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Monkey2

Tomorrow, the 8th February, ushers in Chinese New Year, the Year of the Fire Monkey. Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere where there was a celebration of that — I’ve always related to CNY far more than the traditional western New Year’s Eve, which, in Australia, is just an excuse for a good piss up.

Drunken revellers

Though NYE’s not as bad as Australia Day, which is a regular Bacchanalia.

Passed out man

I hope this new year brings you all good health and happiness. What about wealth? I hear you say. Strangely enough, that’s really not that high on the happiness scale – as most people who’ve ever come suddenly into money will tell you when the glitz wears off.

Monkey1

Different animal years in Chinese astrology are said to affect different signs in different ways. Checking on the link below to see how I might fare in this Year of the Monkey, my prediction’s not looking very good; I hope I will be able to keep the cat in the style to which he’s become accustomed.

Tim worried

Cat worried about maintaining his standard of living.

Perhaps you’ll fare better. Have a look at the link below (one of the most comprehensive re CNY I found in a Google search), if you’d like to know what your fortune holds in the Year of the Fire Monkey.

http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2016/

Many thanks, Danielle, for inviting me to say a little about my latest release Cold Faith, the first instalment in a three-part series being published by Hague Publishing.

Cold Faithhttp://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00VBZQ8FY

 

Cold Faith is set in the aftermath of a protracted volcanic winter that has devastated the planet and left only isolated pockets of survivors. Seeing just one slim chance for survival, the main character Rab decides to set out on a perilous journey north in search of a fabled city rumoured to be one of the many staging areas where spaceships were launched to ferry the people of Earth to a salvation planet; the evacuation plan was known as Safe Harbour. Unfortunately for Rab, he is coerced into taking the last three surviving children of his village with him. After one of the children breaks his leg, they are rescued by a young woman named Sunny, who leads them to her underground city where a large band of survivors are living in comparative luxury. As far as Safe Harbour is concerned, Sunny appears to be a belligerent sceptic, while her old grandfather is a believer like Rab. The two insist on joining Rab as he continues his journey north with only the young girl from his village. It’s then that Rab’s real troubles begin.

Despite its scientific foundation, Cold Faith is a character-driven narrative that follows Rab’s journey of discovery—which ultimately reveals not only the true nature of the planet’s desperate situation but also much about himself. Like Rab, I had a bit of a quest of my own in writing Cold Faith. I wanted to explore the drive behind humans’ unyielding struggle for survival in situations where all seems lost and our capacity to accept that all questions may not necessarily be answered even at journey’s end. Ultimately only the readers will be able to tell me if, as an author, I succeeded in my quest.

My favourite character in Cold Faith is Sunny. She is tough and complex. Some reviewers have been quite taken with the relationship between Rab and the young girl who features prominently in the story. My stories are all heavily character-based, so I’m glad readers are identifying their own personal favourites.

While the opportunity for writers to see their work published has expanded, the fall-out is a flooded market and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for any one emerging writer to be noticed. I’d like to take this opportunity to invite everyone who purchased and enjoyed Cold Faith to keep an eye out for the sequel Faithless, which is due out in 2016. In the meantime, I have two earlier books readers may like to sink their teeth into: Bus Stop on a Strange Loop, a time travel novel, http://www.amazon.com/Stop-Strange-Loop-Shaune-Lafferty/dp/0980749794 and Balanced in an Angel’s Eye, http://www.amazon.com/dp/0987154877 both of which are available from the usual places as well as Amazon. You can find out a bit more about my books on Goodreads, Amazon and on my publishers’ websites.

Thanks, Danielle.

Ed Griffin

It’s with regret that I hear of the passing of Ed Griffin, Canadian writer, champion of prison reform, and mentor to many, who taught creative writing at a number of Canadian prisons, until his progressive views on the rehabilitation of prisoners saw him barred from giving any more of the classes that had meant a lot to many inmates.

Ed was no stranger to controversy. He was active in the civil rights movement of the ‘60s, and marched in Selma with Martin Luther King. He became a Roman Catholic priest in 1962, but left the priesthood in 1968. In 1976, he opened a commercial greenhouse in suburban Milwaukee with his wife Kathy, raising children and growing flowers. In 1988 the family moved to British Columbia, where he helped to establish a writing community in Surrey. He is the founder of Western Canada’s largest writer’s conference, the Surrey Writers’ Conference.

I met Ed during my early forays online in 2012. He turned out to be a good friend, writing reviews for my animal novel MagnifiCat, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H0ORWQY and for a number of the short stories I formatted and put on the web, http://www.amazon.com/Danielle-de-Valera/e/B00H286LXI Quick with an encouraging word, and never one to complain, he told us of his diagnosis of prostate cancer about a year ago. Gradually his posts at Writers Write Daily, https://writerswritedaily.wordpress.com/ and Prison Uncensored, https://prisonuncensored.wordpress.com/ slowed to a trickle and finally stopped. When I emailed him one time to ask how he was, he replied cheerfully, saying the medication he was now on made him lethargic and it was difficult for him to write posts. About a week ago, I woke up one night thinking about him and rose to find an email in my Inbox, telling me of his passing.

As part of his championing of those in prison, through the John Howard Society, a humanitarian organization, http://www.johnhowardbc.ca/ Ed started a little bursary called the Ed Griffin Educational Bursary This bursary, to which anyone can contribute, aims to help inmates with the expenses of higher education. Those contributing receive a tax receipt from the John Howard Society, who present money to the educational institution the winning inmate has chosen. Anyone wishing to honour his memory in a concrete way might consider donating at: http://www.edgriffin.net/bursary.html

I know Ed would like that.

Reflections final

Somewhere around the year 2000, I wrote a short story called “A Pink Rosebush and a Piece of Lattice” that was lucky enough to win an award up here in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. This story “Reflections” is the longer version, and is around 2,300 words.

I’m besotted with the cover, which my US author friend C S McClellan created from a beautiful image I found online at Eden Pics. You can see more of their nature photos at http://www.edenpics.com and, wonder of wonders, their images are free.

This story is the last of the ten stories I have been formatting and putting up on the web over the past fifteen or so months. Because it’s so short, I wanted it to be free, so it will only appear on Smashwords.

In this story, Charles Lawson, the notorious heroin dealer formerly known as God, has been released from jail and, after living quietly with his cats for a number of years, is now so old he has to enter a nursing home. Here he reflects on his life and, in his last moments, imagines he is reunited with his wife Angela, who died some years before him.

It sounds like a pretty grim read when I put it that way, but all those who’ve read it found the story touching and/or uplifting. I hope anyone else who checks it out will feel the same way.

“Reflections” is available from Smashwords in various formats, including pdf, mobo and EPUB at:     https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/554292

Thanks to everyone who’s taken this journey with me so far. I’m hoping to put out a collection of these stories in print and e-book at the end of the year. However, good looking print books don’t come cheap, so that date may yet end up in the first quarter of 2016. Will keep you posted.

Dani

The Cyborg(1)

 

Just as in every short story collection there’s usually one that causes the writer a great deal of difficulty, I imagine there’s also one the writer likes above all the others. This is certainly the case with me. “The Cyborg’s Story”, originally published as “Roses” is definitely my favourite short story—of the ones I’ve written, that is. My favourite short story ever is “Catman”, by Harlan Ellison, a wonderful story, which incidentally has nothing really to do with cats.

Published in the Australian sci-fi/fantasy magazine Aurealis in 1999, “Cyborg” tells the story of Michael 64, a winged cyborg security expert hired by Thurston, the human Director-General of Genetic Engineering, to guard Azuria 27, a famous winged cyborg dancer, whom Thurston has operated on so that she can pass for human. Such a procedure is illegal in 2175, the year in which the story is set. Azuria is secretly in love with a man called Elliott. She thinks she is making the change for love, but Thurston has much bigger plans; he is a man who believes that humans are merely a link in the evolutionary chain towards cyborgs. Michael, who starts out in the story as a hardened security expert addicted to Blue Monday, an off-world drug imported illegally at exorbitant cost, ends up in love with Azuria and saddled with the problem of whether or not to out Thurston and his plan for cyborg supremacy.

I had a heck of a time getting this story published in Aurealis in 1999. Dirk Strasser, the editor, had a strict 6,000 word policy for submissions, and the story was 7,000 or thereabouts. He wouldn’t budge as a matter of principle, although he liked it. I sweated some more and managed to get it down to where it is now: 6,350 words. Beyond that, I couldn’t go; I was right down on the bones of the story. Desperate, I sent it back to Dirk, with 6,000 words printed on the title page, and he accepted it. Whether he knew it was really longer, I’ll never know, but honour had been satisfied and the story then called “Roses” saw the light of day. It’s the only sci-fi story I ever wrote. Or ever will.

It’s a very soft story, a mix of love story and mystery. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much. I get bored very quickly with most genre writing, demanding as it does a devotion to straight line narrative, and often lacking any sense of something bigger, particularly in the area of characters and their relationships.

Anyway, here is is, my favourite of them all: “The Cyborg’s Story” aka “Roses”. Only one more to go and I will be able to start working on the collection. “Cyborg” is available for 99c at:

Smashwords:   https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/524901

and Amazon:   http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UE3NKHI

I hope you like it as much as I do,

Dani

Last Train

In every collection of short stories I imagine there’s always one that causes the author real problems. This was certainly the case with me. “Last Train to Parthenia”, a death trip story, caused me more problems than all the rest put together. Maybe it was the considerable length of 8,500 words; I don’t usually work in that length, preferring a shorter one of around 5,000 words. Maybe it was the story itself, I don’t know. I just know the thing caused me all sorts of problems, and took about three times longer to perfect than any of the other stories I’ve so far put up. In its various incarnations, I ran it past three different readers (two male, one female) none of whom liked the early versions or got what I was trying to convey. I had opted for subtlety, you see, but clearly that wasn’t going to work. I ended up having to spell the darn thing out far more than I had intended, and I hope that, in the collection coming out at the end of the year , where there’ll be a print book, I can pull back a little again in favour of subtlety. I have always preferred mystery to explicitness — which is why porn leaves me cold, I guess.

The story Unhappily married, Bob Johnson has taken a night job working on the inner-city circle of StateRail, Sydney. He is a man who has always sought escape from reality in sword and sorcery magazines. His great favourite is the work of Robert E Howard, ill fated author of the Conan novels (dead at 30 by his own hand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Howard). One night Johnson finds a pewter bracelet on the railway tracks. He decides to keep it, regarding as a lucky talisman—an amulet. A few nights later, while at work, he is hit by a train. In the last seven minutes of his life, before his brain shuts down, he imagines that, through the magic power of the amulet, he has been transported to a romantic world full of broadswords, intrigue and glamorous women.

Anyway, here is the darn thing, and am I glad to be finally leaving it behind me. It’s now around 7,500 words long and available for 99c at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/515862

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TGIVXAI

I hope you enjoy it. Oh, and the very best to you all for the Year of the Sheep, Dani

 Transferance

When the children were in high school, I found myself with a bit of time on my hands. I lived in a small country town, jobs were hard to get, so I decided to try to make some some money writing short stories. I was working in the dark. Although I’d written a novel and had a few articles published in newspapers, I didn’t write short stories; I’d always thought of myself as a long distance writer. Still, as they say (or used to say), Needs must when the devil drives. I tried the Women’s Weekly first, but I had no luck. I didn’t understand at that stage that you need to study the publication you’re aiming for to get a feel for both the style and the kind of content the editor likes.

With no luck there and the need for money still pressing, I turned my attention to the men’s magazines. Here I was lucky: my partner Gianni Cosatto bought a Penthouse every month. Strictly for the articles, you understand. For a year I clawed my way past crotches and garter belts every month and studied the particular likes of the then editor, Phil Abraham. He was publishing one story per issue, good quality stuff of around 5,000 words by such Australian luminaries as Susan Geason, Peter Corris, Roger Raftery, etc. After trying a few different stories on Phil, I finally struck it lucky with “Transference”, a 4,500 word story about a man who becomes obsessed with his wife after she leaves him, goes to a therapist for help and ends up becoming obsessed with the therapist.

It was my first ever published story, and a monument to the technique of studying the publication you’re aiming for. The money was considerable for those days, and caused us much excitement. We went straight out and bought a VCR and mainlined movies all through that summer. My mother, who lived with us, was still alive in those days, so she was able to enjoy the largesse—a fact that, even today, gives me pleasure.

Well, there you have it. There’s nothing dubious or smutty in “Transference”; Phil Abraham wasn’t that kind of editor. It’s light with a heavier undertone. It should make good holiday reading, and is available at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/497498

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QUDR8OC

The beautiful image that forms the cover is by ejimac. You can see more of his stunning work at:

http://www.deviantart.com/browse/all/digitalart/fractals/?q=ejimac

Best wishes to you all for Christmas and the coming year,

Dani

Sunflower field at dawn

 What with the remaining cat’s veterinary bills, things are a bit tough financially, but they used to be tougher back around the turn of the millenium. At that time the local paper, the Byron Shire Echo decided to hold a competition for a short story of less than 1,000 words. The winning entry would receive publication in the Echo and prize money of $1,000. Needless to say, I decided to have a go. To my absolute surprise, I was lucky enough to win with “A Happily Married Man’, which told the story of a young man who thinks he’s had a message from God to eliminate the man his wife has left him for.

That was in 1997.

Next year, I decided to try again. This time I wrote about a single mother who’s life is threatened by a jilted lover with a shotgun. I called it “The State of Grace”, to try to explain the sense of calm that came over the her in the end, after she realises she is going to die. I didn’t hold out much hope for the story, but they were judged blind and to my amazement, I managed to win again. Now that’s what I call luck. It kind of made up for all those years of rejections. (I sometimes wish I’d kept my rejection slips; I really could’ve papered a wall with them.)

That was in 1998.

In 1999, Shelley Jackson of Lismore ran a fiction competition for women on the north coast of New South Wales. I was on a roll, so I tried again. The story I entered was called “The Sunflowers”. It was about a woman who’s been married for years to a husband who is physically abusive, but she won’t leave him. Finally, a particular incident involving gardening makes her decide to go. Again, I was lucky.

And there my remarkable streak of luck more or less ended. After that, I concentrated on writing novels and on getting stories published in magazines to improve my literary CV. In those days, you sent the publishers your novel extract by post, along with a pleading letter and what was called a literary CV. A good literary CV might sway editors in your favour. It seemed like a sensible idea to concentrate on this. As the song says, “Know when to fold’ em. Know when to walk away, Know when to run”.

Being only 1,000, 1,000 and 1,500 words respectively, the three stories described above were too short to publish separately on the web, so I’ve put them together in a bundle of 3,575 words called “Trio”. In the short story collection I’m hoping to put out in 2015, these three stories won’t run together as they do in “Trio”, but will appear separately in various places through the book. Anyone reading them to discover the fate of the four main characters in the collection (O’Neill, Johnson, Lawson and Star) needs to bear this in mind.

Trio” is FREE at Smashwords in three formats: EPUB, mobi (for Kindle) and pdf.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/492081

PS Many thanks to the people who’ve taken the trouble to review the stories I’ve put up so far. Reviews are necessary to sell anything on the web, so your kindness is very much appreciated.

A note on reviews:

Making life even more difficult for indie publishers, Amazon, the giant in this business, responsible for approximately 70% of all internet book sales, does not link its sites together where reviews are concerned. A review placed on the Australian Amazon site will not appear on the US Amazon site for the same book, or the UK’s —or any other Amazon site, for that matter. You would expect that one review would show up across all of Amazon’s sales sites, but it doesn’t. As it would be a dementing business for well wishers to copy and paste their reviews over all the sales sites, I would suggest placing your review where you think it will do the most good.

Real Thing-final(1)

One day in 1989, when I was struggling with the first draft of “Transference” (eventually published in Penthouse), my good friend and ex, Gianni Cosatto, strode into my house and plonked three handwritten foolscap pages down on the kitchen table.

“There you are,” he said. “I’ve written the first scene of a story for you.”

I picked up the pages and scanned them. The scene was written from the 1st person point of view. It seemed to concern a man who’s sent to a planet called Gerar to check the authenticity of a coin found there. As he sits in Reception, still shocked from the hyperspace, this gorgeous chick with long red hair comes out of an internal door and is rude to him. I gathered that rudeness was a turn-on for this hero, who immediately decides to fall in love with her. End of scene.

“What else happens?”I asked Gianni. “I mean, What’s the story?”

“Dunno,” said Gianni, “I just wrote the first scene. You’re the writer.”

“Well, thanks,” I told him. “I’ll have a crack at it later.” I might as well have said: I’ll bury it later. I had no intention of having a crack at it. I pleaded busyness whenever Gianni enquired about it in the years that followed.

One rainy day in the twenty-first century, long after Gianni had died, I found the story in a drawer and decided to try to finish it. Seductresses with long red hair didn’t interest me, so I made it a gay story. But it never really worked. Sci fi mags I submitted it to were put off by the gay relationship; mags that might’ve been interested in the relationship were put off by the sci-fi angle. I was stuck with it. One day, I realised that the the idea of finding a coin on Gerar or anywhere else, for that matter, was so preposterous a plot I might as well set the story in Australia. I chose Maralinga, with its interesting history of British A-bomb explosions in the late 1950s and early ‘60s.

So here it is. I’ve recently worked it over yet again to fit the Charles Lawson thread in the short story collection I’m building, tentatively entitled North Coast Stories. It’s 5,885 words long and available for 99 cents at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OQAB7UW

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/485382

Whatever misgivings I might still entertain about the story’s far-fetched plot, I’m immensely happy with the cover, which author C S McClellan created from a recent photograph of Maralinga country by Baz Landy.

For those who are interested, below is a recap of where we’re up to now in the North Coast Stories collection:

  1. Busting God

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J8ZIE8S

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/416303

  1. Remains to be Seen

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LNDWRM2

FREE at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/454352

  1. Stella by Starlight

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MTVVG96

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/467119

  1. Star’s Story

FREE at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479505

  1. The Real Thing

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OQAB7UW

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/485382

 

Star-goldceleveniafinal

 

Star’s Story—the genesis

Sometime around 2004, when I was on the Aged Pension and a more assured income, I had a little time to experiment. I wanted to see if I could get into Meanjin, the foremost literary journal in Australia. I had something of a knack for styles. If I could get hold of enough back copies of a magazine, say ten, I could usually nail down the style their story editor liked. I’d done it with Penthouse and the Women’s Weekly—why not Meanjin? Unfortunately, I could only afford to buy one copy; the pension doesn’t pay that well, and business wasn’t booming at that point in time.

I had always found the stories in Meanjin rather mystifying, and downright inaccessible at times, so I constructed a rather post-modern story with flashbacks and time jumps that weren’t always sequential. Should be inaccessible enough, I told myself. I ended up with a piece of around 3,000 words, which I called “No Through Road”.

I didn’t send it off to Meanjin straightaway, ah no. In my experience, the best way to pick up a little lucre was through competitions. I chose two which had well established writers as judges (one was Frank Moorhouse) and a first prize of $1,000AU. Even getting shortlisted in one those would help to get a more sympathetic reading from the editor of Meanjin.

I was lucky, though I never hit the jackpot. “Road” was shortlisted in the prestigious My Brother Jack short story competition in 2004 and in the equally prestigious Hal Porter in 2006. Right, I thought, now for Meanjin. So I sent the story off – in those days, you still sent manuscripts through the post –  and waited. And waited. Eventually I got a lovely rejection letter from the ed, saying that although the piece had almost made it, they had decided not to take it up.

Well, it wasn’t bad for a first time, and I’d only had one copy to study; I’d do better next time, I thought. Then the internet hit us, and I began to consider publishing on the web. I saw in it a way to obtain print copies of all my work to safeguard when I was gone. Better than leaving the manuscripts to moulder in the tin trunk, I figured. I live in the sub-tropics, it’s very humid, I was worried about how long they’d last. Maybe I could be discovered posthumously and the grandchildren would make a fortune. So probably goes the thinking of millions of indie writers.

To return to the point: I changed the title of the story from “No Through Road” to “Star’s Story” to make it easier for anyone following these stories on the web as they come out. Publishing serially like this, I think you need to remind readers of where you’re up to in the collection. Which I’ll publish next year. I also changed the point of view from 1st person to 3rd; the thing seemed just too confronting in 1st.

Because it’s only 3,000 words long, it’s FREE in three formats at Smashwords. (Amazon won’t let writers sell their stuff for free unless they join Amazon’s KDP Select, and then only for 5 days out of every 90.) I’d love some feedback on the cover, love it or hate it. I could also do with a couple of reviews of this story as it’s unlikely to garner anything favourable from the general population, it being so literary and post-modern, hem hem. The link is: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479505

Below is a recap of where we’re up to now in the collection:

  1. Busting God

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J8ZIE8S

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/416303

  1. Remains to be Seen

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LNDWRM2

FREE at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/454352

  1. Stella by Starlight

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MTVVG9C

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/467119

  1. Star’s Story

FREE at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479505

Only another seven stories to go.