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Sunday, December 14th, 2014 | Author:

 

Of late I’ve been having a number of people read my Behind the Shadows manuscript and oh my! it’s an excruciating process. Waiting for their opinions sets me on an emotional rollercoaster ride, a seesaw, a knife-edge of anticipation and dread… one moment I think the story is great, the next a load of you-know-what, and it all depends on the last comment I received. And I’ve been thinking… maybe it’s not the best idea to get people I know to read my works-in-progress. Maybe knowing my readers colours my interpretation of their comments. And maybe knowing me colours the sorts of things my current readers say.

It’s with these thoughts in mind that I’ve decided to sign up for a number of online writing critique groups.

Most online critique groups seem to operate in much the same way: you earn points for critiquing the work of others, and the more points you have, the more of your own work you can post to be critiqued. There are of course guidelines for how you critique the work of others, but mostly it’s an exercise in good communication. We aspiring writers are all deeply emotionally invested in our tales and we yearn for constructive criticism rather than insensitive attacks on our abilities. And after having some nasty experiences with hyper-competitive, brutal ‘critters’ early on in my writing life, I’ve tended to shy away from critique groups. But thus far, I’ve found the ones I’ve joined recently to be really useful. Scribophile especially has made a great first impression on me. The site itself is beautifully organised, with lots of helpful features for new members, and you can earn ‘karma points’ not only by reviewing work, but also by writing reviews that the recipient ticks off as being ‘insightful’, ‘constructive’, ‘thoughtful’ and so on. So you’re rewarded for the quality as well as the quantity of your critiques. I’m really hoping that having perfect strangers read Wolves will help me resolve some of the issues that are still bugging me.

I’d just like to single out two of my recent readers whose comments have really meant a lot to me. My dear sister-in-law, who with Lazar also went through the break-up of Yugoslavia, said of my story that she couldn’t believe it was written by an Australian, that parts of it were like reading her own memories! And Brett, fellow writer and fellow expat in China, is currently trawling through my typos and sending me regular questions about anything that doesn’t make sense in my manuscript, thereby helping me clarify my thoughts. So thanks Marina and Brett! I’m looking forward to one day being able to thank you in the published version of Shadows!

Saturday, December 13th, 2014 | Author:

 

I’m thrilled to announce that I recently joined the editorial team of one of Australia’s best SF publications, the Ditmar-award winning Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. I’m really excited about having this opportunity to engage in some behind-the-scenes work. I’m sure it will not only enhance my editing skills and my understanding of the writing world, but also my own writing.

ASIM is a great magazine focusing on light-hearted SF tales. I have to admit I have a soft spot for this magazine, because my Aurealis Award finalist ‘The Last Deflowerer’ was first published in ASIM. Founded in 2002, ASIM has a 3-round submission process that is widely regarded as one of the best in the business. According to duotrope.com, ASIM has an acceptance rate of around 0.63%, and if you make it into that 0.63%, you do so knowing your story has made it through at least five readers. To summarise the process: Round 1 readers say yes, no or maybe to a submission. A yes gets the story into Round 2, a maybe gets it read by another reader, a no gets it rejected. In Round 2, three readers read and comment on the story and give it a rating out of 5. Depending on their comments and the total score, the story will then move onto Round 3 or be rejected. In Round 3, the story goes into a pool of ‘good stuff’ for editors to read and select for future issues of ASIM. If the story isn’t selected within 3 months, it’s returned to the writer. Meanwhile the writers, who are nervously twiddling their fingers and waiting to see if their precious baby will be accepted, are kept informed of where their story is up to at every step. That’s pretty rare in this world where getting anything published seems to involve inordinate amounts of time spent waiting alone in the dark!

I’m chuffed that one of my stories, ‘The Matchmaker’s Daughter’, a tale set in ancient China, is currently in Round 3. And that being a member of the editorial team means I get to read the Round 2 comments and scores once my story’s fate is finalised!

Friday, December 12th, 2014 | Author:

 

How could I have missed this? … The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 anthology, which features my short story ‘Anvil of the Sun’, won the 2013 Aurealis Award for Best Anthology! And where was I at the time? Probably holed up in my home office, tapping away at the keys, studiously ignoring my emails and Facebook messages.

So, I belatedly read the judges’ comments today. There were 17 entries in this category of the Aurealis Awards, and the judges characterised The Year’s Best as “a multifaceted work with extremely broad reader appeal.” They went on to say that the “consistently excellent stories… are beautifully sequenced by the editors. This is a landmark instalment in a highly regarded series.” I am absolutely delighted to be part of such a wonderful anthology, so a huge thanks to the editors Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene for deciding my story belongs in it!

A further note on The Year’s Best 2012: British SF writer and reviewer Peter Tennant has written a lengthy review of it first published in Black Static Magazine #39 and later on his website. Peter begins his review by commenting on the prevalence of women writers and editors in the Aussie genre scene compared to the UK, noting that “last time I did an anthology comparison between the four main English speaking nations, Australia came top of the table with 44% of the stories written by women, with the poor old UK a dismal fourth with 19%.” Hooray for Oz! He then goes on to single out various stories in the anthology, including mine. Describing it as “a harrowing story”, he writes that my words dig “their claws into the reader’s skin and [make] us feel the character’s pain and anger,” while the fantasy setting is used “as a device to shine a light onto abuses in our own world.” I love it.

For those of you who haven’t read ‘Anvil of the Sun’, it is an exceptionally dark tale in which the protagonist is a political prisoner exiled in the final months of her pregnancy to a barren, sun-seared island. The idea for the setting came to me after watching a documentary about Yugoslavia under Tito. The program featured footage of an island in the Adriatic to which Tito banished political dissidents; just as in my story, the island was called the Naked Isle, in reference to its barrenness.

You can buy the Aurealis Award-winning The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012 here.