Recently (yesterday!) discovered that one of my books is going to be picked up, although I’m waiting to get the contract before I say too much! The book is a “writing challenge” I gave myself: write a book in a week. It’s called Banned Books – a working title – and is about a school that tries to ban controversial books with limited results. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the book itself but I did enjoy writing some of the characters. And of course it’s set in a private school because as usual, it’s hard for me to not write about private schools.
When Royal Ottoman was thirteen he found a funny lump in his chest, a tiny nodule shaped a bit like a jelly bean.
At the time he didn’t think it was anything important. He’d had funny lumps before: chicken pox, mosquito bites, pimples, med-rash, blood blisters and even a nasty boil Mr Takuira said he’d gotten from not eating enough fresh fruit. So he didn’t tell anyone about the lump, especially not his mother (who would worry, who was always worrying). Most of the time he forgot it was there, but now and then his t-shirts would brush against it, and he’d think: Funny.
Having completed the anthology (Signs over the Pacific) and the novella (Jasper and the Dead), I’ve got one last major project on my to-do list before I can start working on my own stuff.
That project is Mizzenmast, that bastard bastardbastard of a thing which has been lying around on my hard drive for upward of five years. Fuck knows how I’ll manage to squeeze it into shape.
Okay folk, I think I’m open again for commissioned fiction and/or anthology requests.
I’ve currently got a novel and two short-stories on my commission list, plus a short-story for a charity anthology, but I’m deffo open for new novella and short-fiction length stories. Chances are I’m not going to do much submitting to magazines any more – I really hate that submishmash thing and I only use it when I can get my husband to do it for me – so if you’d like something from me, let me know what you want and I’ll get on it.
There’s a girl in SoWatt who can tell you what your dreams mean.
She’s got laser-perfect blonde hair and wears designer knock-offs she gets cheap from the pirates of Okhotsk. Her accent is clipped and sounds maybe South African, but with SoWatt being such a cultural melting pot, it’s hard to tell. She mainly works out of cafes and restaurants, the more expensive the better, but sometimes, when business isn’t so good, she’ll do it for you in your office.
I’ve finished Jasper and the Dead, the novella that’s been eating my ass and my brain for the past few months. I never connected with the characters or the plot, due possibly to the fact I gender-warped the protagonist. It’s possibly been my worst exercise in writing and the result may be excrecable, but… I’m happy it’s done. And I completed something. So that’s a jolly yay.
I’m working on three contract-related stories:
1. Jasper and the Dead. A gay Australian romance novella, which is at 10500/15000. This thing is a monster that I’m very uninspired about – I’m just not feeling it. I keep thinking I should start over with a new concept, but now I’m so close to finishing it’s like… I might as well keep trucking. I may wind up liking the story later, and I’m just whining now… but it just hasn’t felt right for me.
2. Mizzenmast. Oh yeah, that thing, you say. Well I’m 15000/70000 on that one and I’ve worked out some failures in the plot and how to fix them. There’s no due date on this though (I’m looking at delivering it “sometime” next year), so I’m feeling more comfortable about sitting on this.
3. 2-3 short stories for Signs over the Pacific, AKA The Skypirate Anthology. I’ve been asked to write a story on Katya Sushi, the cancer survivor who can’t be read by disease airport scanners… but aside from that I’ve got pretty free rein on what I can write within the Ave Pasifika universe. I’m currently considering completeing the following stories:
- Katya and Alleluia live through a quarantine, caused by Katya.
- Del escorts a lefty journalist into Pasifika to do an interview with a band of psychotic women who cut off willies. Guest starring RESYS.
- Something with Jean Ottoman in it. Maybe relating to the List. Also guest starring RESYS.
I think that’s everything I need to do, but I also want to complete a co written story for the next Kindle All-Stars book. I may also help the husband with his new project, which is going to be poetry. Eee!
I'm chugging along at the gay Australian romance, which is a request for an anthology. I'd like to note that this is the first time I've ever written a gay Australian romance, and this may be why I'm not going terribly well at it. It's the romance and the Australian parts that are really screwing me - I'm just not that romantic, and aside from Harmonica + Gig, I really don't write about Australia. Anyway, I've set the story in the convict era, added zombies, and am using the following characters from Actual History: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governor_Macquarie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Blue http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Caesar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Pearce I've already realised that some of the dates I'm using aren't going to fly. I'll need to justify, for example, while Macquarie is around and looking after the colony in New South Wales in 1824, when in reality at the time he was a) not in Australia and b)dead. Still, some of the research I'm finding is pretty interesting, particularly the high incidence of gay relationships in convict colonies. Who knew? Certainly not me, but school never taught me about awesome historic fictures like Alexander Pearce or Billy Blue either. School sucks. But I digress. Note I didn't say I'm no good at writing gay stories. I didn't think I wrote a lot of GBLT themed fiction, but I'm about to sign a contract for Signs over the Pacific and other stories which is a collection of all my Sky Pirate short stories. I was looking through them the other day and, well, they've virtually all got GBLT elements. Really. The contents are: Propagation - an AI that's trying to work out (among other things) its gender. Signs over the Pacific - bisexual protagonist. Faceless in Halukan - it's just one long gender-bend, really. The Bad Thing - heteroflexible protagonist. Ma-Ma - lesbian protagonist. Greenwich Mean Time Plus - gay relationship. The Future of Lole San Paulo - gay protagonist. How You Make The Straight - amusingly straight. (Although this wasn't originally the case, I just flipped the protagonist's gender before I wrote the final version.) Mother & Daughter - the only one with non-specific content. I don't remember this at all, to be honest. But there you have it. So I guess if you're looking for books with GBLT themes that also include sky pirates*, you should grab this anthology when it comes out. * Think Somalian or Indonesia pirates, rather than fun happy people in flying steampunk airships who "fight the man".
One of my characters - one of the ones who I've always thought was fantastic, but just never wanted to fit into anything - has turned out to be female. I know that sounds a little odd - you'd think the first thing you'd notice about a character would be their gender, or absence of it - but no, I'm actually quite bad with working out genders. In fact I've a whole list of characters who I messed up by writing first as male and then going, oh heck wait, and realising they were chicks. Or vice versa. See Regina "Harmonica" Carter, of Harmonica + Gig and Alleluia Bottle, of the Ave Pasifica/Mizzenmast stories for the most obvious examples. I started writing Morality Jones as a room mate for Valery BW. He was a fanatical and amazingly ugly Irish Catholic boy who had visions that told him to do crazy-ass but somehow inspiring shit. Last night I realised that he was actually a fairly decent looking chick from a fictional Cape Verde, who had been cursed by five bad women. Yeah, I know, my brain is a weird place, but they are the same character. I simply got it wrong the first time. So now I have a main character for a story. I know what the story is too - and it's novel length. Morality has been cursed five times by five powerful women who are part of the Honorable Ladies Society. One woman is an illusionist, another a powerful sorcerer, another a warrior, another a genius and the last one leads the Ladies of Temperance. Anyway Morality has to cure her curses by killing all these women and to do this she has to find the right people who can help her. Here's where it gets even more interesting, I know who some of these people are already. One is Duc Benoir Plantaganet, a French noble who ran during the French Revolution and now is a tram conductor. There are a pair of twins, illusionists, called Samantha and Sophie, who claim they are the best illusionists who've ever lived. There are a pair of soul-bonded guys, one a local, the other of French descent. Soul-bonding, according to my sleepy-brain of last night, is an outlawed kind of magic that lets two people join their magics to become unbelievably powerful - but in doing so they also sort of bond their personalities. So the soul-bonding was a bit of a mistake in the end, because one guy was super into taking over the world until he got soul-bonded to the other one, who was kinda lazy and hedonistic, and now all both of them do is sit about and get sucked off and eat cake. I'm blabbing on now but I'm seriously like, oh my gosh there's a story coming together in my head. And it's not what I want to write or something I intended to write but it's happening and it's kind of exciting and I have Morality Jones to thank for it.
I'm trying desperately to write a gay Australian romance for a deadline that seems to be racing toward me. I need 15,000 words, I need them bad, and I don't have a story. Oh, I've got a bit of a thing lying around, about 5700 words that are about as romantic as something that's not romantic at all. And it's got to the point where I know I can't keep going. I've failed, that story is a failure, I don't like it, no one will like it, and if no one likes it there's no point in my crashing blindly on like an idiot. I have to suck it up and start over with something entirely new. But I've got no ideas. Problem is, I think, that I've never written anything set in Australia, not since Harmonica + Gig/The Ghosts of Los Hellas (which were written in 2003, while I was still in college). I don't have an Australian world to use in my fiction. I don't have any Australian characters. I don't even know where to start. I've been desperately pawing over the beginnings of some fiction from Brazza City, but I have nothing. Nothing! I'm now at the point where I'm seriously looking over my Brazza City stories and thinking, oooh, maybe if I transplant Benoit from 17th century Totally Not Cape Verde Honest But Some Fictional Island Srsly and make him, I don't know, a surfer instead of a runaway French Duc escaping Madame Guillotine... And by that I mean I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. I got no ideas, guys. I got NO IDEAS. But hey, I bet that writing a freaking-out blog post is going to help my writer's block. What do you think? Yeah? If you've got an ideas of what I can do before going completely nuts, post 'em in the comments.
Check out this rejection! One of the best I’ve ever got. (I’ve removed details of the magazine and other related things because I don’t like putting names on stuff, but it should still make sense.)
Dear R.J. Astruc,
This is XXXX, one of the editors of XXXX. Unfortunately, we have to reject both poems because they don’t adhere to our submission requirements (poetry must be sixteen lines or fewer; see our FAQ page). If you happen to have any poems that are less than 16 lines, please consider submitting those by this Friday, which is our deadline. However, in lieu of the formal letter we typically send, I wanted to write you personally because I was so taken with your poems.
I absolutely loved them, particularly “Something Not Quite LIke Morning”, and I feel that you may have better luck sending this to another XXXX journal called XXXX. Here is part of their mission statement: “XXXX.”
I encourage you to submit to both poems to the editors there. I have already alerted them about your poetry (though I did not send your work), how much I liked it, and how upset I was we could not accept it at XXXX.
All of us here at XXXX send our best wishes to you on your path as a writer. We hope to receive submissions from you again.
I've been loading all my out of print/out of copyright fiction onto Amazon - it's become a pretty fun little project. If you have time, do drop me a review on Amazon and let people know what you think of the stories. The latest collection to go up is THE ONE CALLED ZEEM. The collection contains all five Zeem stories. Three of them are pretty good, and one of them is fucking brillaint. One of them is kinda balls, though. Here's the blurb: "The witch is in the health-food aisle. If I stand on my tiptoes I can see her from my register, tossing a jar of organic pasta sauce from one hand to the other. She’s frowning at herself in one of the mirrors tucked above the vegetable shelves—practising her evil eye, I guess, or working on a hex. The other Tesco’s customers are giving her a wide berth, correctly assuming that a woman with a platinum blonde crew-cut and a leering devil tattoo on her shoulder is not one to be messed with." Zeem is a fairy. Not the kind with sparkling wings and magical dust, the Arabian kind that works at Tesco and keeps a large supply of perfumes, air fresheners and detergents on hand at all times. Because they're delicious. Zeem was a soldier a very, very long time ago, but now he lives in a London tenement with a local DJ, an Irish thug with a heart of gold, a collection of immigrants and various small-time criminals. It's a good life, even if sometimes he has to help sort of an invading demon, discuss politics with a homosexual vampire or remove a wayward spirit from outside the window on the third floor. The One Called Zeem collects five previously published Zeem stories, following Zeem on his adventures through the streets of a myth-soaked modern England. The Perfume Eater (first published in Strange Horizons, 2007) pits Zeem and his neighbours against an enemy from the past and was short-listed for an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story. In A Hat Full of Leaves (first published in Aurealis, 2009) Zeem is forced to seek help from a tattoo-loving witch when an overgrown homeless man causes trouble. The Flying Woman (first published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, 2008) sees Zeem's best friend and sometimes-lawbreaker Johnny Flannery attempt to quell the screams of something ancient and powerful. Johnny and Babushka (first published in Electric Spec, 2010) was reprinted as part of Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror in 2011 and puts a very Zeem twist on a Christmas-style myth. Finally, What Would Luminael Do (first published in Reflection’s Edge, 2008) forces Zeem to navigate a tricky social and political situation as a local vampire is persecuted for his lifestyle choices. Zeem is pretty normal for a thousand year old Persian fairy, he just manages to get involved in some abnormal situations. He'd rather be sitting at home watching TV and chugging a bottle of bleach. But that's what you get for being nice.
The first chapter of my Cthulhu novel is going to be a scene from a reality TV show. In it, the main character Art, is selected to become the new member of the famous boy band, TINKER. I've no idea how to organise this scene or how long it ought to be. Help!
I started self-publishing my own fiction in January of this year, with a previously published story that I particularly liked, Clockworld. (Yes, it is still available online, but it's available online in comic sans, so essentially what you're paying for is to read a book that isn't in comic sans, which I think is worth .99c.*) I followed that up with an unpublished book two weeks ago, Street of Two Doors, and last week, I reprinted one of my first novels, New Tricks, published in 2006 (?) and now out of print. I currently have two books available from small presses, one a slightly smaller press than the other. The first book isA Festival of Skeletons, which has been out since December of 2010, and the second is Harmonica + Gig, which came out in mid 2011. A Festival of Skeletons doesn't sell particularly well, but I'm assured its sales are fine for a small press. Harmonica + Gig, which is a relatively straight science fiction story, sells fuckin' great. However, Harmonica + Gig is available in bookshops and has had coverage in publishing magazines which I think makes a difference. Also, it's not about bum-jokes and psychic morticians, which I feel probably helps. Admittedly having only 1 month of experience in self publishing (and only 2 weeks of experience in self publishing original fiction) under my belt doesn't make me an expert, but I have found the whole thing quite promising. In the past two weeks I've sold 30 books, most of which were Street of Two Doors, which is my only proper "indie publishing" title. Yes, it doesn't compare even slightly to the sales Harmonica + Gig gets... but it's not bad for two weeks and not bad for a first attempt either, especially one without any marketing beyond my itty bitty twitter list and this blog. I'm not sure if I'm going to do this again - I really like the support of a publisher, because I'm rubbish at marketing - but I can see that it could really work out for people who are ready to put themselves out there. *Please note, I love the publisher of Clockworld. They're the greatest people ever. But I really, really hate comic sans.