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Obligatory eligibility post for award season

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January 17, 2014

It’s award season in the SFF world and I’ve seen several people post things on Twitter and Facebook and the like that basically say, “Yes, I want a reminder of what you’ve had published in 2013 so I can make informed votes, but no, I don’t want to be spammed upside the head with it constantly.” Which is really fair enough. I’ve been enjoying several of these posts and remembering books and stories I enjoyed last year. So, I’ll just leave this post here for people to do with as they please.

In short fiction, I’ve had the following publications in 2013 (if there’s a link, you can read it online):

Not the Worst of Sins” – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #133 (October 31st, 2013)

“Roll the Bones” – Crowded Magazine issue #2 (August 2013)

“The Beat Of A Pale Wing” – A Killer Among Demons anthology (Dark Prints Press, June 2013)

“The Fathomed Wreck To See” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 9 (May 2013)

“On A Crooked Leg Lightly” – Dreaming Of Djinn anthology (Ticonderoga Publications, May 2013)

“Quantum Echoes” – Next anthology (CFSG Publishing, April 2013)

“A Time For Redemption” – Urban Occult anthology (Anachron Press, March 2013)

“It’s Always the Children Who Suffer” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 10, Winner of the 2013 AHWA Short Story Competition (due end of December, 2013)

“Exposure Compensation” – Midnight Echo Magazine, issue 10 (due end of December, 2013)

Also published in 2013 was “Dark Rite”, the short horror novel I co-wrote with David Wood. That’s some good, pulpy, Hammer-esque horror fun if you’re into that sort of thing, and barely more than a novella, so a quick, easy read.

All the anthologies, magazines, novels and so on I’ve talked about above, and all the others I’m involved with, can be tracked down via this page: http://www.alanbaxteronline.com/books/.

So if you enjoyed any of the above last year and you fancy voting for it anywhere, I would be most grateful. And remember to check in with the blogs of your favourite writers for a reminder of their eligible stuff. The more people who vote in popular awards, the better the awards reflect the will of the reading public. Have at it.

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2012 storySouth Million Writers Award notable stories

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September 25, 2013

Well, this was a very pleasant surprise today, and many thanks to Josh Melican who pointed it out to me on my Facebook page. The news came via the website of Jason Sanford, one of the judges of the storySouth Million Writers Award, and the news is that one of my stories made the cut to be shortlisted among the notable stories of 2012.

You can learn more about the award at storySouth.com

The judges are currently reading the shortlist to pick the top ten, released in October, which will be eligible for more than $1,000 in cash and prizes. I’m not too sure how it all works, but I’ll certainly be watching closely now.

My shortlisted story is Tiny Lives, originally published in Daily Science Fiction. It’s a story that’s working hard for me, as it’s already been picked to be included in the latest Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror, due out soon, which is very exciting. To be shortlisted here as well is great news.

There are quite a few notable stories on the list and it’s an honour to be among them. Full list below.

2012 storySouth Million Writers Award notable stories
(Stories listed in random order)

“Freezing Time” by Murli Melwani http://www.asiancha.com/content/view/1268/357/

“All the Things the Moon is Not” by Alexander Lumans http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/lumans_05_12/

“Dirwhals!” By Ethan Rutherford http://www.fivechapters.com/2013/dirwhals/

“For Old Times’ Sake” by Billy O’Callaghan http://www.mendacitypress.com/20OCallaghan.html

“Red Planet” By Jo Ann Heydron http://www.pacificareview.com/?p=372

“Polly” by Nik Korpon http://blackpetalsks.tripod.com/yellowmamaarchives/id434.html

“Invisible Men” by Christopher Barzak http://christopherbarzak.com/invisible-men/

“Shadows under Hexmouth Street” by Justin Howe http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/shadows-under-hexmouth-street-by-justin-howe/

“Secrets of the Sea” by Jennifer Marie Brissett http://futurefire.net/2012.24/fiction/secretsofthesea.html

“Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream” by Maria Dahvana Headley http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/give-her-honey-when-you-hear-her-scream/

“The Grinnell Method” by Molly Gloss http://www.strangehorizons.com/2012/20120903/grinnell-f.shtml

“Hands” by Lou Gaglia http://www.waccamawjournal.com/pages.php?x=423

“Tiny Lives” by by Alan Baxter http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/modern-fantasy/alan-baxter/tiny-lives

“After We Were Nothing” by Alan Stewart Carl http://www.dzancbooks.org/the-collagist/2012/6/11/after-we-were-nothing.html

“The Battle of Candle Arc” by Yoon Ha Lee http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/lee_10_12/

“Distance” by Susan Tepper http://www.thricefiction.com/pdf/ThriceFiction007X.pdf

“Sasha, That Night” by G. K. Wuori http://www.eclectica.org/v16n3/wuori.html

“Lightning My Pilot” by Samuel Snoek-Brown http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/lightningmypilot.htm

“The Three Feats of Agani” by Christie Yant http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/the-three-feats-of-agani/

“Lone Wolf” by Eric Freeze http://carvezine.com/2012-winter-freeze/

“An Occurrence at School” by Okechukwu Otukwu http://www.eclectica.org/v16n2/otukwu.html

“The Anastasia Caper” by Bruce Graham www.eclectica.org/v16n2/graham.html

“West” by Ryan W. Bradley http://www.pankmagazine.com/west/

“Woodrow Wilson” by Tim Horvath http://www.mhpbooks.com/woodrow-wilson/

“Birthday Americana” by Erika Swyler http://www.litro.co.uk/2012/07/erika-swyler-birthday-americana/

“Cousin Barnaby is Dead” by Clifford Garstang http://www.joylandmagazine.com/stories/midwest/cousin_barnaby_dead

“Reform, AL” by Christopher Lowe http://baltimorereview.org/index.php/winter_2012/contributor/christopher-lowe

“The Cathedral of Es” by Michael Stein http://www.pilvaxmag.com/the-cathedral-of-es-by-michael-stein/

“Mother Ship” by Caroline M. Yoachim http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/mother-ship/

“Who Cooks for You” By Holly Goddard Jones http://www.fivechapters.com/2012/who-cooks-for-you/

“Why I Hate the Holidays” by Andrea Broxton http://www.eclectica.org/v16n1/broxton.html

“Confidante” by Michael Barber http://www.eclectica.org/v16n1/barber.html

“And the Hollow Space Inside” by Mari Ness http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/ness_02_12/

“Chlorine Mermaid” by Rachel Steiger-Meister http://carvezine.com/2012-spring-steiger-meister/

“Serkers and Sleep” by Kenneth Schneyer http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com/stories/serkers-and-sleep-by-kenneth-schneyer/

“Art Lessons” by Gleah Powers http://www.primenumbermagazine.com/Issue17_Fiction_GleahPowers.html

“Household Management” by Ellen Klages http://www.strangehorizons.com/fund_drives/2012/special-issue-household-f.shtml

“Everyday Murders” by Jasobn Ockert http://www.storysouth.com/2012/09/everyday-murders.html

“Watching Alice Watch” by Nan Cuba http://www.storysouth.com/2012/03/watching-alice-watch.html

“Literature Appreciation” by Man Martin http://carvezine.com/2012-winter-martin/

“The Raven” by Jacqueline Kolosov http://cimarronreview.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/kolosov4web.pdf

“The Ones” by Nicholas Rombes http://fiddleblack.org/journal/issue-6/the-ones

“Treasures Few Have Ever Seen” by Mary Akers http://www.primenumbermagazine.com/Issue29_Fiction_MaryAkers.html

“And the Ruin of That House Was Great” by Ric Hoeben http://tampareviewonline.org/fiction/and-the-ruin-of-that-house-was-great/

“The Eternal Youth of Everyone Else” by Adrienne Celt http://carvezine.com/2012-summer-celt/

“The King’s Huntsman” by Jennifer Mason-Black http://giganotosaurus.org/2012/09/01/the-kings-huntsman

“Melt With You” by Emily C. Skaftun http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/skaftun_04_13/

“The Tree Poachers” by James Zerndt http://www.spiltinfinitive.com/the-tree-poachers/#.UfBgNVOt7-c

“The Butterfly Effect” by Daniel Harris http://madhattersreview.com/issue13/cnf_harris.shtml

“Ocean of Ash” by Kirsten Perry http://www.wordriot.org/archives/4450

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You don’t owe me anything

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June 28, 2013

boy reading 263x300 You dont owe me anything Mea culpa. I am guilty of this and I’m putting my hand up right now to accept that and change my position. I’m getting more than a little sick and tired of authors demanding things of their readers. Back in 2011, I wrote this blog post where I said such things as “You’re a reader and you have a new responsibility” and “it’s an act of true benevolence to leave good reviews of stuff you enjoy, or drop by websites and leave a star rating. You can write a single line or single paragraph review and copy that to all the sites you visit or shop at. If you do blog, then reviewing a book on your site is fantastic. But whatever you do, do something.” While I still believe that stuff has true value, the last part is bollocks and I take it back. You don’t have to do something. You don’t have to do jack shit.

I also posted a thing recently which listed all the ways readers could care for authors – it was a funky little infographic and had things like leaving star ratings at Amazon and Goodreads, reviewing, telling friends and family and so on. Again, all those things are great, but you don’t have to do anything.

If you bought a book, give yourself a pat on the back, because you are a fucking legend. You did all you had to do. Anything else is gravy. I do log all the books I read on Goodreads. I usually leave short reviews, and cross-post to Amazon if I can. I’m one of three contributing editors at Thirteen O’Clock, a dark fiction review site. But you know what? I really enjoy all that stuff. I’m happy to do it. But I don’t have to do any of it and neither do you.

I honestly believe that reviews are the lifeblood of authors. Whether those reviews are on a dedicated blog, at sites like Goodreads or over a beer in the pub with your friends, only honest word of mouth really works. That’s the holy grail of marketing right there. People talking up your shit is the stuff of dreams. But if someone bought your book, enjoyed it and never mentioned it again, anywhere, it doesn’t matter. They haven’t slacked off in their readerly duties at all.

Too often now I’m seeing things like the stuff I posted before, but it’s starting feel wrong. Where my intention in posting it was a genuine entreaty for mutual support between readers and writers (who are often the same person, incidentally), I’m seeing a more and more militant approach lately and it’s pissing me off. It makes the stuff I wrote before seem just as militant and I don’t like that. I don’t want to demand anything of my readers. Fuck me, you bought my book! I’m dancing like a freaking numpty over here, because that is the absolute top of the line result right there.

If you want to do more, like write reviews, tell your friends, even buy more copies as gifts for like-minded friends and family, then you shit solid gold and your breath smells like roses dipped in chocolate and don’t let anybody tell you different, because you went above and beyond, dear reader. You, sir or madam, are a diamond encrusted behemoth of a human being. Because you didn’t owe me anything. No one does. But if all you did was buy and read my books, you still have gold shit, chocolate-rose breath and diamond encrusted body parts, because there’s nothing “all you did” about it. You bought and read a book. You. Fucking. Rock.

So yes, I do still stand by the value of all those lovely things readers can do, but I retract any assertion that they have to do those things. Because it’s getting kinda creepy and nasty out there and the last thing we need to do is be creepy and nasty around our readers. Talk about taking a crap in your food bowl. Readers are awesome and that’s all writers really want – to be read. So buy the book, read it and hopefully have a good time. If you choose to signal boost that book in any way, you’re brilliant. If you don’t, you’re still brilliant, because you’re a reader. And you don’t owe anyone anything.

*drops mic*

*reads*

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Home to nice reviews

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April 29, 2013

I’m back from Conflux 9 and a damn fine time was had by all. Great to catch up with old friends, make some new friends and drink too much. I’ll write up a proper report soon, probably tomorrow. I’m too brain dead today and have a bunch of classes to teach, so might go for a little lie down for while beforehand. But I came back to some very nice reviews of Dark Rite, which is always wonderful.

Firstly, the very cool Damien Smith wrote us this review for Thirteen O’Clock, where he says: “a rollercoaster ride that kept me turning the pages until I was almost late for work” among other nice things.

And US author Terry Ervin II had this to say:

“Unraveling the mystery of his dad’s death turns into a nightmare as Grant finds himself mired in a dark cult’s secret that long ago engulfed a small town, and threatens Cassie, a girl he’s fallen for. Grant knows he’s doomed, but that doesn’t mean the demon worshipers have to win.

As the plot began to unfold, I found myself unwilling to put the book aside until I reached the end.”

–Terry W. Ervin II, author of Blood Sword

Bloody lovely. But for now, a snoozzzzzzzz…

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Dead Robots’ Society Podcast

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April 24, 2013

Pic DRS Dead Robots Society PodcastI got up a bit earlier than usual this morning to be a guest on the Dead Robots’ Society Podcast along with David Wood. We had a lot of fun, talked about genre fiction and horror especially. Of course, we were mostly talking up Dark Rite as that’s the new and current thing.

It’s a great podcast and we had a good laugh with hosts Justin Macumber and Paul Elard Cooley. The episode is up and available already, so go here to have a listen.

On that front, I was very happy today to see that Dark Rite is at number 42 in Horror Hot New Releases on Amazon, and number 17 in Occult Horror Hot New Releases. Thanks to everyone who had bought a copy – you people rock.

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Book day nerves and why they’re a good thing

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April 16, 2013

Dark Rite books Book day nerves and why theyre a good thingI’m trepidatious. Kinda nerve-wracked. The novella I’ve co-authored with David Wood, Dark Rite, is due for release tomorrow. Hopefully it will become available then, or very soon after. I’ll be sure to let you know. And because of its imminent release, I’m quietly terrified.

I’m also very excited, of course. It’s great to get a new book out there. While this is technically a novella, it kind of bridges the gap, because it’s bloody long for a novella. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America specify word lengths for each category of its Nebula award categories like this:

Novel – over 40,000 words
Novella – 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story – under 7,500 words

As far as I know, the Aurealis Awards here in Australia use the same categorisation. Dark Rite is something like 42,250 words. Which is sorta dumb of us, because it will be classed as a novel rather than a novella for awards and we could have cut 2,251 words and dropped it back into the novella category if we really wanted to. But we talked about it and were happy with the tightness and finish of the story. It seems presumptuous and counter-productive to chop at a story purely for award lengths or to accurately describe its category. The story is exactly as long as it needs to be, so we’re sticking with it. And I’ll describe it as a very long novella, even though it’s technically a very short novel.

Nelson Muntz 300x292 Book day nerves and why theyre a good thingBut I digress. Nerves. I was talking about book day terror. Whether it’s a full-length novel, a long novella/short novel, a novelette or a short story being published in a magazine or anthology, the same kind of nerves are always there. Will people like it? Will people read it and point and laugh like Nelson Munz? Will I be revealed for the try-hard, pointless hack my inner demons often tell me I am, in the darkest corners of the night when I’m wondering why I fucking bother.

If it’s a magazine or anthology, the terror is that mine will be the story reviewers talk about for all the wrong reasons. “A tremendous collection of short fiction, with only one story out of place. You have to wonder what the editor was thinking, including this sloppy turd by Baxter.”

Of course, that kind of thinking is an insult to the editor, because they picked the story and included it for a reason, and their name is all over the publication. But publication nerves know nothing of common sense and laugh in the face of logic.

If it’s a book or novella, something that is going out there on its own merit, the nerves are the same, only amplified. There are no other works to hide among. It’s just you, out there in public without your pants on. Metaphorically speaking. You know you can’t please everyone, even Neil Gaiman gets one star reviews, but you hope to please more people than you offend. You want more cries of Bravo! and very few Ha-Has! But you don’t know if you’ll get them. Hell, you don’t know if anybody will even read your work. The only thing worse than bad reviews is no one turning a single fucking page of the thing you slaved over. At least a bad review meant the thing got read.

But I realised, especially reinforced after the recent series of guest posts I’ve run about Ongoing Angst, that this stuff is not only common among writers of every level, but actually a good thing. I’m bloody nervous, because I care. I care not because I want people to like me, but because I want them to like the work. I want people to read my stories and get something out of them, be moved in some way, have a rollicking good time and recommend their friends and family read my stuff too. They don’t ever need to know who the fuck I am, as long as they know and enjoy the work. And my fear comes from the thought that my work might not be good enough. And that fear drives me to always do my best, to always try to be better.

I strive to get better all the time. I work my arse off trying to make my writing as good as it can be. Nerves like this are symbolic of an artist striving to be good enough. If I ever don’t get nervous when a publication is due I’m going to wonder where my fire went. Because I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think people are automatically going to like everything I get published. Nerves are a good thing – they remind you that you’re alive and striving. That this shit matters. Because it really does matter. Through fiction we look at our lives and the life around us, and it matters. Even fun, pulpy horror like Dark Rite has things to say about society and humanity. It’s deeper than just a gloss imagery. And I care about it. I really hope readers do too.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff due for publication over the next two or three months, in magazines and anthologies, and it’s all kicking off with the release of Dark Rite any day now. So I really hope you like it. I’ll be over here, chewing on the bony tips of fingers, cos I finished eating through the nails a couple of days ago.

(Of course, the beauty of this one is that it’s co-authored. So it if does go down well, I’ll bask in all the glory. If it tanks, I’ll just blame David Wood.)

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The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers – Conclusions

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April 11, 2013

I’ve really enjoyed the recent run of guest posts from six of Australia’s most successful genre writers. Here I’ll try to collate the overlapping themes from those posts into one place (and have links to all the posts in one place too.) First and foremost, I’d like to thank the six respondents for giving their time and honesty to the idea. So here are the links to each individual post, with my heartfelt thanks:

Kaaron Warren

Jo Anderton

Angela Slatter

Lisa L Hannett

Trudi Canavan

Margo Lanagan

I expected considerable consensus from all of these talented writers to most of the questions. It’s pretty obvious the questions were loaded to that end, but that was because I’ve regularly seen those kind of comments from writers of all styles and all levels of success. But let’s go through each of the three questions and see what the key themes were.

1. What do you still fear as a writer, when it comes to putting your work out there? What fills you with doubt and angst?

This is the question that I knew would draw the most consensus. The over-riding responses were of “imposter syndrome” – that dark and quiet thought that no matter how much success you see, at some point everyone is going to realise you’re a hack, or that one day everyone will point and laugh because they’ve all been having you along all this time. It’s simply the fear of not being good enough, contrary to all the available evidence. Or there’s been some terrible mistake.

Kaaron said: I’m still sure that one day someone will say, “You do realise it’s all been an elaborate joke we’ve played on you? You’re a crap writer and no one has ever liked anything you’ve ever written.” Trudi said: “one day I’ll discover that every person who liked and bought my books was just being polite” although she also pointed out: “but I can laugh it off.” That’ll happen when you’ve sold as many books as Trudi has!

In terms of being good enough, Jo said: “I fear being ignored, but I fear attention too. Silence is disheartening, but when people do sit up and take notice I’m terrified they’ll hate the story, tell everyone they know, and then laugh at me. Loudly.” Angela said: “you’ve lavished all your love, attention and care on it, that you’ve flensed and polished it until it looks like a slightly evil supermodel, but that when it’s out in the public gaze someone will find a fault you didn’t see.”

Lisa used a quote from Keats that summed things up well and she explained it thus: “It’s that niggling doubt that you’re not necessarily crap, but that what you’re writing isn’t adding anything exciting to the mix. That it’s just mediocre. That it’s not just forgotten, but forgettable. Now that’s scary.”

I think these fears are actually encouraging. Of course, that doesn’t help in our darkest moments of self-doubt, but the fear we’re not good enough leads to a desire to always be better. I think that’s essential to growth in any art. If we start to think we’re good enough, that we can’t learn more or get better, then surely our work will stagnate and become, at best, ordinary. Not necessarily crap, as Lisa says, but pedestrian. In the pursuit of any art, we need to constantly strive to be better, to out-do what we’ve done before. Sometimes we’ll succeed and sometimes we won’t – we may write something that truly resonates and then write a lot of stuff that doesn’t reach those heights again for quite a while. But we must always strive to do so regardless and surely, as our skill and experience improve, we will reach those heights again, and beyond. There’s no ceiling to how high we can go if we always strive to improve. I think the fear of not being good enough is what constantly drives us in that pursuit.

Margo made an interesting point that bad reviews can sometimes fuel that self-doubt. She said: “those voices feed directly into, and reinforce, that other voice inside me that’s ready to tear me down and call me a fraud”.

Interestingly enough, just yesterday Chuck Wendig posted this blog, about that very same thing. He calls it the “writer as stowaway”. He has two new books coming out soon and the early copies have gone out for review. He describes the feeling like this:

all the while I’ve got that flurry of fear-bubbles in my tummy: egads they won’t like it they’ll despise it I’m going to receive hate mail people might punch me Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly will probably give me whatever the opposite of a starred review is like maybe they’ll rub a cat’s butthole on my face in public OH GODS THAT’S HOW BAD THIS BOOK IS.

In classic Wendig style, he echoes exactly what the writers in my guest posts have said.

The second question I asked was:

2. What career markers do you still strive for? What heights are you determined to scale?

I asked this for a very specific reason. Whenever I talk to other writers about their successes, whether they’re new and have just had their first publication or whether they’re as successful as the guest post respondents, there’s always one over-riding response: “Yes, but I haven’t done X yet.” That might be anything from making a sale to a pro market, selling a novel even after massive short fiction success, getting a bigger advance even after a 7 figure deal or anything else. Regardless of levels of success, writers are always striving for more. And I think that’s a good thing – it goes hand in hand with always striving to be better. We want to get better all the time and we measure whether we are getting better by whether or not we score those better publications, bigger advances, more awards, movie deals, etc.

In answering that question, we got some interesting variations on the theme. Kaaron would love to sell a story to the New Yorker and get a call from Hollywood. Jo would prefer a Manga or videogame deal. Angela strives for constantly better markets for her work. Lisa has similar desires to Angela and they both want to see their novel-length work finished and in a good home. Trudi wants to see better success in the US market and wouldn’t mind a call from Hollywood too. Margo wants her work to constantly plumb deeper into truer depths of humanity.

And beyond all this, the over-riding desire (which overlapped this question and the next) was for their writing to be successful enough that they could give up the day jobs (or work less) and have the time to write as much and as often as they like. As Margo put it so well when she talked about who she envies: “anyone who’s had (and earned out) a seven-figure-or-more advance, or freakishly big sales, gives me a bit of a pang, simply because they can buy the slabs of time that make the efficient production of regular novels possible. They can focus, you know? They don’t have to always be fighting their way towards the writing; they can just pay the world to go away.”

(The exception to this desire, perhaps, is Trudi, but that’s because she’s already done that!)

And, as I said, the previous answers cross over with the answers to the third question I asked:

3. Whose career do you envy? Why?

I deliberately used the word “envy” because it’s very loaded. And I expected exactly what I got – very little in the way of actual envy. Margo’s answer above was one of desire rather than real envy – she doesn’t envy the people, just the time they have. As Trudi said: ”Envy is pointless.”

She’s right. Envy is a destructive emotion. I’ve always seen the success of others as proof that any of us can succeed, and that includes me. As Trudi went on to say: ”I’ve always been excited when someone has succeeded at doing something I want to do, as that proves it’s possible.”

Of course, those natural pangs of “Why not me!” are always there when we read about the success of others. As Lisa said: “It’s only natural to have a pang of oh-I-wish-that-was-me! when a new writer skyrockets to stardom apparently out of nowhere — but it’s not actual envy.”

Lisa then talked about the writers she respects and admires. She doesn’t envy them, she just wants a career like theirs. Jo said a similar thing, citing writers she admires and whose careers she’d like to follow.

Kaaron was a little more honest in her use of the word envy, but it boiled down to the same thing. An admiration of people who have got to a position she’d like to see herself in and a desire to get there too. In this instance, that’s not envy as a destructive emotion, but as a rallying call. Perhaps Angela summed it up best with this:

”I don’t envy anyone – what good would that do me? Envy is a wasteful emotion based in insecurity – yes, that’s a life lesson, not just a writing lesson. Comparing yourself to other people is destructive and a waste of time. When you look at successful writers, you need to remember that they had to do the hard yards before they were successful – there are no easy rides in this business. Everyone suffered rejections of novels they’d lavished attention on; everyone has had to do jobs they’ve hated just to make ends meet; but every successful writer has kept on writing. That’s the secret: keep writing, keep learning, keep improving.

By all means look at successful writers and learn from them – that’s what they’re there for, to act as models of ‘here’s one we prepared earlier’, rather than ‘oh, I wish I was [insert name here], I’ll never be as good as her/him, wah-wah-wah!’

Never stop learning – at no point in your career should you think ‘I know it all – no one can tell me anything!’ There’s always something new to learn or something to re-learn that you’ve started taking for granted and kind of forgotten.

So, envy no one, learn from everyone.”

So really, there are three primary things that we can take away from all of this:

1. Everyone struggles with self-doubt and is always concerned that they’re not good enough. It’s a natural and valuable thing, because it means we will always strive to be better.

2. We all want more from our careers – we want better publications, more readers, more money from writing so that writing is all we have to do and other jobs don’t distract us from our passion. And it’s good to desire those things.

3. There’s no point wasting our time envying others. Their success is proof of the possibility of our own success and we can learn from them and strive to have careers like them. There’s no reason we can’t have success like theirs if we accept but rise above the self-doubt and always work at learning and improving.

Beyond anything else, the simple truth is always the same. Keep writing. Regardless of doubt, fear, setbacks, the success of others or anything else, the successful writers are the ones who keep writing. Keep learning, keep striving to be better, keep putting your arse in that chair and your fingers on those keys and keep writing.

If the answers above tell us anything, it’s that there’s never an end to the process. We’ll never be happy with where we are and we’ll always strive for more. That’s what it is to be a writer. If you haven’t got that, you have to ask yourself – how much do you really want it?

Keep writing.

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The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 6 – Margo Lanagan

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April 10, 2013

Time for the last in my series of “Ongoing Angst” guest posts. Last week we heard from Kaaron Warren, Jo Anderton and Angela Slatter. This week we’ve had Lisa L Hannett and Trudi Canavan. Today Margo Lanagan will be the last of the guest posts and tomorrow I’ll try to collate all the answers into one post with all the links. Answers to what, you ask?

Well, it’s award season at the moment and lots of very deserving people are having their wonderful work recognised with nominations and wins of some of Australia’s (and the world’s) most prestigious prizes. But something I’ve noticed a lot is that no matter how successful a writer may be (in terms of publications, awards or anything else), they always worry that they’re not good enough, or that there are career heights they’ve yet to scale. It’s been said many times that the day you stop worrying about whether or not you’re good enough is the day you’ve lost your passion. So I thought to myself, there are some amazingly talented, successful and well-rewarded writers in Australia who probably feel this way too. And if you’re a writer of any level, be it newly emerging or well-established, it’s always good to hear that stuff. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not alone in your insecurities. I certainly like to know that it’s not just me who lies awake at night, terrified that tomorrow everyone will realise I’m a hack!

So I’ve asked these wonderful and tremendously successful writers (who are also people I’m lucky enough to call my friends) to answer three simple questions. The links above are to the previous kind respondents, below you’ll find a post from Margo. Seriously, between them these writers have nominations or wins in just about every genre writing award you can think of, not to mention heaps of amazing publications, all of which you should check out if you haven’t already.

Margo Lanagan head shot The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 6 – Margo Lanagan

Photo by Steven Dunbar

So here’s the last of those posts from Margo Lanagan. Margo writes fiction. Her latest novel is Sea Hearts, published by Allen & Unwin in Australia—this novel is published as The Brides of Rollrock Island by David Fickling Books and Jonathan Cape in the UK, and by Knopf in the US, and will soon come out as Seeherzen from Rowohlt in Germany. She’s also written Tender Morsels and five short story collections: White Time, Black Juice, Red Spikes, Yellowcake and Cracklescape. I think it’s fair to say that Margo has been nominated and/or won just about every award going, and not just genre awards, but bigger literary prizes too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but she might be Australia’s most awarded writer.

1. What do you still fear as a writer, when it comes to putting your work out there? What fills you with doubt and angst?

I don’t fear it, exactly, but I find a stacks-on-the-mill response like this hard to confront. This little clump of reviews (it’s a whole book-club of associated reviews; this is just one of the set that came in, bam-bam-bam over several days) made me decide to switch off Google Alerts. I don’t have an issue with people recording what they think, even if it’s hostile, but there’s a certain critical mass of sneering and snarking that I discovered it’s not healthy for me to absorb.

I think this is because those voices feed directly into, and reinforce, that other voice inside me that’s ready to tear me down and call me a fraud, at low moments. It’s almost exactly the tone that my inner editor at her most destructive uses. She’s not helpful; she doesn’t get the next story written. Down, madam! Enough of you! *hunts around for inner rave reviewer*

2. What career markers do you still strive for? What heights are you determined to scale?

What I would like is to have more choices. I would like my day job to be work that I was doing for interest’s sake, and story-material’s sake, rather than because the driest, dullest kind of writing (tech writing) pays the best.

I mean, I’m greedy; I could live in a caravan on a friend’s bush block to get by on book earnings, but I don’t want to have to. I want to pay off my mortgage early and to Have Nice Things, up to a certain point. (I make about half a decent middle-class living from writing stories – and that’s pretty darn good in terms of the general run of Australian writers. I can’t legitimately complain, or not very loudly. I know I’m lucky.)

Sea Hearts The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 6 – Margo LanaganBut that’s more avoidance of the depths than scaling of the heights. In terms of what I’d like to achieve, well, Cat Sparks once told me that she thought I’d peaked with Tender Morsels (she didn’t put it so bluntly; I think she said more that TM was my Big Significant Novel, and she couldn’t imagine my hitting such highs again). But the idea that everything else might be a trailing-off after that filled me with horror. [I think the success of Sea Hearts has proven Cat Sparks well and truly wrong! - Alan] I guess I hope that I’ll just get better and better until death stops me. And by better I don’t necessarily mean wealthier or more heavily loaded with prizes. That would be nice, but it’s not the main thing. I just want my stories’ explorations to be deeper and truer and more intelligent, and to hear, occasionally, that they do useful work inside their readers.

3. Whose career do you envy? Why?

Oh, look, anyone who’s had (and earned out) a seven-figure-or-more advance, or freakishly big sales, gives me a bit of a pang, simply because they can buy the slabs of time that make the efficient production of regular novels possible. They can focus, you know? They don’t have to always be fighting their way towards the writing; they can just pay the world to go away.

There’s a part of me that knows that it’s all good – any money flowing towards any writer is good for us all. There’s a part of me that’s happy enough knowing that my chances of getting an unexpected payment (sometimes a sizable one) in the mail/Paypal account are vastly greater than most wage-earners’. There’s a part of me that knows my own worth as a writer and can see how it sometimes meshes and sometimes doesn’t with public taste, and is quite philosophical about that. But sometimes I just get a bit tired of all the juggling, and I want life to be simpler.

Find Margo online at http://amongamidwhile.blogspot.com.au/ and on Twitter @margolanagan

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The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 5 – Trudi Canavan

By
1
April 9, 2013

Time for the next in my series of “Ongoing Angst” guest posts. Last week we heard from Kaaron Warren, Jo Anderton and Angela Slatter. Yesterday it was Lisa L Hannett and today is Trudi Canavan. Margo Lanagan will be the last of the guest posts tomorrow. So what’s it all about?

Well, it’s award season at the moment and lots of very deserving people are having their wonderful work recognised with nominations and wins of some of Australia’s (and the world’s) most prestigious prizes. But something I’ve noticed a lot is that no matter how successful a writer may be (in terms of publications, awards or anything else), they always worry that they’re not good enough, or that there are career heights they’ve yet to scale. It’s been said many times that the day you stop worrying about whether or not you’re good enough is the day you’ve lost your passion. So I thought to myself, there are some amazingly talented, successful and well-rewarded writers in Australia who probably feel this way too. And if you’re a writer of any level, be it newly emerging or well-established, it’s always good to hear that stuff. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not alone in your insecurities. I certainly like to know that it’s not just me who lies awake at night, terrified that tomorrow everyone will realise I’m a hack!

So I’ve asked these wonderful and tremendously successful writers (who are also people I’m lucky enough to call my friends) to answer three simple questions. The links above are to the previous kind respondents, below you’ll find Trudi’s and tomorrow I’ll post from Margo. Seriously, between them these writers have nominations or wins in just about every genre writing award you can think of, not to mention heaps of amazing publications, all of which you should check out if you haven’t already.

CanavanTrudi The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 5 – Trudi CanavanToday, it’s Trudi Canavan’s turn. Trudi was born in Kew, Melbourne and grew up in Ferntree Gully, a suburb at the foothills of the Dandenongs. In 1999 she won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story with “Whispers of the Mist Children”. In the same year she was granted a writers residency at Varuna Writers’ Centre in Katoomba, New South Wales. In November 2001, The Magicians’ Guild was first published in Australia. The second book of the trilogy, The Novice, was published in June 2002 and was nominated for the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel. The third book, The High Lord, was released in January 2003 and was nominated for the Best Novel Ditmar category. All three books entered Australian top ten SF bestseller lists. The Black Magician Trilogy reached the international market in 2004, published by HarperCollins’ EOS imprint in North America and Orbit Books in the UK. The trilogy is now rated by Nielsen BookScan as the most successful debut fantasy series of the last 10 years.

Trudi’s second trilogy, Age of the Five, has also enjoyed bestselling success. Priestess of the White reached No.3 in the Sunday Times hardback fiction bestseller list, staying in the top ten for six weeks.

In early 2006 Trudi signed a seven-figure contract with Orbit to write the prequel and sequel to the Black Magician Trilogy. The prequel, The Magician’s Apprentice was released in 2009 and won the Best Fantasy Novel category of the Aurealis Awards. The sequel trilogy has enjoyed great success on the bestseller lists and The Rogue reached no. 11 in the Fantasy category of the Goodreads Best Books of 2011 Awards.

1. What do you still fear as a writer, when it comes to putting your work out there? What fills you with doubt and angst?

I reckon fear is too strong a word. I worry more than I fear. It’s not that I don’t have that feeling, sometimes, that one day I’ll discover that every person who liked and bought my books was just being polite, but I can laugh it off. I guess I had low expectations at the beginning, so it’s a bonus when they do buy and like them. From the moment I started to write I educated myself on the pros and cons of the industry. If I didn’t enjoy writing I would have chosen a career with a more stable income. That I do make a good living from writing is, again, a bonus. While not as full of ups and downs as, say, a musician’s career, a writer’s career can go from bestseller to contractless and back again. I’ve always kept this in mind, tried to enjoy the good times and not take the bad to heart.

I think what I fear most is that my sense of identity has become so wrapped up this that if I couldn’t write any more, whether because of my health or upheavals in publishing or whatever else might come along, I’d feel lost and without purpose. But even then I know I’d find something else to do – most likely go back to art as a source of creative challenge and satisfaction.

ambassador cover small The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 5 – Trudi Canavan2. What career markers do you still strive for? What heights are you determined to scale?

I’d like to do better in the US market. Mostly because the big difference between sales there and everywhere else seems odd. Are there readers there who would enjoy my work but aren’t hearing about it? Or is there a cultural difference that means US tastes aren’t as compatible? A movie deal would be nice, so would awards, but they’re not things I’m striving toward. If they happen… bonus!

3. Whose career do you envy? Why?

Envy is is pointless. I can’t think of anyone I envy. I’ve always been excited when someone has succeeded at doing something I want to do, as that proves it’s possible. Even more so the few times I didn’t think their work was that good! Maybe I’ll never achieve the same thing they did, but so long as I have fun trying then I don’t mind. Also, I can think of plenty of people I admire for being able to do things I could never do. No, wait, that’s most people! I want to surround myself with amazing people and watch them make the world a more interesting place. And they can be a great source of inspiration, advice and support in return.

Find Trudi online at http://www.trudicanavan.com/ or on Twitter @TrudiCanavan

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The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 4 – Lisa L Hannett

By
0
April 8, 2013

It’s time to continue this series of “Ongoing Angst” guest posts. Last week we heard from Kaaron Warren, Jo Anderton and Angela Slatter. This week we’ll hear from Lisa L Hannett, Trudi Canavan and Margo Lanagan. So what’s it all about?

Well, it’s award season at the moment and lots of very deserving people are having their wonderful work recognised with nominations and wins of some of Australia’s (and the world’s) most prestigious prizes. But something I’ve noticed a lot is that no matter how successful a writer may be (in terms of publications, awards or anything else), they always worry that they’re not good enough, or that there are career heights they’ve yet to scale. It’s been said many times that the day you stop worrying about whether or not you’re good enough is the day you’ve lost your passion. So I thought to myself, there are some amazingly talented, successful and well-rewarded writers in Australia who probably feel this way too. And if you’re a writer of any level, be it newly emerging or well-established, it’s always good to hear that stuff. It’s good to be reminded that you’re not alone in your insecurities. I certainly like to know that it’s not just me who lies awake at night, terrified that tomorrow everyone will realise I’m a hack!

So I’ve asked these wonderful and tremendously successful writers (who are also people I’m lucky enough to call my friends) to answer three simple questions. The links above are to last week’s kind respondents, below you’ll find Lisa’s and tomorrow and Wednesday I’ll post from Trudi and Margo. Seriously, between them these writers have nominations or wins in just about every genre writing award you can think of, not to mention heaps of amazing publications, all of which you should check out if you haven’t already.

lisa l hannett 179x300 The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 4 – Lisa L HannettToday, It’s Lisa L Hannett’s turn. Lisa hails from Ottawa, Canada but now lives in Adelaide, South Australia – city of churches, bizarre murders and pie floaters. She has published or sold 50 short stories to venues such as Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy, Weird Tales, ChiZine, Shimmer, the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (2010 & 2011), and Imaginarium 2012: Best Canadian Speculative Writing. Lisa has won three Aurealis Awards, including Best Collection 2011 for her first book, Bluegrass Symphony, which was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Midnight and Moonshine, co-authored with Angela Slatter, was published in 2012, and is also up for a slew of awards this year.

1. What do you still fear as a writer, when it comes to putting your work out there? What fills you with doubt and angst?

I’m pretty sure it was Keats who, before dying, requested a tombstone with this engraved on it: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water…” Although it’s a bit dramatic, a bit emo, I’ve often thought about this line whenever I’m feeling a bit angsty about my writing. It’s a combination of not wanting what you’ve written to evaporate into the ether soon after it’s published — not necessarily because it’s terrible, but because there’s just so much ether and so much literary condensation… It’s also the fear of being as bland as water. Writing stories that aren’t bad, per se; they just don’t rise above the level of fine. This worry — looking at your work and thinking it’s only fine — is what I think Keats’ epitaph is really about. It’s that niggling doubt that you’re not necessarily crap, but that what you’re writing isn’t adding anything exciting to the mix. That it’s just mediocre. That it’s not just forgotten, but forgettable. Now that’s scary.

Having said that, the thought of actually living with this sort of uncertainty for long is too depressing to contemplate — not to mention totally unproductive! — so I deal with it in several ways. Write, write, write. Take a break if I need one. Shut that internal editor up however I can. Then, keep writing. Try new things — in terms of style, structure, characterisation, subject matter, perspective — whatever I need to break out of the rut. Get a second (or third or fourth), trusted opinion on my work — having a fresh set of eyes on the story is so helpful! And, most importantly, always write the ideas I love. That’s what keeps me going: really loving it, even when it’s hard.

bluegrass 215x300 The Ongoing Angst of Successful Writers 4 – Lisa L Hannett2. What career markers do you still strive for? What heights are you determined to scale?

I’m striving to have a shelf — or several shelves — in my study, full of novels and collections I’ve written, in an assortment of genres, published in various editions, and translated into many languages. I’ll never abandon short stories, and I’ll always aim for the most excellent markets for each one I write, but I’m really keen to have my longer works out there. This includes finishing my next book, Lament for the Afterlife, then working on a Most Exciting Novel that draws on my PhD research in medieval Icelandic literature (and which I cannot wait to get stuck into!) and also redrafting The Familiar, my novel about witches and lunatics, which is the first book in the Walpurgis Cycle.

3. Whose career do you envy? Why?

It’s only natural to have a pang of oh-I-wish-that-was-me! when a new writer skyrockets to stardom apparently out of nowhere — but it’s not actual envy. I wish I could already live off my writing, but I don’t begrudge people who do so even though I haven’t quite made it to that stage yet. I respect and admire a lot of authors — and I’d like to emulate their careers, I suppose, but I don’t envy them. Authors like Margaret Atwood, for instance, who has been publishing for decades and whose novels and stories are still so brilliant — as are her essays, reviews, and poems… Or Haruki Murakami, who isn’t massively prolific (compared to writers like Sean Williams, for instance, who is also a superstar) and whose works are definitely not writ in water… Or Ray Bradbury, who just kept writing and writing and writing… If anything, I envy authors of the past like Virginia Woolf (apart from the whole rocks-in-pockets episode in the river) and J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis who, in my Romantic and idealised versions of them, got to smoke pipes and wear lovely tweed suits and sit around in Bloomsbury and Oxford all day, waxing poetic about writing and history and art, publishing lovely editions in small print runs, somehow paying the bills with their Genius.

You can find Lisa online at http://lisahannett.com and on Twitter @LisaLHannett

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The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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