Queensland Literary Awards finalists announced, plus some writerly advice

queensland literary awards logoThe Queensland Literary Awards short-lists have been announced. How wonderful to see how the community rallied to support these awards when the Queensland Government couldn’t be arsed. As the LNP rips the state apart looking for spare change and some cheap point-scoring, something has been built. Even the Courier-Mail ponied up some cash, brilliant given the chaos that Murdoch’s empire is in at the moment, slashing jobs wherever they can be found to slash — latest on the line, photographics. But the good news — well done, y’all!

The press release is here and the short-lists here. Yay Margo Lanagan, with Sea Hearts in the, ahem, YA section!


Elsewhere, some good advice, especially that from Dr Kim!

China Mieville, at the Edinburgh international writers conference, quoted in the Guardian’s round-up:

Our job is not to give readers what they want, it is to try to make readers want what we give.

Kim Wilkins, on being distracted from your work by, um, writing this blog post:

reframing your internet procrastination as wandering away from your work can really help

And Marianne de Pierres shares productivity tips over at Louise Cusack’s place, my favourite being: persevere. Something of a personal mantra.

Writerly roundup, with added Dredd

judge dredd iOS gameAn Aussie voicing Judge Dredd: that’s pretty cool. Alan Baxter reports there’s a new mobile phone game set in the world of Judge Dredd, with the said judge voiced by Kevin Powe, a Melbourne actor I’ve had the good fortune to run into in bars (as you do). Better than Sly? You can be the judge of that.

  • Louise Cusack is running a series of Wednesday posts about the writing game, with recent posts by guests including using writing contests to build a CV on the way to getting a publishing contract; publishing an e-book; and wrangling media. There’s a good post about editing from Louise, too, with a handy Q&A form.

  • Speaking of editing, Angela Slatter has a handy graphic to help understand the writing cycle. The word ‘flensing’ appears. Not for the precious or faint-hearted!

  • Over at Cheryse Durrant’s, I’ve been invited to bang on about Kim Harrison and urban fantasy. I am seriously behind on the Rachel Morgan series: there’s a graphic novel now? From Ivy’s point of view? w00t!

  • catwoman comic nine livesHave you been following the Wonder Women Are blog posts over at Tansy’s place? Delightful overviews of various star women characters in the comics world. The focus has been on DC and Marvel, with this week dedicated to the Bat-family. As a one-time massive buyer of Batman comics, it’s been great to see not only how stories have progressed and been reinvented, but how the comics honchos have moved with the times … or not. I may even have to make some further investments for the collection. Outside of Batman, two of my favourite titles back in the day were Kabuki and Shi: I wonder how they hold up today? Hm, I know they’re here somewhere…
  • Snapshot 2012: Louise Cusack

    australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoLOUISE Cusack is an international-award winning fantasy author whose best-selling Shadow Through Time trilogy with Simon & Schuster was selected by the Doubleday Book Club as their ‘Editors Choice’. This trilogy was released as e-books in February by Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint Momentum Books. Louise has been a Writer in Residence at the Queensland Writers Centre, and a key regional tutor. She also mentors other writers through her manuscript development business and conducts writing workshops, residencies and retreats with adults writers and in schools. louisecusack.wordpress.com


    Your Shadows Through Time fantasy trilogy has been re-released in e-format by Momentum. What have you been doing to add some puff to this second wind?
    In the lead-up to the re-release I created a new website which I linked to Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. My friend Lisa at Twine Marketing helped me organise my ideas into practical steps that would promote the books while at the same time engaging with other writers and readers to build my brand (I know that sounds pretentious but I’m starting to see what she means!). When you break it down into steps it’s actually fun and easy and I love the immediacy of Twitter and the feedback comments on blogs.


    How has your move to the picturesque cane coast of Queensland impacted on your writing?
    For a start, my productivity doubled! I think that’s a combination of not being distracted by writerly things in Brisbane, and not visiting family and friends as much as I had been. Once I arrived here, I was spending long stretches just pouring out drafts and I upped my output from 5000 good words a week to 10,000, which is pretty awesome when it’s rolling out like that. I also think the change of scenery has helped. Being near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef is amazing. My tiny town is surrounded by fields of sugarcane, sweet potato, melons and strawberries that are always growing, being harvested or ploughed, which means I never have the same drive through it twice. Even my afternoon ambles along the esplanade are different depending on the tide time, the wind, the cloud cover. So much of Brisbane was the same day after day. I find the constantly changing environment here is really stimulating my creativity. As a fantasy author that’s gold.


    What lessons or themes have you brought to your fantasy fiction from your early days in Romance?
    I’ve always loved a good love story, so no matter what genre I write in I’ll always want to incorporate attraction, rejection, desire and love/hate in the stories. I’m also drawn to the theme of ‘stranger in a strange land’ which lends itself to fantasy and lost world stories, but that theme was also revealing itself early in my fledgling romance writing when I had an city animal rights activist turning up at a country rodeo for example. I like the clash of cultures, of landscapes, of characters feeling like they don’t belong, and then realising that they do. I think I had all these ideas before I even started writing romance, but what romance writing did teach me was to hold the thread. Once the hero and heroine met you were never allowed to sever the thread of their attraction to each other, and while that’s less important in novels where there’s a whole lot more going on than just the love story, it taught me to hold each thread and not break it: the thread of romance, the thread of political intrigue, the thread of physical/emotional/supernatural attack for instance. Every plot has its own threads that need to be maintained, and romance writing taught me not to break them — fabulous lessons in structure for a beginning writer.


    What Australian works have you loved recently?
    I’ve just finished Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace which I adored. I’m a pushover for a good love triangle, but Jessica has done so much more with hers than the usual YA fantasy, and her bad-boy angel Phoenix is seriously hot! I can’t wait to read other novels in the series.


    What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
    I can only speak for my own experience, both as a reader and a writer, to say that the price and availability of e-readers has changed my world profoundly. I bought a Kindle a year ago and since then have read more fiction in a year (both spec fic and other genres) than I had in the five years preceding it. I’ve read best-sellers, cheap and free self-published books, as well as novellas and short stories (which I never normally bought) and more ‘sample’ opening chapters of novels than I can readily remember. It’s a whole new way to select what you read, and being able to sample the openings of novels before I buy has sharpened my personal eye for what I like instead of just being drawn in by a book cover or a recommendation or review.

    This year I had a previously print-published fantasy trilogy released as e-books and I’m hearing that people who would never normally buy fantasy novels have sampled the opening of my first novel and bought it because the characters appealed to them. So I think that people buying e-books are going to be reading across genres more than they had, and also now that writers can self-publish, the power to decide what sells is largely back in the hands of readers rather than being solely at the discretion of publishing house editors. I see that some writers are self-publishing e-books without editing them properly, but a proportion of readers are fine with that so long as they love the story. It’s all about options, really, and the rise of e-books has increased options for writers and readers. That has to be good.

    * * *

    THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at:

    WriteFest windows of opportunity, and other writerly news

    Bundaberg’s WriteFest is a great event, one of those fairly intimate occasions when everyone’s just chilled out yet totally keen. This year the organisers have upped the ante, offering a workshop with Louise Cusack — her writing advice is always worth it — as well as the chance to get feedback from Allen & Unwin’s Rachael Donovan on how to improve a submission to a publisher, and a chance to talk to Clan Destine Press’s Lindy Cameron about a manuscript. But you want to be quick: applications for the feedback sessions close on Sunday April 15. Check out the website: there’s plenty more on, including two workshops with Marianne de Pierres and seminars on many things writerly. WriteFest is held on May 19.

  • Michael Hauge provides insight into story structure and the rules of engagement for hero and ‘reflection character’.
  • The horror of having a book go to print without its opening line, and a constructive way of dealing with the misdeed, courtesy of Kirstyn McDermott.
  • I’ve recently had cause to chinwag with a.rawlings, this year’s Arts Queensland poet in residence hosted by Queensland Poetry Festival, and was again struck by the power of the written word when read out loud. I found her poem, ‘a hoosh a ha’, inside her collection Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, and then this clip on YouTube of her performing the piece. It’s a gorgeous book, beautifully laid out, but to hear those words out loud: wow. To complete the narrative circle of this post, it’s worth the mention that one of Louise Cusack’s suggestions for improving self-editing is to read the work out loud. Advice I really wish I’d take more often, because it really does highlight awkwardness, errors and repetition.


  • Dymocks still fumbling the D Publishing ball, and other writerly news

    It has been a case of third time unlucky for Dymocks, which has presented three versions of its author contract for those wanting to publishing under its imprint — and been criticised each time for imposing unpalatable terms on the author. Crikey’s Lit-icism blog provides a nice overview of the continuing reservations about the service. Perhaps check for version four and, as with any contract, check the fine print, decide if the service is worth the price, be aware of what it might mean down the track…

    Also on the nose, but in a rather more fetching manner, is Kim Wilkins, polishing off another manuscript in her ‘fetid nightie‘.

    And now for the fresh air:

    Last week, I had the pleasure — I guess that should be the joy, really — of umming and ahing my way through a wonderful episode of Scifi and Squeam with Joy94.9 host Sonja and fellow guest Rob Radcliffe. We gushed over Gothic movies and paid special mention to the late Ken Russsell, in particular his Gothic and Lair of the White Worm.

    Also: Jay Kristoff reports there was a kerfuffle over at Goodreads, once again delivering the message about being ever so careful when replying to or commenting on unfavourable reviews; Louise Cusack shares the sharp covers of the new e-versions of her fantasy trilogy; and Sean the Bookonaut speaks up for the Stellas in an argument I’m still catching up with…

    Writerly roundup: tips from Dr Kim, Aussies breaking out, Xmas tips

  • Start the writing/working week with a set of tips from Kim Wilkins, and grapple with the problem of prioritisation with Louise Cusack
  • Bone up on stories by Aussies that would make fine Christmas stocking fillers (and see below for Trent’s Xmas book corner edition!)
  • Lee Battersby notches a two-book deal with Angry Robot, and fellow Robot author Kaaron Warren goes single with The Grinding House
  • The 2012 calendar of Australian literary events has passed the 40 listings mark — updates and new entries are welcome.
  • No hope for Thoraiya and other writerly stuff

    anywhere but earth

    Thoraiya Dyer has reviewed Keith Stevenson’s monolithic (it’s more than 700 pages!) SF antho Anywhere But Earth and I *love* her comment about my story in it:

    Jason Nahrung, as usual, wrote beautifully, but handed me horror in sci-fi clothing. One day, he’ll gift me with a glimmer of hope!

    A glimmer? I *think* I could do that. In fact, I did try once, and the jury’s still out on that story, but I *guess* I could try again…

    Read Thoraiya’s thoughtful and generous review here.

  • Meanwhile, Karen Brooks has penned one of her, as usual, insightful media-probing articles about a new Snow White movie starring Charlize Theron and ‘that girl from Twilight‘, Kristen Stewart, a casting decision which apparently has issues of the shallow flesh front and centre. Stewart impressed in The Runaways; this might be worth a look. Has there been a decent adaptation since Sigourney Weaver played the wicked stepmother? I like what Karen says about looking for moral reinforcement in uncertain times, and just hope that means the movie makers are subverting the old tropes of cultural reinforcement rather than wielding them from a pulpit.
  • Louise Cusack has blogged on the authenticity of blogging and the crafting of online personae, this weird business of marketing the creator and not just the product. A kind of cult of personality, or a genuine reaching out to those who make a creative life financially viable (if you’re one of the lucky ones)? For those writers who fit the shy, retiring mould, the idea of appearing in public to try to talk up their work is anathema, but the pressure’s on. I guess the key is to try to be nice about it, wield some respect for others and yourself, while at the same time not taking it too seriously because there’s nothing worse than seeing a big head explode in front of an audience…
  • Jay Kristoff, who recently exhorted us all to walk and keep on walkin’ till we reach the destination, has got me thinking that, hm, yes, I really must investigate this Dropbox thing, or something similar. Read these words and tremble in shared terror:

    …the entire sequel had flipped out and been eaten by gremlins. Every draft. All my notes. My diary of a madman scribbles about where the trilogy was headed. Everything.

  • Michael Pryor, who has a new book out soon, has provided some cool tips for DIY booktrailers. Possibly the hardest part is getting someone to watch it, neh?
  • And Stephen M Irwin talks about the three acts of a narrative, the kind of basic info that I really should staple to the wall above my computer before I start the next project…
    Act 1: make it matter
    Act 2: make it messy
    Act 3: make it meaningful
    I can’t help feeling that it’s Act 3 that lets a lot of stories down. Boom, crash is all very well and lots of fun, but the stories that linger are the ones that reach down deep and make us ask those ‘what if’ questions.

    Back to the fairytales, then, and one of the coolest Disney villains: magnificent Maleficent!