Drive-By…

I’m not sure about you, but I have these small mental markers of things I’d like the opportunity to do or achieve. Markers which give an indiciation of how far down the road I’ve come on my journey as a writer, editor and publisher. One of the markers I’ve harboured in the last year, is a chance for a  drive-by moment on Angela Slatter’s blog.

Well today I get to sit on that marker, dangle my feet a little and watch the traffic as it whizzes past The eMergent Drive-By. As a tiny sneak peak… I mention something about Dr Who, rock bands, buttery pastries and the war of books.

Angela is an award-winning Brisbane short story author (Black Winged Angels, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Girl With No Hands and other tales) who is another generous Brisbane literary figure supporting the work of eMergent. She’s also an all round swell lady, with a wicked sense of humour and a way of making you feel like you are taking on the world, without choking on it.

Angela’s story The Coffin Maker’s Daughter appears in the brand new A Book Horrorswith authors such as Stephen King and John Ajvide Lindqvist: About the anthology:

Open this book at your own peril! That is because this volume is exactly what it say on the cover—A Book of Horrors contains all-original stories by some of the most successful and exciting names in modern horror fiction.

For the first time in many years, here is an original anthology of horror and dark fantasy in all its many and magnificent guises—from classic pulp-style tales of Dark and Stormy Nights, through more contemporary and psychological terrors, to the type of cutting-edge fiction that only the very best horror fiction can deliver. Brought together from around the world by World Fantasy Award-winning editor Stephen Jones, one of Britain’s most acclaimed and experienced anthologists of horror fiction, here are many of the authors who have helped shaped the genre in all of its forms, along with terrifying tales of unease by a new generation of storytellers devoted to the Dark Side.

The book is currently available for pre-order through your favourite book selling establishment.

Thanks Angela for having me over. I’ll make sure the entourage doesn’t make too much of a mess on their way through!

Image via subnav.com

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A Note from the Newly Arrived

With spring budding I feel as though I’m emerging from my cave/rabbit hole/terrible place/beneath the unforgiving yoke of darkness. For the first time all year I feel I’m moving with the good orderly direction of energy and only amazing things can come of this. I’m only just coming to terms with how long my depression really lasted and the relief of putting it behind me.

Thank you to everyone who carried me through the dark times. You know who you are. I’m ready to set my feet back on the path and walk again.

XXX

Spotlight On: Patty Jansen

It’s a warm welcome (on this cold Winter’s day) to Australian author Patty Jansen in the very first interview to appear at Writing in Black and White.

Patty lives in Sydney where she writes hard SF, space opera and weird fantasy. Apart from Writers of the Future, her fiction has appeared recently in Redstone SF and Dead Red Heart (her story “Quaratine” comes highly recommended – especially for any Aussies whohave lived or holidayed in the vicinity of Townsville!)

Patty talks with me about her involvement with Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, winning the Writers of the Future competition, traditional and self publishing, the background of “must use bigger elephants” and of course… her books!

You belong to the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine collective. What makes ASIM special, as far as journals/magazines go? What do you do as part of the collective?

ASIM is run as collective, which makes it both a little bit mad and very resilient. A bit mad because we have a different editor for every issue, which means there is not one taste in particular represented in the magazine. Instead, I think it is a very good cross-section of up-and-coming writers from around the world. The magazine has proven very resilient, because when one person drops out for whatever reason, there is always someone else to pick up the slack, and this is why we’ve now been going for almost ten years and have produced more than 50 issues. Rotating membership of the co-op ensures a constant influx of keen people to learn about the business of producing a print magazine, and so ASIM has been the breeding ground for many Australian writing and editing careers.

My tasks in the collective are as slush reader, proof reader and occasionally as editor. I’m currently editing issue 53. I also look after non-fiction and book reviews. Sometimes I use the @ASIMtweets twitter account. The crazy thing is that I have no idea who else tweets on this account, but it’s clear someone does (either that or the resident ASIM ghost has been playing with the controls again).

Your story “This Peaceful State of War” won 1st place last year in the Writers of the Future (second quarter) contest and is published in Volume 27. What is “This Peaceful State of War” about? Has anything changed for you since winning the contest?

The story:

Years ago, humanity discovered a planet with intelligent life, but the—vaguely humanoid—inhabitants had nothing to sell and wanted nothing from humans. After failing to achieve even basic communication with the natives, all important human agencies left, and the planet was left in charge of a religious mission. When the story starts, a war has broken out between the two native species and the missionaries are trying to play peacekeeper. Miranda Tonkin is a delegate from a peace agency whose task it is to decide whether the money the agency sinks into the unsolvable conflict should be withdrawn. But while she is on the planet, this previously distant conflict comes to life, and she falls in the same, very human, trap that has ensnared the religious brothers, because the nature of this war fools all human senses.

What has changed?

Phew. It would probably be easier for me to say what hasn’t changed. Before my win, I was a total nobody. Six months later, I’ve sold enough fiction to join SFWA as full member and there are some very shiny things in the pipeline which you’ll hear about in due course.

The Writers of the Future Contest is by far the biggest competition of its kind in the world. It’s unique. They’re a bit coy about how many entries they get every quarter, but it’s somewhere in the four figures. To be one of the three winning entries out of all those is nothing short of amazing. The winning entries are the people who go to the workshop in Hollywood, where you spend more than a week getting the inside story from most of the judges and a selection of other significant writers. This entire experience is—I know it gets boring—nothing short of amazing. To have Gregory Benford come up to me and tell me he enjoyed my story is beyond belief. Ditto with Kevin Anderson, Mike Resnick, Larry Niven. At a con you’d be lucky to spend five minutes talking to these people while you’re waiting at the registration desk. At the workshop, you spend days with them.

As a result—what’s changed? A lot. For one, confidence. Hey, I can actually write a decent story. Hey, my view of publishing is shared by some others. Secondly, contacts. You know these people, you can ask them questions. Thirdly—people, editors, agents, take notice. A Writers of the Future win makes a huge difference in the type of responses you get from publishers.

Your books are published traditionally and also self published? What are the pros and cons of each style of publishing for you?

My aim is to continue to do both. The benefits of being traditionally-published are widely underrated by self-publishing proponents. In short, traditional publishers have readers, a ready-made audience. Unless you’re extremely lucky, and you write paranormal romance, you’ll find it really hard to get anywhere near that sort of audience for an unknown writer. You need to be published in traditional venues to acquire the audience.

The advantage of self-publishing is that you can keep your published material in print, available for people to read when they search for your name, and not buried four menus deep in the archives of a magazine site. Or, heaven forbid, under a stack of fifty books in the TBR pile.

Most of my shorter ebooks are pre-published stories.

I also have two self-published novels. Because it takes such a long time to go from query, to full manuscript request, to publication offer, by the time said publication offer fell through, I was no longer writing that type of fiction and did not want to continue marketing those novels to traditional press. When I sell a novel to traditional press, it will be either hard SF or space opera. My SF for kids and my planetary romance novels were a huge lot of fun to write, and great stories, but they’re no longer representative for what I most want to sell.

Most of all, I treat my Smashwords account as a repository for virtual business cards. Because I have samples up of all genres I’ve written, I give away a lot of fiction

Tell us about “Must Use Bigger Elephants”.

Must Use Bigger Elephants is my blog and the focus point for all my activities. Why this strange title?

Well, supposing you filled the entire surface of the Moon with elephants. And at the blow of a whistle (yeah, the whistle would be inaudible, but never mind), they all started running in the same direction. Would their combined mass speed up the Moon and show us the dark side? Well, not really, according to my calculations, at least not noticeably within a human lifetime (and that’s a long time for an elephant to keep running, never mind to hold its breath). But my story required the Moon to speed up through running elephants. Which leaves only one solution: Must Use Bigger Elephants. Science Fiction is about bigger elephants. It’s about extrapolating the known into the as-yet-un-achieved. What if you filled the Moon with mammoths?

On the blog, I discuss writing, science, science in fiction as well as the activities of my fellow writers and editors. You can also find links to my fiction.

A final note on Patty’s Books

Out of the nine titles I have available currently, I’d like to point out my novelette His Name In Lights, which is a character-focused hard SF novelette published in the Universe Annex of the Grantville Gazette.

Watcher’s Web with the gorgeous cover by Nico Photos is my planetary romance novel. I had a huge amount of fun writing it.

The Far Horizon is a novel for younger readers. When my kids were young, I read to them every night. I noticed that there is lots of fantasy, but almost no Science Fiction. I set out to write a very human story with separate layers for both kids and their parents.

You can find all Patty’s ebooks on Smashwords or Amazon. You can ‘like’ her author page on Facebook  or follow her on Twitter.

My interview with Patty can be found here.

Hope (Anthology) from Kayelle Press

I’ve done next to no blogging about “Hope: an anthology of speculative fiction” and my involvement in the anthology. Have said plenty about it on Twitter and Facebook, but have never quite got around to explaining here what it is all about.

Last November I had the honour of being asked by Karen Henderson to be a part of the charity anthology she was putting together to help raise awareness of suicide. It took me all of half a second to say yes, especially because it was for a worthy and important cause. I also had a story stewing that I knew would be perfect for the theme of ‘hope’.

Kayelle Press’s website has this to say about the anthology, due for release in October:

Youth suicide is a growing concern in Australia. Six people take their own lives each and every day. Each one of those deaths affect dozens or even hundreds of people as family and friends attempt to deal with the grief, the guilt and the nagging questions as to why it happened. Often suicide sets off a chain reaction, which causes family members and close friends to suffer depression and suicidal thoughts.

In an effort to help raise awareness, Australian authors are donating stories to the Hope anthology. All profits from sales of the book will be donated to charities offering help to those in need of it and to foundations who are conducting research into why our youth are affected in the first place.

When I said yes, I had no idea I would be sharing the space between the covers with these amazing Australian spec-fic authors (including some very good friends):

Joanne Anderton
Alan Baxter
Sasha Beattie
Janette Dalgliesh
Rowena Cory Daniells
Karen Lee Field
Pamela Freeman
Paul Haines
Craig Hull
Benjamin Solah
Graham Storrs
Sean Williams

Let me pass out, pick myself up off the floor and perhaps pass out again. I can’t believe my name is included with these authors.

In addition to the stories there will be information and essays interlaced on the topic of suicide penned by Beyondblue, and Dr Myfanwy Maple and Mr Warren Bartik from the University of New England.

My story “Blinded” is about what happens when the past and the present collide, about trust and transparency; love and betrayal;  hope, redemption and freedom.

It began with a terrible dream I had back in May last year, the very first night I stayed with Jason Coggins (the night of the infamous setting off of the fire alarm at 5:30am!)  The dream basically centred around parasites exploding from my stomach, andJason giving me an injection in the thigh to avoid dying (good thing to be hanging out with an intensive care nurse!) It was intended to be written as a piece of flash – as a shlock erotic come sci-fi short. But when I began to write it, it didn’t want to conform. It wanted to be something else – something more.

A review of “Your Heart Belongs to Me” on Specusphere gave me an idea for where I might want to take the story. The story also has deep roots in the Florence + The Machine song “Blinding” where it derives its name and the opening feel of the story (it was brilliant to be able to play for Jason on the way home from Byron earlier on in the week, the song which so influenced the story he helped me with!)

Since those original scriblings, the story has been gutted (very little of the original remains), fleshed out with new sci-fi elements compliments of Chris Chartrand and Jason, been through the meat-grinder (and for me down the rabbit hole of depression) trying to get it right for a YA market and in the 11th hour found scientific research to back up part of it (which had only just been released when I hit a google search during a rewrite). It still has the original secondary character of “Alan” who I named after Alan Baxter (as the first guy at the top of my Facebook list whenI went looking last year for a man’s name) and after all the support Alan has given me this year, including making an awesome acceptance speech on my behalf at the Aurelia Awards, I’m so glad that character remains, and has evolved into the character readers will experience on the page. No spoilers!

While “Blinded” is all the things I mentioned above, it is also a story about the greed of big business, about environmental protection (my partner is an environmental scientist and project manager) and rampant development, the overarching authority of the medical profession and the danger of precedents in legal cases. It somehow is also a love story as much as a rant on development and how much I hate doctors!

Amazingly at the end of the entire process, “Blinded” is a story I still very much love. A story which,  as of half an hour ago when I sent my final bits and pieces through to Karen, is very much completed. My thanks goes to Jason, Chris and Rebecca Dobbie who all helped in varying degrees through the writing and rewriting of this. Especially to Jason who seems to have snared the much feared lauded role of hand holder through rewrite hell.

Speaking of hand holding, I can’t wait to hold this book in my hand. You can follow the progress to publication here at Facebook or on the Kayelle Press anthology page.

Time is on my Side


It would be easily to fall into the mind-think of the ‘world is against me’, ‘it’s all uphill’,  ‘it’s all too hard’, ‘there’s just no time’. This year has been marked by more hard work than I think I have ever done and the feeling that I’m never free from the toil and slog. Luckily I’m a glass half full kind of girl and I try to avoid falling down rabbit holes (though sometimes you just can’t avoid them).

This week I was faced with another round of deadline reshuffles and a few more set backs. It makes me wonder why I ever bother to try and have a deadline at all, given that I’ve made one this year – Valentines Day – and well, I guess it made it because it was one of those intractable dates.

The thing is though, I don’t consider it a mark against me. I’m a believer in everything happening in its own good time.

Last year, January if I’m pegging a month, I got the clearest sign from the Universe to trust in the right motion of things. The daily scopes from Mystic Medusa said to keep an eye out for an omen. I’m usually pretty crap at pulling the wisdom of the universe when its set up to be found. And as the day went on, I just about gave up on my little morsel of Universal wisdom.

My partner had been away doing field work five hours west of Brisbane (he’d been gone two weeks) and omen day, was his day to return home. Mr D was five and desperate for his Dad to get home. Dave rang from the outskirts of the city to say he wasn’t far away. To help Mr D cope with what seemed like the longest wait, I set the timer on my phone. Dave should only have been half an hour away, but I set it to forty-five minutes just to be sure. The half hour clicked over, and then forty minutes. Next thing the alarm was going off and I trudged to the bedroom to turn it off, wondering how I was going to smooth it over with Mr D.

When I turned the alarm off I heard Mr D’s squeals of delight as Dave’s rental ute pulled up in the drive way.

My lesson was things always happen perfectly – even when they don’t look like they are. Running behind schedule isn’t running behind, its running on time, in the way the Universal has delegated.

This doesn’t mean you let go and never worry about putting up boundaries, setting deadlines and such. It just means sometimes you need to push the boundaries out a little further to accomodate life as it happens.

The first deadline for 100 Stories for Queensland coincided with the Christchurch Earthquake. The second deadline coincided with the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. When it was finally released in May… it was far enough away from both these disasters to be allowed its own space to shine.

Now I’m trusting all over again. LMT’s Eighty Nine is two months ‘late’, but I realise now, to run to schedule I would have missed out on several stories, which have come in late and are perfect in their own way. LMT’s Tiny Dancer will be put back a month due to staffing changes and an incessant need in me to get all my other projects cleaned up and sent to the printers before I start editing another anthology.

And in all of this… I’m surrounded by a group of like minded individuals who aren’t expected to send emails of support – but do, who aren’t expected to step up to offer help with editing, proof reading, admin – but do. Rather than feel like a total feeb who can get nothing right, I’m given the chance to feel like I’m someone doing the best I can – from one day to the next. Knowing the timing is always right.

I’ve got Byron on my Mind

I always wanted to live in one of those ultra cool share houses, full of ultra cool people with ultra cool things to say and do. Thus my love of The Secret Life of Us in the early 00’s. For a while, I lived with my soul sister and that was loads of fun, but it was also in my late twenties, when I had no money, we were over parties and the wild life and both of us were being screwed by full time work and for me, full time study.

That’s what I loved about Byron Bay. Yes the festival was fun and I bought some great books, heard excellent writers talk and had amzing chance encounters with people like Tim Ferguson… but it was played out against the backdrop of the fabulous house and the even more fabulous collection of writer friends living in it. At night, when it was quiet (yes, I enjoyed several nights of insomnia) the motion of the waves floated up over the scrappy bush along the beachline and up through our window. A relaxing (but apparently not sleep inducing ) symphony, weaving and mixing with the gentle sound of of Jason breathing  in the bed on the other side of the room (damn him for sleeping!)

The entire weekend ended up being better than expected. No share house goes without it problems, and yes, we had ours… but in a way, it made the perfect moments even better. You get to see people at their best and worst and in a way, you can only love them more for seeing both sides.

…The shared Tex Mex burrito experience the first afternoon we were there, in the near to perfect hot winter sun at the beach, the shared BBQ on the deck the first night we were there, meeting much missed friends, glasses of bubbles, bottles of beer, Margo’s most fabulous cocktails, dancing until the wee hours of the morning, random encounters with lovely young Penguin editors, morning coffees with people you wish you could enjoy every day of the week, lots and lots and lots of conversations about writing, stories, characters and the imortal “in your pants jokes”. And yes, at the ripe old age of 37 I got to short sheet my first bed.

Perhaps the most humbling experience was missing those who could not be with us – especially Adam Byatt, Laura Meyer and Lily Mulholland, not to mention all our favourite overseas based writers including (for me) my two bestest writing mates Chris Chartrand and Dan Powell as well as Paul Anderson my business partner(who for the last four years has had to put up with drunked phone and text messages while I’ve been at Byron).

On cold, lonely nights I’ll think back to the weekend just gone, and be grateful for the beautiful, generous, funny writing friends I have and try not to pine too much, or too deeply for the next time we’re all brought together again, knowing it will always be bigger and better (perhaps the only time in life?)  It’s the heightened experience of living which feeds the soul. And my soul is amply  sated.