So What’s Next, Pete?

 

A few readers have been asking me variations on the question “So what’s next?”

So here’s my answers to those variations:

  • Both novels have been attracting terrific reviews and there have been questions about sequels for both. At the moment, there’ll be no sequel for Black Marks (sorry!), but there’ll be plenty for Doomsday’s Child (can I hear an amen?).
  • With Black Marks (BM), I’ve tinkered with ideas for a sequel for a couple of years now (that novel’s been essentially finished for that long), but I’m yet to come up with something that won’t dilute or cheapen the impact and themes of the initial story.
  • With Doomsday’s Child (DC), I am already well down the road to completing the first of two (and possibly three) followups. Book 2’s first draft is nearly complete. I’m also writing a short story for release between Books 2 and 3 (it’ll sit before the original story and so be kind of a 0.5 in terms of chronology). The short story’s first draft is halfway complete.
  • Like many authors, I have other projects at various stages of completion. One thing I’m considering is releasing some medieval fantasy under a pseudonym. Reasons being that a) it’ll be a different genre from my other novels, b) it will potentially be a little more upbeat, fun, PG-rated. I’m interested in the thoughts of anyone who can be bothered commenting here: would it bother you to buy a book with Pete Aldin’s name on it which wasn’t dark, gritty, violent and full of bad language? Is that what you’ve come to expect? Or would you like something I’ve written which is completely different from the noir thriller style? (BTW, you can purchase a book of short fiction of mine — on Kindle only at present — which would give you a sample of my range. Nine Tales. 99cents).
  • There’s a collaboration with another author in the winds (maybe two collaborations), but we won’t get to them until next year. I’m also chipping away at a scifi crime thriller which may be done next year some time, but I’m hoping to shop that around some major publishers. Initial feedback from critiquers on the first draft is very positive.
  • However. In terms of you the Reader, what’s next will be more Elliot. More DC. More post-apocalyptic shenanigans exploring life in an emerging dark age. I’m enjoying writing it and that has to translate into fun for the reader.

Hey. Thanks for asking! 🙂

Top Ten Aussie Spec Fic Books of My Past Decade

 

Before about 2005, I never read Australian fiction. I also rarely watched an Australian TV show or movie mainly because they were no good, and they still aren’t mostly.

But I had no excuse for avoiding local writers — this was simply ignorance on my part. Australia can be proud of its speculative fiction authors (and publications, such as Aurealis). I am hooked on local produce now; my palate has become edu-ma-cated.

So it was difficult to set myself the task of rating my top ten reads since I became thus edumacated. But I found it fun, and it reminded me again of just how much Aussie-produced wealth is out there in our libraries and bookshops.

In no particular order:

  1. The Business of Death – Trent Jamieson. Well this one is in a particular order, since this short trilogy is one of my favourite reads ever.
  2. The Extraordinaires – Michael Pryor. YA. Lively, funny, immersive and professionally polished.
  3. Worldshaker – Richard Harland. Also YA. Intelligently constructed world building and a gripping (and at times funny) plot.
  4. Epilogue – FableCroft Publishing. With variations on a theme by writers such as Steve Cameron, David McDonald, Tehani Wessely, Thoraiya Dyer, Jason Nahrung, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Elizabeth Tan, Jo Anderton, Lyn Battersby. The theme is an always-interesting one (what happens after the end of the world?) and these takes on it are creative, diverse and brilliantly crafted.
  5. The Ghost of Ping-Ling. Peter Cooper’s fantasy adventure has been slated as a children’s book, and sure this is a book my kids would have loved me reading to them when they were younger… But I’m an adult and I LOVED it. Fun, funny and tense enough to make you finish a chapter no matter how much you wanted to go to bed, Blue Jade Book 1 is a fresh take on the crowded genre of medieval fantasy. Peter Cooper draws on Eastern mythology to create the magic and spiritual foundation for his world. And the trio of child characters who take on the frightening people and creatures of their world are clearly differentiated from each other. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
  6. Ghosts Can Bleed – Tracie McBride. Well okay, Tracie is a Kiwi. But she lives in Australia. And that was good enough for us to claim Split Enz as an Aussie band. Her collection of short stories is 5 stars all the way. Razor sharp storytelling. Seriously: download the sample on your Kindle and you’ll see.
  7. Salvage – Jason Nahrung. Brooding, compelling, pacy. The perfect vampire novel (novella?).
  8. The Vengeance Trilogy – Devin Madson. Probably the best epic fantasy trilogy I’ve read and I’ve read a few. A revolving multiple viewpoint plot where all the POV characters speak in first person. Facinating magic. And political intrigue that works particularly well because the politics are above all on the level of personal gripe and offence and redemption.
  9. Slights – Kaaron Warren. True horror. A main character I did not like for the entire book and who still compelled me to read the next paragraph. Superb.
  10. Confessions of a Pod Person – Chuck McKenzie. Tight, clever and often very funny short stories. Definitely worth a look.

Black Marks Winners

 

Congratulations to the five Goodreads Giveaway winners. Your copy of Black Marks will be in the mail shortly.

I hope you enjoy. Thanks to everyone who entered and good luck with some other giveaways out there…

Chuck Regan: Five Questions

 

It has been my pleasure to work with Chuck Regan – Artist on the cover art for Black Marks. If you like that cover, thank Chuck! In the process or working with him, I also discovered he is Chuck Regan – Author. At the time of writing, I am 80% through his book Chimera Shakes and have read the first two chapters of Leviathan. I own both books. Great novels. Great writing. Let’s ask Chuck some questions, shall we?

***

PETE: Why book covers? What drew you into this line of work?

CHUCK: I have 20 years experience designing for advertising agencies, and after a string of layoffs (advertising is very volatile industry), I wanted to try something new where I had more direct influence over the end result of my efforts. Prior to advertising, I had spent an embarrassing amount of time and energy trying to break into the comic book industry as a writer/artist. By 2008, and the economic downturn, I was focusing more on writing stories without pictures, so designing book covers for that stuff I was writing seemed like a natural extension.

Some guys I met through Shotgun Honey teamed up and we started self-publishing anthologies of stories—zombies, sci-fi, noir, westerns—and all those books needed covers, so that’s where I started with Zelmer Pulp.

PETE: What things should an author do to make it easier for an artist to collaborate with them?

CHUCK: One issue I sometimes get are clients who already have a cast-in-iron idea of what they want on their cover—multiple characters and complex scenes. I tell them you gotta think like a billboard—catch the eye in a half-second. Less is more.bookcover-rip1

And a little about pricing here. I’m an indie publisher myself, and my budgets are nonexistent (I’m just lucky I already have an in-house illustrator on call), so I understand the sticker shock when I quote a price. I’ve had to turn down quite a few projects that would have been a lot of fun to work on, but when I quoted $500 for a highly detailed scene which would have required a lot of back-and-forth with the client, designing the character, costume, and background, one client countered my offer with ‘I can only pay you a hundred bucks.’ A lot of times, I’ll take a low bid just to illustrate something cool and add to my portfolio, but a project usually takes 12 to 20 hours or more to complete. I can’t think in terms of hourly rates, but a hundred dollars is ridiculous.

So I guess my answer to this question is: clients on a budget should consider giving the artist some room to have fun and explore options. The more excited and involved the artist is with the project, the more energy goes into their expression, and that, ideally, will translate quickly to the audience scanning a real or virtual bookshelf. You want your designer to love doing what they are doing for you, and if you can’t enthuse them with money, let them do what they do best. They’ll love you for it, and it will come out in their design. Ideally, it will work out that way. There are a lot of crappy designers out there. Ask your friends what their opinion is of the designer’s portfolio first.

PETE: Awesome advice. So, you have your own line of novels. I’m most of the way through Chimera Shakes and loving it. What is the inspiration for the novel?

CHUCK: It’s great to hear you like that story! I had two editors at a Bizarro publisher reject it for being ‘too insane’. Too insane for Bizarro?? Cool. I’ll take that as a compliment. A positive reaction from another author is the best compliment I can hope for, though.

Once the guys started dropping out of Zelmer Pulp, I still had stories I wanted to tell—short stories and longer projects, which usually started as ideas kicked around in our Facebook message thread, or through other publishers’ calls for entries—so I started my own imprint, ‘Rayguns and Mayhem’ to put out my own stuff. It’s purely a vanity press, and I wholly embrace that.

bookcover-chimerashakes
Yeah, so inspiration. I had just finished reading ‘Zombie’ by Joyce Carol Oates, which is a First Person POV unreliable narration about a serial killer who is trying to create zombie sex slaves by lobotomizing them. It’s one of those stories that sticks in your head like a tumor. It needed to be purged.

The first scene I wrote for Chimera Shakes was of the assassin in the rafters of the rock concert, which was inspired by a fun rockabilly song by Deadbolt, called ‘Tijuana Hit Squad’. I ran with that song as a short story prompt, adding in some elements from ‘Zombie’, making the hit man schizophrenic and an unreliable narrator. The novella grew out of that.

PETE: What kind of research did you have to use in order to get inside the main character Jasper’s head (so well)?

CHUCK: Um… yeah. Well, I researched the psyche profile of people with schizophrenia and schizotypal personalities to get the details as accurate as I could. I also read a few memoirs of what it was like to live with the disease. It’s always fascinated me, but to be honest, I would probably chart well within the spectrum of the disorder. It helps to be a little crazy to write crazy.

Seriously though, my wife is a student of psychology, and she’s given me some concerned looks over the years, but particularly after I read this story aloud to her. I grew up in a religious cult, so the paranoia induced by trying to discern what is a message from supernatural forces or just a random events derives from that cult experience. All of this I poured into Jasper Hobbes.

PETE: Well, I’m tellin’ ya, it works. And as someone who works with people with mental illness, I also found it empathetic to someone with such a condition. Last question: How do you manage your time to fit it all in, day job, writing, designing?

CHUCK: For the last couple of years, I’ve been working part time from home doing freelance graphic design and illustration, so I set my own schedule. I made it a ritual to spend a couple of hours in the morning writing each day, when it’s still quiet. My prose-related synapses start to stretch thin after 3 or 4 hours, so then I move on to the illustration and design part of my day. My days vacillate between those efforts, depending on what projects are due.

My wife has been very understanding as I pursued this change of career, but it doesn’t compare to the money I was making working as an art director in advertising. I haven’t been able to bring in quite enough money to sustain us, so I’m back to looking for a real day job again. I’ll still make time for writing and covers, because there’s still a lot of crazy that still needs to come out.

PETE: Thanks again, Chuck!

***

Chuck is what they call a “stand-up guy”. I’ve enjoyed working with him on Black Marks and I’m enjoying reading his work. If you’re a writer looking for an artist, talk to Chuck. If you’re looking for fresh spec fiction, look at Chuck’s.

***

More of the same?

 

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)…

 

2017-BLACKMARKS_design2

Can you guess the subject matter?

 

5 Questions, 1 Statement: Claire Fitzpatrick

   cowp

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 …

***

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:

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