Friday, December 30, 2011

The Death of '11 and a Warm Welome to the End of the World

2011 was crap, shit, a big dog's poo and there I was, standing right in the middle of it--in bare feet. My shifty sideshow freak of a muse had gone off with the circus clowns and was enjoying wild, kinky sex backstage, leaving me to stand in my crap alone.

So come New Year's, I'm going to have a bonfire and burn the ghosts and demons of this past year, then bury those ashes well and good. Maybe they'll rise from the grave in true zombie fashion but if they do, I'll be ready for them cos none of that shite is coming back this new year.

Sure, it might very well be the end of the world in 2012 but it's going to be a fun ride towards the end as far as I'm concerned. I have plans, great big, no-poo-on-my-shoe plans--and I'll be hunting down my muse and dragging him off the circus freaks and hauling him back into my dark domain--he'd best pull up his pants too, cos there is writing to do.

I said 2011 was a bad year and it was, at work, at home, and in my writing. It sucked. But there were some good things to come from '11; my mate Rosscoe got married, I made my first pro short story sale, Tanya and I got a dog, I took on the Executive Editor role at Midnight Echo magazine, and (finally!) semi-began my new career as a consultant.

Other than that pro-sale (which was fucking awesome), my writing career pretty much stagnated; I wrote two short stories over the course of the year and both remain unpublished (one was rejected with the words '...while this was a strong story, one I really enjoyed, it doesn't quite fit the direction the anthology is going...' and that's a very sucky rejection...). I subbed novel number 1 to the agent fella and he said that he loves my writing but the novel was too slow paced for this day and age. He did, however, ask me to send him my next novel--but I didn't end up finishing the final edits on that novel.

I told you, this year sucked. It's like the engine just wouldn't tick over, and every time it did and I'd find first, a little old nun would tumble out onto the road in front of me and I'd have to wait for her to finish crossing. By the time she was across, the engine had died again...

Now I'm not sure about making New Year's resolutions as I don't think they last much past the first hangover of the year, but I've made some resolutions regardless and they are:
1. Finish novel number 2 and get it to my awesome editor in California, and then to the agent fella in London. Deadline is ASAFP (February at the latest)
2. Review novel number 1 and sharpen it up in line with the agent fella's and my HWA-mentor's comments. Deadline is 2 months from starting on it.
3. Write 3 short stories and submit them to pro-markets.
4. Sort out my website and blog. Deadline is NOW!
5. Learn about self-publishing and sit down with a very stiff scotch and seriously consider going this route--perhaps whilst chasing down agents.

I think the writing industry will see some big changes in 2012 and we're smack in the middle of it all. It's exciting.

Some other possibilities for 2012:
1. Take a course in publishing/editing
2. Take a course in marketing
3. Learn how to use InDesign
4. Pick up my pencil and paintbrush and get back into my art

All through it all, I intend to feed my muse so his appetite is sated and he has no need for those other sideshow freaks and he can focus his interests on me, instead. Him and I, we have business to attend to, this new coming year...

Starting now, actually.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now This I Like...

David Conyers has just announced on his blog a new anthology he is co-editing, and it's something that has my imagination soaring. The anthology is called Extreme Planets, and as David says:
Chaosium is expanding into new lines of speculative fiction. Extreme Planets will be the first of these publications, with a science fiction anthology of short stories set on or about alien worlds that push the limits of what we believe is possible in a planetary environment.
Story length is 4,000 to 10,000 words (they may accept a couple of novellas up to 20,000 words from established authors), with payment at US 3 cents a word and 3 contributor copies. So that all sounds pretty sweet, but more important is the subject matter.

Before I turned to geology, I was studying astronomy at uni; I had always wanted to be an astronomer and used to spend many nights when I was very young sitting on the shed roof at home with my trusty telescope and notebook, writing down my observations under red cellophane-wrapped torchlight. Yes, I was a geek. Even now, I'll sit outside deep in the night when no one else is stirring and watch the sky (although now I often have a scotch to keep me company instead of my telescope; I'm saving up for a big juicy telescope at the moment, one that will show the rings of Saturn in clear detail).

The problem I found with astronomy as a degree was the physics and calculus and chemistry... All daunting subjects, and when you started getting so in-depth, you began losing the magic. I enjoyed classical astronomy as that taught the history of the subject, and I did pass astrophysics, but then I discovered keg nights hosted by the geology department and I was lost to the dark side...

I've always maintained a strong interest in astronomy though and have been following the ongoing exoplanet discoveries with a sense of wonder. There are some spectacular worlds out there, seemingly pinched straight from sci-fi novels, and there are some very exciting ones too, especially those perched right within the Goldilocks Zone. There might just be some exciting times ahead...

So it looks like I have a short story to write...(AFTER I finish novel 2)...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The State of Pro Markets

One of my New Year's resolutions--which actually kicked off last week--is to first and foremost target pro markets (5c/word or more) with my writing from now on (unless there is an anthology I love the sound of, or am asked to contribute somewhere by someone I respect). To get a clear understanding of the state of pro markets, I browsed Ralan's market report and this is what I found.

There are currently 47 pro markets listed. Of that number:

  • 4 are closed til Jan 1, 2012 or later
  • 1 is indefinitely closed
  • 2 are merging
  • 5 are closed until further notice
  • 1 is dead
  • 1 is not recommended due to lack of response to submissions and queries
  • 1 is listed as having subs open by assignment only 
  • 1 is closed to unsolicited submissions
That leaves 32 currently open to subs. That's a pretty healthy number of markets. Response times range from a few weeks to 4 months, which is also pretty good.

Breaking this down even further to remove those who do not accept the type of story I write (ie horror/sci-fi), I find that:
  • 1 is open to adventure fantasy only
  • 1 is Canadian and only publish a limited number of international stories
  • 2 are for readers aged 9-14
  • 1 does not accept horror
  • 2 publish mystery/crime only
  • 2 publish stories set in an existing 17th century world 
  • 1 is a 'magazine of wholesome fun' for children up to the age of 12
  • 1 is a literary magazine for children
  • 1 is medieval fantasy and set in an existing universe
This now leaves 20 pro markets currently open to horror/sci-fi submissions. Still a good number but not as good as the 32 I first thought were available. But for someone like me who only manages to write 2 or 3 short stories a year, this should be more than enough to keep me busy. 

I also found 2 pro rate anthologies currently open to submissions, although one seems a bit dubious...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

To self-publish or not to self-publish...

I've been reading a bit lately about the 'new' publishing world, and how self-publishing has become a legitimate way for a writer to become published. It's an interesting time, to say the least, and one that's making me sit down and seriously consider the direction I take my career.

Some of the advice I'm reading (from more than one refutable source) includes:
  • why you no longer need an agent but an IP attorney instead.
    • also included in this was why you should ignore publishing houses who say they will not accept unagented queries or submissions and send them a very professional submission package
  • why going both routes (ie, indie publishing and the traditional way) should be the new normal now, as this provides you with options when it comes to negotiating contracts etc.
  • how being self-published will not impact on your chances with a traditional publisher   
  • how being a smart writer is vital; this includes learning all there is to know about self-publishing and knowing a scam when you see one
All of this is of course built upon the basic premise that you know how to write well, you have your work edited by someone who knows how to edit, you have a stylish, eye-catching cover (because believe it or not but people do judge books by their covers), and you make sure your book is correctly formatted.

There are numerous resources out there now to help you self-publish in the best way possible (okay, I'm writing this mostly as notes for myself while I consider my writing future, because in typical Marty fashion, I'm about a year behind everyone else on this), and David H Burton provides a brilliant post listing a lot of extremely useful info (after explaining why you really should avoid Penguin's self-publishing program Book Country) regarding this. There are enough links on that page to keep you reading for days...

Interesting times... I don't profess to know anywhere near enough about the pros and cons of self-publishing versus going the traditional route, but I will definitely be reading up on this topic. I had a short story published on Horror World back in April that is now no longer available to the public; maybe I should consider self-publishing this?

Novel update: am finishing off my last short story for the year and will then be delving back into novel #2, with the aim of finishing the edits by the end of the year. Then I'll revise novel #1, perhaps with the aim of turning that into a novella.

Just brought another eBook, too (damn you one-click purchase!): The Indie Journey by Scott Nicholson   

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Finding That Write Balance

The thing I struggle with most when it comes to writing is finding the right balance between short stories and novels. I invest so much of myself into the telling of either that to switch between them is really difficult.

When I'm working on a novel, it's all I think about; I live with my characters and explore their worlds, I research every aspect of their universe until I know the predominant wind patterns and what time the sun sets and how it looks casting the last of its light across the hills bordering town. I know everything there is to know; I spend a year with these characters in their world. I'm their best mate and worst enemy.

Writing a novel is a huge investment, and I find myself needing to work on it without break in order to maintain the flow.

It's the same with short stories, which I find extremely difficult to write and probably why I only get one or two done a year. But I still find myself deeply immersed in those smaller worlds, so much so that when, a month or two later when I emerge, I have no idea where I was up to with my novel and have to go back to the start so I'm confident I'm not forgetting important threads.

I really admire those who can do this effortlessly, and often wish I was one of them because there is a lot of reward in having short stories published.

My HWA mentor once told me when I raised this with her that the horror writing genre is small and because of that, we tend to get a skewed perception of each others' success. For instance, unless you publish in the NYer, Glimmer Train, Harpers, etc, it's really not going to do much for your career as a novelist. Not many people in the big houses know what Cemetery Dance or any of the genre mags are, so those credentials aren't going to do much apart from make you feel good about yourself.

There's nothing wrong with feeling good about yourself, and if novels aren't your thing, then there's certainly no problem in living in this small press world. My HWA mentor also said that it's good to write short stories because sometimes your best work comes when you're running free, and that I completely agree with.

As a writer, ideas come to me all of the time, and when these ideas have been fed and nurtured just enough, they need to be born or they go on to haunt your head, growing up into indomitable mutants suckling off your creativity. So writing shorts is necessary--although as someone who is always looking out for my next novel to write, I'm probably feeding these ideas on KFC and bacon until they're fat little buggers. Maybe that explains why I find the writing process so painful...

Sometimes though, you know when you have a short story and not a novel idea, and that's good. But then I still have to remove myself from my novel world and invest myself into this temporary short story world, and that's hard work. Back when I was doing my PhD and living, breathing, science 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it was all but impossible to switch between science writing and fiction writing.

I sometimes think it's a bit the same with novel and short story writing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Macabre eBook is now available

Great news!

The eBook version of the Australian Shadows Award winning and Bram Stoker nominated Macabre; A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears is now available via Amazon and Smashwords, and is expected to be available via all other outlets by Oct 30.

It's only $4.99, and that's one hell of a bargain for this 672 page tomb containing 38 short stories by some of the past, present, and future masters of Australian horror. Over 200 years of terror, now at your fingertips.

Also, the Print On Demand version has been accepted by Lightning Source and is expected to be available via its global distribution network within 4 – 8 weeks. I'll have more information on this version in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, for the price of a hamburger you can now purchase your very own copy of Macabre, and that's just cool.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's alive (again)! ALIVE (again)!!

Well, it turns out I get bored if I'm not waist-deep involved in the spec-fic scene... So say hello to the new (again) Executive Editor of Midnight Echo magazine.

First point of business was to set up the magazine with it's own website, which we've done. Check it out here (I had a slight accident with the url--don't ask--but we'll be moving to in November).

Then we decided to double payment rates, from 1c/word to 2c/word. We're planning on getting those rates up to professional rates of 5c/word...

And to celebrate this 're-launch,' we're holding a massive subscription drive across the Halloween month. There are loads of prizes to give away, including $200 in cold, hard cash! So don't miss out. Take out a subscription!

The website also provides all the latest news regarding the up-coming sci-fi horror issue 6, edited by David Conyers, David Kernot, and Jason Fischer, plus submission guidelines for issue 7, to be edited by Daniel Russell and with the delectable theme of taboos...

So go check it out--and better yet, help us spread the word.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Exciting News

So I have some cool news to announce but I think I'll leave that for a bit and instead share with you one of my favourite childhood memories from TV land. Sesame Street, of all places, back when the Cookie Monster was only interested in cookies, and the only definition for the word 'gay' with Ernie and Bert meant laughter and fun.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the Yip-Yips, encountering a radio:

Funny what sticks in your mind, but I remember these things so clearly. Remember them finding a phone for the first time, too. Ah, such times :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing times, Macabre the eBook - plus Spider Goats!

I've had my bum firmly planted in my seat lately, writing away til the wee small hours of the night when it seems I'm the only one left alive in the world. With so much silence surrounding me, the writing has been going well. Heck, I've even managed to cram in a short story, almost ready to submit. Got two others burning holes in my cranium in order to get out so I really need to write them down before I fill up with water next time it rains.

Novel 2 is coming on strong and it's an action-packed joyride into psychosis and paranoia, and maybe a dash of a global conspiracy, too. It's been fun to write, and far more up tempo than my usual psychological style. I wonder if this will come across in future short stories?

The eBook version of Macabre is well and truly a happening thing so expect this within the next month or so. All the contributors are on board and it will be great to see the anthology released in this format. It will make it far more accessible to the wider public as I know postage costs have been causing headaches for some, especially those on the other side of the world. I'll post more on this in the lead up to its release.

And now for something truly different. Spider Goats! Awesome. Yes, I know they're old news but I love 'em. It seems as if there is a new use for the silk gene that has been introduced into goats, and that is to use it to make bulletproof skin for humans! A wonderfully wacky scientist is working on this, and even plans to replace the keratin in our skin with spider silk so our bodies become bulletproof!

Sometimes it's like I fell asleep and woke up in a truly weird place...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Alfred Hitchcock is back!

It seems one of Alfred Hitchcock's earliest films, 'The White Shadow,' has been unearthed in the land of the hobbits (that's New Zealand, for those who don't know their hobbits). It was found amongst a collection of unlabelled American nitrate prints that had been stashed away for the past twenty-odd years and only now come to light.

Only the first 3 reels of the 6-reel feature film made back in 1923 have been found. Hitchcock was 24 at the time, and was credited as the writer, assistant director, editor, and production designer. This is the earliest feature film with his name on it. Not sure if the rest of the film will ever be recovered though, as apparently no other copies exist.

But what a find this is! I'm a huge Hitchcock fan; he made some brilliant movies and was a true master of the suspense film. The White Shadow, which starred Betty Compson as twin sisters, one of which didn't have a soul, will be shown on September 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Los Angeles. Not sure when/if it'll be shown in Australia, but it sounds interesting...

If they don't find the rest of the film, I wonder who they could get to complete it...?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Two Great Review

I don't post enough reviews of my stories on this rustly ol' blog so I figured now was a good time to start changing that.

Innsmouth Free Press has just posted a wonderful review of Macabre, one that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (or is that the scotch?). Anyway, go check it out to see for yourself. Here's just a little taste:

"The foreword, by Dr. Young, gives an insightful overview of the development of Australian horror literature and sets up the reader for the stories within. The attention to detail, and the hours (upon hours) both editors spent researching and reading, shows their passion for the genre and its cultural significance for those of us who read and write dark fiction."

And this bit:

"There are stories in here for everyone – from those who like their horror dark and visceral, to those who like the quiet creep that lures your imagination into working with them. Macabre, like the stories in the ‘Classics’ section, is an anthology for the ages and I cannot recommend it enough."

Again, that's just awesome. And although the publisher, Brimstone Press, has closed its furnaces, Macabre is still available in all good bookshops, or by contacting me directly. There will also be some POD (Print On Demand) options shortly available, and hopefully it will be re-released as an eBook in the near future.

There has also been a review of Dead Red Heart posted on  It's a good review too (cos DRH is a great collection!). Here's some juicy tidbits:

"With “Desert Blood” by Marty Young bringing back Yara-Ma and “Breaking The Drought” by Jay Caselberg introducing the Wandjina from the DreamTime of Aboriginal creation stories, the vampire stories from Australia are both very rich in myth and psychology..."


"I have been fortunate in this volume not only to be entertained but to actually learn something as well. I recommend Dead Red Heart for readers without a fixed notion of what monsters should be like (or at least the ability to put those notions aside)."

It was given 4 out of 5 tentacles.

For information on where to buy Dead Red Heart, check out Ticonderoga's website.

In other, sadder, news, Blade Red Press is shutting it's doors. They only put out two books during their all too brief existence, but one of them was Dark Pages, which included my story 'Clip Notes.' This anthology was nominated for an Australian Shadows award in 2010, and while it didn't win, here's what the awards' Guest Judge Rocky Wood had to say:

"Dark Pages 1 (and let’s hope there are more) is a treat – a collection of dark fiction ranging outside the horror genre (including science fiction) and including authors from outside Down Under. Marty Young’s neat little “Clip Notes” has the classic Twilight Zone feel to it and is but one example of what makes this anthology a deeply satisfying read."

There's only limited time left to get copies of Blade Red Press' books before they're discontinued, so don't waste time reading this. Go to their website now. Now, I say, now!

Right, I've got a short story to write--oh, just on that note, I've added 5 or so new markets to my Markets page that might be worth checking out... Now then, where's my scotch?

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Frightningly Awesome Past Part II

Me being the nutty doctor that I am, with a geekish like of all things dinosaur and geologically past (as I've said once before, where better to get wild and crazy ideas for monsters?), I came across an article in one of my geeky science magazines on some new species of Mesozoic crocodiles.

The one that really caught my eye was this beastie:

It's called a 'BoarCroc' and it lived in the wetlands of the Sahara about 100 million years ago. Nasty looking fella, right?

This chap stood upright and would've been about 6 meters long, with 3 sets of fangs that jutted above and below his snout when it was closed. The BoarCroc has been described as 'rough and tumble,' and as 'a sabre-tooth cat in armour.' It would have also feasted on dinosaurs that came to waterholes to drink, charging up on land to get them.

This thing is awesome--but I'm glad it's extinct...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Disturbing Dinner

So do you fancy your (raw) squid dancing when it's dished up to you?

No? Me either. But it seems that's one option available these days (although maybe not in Australia as the method is banned). This is a Japanese delicacy known as odori-don (dancing squid rice bowl). You get served the squid (have I mentioned that it's raw? No? Oh, well, it's raw) sitting on a bed of rice and when you pour soy sauce over it, the squid comes alive. ALIVE I tell you!

Ckeck it out...

Apparently it's the sodium in the soy that causes the neurons to fire, giving the impression of life. It's all a bit disturbing for this horror writer though. I like my food dead, well cooked, and not moving, thank you--and before you call me a piker, I have tried raw crabs and live shell fish during my trip to South Korea, so I say again, no thank you.

I read about this on and one paragraph in their article stood out: "Of course, the dish is definitely not for everyone and will probably get us into no end of trouble should alien squid monsters ever decide to invade planet Earth like in a manga movie."

Well, we'd probably deserve everything we got...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Amazing Writing Process

Just recently, I found myself stuck on a short story I was writing; I had the idea figured out but I wasn’t sure how to tell the story itself. So I delved into one of the bibles on writing, ‘On Writing Horror’ and read an interesting chapter on characterization by Tina Jens.

Tina suggested finding the character first and then, with one eye on the plot, come up with a fully realized person, someone you know like your best mate--or better. Spend time on a character sheet (where did they grow up? What's their favourite music? What do they do when stressed or angry? What are their political views? Their general philosophy on life? Their eating and drinking habits, their best friend etc. Go the whole hog with 'em, become their stalker until you know everything there is to know about them. You probably won't use all of this in the story but it will help you understand your character in a completely three dimensional way).

And then, as Tina says, listen to them. As you work out the plot, let them sit next to you and explain how they will overcome the obstacles you put in their way (chances are you won't have a choice here). Basically, you'll find them reacting according to their personality, their motivation are desire etc, without any forcing on your behalf.

I've always created character sheets in the past, but only adding in enough detail to get that character through the story, adding in whatever details I need along the way.

Did Tina's way work for me? Yes. Absolutely. Even as I was filling in character details I could see what was wrong with my story. The direction I was trying to take the story was completely wrong. I had the ending right but the path there made no sense, hence why I was getting stuck. My new flesh and blood character pointed out the problems and explained to me how he would really react in that instance, and what he'd do next. None of it was even close to how I was trying to force him to act.

Thanks to my character, he got us to that end point, and the whole thing fitted together seamlessly. The writing part of it turned out to be pretty easy once I'd spent a little bit longer with my character.

Pity I had to mutilate him at the end. He really didn’t deserve that...

And it’s funny how the brain works. In the story I’m writing, I had an important scene in which my character was listening to particular sounds about him. Natural and man-made sounds. I thought to give this scene some depth, I should take time out and go put myself into such a situation and listen to what I could hear—only then I remembered that about 15 years ago I’d done exactly this; I’d sat outside with a notebook and a pencil and for no reason I knew of then, spent a couple of hours writing down what I could hear and how those sounds made me feel.

I filed this notebook away in my filing cabinet filled with other random bits of paper and messed up notebooks and forgot all about it—until yesterday when I suddenly remembered it, and even knew where to find it. Those notes were exactly what I needed for this story.

It's amazing how stuff like that happens.

Pity I can't remember more important things like my wedding anniversary, or to turn off the sprinkler after ten minutes so the vege garden doesn't drown...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Frightening Critters

I just finished watching the last few episodes of season 5 of Primeval, and they had the return of my favourite beasties, the Future Predators. This got me to thinking about some of the other awesome critters that have appeared recently on-screen (or in books); I'm not talking about human monsters, and forget about the classics like Freddy and Jason and Frankenstein and Alien and Predator and Godzilla etc. No, I'm thinking of newer monsters, supernatural or not, that for one reason or another struck a chord with me.

These are the ones I came up with (in no order):

Future Predators (Primeval) - highly evolved vicious (and carnivorous!) descendants of future bats (kind of), that use sonar in place of vision, have their ears on the front of their face, are extremely agile and strong, and lightening quick on their four clawed legs. They just look cool.

The Gentlemen (Buffy) - these ultra creepy demons gave me nightmares when I first saw them on Buffy; bald, pale, human-like things that are always grinning to expose horrible teeth. They wear black suits and don't walk, but float gracefully over the ground. Oh, and they each carry a satchel with a scalpel in it so they can cut out hearts. Damn graceful creepy bastards.

Weeping Angels (Dr Who) - probably the most original and terrifying creature I've come across for a hell of a long time. They are an ancient race of winged humanoid aliens, their origins unknown, who feed off the potential time energy of others--they can send you back through time with a touch, and feed off the energy left behind. The Angels are "quantum-locked," appearing as statues with their hands over their eyes, only able to move when they're not being observed. And then they can move silently and quickly, unsheathing fangs and claws to attack. Just awesome. Once they've seen you, you have to keep staring at them to keep them in the statue form. Whatever you do, don't blink...

Wraiths (Stargate Atlantis) - a vampire-like, telepathic race of aliens who feed off the life-force of humans. They are highly intelligent and technologically advanced, who feed using a feeding organ on the palm of their hand, which they place over a human's chest. Their prey ages when being fed upon, quickly becoming a dry husk. Ruthless, cruel, smart--everything you want in an enemy (on TV). Plus their green greasy-looking skin just adds the final horrible touch.

Clover (Cloverfield) - the giant (25 stories tall) amphibious, semi-quadrupedal "baby" alien that destroys New York (like any good alien should). It's covered in dog-sized vicious parasites that scatter about town to further add to the chaos. The beastie is all the more frightening because it's only seen in glimpses.

There must be others but I can' think of what they are right now (it's too cold, my brain's freezing up, and I really shouldn't have any scotch tonight). I struggled to think of any I'd come across in books I've read recently, too. But then most of the long lasting monsters become immortalised through film, don't they? I mean, when you think of Dracula, it's Bela Lugosi you think of; Hannibal Lecter, it's Anthony Hopkins; It, Tim Curry etc.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Burning Out as per Clive Barker's Advice

Back in November 2009, the AHWA held an online chat for its members with Clive Barker, one of my literary heroes (The Books of Blook volumes 1-6 are amongst my prized possessions). I asked Clive what advice he could give new writers and this was his answer:

"I can certainly throw out some observation about the process of creating which may be of use. Firstly, it's the best & the worst of worlds, because the only fuel you have to make the fire blaze on the page / screen is the stuff of your own being. An artist consumes his or herself in the act of making art. I can feel that consumption even now, sitting here at my desk at the end of a working day. In order to generate the ideas that I have set on the page for the last 10 or 11 hours I have burned the fuel of my own history. This is, obviously a double-edged sword. In order to give, the artist must take from himself. That's the deal. And it's very important to me that the work I do is the best I can make it, because I know what is being burned up to create. As the villain of Sacrament says: "living & dying, we feed the fire."
So in true Barker fashion, I burned myself out last night. I had the house to myself and my shifty sideshow freak of a muse dragged me through hell in order to pull this cursed story from within me. I ended up with a little over 3000 words, most of which I still like today. The story needs work, sure, that's only to be expected, but it's the first short story I've written since October last year (Desert Blood, published in Dead Red Heart).

It felt great burning out like that, giving it my all until I was worn through and could barely make it to bed. Such a sense of satisfaction and achievement.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dance Power!

Ever heard of piezoelectrics? No, it's not some new fandangled static-filled meat pie, but materials capable of converting pressure into electrical energy. Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have worked out how to use piezoelectric thin films to turn mechanical pressure into electricity. This means by typing, you could power your laptop, iPad, or iPhone. Built into shoes, each step could help charge your mobile.

A nightclub in London recently built a piezoelectric dance floor, so nightclubbers, by dancing, generate 60% of the power to run the club. What a cool idea.

I wonder if you could add piezoelectric thin films to car tyres. Then you'd have a way a charging your electric car without having to plug it in once you got home.

Piezoelectrics... look out for piezoelectric devices in a store near you soon(ish)...

Stop procrastinating Dr Young!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Back into the Saddle I Go...

Inspired by Jason Fischer's six month writing sabbatical, I think it's time I stopped procrastinating and really, seriously, got back into writing. My shifty sideshow freak muse hasn't been talking to me for a while now, so I should probably take it out for a romantic dinner, some good wine, and see what happens. I have a London-based agent waiting to read novel number 2 as soon as I've finished the edits (the deadline's September!), plus at least two anthologies I'm keen to submit to, so I have pressure!


And I need pressure otherwise I wander. I get lost in translation--or is that procrastination? I get lost somewhere (usually trying to get home).

As I said in a recent post, plans for The Next Big Project are coming along nicely, but something I've realized is how out of date I am now with the spec-fic scene, especially here in Australia. There's so much going on, so many good books coming out by great writers, but I feel as if I've had a blindfold over my eyes for the past 6+ months and the world has sped on without me. Wouldn't have a clue what's happening out there in Penland, and holy cowbells, Batman, where and how do I begin to catch up?? I guess it's time I reinvested myself and soaked up the vibe again. Perhaps get myself to a convention or two. Go and get nutty with writer folks and find out the gossip.

A quick note on e-books again; Copyright Agency Limited has released the results of a digital publishing trends survey, and it makes for some very interesting reading. For a bit of an in-depth discussion of the results, check out Alan Baxter's blog. Well worth a read. A very interesting comment made on Alan's Facebook page regarding this too, from an ex-music industry executive who reminded us all that the music industry went through what the book industry is now going through with the digital revolution, so don't expect those digital books to be going away anytime soon......

Monday, July 04, 2011

I've Been Kindle-d!

So I finally brought my Kindle and y'know what? I quite like it. Actually, it bloody well rocks.

I've sat outside in the sun, feet up and sunnies on, reading on it and the screen with its e-Ink technology works a treat. I've sat at the table, eating lunch and reading, and there was no need to rest my plate on the book to hold it open at the page I was on.

Sure, it's not a book, and sometimes I do feel guilty for using my Kindle instead of a paper book (I'm sure those paper books of mine sitting on my bookcases--and on the floor--in my study have started glaring at me with jealousy. I wonder what type of revenge they could impose..? Maybe tipping my bookcases down on top of me next time I'm lying on the ground beneath them...), but the Kindle is easy to read, it's extremely portable and far easier to hold than a Stephen King tome.

I'll always prefer a proper paper book but my transition to the digital world of reading hasn't been as bad or as traumatic as I'd feared.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Disturbingly Brilliant

Sometimes you read a story and even as you're reading it, you're wishing you could just put down the book and forget the words that have already seared their way into your head but you can't, you can't, you have to keep reading, following the events and the characters and the disturbingly brilliant writing to its conclusion, all the while wishing you could screw shut your eyes against those words so their vile images don't burn, burn, burn their degradation upon your world and so that in the midst of the night, when you're lying there awake instead of sleeping, those visions don't come to you again and unsettle you all over, so they don't disturb you once more and give you reason to hate the genre that is horror and yet at the same time remind you of why you love the genre so very, very much.....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Next Big Project...

Something is stirring...

When I stepped down as President of the AHWA last September, I needed to get right away from everything and recuperate. Catch my breath. Spend time on my own writing. Read some books—read lots of books. Just have fun.

And I’ve been doing this, and it’s been going well, and I want to keep doing this—but maybe a couple of months ago now something started stirring deep down inside of me, where I thought I’d poured enough scotch to kill all living things for the next decade at least.

Whatever it was, it continued to grow, making me unsettled, unable to relax. Anxious.

The Next Big Project, that’s what it is. I’ve now seen the top of its ugly head, seen its hideous eyes staring up at me from the dark. Felt it kicking as I lay there trying to sleep.

So, knowing it won’t go away, and knowing that, in line with the demented side of my nature, I don’t want it to go away, I’ve slowly but surely been drawing my plans...

Oh, I’m not alone in this madness, I have co-conspirators, friends to help raise this demonic child of ours. We can’t give any details just yet but stay tuned, that’s for sure. Because it’s going to be huge.

On another more wacky note, I posted in December about how a retired NORAD officer had predicted UFO sightings over Moscow and then London. Well, it turns out he was mostly right. They’re the Galactic Governance Council’s ships, apparently... Honest. There’s going to be a cosmic intervention within the next few years. Serious. The aliens are going to save the world because our ecosystem is on the verge of collapse. I kid you not.

I’ll be out there in my tinfoil undies, waving my sign, ‘Take me! Take me!’ Ah, it'll be grand.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Stokers, live on the computer!

For those of you--like me--unable to make it to the States to watch the Bram Stoker Awards this year, you can watch it live at 11.30am Sunday 19 June Australian EST (Sydney time) on Ustream, following this link:

Macabre; A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears (edited by Angela Challis and yours truly) is nominated in the Superior Achievement in an Anthology category, with Kirstyn McDermott's story from that anthology, "Monsters Among Us" nominated in the Superior Achievement in Long Fiction category.

For a full list of nominated works, check out the Horror Writers Association website.

Personally, I'd be stunned if Macabre won but not so surprised if Kirstyn pulled it off ("Monsters..." is a fantastic story and Kirstyn's having a golden year). Either way, it'd be damn brilliant. So best of luck Macabre, and best of luck, Kirstyn!

And besides, if Macabre doesn't win, I still have this: 'Dr Marty Young is a Bram Stoker nominated editor...' and that's just hilarious.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's so good to be home

What a long two weeks it’s been.

I spent the first week in Oxford (that’d be England for those without any geographical yee-haw), catching up with long lost friends and no doubt making a tit of myself at my mate’s wedding (I mean, c’mon, who’d ever pick me as a Best Man??). Awesome fun though, met some awesome folks, and learned without doubt that I really absolutely have to buy a PS3 (thanks Chris!). Nazi Zombies rule!!

It’s always great hooking up with Rosscoe, and it was doubly great meeting the new Mrs McBride, hanging out with Mikey again after an absence of what? Something like twelve years?—and getting to know the crowd that puts up with Ross. I did spend most of my time there fighting jetlag; the days leading up to the wedding were pretty non-stop, so I didn’t really get a chance to catch my breath after landing, and this wasn’t ideal when trying to talk to strangers.

Oh, and boys, those stag night photos...... altogether way too much nudity in them—especially seeing as how there was no female stripper in sight... Naked men doing the haka. Probably shouldn't say anything more.

(photo by Chris Knight)

Anyway. Then it was off to Krefeld, Germany, for work. So I’m slowly recovering from jetlag and the craziness of a wedding, and now I find myself in the land of pork knuckles and beer. This, I tell myself, is not too bad, but I soon find the language barrier tiring after an already tiring week (no, no stinking rotten cabbage for me please, no, you don’t understand, I only want the pork - turns out though that I quite like stinking cabbage). 

I hit the shores around the time of the e-bola outbreak and was instantly told not to eat salad, which to me, meant I had to stick to pork and beer, which I was kind of happy about (boy, I’ll be hitting the gym when I get home!). Tried several local dishes, most of which were damn good, but the herringsstip was a little too special for me (slimy cold fish soaked for months in salted water, that's what it tasted like....). Still, you do have to try these things.

Found a great restaurant and discovered you're pretty much given a beer the moment you sit down, and keep being given a refill unless you put a beer coaster over your glass. Excellent. You even get kicked out if you ask for anything other than beer. And if you'd asked for beer from another region..? Well, best not to do that, either. These wacky Germans. 

So what do you do in Germany (other than eat pork and drink beer)? Well, for a geo-geek like me, you race down freeways that have no speed limits (never knew you could be made to feel like you’re standing still when going 150km/h...) and visit a huge coal mine (5km long), then play with 12 million year old wood that would burn fine on a fire today. Basically, you do lots of other work-related rock stuff. Yes, I did mention that word 'geek,' so what did you expect? I was there for work, after all. 

I was incredibly well looked after by my hosts but was looking forward to getting home again by the end of it all. I really do need to learn some more languages, especially with all the travel I do. Maybe Latin, that’s a good base language. It's really quite a challenge when you don't speak the local language. 

Never made it to Amsterdam, which was a shame as I liked the idea of getting ‘lost’ there for a night. Oh well, gives me something to aim for next time—and it’s probably safer if I do that under adult supervision... 

Despite all the wedding madness, the work madness, the pork and the beer, I did manage to finish Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. Awesome series, with Wolves of the Calla being my favourite. The final book was so terribly sad; I don't think I've hated and loved a book as much. A real heart-wrencher. And the ending..... Ah man. Shit. 

So now it's onto a collection of science fiction short stories - while I wait for my Kindle to turn up! 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Being Prepared

See? This is what I've been afraid of... it's bad enough waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare in which you're being chased by unrelenting zombies--especially when the neighbours' dogs are barking madly--but when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention begins taking the possibility of a zombie apocalypse seriously you know there's trouble coming. The CDC even released an emergency plan of what to do in such an emergency.

Ah, it's all going to end so badly...

On another note, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Richard Harland for winning an Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story with his brilliantly creepy tale "The Fear." Well done, Richard!! "The Fear" was first published in Macabre and also reprinted in Ellen Datlow's US anthology Best Horror of the Year #3. It's a top notch story, that one.

Congrats also to Kirstyn McDermott, for picking up a gong for Best Horror Novel with Madigan Mine, a truly excellent book. If you haven't read it, go git yerself a copy. Go on, do it. Well done to everyone else, too--a good night was had by all, so the photos would suggest...

And on just one more note, Amazon recently announced that the sales of e-books topped print books for the first time, with 105 electronic books sold for every 100 paper books now. Kindle e-books are outselling hardcover books two-to-one (not really surprising there). The times, they surely are a-changing.

Alan Baxter posted an interesting post on how it is now vital for us, as readers, to provide some kind of quality control over what's published. With the advent (and success) of Print-on-Demand and e-books, anyone can write a book and get it published, regardless of how good--or more likely how bad--it is. Read his post; Alan makes some very good points.

Now then, I'm going to tuck my tail between my legs and slink off with my exhaustion... Damn that Amanda Pillar and her hubby....... Damn their bacardi.....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wait! What? Oh, that's okay then.

So I got up the other morning at 4:30am and trundled outside in me undies to stare up at the sky. And there I saw Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, all bunched together as if they were commenting on what I sight I was.

Even had a number of shooting stars joining me in this pre-dawn steak (the eta Aquarid meteor shower). For a space geek like it, it was quite something.

A time like this gives you an interesting perspective on the world; most sensible folk are still curled up asleep, blankets and doonas tucked in tight and pulled up under chins to ward off the cold, the streets are silent, the world pretty much yours and yours alone--other than the billions of stars above (oh, geek coolness number two: the Photopic Sky Survey - a 5,000 megapixel photograph of the entire night sky stitched together from 37,440 exposures! Just awesome).

Under such massiveness, all the little things seems petty. It's almost like a cleansing of the soul; left alone with yourself and your thoughts--and those untold stars and their planets and who knows what life that flitters and twitches on them--it really is quite liberating. You just shuck off all the arguments and problems and worries, and enjoy the moment for what it is and what it only ever is--a moment in time. And when you're given such a stunning backdrop in which to live that moment, why on Earth--or anywhere else--would you want to fill it with turmoil and bitterness?

Well shit, that was deep. BBBUUUURRRRPPPPPP.

On another note, I've just ordered The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction - 792 pages (it's bigger than Macabre!) covering 150 years' worth of the best science fiction stories. It has 52 stories. That should keep me entertained for a while.

The countdown to the UK and Germany is on--15 days til this wee lil' fella goes and gets lost somewhere in the land of beer steins and pork. Oh woe is me.... It's going to be, well, just terrible.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Last Days of Macabre

Correction (17 October, 2011): It turns out that news of Brimstone Press' demise was a bit premature and I'm happy to say that the furnaces are not closing down. 

Brimstone Press, the awesome Aussie small press and publisher of some damn good horror collections, is closing down. This is sad news; these kids, whether you like 'em or not, have done a hell of a lot for Aussie horror and those writing within this genre over the past decade.

From the ground-breaking online magazine Shadowed Realms in the early 2000s--the only Oz mag to pay professional rates for at least the last decade--to The Year's Best collections, their products were always very stylish and filled with top notch stories. None more so than Macabre; A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears (of course :) How could I not say that?)

SPECIAL CLOSING DOWN SALE - Get your copy of the Australian Shadows Award winning and Bram Stoker nominated Macabre for only AU$25 (plus postage). With 38 stories, that's 66c/story (man, is that all our hard work boils down to??). This special ends on Saturday the 8th of May, or while stocks last.

While you're there, you might also want to snaffle up the wickedly awesome Paul Haines' The Last Days of Kali Yuga for only $20 (this title will still be available at the Author’s Melbourne Launch to be held at Dymocks Southland on Sat July 2nd at 12 noon).

There are other short story collections featuring many of the biggest names in Aussie horror available at discounted prices during this final week. These include:

Shadow Box CD - $5
Black Box CD - $8
Book of Shadows - $5
Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror volume 1 (2006) - $8
Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror volume 2 (2007) - $13
Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror volume 3 (2008) - $8
Shards - $8 (this title will still be available as an ebook available through Amazon, Smashwords, etc – but due to the format, it does not contain the art work of Andrew McKiernan)

So--wait, let me get my scotch...okay--so here's to Brimstone Press, thanks for all you've done and may your future be stress free and fun.

Screw this glass, gimme the bottle...What is it? Maker's Mark. Okay, that'll do then.

Shut up, muse, you shifty sideshow freak. I'll get to you in a second....

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Run! Flee! Cthulhu is Coming!!

I was off to get lunch yesterday when I stumbled across this frightening looking thing lurking in the garden at work:

Aargh! I thought to myself. It's the Great Cthulhu, come again! Run! So I fled back to my office, my rumbling tum no longer of any concern, thinking only of condemning those blasted warlocks who'd been trying to recite forbidden spells from dangerous books without any thought to the rest of us.

But as I hurriedly packed my survival kit in preparation for said fleeing, I learned that the monstrosity peeking up from the garden bed was actually an Octopus Flower, A Cuttlefish Fungus, Anthurus archeri.

It puts off a stench like decaying meat or rotting fish, but it's no ancient deity being summoned back into out world. So everything's fine. Carry on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The State of Spec-Fic Magazines

The death of the magazine! It’s all doom and gloom... Well, not necessarily. While print circulations for most magazines are down on previous years, readership for digital and online issues continue to increase (as too do pay rates for online magazines). Digital subscriptions for Analog in 2010 totaled 2,500; for Asimov’s it was 4,700; both figures are up from last year. What does this mean? It’s obvious; print magazines really do need to offer digital editions to survive, and maybe even flourish. Most already do.

But it’s still great to see that some spec-fic magazines have print circulations in the tens of thousands! Their figures become even more impressive when online sales are included. Hell, these are the mags to get into, although I imagine doing that will require a feat of some brilliance. Best I go put my brilliant shoes on then and get brilliant-ing.

Here are some facts for 2010 (from Locus magazine, February 2011):
  • Analog – 22,791 subscribers (20,291 print) and a circulation of 29,050
  • Asimov’s Science Fiction – 17,866 subscribers (13,166 print). Circulation is 24,747
  • Clarkesworld (online magazine)  – readership is about 21,000 per issue (conservative figure)
  • Lightspeed (online magazine) - average 20,000 readers per month
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction – 10,907 subscribers. Circulation is 15,172
  • Fantasy Magazine (online magazine) – average 15,000 readers per month
  • Apex (online magazine)  – 95 subscribers, and ~12,000 unique visitors per month
  • Realms of Fantasy – 9,000 subscribers and a total circulation of 10,600
  • Cemetery Dance - ~5,000 subscribers and a print run of ~10,000
  • Albedo One – 125 subscribers and a circulation of ~900
  • Aurealis – 320 subscribers and a print run of 650
  • Strange Horizons (online magazine) – no website figures but traffic is up from 2009
  • Subterranean (online magazine) – no website figures but traffic is up from 2009
  • HorrorWorld (online magazine) – (approx. 648 unique visitors per day according to I added this one as I had a story published there in April 2011)

Science fiction and fantasy have the bigger audiences, which is no real surprise. But it’s good to see a number of horror outlets drawing large numbers of readers.

It’s also interesting to see how poorly Australia fares here (I’ve only included Aurealis in the above list as it has the biggest circulation of the Oz mags); are we not embracing the digital evolution strongly enough, or is there some other problem afoot in the magazine industry down under? Maybe I’m missing data that would refute what I’m saying (Eclecticism E-zine)? The quality of Aussie fiction isn’t in question. Does it come down to marketing? Maybe we’re not promoting ourselves well enough on the world stage. Is it that we don’t pay enough to attract bigger names that would, in turn, attract a wider audience? (There are no Australian magazines paying professional rates.) Or perhaps consistency, both in publishing schedules and quality per issue, has something to do with it?  

With the online world going from strength to strength, I really can’t see any reason why an Aussie online publication couldn’t get into the 10s of thousands of online readers per month. Sure, it would be a hell of a big job, but is it really impossible? I don’t think so.

I had a horrible thought the other day, one no demented look from my ever suffering shifty sideshow of a freak of a muse could tear apart, and that was I’d love to get involved in running a magazine again... I told my wife and she just walked off, shaking her head.

Fortunately though, I drowned that idea in Maker’s Mark, and that seems to have ended the nonsense...

The Vampires are Here!

Ticonderoga's awesome looking Dead Red Heart, edited by kilt-wearing Russell B Farr, and featuring my short tale Desert Blood has been released! It's alive, ALIVE! Oh, wait, wrong monster--ah, who cares? It's alive!!

Check out the table of contents - there are some brilliant writers in this bloody book so it's shaping up as a fantastic read - 32 stories, 454 pages, and over 130,000 words. Another door stopper.

“The Tide”, Martin Livings and friends
“Mutiny on the Scarborough”, Shona Husk
“Sun Falls”, Angela Slatter
“Such is Life”, Jeremy Sadler
“Apolotoi”, Chris Lawson
“Punishment of the Sun”, Alan Baxter
“Red Delicious”, Felicity Dowker
“Just a Matter of Economics”, Yvonne Eve Walus
“Quarantine”, Patty Jansen
“Out of the Grave”, Amanda Pillar
“Desert Blood”, Marty Young
“Thin Air”, Simon Brown
“Kissed by the Sun”, Jodi Cleghorn
“Black Heart”, Joanna Fay
“Renfield’s Wife”, Damon Cavalcini
“Listening to Tracy”, Jen White
“Breaking the Drought”, Jay Caselberg
“Children of the Cane”, Jason Nahrung
“The Sea at Night”, Joanne Anderton
“Sky in the Morning”, Sonia Marcon
“Taking it for the Team”, Tracie McBride
“All that Glisters”, Pete Kempshall
“The Rider”, Martin Livings
“Vitality”, George Ivanoff
“Coming Home”, Kathryn Hore
“The Little Red Man”, Ray Gates
“Deathborn Light”, Helen Stubbs
“The Life Stealer”, Donna Maree Hanson
“Behind the Black Mask”, Jacob Edwards
“Interview with the Jiangshi”, Anne Mok
“White and Red in the Black”, Lisa L Hannett
“Lady Yang’s Lament”, Penelope Love

The anthology was launched at Swancon36 this past weekend, and rumour has it that the launch was filled with debauchery, insanity, bloody stakes and red wine. I'm bummed I missed it--and the whole con for that matter.

Still, at least there are photos on Facebook I can enjoy...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gunslinger action

I was recently given volumes 1-7 of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, and have now devoured the first 3 volumes. It's just brilliant, I'm loving it--and the best part is, I still have 4 more volumes (well, 5 really, counting the new one due out in 2012) to get through. It's been a long, long time since I've been so lost in the pleasure of reading. Come one am and I'm going, just one more chapter before I go to sleep, just one more...

It's great to be pals with Stephen King again.

And just to confirm how behind the times I truly am, I've just discovered that The Dark Tower is being adapted into a couple of feature length films and TV series, directed by Ron Howard (who I have a lot of respect for as a director). Check it out (although I suspect everyone in the world other than me knew about this years ago):

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A (belated) Macabre Congrats to our Authors

I'm a little late in posting this but then I am known to be all arse about face and upside down...Anyway, aside from the award nominations Macabre is picking up as an anthology, a number of our Macabre authors are picking up some great recognition for their brilliant stories:
  • Richard Harland's “The Fear” is being reprinted in Ellen Datlow's Year's Best, with 7 others making the honourable mentions list:
    • “Monsters Among Us” by Kirstyn McDermott
    • “Erina Hearn and the Gods of Death” by Kyla Ward  
    • “Here Be Monsters” by Susan Wardle 
    • “Sweet as Decay” by David Witteveen and David Conyers 
    • “Hive” by Stephen M. Irwin
    • “Feast or Famine” by Gary Kemble 
    • “Take the Free Tour” by Bob Franklin
  • Kirstyn's “Monsters Among Us” has also been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the Superior Achievement in Short Fiction category
  • Andrew J McKiernan's “All the Clowns of Clowntown” has been shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award in the Best Short Story category
So raise a glass with me folks, and congratulate them all. 

Editing Macabre was a huge learning curve for me, one filled with many ups and downs, long, long hours spent researching old magazines and newspapers (old as in 1830s etc), and reading lots and lots of stories (and I mean lots and lots!). But through it all, through all the trials and tribulations, our contributors remained professional, patient, and just damn awesome to work with. They never gave up hope in seeing Macabre published.

So here is a belated Thank You everyone for sticking with it and putting up with my often inane emails. As someone once said, youse guys rock

The brick--er, book, is just great as a door stop once you've finished reading it, too. 

And would I do it again? Hell yeah!

(but just don't tell my wife I said that)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Awards and Stories

I've well and truly sated my muse these past few weeks, inspired by some Great News, so the shifty sideshow freak shouldn't be complaining any. I've also been writing as if I'm holding a burning pen, reading old Weird Tales stories from the magazine's original run, and watching lots of cool flicks. Even my dreams have been truly bizarre.

But it's not enough for him; the more of a creative appetite I get, the more demanding he gets. It's as if I'm slipping more and more into his backstage world of shadows, where he can get a better grip on me and it's not so easy to ignore what he whispers.

But you know what? I'm loving it! I'm feeling inspired like I haven't for a long, long time. I guess Good News will do that for you.

What Good News? I hear you say...and what's with capitalizing the blasted words?

Well, let me tell you, seeing as how you asked...

Macabre has made the final ballot of the 2010 Bram Stoker Awards for superior achievement in an anthology, which is bloody awesome!

But wait, there's more. Kirstyn McDermott's Macabre story 'Monsters Among Us' has also been nominated for a Stoker in the Long Fiction category. It keeps going, too: the anthology has been short listed for the 2010 Australian Shadows Award, with Andrew McKeirnan's story 'All the Clowns in Clowntown' likewise shortlisted in those awards for Best Short Fiction. And to top it off, Richard Harland's story from Macabre, 'The Fear', will be reprinted in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year 3!

Go Macabre!

And as for my own writing, check out HorrorWorld next month (April) as my story 'Behind the Midnight Blinds' will be featured there.

It's a story I'm pretty proud of, and one I wrote while living on Pitt Town Road. It's mostly based upon real events (apart from the supernatural events, that is). An old, empty house next door, ancient books stashed under the only piece of furniture left in the place, and a sensor light outside my bedroom that kept coming on in the middle of the night...

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Blade Red's awesome Dark Pages anthology, in which I have a story ('Clip Notes') was shortlisted for an Australian Shadows Award in the best edited collection category. How could I forget that?? Terrible, Marty.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Time for Reflection

So it's been a little over 5 months (!) now since I resigned as President of the AHWA and I thought it time for some reflections on those years. It's taken me a while to become enthusiastic about writing again, and about horror. For 5+ years I was El Honcho, and it was exhausting. In the end I think it wore me out. I could have walked away and never looked back by the end of it all--but then I knew the bug to write would've returned eventually. It's always been that way. Keeps my demons in check, and that's probably best for everyone.

During those 5+ years, I had the chance to work with some amazing people. Folks who were nearly always willing to give their time to help, often asking for nothing in return. These people inspire me and I will always be here for them. But I also had the misfortune to work with some complete assholes, people I would happily go out of my way to run over with Tonka my truck. Jerks who only ever thought of themselves and couldn't care less for anything or anyone else. Oh, and way, way too many writers have egos so huge I'm stunned the Earth hasn't fallen into the sun yet.

A fair few people gave a lot and never had a good work said about them, only conspiracies of corrupting awards and lies about them having ulterior motives. Too many people found it easier to bitch than to offer anything positive. Sometimes, on those rare occasions when I was feeling postal because of what some idiot was doing, I'd think we should've been called Backstabbers Abound! But I guess this is in part human nature, and it is also unavoidable when you're working in such a small pond like the Aussie spec-fic (or horror) one. People clash, not everyone gets along. Some people are actually passionate in their hate. I guess you can't help that.

And boy, did I find myself in the middle of some searing confrontations. I have an awesome blackmail folder on many boys and girls in this genre, but it's safely tucked away, cos I suspect a fair few people also have files of their own on me! Still, one day maybe I'll write a book...

But it wasn't always grim; there were a lot of great times had. And as I always told myself, if I couldn't handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen. The fact I never until I hit the 5 year mark of something I'm happy about.

There were many projects we never got off the ground, either because we couldn't find people to manage them successfully (some managed only when they wanted to, for personal gain and nothing else), or because those ideas died during incubation. Some ideas, especially the mentor program, Midnight Echo, and the Crit Groups did survive birth, and of these and most of the people involved, I'm immensely proud. I hope they continue long past my reign.

Perhaps the biggest issue I can see is disharmony. Too many folks are trying too many different things with little or no unity between them. Rather than consolidating the resources and abilities of the many, we're starting to have isolated structures basically repeating what's been done before. None of which is going to help the genre in Australia move forward. It's a small field as it is, and I really believe people need to work together if they want to see massive changes for the best.

But the problem there, like I said earlier, is that too many people would rather complain and quit than to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in to help improve things. And here I was thinking Aussies were hard workers :)

Another thing I was really proud of was the budding relationships with the British Fantasy Society and the Horror Writers Association. This is the way forward. We're a small fish is a big pond (again with the pond metaphor) and we need to build bridges between these other organisations. Ramsey Campbell and then Stephen Theaker of the BFS, and Rocky Wood of the HWA were all enthusiastic in these unions, so let's hope something great comes of them.

I made a heck of a lot of friends during my stint in the high chair, friends I hope to see succeed in their endeavours cos I plain on celebrating with them. I also made some fairly big contacts too, and hopefully those people help me to succeed!

Sure, I made some enemies, it was unavoidable. I didn't go out of my way to be a prickle or to put people offside, but some things go the way they go and you can't do jack about it. I hope those kids let bygones be bygones and move on, cos I have.

I even had a stalker! This was great fun--to begin with. But then this bird kept trying to get my address (which really, probably isn't that hard to get) and revealed just how much she knew about me. Then it was frightening. So I went after her and now I have no more stalker (it's nowhere near as bad as I've just made that sound).

So if HG Wells turned up and said, "Marty m'boy, jump in my time machine and I'll take you back to 2002," I'd probably say sure! Actually, I'd probably say can't you take me back to the age of the dinosaurs, me being the geek I am... But yeah, of course I'd do it again, I've learned way too much to curse those 5+ years.

Now though, for once, it's all about me. Me and my writing.

Friday, February 04, 2011

For all those Evil Geniuses out there...

Ever wanted to take over the world but haven't been sure how to go about it? Well, with a few household items, now you can! It's as simple as one-two-three.

Step 1. Get a fibreglass satellite dish and line it with 5800 small mirrors all focused into one spot. And just like that, you now have a solar death ray, capable of burning holes in paint tin lids, cutting a soft drink can in half, even melting rock and concrete! Serious, some kid in the States did just this and then presented it on YouTube. Check it out.

Step 2. Go find the Scientists who have recently made a paper clip invisible using calcite, use your newly created solar death ray to kidnap them, and get them to build you an invisibility cloak (apparently this new invisibility technique is only limited by the size of the calcite crystals, which can grow up to 21ft long so this isn't really a problem).

Step 3. You are now invisible and you have a weapon of destruction (presumably also invisible as a satellite dish walking around by itself would look a bit obvious). It's time to take over the world. Good luck. May the Force be with you.

Better hurry though as I imagine the military will be in on the action pretty quickly...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Damn Zombies Nearly Got Me!

So I was indulging my muse last night by watching The Walking Dead episode 2. Now this is a cool series (episode 1 was all kinds of freaky!), but I'm going to have to give my shifty sideshow freak a talking to after what happened.

After the show, I trundled off to my study to do some writing, feeling all inspired and motivated as always happens when I watch something cool. A few minutes later I hear the unmistakable sound of the side door off the internal garage creaking open. I thought the old wifey had gone outside to check on the horses or something like that. Only a few seconds later I hear her cry out from the lounge; "MARTY! MARTY! MARTY!"

Major crap in a bucket! The zombies were here!

I grabbed the biggest thing at hand (a torch) and charged the garage. Whipped open the door, all ready to split open the zombie's head, even if I didn't give my torch much chance at helping out here, being plastic and all. Still, if I could get past the first one, I could reach the axe or mattock hanging patiently on the wall to defend us from the horde of walking dead I knew had finally arrived. Didn't even think about getting a knife from the kitchen...

But fortunately, no one was there.

I checked under the car, knowing full well that zombies that can't walk can still crawl, but all was clear. So quickly, my plastic torch at the ready and my heart pounding (I wasn't scared, dear, honest), I hurried to the side door and closed it. I made damn sure it was locked.

I think the ol' wifey and I were lucky it was so windy last night cos what I believe happened was that this zombie had managed to open the door, but having dead legs and all, he lost his balance in a strong gust of wind and fell away from the doorway. This gave me time to close the door and avoid the zombie apocalypse that nearly unfolded last night. I heard the neighbours' dog barking shortly after, too. Poor zombie, he wouldn't have stood a change against Digger the Great Dane.

Close call though.

I'm not sure I want to watch anymore zombies tonight...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Recommended Book, by Jeeves

So I don't recommend books here often for no other reason than I'm a lazy arse, but I was walking past my bookshelf on the way to the scotch when my eyes lit upon 'Spin' by Robert Charles Wilson.

Now I'm not a sci-fi freak or anyone who knows anything about sci-fi other than Amanda Tapping from Stargate and Sanctuary is damn hot, but this book rules. It's awesome. The sheer scope of the ideas within are mind-boggling. Sure, my mind boggles rather easily but still, this book rocked.

Yes, I know this book was published in 2005 but that's generally how far behind the times I am. I'm a geologist, I work to a different time frame to others--other than Her Grace, Duchess Amanda of Rock. Anyway, go check out Spin cos it's awesome.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Screaming ink

That damn pesky shideshow character has returned--and returned with a vengeance!! Dear God!

He's back to wreck havoc on my sedate post-AHWA life of picking garden vegetables for dinner and feeding the goldfish. Now he's insisting--insisting I tell you!--that I pick up my virtual pen once more and delve back into the land of the written word. Tis time to create, to reign as a god once more (and no blasphemy intended there, but when you write stories you are a god to your creations--you give them life, a world to inhabit, and trouble to overcome in order to test them).

I'm not sure I have enough scotch for this. Quick, to the batmobile! Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na- okay, all good. The scotch shelf is full, the crystal tumbler clean, and the ice maker clanking.

My head is itching with fresh views of a horrific world shown to me by my shifty sideshow freak of a muse. He has well and truly parted the curtains, but more, he has taken me by the front of my shirt and dragged me backstage cos, to be honest, I haven't wanted to go here for some time. I was happy sitting in the rafters watching the show, laughing along with the clowns.

But no more! I have no choice. The muse is a demanding fellow and I have been lonely without him. And to prove my loyalty to him, I have delved back into my novel, changing what needed to be changed (I may not have written for nearly 2 months after completing NaNoWriMo, but I have at least spent this time researching the location of Parkton, and building my town). It's going well, to tell the truth, excitingly well.

I've managed to placate the shifty sideshow freak by getting a story (Desert Blood) accepted for publication in Ticonderoga's Dead Red Heart vampire anthology, but he's not settling for that. Oh no. Not now I don't have the AHWA to use as an excuse.

Now he's demanding I take this writing lark seriously. No more pussy-footing around. Time to aim high.

Oh-oh, he's found me again---what? No, I'm not writing on my blog. Honest. No, I'd never lie to one such as you. I wouldn't dare. Okay, okay, I'm coming. I know, we have writing to do.

Shit, where's my scotch?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Super on two accounts

Super Number 1) The edits on my novel are coming along very well indeed. Parkton (my fictional town) is coming alive; I can see the streets and the shadows spreading across the roads as the sun goes down. I've even come up with a rich history, something I can definitely build upon in future Parkton stories.

(And I've just gotten a copy of Charles L Grant's The Hour of the Oxrun Dead (his first Oxrun Station novel) and am looking forward to visiting...)

Super Number 2) WE ARE THE ARMY, THE BARMY ARMY! England have won the Ashes, beating Australia 3-1 (yes, I'm a pom today).

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Let's go Number 11!

So welcome to 2011!

A whole new year, as yet untainted by our daily tread (well, okay, a few days marred now, but still pretty shiny). Let's hope we can all make our year sparkle--but not in a gay vampiric way...

Might as well start the year with this - zombie ants!! Check out this wild YouTube flick by Sir David Attenborough. Nature's so cool. 

I've begun '11 on a high with an acceptance, but more on that shortly. For now, i still have 2 days holiday left, still some books to read, some scotch to drink, and my hammock to enjoy...