My Year In Review: 2014

2014 has been a mixed bag for me, but on balance, good. In some areas of activity, very good. Let’s get into the reporting.

Writing
Until August 2014 I sold, on average, a story a month for about three years. I was proud of that statistic, and more importantly, the more recent the sale, the higher the market payment. The average has fallen below one month per sale, because I have been less aggressive in submitting and writing stories; instead, I have been focussing on quality. And it worked. 2014 has seen 8 sales, where there has been a tangible increase in semi-pro and professional publications. Also of note, is the higher percentage of sales per submissions – I have logged in 2014 a 1 in 10 success rate, which is significantly higher than previous years. I should add that I have also sold a collection of science fiction stories to Cohesion Press which includes, potentially, 9 original short pieces (one a novelette). If that was added to my short story sale statistics, I would be doing very well indeed (I am counting this as a single work).

Highlights of the year:

– 8 sales, a mix of speculative fiction genres
– 1 of these sales was the revised, Australian edition of my all-ages fantasy novel, Guardian of the Sky Realms. I am very pleased with the end product, thanks to Cohesion Press
– Another sale is a collection of science fiction short fiction to be published in 2015 by Cohesion Press. Potentially up to 19 stories, including a novelette, and more than half of the content will be original. A mix of literary scifi, and character/plot driven.
– Another sale is the horror short story, ‘The Crab Woman’, a professional sale to the Our World of Horror anthology by Eldritch Press
– A professional sale in 2013 was published in December 2014, ‘Of The Color Turmeric, Climbing On Fingertips’, in Night Terrors III anthology, by Blood Bound Books
– Another 2013 sale, ‘The Deluge’ was published in Black Beacon’s Subtropical Suspense anthology. While not pro, I’m proud of this, as it is in many ways quite original, and dovetails rather well into the Brisbane speculative fiction scene.

Publishing
2014 was a very big year for the two publishing imprints I co-own, IFWG Publishing and IFWG Publishing Australia.

– I was appointed Managing Director, on top of Editor In Chief
– The two imprints were clearly differentiated, their specific areas of jurisdiction solidified, including the transfer of several title from the US/International imprint to the UK/Australia/NZ imprint (it was a very big job)
– Rationalisation of covers for older titles, improved royalty reporting and payments to existing authors, and many other ‘back office’ improvements
– Both imprints signed on new titles for 2015, both from existing authors and new talent, with a notable signing of Robert Hood for his complete collection of Ghost Stories – a significant achievement and one I am proud to be involved with
– The appointment of Stephen McCracken as dedicated Marketing Director, a critical step up as a publisher
– The setting up of strong alliances with other small speculative fiction publishers, as well as third party services
– Ramp up of SQ Mag, our international speculative fiction zine, to a token paying market, a higher humber of solicited original work by established authors, and commissioning of artwork. Sophie Yorkston has done a sterling job on this project, and without her, this would be a failure.

2015 is looking very good, mainly because the groundwork has occurred in 2014.

Personal
I don't comment much on my personal life, as it is, well, personal. What I can say is that I moved from one day job to another, and it was a highly disruptive process. It took a lot of work to move into the new job, and it did put a strain on my family’s lives. In April 2014 I lost my mother. It was a relatively sudden decline and it had a powerful effect on me, and my state of mind, for many months, and will no doubt have echoing effects for the remainder of my life. All’s good now, but that is more of a statement for 2015.

Eulogy for my mother, Poppy

I remember a moment in time in May 1997 when I was here (Norwood Crematorium, Canberra) at the funeral service for my Nanna – Poppy’s mother – and listening to the Eulogy given by Uncle Joe – Poppy’s brother. It’s the only speech I can remember well because it was very honest, and because of that, it rang true and, as a consequence of this, made the service more meaningful for me, and respectful.

The great thing about my decision to follow the same approach with Poppy is that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about or offended – which makes this something easy to do—but I have to approach it this way because I want to be respectful. The love for her is a given, as we all are here because we loved Poppy, or are close to people who loved and cared for Poppy.

With the exception of the past 4 or 5 years living in Melbourne, and times in my younger years when I went to universities in different cities, I’ve lived close to Poppy and have seen in that period big changes—milestones—in her life.

As young sons, Dominic and I grew up for a number of years in a happy family unit, especially when the times were good, and we travelled interstate several times to find the good jobs for Dad, and to satisfy his wanderlust. Poppy was a good, loving mother and took care of us well, and Dad was a funny, happy, loving father.

It was only at the cusp of being a teenager did I realise that things weren’t right between my father and mother, and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, there were some things that were self-destructive. To start with I knew they weren’t really suited to each other. In my late teens, like many young people, I tried living away from home (returning in most instances only after a few months or half a year), and Poppy was always there to support me, and to demonstrate her huge reserves of love. I think as she grew away from Dad, she needed her sons, and it was just the luck of the draw that I was, in most cases, the one nearby.

Eventually Poppy and Dad split up and it wasn’t a smooth process—and the damage was done. Whether people said it at the time or not, most of us who were close to her knew that she had a breakdown, had mental health problems, and under the circumstances it was entirely understandable. And so was the long recovery process.

I can only be eternally grateful that Steve came into Poppy’s life at about that time, and stuck with her—became her husband in so many ways, but also her carer, especially in her later years. This significantly healed a fragile Poppy, and it was great to see her happy again for most of the last quarter of a century—nearly half of my life.

What Steve has done in the past several months, if not years, is self-sacrifice of the highest order, and has proven beyond doubt to all, his sincerity and deep affection for Poppy.

Poppy had a long life but it should have been longer. It had great ups, and also serious downs, but for the majority of her time on this planet she was surrounded by family and friends who loved her for who she was, which was a genuine, caring person. I think that is something we would all strive for.
I am so relieved that if she had to pass at the time she did, she was surrounded by caring family members and was able to say goodbye, while still compos mentis, to the vast majority of those who were close to her.

I am so glad that I was able to visit a few weeks ago while she was still alive, and see her recover at the time from a bad health crash, and later to speak to her on the phone a few days before she died, telling her I loved her. And she to me. These little things are symbolic, but very, very personal to me, and I will take them with me to the grave.

Goodbye, I love you Mum.
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Personal: Holiday Time

In the last leg of our holidays, we are staying in the Gold Coast (Broadbeach in fact), and we are a little over halfway through that. It has been enjoyable (aside from some sad news about one of our aunts), and Erin is having a ball. Not getting a lot of editing and writing done, but this is probably what the doctor ordered. We are absolutely tiring our little one out each day – she is practically a zombie, her panda eyes are half closed by bed time, but this is great for her, and for us. This is important to help her gross motor skills along, as well. Every day we swim in the pool (more than once on most days), and we always find something to do – shopping trips, White Water World, the movies, the beach, etc. Also, thankfully, while it is hot up here, it is ironically much worse down south where we live (not to mention bush fires).

All in all, looking forward to the last 5 days, prior to our return home.
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Remembering Those Who Died In Conflict

Every 11th November, since I was very young, I pause to remember those who sacrificed their lives in conflicts. I usually become melancholy and reflective. It is important to me, as I am highly appreciative of those noble souls.

Perhaps not quite for the reasons that some share.

I am educated and I pride myself to be open minded and to research and think. I know that not all conflicts were noble in intent, and some were cynical beyond belief. I know the First World War, the bloodiest of all wars, was not about protecting one's borders, which was the intent of the allies during the Second World War. I know the Vietnam war was far from a benevolent exercise. This isn't what I am on about. I am talking about the 'diggers', as we Australians call the enlisted man and woman, the people who carry out the wishes of their country. In the First World War the common soldier and sailor saw the conflict in black and white terms and sacrificed horrendously. In the Second World War the Allies sacrificed to truly save their lands from conquest. It got muddier, murkier in later years, but the majority of enlisted and the conscripted didn't see it that way, by and large. They had a job to do. Most loved their countries.

So, in the vast majority of cases, our countrymen who perished in war died because they served their countries willingly, and with the noblest of intent. As an Australian, I know that many Australians and other nationals died in the Pacific Theatre to stop my country from being occupied and exploited.

That is why I pause. I didn't serve in the military and I did not at any stage of my life experience first hand war. But I hear the echoes of those who did, and they move me. So much more the sacrifice.

I offer a poem by the talented, tragically short-lived war poet, Wilfred Owen, who in fact died in combat a few days before Armistice Day.

Lest we forget!

       Anthem For Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen

A week’s break and new hair

Since last week my wife, daughter and I have been relaxing at Broadbeach, The Gold Coast (in Queensland, Australia). A few setbacks – some bad weather, Erin had an awful stomach bug, which transferred eventually to my wife and me, but it has been very good. We have two more days, and then we fly back to Melbourne.

A highlight for Erin – and much of our itinerary is for her – was going to Whitewater World. Below are a few photos of our Cabana there, also something I have been thinking about for a long time – changing my hair style to a simple 'No 2' all around. Glad I did, with the hot weather at the Gold Coast, but also just seems to work for me at my age, and my relative baldness.
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2012 New Year’s Resolutions

Well, back to the resolutions. They are essentially the same as last year's and I can do a mini assessment of 2011's goals.

10 goals:

  1. Be a great dad and husband. I can't judge this – others have to, but I feel I can do better. This is especially important with a 6 year old daughter with autism.
  2. Lose weight. I have never been heavier, and so my goal for the year is to lose 20kgs. That's a tough one. I failed in 2011 – I must succeed in 2012. I have never been unhealthier.
  3. Read more. As a writer I need to read – one of the cornerstones of being good at the craft (target: 24 books). Succeeded in 2011, and intend to succeed again.
  4. Outline Bitter Creek by December 2011 (or perhaps do much more). This went nowhere. Must do in 2012.
  5. Revise The Scepter and the Orb by September 2011 (first Evyntyde novel). Half done in 2011. I want this done by March 2012.
  6. Write 3 additional short stories and finalize/publish my Evyntyde anthology, Tales from the Chronicles of Evyntyde – by June 2011. This is done, but I'm holding back on publishing at this stage. I will revise this at half year mark.
  7. Complete first draft of my second Evyntyde novel, Crystal Peak. Not a word done in 2011. I want to do this by end 2012.
  8. Write at least 12 short stories in 2011. I wrote 17 stories (in fact, one was rewritten into a novella, so you could say I did 18). My goal for 2012 is 12 pieces of short fiction again.
  9. Qualify for membership of the SFWA. Not a single qualified story. However, my stories are just getting better each year. Let's try again for 2012!

2011 Addendum – write and complete YA Dystopian novela, The Comfort of Beanbags. This was done.

So, as a summary for 2011, it truly was a mixed bag. From a writing perspective, my short fiction has performed well (I published 11 pieces), but I haven't hit those high marks quite yet. From my larger work point of view, I have just been too busy to progress, and I have to do something about it. On a personal level – again mixed. I'm a good dad and husband I think, but my weight/health is a major concern.

Detour: my market performance for 2011:

25 submissions, including nominated awards, were carried over from 2010 to 2011.

Counting the carry-overs,

165 submissions were collated.
122 were rejected,
11 were accepted
32 were unfinalized.

8 of the 11 acceptances were for anthologies.

In total percentage terms:

10% of finalized horror submissions were successful
8.7% of finalized scifi subs were successful
6.38% of finalized fantasy subs were successful
8.27% of all finalized subs were successful.

Discounting carried over subs:

140 submissions were collated.
98 were rejected,
11 were accepted
31 were unfinalized.

8 of the 11 acceptances were anthologies.

In total percentage terms:

12.12% of finalized horror submissions were successful
10.53% of finalized scifi subs were successful
7.89% of finalized fantasy subs were successful
10.09% of all finalized subs were successful.

Now to tracking my Resolutions (the ones that can be):

2. Lose 20 kgs. I will report regularly here.
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3. Read 24 books. Slow.

4. Outline Bitter Creek novel. I want to do this by July 2012.

5. Revise The Scepter and the Orb by March 2012. A bit slow here.

6. Make a decision about Tales From The Chronicles of Evyntyde anthology by July 2012.

7. Complete first draft of Crystal Peak (sequel to The Scepter and the Orb) by December 2012.

8. Write 12 short fiction pieces in 2012. Ahead of schedule – written 3 by end of February.

9. Publish/Have Accepted 15 short fiction pieces in 2012. OK – 2 acceptances in January. None published yet.

10. Qualify for SFWA. Here is my status (amber means currently going for it, red means not even going for it, and green is a success – 3 stories must be published by recognized mags/publishers):

These are my New Year's resolutions – good luck with yours!
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Little One riding for the first time

Had to post this – Erin like most little girls, loves ponies. And she has been talking about wanting to ride. So…today we started this journey for her and boy did she light up! Sent tears to my eyes. I firmly believe now how therapeutic horses are for children with autism.

Forgot the camera (sheesh), but here are two Blackberry photos showing her in her first ride. This will be a regular event, I can assure you.

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Hiatus

Folks

I have access to the Internet, but it’s via a wifi modem – have just moved into our new home (18 months in the planning and completion of building), but we apparently moved in 15 days before the optic fibre network is turned on (sheesh – no one told me about that). Anyway, my activity on the Net is hampered, but not totally removed.
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