CONFLUX 13 – Grimm Tales

It’s on again. Conflux 13, Grimm Tales, will be held at the Vibe Hotel, Canberra Airport from 29 September to 2 October 2017.

Our two Guests of Honour are 2017 Hugo Award Winner for Best Editor short form, Ellen Datlow, and Australia’s most excellent urban fantasy author, Angela Slatter. It would be difficult to top that off yet Conflux is proud to have one of Australia’s premier horror writers, Kaaron Warren, who will be Master of Ceremonies.

For all the details and the full program, visit https://conflux.org.au/ and if you can, come join us for a great long-weekend with like-minded people who enjoy speculative fiction.

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Secret Society of Words – Alien Zoo

Last Friday our writing group, the evening group of the Eurobodalla Writers, the Secret Society of Words, published the efforts of our NaNoWriMo from last November.  It’s called ‘Alien Zoo’.

Final Cover Alien Zoo

My co-editor, Debbie Richardson, and I came up with the premise while having a few wines during last October’s Conflux Conference in Canberra. What if all the magical creatures on Earth were kidnapped by aliens who kept them in a Zoo? And what would happen if a few of them were able to get together and work out a way to escape?

So we gave each of our members the opportunity to pick a magical creature of their own creation, make them shape-shifters and let them tell the story about who they were and how they became part of the plot.

What we got were human/sloths, Tinkerbelle’s that looked like Smurfs, dragons, witch/fairies, multiple personalities and water nymphs.  Debbie and I wrote the connecting stories – the two zookeepers Yolaxsis and Zirth; bad and good cop with backstories. We then provided comment and edits to the authors. Voila! our 64 page novella!  Debbie did a wonderful job on the cover (above).

Of course this wasn’t SSOWs first effort.  In 2014 we got together and wrote ‘The Seven Little Goatlings’; a retelling of the Grimm’s story. One of our authors, who is of German heritage, didn’t like the sound of ‘kids’ for little goats and she kept calling them goatlings, so we went with that. It was fun and the story got good reviews from family and friends. We were chuffed and decided to give it another go. With, what we feel, is great success. Our first print run of ‘Zoo’ is already sold out.

It was my second attempt at editing and I have to thank several of the authors, and especially Debbie, for their eagle-eyed assistance. I’m great at story and character but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of grammar, Suzanne Newnham was fantastic as was Louise Falcioni. Added to that, Louise went to the printers at Moruya and got us a great deal on a quality print run.

I now understand why authors always have so many people to thank in the ‘Acknowledgements’. This type of enterprise is truly never a lone exercise. The writing may be, but then it takes a village to get it to the printed page if you want it to be a good read.

The next big thing is to get it onto Smashwords to see if others like what we did. We figure we can get some feedback for $1.99 that will help us all become better writers, editors and…. publishers. However, that may take another month or so trying to fit it in between part-time work and the pull of life in general.

So from a happy new editor, au revoir.

Hmmm… I wonder what this year’s Conflux will engender? The theme is Red Fire Monkey. November 30 to October 3 at the Novotel in Canberra. Come along and see what happens. Click on Conflux for details.

Christmas Reading

For those of you interested in low cost or free books, check out Fablecroft Publishing on Facebook.

For those interested in more about Anne McCaffrey and Pern, check out their site. (click here).

It’s been a busy time with getting all the stories together for our writers group end of year project – The Zoo. Imagine being a human shafeshifter and having been kidnapped by an alien race for their zoo. And now there is a hope of escape. Will be out on Amazon in the first quarter of 2016.

For those in the Christian world, Merry Christmas. For those in other places with other beliefs, have a wonderful end of year with family and friends.

Happy Holidays

Writer Conferences and the Aftermath

It’s been six days since Conflux 11 finished and it’s funny the ‘down’ you get after such an event.  Over the next few weeks and months there are several more writer conferences in Australia including the Sydney Writers Freecon 6-8 Nov, GenreCon 30 Oct to 1 Nov, SuperNova 24-29 Nov to name just a few.  For the full listing see Events at http://www.cannedgeek.com.

As a writer it is very tempting to go to more of these conferences just for being amongst those who think and have fun like you do.  However, the cost, particularly of travel, can be prohibitive.  But it’s oh so tempting.  It’s a pity that those I really want to go to, those named above, are all so close together.  I guess it will take some planning but GenreCon or SuperNova for 2016 might be on the cards for me.

creativity word cloud on blackboard

creativity word cloud on blackboard

The other thing that these Cons engender is renewed energy to write. Several of my friends who attended are also writing madly at the moment. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I can see several great stories coming out of Conflux alone.

Even I have been working on what started out as a short story and is turning into a Novella. The writing mojo seems to be revved up and running and that makes me happy.  Added to that I have a few weeks where there are no visitors to Chez Sheely and no part-time work at the moment so plenty of time to get the fingers flying over the keyboard.

It’s Sunday but I decided after several weeks of neglect, the housework needed doing. As I cleaned toilets, bathrooms and laundry, dusted and wiped down cupboards etc I got a great idea for progressing my novella – adding in an additional plot line to make one part of the story much more interesting.

So I get creative ideas while doing housework. Hmmm.  That could end up with an overly clean house if I keep it up *chuckle*.  But I don’t think my husband would mind much. ht_apple_wireless_keyboard_ll_120716_wbOther writers I spoke to over the previous weekend used showers, swims and running to get the mind woken up and plotting. Seems just sitting at the keyboard can be detrimental to creativity.

And then there is the plotting – to plot or not to plot – that is the question (to hijack Shakespeare). Most writers agree that you need to know where your story is heading or ending to write.  I couldn’t disagree with that.  But how to get from beginning to end seems to be what suits each writer.  Some undertake detailed plotting with each chapter and scene dealt with before writing starts.  Others undertake a synopsis that provides the overall direction Plottingof the plot but leaves the freedom to move as the characters develop – updating the synopsis as you go.  I may add, that’s probably what I do and thanks to Marisol Dunham, writing as M.A. Dunham, who did a great workshop on that at Conflux.  Then there are those who simply sit down and let it happen.

All through the past ten years as I’ve been learning the craft of writing, there have been a lot of times when the advise is that you must plot. That’s great advice.  But it seems overall, that it is really each individual writer’s own process that needs to be developed.  You take in all the advice, structure, world-building, character development and so on, and then incorporate it into the way you, as a writer, work best.

So in general it is very much worth going to Cons and workshops and listening and learning from experienced and published authors, editors and publishers. The more you hear and take in, the more you begin to work out your own process. Advice is good, practice and writing and getting out there with your stories at critique groups. writers groups and submissions, is even better.

To me, writers conferences have two influences; the first is learning about other people’s processes and working out your own and the second, and to me the most important, is the energy to keep going and get creative.

 

Conflux 11 – Writers and Fans

Conflux is over for another year.  For the past eleven years the science and speculative fiction writers and fans conference has been held over the October long weekend in Canberra, in the Australian Capital Territory.  It is a conference run by writers of speculative fiction with panels, workshops and activities that both assist writers and provide fun for fans.  It provides an opportunity to meet well-known and respected writers and spend time with them.

This year Isobelle Carmody was guest of honour.21716189560_5cd0c8f435_o  Prolific author of fantasy fiction, she generously gave her time while in the process of completing her latest book, the Red Queen, the final of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, on a very, very tight deadline – the launch is expected in early November.  Between launching books, participating in panels and kaffeeklatches (coffee meetings), she took the time to mingle with attendees and chat. She spent time signing copies of her graphic novel ‘Evermore’ which she produced with graphic artist Daniel Reed.

The Mistress of Ceremonies for the four day event was Laura E Goodin, poet, playwright and short-story 21892265602_6ecdfc8a97_oauthor, Laura had the attendees in stitches as her introductions and announcements were constantly interrupted by urgent mobile phone calls from her home with questions about zombie apocalypses, imminent danger of death and starvation and all from her scotch loving cat.  She also wrote and hosted the Conflux Radio Play performed by several of the Conflux panellists and authors. The audience loved it.21951008176_9030441ee0_o Radio-Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another well-know attendee was Sean Williams, author of over 100 short stories and 42 novels with several Aurealis Awards and a Ditmar Award to his name.

Several books were launched:

Striking-Fire-cover-1 The first was “Striking Fire” by Dirk Flinthart, published by Fablecroft Press.  Followed by 

“Hero” by Belinda Crawford, published by Odyssey Books,

The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2014,  andBloodlines-web Bloodlines , published by Ticonderoga Publications,

“The Floating City” by Craig Cormick, published by Angry Robot

“The Time of the Ghosts” by Gillian Polack, published by Satalyte,  

Fanzine, “The Vortex” edited by Tara Ott and Maddy Piggott which can be found on Etsy and

The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild’s latest anthology, Never Never Land.

The art show E Harvey Award went to Shauna O’Meara for the cover of Never Never Land and was richly deserved.

theneverneverland

Cabinet_of_Oddities_flier_smallerFor writers there were pitching sessions that allowed authors to take their novels to a publisher to see if they were interested in their stories.  For fans there was entertainment like the ‘Cabinet of Oddities’ and the Banquet with entertainment by Meri Amber, self-styled ‘geek’ pop-singer, song writer whose delightful voice and wonderful songs had the audience clapping and singing.  I recommend going to her website and sampling her music.MeriAmber

 

 

 

 

This was my 6th Conflux event.  Every one I’ve attended is fabulous and the workshops and events, as a writer, are invaluable for improving my knowledge and skill as a writer. So much so that I was able to pitch my novel this year.  Whether it will be taken up is another matter, but just the knowledge that I’ve finished it and a publisher liked the premise of the story is a whole deal for me.  Fingers crossed it’s good enough to be worked on and published.  But if not, it was a learning experience I would not forgo.

Also being with fellow writers and fans who love genre fiction is, in and of itself, worthwhile.  For four whole days I was with people who ‘got it’ – who thought the strange thoughts I did, and talked in stories and about stories and had fun with stories.

So Conflux 11 is over for 2015 but now the planning begins for Conflux 12 – Red Fire Monkey. If you’re a writer or fan of speculative fiction, set aside 30 September to 3 October 2016 and come and join in the fun. Put it in your diary.

I am delighted to thank Cat Sparks for the wonderful photo’s. Her coverage, as in past years, was terrific.

 

Reading, Writing and Research

A post from a writing friend Leife Shallcross, got me thinking about what I read, how I get ideas, what I write as a result and what research I do. Added to that, another writing friend, Donna Maree Hanson blogged about her writing drought and how she got going using writing ‘dates’ – meeting with fellow writers for the purpose of writing.

This past weekend I got going on a shortish story when Donna and Marisol Dunham came to stay for the weekend. Donna actually got around 13,000 words written, Marisol wrote 2000 words but got around a sticky situation with her plot by re-writing bits and planning out a new plot direction to overcome the issue.  I slowly and thoughtfully wrote about 4,500 words of the new story. It was fun, productive and the wine with dinner on Saturday night followed by a game, made it a great weekend.

I’m still learning the craft of writing. I’m told it’s a lifelong enterprise. But what I love about reading is that I now read differently. Yes, the characters and story are still most important, but I now look at what is good about the what I’m reading. Do the words flow? Are the characters well written? If I love them, why? How is the story structured that makes me keep turning pages and going on to the next chapter?

I see from my favourite books that I like a fast paced book that tells me about the character’s background in bits and pieces throughout the story. I like good dialogue and I realise that writers who really love and know their characters, despite what they do the poor buggers throughout a book, get me to like them too. I keep that in mind now when I’m writing. Not that I let my internal editor slow down things too much, but I do write more slowly to ensure some of my writing ‘ticks’ don’t show up. Things like word repetition. It seems I love ‘small’ a lot.  Or slipping into ‘to be’ verbs rather than active verbs.

Our critiquing group has a lot to do with improvement in writing too. It’s hard sometime to hear that something you really thought was good has some hiccups that need fixing but it’s really worthwhile sitting through the pain to get the gain.

And then there are the other writers. One thing I have found is that writers in general are very, very generous with their time and are fun company. Even well-known writers like Isabelle Carmody or Russell Fitzpatrick or Kaaron Warren are happy to come to writing workshops and conventions to talk to apprentice writers.

So I read all the works of writer friends who are published, and that is delightful. Most fun reads recently included ‘Shatterwing’ by Donna Maree Hanson, ‘A difficult second album’ by Simon Petrie, Tehani Wesseley’s anthology ‘Phantazien’ and Alan Baxter’s ‘Bound’.

Then there is the research.  When I’m writing, like this past weekend, and especially when I’m doing a science fiction story, I need to make sure that what I’m writing doesn’t hit a nerve with science that is wrong and/or impossible [although sometimes skipping explanations entirely is useful]. These days we are so lucky to have the internet. A quick read on Wikipedia and follow the links to the scientific paper and journals. Then, before sending it out, a favour asked of knowledgable writer friends and, voila, something reasonably good from that point of view.

I also read many more blogs than I used to. There is so much good and/or fun information out there just for a little time at the keyboard. Between blogs and Facebook writer groups, it does get a little hectic keeping up.

Finally, it seems I also need to stop putting two spaces after every full stop. Apparently it’s old hat, old school, no longer acceptable. But after more than 40 years of ten finger typing, it’s a hard habit to break {hmmm… good title for a song}. But going back and deleting or find/replace is also annoying. Guess I’ll have to change that too.

Having spent time with doing this, I now have to go back to the PowerPoint and notes I’m preparing for a workshop next month. This was decidedly more fun though.

 

Conflux 10, NaNoWriMo, Life and Me

A little distance is often a good thing.  I attended Conflux 10 in Canberra on the October long weekend.  This is the fifth time I have attended the conference and each time I’ve come away happy, tired an9837-Conflux-10-Logod a little overwhelmed by the friendships I’ve begun and being included in the network of wonderful writers – both well-know published authors and those, like me, just learning the craft. Added to all this, I was joined by two writer friends from the Eurobodalla Writers and we shared a wondrous weekend, cementing friendship, laughing and learning.

On Friday I attended an all-day workshop run by Russell Kirkpatrick and Nicole Murphy on writing opening chapters that catch the reader, summaries of novels and letters to publishers to catch their attention.  All very important skills and a great workshop.  That night we dressed up and attended the Hogwarts’ Pyjama party and, along with some fun games and laughs, had far too much sugar just before bed.  Saturday consisted of an interview with Margo Lanagan, the launch of several books including Simon Petrie‘s ‘Difficult Second Album’ and a horror short story competition suitably won by Shauna O’Meara.  Her story of a WWI pet rat on a battlefield was both charming and horrible.  Margo Lanagan came in a close second with a Halloween story.  After that we attended the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with music, food, talking, a bit of dancing and, not least, the dressing up.  My friend Marisol Dunham won the price for best costume and thoroughly deserved it.  The best cosplay group was Tim Napper, his gorgeous wife and son, dressed in Deep Space 9 uniforms.  Very, very nice.  Sunday, a few more book launches including Donna Maree Hanson‘s ‘Shatterwing’ and Gillian Polack’s ‘Lang (dot) doc’.  Then the ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ banquet to finish off the day.

Highlights included a kaffeklatch with Isobelle Carmody and a beer meeting with Kaaron Warren.  Learned so much including that writers are normal people with some weird brains that I totally relate to.  I just hope I can someday become 1/10th as good as these ladies.

At the same time as all of this is going on, I’m completing a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Thoroughly enjoying the course facilitated at Wisdom Learning by a fantastic teacher in Erin Riley.  Lots of work involved and I’m doing it so that next year I can facilitate a Diploma Course in Project Management for Wisdom.

Prior to all this there was a wonderful week of babysitting my grandson Elliott and a visit to his cousin Ashlyn in Newcastle.  It certainly tested our resources but we did have fun with the grandkids.  They grow up so fast it’s hard to keep up.

The Tuesday after the return from Conflux the evening chapter of the Eurobodalla Writers met and we decided on our story for National November Writers Month – each of us doing a chapter.  The planning went very well and we are hoping to get it together in a book for our families.

I’ve finally got some time to get back to some knitting and writing and the weather is warming up so regular swims in the pool are a definite benefit of being home.  I can now take a deep breath before the onslaught of the Christmas silly season.  It’s silly because we end up running about like silly people to Canberra, Newcastle and even Sydney.  And then the family comes to us for a few days – which I love.  So I’m also looking forward to it even as I know by January I will be well and truly over it.

I didn’t quite get to all the New Year resolutions I made this year but I got to the most important ones – get fit, keep up with the grandchildren, learn some more about writing and writing itself.  I finished my novel but now am in editing mode and it’s going slowly.  However, it is going so that’s good.

I’m a contented Cat, YAY!

low key

 

Lifelong Learning

If there is one thing I love is finding out new information whether it be scientific, humanitarian, political or just fun.  Thus research for my stories is quite a bit of the fun of writing. But currently I’m doing a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.  It’s one of those things that I need to do if I’m going to provide training in Project Management. Yes, I’m officially going to undertake training with a ????????????delightful organisation called Wisdom Learning.  And boy, am I learning.  Not so much an issue of content but how to go about training in the current environment, how to assess that training and, as from this week, how to design proper training programs.

I thought it would be a slog but it’s fun.  And BTW, my mother is currently rolling around in her grave in frustration. She’s muttering ‘I wish you’d realised you were a good student when you were 10’ over and over again.  My response to my beloved but long departed mother is that the schooling in Australia when I was 10 was abysmal. The teacher, OK the Nun, stood in the front of the class and talked, scratched on the blackboard and talked some more, THEN, had the hide to give you a mountain of homework.  Like I was going to do that! And of course, there was the ruler… and my hand still bares the scars, as do the back of my knees from the cane end of the feather duster.  All of this was in primary school.

allgirlsclassbigLuckily, high school was better.  I had some great teachers.  Mrs Stanger (in yellow in the link) taught History and English and she was brilliant… she was a storyteller and that was utterly compelling.  And I did really well in her class: I even did my homework for her.

After school I went to business college and learned shorthand and typing.  The latter has been a beneficial lifelong skill – roughly 100 words per minute when I’m copy typing.  Shorthand went by the wayside very quickly. I tended to persuade my bosses that sitting in front of them taking shorthand was wasting their time and mine,  a dictaphone was a better option – we could both work and get more done.  Phew!  I never could read all my squiggles back anyway, and relied on short-term memory for some of it.

Two years into the workforce and I’d had enough.  I joined the Woman’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) and became a Medic.  I topped the class because I loved what I was doing.  Got promoted veryCatharina age 19 - Version 2 quickly and ended up a Petty Officer after just over 4 years.  Then I had the hide to get married and I had to leave the Navy.  The marriage ban was lifted some years before but there was absolutely no guarantee you would be posted with you partner.  It was bad enough that he would be away sailing the 7 seas, but being in another city when he was in Australia didn’t appeal, so I left.

When you leave the services they do provide additional training so I refreshed my shorthand and added bookkeeping.  Again, dropped the first but bookkeeping has been another lifelong skills that  stood me in good stead in my working and private life.  Got great marks because I loved it.

We ended up in Canberra 6 months after the wedding when hubby paid off from the Navy.  Yes, of course I married a sailor. What else would you expect?

I finally got into the Australian Public Service, after building a house and having two kids when hubby also left the Service, and found I hated the low-level I was working at i.e. lousy pay with heaps of responsibility (my boss had me and three other staff, I had 24 secretaries and 12 people in the typing pool to look after as a Typist Controller – and all the other bosses to deal with when their secretaries/PA’s were sick, did the wrong thing, were unhappy etc – shitty job). So it was suggested I go to uni.  And then of course there was the delightful Mr Whitlam who had made uni free.  So I went. And I did well.  And yes, I loved it.

After my undergrad, I managed two post-grads and an advanced diploma among other things like OHS, law and IT courses.

project-management2And now, after nearly 25 years of being a Project Manager and Director, I get to go back to learn how to train people.

Both in my Psych Degree, various Train-the-Trainer courses and this Cert IV, it is very clear that people have to invest in their learning to get anything out of it.  Well, DUH! I guess I learned that all by myself over the years.  If you like/love what you are learning it’s easy… even when it’s hard (like assignments and research and writing papers on boring stuff).

But knowing this and then being able to develop training that people want to do, have an interest in, get something out of… that’s now my challenge.

I will say that my current trainer, Erin Riley, is one of the most dynamic and motivating people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be educated by.  I’m taking lots of notes and if I can come halfway to being like her, then I might just make a success of it.

Guess by now it’s clear that I also love a challenge.  Fingers crossed I can meet this one and haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.  OK, probably have but I will just chow down and keep chewing till I get it.

Truth is, I hope I can keep learning new stuff until the day my number is up.  And then I might still learn something… what, if anything, comes after.

Cool huh.

146797

 

It’s Done! And more as well.

So I’ve blogged about procrastination and wanting to finish my novel.  Well… I did it!  It’s finished.  77, 984 words.

146797

OK, the writing is finished.  Now comes the editing.  And believe it or not, I’ve already started that.  I think I mentioned I went to a great workshop with Ian McHugh on editing and I’m trying really hard to follow the guidelines.  Read and fix structure, then check characters and only then worry about the line edits.  So I’m reading from scratch.

But I keep wanting to pick up line edits and stuff.  It’s taking quite a bit of concentration and putting data into a spreadsheet as I do it, to ensure I’m sticking to the plan.  After all, this is the first book I’ve edited and it’s much more complex than a short story.  For one, there are many more characters and for another, it takes place in multiple locations.  Have I got all the elements I need? Are all the story elements covered and resolved? Is it logical in terms of the storyline?

So far, after 2 chapters, it’s OK but that, I think, is the easy bit.  It will take a bit of work before I can go on to making sure the characters are as rounded as they need to be and have their own voices.  Actually, that latter bit worries me but maybe I’m OK.  We’ll see.

On top of that I’ve been searching for a topic/theme/storyline for the next CSfG anthology ‘Never, Never Land’.  I don’t think I’m much good at Mad Max stuff and apocalyptic themes are a bit overdone for me.  So, horror, scifi, fantasy or what?  No answers for that here but I think I might have something that I can work with.  Finger’s crossed.

All in all, I’ve found my mojo again after months of … what? Thinking?  Wondering?  Worrying? Well I decided to stop the latter, keep wonder at my core and use it for good and stop thinking and write.  Seems to have worked for me.