Easter, anthologies and Amanita

11102602_10153209067612351_821154575774624228_n

This weekend while everyone else has been looking for chocolate eggs in the tall grass, I have been busy trying to weave together stories for two anthologies I’m editing.

I have always enjoyed reading, and there’s something rather special about pulling together the work of other writers in relation to a particular theme.

Specifically, I’ve been tinkering with the adrenalin-pumping non-fiction tome Call of the Wild, and my creepy M.R. James tribute anthology of short stories, both of which have attracted some very high calibre offerings from both new and established writers.

And while my house has (rather unthinkably) been caffeine and chocolate-free, there have been bunnies aplenty – wild brown rabbits darting across in front of our car when we nipped out for a Saturday drive (no mean feat on the Easter long weekend when my neck of the woods becomes choked with cars heading east and west).

After the rabbits zipped by (egg-less, they must have already done the bidding of the Easter Bunny), I noticed we had stopped out the front of an old miner’s cottage, and the road had turned into a dirt track. In front was a magnificent old pine tree, and gathered around its roots like a colourful skirt were lots of Amanita muscaria, pretty red and white toadstools of the kind always seen decorating faerie bowers.

Sometimes the magic happens when you least expect it.

Advertisements

Working holidays, writing myths, and patrons

Gordon_River_Cruise_-_credit_George_Apostolidis_600

Has it really been more than a month since I posted on this dear old blog? What the hell have I been up to? Well, dear reader, I’ve been enjoying a bit of a working holiday.

I spent a good three weeks undertaking some firsthand research for a long-term non-fic book project, which entailed camping out in the wilderness of Tasmania.

And I’ve been busy pulling together some anthology projects, the first of which is an M.R. James inspired collection of creepy tales authored by some very exciting (several of which are very well known) authors.

It’s going to be a cracking collection, and I’m sure old Montague, if he were about, would certainly approve!

MR-James-Montague-Rhodes--007

I’ve also engaged in a bit of crime – watching it on the box, that is – enjoying Murdoch Mysteries (S1 – there’s another 7 to watch, apparently!), and some tense, nail-biting drama in the form of Broadchurch (S2), and Fortitude. All highly recommended.

The latter two series do a good trade in red herrings – more potential suspects than you can poke a stick at, but at least the plots keep you coming back for more.

Of course there have been other casualties during this fallow writing period – most tellingly the garden and the housework. It’s hard to get your work ethic back after several weeks of communing with nature, but one does have to pay the bills.

Speaking of the bills (of which there are many, I think they were breeding under the fridge!) I stumbled across a series of interesting posts about how writers *really* financially support themselves. There is a prevailing belief that most writers just write all day, miraculously making ends meet while churning out moderate to excellent prose.

Well, some do. While others can, largely thanks to inheritances or wealthy patrons (read: spouses or family trusts), plod along and write whenever they please. But most of us work other jobs. I’d urge you to read the many comments and links, and enjoy the honest revelations.

Here’s the post that kicked it all off, Ann Bauer’s “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from. It’s refreshing, and it’s raw. And we’re all green with envy, Ann! Your bloke sounds like he needs cloning 🙂

Today, I am essentially “sponsored” by this very loving man who shows up at the end of the day, asks me how the writing went, pours me a glass of wine, then takes me out to eat. He accompanies me when I travel 500 miles to do a 75-minute reading, manages my finances, and never complains that my dark, heady little books have resulted in low advances and rather modest sales.

As for me – yes I do work full-time as a writer, but not for myself. My own writing is largely done on the train each day early in the morning or evening, or on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes it’s churned out during fits of insomnia. But it’s rarely if ever penned between the hours of 9-5. That time, friends, belongs to The Day Job, without which I would not be able to fund much of what I do, including living and eating.

At the moment my independently-published books break even and pay for themselves production-wise with a bit more besides, and I have a trade-published book that presents me with a nice combined ELR-PLR payment each June, equating to slightly less than a week’s pay. Icing on the passive income that is the book royalty.

I write for pleasure, and for interest.

I don’t write for profit – yet – but I’m getting there.

The progess so far…

941e371841a236ab4b73e0f8566ed79b.jpg_srz_1500_1000_85_22_0.50_1.20_0

It’s hard work to keep a blog going when you’re working fulltime and writing in every other spare minute.

And yet, this blog is my rudder, keeping me on course for the year and, more importantly, keeping me honest where my personal Short Story Challenge is concerned.

So what do I have to show for 2014?

One standalone short story, Army Dreamers, published to Amazon’s Kindle store, partly as an experiment. It will also feature in Tales of the Damned, an anthology from CFZ Press due out later this year.

Three connected short stories, one of which – For Fear of Little Men – has been entered into a writing competition. The stories explore the dark side of having faeries for neighbours, but will stay under wraps for the time being until I know the outcome of the competition. Judging takes place in June, so stay tuned!

ADAnother standalone short story, All Hail the Queen, is about the proverbial new girl at school and her newfound and somewhat unhealthy obsession with beekeeping. I’m presently finalising this one for publication – prepare to feel its sting!

A third short story, Last Request, is in the final stages. It’s the tale of a struggling musician who takes on what seems like an easy-paying gig, but may just end up being the one paying – with her soul! Cue maniacal laughter…

On the side I have been working hard to bring a non-fiction anthology of essays to publication – The Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant? – which explores the case for and against the continuing existence of the Thylacine. It should be published by July.

So while I feel I could have been more productive in the first half of the year after hours, I’m not doing too badly.

1800277_10153902312960010_2088236709_n

Entering competitions

Bb9dSFdCQAEZXOD

As if I won’t be busy enough this year with my personal short story writing challenge, I have also set myself a personal challenge to enter four short story writing competitions in 2014.

Crazy! But there’s a method to the madness.

For many years I have jotted down the details of various writing competitions and, in well-meaning fashion, committed them to my diary so that I won’t forget to enter.

The only problem with this approach is forgetting to write the actual story!

So while this year I have, once again, committed various dates to my diary, the difference is I am now actively working towards these deadlines.

And it’s a mixed bag of literary, fantasy and crime – there’s nothing like genre hopping to keep you on your toes.

I have already finished my first entry, a fantasy tale – For Fear of Little Men – but I’m unable to share it for now due to the entry guidelines, at least until I find out how I fare. But I can tell you it’s full of very bad faeries. The good news is my volunteer readers love it, so I am submitting it this week.

Bon voyage little story! I hope you make a great first impression. And if you don’t, well, you might just end up as part of my short story anthology.

I’ll let you know how I go.

Short Story Challenge 2014

10305029_10152395188477351_1642397985745005323_n

Hello 2014!

I’ve decided to welcome in the new year by starting a blog, and setting myself a particular writing challenge – writing a short story a month.

But not only writing a story a month, but having it edited and publishing it via Amazon’s Kindle program. That’s 12 stories in 12 months, ranging in wordage from 2500-7000 a piece – potentially 80,000-odd words or roughly a book’s worth of stories. The other part of this equation involves publishing an anthology of these stories at the end of the year.

It’s a tall order, and perhaps that’s why I’m nailing my colours to the mast now – I need a public platform to keep me honest!

Along the way I’ll be sharing my writing approach, tips and general advice (no tricks – this will be 100% blood, sweat and tears).

I have quite a few other writing projects on the boil this year, but writing short stories on a regular basis (and blogging about it) is all about reforming my writing practises – and setting up some good long-term habits.

As a self-described ‘binge writer’, I’m looking to replace weekly streams of consciousness with structured daily writing.

Working 9-5, my free time is finite, so I will be using mornings commuting and ‘Library Saturdays’ to pen and polish my stories in preparation for publication. Hmmm, that’s a lot of Ps!

Kicking off January is Army Dreamers, my short horror story about a group of soldiers who encounter an ancient and deadly enemy in the Australian outback.

Oh, and did I mention the anthology will be a mixture of horror and fantasy? Well now I have.

Let me know what you think.