Sunday, May 30, 2010

Quick Check-in

This is turning into less of a blog and more of a monthly report, isn't it? Hmmm.

Since I was last here, things have moved on considerably, work-wise. I've been offered a full-time contract with the magazine company at which I've been freelancing. Obviously this is a good thing (or will be, once the papers are all signed) but the long hours have meant a slowing down in my other writing activities. Grand total for this month, in fact, is a 900 word flash piece for the Australian Horror Writers' Association, written in less than an hour. Going to have to get more disciplined about writing at night, instead of, well, vegging over the finale of Lost ...

There has been other news, in the meantime, but I can't name names until official Tables of Contents have been announced. The flash piece I wrote for The Campaign For Real Fear has indeed been accepted for publication elsewhere, while the short story I was working on in March and April has also been commissioned. I'm quite pleased about that one - it's not my usual style of story at all, and it'll take some careful work when the edits come back to make sure I get the tone exactly right.

Other than that, it's as you were. I'll obviously try to pop back soon, but you know by now how it goes ...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

April's Full Days

Day off today. I vaguely remember those ...

Since last I was here, it's been nose to the grindstone, almost without pause. As I mentioned last time, I had that yarn to finish for Apex, and made the deadline with a couple of days to spare. Editor Jennifer Brozek is, I understand, wading through all the submissions right now, and I should hear one way or another in a couple of weeks. While I'm waiting, I'll be reading my contributor copy of Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, which arrived a couple of days ago. So far I've only read the one story, but it's a goodie - Martin Livings' tale of a suspicious-looking clown doll, Lollo. Remember those creepy '80s video-nasties with homicidal living toys? Yeah, you got it ...

No sooner was the Apex submission sent, it was on to the next thing ... my first ever attempt at Flash Fiction. Now, my average short story length runs to about 5000 words - Flash puts an upper limit on it of around 1000. Except for my first go that wasn't enough of a challenge, so I got it in under 500.

All right, the truth is that the story was for Christopher Fowler and Maura McHugh's Campaign for Real Fear, an initiative to wrest horror writing away from sparkly vampires and Bronte pastiches. Their idea was that people could submit genuinely scary stories and show publishers how it should be done - best ten get published. It was they who set the 500 word cap, and boy, was it tight.

The mind-set was completely alien to me: I'm used to spending a long time plotting, gradually introducing characters and set-ups to pay off later. It normally takes me 500 words just to hit my stride! Eventually the correct switch was thrown in my head and I realised what needed to be done, but crafting something along those lines, where every single word had to count for ten, was an education, and no mistake.

Unfortunately I didn't make the final cut (upped to 20 entries in the face of such a massive response), but I'm very pleased to say that Kaaron Warren (with whom I worked on the upcoming Scenes From the Second Storey) did. Huge congrats to her - you can see the full list of winners on Christopher Fowler's blog.

(Incidentally, taking part wasn't a wasted effort ... I think I've already found a buyer for my rejected piece).

April's also seen some more movement with Twelfth Planet's anthology Sprawl. The rewrite of my story Signature Walk has met with approval from editor Alisa Krasnostein, and has now been fired back to me for a few more little tweaks. Should get on to that this weekend, if all stays quiet. In the meantime, a first look at the cover has been posted elsewhere on the Net - I'm a bit behind posting it here, but the book (front and back cover) is going to look like this:

So that's the writing news. The other pressing thing is work. Proper work. Towards the start of the month I spent a few days on a course re-learning software used in magazine editing (it's been a little while!). No sooner had I finished the course, I was asked to help out at a local publishers who needed an experienced sub-editor at no notice.

And I've been there ever since. It's strange, working in an office again. I'm used to sitting at a computer with no one around, but now there's a constant bustle ... It's not unpleasant, actually, and the job has already given me some ideas for more stories (one line in particular, from a story about architecture that I was editing, has spawned three-quarters of a horror piece. More about that when I've let it gestate ...).

So that's why I've been quiet, and why I'll likely be so for a while longer. I'll try to pop in a bit more often though - promise. Meantime, behave yourselves while I'm out, kay?