supreme Nabob of the Brotherhood of Zion and President of the Model Railways Association, rapped the table and brought the circle to order. “That’s enough,” he said, nodding to Under-Brother Rupert who switched it off.
“Siblings,” he said, “I believe we’ve found the next President.”

Seriously, I'm not sure this is a work of "fiction"....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Foreign Country - a couple of reviews..and a new drabble.

As I slowly make my way through "A Foreign Country" I'll post the odd little review..

Matt Cowens' "No Hidden Costs" is a short but sharp look at the freedom vs responsibility issue that circles environmental issues - is it inevitable that as pollution/ climate change etc threatens humanity more and more, society will have to force people to be responsible, rather than just hoping that we'll change our ways? The  solution in Matt's story would be a powerful way to influence people - and the story brings it out with pitch black humour. A cracking story that brings up a big issue but in an engaging and not preachy way.

JC Hart's "Birth Rights" treads on similar territory - forcing society to act responsibly - and asks the age old question of "who watches the watchmen?" JC's story is almost brutal, but its the characters and the harsh positions they are put it that pull the reader in. Again, short but sharp, making its points with a razor blade rather than a sledgehammer.

More stories to come...

And today's drabble brings us back to Pan, who has clearly escaped from jail and has some big plans....

The possums were arguing with the kangaroos. Pan worried that a gunfight would break out, but she needed the possums’ agility and the roos’ speed for the job.
“They’ll kill each other,” said Carlos the monkey boy, “and probably us too.”
She fired a round into the air. “Listen up,” she shouted, “any of you marsupials kill any of the other marsupials and I will kill all of you. Got it?”
The Roos and the Possums stopped arguing.
“That’s called leadership,” said Pan. Carlos was impressed.
“What about us?” said the Bunyips, aggressively.
Pan growled. The Bunyips, sensibly, shut up.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Drabble a day-ish...

Hmm, a wonderful weekend of skiing (only slightly marred by the mountain being closed and no actual skiing taking place) got in the way of my drabble a day for Spec Fic NZ's blogging week. Plenty of others more than made up for my missing blogs (the link takes you to them), including a couple of very kind words about my story "Miramar is Possum Free" in the "A Foreign Country" anthology.

One of the blogs from the anthology editor, Anna Caro, has a link to an interview she did with Radio New Zealand about "A Foreign Country" which has a reading from my story - click on this link and find "A Foreign Country" in the list to download.

And today's drabble - slightly inspired by Frank Herbert's Dune, but quite a bit shorter...

Helah sat on the dune. His bionic eye spotted the rider long before his organic eye did. He scanned the rider’s bio-signature and lowered his gun.
Dura shouted as she rode up. “The messiah is with us.”
Helah looked back to the oasis. Ten thousand cyborg warriors awaited his command.
“New messiah, guys,” he shouted, “Let’s kick some ass!” There was a thundering of hooves and whine of motors. Within two weeks the heretics had been destroyed. Helah led his people back to the desert.
He sat on the dune. Dura was approaching. Another messiah would be with them soon.

I've been working my way through the anthology - and loving some terrific stories - I'll post some comments on some tomorrow (along with a hundred words of something...)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drabble a day no3 - a bit of filth.

I'm liking this Drabble stuff - the challenge of making the piece hit exactly 100 words means you have to really be sure each word counts - and its a way of just chucking out little ideas that may never be big enough to sustain a longer story - just a wee snapshot of someone's life.

OK, this one's a bit saucy, well, could be seen as a bit saucy, depends on the reader as always...

“On your knees,” he commanded. She did as she was told.
“You’ve been very bad,” he said. There was no shame in her eyes, only longing.
He slapped her. With every sting of his hand she yelped.
He carried on until her skin was red. It wasn’t enough. He reached for the handcuffs.
She whispered, “No, please.”
“Quiet,” he shouted, “I’m in charge here.
She looked round at him. Dark eyes, under dark lashes beneath dark locks. “I said no.”
He had no choice and manacled her to the bedpost.
He loved her. He was so utterly in her power.

Comments, feedback, outrage etc - please make a comment below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spec Fic Blogging week - Day 2 - Drabble a day no 2

I managed to read two more stories from "A Foreign Country" - Tim Jones's fascinating, but pessimistic "The Last Good Place on Earth", and JC Hart's thoroughly absorbing and thought-provoking "Birth Rights". It really is a pleasure to get published alongside such good stories - and makes me realise I really need to raise my game.

Anyhoo - today's drabble....I suspect many of you living in Wellington will know where this one's coming from...

It was a furious wind. It bent the trees and sent them hammering into houses; it swirled round the hills and into the gullies. It raced again and again round the wide bowls, thundering over rooftops, shaking the bush and driving hard pellets of rain with it.
And when it had built up enough strength and power, it hurled itself with all its fury at the house on the ridge, slamming into its windows and making branches beat against it in anger.
Inside, I stirred, rolled over and cuddled up to my wife. God bless double-glazing, solid insulation and earplugs.
Also trying to read Iain Banks' "The Wasp Factory" - now there's an imagination....


Monday, September 13, 2010

New Zealand Spec Fic Blogging Week - Day One!

OK - and we're off....having just got to the end of my latest short story (all 13000 words of it - it needs a fair bit of trimming), what have I learnt?
I seem to have to write a whole story to realise what my story is - as in, the re-write will be a lot, lot different, almost a new story altogether, but by working through all 13000 words, I've now got characters, situations, themes and backstory to knock together.

Still, since we're blogging every day for this week (which may be tricky since I'll be away from Thurs to Sat - hoepfully someone else up the mountain will have a laptop and we'll have an internet connection) let's try a do a Drabble a day:

“Mr Barker,” said the Doctor, “you’re pregnant.”
“Sorry?” said Ronald.
“There’s a womb, placenta and viable foetus. Last year, when we examined you, there was none of this.” The Doctor was stunned. “I suggest going home for a rest.”
Ronald did that and the Angel Gabriel arrived that evening.
“Nope,” he said, “not a mistake, we’re infallible. But virgins aren’t easy to find. We had to think outside the box.”
Later, Ronald admitted it had been a stressful time. But little Jamie had been such a good boy, it was all worth it. Pity about that business with the cross.

Ayia!!! The stuff that goes through my head.....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Au Contraire - NZ Sci-Fi convention

Two weeks ago saw the New Zealand Science Fiction convention come to Wellington. I attended mainly for the writing workshops but also to attend the launch of "A Foreign Country - New Zealand Speculative Fiction" which contains my own story "Miramar is Possum Free".

I was very impressed by the writing workshops - particularly Sean Williams' Collaboration workshop where we imagined what Anakin Skywalker's lost twin sister would have been like. Between me and Susan Kornfield (who got 2nd place in the Au Contraire short story comp, and who's excellent story "Dreams of a Salamander Nation" is in the Foreign Country book) dreamed up a fiesty character called Pan.

Pan turned up later during the Flash Fiction session, taken by Riply Patton (who's fascinating story "Fear of the sky" won 1st prize, and is also in the book) - the task was to write a drabble - being a story in exactly 100 words. By this stage, Pan had stopped being a Star Wars character, but was already on her way to prison:

“Go on,” said Pan.
Phil wasn’t sure. It was a long way down and the melon would make a lot of mess when it hit.
“Quick, do it now,” urged Pan, “there’s a cop coming.” She gave him that saucy look; Phil let the melon go.
The cop twisted in mid-air, fired its laser and vapourised the melon. It floated up to Pan and Phil.
“She did it,” shouted Phil.
The cop swivelled. “Vandalism, 5 years,” it grated. It fired a catch-net at Pan and flew off with her cursing and spitting.
Damn, thought Phil, I’ll never get laid now. '

Anyway - count the words - 100 exactly....

Other great writing sessions included World building with NZ author Russell Kirkpatrick, How to get published in New Zealand with Tim Jones, Nicole Murphy on characterisation and Jeena Murphy on finishing that final draft....

All in all, it was a great weekend (including the Saurday evening non-sci-fi diversion of the Beervana NZ Festival).

Now, I am inspired to get my butt in gear, finish my latest short story and send it somewhere to get published - thanks to a couple of great weblinks I discovered at the con.

And that Pan girl - she just won't get out of my head. Could I do, say, 100 drabbles charting her life and times - 100 stories, 100 pages, 10,000 words... how hard could it be?