Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Finish Line....For Now....

It's official. I've just completed the first draft of the Devil's Number. Weighing in at 22,296 words and 78 pages, I managed to finish a little under a week ahead of schedule. I promised myself I'd have the draft finished by Christmas time and I've done it. I know I predicted a word count target of 25,000 words, but it was only a guide. I didn't quite make it but a successful author once told me that a story will find it's own length. By the time I re-work the novella it could be 35,000 words or it could be 18,000 words. It all depends on how many more scenes or flesh I add to the story or how much I cut out - who knows?

The self-imposed discipline paid off. And the reward? I now get to spend the Christmas break pounding out some short works that have been begging to be let out of that cage I call my subconcious, while my novella manuscript will be left alone for a good month or so before I attack it with my red pen - I can't wait! Rest assured, I'll keep you in the loop as to how it's going in the new year.

So let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and for fuck sake, drive carefully when you're travelling - you know what the road toll's like. Listen to me - I sound like your mother!

Seriously, everyone enjoy their break and I'll be back online again and refreshed after new year's. I think 2007 is going to be a huge year for us writers. There's going to be an absolute deluge of new stuff making its way into print.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another 3,000 Words

Whew! What a spurt. I managed to bash out three thousand words tonight in an hour and a half on Part III of The Devil's Number and man does it feel good! I'm rapidly approaching the climax of the story - it's going to rock.

I never thought I'd write this much - I've surprised myself. 18,400 words! Anyway I've had enough for tonight but I'm right on track to completing the first draft by Christmas. I reckon two more sessions should do it. I'm looking forward to writing a few short pieces over the break to give myself time away from the novella so I can come back to it and mangle it up and re-write and re-work the parts I'm not happy with. Then I'll realise what real work is. Bring it on!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Jaunt - Orphaned

My sci-fi story, The Jaunt will not be published as planned. It was to be released in an anthology called Timeflash next year but the project isn't going ahead.

Although this is quite sad, it is good experience for me because I know that it probably won't be the last time this happens. I think it's one of those things we, as writers can't control and we simply have to move on. So without further ado, I will be sending The Jaunt out again as soon as possible. Life goes on and I'm not going to cry over spilt milk.

Last night I was looking through all my files on the computer and I found I actually had a total of thirty short stories in my document files. I nearly fell off the chair because I didn't realise I had so many. Of course, some of them are earlier pieces that most likely won't see the light of day - who knows? It made me think, why can't I aim to complete seventy more next year and bring the total up to one hundred. A big ask, I know but quite a few of those would be micro stories that are less time-consuming.

What I'm reading: Clive Cussler's Treasure of Kahn

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Final Stretch....

Whew! The first draft of Part II of The Devil's Number is complete. No long to go now - only about 9,000 words to be written. As much as I'd like to, I can't say what's going to happen. It wouldn't be fair to you because my original idea could change dramatically with the second draft - so I'll keep tight lipped for the time being.

Even though the relief will be sweet once I've finished the first draft, I know that the real work will begin when I go back to it after letting the novella sit for a month. I know for a fact that it is far from satisfactory at the moment. Sure, there are passages of writing I'm okay with, but most of the story is going to be re-written and re-worked extensively. This is a fact of life as a writer and I'm really looking forward to getting out my red pen. Some of my short stories have gone through many re-writes and drafts. The novella will be no exception - it'll be treated with a very critical eye (it's just the way I work.) I want it to stand out so it has a chance of being published next year. I feel fortunate that I can distance myself emotionally from my work so I can edit it properly with no regrets, no sorrow, no remorse - because when it is finished and when I'm happy - I know it'll have the best chance of finding a home.

Changing the subject, last night I took my beautiful pregnant wife to see the new Bond film, Casino Royale and I have to say I was impressed. My wife really enjoyed it too so that's a pretty big thing. Daniel Craig portrays the character of Bond perfectly. The movie has certainly breathed new life into the franchise and let's be honest - it needed it. And, we finally find out what makes Bond tick and why his personality is so cold in all the films. Highly reccomended.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Latest Purchase

Aside from my writing, one of my passions is reading. Occasionally, I like to read some stuff other than horror. So imagine my delight when I recently picked up a copy of Clive Cussler's latest adventure novel, Treasure of Kahn. I became aware of its upcoming release back in February this year and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Clive Cussler is one of my favourite authors of all time. Whenever a new book of his comes out I buy it without reading the blurb on the inside flap. I don't need to (I always buy his books in hardback) because I know Clive will always deliver a compelling story. It takes a pretty special author to instill that trust in me. Aside from Clive Cussler there is one more author that I trust that much - the late and great Richard Laymon.

I can remember when I was fifteen. My reading appetite was insatiable. Looking for something to sink my teeth into, I raided my Dad's collection of books and came across one of Clive's earlier books, Cyclops. Since then, he had hooked me and I've been reading him ever since. When I grab a new book, it's like visiting old friends - the characters, the adventure, the intrigue and interesting historical references.

This latest adventure is about 500 pages long and it'll only take me four days to rip through - can't wait.

Oh, by the way, I just got back from seeing The Descent. Fucking awesome!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back to the Grindstone

After almost a fortnight of no writing whatsoever, I'm glad to say that I'm back into it. The Devil's Number is on the move again - thank God. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my workplace merged with a larger company six weeks ago. As time has gone on, the place has become busier, the tasks more demanding, the workload more horrendous. Don't get me wrong - I love my job but lately I've been so mentally exhausted that when I got home each night the last thing I wanted to do was write.

I know this is a poor excuse and that I should have forced myself to sit at the keyboard - but it felt like my brain power had completely fizzled out.

But now, after a little r and r over the weekend I sat down this afternoon and pummeled out another thousand words of the first draft of my novella, taking the word count up to 15,456. Not bad for a hack who only wrote up to 4,000 words in the past. I'm nearing the end of Part2 and it feels really good to be motoring along again.

Tomorrow night I'm off to see The Descent. I haven't sat down and watched a decent horror movie in quite some time so I'm looking forward to it - it'll be great way to unwind. I watched the trailer the other day and it does look quite good. I'll let you know what I think...

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Little Progress...

Well, I've hit the halfway mark with The Devil's Number so I think I'll finish the first draft ahead of schedule. It's surprising really that I haven't hit a real snag yet with the story, wondering where to go next with the plot line. What's different about this project is I know exactly how it's going to end. That's something I've never been able to do before and it allows me to stay focused and trigger key events that lead to that climax I have in my sights.

I have to admit I'm amazed that I've physically written 12,500 words. I didn't think it was possible. Although I can see that some of the exess wordage and repetition will have to go in subsequent drafts and I can already tell that once I reach 25,000 words, the easy part will be over. The hard part will be the extensive editing and re-writes. But once the first draft is complete, I plan on putting the manuscript away for no less than a month. Then I'll come back to it with a fresh eye and get out my trusty red pen.

Mmm...what's going to happen to Peter Vaughan next?

What I'm reading: Stephen King's The Cell

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Competition Results

Recently, I submitted two of my pieces into competitions. 13L was entered in The Southern Cross Literary Competition, ran by Ballarat Writers and A Visit from Santa was entered in the CAE Cut Short Flash Fiction Competition. It was a double blow to my ego when I found out the results, let me tell you. I had worked my arse of for months perfecting these stories. It pissed me off to not even get a mention.

However, upon further reflection, and when I got over it (which didn't take long) I came to the conclusion that I should be more careful of where I enter my stories. I am a genre writer and I always will be. After reading the judges' reports, I knew that the winners had written 'literary' pieces, not speculative fiction. It was a lack of judgement on my part and I should have known that speculative pieces simply don't fit into literary competitions. Literature is a whole different world - no offense to the gifted literature writers out there. So, I've vented, it's off my chest and now I can move on.

On a brighter note, work on The Devil's Number is moving along at a cracking pace. It now sits at 9,200 words - that's 36.8% of my target - nearly half way. I can now tell you how the novella is going to be constructed. As I've mentioned previously, it has a prologue. It will also have three parts. Each part will be divided up into mini chapters. The reason I am constructing it this way is because I feel that it suits the type of story I'm trying to tell and it will also read very quickly. My goal is to create a page-turner and I think this format will definitely work. The first draft of Part 1 is now complete. Now on to Part 2....

What I'm reading: Stephen King's The Cell

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Onward and Upward...

Tonight I bashed out 1,100 words to achieve my self-appointed goal of writing at least a thousand words per sitting on the first draft of The Devil's Number. My first sitting earlier this week produced 700 words, just short of my target so I'll have to make up for that in subsequent writings.

Anyway, the prologue to my novella is finished and I'm ready to get stuck into the main storyline. I'm officially at 7.52% of my total word count target and I haven't looked back. I'm finding it quite easy at the moment to 'fall into the page.'

Because I'm excited about this book, other projects have temporarily taken a backseat (probably not for too long, knowing me) and by Sunday night I should be at around three thousand words...

What I'm reading: Stephen King's The Cell

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It Begins - The Devil's Number

Well, it's official. Work has officially started on my latest and largest project to date - The Devil's Number. It's going to be a novella-sized work with a predicted length of around 20,000 to 30,000 words. It's a little scary since the longest piece I've ever written is 4,000 words - but I love a challenge. I'm pretty optimistic about this one because it's such a cool, original idea that's been bouncing around inside my head - it won't leave me alone, either so it has to get written.

I'm not going to say any more than that about the project because I don't want to jinx myself - call me superstitious. However, I will be updating the word count in my works in progress section, just to prove that I am working on it.

Because I've set myself a deadline for February 2007, I'll be devoting a lot of my writing time to the novella whilst finalising a couple of short pieces in between for competitions and the like. I'm going to aim pretty high and set a goal of 1,000 words per sitting, so the first draft should hopefully be ready by Christmas. I'll keep you posted. 700 words and counting....

What I'm reading: Stephen King's Cujo

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Section - Current Works In Progress

I've just posted a new section so you can actually see that I do have current projects on my plate at the moment. I will also be using this section as a focus point for my goals, constant reminders of what needs to be done. In particular, 'The Devil's Number' is a brand new project so I've put a counter on it that I can keep updating every time I increase my word count. The title and the length is all I'll divulge at this time, but as the project draws to a conclusion, I'll tell you a bit more about it. It's an awesome, original idea - I'm excited! I'm also going to be adding a caption at the end of each post to tell you all what I'm reading at the moment.

What I'm reading: Stephen King's Cujo

Praise for Mark Smith

One of my fellow writers and friend, Mark Smith has recently become the recipient of the award for Best Classic Short Story on the Demonminds website for his story, Breakdown. To obtain this award Mark's story proved to be extremely popular as thousands of votes were cast in the space of a year. He is especially humbled because Breakdown was one of his earlier works, too - well done, Mark!

Also, Mark has had the pleasure of being nominated for the prestigious 2006 Aurealis Awards. Talk about a double whammy. He's demonstrated that he has what it takes to make it in this cut throat industry and I wish him all the best with it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Blow for Hellnotes

As you are all no doubt aware, Hellnotes is one of the most well-respected and well-known sources for horror news on the net.

Last week I attempted to access their site as I regularly do, and found that I couldn't access it. Eventually I did and learnt that Hellnotes' server had crashed. They lost everything, all their archives.

I find it quite sad because you can imagine the amount of work that goes into a project like that. The site's facilitator mentioned that they would start again from scratch. You have to admire people like that who get knocked down and get up again - I believe this has happened to them before. So, good on them and let's hope something like that doesn't happen again.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My First Interview!

Yours truly is being interviewed on ABC Radio Ballarat 187.9 FM on Monday 30th October at 6:40am. I am stoked - my first interview! Back in 2005, I won a competition ABC Radio ran in conjunction with Ballarat Writers. It was called the Body In Bourke Street Competition and I won an award for best graphic literary imagery. Pretty cool.

Anyway, they simply want to catch up with me to see what I've been up to and they have invited me to read a couple of pieces live on their breakfast radio program - I don't think you could have a better marketing tool than that, really. Let's just hope enough people listen in and take down my email or blog address. I'm a little bit nervous....

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Rocky Balboa Mentality - Going the Distance

His whole life was a million to one shot....do these words sound familiar? If not, then you must have been stranded on a desert island for the last thirty years or so because Rocky has remained one of the most inspirational icons in cinematic history. Hands up those who get shivers down their spine when they hear the theme music? Finish watching Rocky IV (the best of the series) and tell me you don't feel like you can take on the world. You can't, can you?

This same inspiration applies to writing. As a writer I believe it is so important to have goals. Without them, you become lost, you get lazy and you feel like shit when you receive the countless rejections slips from editors who didn't like your latest creation that you laboured over for countless hours.

Using the Rocky example, say one day you get another rejection slip. It feels like Ivan Drago landing a devastating punch, sending you flying fifteen feet across the ring. The referee begins his count after you crash to the canvass. Your vision gets hazy. The crowd and the lights spin before you in a dazzling blur. The referee counts - six; seven; eight. Get up! Get up! Your mind screams. You don't know how, you don't know where the strength comes from, but you get up. You file the rejection slip and you lunge at Drago - punch! Another story gets sent out; Punch! Another, another, another. Are you getting the point?

As writers we are so passionate about our work that rejection does hurt, but eventually we get into print. My goals for 2006 were, I thought, pretty achievable. My primary goal was to get published in the printed form. I was lucky enough to achieve that earlier in the year. The second was to win a competition. That hasn't happened but the year isn't finished yet. The third was to complete or rather, draft twenty new short stories. I'm half-way there. And my fourth goal was to complete the first draft of a novel. I don't think that's going to happen this year due to the fact that irresistible ideas refuse to leave me alone until I exorcise them onto paper, producing them as short stories - hence my delayed attention to the novel.

Already, I'm setting my sights on 2007, the next round, if you will. I'm upping the bar for next year. My goals are:

1) To be published in Shadowed Realms

2) To have one of my micro pieces accepted into Black Box

3) To be nominated for an Aurealis Award or an Australian Shadow

4) To complete that novel - no excuses

5) To have three pieces featured in FlashSpec Volume 2

6) To win the AHWA Flash or Short Story Competition

And finally, a goal that has nothing to do with writing - to be a good Dad to my child due to be born in January next year - I can't wait!

If we all adopt the Rocky Balboa mentality with our writing, we will go the distance and keep getting up when we're down for the count.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Story for Horror Day

As most of you know, Friday was Horror Day, where many prominent members of the horror writing community banded together to make the public aware of this awesome genre.

Martin Livings, the author of Carnies and Stephanie Gunn pulled off an incredible feat of bringing together some of the most prominent names in the horror-writing community in a special online anthology exclusively for Horror Day. Well known authors such as Stephen Dedman and Robert Hood were featured along with many other gifted authors.

Although I couldn't contribute much myself, since I was chained to my desk at work all day, I thought since it's Horror Day, I'll write a flash fiction piece completely from scratch to mark the occasion.

It took half an hour to belt out my story titled, Prized Possession. Now, here's the scary part. The word count of the first draft weighed in at 666. Coincidence? Get this. The story is about a black BMW - the idea for the story has been in the back of my mind for a little while and I had the licence plate pictured in my head before I even put pen to paper (TZF-666). Cue the Twilight Zone theme!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Outside My Comfort Zone

A current project I'm working on right now is a bit of a strange one. Primarily, I write horror. It's what I love, it's what courses through my veins and I'm helpless to its relentless need to flow down my arm and onto the page.

However, in my constant quest to become a success I'm yet to win a competition, although I've been shortlisted and won an award or two - but I need a first prize winner. So I noticed that The Age Short Story Competition was coming up and I thought I'd enter it, just to see how I go. After thinking about what to write (and wondering if I stood a chance against thousands of other entries - including the pros) I concluded that a juicy horror tale wasn't going to work here because the previous winners wrote contemporary literary stories.

Using this philosophy I sat down and penned a short story with a working title, 'Never Far Away' - don't laugh! I know it sounds mushy but it's a story that contains the theme of coping with the loss of a loved one.

By now, you're probably asking why am I writing something so different? The answer is this: if I can create effective mood and atmosphere in my horror fiction, then maybe I can use my tools to make the judge(s) cry, maybe touch them with a tear-jerker of a tale. Talk about going off at a tangent! It was a challenge, I have to admit because I usually write fast-paced pieces so I had to slow down with this one. I just hope I can pull it off - I may even submit it under a pseudonym to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment.

The first hand-written draft weighed in at 2,000 words which was comfortably under the 3,000 word limit and next comes the drafting / re-writing stage. To some, it may seem like a chore but to me I love getting out my red pen to shape and sculpture my words to create the best effects possible.

Well, the deadline is 20/10/2006 so I better get my arse moving. I'll let you know how I go.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Three Stories Find a Home

How many of you have heard of a publication called Flash Shot Daily Genre Fiction? Well, recently I was lucky enough to have two of my micro stories, Decapitated and Silent Treatment chosen by Flash Shot to be distributed to its subscribers next year.

Decapitated is scheduled for publication on 4th January 2007 and will also be included in an anthology (TBA) while Silent Treatment is due for scheduling in the next two weeks or so.

Flash Shot is quite a unique publication. When you get a story published it gets sent out to the inboxes of subscribers and once 365 stories have been collected, they get published in an anthology each year. Now get this - you have the option of getting your story printed on to a mug or a t-shirt. How cool is that?

Do yourself a favour and subscribe - it's free and you receive a new micro story every single day. There are some really good stories, too and they only take about twenty seconds to read. It's a good way to start your day over your steaming cup of java. To subscribe, simply click on the link in my list.

The Jaunt, my third story to find a home, is a sci-fi piece of about 1,500 words. It's been accepted into a brand new anthology called Timeflash. Timeflash will feature stories with a time-travel or alternate reality theme. I think it's going to showcase about thirty authors from around the world so it's pretty cool to be involved in something like that. The Jaunt is the longest story I have had accepted to date.

When Decapitated and Silent Treatment are released next year, I will also make sure that they are available to read right here on my blog, so watch this space.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Origins of a Horror Writer

In my last post I said I wouldn't give too much information about myself too quickly. After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that I might as well get it all out of the way so I can concentrate on current goings-on.

This post is going to be quite lengthy so bear with me. I hope it doesn't bore you too much - but then, most of you (if you are writers reading this) would probably relate to how I came to be a writer.

The first half of my life was spent in Ballarat, Victoria and like most pre-teen kids I had an extremely active imagination. In those days it didn't take much to feed it, especially when my older brothers hired a lot of horror movies from the local video shop - Poltergeist; The Madman; Friday the 13th; Cujo; The Slayer (I could go on and on). My brothers would also tell me ghost stories and scare me with this doll where you stuck on his facial features (I've based a story on those events and I'll tell you about it another time). All that stimuli resonated with me and scared the hell out of me for years. I had no idea that all of it would get buried deep within my subconcious, influencing what was to come later on in my life.

During early childhood, I was also plagued by nightmares. Ask my Mum and she'd tell you about the countless nights I would wake up screaming. Once I had calmed down I would sit up with her and watch old TV shows like Prisoner, The Professionals or Hart to Hart (eek!)

Around the age of seven or eight, I caught the writing bug (what kid didn't?) My Mum noticed this and bought me a beautiful blue Olivetti typewriter complete with yellow paper. I loved it. I would pound out stories that made little sense, but I had fun with them regardless.

Flash forward to my high school years. I went through high school at Wycheproof in central Victoria and during that time my teachers told me that I had the potential to become a good writer. This was encouraging but when I left school my desire to write vanished - I had no idea why until thirteen years later. I went straight into the workforce, moved down to Bendigo, started a brand new life, went from job to job and finally met the girl of my dreams in 1997. I married her in 2000. I had finally settled down and built a wonderful life with my soul mate. Then one day in 2004, a strange thing happened, it completely caught me off guard.

I woke up with a little voice inside my head saying, 'It's time to start writing.' Weird, huh? So this idea for a short story came to me and I sat down and began to write - it felt like the most natural thing in the world. After hand-writing furiously for about an hour my first serious attempt at fiction was born, a 2,000 word story about cause and effect. I named it 'The Prophecy.' It felt like I'd received my calling in life and I knew then that writing was what I wanted to do.

So then I thought to myself, how can I find out if I have the goods to go further with this? The answer was: go to Tafe and do a course. I enrolled in the Short Story 1A & 1B course at Tafe in 2005. It was a night class and there I found the encouragement and support I needed to unleash my potential. Receiving a competency with merit assessment told me that I would have a future with my writing and I ended up winning my first award for a flash fiction story called 'The Tram' in the first half of 2005. My experience at Tafe cemented my self-belief and gave me the knowledge to launch my own writing career, to fulfill a dream.

After the course finished I was worried that I couldn't cope without the valued support I was used to receiving. It turned out that I worried about nothing. I actually got published earlier this year in FlashSpec Volume 1 and words can't describe how that felt - I was elated (and still am.) Then I got several micro pieces accepted by Flash Shot in Canada. So with my ever-growing confidence it's enabled me to start work on my first novel (I'm already 7,500 words in and I haven't looked back). I've also submitted stories everywhere I can think of so I do keep myself busy in my spare time. I'll keep you posted on how the novel's going and where I'm at with my current projects.

Phew! Wasn't that a mouthful? Now you know how I came to be a writer and what drives me. Next time I can talk to you about everything else instead of boring you with my personal history. Talk to you soon.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Brief Introduction

Well, here it is - my first Blog. I've wanted to do this for a while now, purely to make contact with writers like myself who love speculative fiction. I had no idea where to start and I noticed that a few writers who I admire were starting up Blogs. Now, I'm really doing it and it's great to be here!

I know introductions can be boring so I'm not going to bore you with my life story....yet. I simply thought it appropriate that my first entry should tell you a little about myself. There's going to be plenty of time to fill you in on my origins and what I've been up to before making my debut on this Blog.

So, let's start with the present. I live in Bendigo, Victoria with my beautiful wife, Jennie and we're expecting our first child in February 2007 - exciting stuff! We've even resisted the temptation to find out what the sex is. We want the surprise instead - it'll add more emotion to the birth and make the experience really special.

For the past five years I have been reluctantly working in telecommunications (selling mobile phones). My dream, like many emerging writers is to write full-time. Unfortunately, as reality would have it, a writer at the beginning of his career needs to eat, pay the bills, the mortgage and prepare for his child's arrival. For the time being, I have to put on a happy face and tolerate the monotony of my dead-end job. I've even thought of going down the same road Dean Koontz did. Remember when his wife said she'd give him five years to become a success and that she'd support him financially for that time? You know what happened - he did just that. I've toyed with the idea of convincing my wife to let me do the same thing - I know the answer would be no, so I've never mentioned it to her. She's always right and she keeps me well-grounded (one of the millions of reasons I love her to bits).

Since this is my first post, I've made it a light one. I don't want to bog you down with excess wordage at this stage. You'll get to know me as we go along, trust me. Next time, I'll reveal a little more about my past as well as what I've been doing with my writing over the past couple of years - we've got plenty of time.