I’m blogging over at VisionWriters.net again today. This time it’s a writing prompt for Valentines day that encourages you to match a pair of personal ads with hilarious results.
Today I’m blogging over on the Vision Writers website. I’ve posted a writing prompt and I’d love it if you’re inspired by it.
While it was quite different to the round table style meetings we usually have, we had to work with the auditorium we’d been assigned and the small stage did not have space for a table big enough to fit us all.
We still handed out our critiques, going to the podium when it was our turn to provide feedback, and even a few of our usual jokes and quirks (like Talitha Kalago’s refusal to fit into the two minute time limit(which she gets away with because her feedback is always so stellar and thorough) and my tendency to gesticulate) managed to slip through, giving everyone in the audience a real taste of our meetings.
Afterwards we fielded a few questions, like the definition of speculative fiction, and even sold a few copies of the paperback version of our anthology, 18.
It was a great session and lots of fun and who knows, if things go well we might be back for round two in 2015 ;p
At the start of next month I will be attending the first writers’ festival in which I am a presenter.
As long time readers well know, I’m Vice President of Vision Writers, Brisbane’s speculative fiction writers’ group. Instead of having our usual meeting in a room in Brisbane Square library we will be having an open meeting at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, showing people how we run a meeting, how we critique, how we help each other grow as fellow writers.
On Saturday 6th September at 4pm you can come to the State Library Queensland and check out how our meetings run. We’ll be critiquing pieces just the same as we always do, giving people an insight into what it’s like to be critiqued. Attendance is free and you can find more information out here on the Brisbane Writer’s Festival homepage.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that the book I read for May is 18.
18 features not just all Australian spec-fic authors, but all Queensland-based spec-fic authors. The anthology was titled thus because it is celebrating the eighteenth year of the Brisbane critique group Vision Writers.
Now clearly, being VP of this critique group(not to mention having helped critique every one of these stories) there is no way I can be impartial about this book as I have been with other anthologies I’ve appeared in. Instead of making this a review as I normally would, I’ll tempt you with teaser sentences for each story.
- 18/20 by S. Elliot Brandis (Stephen has also recently released his first novel ‘Irradiated’): In a militia-governed city where even the ability to give birth is currency, how far will Eila go to escape her arranged marriage and be with the woman she loves?
- 1800 by Talitha Kalago (you can check out Talitha’s awesome YA series Lifesphere Inc as well): Hiding in the rainforests of Queensland are all manner of still undiscovered species, but this small band of explorers are about to discover how dangerous the rainforest is.
- Infinity Underscore by Kristen Isbester: Life and Death, wealth and destitution, health and illness – forever in balance. On the frontiers of colonial space there is a myth of Kasia, the embodiment of life, wealth and health. Her passing will bless all in proximity, but when she moves on…
- Low Life by Allan Walsh: Eighteen layers of Hell. How deep will your sins take you?
- 18k In The Hole by Tony Owens (You can also read his most recent story free on Antipodean): Bill and Carl, enforcers, assassins, crooks, think this is just another job, warning some bloke he better pay back the $18,000 he owes soon – until their car goes off the side of a cliff. And doesn’t drop to the ground.
- How To Grow A Beard by Meghann Laverick: Everyone knows that a wizard’s power is in his beard, but what if puberty just isn’t blessing you with anything more that a cracked voice?
- The Seven Swordsmen by Daniel Ferguson: Everybody loves a good bounty. 25,000 sterling quarters for the Silver Man is a hefty sum, but the mysterious Silver Man is a hefty foe, so a team forms.
- Flickering Lives by Kenneth Mugi (you can check out his other books on his website): In a world where simply saying the word ‘eighteen’ could turn you or someone near you into a killing machine, Emra fights to free her brother from those who would take his life away.
- Nightfall by Kirstie Olley: Marrille has never feared Nightfall like the rest of her flock, but when a chance comes to fix the eternal dusk her world is stagnating in she must decide whether to listen to her family or do what she believes will save the world.
- The Black Queen by Melanie Bird: In love with each other from childhood, human healer Eloise and dragon prince Malicay dream of being together forever, but the Black Queen has something to say about that.
- XVIII: Crazy He Calls Me by S. Walsh: Dumped, fired and homeless in the space of ten minutes, Darrius goes on a bender and gets his fortune read by a gypsy – what’s in the cards?
- 18 Little Beds by Laura Brodnik (you can check out her articles regularly in BMag as well): In a cold orphanage in Russia there is a locked room with eighteen little beds and a terrible secret.
- 18 Barr St by Chrisopher Kneipp: You never know what will happen when you pull out the ouija board.
Don’t forget, using Amazon’s Look Inside function you can read the first story and some of the second to get a good taste. And if 99c is still a bit on the steep side for you, the book will be free again soon (trust me, I’ll let you know the dates when I know them 🙂 ).
Through June I’ll be reading Trouble Twisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams
The Winding Way to Kickass Heroines
Guest Post by Kenneth Mugi
As a white male who constantly fights with his morning stubble, I have a bevvy of video-game characters I can relate to and imagine myself being. There’s Garrett swiping things in Thief, Booker DeWitt saving Elizabeth in BioShock: Infinite, George Stobbart who stumbles around in Broken Sword and…well, every taciturn hero who finds themself in a first-person shooter. It’s not difficult for me to connect with digital entertainment because most Xbox One titles are specifically crafted for my fantasies.
The downside of this enormous a la carte imagination parade (and my first world, white male problem) is that I usually find myself in the company of other white males. Mostly they’re good folk, using me as a way of getting their death-match score up, but there’s always one. There’s that guy. He’s in my headset, yelling, screaming and cussing up a storm about how ‘you b****** be owned’ until he gets dominated by one of the many females lurking on the server.
Which, at that point, he tells the female-gendered player she’s doing it ‘wrong’ and males are superior to women in video games anyway. After all, isn’t that why most titles feature rugged, Hercules-with-guns type heroes? Women don’t play games. Not real games. They just cheat and that’s why Y-chromosome-predominant characters aren’t interesting.
Except Lara because she’s got ‘jugs, man’.
To that guy, I say you’re a fake geek and should only be allowed to play Frogger.
There are kickass heroines who don’t have Lara or Croft in their names. There’s Jade who fights for her friends in Beyond Good and Evil, Samus Aran who used to save the galaxy without daddy issues and…April Ryan.
Possibly, my favourite game of all time (even more than Prince of Persia: Sands of Time or Mass Effect 1 & 2 or Command and Conquer: Red Alert) is The Longest Journey. And it features April Ryan as the main protagonist.
April’s just a typical, stressed-out uni student who’s dealing with ex-boyfriend issues, a boss who refuses to pay her and a grumpy landlady. She’s also living in the future and gets tired of you trying to combine the same items in a desperate, last-ditch effort at problem solving.
Unfortunately for her, she’s got magical powers and can dimension hop. That sounds like fun until she gets dumped with saving the world by some random old guy whom she took pity on. Well, bad for her… fantastic for us.
The Longest Journey is my favourite title by far because it has a flawed protagonist who doesn’t want to be there, struggles with their newfound responsibilities and yet uses their wits to keep going. She doesn’t strip off and flash the bartender to get a drink, or talk coyly into a man’s ear so he drops a magical key. Hell, April doesn’t even lose her clothes as the game progresses. She’s simply a human trying to make sense of the new world she’s been forced into.
It was one of the three titles that showed me games were about more than accomplishing set tasks; they were about generating emotional experiences with the player. That even though I was a twenty-ish-year-old male, I could connect with the struggles and challenges faced by someone outside my gender. She was me; I was her. It paved the way for me for to search outside of the chiseled-men-and-square-jawed-hero narratives that had dominated my youth.
It said, without fanfare, “The protagonist’s gender doesn’t matter. Art is f’ing art. Respect.”
So I did.
Now, when that guy lights up my eardrum with his profanities, I tell him he doesn’t know anything about video games. He’s still playing in the kid’s pool with his toys and floaters. The rest of us, we’ve moved on, and if he wants to join us…he should play The Longest Journey.
After all, April is waiting.
In yesterday’s post about the anthology, 18, that my critique group released for its eighteenth anniversary, I mentioned the work wasn’t just the product of the members imaginations but also showed the critiquing of the group and the ability of the writers to take that feedback and work on it. I also mentioned that my story, Nightfall, went through a great deal of change. In fact it is one of the stories that probably changed the most from the original.
In my original story Marrille had a massive fear of giving birth and therefore of being assigned a mate, but the group thought this distracted from the much bigger themes in the story – muddied the waters so to speak (though I’m definitely keeping that fear for some poor future character to suffer).
Also, in the original version Marrille and Sario successfully made their provision run, visiting the local town, bartering for food and allowing me to show off all the wonderful creatures I’d populated the world with. However, cool as it was to me, not enough happened in the scene, and it set the action of the hawk attack too far back from the start, meaning a longer slog for the reader before life and death hung in the balance.
So my second version had both of those removed (along with some smaller more finnicky stuff I won’t waste time here on), however my story was still well over the word count and there was still something about the story niggling in a few minds and we eventually uncovered what that was.
The fix was to chop apart the start again. I thought I was killing a darling (a writer’s term for removing something you love that just isn’t working) when I cut the market scene, but taking out the start was much, much worse. My favourite character’s best moments were cut, in fact the whole power of his presence was diminished massively – but it wasn’t his story, it was Marrille’s so it had to go.
This should show how much a story can change between first draft and when it appears on printed page. A critique group, or at least some outside opinions, can help so much in finding flaws that you can’t see yourself, whether you can sense something’s wrong or not.
The cut start is still a darling, and though it was killed from the story I couldn’t let it wallow in a shallow grave in the Word Cemetary, so I’ve made it available here(read on site or pdf). You can read Nightfall in it’s final form first and come back to see the longer opening because of curiosity or read it first then read Nightfall as it appears in the anthology 18. You can buy 18 from Amazon. You can read the darling start by downloading it in pdf or reading it here on this site.
Long-time readers will be familiar with the fact I’m a member and Vice-President of a fantastic critique group: Vision Writers.
Vision Writers celebrates its eighteenth anniversary this September, and current president Belinda thought it would be a smashing idea for the current generation of the group to make an anthology. Our original intent was to release a little closer to the anniversary in September, but at the meeting on Sunday we found the ebook version was good to go so – SURPRISE – you can go buy it now!
All of the stories have been critiqued by the whole group at least twice, so aren’t just the product of the imaginations of group members, but the toil of our critiquing and our members taking on board the feedback and actioning it(more on that in an upcoming post where I’ll give you a chance to check out how dramatically my own story Nightfall changed throughout the process).
And I’m going to issue a challenge to all readers of the anthology: one of our members is sweet sixteen. Her piece is in here with everyone else’s. I GUARANTEE you won’t guess which one is hers. Yes. Guarantee. I’m going for that strong a word.
Obviously I’m totally biased as to the awesomeness of this anthology, so go check it out on Amazon and peek inside. The ‘look inside’ function on Amazon will let you see the first story and a little bit of the second and I’m confident you won’t be able to stop yourself there.