Defying Doomsday is in the wild!

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Defying Doomsday, containing my story, To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath, is now officially released.  You can nab yourself a copy over at Twelfth Planet Press, and other book retailers, in ebook or paperback versions right now.  I’ve read through the anthology, and though I’m obviously biased, I can highly recommend grabbing a copy.

I’d also like to link to a very nice article about the anthology, originally published in the West Australian, in which Tsana Dolvicha and I talk about the anthology and I get cranky about inspiration porn.  You can read the article here.

2015: The obligatory year end post

2015 has, overall, been a very successful year for me.

Healthwise, for the first time in a long time, things seem to be improving.  New medication is making a huge difference, and while I’m still not able to work a “normal” full time job, I am generally doing better than I have been for the last handful of years.  It’s kind of awesome, and I am frantically knocking on wood, lest it end.

I’ve got to watch my son keep on growing into an amazing individual.  He finished his first full year of school, and has done incredibly well with it all.  There have been some hiccups along the way, but such is life.  Sometimes I find myself just watching him do things and just be utterly floored by the fact that he exists.  Parenthood (or more precisely, parenting a baby and toddler) has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I am so grateful that I’ve had the chance to do it.

Writing wise, it’s been a slower year in terms of getting things finished than I’d like, but there’s been forward motion.  A few years ago, I sat down and wrote out a list of achievements that I would like to make in my writing career.  This year, I achieved three of them.  The last one I can’t talk about yet (but hopefully soon, for I am incredibly excited about this project).  The others?  I had a story, Escapement, nominated for both a Tin Duck and a Ditmar (my first non-fan writing nominations) and had the same story reprinted in a Year’s Best anthology).  I am so thankful to the good folks at Ticonderoga Publications and editor extraordinaire for publishing my weird steampunk dystopia story.

I do feel like I’ve levelled up a bit as a writer, and I am really happy with the works I’ve had published this year – Broken Glass in Hear Me Roar and The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth in Bloodlines, both from Ticonderoga.  Huge thanks as always to my brilliant critique partner, Pia van Ravestein, without whom none of my stories would be what they are.

In terms of reviews, I’m less than happy.  I did manage to finish my Australian Women Writers Challenge pledge, but I have fallen way behind on my Netgalley reviews.  Next year, I really want to tackle them and try to increase my review percentage.

Overall, though, a fairly good year.  Only a few more days, and then we’re onto 2016.

July in review

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July books

Writing

  • I made the decision partway through this month to stop writing every day, after having written daily for over a year.  I was feeling burned out and utterly exhausted, and wanted my weekends back.  I’m not making any commitments to keeping this writing pattern permanently, but for now, it’s a relief to have the weekends for myself and my family.
  • I am a squeak away from reaching 80k on this draft of Never.  I’m basically totally redrafting the last third, so it’s slower and harder going than the first two thirds.  I’m at the point where I’m looking forward to this draft being done.  Mostly so I can start editing it.

Reading and Reviewing

  • I voted in the Hugos.  Which translates mostly as slapping No Award on most of the categories.  I’m looking forward to seeing the stats after the winners are announced, though I anticipate anger at the good works which got pushed off the ballot.
  • One review written for the Australian Women Writers Challenge: Insert Title Here, edited by Tehani Wessley.
  • One Netgalley review: Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Miscellaneous

  • This has been a hard month health-wise, with many arthritis flares, as usual for me in winter.  I’m coping, but the constant pain equals a lot of exhaustion.

Some recommendations for writers, especially short story writers

First, this is somewhat relevant to the panel I was on at Swancon about what makes a good short story, today’s daily writing kick from David Farland which discusses how to judge a story.  And for anyone who’s trying to work their way up in the writing field, I can highly recommend subscribing to David Farland’s daily kicks emails.

Second, something I actually meant to mention on that panel was Forever magazine, a reprint-only magazine recently launched by Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld).  I’ve been a long-time subscriber of Clarkesworld and subscribed to Forever when it first came out.  And I have been utterly astonished at the brilliance of the stories that have been reprinted.  You want to know what makes a good story?  This is a really good place to start looking.  It’s subscription-only, but cheap and in my opinion, worth the money.

And third, I’d also like to recommend the new podcast by Mur Lafferty (of I Should Be Writing and the Shambling Guide books) and Matt Wallace – Ditch Diggers.  I’ve listened to every episode of I Should Be Writing and highly recommend it for all writers (and especially beginning writers, it’s very worth getting access to the archives by supporting Mur on Patreon and listening to all the episodes).  Ditch Diggers aims to explore writing as a business, and is highly entertaining besides.  Kameron Hurley and Chuck Wendig have guested, and the latest episode has an interview with Brianna Wu.  Go and listen and learn.

 

AWW14: Completed

This year for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge I signed up at the Franklin level – read at least 10 books, reviewing at least 6.

My stats for the year:

Female Australian authors read: 52.

Reviews written: 7.

 

Links to reviews:

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina.

The Other Tree by D.K. Mok.

Peacemaker by Marianne de Pierres.

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville.

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott.

Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko.

 

Musings on the challenge

Overall, I’m really happy with my reading year in terms of this challenge.  The total number of books was easy to achieve, since I was judging for the Aurealis Awards both at the beginning and end of the year.

I had originally set up a mental challenge to myself to review at least one book a month, but that unfortunately fell by the wayside.  I feel fairly happy with the seven reviews I got written, though.  I’m especially glad that I picked up more books by Indigenous writers this year, and hope to extend that into my challenge for next year as well.  Of particular note is Mullumbimby, which I picked up specifically because it was linked from the AWW Goodreads page, and was probably a book that I wouldn’t have normally come across otherwise.

Many thanks to the organisers of the challenge, and if you’ve never given it a go, I encourage everyone to.  Even if it makes you pick up one book by a female Australian author, I consider that a worthy accomplishment.

Blowing away the dust, aka the magic spreadsheet is kind of awesome

Today I had a migraine.

Today I also went swimming.  Today I am also on the (hopefully) tail end of a respiratory infection.  Today I also went to the movies (though that was somewhat stymied by the fact that the cinema basically broke midway through the movie, resulting in many, many refunds and movie vouchers given out to patrons).

Today, I also wrote just over 1,000 words.

I’ve been frustrated at my general slowness as a writer a lot of late (and for “as late”, you can read too damn long – as anyone who gets to hear about me talking about writing will no doubt attest.  I actually don’t have a problem getting words down, but one of the peculiarities of my process is that I find it very difficult to move forward with a story or novel if I know there are things that I need to fix in stuff I’ve already written.  I don’t actually have a problem with doing that, but it makes me much slower that I’d like to be.

The solution of course is that I just need to be generating new words on a project.  I’ve tried doing a basic don’t break the chain thing, but for some reason that never gelled with me.  I think the reason there is that I’d set a target – say 1,000 words – and then get frustrated at the odd day where I was too sick or busy to make that target, so breaking the chain.

I’ve been listening to Mur Lafferty’s podcast I Should Be Writing for a long time.  Like, I’ve actually invested many hours while walking listening to the podcast from the very beginning.  I recommend it highly to all writers – both newbies and old hands.

One of the things that Mur’s talked about for a long time about being key to her productivity is the Magic Spreadsheet (link to the google group and shared spreadsheet in there, as well as link to the podcast talking about it).  I’d kind of shrugged it off for ages, thinking it was just another don’t break the chain thing.

Then, exactly two weeks ago, I thought, I might as well give it a go. It’s pretty simple – you write at least 250 words a day, and you get points for word counts and consistency.

I’ve written every day for the last 14 days.  I’ve written just over 30k in that time.  Weekdays, I’m trying to reach 2.5k, dropping back to 1k for the weekends, but just knowing that I’ll still get points if I write just 250 words is kind of awesome.

I’m also making a concerted effort to work on just one project – at the moment, it’s the first draft of Never, after which I’m going to spend a little time working on some short stories and maybe some outlining.  If I can keep working this way, I’m going to actually be able to finish this draft in a timely manner.

I’m kind of feeling like I’m levelling up as a writer right now, and it’s kind of awesome.

 

AWW2014: The Other Tree by D.K. Mok

(I had decided to only post my AWW reviews on Goodreads, but have decided to cross-post here as well.  Adding reviews to date.)

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It’s been four years since Chris Arlin graduated with a degree that most people think she made up, and she’s still no closer to scraping up funding for her research into rare plants. Instead, she’s stacking shelves at the campus library, until a suspiciously well-dressed man offers her a lucrative position on a scientific expedition.

For Chris, the problem isn’t the fact that they’re searching for the Biblical Tree of Life. Nor is it the fact that most of the individuals on the expedition seem to be fashionably lethal mercenaries. The problem is that the mission is being backed by SinaCorp, the corporation responsible for a similar, failed expedition on which her mother died eleven years ago.

However, when Chris’s father is unexpectedly diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Chris sees only one solution. Vowing to find the Tree of Life before SinaCorp’s mercenaries, Chris recruits Luke, an antisocial campus priest undergoing a crisis of faith. Together, they embark on a desperate race to find Eden. However, as the hunt intensifies, Chris discovers growing evidence of her mother’s strange behaviour before her death, and she begins to realise that SinaCorp isn’t the only one with secrets they want to stay buried.

(eARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair review)

“The Other Tree” is Australian author D.K. Mok’s debut novel. Caught somewhere between fantasy and thriller with religious overtones, this books is inevitably going to be compared to blockbusters like “The DaVinci Code”. The bonus here is that Mok’s writing is almost flawless, and her characters live and breathe (and snark at refreshing intervals) and actually act like real human beings.

Chris Arlin is a cryptobotanist who is approached by the company SinaCorp (who seem to be involved in pretty much anything and everything scientific and technical) to search for the real Bibical Tree of Life. Not only does Chris not trust SinaCorp’s motives for searching for the Tree, but she blames the company for her mother’s death, and, naturally, rejects their offer. Instead, she becomes determined to discover the Tree on her own, enlisting the help of conflicted priest Luke, on her quest.

Both Chris and Luke are complex, but extremely believable characters. There are several tropes that I feared would occur during this book – a romance between the two, for example – that Mok, thankfully never goes near. Chris and Luke always act within the bounds of their own beliefs and knowledge, and I never got the impression that either they, or the events of the book, were being forced into situations simply to serve the plot.

Chris, in particular, is a fabulous character. She never wavers from her interests and beliefs, and is more than strong enough to carry the story, even without Luke. Together, they give a fascinating perspective into this Indiana Jones-like quest for the Tree of Life. It would be very easy for an author to lose any character development against the background of such an enormous plot, and Mok never does – these characters remain vivid and real the whole way through.

Recommended for anyone who likes adventures and good, character-based fiction.