Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Just Had to Share This.

The Novel Doctor is another blog I discovered while wandering the net.
This link encapsulates the way I'm pretty sure every writer feels at some time and it turns out there's some other useful stuff on this blog too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jo Reads Her Winning Poem on ABC Radio

Last month, Joanna Fay (writing as Jo Mills) took first prize in the Banjo Paterson Award.

You can hear her reading her winning poem, Orpheus in the Desert, over at the ABC Radio Central West's Morning Show Blog. Here she also talks about the inspiration behind this beautiful and moving poem and how she takes the Orpheus legend and places it in an Australian desert landscape.

Congratulations Jo.


Monday, July 25, 2011

What's Happening to Publishing?

This week I heard about a successful writer who has not been able to sell her latest trilogy based on a proposal although she has been trying for nearly a year. She's gone ahead with writing it but has no idea whether it will ever sell. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a beginner but to hear it about an established author was, to put it mildly, unnerving. Even more disturbing, as I discovered in trawling the net, it appears she's by no means the only one in this situation.

There's more happening out there in the publishing world. On her blog, Pub Rants, Agent Kristin has something to say about Random House's recent decision to change the way it calculates royalties.

Then, as so often happens, I came across this on Nicola Morgan's blog, Help! I Need a Publisher linking to a post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Both are blogs I look at frequently because they are full of practical good sense for surviving in the writing world. It seems there's a lot to worry about if you want to be a writer these days but while Kristine Kathryn Rusch tells us quite bluntly about all the problems she also offers some good advice about how to survive this period of turmoil.

Have a look at what they have to say but try not to fall into despair. I don't know why others choose to write but I started because I had stories to tell and share and that will not change. Yes, the writing world is in a state of upheaval but the truth is we don't know what will emerge out of the present situation. All we can do is keep our heads down and have faith that story telling will survive. It will because it always has. It may have a different form but human beings have an insatiable thirst for stories and it will need to be satisfied. At the same time we need to keep up with what is going on in the industry and adapt to those changes. Hard? Maybe but writers are imaginative and creative. We can do that.

It's going to be a bumpy road but I'll see you at the other end.

Edit: apparently the page isn't showing from the link to Pub Rants. I'm not sure why. Here's an alternative option. This link takes you to the blog. If you go to her post of June 29 and scroll down past the details about Courtney Milan's Unlocked, which she is justifiably excited about, you will find the part on Random House. The previous post about Harlequin is also interesting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Congratulations to Helen Venn and Sarah Lee Parker for receiving Honourable Mentions in the Second Quarter of the Writers of the Future Contest.

Helen for her story, "Nightwraiths" and Sarah for her story, "Just Another Day in Traffic Control".

Woohoo to you both!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What I've Been Reading.

This year so far has been something of a case of swings and roundabouts for me. There have been all sorts of personal upheavals and several bouts of surgery which have made life difficult at times. But it turns out there is a side benefit to surgery. Confined to bed and with the options being daytime television or reading I devoured books. So here in alphabetical order by author are some of the books I've read - or reread - since mid March. They are a mix of adult and YA fiction and short stories.

Novels and Novellas:

Peter M. Ball Bleed, Twelfth Planet Press

Peter V. Brett The Painted Man, Harper Voyager

Kim Falconer Path of the Stray (Book One Quantum Encryption), Harper Voyager

Kim Falconer The Spell of Rosette (Book One Quantum Enchantment), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Chaos Crystal (Book Four The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Gods of Amyrantha (Book Two The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Immortal Prince (Book One The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Palace of Impossible Dreams (Book Three The Tide Lords), Harper Voyager

Jennifer Fallon The Undivided (Book One Rift Runners), Harper Voyager

Richard Harland Liberator, Allen & Unwin

Richard Harland Worldshaker, Allen & Unwin

Trent Jamieson Death Most Definite, Orbit

Trent Jamieson Managing Death, Orbit

N. K. Jemisin The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Book One of The Inheritance Trilogy), Orbit

Dave Luckett Paladin, Omnibus Books

Juliet Marillier Seer of Seven Waters, Macmillan

Karen Miller A Blight of Mages, Harper Voyager

Nicole Murphy Secret Ones, Harper Voyager

Tansy Rayner Roberts Power and Majesty (Book One Creature Court), Harper Voyager

Tansy Rayner Roberts The Shattered City (Book Two Creature Court), Harper Voyager

Sean Williams The Changeling, Angus and Robertson

Connie Willis All Clear, Allen & Unwin

Connie Willis Blackout, Allen & Unwin


Listed by title:

A Book of Endings Deborah Biancotti, Twelfth Planet Press

Baggage ed. Gillian Polack, Eniet Press

Dead Red Heart ed. Russell B. Farr, Ticonderoga Publications

Glitter Rose Marianne de Pierres, Twelfth Planet Press

Heliotrope Justina Robson, Ticonderoga Publications

The Inheritance Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm, Harper Voyager

More Scary Kisses ed. Liz Grzyb, Ticonderoga Publications

Sprawl ed. Alisa Krasnostein, Twelfth Planet Press

This list is by no means complete. I've read at least half as many books again as those I've listed here in that period but I wanted whatever I included to be books I could recommend. In different ways, I enjoyed each of these enough to say they are worth a read and, in the case of the many starts to trilogies, I'm looking forward to reading the sequels too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dario Ciriello chats with EgobooWA

Dario Ciriello is a London-born writer, editor and publisher living in San Francisco, USA. He is a graduate of Clarion West, has been a finalist in the Writers of the Future Competition, and has had a number of short stories published in anthologies and journals. Panverse Publishing, which he founded in 2009, has released two anthologies of science fiction and fantasy novellas to critical acclaim, with a third volume forthcoming. Panverse has also published an anthology of short stories, Eight Against Reality, by the members of Written in Blood, the writing group Dario formed in 2007. Aegean Dream, Dario's tragi-comic memoir of a year spent on the Greek island of Skopelos, will be published this month.

Welcome Dario, it's great to have you here! Would you like to start off by telling us a bit about your journey as a writer? How did it start, and what experiences have most influenced its development?

My Father was a journalist, quite a heavyweight in his time, and my earliest memories are of going to sleep with him clacking away on his Olivetti Lettera 22 portable next door. My parents were both huge readers -- we had books everywhere -- and I've loved books since I can remember. As an only child, I had no distractions in my leisure time. I still have my first little story from when I was 9 or 10, and it's solidly in the SF/weird category with an oppressive overtone of cosmic dread. I was clearly already channelling Conrad and Poe, which just makes me wish I'd got serious about writing earlier instead of in my middle years. I guess my bottom line is that there are stories I want to read but which nobody else has written, so I'm going to have to roll my sleeves up and do it myself.

A writer's sensibility is no doubt inseparable from their tastes as a reader. Which writers and/or genres have touched you most deeply, and which writers do you see as prominent influences on your own style?

Yes. I think my trajectory's a pretty standard one for an SF & F writer who was a child in the 'fifties. After graduating from nursery and fairy tales I discovered Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. There's that great saying, the Golden Age of Science Fiction is thirteen, and I was certainly reading classic SF -- Asimov, Clarke, A.E. Van Vogt, Poul Anderson, E.E. 'Doc' Smith, and all the rest -- right around then. On the Fantasy side. I'd devoured everything by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard just in time to discover Hobbits in 1967.

But the real revelation that bonded me forever to the power of SF came when I came across Roger Zelazny at around age 15. The New Wave -- Zelazny, Ballard, Blish -- was reshaping SF at that time, and Zelazny just blew me away. (He still does, actually, and I re-read his work regularly). It wasn't just his astonishing stories but his wild, unique prose style as well -- there's been nobody like him before or since. The story that really did it was his novella, 'For a Breath I Tarry,' in which he seamlessly blended Genesis with the story of Faust and a few other things besides on a post-human Earth peopled only by robots. Unbelievable. The only perons who comes close to Zelazny in power for me is C.J. Cherryh. Though I find her work since the mid-90s a little tedious, she was producin both Fantasy and SF of astonishing quality for almost two decades. Anyone who hasn't read the Morgayne series (Fantasy) or the Chanur series (SF) is missing out. I'd definitely cite Zelazny and Cherryh as major influences.

I was always a style junkie, a throwback, and to this day resent Hemingway for the damage he did to English letters. His stripped-down minimalism is poison to me. Prose can be complex and beautiful wihtout being distracting. Which is why, outside of SF & F, I absolutely revere Jorge Luis Borges and John LeCarre (okay, Borges is borderline SF with a big side of metaphysics) -- nobody shapes prose so well as these two at the same time as telling a solid story. And LeCarre does character so well.

Written in Blood is a powerhouse of a writing group. Its members are widely published and some of them have gone on to gain novel publications with major publishing houses in the US and UK. What motivated you to form the group, and what brought this particular group of writers together?

I'd just moved to Greece in 2006, to this tiny island -- which suddenly became famous as the 'Mamma Mia!' island -- and I felt the need to stay connected to writers. So I had this idea of a distributed critique group with a twist: instead of a regular schedule we'd be an 'on-demand' group. So whenever anyone has a piece to crit the group would get a 24-hour heads-up and a short window in which to turn the piece around and deliver critique (we work on 5 days for shorts and a 30-day max on the longest pieces). And there'd be no flaking -- the group is called Written in Blood because we see our commitment to one another as a blood oath (I hate flakes!). I wanted people who were grown ups and took their writing seriously enough to commit at a professional level.

I'd met Juliette (Wade) at a con and invited her into a previous group when I was back in the 'States, and I knew she was frustrated, so she was the first invitee. Traci and Doug were old mates from my 2002 Clarion West, so they were invited. Aliette was an online buddy of Traci's through their shared interest in Aztec mythology, and Janice Hardy -- who writes YA Fantasy -- was a good friend of Juliette's via Critters. So we had our core group right there, and only added a couple more in the following year. I'd had this clear vision of the sort of group I wanted, capping it at eight, and it worked -- we've been solid for five years now. Amazing.

These people are awesome writers -- actually, Traci (T.L. Morganfield, who along with Aliette de Bodard, writes Aztec Fantasy) has just landed a terrific agent for her own two-volume Aztec epic. So of the eight of us, two have published trilogies, one (Juliette Wade) is rocking the SF world with a run of great stories in Analog, and another just got a major agent. Gives the rest of us something to shoot for!

Did Panverse Publishing evolve from your practice as a writer, or did you have a longer term goal of becoming a publisher? What inspired you to take the unusual step of specifically publishing scinece fiction and fantasy novella anthologies?

A good part of the impetus behind Panverse was frustration, frustration at the lack of markets for novella-length fiction, especially for newer writers; anger at the unprofessional way the industry in general deals with submissions -- nobody should ever have to wait more than 60 days in the slushpile; and above all frustration with what I perceived as the decline in the prominence of story in the genre. It seemed to me that SF & F had become so concerned with literary respectability that the field was losing sight of its core value -- story. Being the proud SoB I am, I believed I could do better!

Now I've always loved the novella form, and it's perfect for our genre. I missed the novella anthologies of old, and there were so few slots for stories over 12k words that I thought I could have my pick at a price I could pay. And I really wanted to give some newer writers a market -- not everyone can write to that popular 3-7k word slot. At the same time, Print on Demand was emerging, and gaining respectability. I figured that I couldn't lose much, and that in the process I'd be able to perhaps help some good work into print.

Panverse has expanded to publish a short story anthology, and your Greek odyssey of a travel memoir, Aegean Dream. What have been the highs and lows of Panverse so far, and what would you most like to see in its evolution from here?

The short story antho, Eight Against Reality, was something I really wanted to do for Written in Blood. It's a group anthology to which we each contributed a piece and which we shared the cost of.

The lows -- well, marketing is hell for me. Never been good at it, and starting Panverse in what has been the most financially challenged period of my life didn't help. Add to that the fact that it's impossible to get brick-and-mortar distribution as an independent using PoD technology, and getting significant traction is very hard indeed.

On the upside, Panverse has had some solid, even excellent reviews. Many critics were excited to see an annual all-novella anthology (and UNthemed at that!), and were happy to give this rare beast a look over. Alan Smale's AH story from Panverse Two, 'A Clash of Eagles', has just been nominated for the Sidewise award, and fully deserves it. But more rewarding than anything has been the knowledge that I've helped several new writers into print and recognition; like Mike Winkle, an unknown whose weird tale about Charles Fort and the Jersey Devil received high praise from several top reviewers. And all the writers have been great to work with.

I'm also hugely proud of the quality of the Panverse volumes. I was fortunate enough to find some terrific artists who'd work with me; and Janice Hardy from my crit group -- who happens to be a professional graphic and layout artist -- contributed all the layout work for Panverse One and Eight Against Reality and set the standard for me. Everyone is blown away by the quality of these books.

Finally, it's been a huge revelation to see how things look from the editor's side of the desk. It's just so important to OWN your story from the get-go. Now that I've started writing again after a long fallow period, I've learned a great deal that I can apply to my own writing.

As to Panverse's evolution, I'm pondering that. I dont' think I'll be doing any more Panverse novella anthologies -- it's a truly huge amount of work and I'm barely breaking even. I've considered digital-only editions, but with my sixtieth birthday coming up next year, I think I'm going to focus on my own writing instead. I'd like to make a mark of some sort before I shuffle off.

That said, I still have a handful of ISBNs, and with the current upheavals in the industry and editors terrified to take chances, I wouldn't be surprised if I end up publishing friends' books, or even something further of my own.

As a 'micro-publisher', how do you view the current upheavals in the publishing industry and what advice would you give to writers about navigating those changes when it comes to getting published (and/or self-publishing)?

Frankly, I think the traditional publishing industry deserves to die. Like the music industry, they do few favours to the artists who allow them to exist, and are -- in the main -- incredibly resistant to change. The booksellers aren't much better: between the mess of distribution and the insane 'returns' system, it's hard to imagine a worse business model. As Bob Dylan said, "Get out of the doorways, don't block up the halls!" If these people can't change, they just need to go away.

We're right in the the middle of a revolution, now. Digital books and sales of eReaders are achieving critical mass. With the switch to digital, traditional publishers have fewer bullshit ways to play games with authors -- the returns game is over and the cost of print and distribution becomes a non-issue. They're trying to draw some hard price lines on the basis of the cost of promoting and marketing books, but the average, non-celebrity author knows that the money the majors spends on marketing them is close to zero. It's becoming hard not to notice that the Emperor has no clothes.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the fallout of this will be mostly good for authors. I think Amazon and maybe Sony will get into the publishing business very soon and offer authors a far better deal than traditional publishers have or do -- certainly far higher royalties, though perhaps not advances. Others will follow. One or two of the majors and many of the smaller presses will adapt and survive what is certain to be a sizeable extinction event. I think print will certainly survive, but perhaps as a more high-end or collectable product...unless the Espresso machine, which prints books in five minutes on demand, becomes commonplace. Agents won't go away, and the smarter ones are already ahead of the curve on digital rights. Both they and their authors will see a more varied landscape as new players enter the field and experiment with different business models. It's a very exciting -- and very confusing -- time.

As for self-publishing, that's changing too. Right now it's still widely viewed as an exercise in ego, and professional reviewers have pretty much a blanket policy of not reviewing self-published work. It's true that 99.99% of it is dross, and -- worse -- dross that's poorly edited and produced. but by the same token, the vast majority of traditionally published books are dreck, only better packaged.

I think this will change. Some reviewers are already beginning to consider this policy, and there have been several instances of good self-published books seeing commercial pickup -- rare, but it's happened. The challenge, as always, is marketing, getting heard above the exponentially increasing static roar. But with some name authors experimenting with self-publishing and a growing number of authors choosing this option, it seems likely that channels will emerge for self-published books to be reviewed and noticed. Authors will likely have to be even more involved in marketing than they currently are -- which I think is not a good thing -- but that's the world we live in.

In conclusion, then, I'd advise a new author -- for now -- to go the traditional route of seeking an agent and publisher. But at the same time keep an eye on the industry, and in particular blogs like Kristin Kathryn Rusch's ( - her 'Business Rusch' section especially) and the guru megastar of self-publishing success, J.A. Konrath ( ).

The most important thing, of course, is to hone your craft. If you write SF & F, you're fortunate to have lots of pros and semi-pro markets that publish short fiction. Unless you only write novels, submitting and selling short fiction is a tremendous way to get real-world feedback and benchmark your progress, as well as learning to work with editors. And whether your fiction is long or short, a good crit group is absolutely vital.

But whatever the publishing landscape looks like, I do believe that success begins with a very simple formula: tell me a STORY, and make me CARE.

Thank you, Dario!

You can check out Panverse's current and upcoming publications at

Sunday, July 3, 2011

'Persephone' published in Westerly.

Issue 56:1 of the literary journal Westerly is now out, with a rich and varied collection of fiction and poetry, including my poem 'Persephone' (under my poetry writing name, Jo Mills).

For more details, go to