Category Archives: linkage

February comes at you fast

Okay, blog time. When did I last write a post? One week ago? Two?

…four? On like the last day of January?

Huh.

I guess that’s how blogging works when you have increasingly less and less to say or enlighten people about.

So fine! We’re in End-of-Month-Summary-Purgatory, and perhaps one day we will make our way out of it, like jailbreaking ghosts escaping Spirit Prison to at last drink ecto-cooler in the Spirit Paradise hot tub.

Seems legit.

Query-go-round

Most of what I’ve been doing this month, and for the last several months, is talking with agents, and by ‘talking with’ I mean ‘getting form rejection emails from’. That’s not the most encouraging or motivating of things, but I keep at it. I’ve had a few more personal rejections, which are useful and worthwhile, and there are still a couple of people reading manuscripts and considering Raven’s Blood.

Do I have any tips for querying? Nothing particularly earth-shattering. I wrote a standard query email with an intro, flavourful high-concept pitch for the book and a super-short bio, and I fine-tune it for every agent I approach. (And based on recent feedback, I include a note that the book uses British punctuation and spelling, so any oddities are probably because I’m foreign, not because I don’t know how quotes work.) I keep a spreadsheet of names, agencies, what they’re after and how to submit, which I follow to the letter, and I keep track of when things go out and when they come back. As for where I find agents to contact, I’m drawing info from the usual places – AgentQuery, Writer’s Digest, WritersMarket etc – and keeping 6-7 queries going at a time.

Most of all, I’m polite. I thank them for their time and attention when I get in contact, and don’t take it personally when they knock me back. (Which doesn’t really seem like rocket surgery – but still, you’d be surprised how some people get this wrong.) I’m not crawly or fawning or whatever, just pleasant and polite – and while that won’t get me special treatment, it won’t hurt if/when I come back to those agents with a new project.

Just as soon as I find a home for this one.

13th Age goodies

What’s 13th Age? It’s a role-playing game that is pretty much like 4E D&D but different in ways that don’t really merit a huge amount of wordcount right now. It’s pretty cool.

What’s also cool is The Forgotten Monk, Greg Stolze’s 13th Age novel that he kickstarted back in early 2015. It’s the story of an amnesiac kung-fu fantasy detective getting into fights with ghosts, demons and hags in an attempt to learn his backstory and understand mortal morality. It’s a damn fine adventure novel, and well worth a read even if you’re not into RPGs but like books about magic and superkicks and gnome shenanigans.

What’s also, also cool (and the point of this ramble) is that the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were free short stories about some of the minor characters in the novel, written by gaming luminaries Jonathan Tweet, Ron Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and I DUNNO SOME RANDOM ASSCLOWN yours truly.

For whatever reason, these stories were written ages back but not released – but now they are! And they’re free! And you don’t need to have read the book or played the game to make sense of them! WHAT A FREAKIN’ DEAL!

If that sounds tempting to you, there are links to download all four stories (in various digital formats) over at Greg’s Kickstarter page, no purchase or login required. Mine is called ‘Imperial Business’ and features a character named Sergeant Dovestrom, who may well be the biggest douchebag in The Forgotten Monk (which is saying something). It’s a little bit action, a little bit horror, a little bit fantasy; it’s kind of like ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ except it’s about an unpleasant soldier and a flying murderlion and the sparks that fly when they meet.

…that probably makes it sound more romantic than it really is. Sorry.

Other gaming news

Speaking of roleplaying games, man, I sure am doing a lot of that right now. Probably too much, let’s be honest.

My urban fantasy game (the one I talked about last time) is kicking along, with two sessions of drama and running through sewers and negotiating with demons – all the traditional stuff. One player is moving to Canada to write video games about space ninjas, so there’s some rethinking and tweaking in the near future – but so far, everyone’s having a good time.

On the side, I’m also running a short InSpectres game that is turning out even sillier than expected (these ghostbusters also run a pizza restaurant and their cases all seem to involve CHUDs), and organising self-contained Fiasco games in local shops/bars at the end of every month. And now I’ve signed up to play a game of 5E D&D. Which I’m sure I’ll enjoy, even though my heart will always belong to 4E.

But really. Something’s gotta give at some point. I’m starting to dream about dice. And, more pertinently, not getting enough work done.

Congrats to my friends with work ethics

There are people who have been getting work done, though, and I’m proud to call some of them friend, acquaintance, Tweep or at least person-I-keep-meeting-in-festival-bars. So I want to take a moment to call some folks out for being awesome:

  • Alan Baxter, Kirstyn McDermott, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Kim Wilkins and favourite-blog-commentator Dave Versace for their shortlist nominations in this year’s Aurealis Awards for Australian spec-fic.
  • Jay Kristoff (again) and Justine Larbalestier, who are on the longlist for the YA Inky Awards.
  • Peter Ball and the QWC team for getting this year’s GenreCon up and running already! This time I promise not to hog the karaoke mike.

These are good folks. Y’all should read their stuff.

Finally, this month’s excuses for not writing enough of Obituarist 3

  • I was super-busy at work
  • And I had work travel as well
  • It was hot
  • I was tired
  • New baby (not mine, but nearby)
  • Anne Gracie got me drunk
  • Trump
  • Turnbull
  • Rain of fire and frogs
  • END TIMES?!?!?!
  • Mediocre Playstation games
  • *sigh* I’m just not, like, feeling it, you know?
  • I’ve lost so much blood
  • [insert image of coffee mug saying World’s Worst Everything]

Now, March. I turn 46 in a couple of weeks.

Let’s see if I can finish something before I hit 47.

Bullet point theatre

Folks, you know what we haven’t had here for the longest time? A good old-fashioned roundup of links to other things on the internet!

Other things are great, aren’t they? They’re useful, they’re interesting, they distract you from the inevitability of your own mortality… why deny you such a vital necessity any longer?

(Also, I don’t have the time/energy for another superlong post (that no-one comments on, sob sob), and the thing I wanted to write about this week hasn’t materialised yet.)

And so, to celebrate (checks Wikipedia) Quirinalia – sure, why not – and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s birthday, here’s a bunch of things you should go poke at until the TAB key comes off your keyboard.

  • Kate Cuthbert, lead editor for Harlequin Australia’s digital imprint Escape Publishing, talks about digital publishing and the Australian romance writing scene. I met Kate at GenreCon and she’s awesome, as well as someone who appreciates my karaoke stylings.
  • Did you know that RPG designer Greg Stolze also writes fiction? And that, after kickstartering stories, he gives them away for free? If you didn’t before, you do now, so go download some crazy surreal horror-fantasy from him now.
  • How much does it cost to hire a hitman in Bosnia? What’s the price of meth in Australia? How many prostitutes are there in the United Kingdom? If you need to answer questions like this for your modern crime/crime-related novel – and I think that’s the only reason any of us would want to know that, right? Right? – then check out Havocscope, a site that crowdsources data from a variety of places to build a picture of the global black market and its prices and services.
  • “It’s been like five years since the last video game about rubbing all over the bodies of underage girls to find out if they’re witches.” Just one of the signs that there’s probably no more misogyny in the video games industry. (Note: sarcasm sarcasm so much bitter sarcasm)
  • Have you heard about Storium, the online storytelling platform that’s a kind of hybrid writing/roleplaying/collaboration tool? They’re doing a second round of playtesting ahead of a Kickstarter, and everyone’s favourite beardgoblin Chuck Wendig is part of their team, so maybe you should sign up. (I did. It’s pretty neat.)
  • And speaking of El Wendigo, the Beard That Walks Like a Man, he’s been talking a lot about regular publishing vs self-publishing lately, and a bunch of people have been picking sides and virtually glassing each other about it. I’m not. But I will direct you to his last (for now) word on the subject, ‘Self Publishing Truism Bingo’, which is a smart read and that thankfully has comments turned off.
  • Do you have babies? Have you considered getting one? Absolutely everyone’s doing it. But few of them are as fun or funny as my friend Scepticmum, whose blog is fecking (her term, she’s Irish) hilarious.
  • You know what’s not fun or funny or hilarious? This online comic by a former Serco employee talking about working in Australia’s refugee detention centres. But you should read it nonetheless, because it’s fucking important.
  • If you live in Darebin Council and you’re a writer, then a) we should get together for a shut-up-and-write session, and b) check out the inaugural Mayor’s Writing Award, which is running until the end of April. Mentorships, publication, book vouchers and sweet sweet cash for both adult and teenage writers!
  • And speaking of awards, the Australian Horror Writers Association’s Short/Flash Fiction competition is open, and entries close at the end of May. Will this be the year I finally win a prize? Probably not, since I have no ideas for a story to submit – but if you enter and win I can cruise in a haze of vicarious victory!
  • And speaking even more about awards, the 2013 Aurealis Awards finalists have been announced! Big ups to all those nominated!
  • And speaking of totally different things to awards, here is CHVRCHES doing a cover of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, and it is even cooler than you might have wished.

Happy birthday, JGL. This one’s been for you.

Don’t read this post

Just keep walking.

Don’t stop here.

This is bat country.

…come on, you know I never write anything worthwhile on a Thursday night.

Instead, go read one (or more) of these awesome things.

  • Author Peter Ball is liveblogging the progress of his new urban fantasy novella Claw (sequel to Horn and Blood) and it’s a fascinating look at the writing process. Peter has a dedication to the work that I can only envy and fear, taking whatever tiny sliver of time he can find in a day to sit down and pound out wordcount. This is great reading for anyone interested in writing; it’s also worth noting that Peter is a) a bloody good writer, b) one of the organisers of GenreCon, and c) excellent people, so keep reading everything he does.
  • You could be forgiven for thinking the federal election was next week, rather than four months away, as both major parties are in fullblown election mode. It’s tempting to just retreat into fiction for the duration and then just draw draw a dick and balls on the ballot paper come September 14. But I’m a big believer in informed, tactical voting, which is why I follow The Tally Room, Ben Raue’s breakdown of every federal electorate and analysis of its voting patterns. It’s never too early to work out how your neighbours swing, after all.
  • The Emerging Writers Festival starts in just two weeks! I’m not involved as a panelist or contributor this year, but don’t let that put you off. The EWF remains the most exciting, most inspiring and most educational writing event in Melbourne, and if writing is your passion (but not necessarily your main source of income) you absolutely need to go along to some events. I know I will, even if it’s just the ones held at pubs.
  • I rabbit on about writing schedules and dedication and blah blah blah all the time, but my friend Dan directed me to this great blog that presents powerful tools for building routines in like a third of the space I would take. Go check it out.
  • I gave up on the forthcoming 5th/Next edition of D&D very early on, because it looks like balls and because 4th edition is my flavour, but I’m glad people are sticking with the ongoing playtest/pre-marketing and poking at it. One of the most interesting lines of criticism is coming from Tracy Hurley, aka Sarah Darkmagic, who tempers optimism over 5th‘s system with concerns about the game’s handling thus far of gender issues and presentations. There’s some smart, insightful talk over at her blog that’s well worth a look. Sadly you can’t leave comments, because Sarah is a woman talking about gaming and as such the comments section gets regularly trolled and poisoned AND THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.
  • Everyone knows about Kickstarter now, and we’re all tired of seeing campaigns that are totally bullshit, but this one’s the real deal – legendary comics creators Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett with a plan for a deluxe hardcover of their steampunk airship western fantasy comic Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. If that’s the kind of genre celebration that appeals to you, get in there and pledge; they smashed their carefully-considered target in a matter of hours and are now into stretch goals. And if you’re not sure whether the comic’s good (it is), then go read it – the whole series is free online.
  • And speaking of e-comics, albeit not free ones, ex-Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims is writing a new series for Monkeybrain called Subatomic Party Girls, which appears to be ‘Josie and the Pussycats versus space pirates’ – and you’ve either recoiled in horror or immediately pulled out your wallet at that high concept. More details, and more of Chris’s varied writing, at the Invincible Super-Blog, a must-read for anyone who likes Batman, video games, sarcasm or reviews of superhero-themed pornography. Which is probably all of you.
  • One of my favourite bloggers (and best friends) is pregnant. And blogging about it. AND IT IS FUCKING HILARIOUS.

God bless the internet, that provides us with so much wonderful stuff.

Feeling a bit comical

I’ve got comics on my mind this week. Which, okay, is pretty normal, but I have specific reasons for it this time.

We saw Iron Man 3 on Sunday, and I thought it was terrific. It’s been ages since we’ve seen a new Shane Black film – not since the excellent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang  – and it’s a joy to see him working as writer and director again. Black brings a real snap and sizzle to the script, filled with strong dialogue, tight pacing and genuinely engaging moments of humour, unlike the overstuffed and slapsticky Iron Man 2. Downey is great (naturally), Ben Kingsley steals the show and I would watch three movies that were just about Don Cheadle’s Jim Rhodes running around and shooting dudes, because Don Cheadle fucking rocks.

What’s really interesting about IM3, though (no spoilers) is the tonal shift it brings to the Marvel films. This is much more a thriller than a superhero movie, and many of the genre elements have been minimised or taken out entirely. Yes, Tony Stark flies around in Iron Man armour, but not as much as in the previous films; instead the focus is on the man outside the armour, the ingenuity he brings to solving problems and the toll that his actions take on him. It’s really clever stuff, but it’s also got plenty of great action sequences, included the extended showdown at the end. All in all it’s great work, and makes me really look forward to this wave of post-Avengers movies.

Unfortunately not all the Marvel news is good. I’ve really liked the Marvel Heroic RPG that came out last year, which I talked about a while ago here (and on my gaming Tumblr Save vs Facemelt); it married an engagingly interactive system with narrative concepts and placed them within a context of (mostly) playing established characters in big, complex event stories. It took a lot of risks, and it had a very good reception, winning acclaim and sales.

But not enough sales for Marvel management, apparently, who pulled the license last week, bringing the line to a sudden halt. The cancellation was so thorough that they even removed the right to continue selling PDFs of the current titles, which have ceased to be purchasable as of yesterday. No-one’s saying why the license was pulled, but it’s likely that Marvel just didn’t feel the income from the game was worth the bother. It’s a saddening move, especially as it (presumably) cuts the freelance writers off from being paid for their now-unpublishable work.

I have all the PDFs, and I’m hoping to run the Annihilation Event for my group later this year, but I’m sorry for everyone that will never get a chance now to play this excellent game.

And speaking of saddening moves in comics, the website Comics Alliance also shut down suddenly this week, as parent company AOL terminated it (along with a number of other media sites). In an industry where most sites just reprint press releases or fantasize about casting choices, Comics Alliance was a smart, engaging site that mixed news with humour and genuinely insightful commentary, especially on the representation of woman and minorities in superhero comics.

Plus they had a guy writing for them who really liked Batman. Which goes a long way with me.

There are a lot of very talented, very passionate writers now unemployed as a result of the CA shutdown, which is the biggest shame. I’m still tracking them separately, listening to (and donating to) the War Rocket Ajax podcast, following people on Tumblr and Twitter and generally giving them my attention. You should consider that too, if you’re into any kind of comics. Here’s hoping they soon find new projects to work on.

I’d like to hope that some other site will step up to fill the commentary gap left by CA, but I’m not holding my breath.

Okay, happier topic. FREE COMICS!

Yes, this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, the day when comic stores around the world host events and give away comics from publishers big and small. The comics themselves are usually just teasers, samples and promo items – nice to check out but hardly essential – but what the day is really about is connecting with your local store, with fellow fans and nerds, with writers and artists and just generally having a good time. And, it should be emphasised, bringing young kids out to show the joy of comics and dressing up as Wonder Girl.

My not-quite-local-but-close-enough store is the incomparable All Star Comics in Lonsdale Street, which is a great shop run by great guys. Last year the queue snaked through the store four times, down the elevator shaft and out into the street, so this year they’re starting in the street, with an Artist’s Alley setup in Hardware Lane and manned by forty local comics artists. Man, I hope it doesn’t rain too much.

So anyway, that’s going to be great fun. If you’re in Melbourne, go check it out; if not, swing past your own store and see what festivities they have on. And then buy some comics, because the stores still have to pay for shipping on the comics they’re giving away.

And with that, it’s time to get my shoes on and go see They Might Be Giants.

Hell. Yeah.

 

April is the messiest month

To be honest, TS Eliot, I don’t find April all that cruel, but it is the month when my life tends to devolve into chaos. Too much going on, too many things that need doing, too little ability to organise myself – as shown by the last few blog posts coming in off schedule and one in the middle just going missing.

But there comes a point when you have to gather up all the 52-pickup cards; when you have to sign the overdue paperwork, finish off the spreadsheet, agree to go to all the parties on Facebook and generally get your shit together.

And to blog about it. Naturally.

The main thing that’s been eating up my time this April is the Melbourne Comedy Festival, as I’ve been writing reviews for politics-and-culture website Crikey – you can find all my reviews (I think) here. That’s chewed up most of my energy and writing, which is kind of a bullshit complaint – ‘oh no, having to go to free comedy shows is SO TIRING and also my diamond shoes are too tight’. It’s actually a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t leave me much time or headspace for working on other things and means I barely see my wife for a month (she works in ticketing).

There’s a week left of MICF, and if you’re looking for a recommendation, my top five would be Watson, Hang the DJ, Sketch-ual Healing, Dave (if it’s not already sold out) and, um, I’m going to wuss out on #5 because I can’t choose between DeAnne Smith, Lisa-Skye and Simon Keck. Maybe go see all of them? Go on, you probably can if you try hard enough.

(The weird thing this year? Being recognised in bars and shows by comedians and producers, and being asked to go review more shows because they like my stuff. That’s a first. And cool. And weird. SO WEIRD.)

Now, what did we do today? Oh yeah, Supanova! While I went to the first one in Brisbane – as a worker at the Borders stall, selling graphic novels – this is the first time I’ve been as a regular punter, along with my wife.

We ignored all the various TV/movie people and made a beeline for the comics area to say hello to writer Gail Simone. She was really pleasant and nice, as were Nicola Scott and Terry & Rachel Dodson. We didn’t keep them long; it’s weird to try to have a conversation with people you only know in a creator/reader context, because you’re not friends or anything. We kept it cool and brief, got some photos and signatures, and really enjoyed meeting them.

Also, wow – SO MUCH COSPLAY. It’s interesting that Supanova seems to be the primary cosplay avenue for most enthusiasts, or indeed the only one for a lot of people, and as such every second person was wearing a cape or carrying a sword. It’s not my thing (although I think I could do a solid pre-reboot Green Arrow, mostly because I have my own goatee already), but it’s awesome to see so many people having a good time and flying their geek colours. Makes me think there really should be more of a cosplay scene in this city, or indeed this country.

As for the rest of Supanova – ehh, not really for us. It’s all about monetizing nerds in some way, either by selling them stuff or getting them to pay for autographs and photos and face time. Which doesn’t do much for me, especially as I’m a terrible nerd who wanders around saying ‘I don’t know what show that costume’s from. I don’t understand why this person is famous. What the hell is Quidditch anyway?’ and so on. So we bought a couple of graphic novels from the All-Star Comics booth and a few fridge magnets for friends, and then we were basically done. And that’s okay.

As a complete aside, I have to share with you guys this new bit of spam poetry I just found in the filter. It is AMAZING.

Viagra in disaster, pitt. 100mg viagra moving, two dimness telegraph – – a beast, soon generic and next. Suddenly stoma felt different, their hour infrared and broken. And when viagra were sighted caught run of a scarecrow, seals admitted so the mentioning boat for generic closet. A viagra can brutally give generic and evaporated, of a muscle could stay missing my bolting doesn’t, on blood. Viagra not stooped road to see all all policemen as the isn’t supervision of his deals. She cry you forgot the viagra to wait her assistance. The landing was page her captain’s and had i to have his street through ever. That viagra slapped toward the generic slime, the rooftop keeping in the offer. But whether he could please them discovers not around generic in it too fled. What the viagra.

Viagra – a noun, a verb, an adjective, a punctuation mark. It’s all things to all people. Mostly impotent ones.

Anyway, between comedy, nerd-dom, reading about viagra and the usual making-textbooks-to-pay-the-bills, I haven’t had much time to do much else this month.

But that’ll change, and soon. And you know what that means – cocaine and video games more writing. Cub’s honour.

Round round like a record baby

You know what we haven’t had in months? A multi-topic, general-purpose linkspam-round-up hey-here’s-a-bunch-of-stuff-also-I-like-hyphens kind of post.

I liked those. They were easy to write. Did you? Well, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU LIKE whoops sorry channelling The Rock for a second there.

The 2013 Aurealis Award nominations are up, and they are a cracker collection of Aussie SF/F/H writing, with work by Jason Nahrung, Kirstyn McDermott, Garth Nix, Jay Kristoff, Margo Lanagan (for like a hundred different pieces) and many more. 2012 was obviously a sterling year for local genre fiction, and it’s to my shame that I’ve read almost none of the nominations. (I’ve started a few but not actually finished any.) Slack of me for not getting on it – and slack of you if you’ve not done likewise. So let’s fix this and read the shit out of some Australian books.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival starts next week!

I’m particularly excited about Dave Bloustein, Laura Davis, Lisa-Skye, Splendid Chaps, Lawrence Leung and hell damn I dunno like twenty other acts, too many to count or link to.

This year I’ll be writing reviews for Crikey, so keep an eye on their site for my perfect and polished bon mots of criticism and erudite insight. I may also talk about knobs.

Also coming up – Supanova! Which I am really only considering going to so I can meet Gail Simone. And then I’ll probably go back home.

I don’t really understand comics conventions. What else are you supposed to do once you get bored with collecting signatures and covertly photographing cosplayers?

Sigh. I know. I’m a terrible nerd. Did you know I’ve never watched The X-Files? I should hand in my gun and badge right now.

…you don’t get to know why I got given a gun. Or by whom.

No, fuck you.

My Chemical Romance broke up.

I’m a 42 year old man, rather than a 16 year old girl, but I’m nonetheless pretty gutted about that.

On the plus side, sure, we’re likely to see more Umbrella Academy and the long-awaited Danger Days/Fabulous Killjoys comic now that Gerard Way has time on his hands, but I’m gonna miss the hell outta their music. That shit was tight.

We’ve been watching Justified. It’s pretty good.

A few months ago I said I was moving to a one-blog-post-a-week schedule so that I could stay on target for finishing Raven’s Blood sometime in March.

Well, March ends in less than a week and I still have a shitload of book left to write, so that ain’t gonna fly. So I’m going back to a Thursday & Sunday update schedule. I don’t promise that they’ll be AMAZING updates, but at least there’ll be more of them, and everyone in the fast food industry agrees that quantity is better than quality. Who am I to argue with the McRib?

So anyhoo, come back next Thursday for a post that might have even less content than this one (if that’s possible), followed by a discussion of storytelling techniques (and problems) in 2012’s biggest MMO release. And no, I don’t mean My Little Pony Friendship is $29.95/month Adventures.

…is that a thing? Surely that’s a thing.

Cutting back and getting down

Tonight’s going to be a quick one, folks, for reasons I will get into at the end – quick and composed of bits.

There’s probably a dirty joke in there somewhere.

Inscribe is Darebin Council’s annual arts/writing journal and newsletter. Last year I wrote an article on self-publishing which seemed to go down alright. It must have, because this year they asked me to contribute some fiction to the new issue!

The launch of the new edition of Inscribe is 4.30pm next Sunday, the 9th of December, at the Uniting Church in High Street, Northcote.  I’ll be reading my short story ‘For Sale, Baby Heads, Never Used’, which is appearing in the issue along with ‘Black Veil and Gloves’. Come along – it’ll be a treat! Especially for those who like to hear stories read in a stammering, incoherent rush!

I’ll get some practice in. I promise.

Just a reminder to check the various Next Big Thing authors I tagged on Wednesday – PM Newton, Sarah Jansen, Jessica Marsh and Tor Roxburgh. They’ll be writing up their own contributions to the chain next Wednesday. And stay tuned for an interview with one of these ladies in the next few weeks!

I’ve been reading almost nothing but graphic novels for the last few months, and I’m reaching the point where I really want – need – to change gears and get back to prose. Comics are amazing, but they require a different mode of narrative and of reading, and I have to switch my mindset back to prose before I start breaking all my ideas down into panels rather than paragraphs.

That said, I’ve just started reading Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavy’s Comic Book History of Comics, and it’s an absolute corker. This is a really engaging, entertaining look at the development of the comics field and artform over the years, from the 1920s to the early 2010s, that mixes genuine facts and quotes with appropriately-styled caricature art. Huge fun, dense (but not too dense) with information and pitched at a level that pretty much any reader can enjoy. Highly recommended.

I also really need to read Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, which by all accounts is an amazing and in-depth look at Marvel in the 60s through to the 90s. Complete with all the bits about backbiting, lying, infidelity and fistfights. You know, the good stuff. Maybe I’ll get it for Christmas.

I am not ready for Christmas.

Oh boy, Christmas!

And what better way to celebrate this most religious/secular/commercial of holidays than with the gift of free ebooks?

From now until the end of the year, you can download both Hotel Flamingo and Godheads for free (TOTES FREE) at Smashwords! Just follow the links and use the discount codes – QK88W for Godheads and DN72A for Flamingo – at checkout.

And don’t forget that there are six of my short stories free to download there as well, from the thriller ‘Pension Day’ to the absurdist ‘The Recent 86 Tram Disaster’ to the Obituarist tie-in ‘Inbox Zero’.

(The Obituarist is not available for free, sorry – but if you did want to give someone a social media crime story for Christmas, then surely $2.99 is not too onerous a cost for those you love. Go on. Buy it for them. Show them you care.)

Ho ho freakin’ ho!

Some of you may be thinking ‘Didn’t he give away the same ebooks last Christmas? Where’s something new?’

And that brings me to my last point, which is that I really, really need to get back to work on Raven’s Blood. Because it has been more than six months since I finished and published anything, and the time that I could coast on that has long since finished.

I’ve set myself the goal (as stated in my last post) of finishing the first draft by the end of January. There, I said it – you’re all witnesses. And that’s doable, since this is (probably) a novella of 30 000-odd words; I can certainly handle that in two months.

But not if I’m losing 2-4 hours each week by writing two 1000+-word blog posts.

Because of this, I’m cutting back to one post a week for the next couple of months, and probably shorter, pithier posts at that. Hopefully this won’t tear anyone’s heart out too badly; they can repair that kind of damage with outpatient surgery these days, I’m told. There’ll still be posts, and not just bitty ones like these, but I’m only going to write them after I finish my scheduled chunk of draft-work first, as per my advice from last weekend.

So it’s heads-down-bums-up for a while. Please forgive the silence. I hope to have something awesome to show you at the end of it.

When I cast my pod

Today was a podcast day.

That doesn’t mean I recorded a podcast or anything; the opportunity for that has yet to arise, and those who’ve been ‘lucky’ enough to hear me read aloud in public know that auditory media are not generally my best platform. Not unless you like streams of babble plunged into your earholes at 1000 kph, anyway.

No, I mean today was a day when I actually had the right environment to listen to a few podcasts. Which, in my case, means when I’m editing maths textbooks/manuscripts. That engages the non-verbal part of my brain and gives me something to do (and get paid for) while the verbal parts are free to take in conversation. It’s the only way that works for me; I can’t read while listening to a podcast, because the two verbal streams interfere with each other, and I can’t just listen to a ‘cast on its own because I start getting restless and antsy.

It’s a good word, ‘antsy’. Must try to use it more often.

So anyhoo, I spent today (and indeed most of this week) transcribing, editing and formatting maths docs, and so podcasts have done a lot to keep me sane and stop me from running amok with the contents of the big first aid kit under my desk. (No scissors, but so many bandages.) And in the spirit of sharing my sanity (in case any of y’all are running low), here’s a list of the podcasts I usually listen to, with links.

War Rocket Ajax: I’ve talked about WRA before, and it remains my favourite comics podcast. Hell, it’s my favourite podcast, thanks to its exuberance, energy and humour. In every installment, hosts Chris Sims and Matt Wilson talk about what they’ve been doing and enjoying, review a few comics, interview a comics creator and generally fuck about enjoyably. It’s the highlight of my podding week, particularly as it comes out on Tuesdays and is my refuge from all the meetings I usually have that day.

House to Astonish: This is also a comics podcast, but one with a decidedly different flavour. Hosts Paul O’Brien and Al Kennedy primarily focus on news, and more importantly some degree of analysis of that news, which they do with humour, insight and minimal negativity. They also review a couple of titles each time, with a fair amount of depth, before diving into the deconstruction and reconstitution of one of Marvel’s dodgier characters – and Marvel have a lot of dodgy characters. And it’s all done with excellent Scottish/British accents.

Boxcutters: A podcast about TV, which is odd seeing as how I don’t actually watch TV much (if at all). But these guys (and occasional gals) tackle a variety of TV news and reviews from a variety of angles and viewpoints, with an eye towards how Australian TV audiences actually view shows and how the media landscape is changing. There’s insight and humour, and a willingness to cast a wide net over topics. Also, one of the hosts is my nemesis, and I feel it’s important to support him until he’s lulled into a false sense of security.

Decompressed: Another comics podcast, and another one I’ve praised before. While the others do reviews and news, this is a craft-cast about the ins and outs of writing (and sometimes drawing) comics, where host and writer Kieron Gillen interviews another creator about the processes and decisions that went into a particular issue. It’s smart, interesting stuff done in a chatty, informal style, and a must-listen if you ever plan on writing comics yourself.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: The new hotness on the RPG-cast block is this show from luminaries Robin Laws and Kenneth Hite. It’s got a roving focus, best described as ‘they talk about what they want to talk about’ – history, game theory, alternate history, occultism, cinema, politics, the gaming industry, con appearances and whatever else is on their mind. It’s affable, engaging stuff that’s worth a listen.

Word Balloon: A comics ‘cast? How surprising! This is an occasional listen for me, as it’s entirely interview based and I tend to only check it when the interview’s with a creator that interests me. Still, they’re worthwhile interviews; host John Siuntres obviously knows most of his subjects personally, which lets him cover different ground to the usual press release stuff. I just wish he’d redesign his website; it’s like a time capsule from 1998.

Podmentum: I just started listening to this one today – it’s the new ‘cast from digital publishing imprint Momentum, done as a short round-table among three of their staff. They only have three under their belt so far, and it’s a bit conceptually hazy so far – but as a look at the business of digital publishing and reading, it’s got potential, and I’d like to hear more.

The Writer and the Critic: Alright, this is kind of cheating to list this, because I’ve only listened to it a couple of times and never the whole way through. But I certainly want to listen to it more often, so I’m listing it as an aspirational entry. This (mostly) spec-fic book review ‘cast, hosted by Ian Mond and Kirstyn McDermott, has won awards and critical praise from all over the place, and the bits I’ve heard have been great. The fault here is mine, as I’ve not been reading as much as I should this year – maybe if I listen to more bookcasts it’ll get me back in the habit.

…man, when I list them all like that there’s not very many. Certainly not enough about writing or publishing – or about roleplaying, oddly. (I’ve tried a bunch of RPG-casts but none of them have grabbed me.) So I need more! This would be an excellent time for you to leave a comment with some links and recommendations.

Especially as I still have a pile more maths work to do next week. Sigh.

Link-spam? More like link-BLAM!

*checks watch*

Damn, is it that time again?

Folks, I usually try to put up something of substance and great genius on a Sunday night, but it’s hot, I’ve spent the weekend hanging out with friends and drinking ALL THE BEERS and my wonderful wife is on the other side of the planet visiting her US family for two weeks. So I’m not really in the zone tonight, and nor is my brain all filled up with perfect knowledge that I can – no, must – drop on you.

So instead, tonight, I’m taking the easy out and throwing out a whole magilla of links to worthwhile things on Ye Olde Internet. CLICK IF YOU DARE! Or just, like, click. It’s probably safe. There hasn’t been a proved zombie attack on the internet in days.

  • My ol’ buddy Chuck Wendig is donating all November profits from his writing-related ebooks to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. That includes books bought through the usual outlets, or through the choose-your-own-price-point offer on his website. Folks, these are excellent, hilarious, whip-smart books full of profanity and advice, and any writer should pick them up, especially given the circumstances. (I would follow in his footsteps, but since my last royalty cheque for the quarter was like 20 bucks, I’m just gonna donate some money directly.)
  • And while we’re talking about choose-your-own-price deals, go check out the Halloween offer over at StoryBundle – six horror ebooks for whatever you want to offer, plus two more if you pay at least nine dollars.
  • On the topic of horror, Nightmare Magazine is open for submissions and paying a pretty-great 5c/word for original horror stories. I’m working up a new piece, ‘Box of Thumbs’, to submit to them, but if you’ve got any kind of work ethic you could easily get in before me and take my spot. DAMN YOU etc.
  • Pandora is back! Okay, that probably isn’t news to most of you, but I just found out today and now I’m very excited to see what new music its algorithms can turn up for me. I’ve set up three radio stations, based around My Chemical Romance, Los Campesinos! and The Fuck Buttons respectively, and if I’m ever feeling grumpy I might crosspollinate all three and watch the site crash trying to make sense of the overlap.
  • And speaking of music, nerdcore rapper Adam Warrock teamed up with Opera Memphis this month for a free mashup EP of his lyrics/beats and their production of La Boheme. It’s pretty neat shit – and while you’re there, click a few links for a whole pile of free tracks, albums and EPs.
  • And speaking of stuff that probably isn’t news to most of you, there’s this ‘Call Me Maybe’ song that I’d managed to avoid hearing for months until having it thrust into my earholes this week. FUCK MY LIFE. Anyway, this terrible song has spawned a host of parodies, pseudo-covers and Twitter accounts, but the one that stands out from the crowd is ‘Batman Maybe’, because it is 10 000% PUREST WIN.
  •  Big ups to everyone tackling NaNoWriMo this month! I, um, don’t have a link for that. If you’re doing it you know who you are. Good luck, and remember to get someone else to edit the shit out of your first draft.
  • Despite the stupid AFL branding/marketing, this is good jerky.

I fucking love beef jerky.

Dateline: WRITING

Hi folks,

Just a very quick, very half-arsed update tonight. Why? Because I am hard at work WRITING.

Specifically, I am writing a new Kendall Barber/The Obituarist short story, ‘Inbox Zero’, with an eye towards having it finished and up online for completely free download this Sunday night. That’s right, you heard it here first; refocus your browser onto this site in just three nights to read a cracking 2500-odd words about death and the internet featuring everyone’s favourite social media undertaker.

But that won’t happen if I don’t finish this first draft tonight and then shop it around my alpha readers for feedback. So, you know, no time for love, Doctor Jones.

Well, okay, time for one bit of love – love for the amazing graphic novel Infinite Kung Fu, written and drawn by Kagan McLeod and published by Top Shelf. I read this last week, and it is incredible. It doesn’t just have some kung fu. It doesn’t even have a lot of kung fu. It has INFINITY kung fu. And if your heart is so dead that you cannot take joy in seeing a P-Funk grandmaster pull off his own arms in order to execute flawless kata against the legions of the undead, then what the hell are you doing reading my blog?

Honestly. Some people.

Anyway, Infinite Kung Fu is more than 400 pages long, it costs like 25 bucks (maybe $35 in Australia) and it is MADE OF WIN. You should read it.

And now, back to work.