Saturday, March 26, 2011

Laugh. Cry.

This has been the weirdest month of my life.

On a personal level, living through the earthquake has made me very nervous, sad, depressed and exhausted. I knew I would be ok once the bone-deep exhaustion began to pass and I could start walking and biking on my broken foot again, but the near to mid-term future is going to be a very sad time in this city's history to live through. So many lives, beautiful spaces, buildings and livelihoods lost, so many wonderful places now just memory.

But I'm doing better than I thought I would. Every day is a roller coaster of emotions. I can have a good day.  I can have an AMAZING day (like I did yesterday). And I can have a terrible day just by seeing the daily devastation and living the stress around this city.

On a professional level, it's very hard to wrap my head around what's happening with my writing at the moment. I have written very few "new words" because of the earthquake. My concentration is shot, and I hate the excuses I'm making for myself. I am a little jealous of some of my writing colleagues I see powering through their word counts - one of my (local) writing colleagues has been talking big time about self-publishing and prepping a novel manuscript for submission to a publisher. That's incredible, I'm so pleased for them! I really envy their ability to focus at a difficult time. As I've said before, people deal with stress in different ways. Some get hyper focus. I can't. I can't sit still.

For more kicks and giggles, let's not forget the rejections keep on coming too! Plus, I know I'm going to fail one of my month's "To Do" things - I had very much planned to submit to Wily Writer's SpecFic NZ competition, but I haven't been able to finish my planned piece in time, and I don't have anything else available or up to scratch  (unless I get an appropriate (?) rejection elsewhere in the next 4 days). Seriously frustrating, that one could have been big exposure.

Then I get a surreal day like yesterday. An SJV nomination. It doesn't feel right. I might not make the final ballot, but...I keep asking myself if it's too soon, is it a fluke? I don't have many other sales under my belt, nothing professional or SFWA worthy. I know it's a good story, and the nomination is on the strength of that story alone. However, my writing as a whole is very patchy, and my lack of sales an indication somewhat of that patchiness. I'm still in the learning phase of my writing career, and an award nomination could make my ego get away on itself. I know I'm good, I've have the POTENTIAL to be great, but I've got  LONG way to go yet.

The strength of "Tuatara" of course also got me into "Tales For Canterbury", of which I'm eternally grateful to Cassie and Anna for. Look, I know I'm no Gaimen or Williams, Marillier or Lowe. I'm not even on the level of my friends Lynne, Ripley and Tim who have pieces in there! I know I'm me, and I hope people recognize the potential. Another thing that makes me so happy and weirded out about getting into TfC is how I'm sharing page space with some AMAZING authors. I'm having a geeky wee brain explosion at being in a book with  ArenaNet employee Angel Leigh McCoy! I mean, seriously folks, if you told me a year ago I'd be in a book with someone who writes for my FAVRITE GAME EVA I'd faint from laughing.

I'm trying to wrap my head around this: if the earthquake hadn't happened, I wouldn't be in TfC, my first meatspace publishing endeavour.  It makes me laugh and cry at the same time - it's the happiest and saddest time of my life. How is this possible?

A ginger cat, with it's ear against a calico kittens head, is listening to what it's brainz might have to say
Wow. She's right, I CAN hear the voices in her head...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sir Julius Vogel Awards Nomination - "My Dad, The Tuatara"

Surreal. Weird things are afoot in baby specfic-writer land...

"My Dad, The Tuatara", first published in Semaphore's December 2010 issue and appearing soon in the "Tales For Canterbury" anthology, has been nominated in the Short Story category for this year's Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Thank you for your kindness whoever it was that nominated me. I'm a bit overwhelmed. I has a wee sniffle...

The final ballot will be available early April, and if I make the final ballot I'll have to seriously consider heading to ConText in June.

A wide eyed kittah is shouting fer bacon!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Awesome, Cosmic Rejections....itty bitty living space 24/03/2011

"Me Myself I" (12...12 rejections ah ah ah) rejected by Daily Science Fiction by form letter.

"Through The Open Door" rejected by Weird Tales by form letter.

These two stories are what I call my "Big Two", mainly because they were my first ever written and sent out, and I believe in them both very strongly. They've both been through a few drafts now, as I've been trying to sell them for a year. They've both been getting good vibes...I just can't find the right place for them.

At what point do I run out of places to sell them?

A Garfield cartoon, where Jon asks his bored cat to have some enthusiasm for life. Garfield proceeds to grin in a ridiculous fashion while still sighing
Garfield Cartoon: Why not show some enthusiasm for life?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

VA: "The Unicorn in the Closet", Strange Stories Ep10 at Misfits Audio

Misfits Audio Productions present "The Unicorn in the Closet", episode ten of Strange Stories.

In this downloadable audio drama I play Again, the Echo Fairy in my best campy high pitched voice.

You can listen online at the above link, or download direct.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Tales For Canterbury" now available for pre-order

"Tales For Canterbury", the fundraising anthology to which I have contributed my story "My Dad, The Tuatara", is now available for pre-order through New Zealand publishers Random Static.

Please spread the word, and not just because I'm involved. This is a great cause, put together so quickly by some wonderful people for a good charity. All proceeds (minus printing/shipping etc) will go to the Red Cross who are doing fantastic work in Christchurch right now.

You can choose between two versions: paperback at $24.95, or e-book (in a variety of formats) for $12.95.

"Tales For Canterbury" will be released in April, 2011.

ETA: Below is a 30 second You Tube trailer for the book, created by contributer Matt Cowens.

Transcript: Tales for Canterbury is a short story anthology from Random Static Press edited by Anna Caro and J.C. Hart. All funds raised through the sale of ebook and print copies will go to the New Zealand Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Appeal. The anthology features stories by New Zealand and international authors, including Neil Gaiman, Karen Healey, Gwyneth Jones, Jay Lake, Cat Connor, Helen Lowe, Sean Williams and more. For more information visit

(h/t: Tales For Canterbury for the transcript)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Live-blogging wrap up 19/03/2011

I had a wonderful and tragic day yesterday live blogging Christchurch memorial day for the NZ Herald online.

I would like to say a massive thanks again to Troy Rawhiti-Forbes, my buddy from NZPWI days, for hooking me up with the gig, Cathy O'Sullivan from the Herald for giving the green light on my shot, and Esther from the Herald online team for wrangling my updates.

I was nervous as all get out. I rewrote my intro three times throughout the week, depending on my emotional temperature. I was very cognizant of the Herald readership being very unforgiving, and I unconsciously started self-editing my opinion. But by the end of the week I'd come across some really nasty anti-Christchurch, unempathetic sentiment, and there are some nasty wee buggers round this country who needed a kick in the arse about our reality here. "Write like your mother isn't watching" my friend Sue Wells told me. Indeed.

ETA: I meant to say: The intro to the piece exaggerated things JUST slightly. My SO didn't swoop in to rescue me like a knight in shining armour and "drive me away from the crumbling inner city". He just happened to me only 4 blocks away and could get to be easily (well, as easy as broken roads would allow). We then sat in the carpark for three hours. I would have walked or driven home myself if I could. So no. No one "rescued" me, and you know I would scoff at the idea of needing "rescuing" by a male *grin*. Also, I know I look unhappy in the picture ("like sucking a lemon" one colleague put it), but hey, as I said in the blog, asking us to smile at this time is editing our response and telling us how we should feel. I sure as heck don't feel like smiling much at the moment.

It was quite a surreal day. Exhausted anyway from the sheer basics of living in this city for the last three weeks, I was climbing the walls early morning, imagining all sorts of scenarios: it wasn't going to be posted; commentary would be vicious; my internet or power would go down.

Thankfully all went to schedule in the end, and I wrote through the memorial service and up to about 3pm. By then I was absolutely exhausted - I'd had a bad night anyway (nerves and insomnia combination), and I was sagging in my chair, absolutely sweating. I know it sounds very dramatic for only having been writing, but the emotional content of the day was pretty traumatic. Having to as quickly as possible put into words my feelings was very difficult, but a challenge I'm glad to say I mostly stood up to. As much as I had some hard and harsh things I wanted to say, I wasn't going to put myself across as unempathetic, nasty or clueless as some opinion writers.

I know my privilege and "luck" showed through in my circumstances, and in that way I felt guilty that my words were important enough to put out there in the mainstream media. Though it needs to be said how much grief there is in Christchurch and how hard everyone is finding it, there are other voices that need to be heard more. I recommend looking at the "Voices of Christchurch" video blog on the Herald for a sampling of those. The people in the eastern suburbs - Aranui, New Brighton, Bexley, Burwood, Avonside, Dallington, Redcliffs, Sumner, Lyttleton - in some suburbs that may never rise again, need a lot of time, help and compassion.

I had made some notes about 1am the night before of things I wanted to mention, but in the blur of writing and editing on the fly, I missed a couple of things. I wanted to mention how much I would like Bob Parker's "It's Munted" t-shirt - I only just found this link, and the proceeds are going to Red Cross, though I can't speak to how official it is. I know there are a other great, more sympathetic fundraising t-shirts out there, if your gallows humour can't quite deal with talking about our munted city.

I also wanted to mention Women's Refuge Christchurch, and I'm so mad at myself that I forgot. Women's Refuge Christchurch Earthquake Response on Facebook has 300 likes. Bob Parker's Parka has 6,600+. I mean, come on people! Women's Refuge ChCh lost 4 of the 5 safe houses on Feb 22, and domestic violence incidences immediately spiked after the disaster. Please do not ignore the difficult parts of our communities during a time of crisis - I know it's not "fun" or light-hearted, but women at risk will be MORE at risk if they've lost their homes and/or jobs and have violent partners even more stressed out because of the earthquake. Donating goods to Women's Refuge Christchurch will take a bit of effort because you have to contact them for the safe drop off point, but please, if you can, make the effort. If not, you can always make a monetary donation through their website.

After riding high on a difficult day that went well, I absolutely crashed emotionally after dinner and a good glass of wine. I finally saw images of the Arts Centre. I wept my heart out. My beautiful city...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Live Blogging Christchurch Memorial Day 18/03/2011

Today I am live blogging Christchurch Memorial Day for the New Zealand Herald.

"Lucky: It's a phrase I've been hearing a lot lately".

It's a rough, nervous time for me. Updates will happen throughout the day.

ETA: I've finished the live blogging, and I'm spent. Was grueling writing on the fly, but well worth the challenge. By the positive responses I'm getting, it seems like I've done ok. I'm sure there will come some critical comments, because that's The Herald readership.

But I'm proud of myself. Quite a surreal day really.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From adversity comes (small) triumph

Who would have thought that it would take a tragedy to get me a professional writing gig?

Not once, but twice now. First the "Tales For Canterbury" anthology, and now I have been asked to write a special blog for the New Zealand Herald. Yup, a national media platform (who I err *cough* criticize quite regularly *cough herrrm*. Yeah I've had a little chuckle about that, but what better way to make change than from the inside the beast?) wants me to write a timeline blog this Friday, to tap into the human interest and community feel in Christchurch during the public holiday, memorial service and day of mourning.

I'm ridiculously pleased, and very grateful to my mate Troy (who I saw for the first time in four years the week after the earthquake) who hooked me up with the gig. Also my rambling, raw blog style the last couple of weeks had an impact too. Eesh, kinda weird to think that people beyond my crew are reading my blog. Eep! That also means I've had to tell my mum. As I said to a friend today: "I blog like my mother's not watching".

This will be an excellent project to shake me out of my writing doldrums. It means I'll have to start paying a bit more attention to the (small) world around me, because I've had the emotional blinkers on for some time. I'm hoping once this has kick started me, I'll be able to return to writing something fresh and new in my spec stories. I have the ideas, I just need the energy. And I'm definitely feeling the energy with this great opportunity.

I'll post up a link later this week once I go live.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I whip my Rejections back and forth 13/3/2011

"Twixt" rejected by Abyss and Apex by form letter.

"Halfway Between Asleep and Dead" rejected by Aoife's Kiss with feedback.

"Polly Ticks" rejected by Aurora Wolf by form letter.

"Tasty Maidens" rejected by Linger Fiction with (encouraging) feedback.

"The Woman With Flowers In Her Hair" rejected by Allegory with feedback.

Captain Jean Luc Picard Sez: Don't Phase Me, Bro!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two and a Half Weeks

I have no reason for an anniversary. There's no date and time to today. It's a Friday. To some it's just another Friday.

It's just two and a half weeks. 18 days.

I look back at what I wrote just a few days after the earthquake and think how incredibly selfish it was. I did not do well to express the end of my life-as-it-was in this city. It has its raw intensity and the pain is there.

Just as it is today. Though it's different - smoother, not so much jagging up and down with the ground, but I am prone to burst into tears at a particularly rough aftershock, or seeing a familiar place as a pile of rubble.

Some places I see in photos - I haven't been to many places because I can't walk far and access is restricted - I can't even identify because so many familiar land marks - signs, street corners, facades, colours - are gone. These are not streets or corners or a city that I know.

But for all that is unrecognizable, I didn't think things could get so normal so quickly. I am astounded at the work done in the city to make roads passable, get power, water and sewerage flowing, make services accessible, to give some semblance of routine. For someone who despises routine, to actually realize it's needed (and how routine my life is) annoys and pleases me in equal measure.

There are some amazing people going above and beyond to make sure life goes on in this city, that there is hope. I can't say that I'm one of them - I tried to carry on working to the best of my abilities (stress, broken appendage and power outages negotiated around), but what I do doesn't save the world. I'm almost embarrassed that routine was demanded of me and I caved to it - it was safe, it was something I could do. But it didn't save anyone, or make anyone's life better. I wish I could have done more.

I have desperately wanted to get back to my writing in the last two weeks, but I just haven't had the mental capacity or energy to do it. When the world is falling down, why would I want to write about the hope you find in SF? I'm also annoyed at myself for having so much time at my disposal, but unable to use it. A colleague of mine managed to write twenty thousand words on their novel in three days directly after the earthquake! I'm embarrassed by my lack of focus and jelly-fish temerity, and ever so slightly jealous. I have real concentration issues at the best of times.

I did continue doing submissions and have started picking at editing pieces needing polish. I do have submissions that need to be done before the end of the month. But as far as new words go, they're still in my head and it's grating on me. Badly. It's like a return to the frustration I felt before I put my finger on my writing need - only I can do something to fix this.

So where am I two and a half weeks later? Everywhere. Nowhere. In between. Falling between the cracks. I feel at a loose end, because I don't know if I want to stay in this city if it's going to be so munted for almost a generation. I feel guilty - good ol' survivors guilt - when I realize I have nothing to offer recovery efforts, when I think about abandoning this place. This city doesn't need a writer! It needs people to do physical, hard work and mental heavy lifting. I know people here who can do that, but it's not me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Writing: Anniversary

A date that went unremarked last week within all the weirdness that is my life right now was the first anniversary of my starting this writing journey.

On March 3, 2010 I made my first specfic short story submision to a magazine (Expanded Horizons to be precise).

Since then I have made sixty-seven submissions, and had three acceptances.

Not the greatest ratio for a year's worth of work, but I can only stick with it, keep searching for the right markets for my stories, and keep trying to get better.

Jean Luc Picard Sez: Keep It Real Girlfriend

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tales For Canterbury - "My Dad, The Tuatara"

I'm proud and pleased to announce that my short story "My Dad, The Tuatara" - a story set in Christchurch - is to be included in the Tales For Canterbury anthology, raising money for quake victims.

Yes, I'm going to be sharing page space with Neil Gaiman and many fine New Zealand authors.

I will post more details of when, where and how you can purchase this book (in e- and bound format) when they become available.

Thanks to Cassie and Anna for choosing my story to be included. It's a bright spot in a difficult time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Five Rejections in One Week 1/3/2011

"Slingshot" rejected by ASIM, with feedback. Odd how the feedback I've got on this piece has been hot and cold - some people have liked it, some absolutely loathe it. Ah well *shrug*

"Tasty Maidens" rejected by Lorelei Signal by form latter.

"Tasty Maidens" (and again!) rejected by Short-Story.Me by form letter.

"Talk To Your Universe" rejected by Fantastique Unfettered by form letter.

Best rejection of the week comes from Redstone SF, who rejected "Me Myself I" with the most amazing feedback. They truly are a class act and make submitting there the most pleasant experience. I hope I can have something more suitable for them next time they open to submissions. They also asked what place I'd like them to make a donation to the earthquake appeal. Righteous, Redstone.

I'm getting so close with "Me Myself I" - it's agony the great feedback I'm getting on it. I'll find the right market for it, I'm sure!