Not long ago I put out a call to a bunch of friends asking for their favourite books. I wanted something un-put-down-able. I needed both distraction and inspiration (ie I was looking for further procrastination and ultimately its cure with regard to my own writing). It was a great success, and I got a heap of suggestions which I am slowly working my way through.
Now without giving away what I have read, so far I have been amazed by the difference in my reaction to these much-loved books of my friends. One I enjoyed in parts, one was as much fun as a visit to the dentist, and one I devoured, not wanting to put it down when the clock rolled around to midnight and I had to be up by 7 the next morning.
This got me thinking about the different aspects to a novel and how unique combinations make the perfect mix for each of us. It might be the story itself which grabs you, or the characters, the writing style, the moral, the originality or one of a million other things within the book. None of us are exactly alike, and probably what is going on in our lives when we first read the novel also plays a part, so even we are not a constant. There cannot be a perfect book!
I’m going to keep this in mind when I get my next rejection. An editor needs to love your story to print it, and if among my own friends (where we have similar interests and experiences) we have such differences in opinion about what is good, then I should keep faith that soon I will find the editor who shares my mix of ‘what makes a good story’ and will pick up my manuscript.
For the record, the book I always recommend is Markus Zusak’s novel The Book Thief which isn’t really even spec fic. For me it was a beautiful novel which got the mix just right, well my mix anyway.
My first ever fiction publication was Random Impulses in Antipodean SF, but my first ever paid publication was Welcome to Midnight, in Aurealis. This also just happens to be my highest paid publication so far as well, and gave me a slightly skewed idea about how much there was to be made in the game of writing. I am cured of this misconception now.
The publication rights have reverted back to me, so as my next foray into the wonderful wide world of self-publishing, I have re-released Welcome to Midnight as a free (for a limited time) ebook. So for those of you who do not want to sign up with any ebook publishers, you can download a copy of Welcome to Midnight no questions asked, just by clicking on the image below.
**WARNING** This story contains adult content!
This is a horror/science fiction tale, so perhaps not the most appropriate story to be reading on a religious holiday. But it is Swancon weekend, so there are elements of the speculative about this time of year.
There is a reason why so often footage of Bigfoot or strange sea monsters or (as it is today) aliens, turn up in mainstream news; we want to believe. Even those who poo-poo the idea of anything supernatural will watch it, secretly wishing they could be convinced (I’m sure).
So what do you make of the most recent offering;
Well, I’m clearly in the ready to believe anything corner, my writing depends on it, but I am also just as open to finding out that it is fake (just watch the movie where the guy cuts off his own arm and you will know what they can do with special effects these days –if you can think about anything other than keeping your lunch down that is).
I love a good conspiracy theory and have no doubt there is a lot more going on in this world than we are encouraged to know. That’s why it is important to keep your eyes open. Sure you might watch a few movies by unemployed uni students trying to catch the viral train to stardom, but you may just see something *they* don’t want you to see.
Isn’t that worth the risk?
I have had more flash fiction pieces published than any other story format (others of which include short story, novelette, novella and novel). So what is flash fiction? There are all sorts of definitions out there, and basically it is up to whoever is publishing the story to decide, but the general rule of thumb is less than 1,000 words.
You might think that is not many, but it is amazing how much of a tale can be told in so few words. There are even some flash fiction sites where the limit is 55 words, making 1,000 seem excessive!
The great thing about flash fiction is that it is easy to consume for busy people, especially those with small mobile reading devices. As a result there are a lot of websites which provide weekly or daily flash fiction for free. While this leads to many more publication opportunities for writers, it does mean that often you won’t get paid for your work, but getting out there is half the battle, so don’t let that put you off.
If you want to check out some great Australian Flash Fiction so you can decide for yourself if less than 1,000 words is enough to tell a story have a look at Antipodean SF –or just Google flash fiction.
Here’s my 55 word story City Loop, written after a trip into work back in 2007;
The usual crush of commuters pushed onto the train, their eyes downcast as they pretended to see no-one. The stink of wet wool recirculated through the carriages as dripping umbrellas poked strangers.
“We don’t have to be part of the system, we could just go home!” a man yelled.
A small gap opened around him.
Okay, not a story covering the intrigue of three generations of the same family, but it does give you an idea of what you can do with 55 words.
Like many people in Australia, I was shocked by the floods in Queensland earlier this year. Fortunately I have been lucky enough to have one of my short stories (Lounging) selected for inclusion in the charity anthology 100 Stories for Queensland.
This anthology includes 100 uplifting, funny or feel good stories, and all profits will go directly to the flood appeal. Queensland has a lot of rebuilding to do, so they still need all the help they can get!
Due for release Tuesday 3rd May 2011, 100 Stories for Queensland will be available as both an ebook and a more traditional printed version. There are many well known authors alongside some new names, and several different genres are represented.
So as far as supporting a good charity goes, this is a very entertaining way to help out!
For more information visit the website http://100storiesforqueensland.org or follow on Twitter @100stories4qld
I am sorry to say this for all of you who were working, but we had some beautiful autumn days this week. Until Saturday arrived, and since then it has been raining. It just doesn’t seem fair. Perhaps we should move the weekend to days which are more commonly sunny? Tuesday and Wednesday are often fine. It might make Monday a bit more liveable too?
Anyway, on one of those gorgeous days I managed to get so close to a koala that I had to do a photo post this week. So I hope you enjoy, and see if you can get your weekend moved to mid-week!
Last night I found my diary from when I was 15. Unlike most diaries this one was written at the end of the year, so there is plenty of foreshadowing and several interesting sub-plots as the year goes on. While giving me some great ideas for a YA novel it did make me realise something quite profound; I have returned after 15 years away and there are some ghosts of the past that need to be faced.
Reading about my first covert drinking experience, my first true love and my first major fall-out with a best friend, I saw how much emotion I have tied up here. It has also underscored how very much I have grown up since then. I read the words of 15 year old me with the eyes of a me who is more than double that age, and I thanked God that age gives us the gift of wisdom.
But how does being back here influence adult me? I have not witnessed those tied up in my past mature, have children and mellow. For me those people live in my memory as the young adults I left behind nearly twenty years ago, and with them all the angst and excitement from those days. It is just not a real perception of how things are.
Dredging up all the emotions as I read that diary was a very cathartic, entertaining and enlightening process, but it also showed me how much of my perception of Adelaide is based on those days so long ago. I think we can all get some value from going back to our childhood selves and making some sense of what made none at the time, and perhaps that will give us a new set of eyes to view the current world with?
For any of you who have left your place of childhood, perhaps you should go back for a visit. Life is not just about your personal movie, we all have our own feature film in which we all have a journey, and stories are always intersecting. Life is about change, and coming home is not a return to what was, but more about what could be.
Now to start that new young adult novel…
I know I comment on it every year, but this daylight savings thing annoys me. More to the point the end of daylight savings annoys me. Supposedly I got an extra hour today, but I slept right through it –so it really doesn’t count.
Why not give it back to us on Saturday, or Monday? Yeah, I know there will be people who will catch the wrong bus or get to work too early, but that will just give them an amusing story to tell and make them the talk of the office. Not to mention that it would give us more of a sense of the hour that we have been given, so that we might do something useful with it. There have to be some trade-offs for the sun going down an hour earlier!
Goodbye sunset walks after dinner. Goodbye sitting in the sun in the window and reading in the late afternoon. Goodbye not turning the lights on until 7pm. I will miss you.
I think I need to move to somewhere where it is always daylight savings time.