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Burn notice I've kind of got the shits with myself at the moment. Sure, I've been busy. I have a demanding day job, we just moved house and I like to hang out with my friends so that we don't forget each other. But we've reached a point where those stop feeling like reasons and start feeling like excuses, and the thing they're failing to excuse is not writing. Shut up, Batman....

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Moving on up So yeah, we moved. It was a pretty big deal. ...okay, to be specific we moved one train station and we're still in the same suburb. But none of that negates the time, effort, money, beer and stress that went into getting all our stuff in boxes at one end, sticking them on a truck, driving ten blocks and then unloading them all at the other end. Plus furniture. So...

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Games for writers I like games. This comes as no surprise, I know; it's about as shocking as learning that I like comics, beer or swearing. But I like games a lot, and I've written before about how roleplaying games (as well as story-telling games like Storium) can contain lessons relevant to writers as well as to 9th-level wizards looking to master cloudkill. Anyway, GenCon (the...

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Carry on up the Amazon I've been thinking a lot about Amazon lately. Specifically, I've been thinking about them since the end of July, when I did my end-of-financial year tally of ebook sales. I have two sale/publication channels - Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), who fairly obviously handle Amazon (and nothing else), and Smashwords, who convert manuscripts into a variety of formats...

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Signal boost - Snapshot 2014 Hi folks, Tonight, rather than talk about myself and writing, I'd rather talk about other folks, who are in turn talking to other, different folks about writing. Lemme back it up. Back in 2005, Australian SF author Ben Peek decided to interview 40-odd Aussie spec-fic writers . It was a pretty interesting glimpse - one might even say a snapshot - of the local...

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Getting my ya-yas out

7

Category : genre, ghost raven, writing

I don’t understand young-adult (YA) fiction.

I mean, I used to think I did. YA fiction was fiction written for young adults – or teenagers, as we used to call them back in my day. Stories about teenagers, for teenagers, at a teenage reading level. That makes sense, right?

But the eager degree to which less-young adults swoop up and devour YA fiction shows that it’s not as simple as all that. Books like The Hunger Games and Twilight have many, many adult readers, from those in their 20s to those in their 50s. These are stories that resonate with adults, even if adults perhaps do not read them for the same purposes as teenagers – or maybe they do, I don’t know. Look at the way Twilight got snapped up by adult readers, its sexual elements strengthened and made more overt via fanfic, to finally transmogrify into Fifty Shades of Grey and have its pages filled with boners rather than sparkle-vampires while still retaining much of the characterisation and language level of the original. (Or so I assume, anyway, which probably means I’m making an ass of myself, so feel free to correct me.) That suggests that there’s something in those stories (or perhaps the writing approach of those stories) that speaks to adults, and they’ll take those stories and make them theirs by whatever means necessary, often by adding a whole bunch of fucking.

So anyway, many adults read YA fiction and enjoy it. But not me. I read YA books when I was a teenager, but these days I’m in my 40s and pretty much only read adult-adult books. The few times I’ve accidentally started a YA book in the last decade or so, I’ve quickly stopped when I realised that this wasn’t a story that resonated with me. That’s not a judgement on my part… okay, let’s be honest, it probably is a judgement and me looking down on YA books. Because I can be a lit-snob sometimes, even though I try to fight that urge.

But I’m trying to change that, because right now I’m trying to write a YA book, Raven’s Blood. Or, more accurately, what I think might be a YA book. Because, as noted, I don’t read YA and don’t get it. But I think this story might fit nicely into that category, and I’d like to see what working within those genre boundaries is like – which is why I’d like to work out what those boundaries are.

And I think I need some help with that.

So this is not a post where I sit you all down and educate you on what YA really means. This is a post where I hold things up, say ‘Is this it? What about this?’ and hope that you (the collective you) tells me what you think and whether I’m right – or, more importantly, where I’m wrong. Because I mostly learn by getting things wrong.

(I could probably also learn by reading some YA fiction, and I will do that at some point, but I like to get a grounding in theory before moving into practice. Which probably explains why it took so long for me to get a girlfriend in my teens. But I digress.)

This is what I think about when I hear ‘young adult’:

Characters

A protagonist that is a teenager, first and foremost, probably around the 17-18 mark. Obviously that varies down a bit (early Harry Potter) and up a little (late Twilight), but nonetheless YA books are almost always about young adults. (Although books about young adults aren’t necessarily YA, of course.) And this makes sense, because the assumed audience want to read about characters that they can personally identify with, characters their own age and with similar problems – making sense of the world, finding love, coping with the fact that their parents are STUPID.

Similarly, the antagonists should be similar to the enemies of teenagers – parents, authority figures, the forces of the adult world that try to dictate and reshape their lives before they’re fully-formed. They don’t have to specifically be those people, but they should fill a similar role. Alternatively, the other great enemy of teenagers is always other teenagers, who chip away at their identity and self-image from the other side and occasionally pants you in front of the class. Adults tell you what you should be; teenagers tell you what you shouldn’t be. Both are there to be overcome, possibly with lightning bolts.

Plot and themes

Does ‘coming-of-age story’ make me sound like Cranky Grandpa? Because that’s honestly what I figure most YA stories have – what they should have – at the core of their plots. They should reflect the lives and concerns of teenagers – the quest for identity, the need to love and be loved, the lure of booze and drugs and internet porn, and pretty much everyone in the world trying to tell you what to do and who to be.

Sometimes those concerns are presented as is; other times they’re reflected through genre tropes, so that there are vampires and aliens and spy agencies and killer bears and all of them are trying to boss you around and stop you from seeing that girl you like. Using genre like this is fun and makes for an engaging story, but can also let you use tropes as metaphors for the sturm und drang of teenage life. From that POV, it makes sense that so many YA stories are dystopias – growing up is always about inheriting the world that older people already fucked up.

And at the end of the story, the teenage protagonist should be that bit closer to adulthood – an adulthood hopefully defined on their terms, rather than just their parents’ or society’s terms. Unless it’s one of those books with a really bummer ending.

Prose style

Look, this is the point where people are going to tell me I’m an arsehole, because my first thought when I hear ‘YA’ is ‘unsophisticated writing style’.

Not, I want to be clear, an unpolished or poorly-written style – just one that is pitched at a teenage reading level. A style that primarily promotes an accessibility of voice and language, that clearly describes the appearance of people and places in mentally-reproducible details, that presents the characters and story and then gets out of the way. It is not the kind of thing we get from Don deLillo or Milorad Pavic, is what I’m saying. (Although now I’m wondering how you could use Pavic’s ergodic approach on YA fiction – like a longer, more complex Choose Your Own Adventure story. Hmm.)

This is certainly the bit where I struggle with YA, because I like my prose to be interesting in and of itself, as both writer and reader. I don’t much like transparent writing; I like stunt-writing that shows off its tricks and puts technique in the spotlight, which is not what I think YA is about.

And this is where I draw my line in the sand between the two books I’m writing right now, Arcadia and Raven’s Blood. Both are about young women trying to define themselves and their place in the world, but they have very different prose styles. Arcadia is all about exploring voice, the use of nested narratives, drawing story from structure – all that kind of high-falutin’ stuff that is probably going to alienate or irritate a lot of adult readers, let alone teenagers. Raven’s Blood, meanwhile, is where I’m trying to write in a clear, straightforward style (with occasional dips into moderate ornament), and that’s why I think that it could be considered YA and why it’s worthwhile trying to write more towards that genre and that market. Once, you know, I actually understand it.

So these are the elements I think of when I think about YA fiction. Am I right or wrong? How would you define the genre – or would you even bother? Most of all, if you’re a YA reader – why do you read it, and what about it speaks to you? If any of what I’ve written is correct, why do those elements appeal to you as an adult reader?

Get in there and leave comments, people – I’d really appreciate it.

(Seriously, comment. I don’t get enough comments, and it leaves me feeling like I’m typing into a void and that the world is empty and the darkness has leaked down from the moon to drown everyone else’s souls and I’m alone SO ALONE if a trees falls onto the blog and nobody comments then my words don’t make a sound.)

Resuming transmission… NOW!

1

Category : linkage

I RETURN! LET TRUMPETS AND CORONETS BLART THEIR JOYOUS NOISE ACROSS THE INTERWEBS!

Ahem.

Miss me?

Where I’ve been

Last week N. and I went to the tiny Fijian island of Nanuya, some 4-5 hours by boat north of Nadi, to spend seven days and six nights relaxing, attending friends’ wedding and getting in a little honeymoon time of our own. We snorkelled, lay on beaches, swam, drank cocktails, drank massages and generally did nothing but enjoy ourselves – with a short aside to do a reading for Sabhdh and Peter, our getting-hitched friends.

Here I am at the wedding (with my pal Eamon) looking completely awesome in traditional Fijian shirt and sulu (skirt), a formal pinstripe model that I plan to wear to the office Christmas party, because it’s super-light and comfortable and it’ll be a million degrees that day.

It was a grand, grand time. Possibly one of the best times of my life. Especially the part where my wife and I held hands while snorkelling through a school of a million darting blue fish, suspended in cool water above an expanse of reef, in love and in paradise. That was the best part.

(Sabhdh is also the non-fiction blogger over at Boomerang Books, and you should check her column out once she gets back from her honeymoon.)

What I’ve been doing

We got back very late on Sunday night, and since then it’s been busy as H-E-double-hockeysticks, back at work and arse back on the grindstone.

But no-one wants to hear about my arse, do they? God, I hope not.

On the internet this week you can find me over at Louise Cusack’s site If You Must Write, where I give a quick and hopefully useful primer on how to independently publish your own ebooks. It’s neither the first nor last word on the subject, and it’s all very general; I could have written twice as much just on topics like sorting out US tax details or the proper use and value of a table of contents. But if you’ve been looking at indie ebooks thinking ‘could I do that?’, well, the answer is ‘yes’ and this may give you a bit of a head start.

You can also go check out this very positive review of The Obituarist over at the eNovella Review site, which says all sorts of nice things about my little book. Including that it could be good YA reading, something that I don’t quite understand and is prompting me to write that what-the-heck-is-YA-anyway post that’s been on my mind, possibly even this weekend.

Last night I saw the Afghan Whigs live, a gig I’ve been waiting nearly twenty years to see. And yeah, it was worth the wait. I saw Greg Dulli a couple of years ago when touring with/as the Twilight Singers, and that was good, but this was a stronger, punchier gig with all of the Whigs’ classic tracks, all jangly guitars and sleazy, lonely lyrics. The Hifi crowd was pumping and just the right size – and for an encore they busted out ‘Miles iz Dead’, the bonus B-side from Congregation, and that pretty much made my fucking week. Thank goodness that all us indie/grunge/subpop kids from the early 90s now have respectable jobs and can make it financially worthwhile for our fave bands to reform, tour and charge $70 a ticket at last.

Oh, and I saw Dark Knight Rises. Which was… hmm. Not as good as I’d hoped, due to very messy storytelling and pacing, massive plot holes and nowhere near enough Batman. On the other hand the acting/casting was uniformly excellent (especially Anne Hathaway), the development of themes within the movie dovetailed amazingly with those in the previous two films, and there were some gorgeously visceral setpieces. But still, something of a disappointment to me.

…and yes, of course I’m going to buy it on DVD and watch all three movies in a single night as soon as possible. Like that was ever in question.

What’s next?

Writing, of course. It’s been on the backburner for a bit as I got organised for the trip, flogged the last book around the internets and did, you know, living things. But now I have a head full of concepts and half-developed lines for Raven’s Blood and that old itch is building up – that terrible itch that crawls up my neck and reminds me that I could be writing, creating, making something; that it’s time for me to do the only thing I’m good at. Because there may never be another chance.

It’s very Shakespearean. And Batmantarian.

Plus I’ve managed to sort out the other half of my ideas for The Obituarist’s inevitable sequel, which I’m now formally committing to writing, hopefully by the end of the year. But don’t hold me to that date. Really, don’t.

I also need to write reviews for the books I read in Fiji, as per my last blog post – especially for Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, which completely blew me away. Just need to find the time and the spark to come up with something fitting.

Stupid spark. Why can’t I just be on fire ALL THE TIME?

…god, I wish I was back on Nanuya.

Little print shop of horrors

4

Category : obituarist

BEHOLD THE TERROR I FOUND ‘PON MY DOORSTEP YESTERDAY!

NOW BEHOLD IT IN REGULAR PHOTO-VISION!

Yes, the super-limited print run (ie I could only afford to print ten) of The Obituarist arrived yesterday from Blurb, and a lovely little set of books it is too. I’m really happy with the way it came out – the cover looks good in print and the book came to a short-but-not-too-short 100 pages, perfect for pocket storage and convenient reading.

Would I recommend Blurb to others? Yes, definitely, although you’ll need to fine-tune your book files and be prepared to fiddle around for longer than you’d like with their software. But nothing good in this world comes without a bit of effort, and it was worth it in the end.

So now I have ten copies of my little book! One goes on the shelf for reference, and I think two more have already been earmarked for friends, leaving seven to take around some local bookshops to see if they’ll accept it on consignment. If you’d like to trouser one of them first, shoot me a line or leave a comment. I think I’m selling them for, umm… $15? $13? Still not sure how much I should charge, but that’s about the right level to make a sensible profit on them. Anyway, hit me up if you’re interested.

If I sell all of them, I may look at doing another short run – or a small run of Hotel Flamingo, which people still ask about. On that note, the giveaway of that and Godheads ends this weekend, so if you know someone who might like them, send them here to find the details.

And with that short post, I must away – N. and I are going to Fiji tomorrow night, and we have to tidy and pack! This means no blog posts for two weeks; please, try to control your misery. Eventually I will return with holiday snaps and more book talk.

Until then, I’ll be drunk on a beach somewhere with Irish people. Pray for me.

The stars aren’t right

5

Category : reading

HP Lovecraft told us that when the stars are right, Dread Cthulhu and the other Old Ones will wake from their slumber and make the world their fuckmuffin. It’s a harrowing thought, but we’re safe for a while yet, because the stars, they ain’t right – or, more accurately, they aren’t enough.

The rise of social media and rapid internet access has shown that humanity, as a species, really likes two activities – watching pornography and telling other people whether we did or didn’t like pretty much any person, object, creative endeavour or earthquake that there is. As soon as a thing is done, we as a species will get online to leave an appalling comment, post an image of an adorable kitten or, most of all, rate it out of five. We judge the world around us and yell out that it roxxors or suxxors. It’s the human condition at its most fundamental level.

But folks, I’m here to make a simple request. Dump the star ratings and start writing some reviews.

Now, this isn’t me talking as a writer, although indie writers live and die by the good reviews they get on social media and online stores. That word-of-mouth is vital and at another time I will desperately beg, whore and dance for your kind words. Instead, I’m saying this as a reader, one who is always looking for new books to cram into his Kindle, but keeps running into walls covered in 5-star ratings that tell me nothing about a book other than that its author begged, whores and danced for some love. Without a review, good or bad, to explain the rating it’s all just statistical noise.

Reviews, on the other hand, tell you a great deal, whether you agree with them or not – and sometimes the ones you don’t agree with tell you the most. I don’t suggest looking at my reviews as an example, both because that would be ludicrously egotistical and because it wouldn’t be useful – too small a sample size and too uniformly positive. (Because my books are pretty good, he said modestly.) Instead, let’s look at a better example – erotic juggernaut Fifty Shades of Grey. Because apparently everyone’s reading that.

Fifty Shades has 3415 five-star reviews and 2251 one-star reviews on Amazon, with around 2000 more spread around the 2-4 region. It’s obviously polarizing; the vast majority of readers either love it or hate it. But that star rating in and of itself doesn’t tell you anything; you actually need to read a few reviews to understand why there’s such a difference.

A typical five-star review:

Where to even begin? Fifty Shades of Grey is one heck of a book. It has about everything you’d ever want in a book. Love, suspense, mystery, action. Wow!

You can’t help but fall in love with sweet Anastasia from the beginning. She is a little naive and a lot clumsy. She says what’s on her mind and doesn’t think of the consequences. She has no idea what she’s getting into when she meets Mr. Christian Grey. Gorgeous, uber-rich Christian Grey. You fall for him right away, that’s how charming he is. You wish he were real or you were in the book to be able to just be with him. You want to take care of him, date him, smack him, be with him, admire him, all the above. He’s just that amazing.

A typical one-star review:

First, the awful writing. I am no literature snob. However, this book feels like it us on a 5th grade level made to seem better with a thesaurus. It’s repetitive and just plain bad.

Next, the non-existent plot. Seriously, nothing happens. They meet, they have sex, they email each other, the have more sex, the bite lips, they have more sex, the end. Just plain boring.

Last, bad sex. “Down There?” are you kidding me? It’s called a vagina. Grow up. This book most likely intrigues bored housewives and hormonal teenagers. If the author was aiming to give that demographic the tingles she most likely succeeded. However, a book that it 70% sex should at least be good sex.

I feel stupid for reading this book and wish I had spent that ten bucks on socks.

What these reviews (and those like them) tell us is not just that readers have different tastes, but that they have different purposes for reading, and that a book succeeds or fails for them depending on whether it meets those purposes. The one-star readers can’t get past the bad writing and pillory the book for its lack of craft or strong plot (this review in particular does a wonderful analysis of the writing based on term searches). For the five-star readers, none of that matters; all that’s important is the characters and their ability to connect with emotionally and (vicariously) sexually. Many of those reviews admit in passing that the book isn’t well-written, but they mention this only to dismiss its importance, because that lack of craft doesn’t impinge in any way on their enjoyment and their reading purpose. (If anything, the book’s lack of craft may help many of those readers get past the prose and drill down to the character level, but that’s a separate discussion.)

I don’t bring this up to criticise or judge Fifty Shades of Grey in any way – it’s not something I have any interest in, but it obviously speaks to a hell of a lot of people, and I’m not about to judge those readers for what they find emotionally engaging. But the key thing is to note that the book’s overall mean star rating of 3.2 tells us nothing about reader purpose or response, and nor do the 1- or 5-star ratings in themselves. We need to actually read people’s reasons before we can decide what meaning those ratings have for us and our reading priorities; we need to know why they liked or hated it before we can judge whether we would agree with them.

Similarly, check out the reviews on Chuck Wendig’s various writing guides. 250 Things You Should Know About Writing (which is a damn fine book) has 41 5-star ratings and 4 one-star reviews, all of which are pretty much the same as this:

If this author actually had anything helpful to say, it was impossible to find. The book is a conglomeration of abusive statements, excessive swearing, arrogant side-tracking and blatant lack of any sense of how to communicate ideas. Definitely not worth the 99 cents, and since I cannot get a refund, I am hoping this review will save others their hard earned money.

Chuck has gone on record as loving those one-star reviews – because they signpost the kind of readers who don’t like his stuff, and why. They thus help him sell more books to people who like his voice and his swearing, and who want to separate themselves as readers from those who don’t like those things. If all those folks left was a simple 1-star rating it wouldn’t have anything like the impact, and Chuck would no longer be pulling in so much sweet cheddar from the great books he effortlessly and constantly cranks out while the rest of his peers and contacts congratulate him and secretly wish he’d choke on his fortune and die, die, die, goddamnit I keep putting needles in this voodoo doll that smells of bourbon and wordcount and nothing ever fucking happens.

Not that I would do that, of course. Wendigo is my huckleberry.

So yeah – if you like a book, or hate it, tell people why. Don’t just leave a star rating, but write some kind of review, even if it’s only a few sentences, whether it’s on Amazon or Goodreads or the local supermarket notice board. Explain to us why you love it, why you hate it, what you look for in a book and how this particular work ranked against your internal metric. Qualitative data, not just quantitative numbers.

Not because that’s what the author wants, but because it’s what other readers need.

Do it for your peoples.

Pay it forward.

DROP THE MIC

WE OUT

Free ebooks and recursive heroics

2

Category : ebooks

Okay! What can we talk about tonight on Doctor Patrick’s Late Night Loveline Request Line and Chatshow? Our lines are open!

Ahem. Sorry, folks, but I’m in kind of a good mood, and that tends to make me a wee bit silly.

Why? Oh, lots of reasons. I worked through my end-0f-month sales figures to discover that I’d sold just over a hundred copies of The Obituarist in the last two months, and I think that’s a cause for celebration. My overall income from writing… well, it’s nothing to write home about, but the charge I get from people telling me they like my stuff is more important to me than the money. For the moment.

I also got a promotion (and pay raise) at the old day job today, so hopefully that will keep me afloat while I write more books that sell less than Fifty Shades of Grey. Which, okay, appears to be all books.

Plus, N. and I are heading to Fiji in a week for a combined honeymoon (ours) and wedding (friends). It should be a grand old time, featuring beaches, pleasant warmth, good company and enough alcohol to poison a battalion. And I may even have a chance to make a dent in the library of ebooks I keep compulsively downloading to my Kindle.

Plus plus plus, I now have 500 Twitter followers! A significant portion of whom have never tried to sell me Viagra or iPads!

Another happy-making thing was last night’s appearance at Dungeon Crawl, the monthly nerd-themed impro comedy show! It’s been a long time since I’ve done any impro, but from the laughs I got it looks like I remembered how it all worked. This was a superhero-themed night and I played upon my encyclopaedic knowledge of a certain Dark Knight to appear as Batman-Man, the Caped Crusader-Crusader who gained the proportional strength, speed and skill of Batman after being bitten by Adam West at Comic-Con. Yes, it was that kind of show and I had a great fucking time, bouncing off fellow players Lisa-Skye (‘Golden Shower’), Brenna Courteney Glazebrook (‘Super de Jour’), Richard McKenzie and (of course) host Ben McKenzie. The adrenaline high left me wobbly when it wore off, but it was a major rush to get back up on stage and be as silly as possible for an hour.

(And we got a rather lovely write-up, complete with photo of the cast and me in my What Would Batman Do? T-shirt.)

…huh. Apparently my attempt at a look of heroic competence makes me look more like someone who just swallowed his own glass eye. Good to know.

In any case, to celebrate all this positivity and my good mood, I figure it’s time to pay it forward with a giveaway!

From now until the 14th of July (when is when we head to Fiji), both Hotel Flamingo and Godheads are free! Free! Totally free! Gratis! Zero dinero! FREE BOOKS, MOTHERHUMPERS!

Specifically, they’re available for free at Smashwords with the use of a coupon code. You can get Hotel Flamingo there for free with the code EQ39G and Godheads with the code KT24J. Feel free to pass those links and codes around to friends – it’s a giveaway for everyone! Party in the streets! Smack someone in the face with your Kobo! (And leave a review if you feel so inclined.)

Ah yes. Reviews.

I think that’s what we’re gonna talk about on Sunday.

Now go! Download! Read! And ask yourself this simple question: What Would Batman Do?

That’s right. When all else fails, pepper-spray a shark.

Welcome to the EOFY Follies

Category : linkage

It’s the first of July! A time where we traditionally look back upon our accomplishments of the previous twelve months and wonder how much extra tax we will have to pay as a consequence!

Oh yes. Doesn’t that sound like fun.

But rather than calculate my writing earnings since mid-2011 (sob), or write another great long diatribe like I did last week, I thought I’d take this as a chance to quickly memorialise the cool things that happened in June around this here internet and see what they promise for the 12-13 year. Which will perhaps finally be the year when I make enough money from writing to quit the day job and just drink Old Fashioneds in my underwear by the pool all day.

And now that I’ve said it, you can’t unsee it.

What I’ve been doing

  • I just finished laying out the pages of The Obituarist’s limited print run! And I do mean limited – I’m planning on running off maybe 25-30 of these through Blurb. And once I have them, I don’t really know what I’m going to do with them. But hey, the important thing is that they’ll exist! In any event, I should have the rest of the details sorted out this week and the books by the end of July.
  • I also just had a meeting with Ben McKenzie about the audiobook version of The Obituarist, where we hashed out various points and scribbled down our to-do lists. It’s super-exciting! Especially since crime is probably the single most popular genre in audio fiction. Stay tuned for more on that as we put it together.
  • I did some work on Raven’s Blood, but time spent on promoting the last book is time I can’t spend writing the next book, which is one of the frustrating things in this life. I hope to get more time for that in July and start building up a head of steam, probably by adopting the same 1000-words-a-night program that got The Obituarist finished.
  • There was the EWF and Continuum at the start of the month, but I’ve already talked about those things at great length.
  • We playtested the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I can’t say I’m a fan at this point.
  • I created a fan page for myself on Facebook and began spending more time on Google+, because I have a terrible fear that I’m just not talking about myself enough.
  • I read a lot of comics and not enough books.

What other people have been doing

  • Jay Kristoff launched a stunning new website for himself and his soon-to-be-released novel Stormdancer, which is shaping up to be one of the biggest things to hit YA fantasy in ages. He’s a top bloke and a good writer and (believe it or not) even taller than I am, so go check it out – and check out the first three chapters of Stormdancer over at Tor.com.
  • Foz Meadows has been on fire this month with a series of scorching blog posts that ask tough questions and (sigh) bring trolls out of the woodwork. Her initial post on rape culture in gaming (there’s that topic again) drew attention and a flood of comments, both positive and negative; her follow-up post about the attention and commentary is also really interesting as a look at the kind of discussion and conversation this topic creates. And on a different note, this week’s post on sex scenes in YA fiction and why they matter is also really interesting, particularly for those of us thinking of writing in that genre.
  • Margaret Weis Publishing put out the Civil War supplement for their Marvel superhero RPG, and speaking as a comics nerd and roleplayer, guys, this book is pretty goddamn great. Significantly better than the Civil War comics, in fact.
  • Mur Lafferty released all – yes, all – of her ebooks for free! I think the offer’s only for a limited period, so don’t delay, go download the zip file and fill your Kindle/Nook/iPad/direct neural interface post right now.
  • Indie nerdcore hip-hop artist Adam Warrock is running a donation drive, and it’s worth giving him some cash so he can keep putting out free mixtapes of tracks about Firefly, old Marvel comics, popular TV shows and other cool shit. Because that shit is awesome, guys.
  • After being axed by Campbell Newman and the appalling reactionary politics of the new LNP government – who, hey, are also fucking over GLBTs, women and pretty much anyone who didn’t vote for them – the Queensland Literary Awards are being revived by local readers, writers and decent human beings. But it all takes money, so that’s why you should go pitch in to their fundraising page at Pozible.
  • While you’re there, you should also donate some money to Fee Plumley and The Really Big Road Trip, a project to create a mobile art space for creative digital culture and technological art. I met Fee at the EWF and was blown away by her passion and dedication to creative digital culture; help her share that passion and bring it to spaces around Australia.
  • You probably already know that Chuck Wendig has a new book of writing tips and advice out, 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story, because Chuck has approximately eleventy-billion readers and you all think he’s Piss Christ. Which is fair; he is in fact Piss Christ. But on the off-chance you didn’t know about the release, well, go here and read all about it.
  • And finally I just want to link to this post by comics writer Gail Simone, who – in addition to being fucking hilarious on Twitter – also presents one of the best, simplest pieces of advice to any writer, artist or creator in any field.

What you could do next

  • Remember how I said I was writing a crime story to submit to Crime Factory? Well, they passed on it as not right for them, and that’s completely fair enough. I’ll look for another home for it or maybe just give it away here. But, much more importantly, they’re gearing up for another special edition collection, Horror Factory, and they’re looking for horror stories! If you’re a horror writer (local or international), why not put together a story and submit it to them by the end of August? I know I sure as hell will.
  • And then I’ll write another horror story and submit it to Nightmare Magazine, which is currently open for submission and paying a very respectable 5 cents a word for pieces! It’s a good time for writing horror, so don’t let me do it alone – get those fingers bleeding onto your keyboard and write.
  • If you live in Melbourne and want to see me in the flesh (eww), come along to Dungeon Crawl this Wednesday night! The monthly improvised comedy show is drifting from its D&D-flavoured roots to celebrate all things superhero – so this one-time impro hound and long-time supers fanboy is pulling the costume out of mothballs and rejoining the Fantastic Four! Or, more precisely, joining the Dungeon Crawl team as the fourth member of this month’s performance group! Come along and laugh at me, preferably for the right reasons!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s a cold and rainy night, and I’m going to go join my wife under the doona and watch a kung-fu movie. Happy Carbon Tax Apocalypse Day to you all.