Tag Archives: writing

The Long and Short Of It

I write. Have done for as long as I can remember, but this last year the second draft of my novel (or as it likes to taunt: double-dare you to finish me, mofo!), has monopolised my time. Novel writing has had a steep learning curve – sometimes I joyfully get it, other times I despair. Ah, the rollercoaster life of a writer – amazing highs and some really shit-house lows.

Of late, I’ve been in that dead zone between highs and lows: the ‘Meh’ State, as I like to call it. While I’m still running on the high of my comic release, a writer needs to keep moving forward, and… enter the Meh State.

Neh

It’s taken a while for me to figure out why there’s been an itch the novel couldn’t scratch, but after a week in the country at my dad’s farm, it became apparent – short stories. So focussed I’ve been on getting through this next draft of the novel that I’ve neglected one of my favourite writing mediums.

I returned to fiction writing (from journalism) about seven years ago, and it was with short stories I decided to lay my hat. There was method to my choice: mastering short-story writing would enable me to write a lot tighter, which in turn would assist with my ability to write a lot more story into a novel.

Writing long is a very different beast to writing short, but there’s intrinsic value in learning the art of short-story writing. Creating a complete story within a limited word count means every word has to fight for its right to be in the story – a skill that transfers extremely well to novel writing. It’s a skill I have; one of my shortest pieces (under 3,000 words) won the Australian Shadows Award in 2011. And I’ve been applying it to the novel… and here is also where I think I’m coming undone. It’s the focus on making every word count – especially in this second draft – that is taking me longer to get this draft done than I’d like. There’s a need to shift gears, to see the bigger picture.

Help me

But that’s not the only thing that’s pushed me into the Meh State. I’ve missed writing short stories. A lot. Honing in on a moment in time, a sliver of someone’s life, is a whole lot of fun (yes, horror is a helluva lot of fun to write – murder and mayhem and monsters, oh my!); there’s no need to create a world on the same scale as the novel, but more drip-feed the world/culture into the story – just enough for set the reader in that world.

And let’s not forget the gratification side of things. Writing a short is far quicker than writing a novel (duh), and there’s also a much quicker response time for a short story, be it accepted or rejected. You know what’s happening with it far sooner than you would with a novel. It’s that high of having a story out in the world, fighting for its right to be in an anthology that I’ve missed, the feeling of being actually working (regardless of how stupid that sounds).

Balance. That’s what I was missing. I’d forgone the love of writing in the short form to pursue the lure of writing in the long. As of today, I have two short stories out in the world at the moment, both written within the last few weeks, and I’m currently working on another for an anthology that deadlines at the end of this month. I’m pumped. Not just to finish this short, but to also get back to the novel. Going back to writing short stories has reignited my desire to finish the novel.

As with anything, having such a singular focus can drain the joy from things you love. That was my mistake.

And that’s the long and short of it.

 

ComicCon, I will be in you…

Tomorrow morning (waaay early), my daughter and I will be dragging our tired selves onto a plane for our trip to Melbourne for ComicCon. It’s a big deal, a very big deal. This is where the two-in-one comic ‘The Road to Golgotha’ will be launched through Cohesion Press. My story ‘The Road’, takes up 47 pages of horror-filled beauty, and while it’s uber-exciting, I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet (hell, I still haven’t started packing).

The Road to Golgotha

It’s been quite a long road (yeah, I see that pun) to get to this point; the script was written about two years ago, taken from a short story I’d had published in Midnight Echo #9. This was the first comic script I’d written, and truth be told, it almost broke me. Comic writing and story writing are two completely different beasts, and it took me a while to wrap my head around the ‘stillness’ of a comic. A panel is a snapshot, a moment frozen in time – a character isn’t ‘running’ they are ‘mid-step’; they aren’t ‘raising their hand’, it’s either up or down.

A true collaboration it is, and the gods stepped in and sent extraordinarily talented artist Monty Borror my way. It’s his art that brings my story to life, his skill and mastery of the medium that took my words and ideas and made them visually real, visually stunning. I sometimes wonder if he’s a sorcerer.

So 47 glorious pages later, Monty had finished the art, the lettering had been done, and it was off to the printers in time for launch at Melbourne ComicCon. ‘The Road’ is a story of gods and monsters, of self-discovery and a battle for identity for the heroine. It’s hard and it’s bloody and she unapologetically owns it.

Page3

The other story, by GN Braun is ‘His Own Personal Golgotha’ – a search for redemption through horror-filled pages again brought to wicked life by Monty Borror. It’s a visually stunning piece that doesn’t pull any punches. It’s kick-arse.

I also get to share this experience ­– my first ever launch – with my daughter, and that’s pretty damn special. She’s just as excited as I am, despite the fact she isn’t allowed to read the comic as it comes with a ‘R’ rating, but she’s very much looking forward to wearing an exhibitor pass and exploring ComicCon.

So if you’re in Melbourne over the weekend, come say hello and take a look at the comic – we’ll even sign it for you! For anyone who can’t make it, the comic will be available on Amazon next week, in either black and white or spectacular colour.

road page 9

Now, I’d better go pack, I have to be up in five hours.

Don’t Be A Dick

Let me say that again: don’t be a dick. Four simple words with an equally simple message, but it seems there are those in the writerly community having a really hard difficult time not being dicks – some on a truly epic scale.

I’ve followed for a while the debacle that is the Hugos. I say ‘a while’ because it didn’t take long to become bored and disenfranchised with the whole thing, especially once it devolved into the slinging of poo from both sides. To say the Hugos have been irreparably damaged is an understatement. The honour of having ‘Hugo winner’ or ‘Hugo nominated’ stamped on the cover of your book has been lost. That’s a real shame. Will the awards recover? Only time will tell. Time, and whether Vox Day continues with his toxicity.

It was the perfect example of how ‘don’t be a dick’ would have helped those on all sides of the Hugo debate. Once you devolve into vitriol to further a cause (valid or not), you lose not only any sense of decency, but there’s a real chance you lose your reputation, and for writers, reputation is everything. No matter how good a storyteller you may be, if you’re a dick, you’ll find there are publications and editors that will refuse to work with you.

nice things

If only the dick-ness had been limited to the Hugos, but *le sigh* it wasn’t. Another spat broke out between authors that had political leanings (shades of the Hugos) at its core, which then resulted in one of those involved ‘one-starring’ the other author’s books on Amazon. Apparently this author isn’t a five-year-old child. Other authors were dragged into the mess, and yet again, playground behavior and bullying was the order of the day. Now I’m not saying all involved were ‘dicks’, some of those dragged into this acted with decency, common sense and rose above, but it was enough to spread quickly through the writerly community and draw more sad sighs, eye-rolls and mutterings of ‘again?’ from those sucked pulled drawn into the vortex.

Just recently I became aware of an instance of ‘dick-ness’ that struck a little closer to home, and which raised my ire. A friend and fellow author (who I won’t name for privacy reasons) was at an anthology launch where their story was listed as the lead – a well-deserved honour; it’s a wonderful piece. However another author (well-known in the genre) took it upon themselves to tear into my friend, stating without compunction that they’d paid to have their work included, that the story was shite, as was the antho (apart from dick-author’s work, of course), and that they wouldn’t be promoting it because all of the above.

This tirade was unprovoked and left my friend shocked and disillusioned with their work. I was furious. Still am, hence this post. I’ve little doubt that jealousy and the dick-author’s insecurities led to the words, but that doesn’t make it any way right. Not by any means.

booo!

Writers are an insecure bunch, myself included. We’re our own worst critics, and even those of us with publications (big and small) under our belt still have those moments of despair. When author friends have their successes we’re absolutely rapt for them, but there’s also a little stab of jealousy involved with those successes – we wouldn’t be human if that wasn’t the case. But here’s where the ‘don’t be a dick’ comes in (damn, these double-entendres are killing me). It’s simple really. If you feel like being a dick – don’t. Take any negative feelings toward another writer and turn it into the drive to write more, write better. Chanel that energy into non-dickness.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that writers are a solitary folk, that most of our time is spent in created worlds, but there’s a real joy in connecting with like-minded beings, with those who understand the intricacies and quirks that make you a writer. You need these connections, and not just on a publishing platform, but for your sanity. And if the Hugos, Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies and all the other author-transgressions are anything to go by, that sanity and sense of community is slowly decaying.

We’re in this together, peeps. Writing is truly the best gig in the world; don’t turn it into a toxic playground by being a dick. Simple.

don't be a dick

Feeding the Soul

Saturday night I ventured into the heart of the best city in the world for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, which was set to the backdrop of the festival of lights – Vivid. It was a fantastic night that all started with a forty-five minute walk, and what a walk it was!

Streets were closed from the middle of the city all the way to Circular Quay and around The Rocks, and I can’t explain how much I enjoyed walking down the middle of George Street, surrounded by so many but revelling in the solitary exploration of my home town lit up like magic. Those forty-five minutes, free to walk and explore and indulge on my lonesome was food for the soul.

opera house

Sydney Opera House under lights

I’m not sure how many writers’ festivals have a light, music and ideas festival running concurrently, but more need to. The Sydney foreshore, which is always beautiful, was transformed into a city of the fantastique. There were so many things that drew my attention… and probably why I made it to the auditorium by the skin of my teeth.

I was in the audience for the ‘5 x 15’ – five speakers chat for 15 minutes a piece. No scripts allowed! It was an eclectic lineup, too. A cook, crime writer, investigative journalist, rapper/poet/novelist, and violinist. Something for everyone, I thought, but not everything for all.

I’m happy to say I was wrong.

We began with cook (and MasterChef winner) Adam Liaw. Now I’m not a cook, not by any stretch of the imagination, so I wasn’t quite sure how Adam’s words would apply to me, but… he was great! Sure, a lot of what he spoke about was food related, about breaking food down to its main elements and drawing from there. Pretty much like you do for fiction. Adam was engaging, amusing and more insightful than I imagined.

baking

Next up was US crime writer Michael Connelly. Aah, fiction writer! I admit I haven’t read any of Michael’s books, but that will soon be rectified. He told us about his first novels (ones that will never see the light of day, which is always great to have in common), but I was most impressed with the research he undertook that turned his “crappy” novels into best-sellers. It’s the little things that count, the nuances of character, the attention to detail (no matter how small), that make a story. It’s this kind of information that’s invaluable to a writer, and I thank him for it.

Then came Kate McClymont. I’ve read a lot of her investigative pieces, especially with regard to the political shenanigans of our government – she’s very, very good, but I had no idea how funny she was. I’m sure she ran over time, but it didn’t matter. She had the auditorium in fits of laughter and entertained like a true show-woman. She was definitely going to be a hard act to follow.

Enter Omar Musa. Another Australian novelist/poet/rapper not on my radar. Now Omar had cheat cards, of which he readily confessed (but rarely looked at). Against the rules? Maybe. Did any of us care? Nah-ah. Omar is a finalist for the Miles Franklin Award for his novel Here Come The Dogs, and what he gave us was amazing. Part poetry slam, part biography, it was a feast of rhythm and verse and lyrical beauty told with an honesty that had me buy his book (and have it signed – he’s humble and happily chatted to all who came to him). It was brilliant. Just brilliant.

Here Come the Dogs

When the last speaker, concert violinist Richard Tognetti took the stage, he told us his 12-year-old son told him he’d better be funny as the previous speakers were amazing. Pressure much? Richard is one of the top violinists in Australia, and boy can he talk a million miles a minute! Nerves were definitely there, and at times, so fast did he speak it was difficult to keep track of where he was taking us. He had with him an extremely rare violin that was hundreds of years old – the history behind it (rapid though it was), was interesting, but when he put that instrument to his chin and played for us all… magic. He was transposed from this almost manic dialogue into a virtuoso of calm and beauty as he seemed to romance music from the violin. Such a fitting end to an incredible panel of speakers.

A special shout-out to the always lovely and quick-witted Diana Jenkins who emceed the event – amazing job!

After having my newly-purchased book signed by Omar Musa, it was off for drinks until there was only two of us left – me and my mate, Deb. We had a great (if not cold) stroll around the harbour foreshore, taking in the sights of Vivid, discussing the speakers and just generally laughing our arses off (as we tend to do when together).

peacock feathersfaces

The Argyle Cut and Martin Place Faces

For those of you who haven’t attended The Sydney Writers’ Festival, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s a week-long event, with days and nights chock-full of panels and discussions, book launches, culture and heritage… there really is something for everyone. If you’re a reader, it’s a chance to connect with favourite authors and discover new. For writers, who really do tend to be solitary creatures, it’s a place to revel in your passion, to talk about stories and the realness of your characters (without those strange looks you sometimes get from non-writerly peeps), and connect with those who love what they do as much as you do.

For me? Well I got all of the above, and so much more. I’m inspired, determined and I learned – something a writer never stops doing. And I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

pyschedelic building

Now get thee to a writers’ festival!

Why You Can’t Argue With Crazy (and should you?)

No, I didn’t forget Women in Horror Month. Yes, this isn’t technically posted in February, but I wanted to see the month out before I wrote my opus. I’m a woman who writes horror, and on my good days (when the writerimposteritis isn’t gnawing on my ankles) I think I write horror well. So when I hear of those who think women can’t or shouldn’t write in the genre I love, I get my back up. But what good does that do? Those who spout such nonsense want exactly that angry reaction. Most of the time they’re trolls, but every now and then you’ll find that misogynistic belief really is their truth and nothing and no one can dissuade them. You can’t argue with crazy.

Last year I wrote a piece on the best way I’ve found to handle any vitriol thrown my way regarding my choice and ability to write horror: Fuck the Naysayers and Make Good Art. I’ve heard all the arguments against female horror writers: we’re too soft, we’re nurturers, we don’t understand horror, we dilute it, we’re… (wait for it)… always putting romance in horror.

Like I said, you can’t argue with crazy.

can't argue with crazy

February 2014 was particularly nasty when it came to WiHM. Truly terrible and disgusting things were said. The first two weeks of this February, however, were fantastic. There were blissfully positive posts and interviews, the sharing of fellow authors’ work – a real sense of community and support. Then someone had to ruin it for everyone.

I’m not going to name names here but it spawned #horrorhags, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what was said about one female horror writer in particular before all were tarred with that same brush. It united horror writers and had, I’m guessing, the opposite effect the person intended. Or did it?  One has to wonder if the stupidity of comments such as these is nothing more than to raise someone’s profile, garner interest in their books, get the horror community talking about them et al. But really, who’d be that stupid? You’re insulting potential readers, you’re embarrassing your publisher, and the chances of you getting another publisher are now pretty damn slim. Authors remember. Editors remember. Publishers remember. The horror community remembers.

Thing is, you can’t control what people think, what people say, and how people act (especially on the Internet). You can only control what you think, what you say, and how you act. I’m not saying don’t take on the controversial issues, self-censorship isn’t the way to go either, but remember that trolls and those who forgot to activate their ‘don’t-be-a-douchewaffle’ button, are always going to be around, and they’re going to say and do things that will make you want to rage-quit humanity, but is that what they want from you? An escalated reaction? Notoriety? Do you want to feed that?

horror hag

WiHM seems to attract those who want to start a brouhaha (not a discussion) about exclusivity when it’s all about inclusivity. Why give the douchewaffles what they want? I’d never heard of the writer whose rant started the #horrorhag – now I do know their name. So was this ‘mission accomplished’ on the writer’s part? Tough call that. Yes, I know their name (some would say that’s marketing gone right), but it also went very, very wrong as a lot of publishers now have this person on a ‘blacklist’. They won’t publish them. Ever. I’d say that’s marketing gone wrong.

Writers are a passionate bunch, and as a whole a damn supportive one – woe betide anyone who messes with our community. And community it is. Writing is a mostly solitary profession, so when we find and meet like-minded folk, we celebrate the wonder and weirdness that is who we are and what we do. No one understands a writer like another writer. So when a scribe takes aim and fires those misogynistic bullets, they don’t just hit the female horror writers, they hit us all. I mean, dude, that shrapnel goes everywhere. And no one likes to be shot at; no one likes their friends and peers shot at, regardless of gender. But to do so during WiHM? That shit be crazy, and I do have to wonder at their motives.

It’s no secret that getting your work and your name out there and recognised isn’t getting easier – it’s simple mathematics (I can do it and I suck at math). The advent of self-publishing has increased the amount of books available to readers, which, as a reader myself, isn’t a bad thing; as a writer, you need to stand out in the crowd. (Hint: decrying female horror writers probably isn’t your best bet). So part of me wonders if this wholly uncalled for #horrorhag rant wasn’t a publicity stunt gone wrong. If so… bad call, dude. If not… well, you can’ t argue with crazy.

All I know is that I will continue to write the best horror I can, and I will continue to support WiHM until there’s no need for it, and I will continue to support my fellow horror writers regardless of what does or doesn’t swing between their legs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go disembowel a despot…

WiHM 2015

 

 

Horror and Writers and Interviews, oh my!

This February marks the 6th annual ‘Women in Horror Month’. Started by Hannah Neurotica, WiHM aims to: [assist] female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. The vision is a world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression.

I have mixed feelings about WiHM, but I understand the need for its existence (this will be the subject of a post later in the month). I will always support authors – especially in my genre – and particularly female horror writers. Hell, I am one. Pay it forward and pay it back; karma will always be good to you.

I’ve received a lot of support from horror writers and readers, and I’ll be forever thankful for it. One of those who helped me enormously at the beginning of my writing career was the extraordinarily talented and supremely wonderful Kaaron Warren – one of the best horror writers about, no doubt.

I was lucky enough to be mentored by Kaaron, and what she taught me I will never be able to repay – her knowledge of storytelling and the industry was priceless. She was always there to look over my work (no matter how nervous I was) and answer any questions I had (no matter how ridiculous they may have been). I hope to one day help others as she did me.

WiHM 2015

Support comes in all forms, and I was the beneficiary of said support from the very talented Greg Chapman when he asked to interview me for WiHM. His questions were insightful and ones that deserved to be delved into. Not only that, I was interviewed along with Kaaron, which was like the icing on the cake for me.

The interview is here, and you’ll see that I’m far more ‘chatty’ than Kaaron – she really does know how to get to the heart of things succinctly! Our interview is part two of a series Greg’s doing. You’ll find part one here, where he interviews Marge Simon and Stephanie M. Wytovich – two very talented author/poets from the United States.

Greg asks us all which female horror authors we believe should be read, and if for nothing else, take a look at the lists the four of us offer – they’re wide-reaching and wide-reading.

So if you’ve never read horror written by a woman, or would like to read more horror written by women, check out Greg’s interviews.

Right then, time for me to get back to destroying a world of my own making. Horror writing really does rock!

 blood spatter

NOVELS AND ELEVENTY-FIRSTS

There’s a count-down calendar on this page. See it? Over there on your right… scroll down a little… a little more… Bingo! TWELVE DAYS TO GO! Ahem. ‘pologies. Didn’t mean to yell.

This is my second round at ‘The Black Friday Wager’ and my second attempt to finish the first draft of my novel. Well, to be completely honest it’s really more like draft eleven of the first draft of my first novel. ← That makes a weird kind of sense, trust me.

‘The Black Friday Wager’ is the brainhild of Elizabeth Wayne and Marty Young. Now, when I say ‘brainchild’ I mean a lovechild born from a sarcasm-riddled back and forth between the two on Facebook (it was a short pregnancy and a relatively pain-free labour – so not like actual births with the swearing and the pain and the blood… Hmm, now I think about it….)

BFW 2

The idea behind the BFW is a support network with incentives. We all have goals we’d like to achieve be it with writing, exercise or quitting the smokes… you get the idea. What the BFW allows those in the group to do is set a goal they’d like to achieve by the next Black Friday in the calendar year then another group member takes them up on said goal and a wager is set (decided upon by the two wagees).

I didn’t hit my goal last time ‘round, which cost me a bottle of scotch (happily delivered), but I’m very close to hitting my goal of finishing this eleventy-first draft of my novel. With twelve days to go, I just passed the 60,000-word mark, and I know I’m on the home stretch, which holds both relief and excitement.

Relief because this is the longest piece I’ve ever written, and there were times when I lost faith in myself as a writer and believed it was just something I could not do. I raged and swore, hated and kicked, and there were quiet moments of despair. Writing a novel is hard; writing a first draft of your first novel can be soul-destroying at times but here’s where the BFW group kick in. Beyond anything else they’re a support network, even those with whom you have a wager want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed. They’re your cheer squad, your sounding-boards, your oracles and your pickers-up when you’re down. I could not have come this far without them and I’ll be forever thankful.

And excitement because I can see where this novel is going; I know where the characters are going (not anywhere good, ohh no, not anywhere good at all), I know what they’re doing and what they hope to achieve despite all the crap I’m going to be throwing their way. And it’s a lot of crap. Apocalyptic worlds are never a fun place to be… for them. For me, I’m finally starting to enjoy myself, enjoy the process, and that’s something that’s been seriously lacking.

It’s been more stressful than I thought it would be, but that’s due to the unwarranted pressures I put on myself. I’m my own worst critic, and being an editor that tends to double the self-recriminations. It may not be right but it’s honest.

Is the draft good? Some of it, yes. But not all. Hell, some of it’s pure shite and I’ll admit that a lot of it will probably go in the rewrite, but it has created a greater focus for the story and a much better understanding of the characters and the world they inhabit. And that is all kinds of good.

BFW

So, with Friday the 13th closing in fast, my wager with the ever-wonderful and crazy-smart Elizabeth Wayne looks like being a success. And I don’t mean just the success of having a completed draft with ‘End’ sitting at the bottom of the page, or the fact that I’ll receive two illustrations from one of my favourite artists – Jeannie Lynn Paske – but the success of understanding that I can write long pieces, that I can be kind to myself – I should – and that maybe the short-story form isn’t the only place I can lay my hat.

ELEVENTY-FIRST, IT’S TIME TO END YOU!

Writers and the ‘Real’ World

Writers, by and large, are a solitary folk. We live in our heads as much (if not more) as we do the ‘real’ world. Even when venturing into the gathering places of other humans, a part of our mind is ticking over with story plots, envisioning (and having conversations with) characters, trekking through worlds of our own creation. We function as other non-writerly folk do, but part of us is always lost in our words and our worlds.

imagination

The advent of social media has brought us solitary creatures together, given us a sense of community and understanding. Still, we continued to sit before our screens and ‘interact’ with other like-minded beings, and the sometime sense of isolation drew back a little. However, the thought of interacting face-to-face can often be an altogether different beast. A terrifying thing wrought with insecurity and panic. Our created worlds are safe havens, places we know and love that offer security and acceptance.

So it was with much trepidation (and a little fear, truth be told) that a couple of years ago a small bunch of Sydney horror writers who’d interacted online finally decided a meet was something we should try. You know, in person, face-to-face with conversation and all that jazz. And beer, let’s not forget the beer.

Jo and Cat Me, Tracy and Jase

And so the Sydney SHADOWS was born. That first get-together was a little daunting I have to say, but it soon grew into a core group of about ten who now can’t wait to meet up and talk shop and shenanigans. You see, no one understands a writer like another writer – they get that excitement of a new story/idea, the joy of publication and the suckiness of rejections. They know you live in alternate universes that are as real as the one our bodies inhabit. Among us there’s a wealth of experience and information we readily share with one another, but more than that we’re letting our hair down (well, those of us with hair), swearing up a storm, and acting silly as only writers can. Sure, we get strange looks from those at other tables, but we’re writers – even out in the world we bring our own worlds with us… while creating fantastical places in a hubbub of shouted ideas. (Cake drones! Ahem…)

Rob and Alan Me and Tracy  Jo and Rob Alan and Rob

Three or four years ago if this opportunity had come up, I’m not sure I’d have taken the leap, but now I can’t imagine not meeting up with this lot. We drink, we talk shit, bond over hats, and boy do we laugh. It’s a letting off of steam, of the build-up of all that we carry around in our heads, which can sometimes be very dark stuff.

There are times when my husband will ask: “When are you getting together with your people?” That’s his not-so-subtle way of telling me he can’t help me with the writing stuff that’s driving me crazy, and/or I need to get out of the house (and stop wearing my pyjamas all day).

Alan and Tracy Tracy and Me

Being (physically) around other authors brings a normalcy to what most of us experience when we tell other humans we’re writers (especially a horror writer) – a frown of distaste, a look of incredulity, a gasp followed by ‘but why?’. And meeting up with like-minded specimens is damn inspiring, no doubt about it.

So yes, writers are, by and large, a solitary folk, but when we get together it’s a celebration of what we do and who we are – warts and all. And for writers, there’s not a lot better than that.

Me, Alan, Jason  cat

(If you’re looking for fantastic writers and great reads, check out some of the work from Sydney SHADOWS members: Joanne Anderton, Catriona Sparks, Alan Baxter, Robert Hood, Andrew J McKeirnan, Marty Young, and Jason Crowe – you can’t go wrong!)

(All pics courtesy of the wonderful Cat Sparks, who can take a photo like no other!)

2015? We Need to Talk…

Aah, 2015, how’d you arrive so quickly? Well you’re here now, so let’s get one thing straight, I have some damn high expectations forthcoming, so if you could not rush through this year as you did the last, that’d be great. Not that 2014 sucked by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve set goals (note: that’s goals not resolutions) that I will reach, and strict regulations on my family/work/writing time management.

2014 was very business-oriented, with most of my time taken up with editing – don’t get me wrong, I love what I do; working with other authors… there’s not a lot that beats that!. This year, however, I will be much stricter with my working hours and my ‘no working weekends’ policy.  Still, business is good, and the authors I worked with last year were most inspiring. Writers rock!

I also had the pleasure of being a co-editor on the SNAFU series with Geoff Brown, the owner and editor in chief of Cohesion Press. SNAFU: An Anthology of Military Horror, and SNAFU: Heroes have both been released to strong sales, but more importantly, kick-arse reviews. SNAFU: Wolves at the Door, will be released this month, and as with the other SNAFU anthos, there are some truly amazing stories within, both from established writers such as James A Moore, and some new writers you definitely need to keep an eye on.

SNAFU Wolves

As for last year’s reading (I’m talking for pleasure, here, not work), I kicked 2013’s arse. Twelve novels and two short story collections, which I plan to beat this year as well. I’ve a review coming for the last collection I read, and am already well into the first novel for this year.

Writing wise… well, this had to take a bit of back-seat. I finished the script for for my comic, ‘The Road’, and the uber-talented Monty Borror has finished the art – I can’t begin to put into words how Monty has captured my vision for the comic, only to say that I am extraordinarily humbled as well as mind-blown by the man’s work. Lettering will begin soon, and the comic will be launched at Melbourne ComicCon in June through Cohesion Comics. (Watch out Melbourne, here I come! Ahem…)

road page 29

I wrote one short story last year, which was short-listed for a pro-paying market (that’s a win for me), but most of my writing was taken up with the first draft of my novel. Things there are progressing a lot slower than I’d like, but I have plan, and six weeks to get it done. And get it done I will. Then it’s rewrite time! I’ve also set a short story goal of four for the year, all to be subbed to pro markets. (See 2015? Goal-motivated  – don’t be screwing with me and start messing with time.)

So 2015, I’m taking no prisoners and you’d better be on board. Don’t make me get all stabby with you.

Nightmare Art

 The world is but a canvas to our imagination. ~Henry David Thoreau

Woo hoo! It’s art time again! Not mine, because no one needs to be subjected to that, but the art of one who knows his stuff. And by stuff, I mean the things that live in the shadows, the monster under your bed.

Greg Chapman is one of those artists who likes to play in the darkness where monsters live. I first came across Greg’s work a few years back when he illustrated a comic – Allure of the Ancients (Midnight Echo) – written by a friend of mine, Mark Farrugia. I’d seen the comic in its short-story form, but it was one of those tales I knew would transfer mediums beautifully.

The success of such an undertaking falls on the artist, and the writer choosing the right artist for their work. Mark chose right. Allure of the Ancients is the story of Rahkh, a vampire (not one of those sparkly pieces of crap) who has been around since biblical times, and follows his journey through the ages.

It’s a fantastic story, and Greg brought Rahkh to life in spectacular fashion, so much so one of his prints sits on my wall (above one of my bookcases, no less – high praise indeed!). Rahkh is a powerful, blood-thirsty vampire who goes through people like I do chocolate – ravenous and not at all apologetic. Just as a vampire should be.

Rahkh by Greg Chapman
Rahkh by Greg Chapman

 

Greg covers all spectrums of the horror genre, from his famous Halloween jack-o-lanterns, to Poe, Stephen King, Nosferatu, zombies, and all manner of ghosts and ghouls. Every nightmare you can imagine, he can bring to life on a canvas. So much so, he didn’t win a Bram Stoker. Let me explain…

Greg illustrated the highly-acclaimed, Bram-Stoker winning graphic novel, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, by Lisa Morton and Rocky Wood. The man knows his stuff, but it’s unfortunate that while the writers of the graphic novel received Stoker awards, Greg did not. Which shows me how underrated illustrators are in a medium that relies so damn heavily on art.

witch hunts

Like writers, illustrators aren’t paid anywhere near enough for what they do. It’s been that way through the ages, but that doesn’t make it right. Go into any home and you’ll see artwork on the walls, sure, mine’s a little darker in nature, but barren walls don’t a home make. And I’ve Greg to thank for adding some colour and personality to my walls.

I’ve also had a piece of Greg’s art accompany my short story ‘The Road’ in Midnight Echo #9. It’s a small piece of inner art, but it’s beautiful, matched perfectly, and gave the story that little extra to show the power of the words. Words Greg understands very well.

Persephone by Greg Chapman
Persephone by Greg Chapman

 

You see, Greg’s not only an illustrator, he writes as well. He currently has his debut story collection out: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares (Black Beacon Books), which is another book I need to add to my ‘to read’ pile (which grows ever mountainous). The cover art is all Greg’s, so not only do you get a tonne of great stories, you get awesome art as well.

Greg’s artwork is available for purchase here (he does tees and hoodies as well), and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with some art that will look amazing on your wall. Go on, bring the nightmares home. I dare you.

vaudeville