Reaching for the light

Because it has been too damn long since I picked up my camera.

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A podcast recommendation

Because the interview with Juliet Marillier is fantastic.  And my favourite Wardruna song also precedes the interview.

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Kisses by Clockwork

The table of contents for the Ticonderoga Publications anthology Kisses by Clockwork, edited by Liz Gryzb, has been announced:

  • Marilag Angway, “Smuggler’s Deal”
  • Cherith Baldry, “The Venetian Cat”
  • Gio Clairval, “The Writing Cembalo”
  • M L D Curelas, “Ironclad”
  • Ray Dean, “Practically Perfect”
  • Stephanie Gunn, “Escapement”
  • Richard Harland, “The Kiss of Reba Maul”
  • Rebecca Harwell, “Love in the Time of Clockwork Horses”
  • Faith Mudge, “Descension”
  • Nicole Murphy, “The Wild Colonial Clockwork Boy”
  • Katrina Nicholson, “Lady Presto Magnifico and the Disappearing Glass Ceiling”
  • Anthony Panegyres, “The Tic-Toc Boy of Constantinople”
  • Amanda Pillar, “A Clockwork Heart”
  • Angela Rega, “The Law of Love”
  • Carol Ryles, “Siri and the Chaos-Maker”
  • DC White, “South, to Glory”

I am most pleased about this sale, because Escapement is one of a twinned set of novellas/novelettes that explore a new world – a kind of twisted post-apocalyptic steampunk world – for me.  I very much look forward to the release of the anthology in April.

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Australian Women Writers 2014

awwbadge_2014

I’d debated about whether I was going to sign up for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge again this year.

Not because I didn’t enjoy the challenge last year, but simply because I want to focus most of my energy on writing this year, and not so much on reviewing.

But then while looking through my Goodreads feed, I found a book that I want to read for the challenge.  And so, I am signing up again.

I am signing up at the Franklin level again (read at least 10, review at least 6) and will be cross-posting my reviews on the blog here (and from here to Livejournal and Dreamwidth and Tumblr) and at Goodreads.

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2013, the year that was

So, it is almost the end of 2013.

This has been a year that has been very much interrupted.  Looking back at my goals for the year, I have achieved very few of them.  I’ve made progress, which is something, but completion?  Not so much.

The Australian Women’s Writer’s Challenge 

I aimed to read at least ten books and review at least six.  Looking at my Goodreads page, I read and reviewed nine.  Which looks on the surface as though I didn’t complete the challenge.  But!  In my reading for the Aurealis Awards, I’ve read far more books that technically count for the challenge (though I didn’t formally review them).  As of today, I have completed reading 44 books, of which 26 are (on a quick skim) by female writers.  So, challenge completed?

I’m actually not certain if I’m going to sign up for the challenge again next year.  I’ve done it the last two years, and I’ve enjoyed it, but I’m not certain how much energy I want to devote to reviewing work.  I really like being able to promote good books, and I’ll keep on tracking my reading through Goodreads, but I’ve gotten somewhat disillusioned with reviewing in general (and in the nature of some of the types of reviews I keep seeing posted to the site).  We’ll see, anyway.

Writing

Looking at the bare bones of the year, I didn’t accomplish as near as much as I’d wanted to writing-wise.  Health issues interrupted me several times (nothing that ended up being serious, mind, just flare-ups of the usual chronic illness stuff, with a few new things that got investigated).  I’d planned on getting at least one novel to a submittable/publishable level, and that didn’t happen.

However, I did spend a good five months working on something that was entirely for fun, and not for publication.  And it made me really step back and look at the career that I want to have, and what I want to achieve with writing.

Long story short, I have a whole lot of Plans for 2014.  Not sharing them in public yet, but I feel like I have direction now, and I’m hoping that I can get a lot accomplished next year.  It helps that the kidlet’s going to be going into kindy next year, so I’ll have a few days of undisturbed time to work in.

Reading

If you care to, you can see all of the books I read over at Goodreads.

There will be more added by the time the new year officially comes around, thanks to Aurealis reading, but as of right now, I’ve read 222 books, which is the most I’ve managed since I had the kidlet.  Kids getting older and being able to entertain themselves more = awesome.

I can’t talk about any of the Aurealis books yet (well, I can with disclaimers, but I’m not going to), but I can mention some of the books I particularly enjoyed out of that group.  And yes, you will see a lot of mountaineering books in that list if you go and look.  I developed a bit of a fascination with the sport and the people who do it over the year.  I have a story forming with the men in the basement based on it – either a novella or a novel, I’m not sure yet.

My picks of the year’s reading:

Joe Hill – NOS4R2

Laurie Edwards – Life Disrupted

Mira Grant – Parasite

Helen Marshall – Hair Side, Flesh Side

Nancy Kress – After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall

Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane

M.T. Anderson – Feed

Paul Cornell - London Falling

Rainbow Rowell - Eleanor and Park

Kate Forsyth - The Wild Girl

Karen Healey - When We Wake

Andrew K Host - And All the Stars

Kaaron Warren - Through Splintered Walls

One thing I did fall down on was keeping up with my reviews of galleys from Netgalley.  I want to keep on top of them a bit better next year – and especially give myself permission to just put a book down if I’m not grabbed within 50 pages or so.  I want to extend that permission to reading in general.  I have more than 1000 books on my to-be-read pile (both real and virtual) and I’m not going to have all the time in the world to read everything.  It’s time to give myself permission to not like things that other people do, and not have to justify to anyone why I didn’t finish it.

I have a lot of goals for 2014, but I’m not going to share them in public.  I’m looking forward to a more productive year, however.

 

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An interesting link for the weekend: Wonderbook Editor’s Roundtable

Via Ferrett Steinmetz - who is an extraordinarily talented writer and whose blog is very much worth the read – Wonderbook’s Editor’s Roundtable, wherein a group of editors look at the same story and give feedback, as though they were reading the story from the slush pile.

Seriously, anyone who’s trying to sell short fiction (especially if you’ve had little success or a lot of close-but-not-close-enough rejections), go and read this.  Even if you don’t have time to look at the detailed comments, look at the general comments.

I read slush for ASIM.  Sometimes, I get very frustrated reading slush for ASIM, but that’s another story entirely.

Well, I’ll give one one part of that story: I usually know by the time I’ve finished the first paragraph if I’m going to give the story a positive or negative response.  If there’s nothing to grab me there, I will not want to read on.  Note that I always read the whole story out of fairness to authors who have sweated over the work, but I have yet to come across anything where the first paragraph hasn’t grabbed me, and then the rest of the story is awesome.

Now, Dust and Deadduns.  If I came across this story in the slush pile, it would probably have been a “meh” vote – middle of the line.  I am a reader who is drawn to character primarily, and there’s very little about the actual characters in the first paragraphs.  However, there is also a character of type in the interesting setting, and that’s the only thing that would have kept me reading long enough to get into the actual characters.  The dialect, I find off-putting, but it’s not done badly enough to make me stop reading.

And then I would have read down to the introduction of zombies, and this is probably the point at which I would have lost interest.  Because a vaguely interesting setting, combined with characters who feel, at this stage, two-dimensional, and a trope that’s been done a thousand times, equals loss of interest for me.

And I emphasise that for me.  And note that I am merely a lowly slush reader, and then point you to the awesome editors and their opinions.

Seriously, go and read the post.  It’s worth it.  I suspect that the entirety of Wonderbook will be worth the purchase, and I am eagerly awaiting my own copy, which is somewhere in the world on its way to me.

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AWW2013: Caution: Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermott

In which I finally return to reading books for the AWW2013 challenge.  I have been reading a lot of Australian female authors, but the books have been for the Aurealis Awards.  Should there be any overlap with my AWW reviews and AA-eligible works, these are my personal opinions and do not reflect the opinions of the judging panels.

 

Caution: Contains Small Parts is an intimate, unsettling collection from award-winning author Kirstyn McDermott.

A creepy wooden dog that refuses to play dead.
A gifted crisis counsellor and the mysterious, melancholy girl she cannot seem to reach.
A once-successful fantasy author whose life has become a horror story – now with added unicorns.
An isolated woman whose obsession with sex dolls takes a harrowing, unexpected turn.

Four stories that will haunt you long after their final pages are turned.

 

Caution: Contains Small Parts is one of the series of Twelve Planets, collections of short fiction by female writers produced by Twelfth Planet Press.

I’d like to take a moment here to congratulate Twelfth Planet (helmed by Alisa Krasnostein) for the consistently high quality of the books they publish, in particular the Twelve Planets published to date.  Not only are the books themselves slick productions (I am, in particular, looking forward to having a complete collection of the Twelve Planets on my shelf), but the quality of the writing is absolutely superb.  Krasnostein and the crew behind Twelfth Planet have an amazingly astute eye for fiction and are seriously producing some of the best quality stuff in Australia (and in the world) at the moment.

That said, I am going to make absolutely no bones about the fact that Kirstyn McDermott is one of my favourite authors (and just a damn nice person, too, but that’s tangential to this review).  McDermott is usually classed as a horror writer, which I think makes some people hesitate to read her work (and all power to those who choose not to read horror as a genre, but I do think they miss out on some stellar and insightful work).  There are absolutely horror elements in McDermott’s work, but I never feel like they are the central axis of said work.  McDermott writes characters who live and breathe, who experience pain, who are human, even if they are, technically, inhuman.  Her prose is invariably gorgeous, too, making every sentence an absolute pleasure to read.

All of the stories in this collection highlight these elements of McDermott’s work admirably.  The opening story, and perhaps the most outstanding in the collection, is What Amanda Wants.  I don’t want to spoil any of this story for anyone who’s planning on reading the collection.  Suffice to say that I think McDermott taps into some of the darkest corners of the human psyche in this powerful story.  It is one that deserves to be included in Year’s Best anthologies and shortlisted for awards, and I am going to mighty cranky if it isn’t recognised.

Horn, a take on both the unicorn mythos and the life of a writer, follows.  There is something jarring about this story – in a good way, I have to hasten to add.  Reality and fantasy flow together until it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t.  Which is probably a really good way to describe the mental space one has to get into to write.

The titular Caution: Contains Small Parts is the third story in the collection.  Beautifully creepy, it is an example of just how well McDermott uses small details in her stories to create something truly unsettling.

The final piece in the collection is a novella, The Home for Broken Dolls.  McDermott makes mention in the acknowledgments about the research she had to do for this piece (without spoiling: the story involves sex dolls) and I kind of dread to think what she read!  The protagonist of this piece, Jane, is a wonderful character, and her “broken dolls” are hauntingly memorable.  Another example where reality and fantasy blur together and create something unsettling, but insightful into the human condition.

I also need to make note of the cover of this collection.  Twelfth Planet Press has opted for a very distinctive look with the Twelve Planets series, with simple but effective covers.  I adore the cover for this volume in particular (though the creepy dog head kind of needs to be pointed away from me after reading the story it refers to!).

In summary, McDermott’s collection is knife sharp, filled with beautiful prose and unsettling worlds and characters who provide much insight and reflection on the darknesses in humanity.  Even if you don’t tend to read horror, I recommend this collection highly (as well as all of McDermott’s work).

 

 

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Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it

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Books on my bedside table.  As well as my Kindle, spiky ball for self massage and evidence of the latest respiratory infection.

I’ve been away from blogging for a while.  I’m not really certain why, to be honest – maybe it’s just pure burnout on the whole act of blogging.

Possibly related, I’ve also moved away from keeping wordcounts over the last few months.  Just as an experiment – the scientist in me cannot accept just doing something because everyone (or anyone) says that you should.

And, as a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time pretty much just meandering.  I’ve done some work editing a few short stories, and submitted one for hopeful publication.  I need to finish editing the second one and submit that, as well.  I really hope that I can sell these two – they’re interlinked stories set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world (because why not?) and I have plans for a novel following them as well.  Because apparently I don’t ever write standalone short stories.

I’ve been doing some writing not intended for publication as well – just stuff for the pure fun of it, which has actually been really enjoyable, and shown me a few things about what I like to write.  And reminded me that I do love to write, which is important.  This year has kind of been hell, health-wise, and I’ve found it difficult to settle down to any kind of decent novel writing.  I’m hoping that next year will get a little easier, since my son will be in kindy two days a week (increasing to three days in the latter half of the year).

And because sometimes the universe is awesome and tosses a really great thing in your path, I watched a documentary – The Wildest Dream – and have subsequently gotten kind of obsessed with the whole idea of high altitude mountaineering.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to go and start scaling the Eiger (but hell, I wouldn’t mind trekking to Everest Base Camp sometime in my life), but I have an awesome idea for a short story which may become a novella which may become a novel.

I do want to start making myself accountable again for my work, and am planning to try to start blogging at least weekly again.  I’m thinking about what I want to do with some of the other novels I’ve been working on for way too long, and I have to start kicking myself in the butt to get the work done.  Which means that you will start seeing word counts posted again (probably on a weekly basis).

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Bloodstones review

Bloodstones, the anthology which features my story, The Skin of the World, got a lovely review from Andrew J McKiernan at Thirteen O’Clock.

In particular, McKiernan said this about my story (which is probably the best review anything I’ve written has gotten to date):

Stephanie Gunn’s ‘The Skin of the World’ takes us deeper yet, away from the suburbs and those who’d ply their coastal fringes, peeling away the layers to reveal a darker world beneath. ‘The Skin of the World’ was, for me, a perfect end to Bloodstones. Like the places revealed, the story has a depth had that me wanting more, feeling there was more going on in this world than a single story could reveal. Very pleasing then to read in the author’s introduction, that ‘The Skin of the World’ is only a small part of a much larger series of stories and novels, of which I’m certainly keen to read more.

I need to get cracking on Wintersun, the novel which follows on from The Skin of the World, I think.

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Aurealis Awards are open!


I’m happy to announce that I am judging the Aurealis Awards again this year, and moving to a different category – I’m convening the Young Adult panel.  Looking forward to reading through all the entries.  I seriously love awards judging – if you ever wonder about the quality of short stories and novels being published in Australia, volunteer for awards judging.  Last year, the horror panel saw, overall, a tremendous quality of work being submitted, and I hope the YA panel will see the same this year.

*

 

Screen shot 2011-07-12 at 9.48.42 AM2013 Aurealis Awards open for entries

Conflux Inc. are delighted to announce that the 2013 Aurealis Awards are now open to entries.

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for Speculative Fiction, are for works of speculative fiction written by an Australian citizen, or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013.

2013 Aurealis Awards convenor, Nicole Murphy, says, “In 2012 we received a record number of entries across thirteen categories, ranging across Illustrated Work, Children’s, Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction. Speculative fiction in all its incarnations is alive and well in Australia, and we look forward to even more entries this year.”

“These awards are unique, in that each category is judged by a panel of judges. Our judges are drawn from a range of literary backgrounds and experience including; editors for both small and mainstream press, librarians, critics and published authors.”

“We’re delighted to be able to bring the Awards to Canberra for the first time,” Ms Murphy added.

“In 2013, we are accepting electronic submission of entries in all categories for the first time,” said judging co-ordinator Tehani Wessely. “We are strongly encouraging publishers and authors to enter all works published in the first half of the year immediately, and all new works as soon after publication as possible. Our judging teams appreciate having time to consider each entry carefully. It’s a huge job!”

“We have slightly revised the entry period to accommodate the new ceremony date for next year,” Ms Wessely said. “If works are received in a timely manner, every entry can be given the fairest of consideration.”

Entries close on 07 December 2013, and all entries must be physically received by 31 December 2013. Finalists will be announced in March 2014 and winners announced at a special presentation evening in Canberra in April 2014. For more information on the awards or to register your entry, visit the Aurealis Awards website at www.aurealisawards.com.

For more information contact the Awards convenor, Nicole Murphy atpresident.conflux@gmail.com  or judging co-ordinator Tehani Wessely ataajudges@gmail.com.

(Note: I have been somewhat cheeky and copied the announcement post directly from Tehani’s blog A Conversational Life)

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