Cover Reveal: Black Marks

 

With the impending release of Black Marks on March 30 (2017), I’m proud to reveal the novel’s cover (created by Chuck Regan)…

 

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Can you guess the subject matter?

 

5 Questions, 1 Statement: Claire Fitzpatrick

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Claire Fitzpatrick is a writer, an editor, all-round awesome human being. Recently, she launched Oscillate Wildly Press .

We caught up on good ol’ Facebook recently whereupon I asked Claire some questions and invited her to respond to a statement. This is what happened …

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Pete: What led you to creating your own publishing press and what are its goals?

Claire: In early 2015 my novel was accepted by a small North American publishing company. Naturally, I was elated. Over time, I worked with two editors, and the novel went through various stages of evolution. However, a few claire months ago, I found out the publishing company had closed, without any warning, or correspondence to me.

Pete: Ugh! I am truly sorry to hear that!

Claire: I was furious. I didn’t want to let all that hard work go to waste. Time passed, and I started looking for potential publishers for ‘The Body Horror Book,’ another project I am working on, and when I couldn’t find one I thought best matched the project, I realised I could just publish it myself. At this time, I started thinking about my novel again, and instead of giving up, I decided to create my own company, and proceed with publishing my book as well as ‘The Body Horror Book.’ Of course, I could have simply self-published it, but I realised there was potential for a new small publisher in Australia, and that I would have the support from the Australian Horror Writer’s Association.

I am a massive fan of The Smiths (I have a framed poster of Morrissey and Marr in my lounge room with Johnny Marr’s guitar pick he personally handed to me!) and I wanted to incorporate something from my obsession into the publishing press. I chose ‘Oscillate Wildly,’ as it is a pun from Morrissey’s enigmatic hero, and also the song was recorded without lyrics as Morrissey believed the song could stand on its own. This idea of a song standing on its own motivated me, and gave me the courage that I didn’t need my former publisher to release a successful book. I hunted around for a few editors-people I 100% trusted-and with that Oscillate Wildly Press was born!

Its goals are simple! I’m planning to focus on anthologies, and release perhaps one or two novels a year. Nothing big, nothing overwhelming. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself or my little team. 50% of royalties will go to authors who choose to publish with us, as a book is part of someone’s soul they choose to share, so they should reap the benefits. I’d love to focus on horror and science fiction, but we’re open to anything and everything! (My own novel is a combination of historical fiction and horror).

Pete: That sounds likes a fascinating blend, Claire. So, what excites you most about Australian speculative fiction?

Claire: There is such a massive market for Australian speculative fiction! I’ve been writing non-fiction for Aurealis since late 2015, and I love reading ‘The Year Ahead in Australian Speculative Fiction.’ It reminds me of the amazing talent in Australia, and keeps me in check with what people want to read!

There are many amazing writers in Australia, and I love that speculative fiction means more than just science fiction, fantasy, and horror – it’s everything in-between that writer’s might have felt wouldn’t fit anywhere, and it gives people hope their ideas and stories are wanted. One of my short stories ‘Yellow Death’ was deemed speculative fiction by the editor of Heater magazine, and I felt like I had tapped into something I had been working so hard to get to. Made me feel all warm and gooey on the inside.

I think the Australian Shadows Awards is also fantastic for speculative fiction. Yes, I’m biased, as I’m this year’s Award Director, but it really is an excellent chance to showcase all the amazing, talented stories produced by Australian writers. NZ might have Lee Murray, but Australia has Kaaron Warren! So there!

Pete: What are your own writing goals for the next year or so?

Claire: I need to release my debut novel, ‘Only The Dead.’ I can’t move on from it to something else until I release it. I write short stories in between, but I can’t seem to work on another novel! I’ve written two novels in the past that are god-damned awful, and I’d like to revisit them one day. But maybe I’ll burn them. It’s infuriating haha. But ‘Only The Dead’ will be out very soon. At the moment, I’m working with artist Shane K. Ryan on the cover, so when that’s done I’ll be able to start on the promotional side of things! (Shane also illustrated my eBook ‘Of Man And Woman.’ Check out his work, it’s amazing).

claire2I’ll also be releasing ‘The Body Horror Book’ early next year sometime. Marc McBride-illustrator of Emily Rodda’s ‘Deltora Quest’- has come on board to illustrate a few chapters, however he can’t get stuck into the project until January. But that’s not really a setback, since I want everything to be perfect before it’s published. I’m hoping to enter it in next year’s Shadows Awards for Best Non-Fiction. Fingers crossed it’s worthy!

I also have two short stories in ‘Remixing The Classics,’ an anthology printed by the University of Queensland Writer’s Club. That’ll be out soon, which is exciting. My stories are horror versions of Peter Pan and Hansel and Gretel.

As for other things, who knows? I’m working on a story specifically for an anthology at the moment, so I have to get crackilackin’ and get it done! Life gets in the way. I wish it would move off the sidewalk and let me through!

Pete: Beef, chicken or vegan?

Claire: Vegan. Save a cow, eat a human.

Pete: You get dumped on a desert island and you can only take that one book, that awesome book, the one you could read over and over for years to come. What is it?

‘Black Foxes’ by Sonya Hartnett. It’s been my favourite book since I was a teenager. Sometimes I think all my characters have a bit of Tyrone Sully in them. I would cut off one of my fingers if it meant I could interview Sonya Hartnett. Joking! But maybe not.

Pete: Please respond to this statement: horror is not real literature

Your mum’s not real literature!

Seriously, though, horror is amazing. Horror can be philosophical, artistic, political….it can incorporate so many different elements. The world is a scary place, and horror often reminds us there is light within the dark, if only one knows how to turn on the light (and it’s one of those quirky Goosebumps book lights from the ‘90s!).

***

These interviews are purposefully short but occasionally I conduct one with someone I could talk with all day. Claire has interesting ideas, projects and experiences! If you want to connect with her, look her up on FB or at www.clairefitzpatrick.net.

And Claire, I speak for all of us when I say, “Get that novel published, dammit! I wanna read it!” 😉

***

See also:

What’s the Good of a Short Story?

 

I have heard people say at Cons, “The only people reading short stories are writers” or comments like this. I’m not sure that’s true at all. But I would certainly accept that novels/novellas outsell short stories. Readers prefer long fiction to short. This is the way of things.

So I present a defence for the short story and why we all should spend more of our money on magazines and anthologies that publish them…

 

Short Stories are a Quicker Read

Can I put it any simpler? I can fit one or two short pieces into my morning train ride whereas I’m only ever going to get a few chapters of my novel read. That means reading something (or somethings) from end to end between stops, covering off an entire story arc, having closure, taking the story with me through the day to ponder. In a short piece, I get a world + a character + plus a challenge the same as I would a novel, but it’s resolved quickly and I’m on with my day.

 

Short Story Collections Expose the Reader to Multiple Authors

Nothing beats burying myself in my favourite author’s latest 400-page novel, savouring a long journey through a new world toward the resolution of conflicts and quests. But an equal-length anthology enables me to meet 10 or 20 different authors with a variety of styles and creations and themes and characters in the same amount of pages and time and $$. There are some incredible writers out there who are only writing short fiction. I mean this. If I didn’t read shorts, I’d have been deprived of ever discovering them.

 

Short Stories Maintain Tension and Pace better than Novels (mostly)

It’s tough to maintain high tension and high pace on every page of a 450 page paperback. But ten or twenty pages of short fiction can do just that.

 

Short Stories = Exposure for Authors

Many many authors get their start in short fiction before selling their first novel. Story sales and readers for them create a meaty portfolio, enable them to develop their art and platform, bring them into community with other great writers and editors. Whenever you or I purchase a short story magazine or anthology, we support this “farming” of talent.

 

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Where I’d start reading if I was starting on short fiction now…

Something I’ve Been Tinkering with…

 

Cataclysm

 

And the saurs did wage war with we raptors,

time after time, land after land, chasing us across oceans, across islands, across jungles and forests and wastes of ice,

intent on our genocide,

waging devastation across the planet, shifting continents, changing ecosystems.

A thousands species fell victim to their blood-avarice: large-bodied, small bodied, and the microscopic from whom came we all.

The god of the micro, who did first drive us from the waters to the dry earth, who did oversee our evolution into dense-brained multiple-intelligences, did itself fall prey to the saurs. Because of their madness, but not by their design.

It was our higher intelligence created the End when it should have created a Better World,

a Better World which is the Goal of Creation.

It was our higher madness that killed the god and its children by drawing on its very strength, the strength of the micro.

Our enemies the saurs enacted many ends before the Ultimate and Final.

And so we, who scorned and hated them for their hubris, we did do worse.

We destroyed the planet.

Two-twelves and four years ago, our creatives were charged with the mission to bring the eon of war to conclusion, to stop our ceaseless migration in flight from our enemies.

And so that which was meant to power life became the power of death. That which was born of the micro god, of its very substance and nature, the god who gave continually of itself to power our industry, our vehicles, our homes, we did take his essence and pervert it, turning it to destructive purposes, abusing it, weaponizing it.

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And the explosion was great. And the explosion was godlike. And we were proud.

And we were devastated, just as we had devastated the world. Dust blocking the sun. Weather patterns changed forever.

And we now huddle in the dark and wait for death.

We have won our war.

And we have lost our world.

***

More free stuff:

In Human (audio story)

 

Hey there, folks. VERY excited and proud of this one. My turn of the 20th Century horror tale In Human has been produced as a an audio show as part of the Manor House podcast. Excellent voice acting, narration and background sound effects and music. Available at Soundcloud (where you can download the file for free) and iTunes too, but I’d love to see the YouTube link get well over 10, 000 hits, so yours will help! Story starts a couple of minutes into the podcast. Runs for about 30 minutes. Go on. You know you wanna…

Interview with yours truly here about the story…

Writers Circles, Workshopping and Crit Buddies

 

Writing groups. Love them? Hate them? Love to hate them? Whatever the case, we all need feedback as writers.

I was amazed to meet a couple of writers last year who never showed their work to anyone. While showing my writing to other writers is scary, confronting and only occasionally unhelpful, by and large it’s been the #2 thing that’s kept my writing improving over the past few years. (#1, of course, is actually writing).

I must say, though, that in the early days, I did allow a few people’s opinions to really get me down. But that was largely because I cared too much, and because those particular people weren’t actually adding anything constructive to the mix. It’s been helpful to me to make it clear to my critiquers what kind of feedback I want from them, and also to keep my selftalk in the vicinity of “Learn from everything they tell you”.

For more:

Upcoming Short Story Release: C IS FOR CHIMERA

C IS FOR CHIMERA

An Anthology

 

This installment of Rhonda Parrish’s alphabet anthology series asks skilled storytellers to write around the theme of chimera. The resulting tales are part fable, part poem, part dream. But like any chimera, the parts make up a greater whole.

Blend reality with fantasy. Mesh science fiction with mystery. Mix history with what should have been. They are all chimera.

A shadow tells a tale of schoolyard bullies. A long-vanished monster returns from the cold dark. Make-up makes up a life. Alchemy, Atlantis, and apocalypse. These 26 tales bring both chaos and closure to dark and elusively fantastic geographies.

Contributing authors include:

~ Alexandra Seidel ~ KV Taylor ~ Marge Simon ~ Pete Aldin ~ Michael M. Jones ~ Simon Kewin ~ BD Wilson ~ Gabrielle Harbowy ~ Sara Cleto ~ Megan Engelhardt ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Megan Arkenberg ~ Lilah Wild ~ Laura VanArendonk Baugh ~ Milo James Fowler ~ Brittany Warman ~ Michael B. Tager ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Beth Cato ~ C.S. MacCath ~ Sammantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ Steve Bornstein ~ Suzanne van Rooyen ~ Michael Kellar ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Amanda C. Davis ~

PRAISE FOR C is for Chimera:

“I dare say it’s an anthology with something for just about anyone who likes short speculative fiction.” — Jennifer Crow

“There are 26 stories in this anthology that range from fantasy to sci-fi to dark to hopeful to just plain weird (in a good way). I recommend picking this anthology up if you like a variety of tales that will fascinate you.” — Elesha Teskey

“The format is like the previous two (A is for Apocalypse, B is for Broken), where each author writes a story around a word beginning with their given letter. What I really love is that the word isn’t given until the very end. Sometimes the word is obvious. Sometimes not so much… If you can get your hands on it, I would recommend this anthology.” — S. L. Saboviec

C is for Chimera is an enjoyable read and I look forward to seeing what happens with D and the rest of the Alphabet.” — Reb Kreyling

 

FIND IT ONLINE

Official page:

http://www.poiseandpen.com/publishing/alphabet-anthologies/c-is-for-chimera/

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28218147-c-is-for-chimera

OmniLit: https://www.omnilit.com/product-cisforchimera-2004637-241.html

Amazon:

(Kindle) http://amzn.to/1X3VNat

(Paperback)

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/c-is-for-chimera

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/620188

Where do characters come from?

 

Great characters make great drama, great fantasy, great adventure.

So where does the writer draw them from? For me, it’s from one of two places:

1.Copying them from other works of fiction.

This is — as I’m sure you’d expect me to say — not a good idea. And yet, how often do we see Indiana Jones and Bridget Jones dressed up in a different costume and given a different name? How often do we see cliches such as the expendable yet funny African American repeated over and over? This is, I believe, often unintentional; the writer simply saw a character they loved and reproduced it. Lazy writing.

2.Drawing them from one’s own inner world.

The characters I love creating are usually subconscious in origin but occasionally conscious.

The subconscious come from the real-world people/behaviours that make me angry (usually the abuse of power in some form); combinations of my own philosophies/flaws/strengths/aspirations; ideas I’d like to explore.

The conscious ones: I find myself more and more attempting to stretch myself. Say I want to write a story about a swordsman. I’ve done it. Thousands of other writers have done it. It’s a well-used character/type. But dammit, I have a good idea for a story about a swordsman. So rather than reinvent a Kurasawa or Martin character, I will try to find some points of difference for mine. He may have diabetes (though it wouldn’t be thought of as such back then). This will drive certain behaviour, create inner and outer conflict, create need in his routine. He may also have lost something he wants to get back — another common trope. Well, this time, how about I don’t make it his wife, or his son, or his magical item? What if it’s his horse? No wait. What if it’s his dog?! He loves that damn attack dog that the raiders stole. It’s not just great breeding stock; it saved his life as a boy; it’s his best friend. You’ll see, already, just by tweaking some things about him, I’ve created lots of scope for a deep emotional story. … And what if I made him a her? Or transgender?

Your characters.

Try it. Pick a character and tweak them. Make em different. See what you come up with.

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More? Try…

Author Interview: Kevin Ikenberry, author of Sleeper Protocol

 

Sleeper Protocol is a fun and fascinating sci-fi adventure set in future America and future Australia. My review can be found here. I caught up recently with the author, Kevin Ikenberry, and fired some questions at him about writing, about himself and about his debut novel…

Pete: What are the origins of Sleeper Protocol?

Kevin: I first wrote Sleeper Protocol as a short story entitled “Walkabout.” It was about 8,000 words and focused on a particularly dystopian scene where my characters “leave” civilization and enter the frontier that’s become the central United States. When I sat down to outline the book, I crafted an opening where the protagonist wakes up on the shores of Sydney Harbor at a place called Mrs. McQuarrie’s Chair. I spent three and a half weeks in Australia when I was seventeen and I tell people all the time that I left a piece of my heart there.

Having this book begin and end in Australia just felt right, so to speak. As for experiences, there are a ton of them in this book that I’ve tried to write in. Living in Colorado and hiking frequently gave rise to a lot of the narrative. Near the end, the action takes place in Tennessee where I call home (even after not living there in almost twenty-five years.). Where the culmination of the journey comes together is at my family’s “ancestral” home. We call it “The Farm”and I remember tearing up the first time I wrote that scene and the following one as well.

The concept of him piecing together his memory from experiences is the critical element to the story – so bringing a lot of my own experiences into his point of view was challenging, but a lot of fun.

Pete: Why are you a writer?

Kevin: I can tell you that I am not one of those folks who say they wanted to be a writer their whole life. I wanted (and still would go tomorrow!) to be an astronaut. My decision to start writing science fiction in 2009 came, in large part, from my extensive background in space science education. Through teaching, I’ve been able to share my love for space with kids of all ages. Writing science fiction seems like a natural progression of that love. The idea that I could write stories and potentially novels seemed very far out there when I started, but now I know that I enjoy telling stories and I can’t see not writing. When I first had a character start talking to me, I had no idea what to do other than start to write. With the help of a great instructor, I found great friends and mentors as I delved into writing. I’m glad that I did.

Pete: What was the greatest hurdle to overcome in completing this project?

Kevin: I finished the original first draft of Sleeper Protocol in mid 2013 and decided to let it sit in the drawer for a few months before I went back to the manuscript. After a rewrite pass in September 2013, I decided to focus on a couple of other projects with the intent that I would return to Sleeper Protocol in March for a final polish and submittal. That’s when life got in the way.

In February 2014, I nearly died from an infection that attacked the skin on my right leg, shut down my kidneys, and put my heart in serious condition. After ten days in the hospital, I went home for a prolonged at-home care period. This should have been a blessing – a writer always wants more time to write and I had all I could handle. The problem was that I couldn’t write. I could barely do anything besides look out the window and try to come to grips with what had happened. After a couple of weeks, I reached out to Clarkesworld editor Neil Clarke who survived a massive heart attack three and a half years ago. Neil’s friendship and advice helped me get back to writing. In May of 2014, I started that final polish on Sleeper Protocol for submittal. Without Neil’s counsel and my team of beta readers, I might not have been able to make that happen.

Pete: As a writer, with a full time job and a family, how do you manage to get the work done?

Kevin: In all honesty, there are a lot of late nights. Being a night owl when it comes to writing is a good thing. After our kids go to bed, I have the chance to work on my writing. Some times are better than others, but it’s just a question of dedication. There are so many people who say “I could write a book if I just had time.” My response to them is to get busy writing. The only way I’m able to tell stories is to sit down and get them out of my head. It’s a question of dedication and discipline. If the story matters that much to you, you’ll find a way to get it down on paper or into the computer. That’s what I focus on. If you really want to do something, nothing can stop you.

Pete: What tips from your road to publication can you offer other writers?

Kevin: Sleeper Protocol had a contract offered on it from a different publisher before Red Adept Publishing signed it. I turned down that contract because I’d taken the time to consult with mentors. My biggest tip to anyone who will listen is simply to reach out to someone else if you don’t understand something. I know it’s not easy to do so, but in my experience, I’ve never had someone that I reached out to completely reject me. Writers, as a unit, understand that we are all in this together and everyone I’ve ever approached is willing to share their experiences. In this particular case, I had two NYT bestselling authors review the contract because it didn’t seem right to me, and it wasn’t right. Because I was brave enough to reach out, and they took the time to look over a bad contract, I saved myself a lot of trouble. If you don’t know – ask. Ask me, ask some one in your writing group, post a question on social media – there are a lot of people who’ve learned their lessons who will make sure you don’t have to do the same.

PeteWith which of your characters do you most connect? Least connect?

Kevin: Obviously, Kieran and I are very similar and while you might think that was very easy to write, there were times it was very difficult to put myself out of the equation and tell the story from the perspective of this character who is a lot like me but not me at the same time. Likewise, I can honestly tell you that writing from Berkeley’s perspective was very challenging. Connecting to my characters was really easy, mainly because they’d been talking to me for a couple of months before I started writing the original draft. All of them changed through the course of the drafts. Making connect to the reader is my greatest hope – I think I’ve done that.

Pete: What is your favorite book of 2015 and why?

Kevin: This is such a difficult question because I am very behind on my reading lists. I will say this, the best two I’ve read so far are Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart and The Martian by Andy Weir. Clockwork Lives is a beautiful sequel to the novel (and Rush album) Clockwork Angels. The attention to detail in the book is amazing, especially the print layout and design. It’s a beautiful book.  The Martian is everything a space geek like me loves, and Mark Watney is a great character. Andy Weir’s ability to create a thrilling story around the actual science that will get humans to Mars (and live there) is astounding.

Pete: Favourite paragraph from Sleeper Protocol?

Kevin: From Chapter Six…

I landed in Perth after sunset, following an “in-flight delay for orbital debris mitigation,” whatever that meant. The bright side was that instead of circling out over the ocean or something, we flew three complete orbits around the Earth. Given what I remembered about my childhood and wanting to travel in space, I should have been thrilled. By my standards, or those from my time, I was an astronaut. The reality was that I dozed for most of the trip. The view of Earth from orbit met every expectation, but the tranquility of it lulled me to sleep after just a few minutes. Because of the late arrival, I caught the last maglev train to Esperance and stepped out of the terminus to a pitch- black night and torrential rain. The briny smell of the ocean floated on the strong breeze, and it made me smile. The lights of the modest town lay below me, down a slope of no more than a few hundred feet, and its warmth filled me. There were no buildings taller than a few stories and not much light compared to downtown Sydney, which was at once disconcerting and comforting. Lightning flashed out to sea and lit the rough, curving coastline for a split second. All of it was perfect. I wondered what it meant to feel so at peace in a place that I’d never seen in my life. I could be happy here. I walked in the rain without a jacket, and my coveralls were soaked through in a matter of minutes. Finding food and dry clothing would be high priorities eventually but not yet. The cool rain hammered my skin and washed the last bit of the Integration Center’s smell from my clothes.

Pete:  What’s next for Kevin Ikenberry?

Kevin: I’ve just concluded the first draft of Vendetta Protocol, the sequel to Sleeper Protocol.  While I’m letting it rest, I’m gearing up for the release of my military science fiction novel Runs In The Family from Strigidae Publishing in the spring of 2016.  I have another novel in discussions right now with my publisher.  I’m working on a variety of projects and staying very busy.  Hopefully, I’ll just keep on writing stories.  That’s the plan.

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Learn more about Sleeper Protocol here.

 

amazon 1Our scifi short story Illegal. Just yesterday, the #1 Amazon Best Seller on 45 Minute Science Fiction short read list and the top Hot New Release. Plus it moved to number 4 in 45-minute lit & fic short fiction and is on that Hot New Release list. Pretty darn happy, Kevin Ikenberry. This picture is a cut and paste of both lists. You’ll have to click on it to see it clearly, but our cover is bottom left of both lists…