2010 in review

A storm of retrospective blog posts by up and coming writers is rolling across the internet at the moment, so you’ll excuse my effort below. 2010 has been an interesting year, a year in which I aimed my stories at more demanding markets and rightfully copped a hiding as my deficiencies were ruthlessly exposed. However, I did stick at it and pleasingly a number of stories were accepted, in a rush, towards the end of the year. I then went AWOL in terms of writing, catching up on reading, television and sleep (actually, the last bit is a lie – I seem to now be able to subsist on around 6 hours sleep a night, frequently less, which is clearly a mark of someone getting OLDER.) Frightening.

Anyway, 2010 looked something like this:

The following stories will be published in the near future.

Widdershins – Australian Horror Writers Association, Midnight Echo #5, edited by Leigh Blackmore

Blood Fire – published in Assassins, 2011 – Rogue Blade Entertainment

The Well – British Fantasy Society 2011 Winter Journal

The Lighthouse – Estronomicon zine

This is How the World Ends – The Doctor Who Project

Stories which were published earlier in the year were:

Along Came a Spider – Black Matrix Publishing

In at the Beginning – Tales of the Zombie War website

The Devil at Your Heels – republished in Filthy Creations #6

At the beginning of 2010 I took some advice from a writer who said that I should aim for the top of the market, then work my way down as rejections came through. This is clearly the reason for majority of the rejections I received during the year. That, and editor preference. Submitting to a higher standard can only help your work, but it can be dispiriting at times being reminded frequently that you haven’t made the grade. A case in point is Widdershins which was rejected at least three times. I sat down with it while on annual leave and re-worked it, based on a fresh reading and also reader comments from the Online Writing Workshop. In the end, it still needed some revision, but was accepted for Midnight Echo.

Blood Fire is the oddity of those accepted this year. A straight attempt at sword and sorcery, it, much to my astonishment, was accepted for publication. Using the assassin as inspiration, the collection will see print traditionally and via pdf in 2011. Without giving too much away, I attempted to fill the story with incident, never letting it slow down and allowing the main character to show off his abilities, all within a reasonably tight word count. There’s a little horror and magic introduced to spice things up and it ends satisfactorily (if not a little bloodily!) One of the proudest moments of the writing year was being told this had been accepted. The anthology should be out before mid-2011.

The Well – the other proud event was acceptance in the BFS 2011 Winter Journal, which came as a complete shock. The editor described it as being ‘terrific’ which was another shock. It’s a solid little story with some macabre aspects and I hope I invoke the furnace that is the Australian summer to great effect. The journal will now see release in mid-January.

The Lighthouse proved a real headache. Expanding on a fragment penned a year earlier, with no real outline other than a vague road map to get me to the end, the final products ended up sprawling across more pages than I wanted. Sure, it wreaks of atmosphere, but it needed a great deal of tightening and focussing. While I’m glad it has been picked up for publication, I think it was a bit of a missed opportunity. You really can’t go wrong with an isolated lighthouse… For those with a few spare coins after the Christmas gift giving, do yourselves a favour and buy one of the best Doctor Who stories on DVD, The Horror of Fang Rock – now that’s how you do scary lighthouses!

This is how the World Ends – another oddity. Again harking back to my Doctor Who obsession, this is an expanded version of the submission to Big Finish Productions when the opened the floodgates to submissions for audio readings of short stories. That original, shorter story was knocked back (which was a pity as I thought it was rather good and did something a little different with the usual set up). That said, when one door closes, another opens… The Doctor Who Project, apart from their long running series of novellas, recently established a line of shorter stories under the Brief Encounters banner. The first, Fear the Dark, was mine and I took the opportunity to expand/deepen my Big Finish submission. Pleasingly, the editors, Bob and Sam, accepted it. According to the site, this should see release in early January 2011.

Along Came a Spider – I blogged about this earlier in the year. Accepted right at the end of 2009, published in 2010, Along Came a Spider was released in a print anthology by Black Matrix Publications and was the inspiration for the cover. The story itself does suffer a bit of bloat, and if I was writing it now, would definitely enjoy hacking away at the flabby parts. That said, I think it is a decent enough story. If I thought it was worth submitting to Pseudopod, I would definitely take another look at it.

In at the Beginning – my first long form zombie tale. It was very well received by those who commented on it at the Tales of World War Z website. I submitted it later in the year to Pseudopod, thinking it would be right up there alley, but was rejected. Thinking about it, probably my first story which features more than one character viewpoint, which was tricky to get right, but ultimately made the story more rewarding. And, as it is a tale of a zombie holocaust at the beginning, rather than during or after, I think it works quite well.

The Devil at Your Heels – this entry is a bit of a cheat as the story originally saw publication on the House of Horror site in 2009. However, I took the opportunity to get some feedback as a means of improving it and my writing and posted it to the Filthy Creations site. Lo and behold but it was accepted for issue 6 of the zine, filthy Creations. The editor was keen to let it see print and I’m grateful to Rog for his support. Reviews for it are mentioned elsewhere on the blog, but it remains one of my favourite stories to date.

So, that’s about it. A bit of a famine and feast year (most of the feast will be happening in 2011). Rewarding in many ways when I look back on it. 2011 will be more of the same, with an emphasis on upping my word count per day and continuing to push stories towards more professional markets. I posted (yes, posted, in the internet age!) a submission to Black Static magazine just before Christmas. Obviously, I hope it will be accepted, but if not, I’m hoping for even a line of constructive feedback. So, 2011 will hopefully be a year of improvement, in output and quality, and I aim to get a story in a decent quality anthology. Fingers crossed.

A few thanks are in order. To Stephen Bacon who was heaps of help and inspiration during the year – he’s definitely a writer to watch so seek him out.

To the three Gods of Ragnarok – they don’t know who they are, haven’t given any feedback despite requests and I don’t see them enough, but thanks for the years (many) of friendship

Finally, to my wife and daughters who put up with my odd hours, odd (writing) moods and celebrate with me my writing successes. I love you all so very much.

Happy New Year!

Addendum: this just in, a review of The Web of Time – he no likey!

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