Let’s start with the good news: an Aurealis Award and an ‘Best of the Year’ Anthology inclusion.

The Aurealis nomination for Best Horror short story was unexpected, because I’d never written horror before, and well, I’d never thought I’d be nominated for an Aurealis, either. The story, Flame Trees, is certainly science fiction, but yeah, turned out to be horror after I’d finished it and a beta reader said: you’ve written a ghost story. To which I thought: that’s weird. I fucking hate ghost stories. But they were right and I had.

And I won and got a cool trophy and now my name is on a Wikipedia page with a bunch of Australian Aurealis winners and how the fuck did this happen?

Speaking of which, my contributor copy of Neil Clarke’s Best Science Fiction of the Year (Volume 2) arrived. There I am, among the big names and the wunderkinds. Again, not sure how it happened, but it feels pretty good to have a Philip K Dick-influenced tale that includes a durry-smoking Chinese Australian with a broad accent, a giant clown, and an amnesiac gambler make it into the big leagues.

The bad news.

No sales of new work since the start of the year. Fuck. It’s part of the deal, I’m told, these dry spells. But it’s starting to wear a little thin. A dozen novel rejections and maybe twenty or thirty short story rejections. The novel rejections burn the most, of course, especially as I’ve had a few that my agent calls ‘teeth-grittingly close’. They are meant to be hard, and it’s okay for it to bite a little. It’s a year and a half of your life producing a bloody book (or ten years, or six months depending on your writing speed), so you’re allowed, I think, to be pissed.

The short story rejections are starting to hurt now, as well, mainly because there’s been so many between drinks. Normally I swear when a rejection appears in the in-box, call the editor an idiot, send it to the next venue, and promptly forget. But these days the burn is starting to linger.

They are part of the business. Yeah I know. You got to be patient. Timing has to be right. Sure. Everything has to go your way, to get into one of the professional magazines. Yeah, I know all that – so will you buy my fucking story now please?

That demon of self-doubt all writers have on their shoulders certainly sits on mine, from time to time. Right now he’s there, whispering: those successes were a fluke, you’ll never write that well again, and my, your hair is looking flat and lifeless today.

I shrug off the hair comment, obviously, what with my lustrous curls and so forth. The others, well, are the writer’s curse. Those whispers are turned down upon a sale or an award or a good review. But they are never silenced. And right now they’re up to fucken eleven.

The most important point to make, at this moment, is this: I should count my blessings and shut the fuck up.

I’m not working in a salt mine, the emergency ward of a public hospital, or an Apple sweatshop somewhere in rural China.

I’m writing. Life’s good.


Categories: Fiction, Reviews

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