After a long weekend spent at the Continuum Speculative Fiction convention, I was exhausted. Then a text came through – was I interested in a radio interview this week? ‘Yes,’ I replied. Such an opportunity is a rare thing for an unknown author like me, so I seized the chance. My day job as a teacher, meant I couldn’t record the interview live-to-air, but I was able to phone it in as a ‘pre-record.’ I’ve just finished recording the interview from the passenger seat in my car! It goes to air tomorrow (15/6/18) at 10.35am as part of ‘Viewpoints’ with Henry Grossek on 3SER. I’ll post the audio next week.
I spent January revising and editing Movemind (now available for pre-order). Since February, I’ve had a target of writing 250 words a day during the week and 500 a day on weekends. It’s really worked for me and I rarely write only the target for the day. 250 words is manageable – roughly 15-25 minutes. I know some authors go for a thousand or 750 words a day. When I try that I invariably fail; the time required interferes with my day job and family too much. 250 words also happens to be roughly the amount of words of one page of a book. The feeling of continually making progress is rewarding. I also like that by the time I get to write again, I’ve spent so much time thinking about what comes next I don’t get distracted and write efficiently.
As a result of this practice, I’ve just finished the seventh story of a planned nine story collection. I’ve written 42,000 words since February, with a rough estimate of 10,000 to go for the last two stories. With a bit of luck, I’ll have the book out early next year, which means I’ll have published two books within a year!
Some stories are based on a well-plotted out plan, some from ideas that have percolated for a long time, but not necessarily written down, and some just on a single sentence. The latest story (called The Storyteller) was a total “pantser.” I had a one-sentence idea: ‘An arsonist sets fires so he can write a story about who tries to stop it.’ That was it. I think it was an idea from a dream I had roughly four years ago. I really like how the story turned out and had a heap of fun writing it, probably because I had no pre-conceived ideas about where it was going. Firmly setting the story in Perth helped the story develop as it led to some plot points coming from local landmarks. The resulting plot become the closest companion story I’ve written for Incite Insight in terms of content.
The collection is tentatively titled: The Colours of Death: Sgt Thomas’ Casebook. It’s detective fiction with my usual sprinkling of science. The main character in the stories is the detective from Incite Insight. The stories are set after the events of that story, and Sgt Thomas is now an extremely effective detective. Each story has a colour based theme. For example; the victims turn blue, violet is the name of a drug, a uniform colour is indigo and so on. I’ve based the colours off the rainbow (ROYGBIV) and added black and white. I still have white and green to write. White is a ‘percolated’ story — one I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years and green will be another ‘pantser’ where I only know it will involve a code being broken (although, I’ve already worked out how).
It’s not my only project at the moment, as I’m also writing a short story for an anthology which should come out around Christmas time. More on that project in another post.
Over the years the editors of my books have made me aware that I have some writing ‘ticks.’ I have created a way to analyse documents/manuscripts to help me identify such overused words and thought it was worth sharing. This is useful for business as well as fiction writing.
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Author of The Conversationist, Incite Insight and the forthcoming speculative story collection MoveMind.
Earlier this year, with tongue firmly in cheek, I wrote a story called Sever-Reign about a Queen, a Prime Minister, and a President. I enjoyed writing it, particularly when I discovered a tantalising tidbit about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while researching a plot point. A few weeks later the deadline for the Monash Wordfest competition arrived and I needed a story to submit. The only one I had written that was within the word limit was Sever-Reign, so I dutifully de-identified it and sent it off. On Thursday the winners of the competition were announced and while I didn’t place, my story was Highly Commended, which I am very excited about.
You can read Sever-Reign (and the winners/other shortlisted stories) for free here!
Sever-Reign will be included in my upcoming short story collection, MoveMind. Due out early 2018.
There are a handful of authors that I really admire. One such author is Peter Hoeg. His most famous work is Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow. I was given a copy of it twenty two years ago when I was still in high school. I’d been captain of the school’s debating team and the teacher in charge gave me a copy as a thank you for the role. I didn’t read it right away; in fact it probably took close to two years to read it, but it was always on ‘the list.’ I loved the book, especially the philosophical elements. The description of Mathematics in it is beautiful. Soon, I had read all of the books Hoeg had published. He is an author whose works mean something to me.
In a delightful twist of fate, seventeen years after I received the book, I wound up working at a school with with the teacher who’d given it to me, and I was able to tell her how much the book meant to me and that I’d really appreciated her gift. If you ever want to know what keeps teachers going, little thank yous like this are certainly one of them. She was quite moved by my story and she let me know that she’d chosen it for me quite deliberately, as she herself had enjoyed it.
Hoeg wrote a book called The Susan Effect in his native Danish in 2014. It was translated and (finally) published this month. I am still reading it so will hold any reviews for now, although first impressions are that it is a great story, but the translation could be more polished. The other night, my wife picked up the book and read the blurb. Her response was that “no wonder you wanted this book, it sounds just like something you’d write!” Even though I don’t think I’m worthy of such a comparison, I accepted it as an unexpected compliment.
Over the Queen’s birthday weekend, I’ll be at the Continuum Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne. I’m on the panels for Stranger Things (The Upside Down) [Friday at 5pm], the Art and Science of Publishing [Saturday 9am], and Westworld [Saturday at 6pm].
Continuum is at The Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth St, Melbourne VIC 3000. 5pm-9.30pm Friday, 9am-9pm Sat/Sun and 9.30am-2pm Monday.
Friday evening is only $5 for entry.
A month ago I had my first radio interview. It was nerve-racking, but a lot of fun. Today I had my second interview – this time on radio 3wbc (94.4fm). The host, Barry, gave me no indication of what he was going to ask as, in his words, he likes to ‘play it by ear’ and ‘keep it loose.’ The fact that the show was being broadcast live added to my jitters, but I think I responded well to the questions I was asked. I was able to do a reading of the prologue from my novel Incite Insight, which is the first time I have read a passage from the book to an audience since the launch. I also managed to get in a plug for the Writers Group I’m currently chairing and their recent anthology (which I have a story in). Click here to open a powerpoint show with the audio of the interview.