Category Archives: writers

Xmas Gifts for Writers: The Journal of Infinite Possibility

img_6469It’s only November, I know, but Christmas is coming anyway, with all the inevitability of sunrise, vampires in fiction, and a writer’s need for either coffee or wine (or both).

Speaking of writer’s needs, here’s a really neat gift idea for the writer in your life. Whether they’ve got thirty books under their sparkly belt or they’re still experimenting with style, form and pen name, you can’t go wrong with an inspirational journal.

And oh look, here’s one that Clan Destine Press prepared earlier!

The Journal of Infinite Possibility is a gorgeous little journal indeed. For a start, it’s full of pages waiting to be filled!

Mind you, the creators of this journal are writers and artists themselves and well know the terrifying tyranny of the blank page. That’s why the pages here aren’t exactly blank.

img_6463Instead, every page of The Journal of Infinite Possibility contains a picture, a quote, a prompt. Places to doodle when the words aren’t wording, images to colour in when doodles aren’t even doodling.

Actually, there’s plenty of space here for artists as well as writers, or for those scarily talented people who do both! They’ll certainly be inspired by the gorgeous covers and corner illustrations by Sarah Pain, Ashlea Bechaz, Vicky Pratt, Loraine Cooper and Ran Valerhon! (Two of that august list have created covers for my books with Clan Destine!)

img_6470A few of the pages are shown in part here so you can see how gorgeous this whole package is. The only real danger is that the writer who gets this won’t want to ink up the pretty pages. But ink it up, folks! Make it messy and crazy and bursting to full with your own  ideas sparked by these words and pictures and blank spaces just begging to be decorated with words, lines, lists, scrawls, sketches and the seeds of something bigger.

What the hell. Don’t get it for some other writer. Get it for yourself.

It’s what I’ve done.

Clan Destine Press’s Foolish April Sale

Clan_Destine_logoMy Australian publisher, Clan Destine Press, is having a massive book sale this month! Most of the books are in paperback as well as ebook, and there are some corkers available, all at 50% off.

There’s my vampire novel set in Melbourne, Walking Shadows, and my erotic romances, but since this isn’t all about me, let me give you some recommendations!

If you’re a fan of the Phryne Fisher TV series, the author of the book series, Kerry Greenwood, also writes fantasy and erotica. Her Delphic Women series explores Medea, Electra and Cassandra. Her brand new collection, Herotica, is full of stories about heroes and beautiful men having fabulous sex.

I cannot sinTHRIVE coverg enough of the praises of Mary Borsellino’s brilliant work. Not ever. Her Thrive is one of my favourite books ever – challenging and full of pain but also beauty, love and redemption. She’s awesome. She also writes lovely erotica.

Want more of an Aussie vampire fix? Jason Nahrung’s Vampires in a Sunburnt Country series is terrific.

Alison Goodman, of the famed Eon series and the new Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, has an Aussie SF/Crime novel with Clan Destine called A New Kind of Death.

RC DanielsThe Price of Fame is rock and roll, crime and the paranormal in St Kilda!

So if you want to try some new reading and see the amazing books Australian writers have to offer, now is a great time to fill up your shelf or you kindle with a bunch of brilliant stuff!

2015: A Reading Restrospective

Screenshot 2016-01-06 09.50.56I really like Goodreads. I love keeping track of the books I’ve read (and reread) just for my own interest.

My stats this year say this is the most books I’ve read in  a year since starting to keep track – 63! Looks impressive, and I’m pleased to see it’s a good mix of classic and contemporary work, reading in crime, romance, horror, fantasy, humour and graphic novels.

Twenty-nine of the books were written or edited by women. Of the books by blokes, most were either by PG Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle or the comic book team of Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum, the guys behind Unshelved, a comic set in a public library. (I read 10 of their collected editions, having backed the digital publication of same in a Kickstarter.) And not to be too wedded to binary genders, I’ve added a lot of new writers to my lists this year, particularly in the anthologies I’ve read.

Highlights of the reading year

blackbirdsI seem to either have good luck in the books I choose to read, or I’m very easy to please, as I thoroughly enjoyed most of my reading this year.

I have my favourites of course, the cream on top of the creme de la creme: Treasure Island, which I read for the first time ever, and PG Wodehouse’s hilarious and extremely unreliable memoir, Bring on the Girls, co-written with Guy Bolton. A Pride of Poppies, an anthology of queer love stories set in WWI, was beautiful and touching and sometimes funny and sometimes so sad and all of it was amazing.

In non-fiction, I loved Ruth Goodman’s How To Be a Victorian for its insights, as I’ve been writing a book set in the era. I also finally got around to Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments, a book about the Milgram obedience experiments by Gina Perry, which I picked up years ago at Clunes Book Week. It uncovers the circumstances behind the experiments, how they led to stricter ethical guidelines for psychology studies and how they don’t really teach us anything that we’re told they teach us.

In crime, Livia Day’s The Blackmail Blend is a terrific short story and I must read the novels in the series, and Emma Viskic promises to be a great new Australian crimewriting talent with Resurrection Bay and her deaf protagonist, Caleb. I also loved Alison Goodman’s A New Kind of Death, an SF/crime hybrid, and I aim to read more of her work too.

I also finally read a Chuck Wendig novel, Blackbirds, and found it as profane and funny as I find his excellent blog, Terrible Minds. I’m looking forward to more of his work (I have three on the Kindle for 2016!)

The Day/Night They Met

nightAnd two of my very favourite books of the year? Companion pieces by the same author, Wendy C Fries. In Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – The Day They Met, Fries gives 50 new ways for the famous friends to have met for the first time, across eras from the Victorian to the modern day.

Writing as Atlin Merrick, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Night They Met the same author gives us 19 ways those two men met and fell in love. It’s the first Holmes/Watson romance to  come out of Improbable Press, and it’s a marvellous start for a publisher that aims to celebrate queer readings of the Holmes-and-Watson legend.

How else was my reading year broken up?

Twelfth Planet Press

cherryAmong the books by Australian women, I read the final three collections in the Twelve Planets series, Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love, The Female Factory by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett and Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin – all three showcasing remarkable talent in specfic and horror. Twelfth Planet Press always produces amazing books, and if you’ve missed this twelve-book series I recommend you hunt it down or get the books in digital format (including my own Showtime, number 5 in the series.)

The Classics

Adventures_of_sherlock_holmesAs part of my research for writing The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, a Holmes/Watson romance due out this year with Improbable Press, I reread the entire Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle, which is an education in going back to the source material.

The same could be said of my first-time reading of Treasure Island, which I’d only seen in screen versions before, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which I haven’t read since I was a kid. I also read a lot of PG Wodehouse, who is always a great comfort in times of stress, and finally a Jane Austen that wasn’t Pride and PrejudicePersuasion. (I began this year with Mansfield Park, which I didn’t particularly enjoy – I want to slap everyone in it. Do other people have this reaction?)

Forensics and True Crime

nutshellIn further pursuit of research for my Holmes/Watson novel, I also spent a lot of the year reading up about the history of forensics and other related non-fiction books, primarily The Nutshell Studies, The Science of Sherlock Holmes, the three volumes of The Century of the Detective by Jurgen Thorwald (The Marks of Cain about fingerprinting, Dead Men Tell Tales about forensic science and Proof of Poison about toxicology), now out of print – I was lucky enough to pick up two of them at Clunes and found the third on eBay.

I ended with A Very British Murder, by Lucy Worsley and based on her TV show about how murder became such a national obsession for the Brits.

Romance

poppiesI thought I’d read more romance this year, but perhaps it’s just that I have read a lot of books where romance is part of a crime plot or some other fusion. Besides Persuasion and the aforementioned The Night They Met, I also enjoyed the unconventional princess-in-the-tower story, Her Silent Oath by Julia Leijon, and some excellent queermance.

A Pride of Poppies, as also mentioned, was very moving, while Jane Elliot‘s Smoothie, an action-romance for a lesbian couple, was a lively read. Tyler Knoll’s Just for Fun by AB Gayle was just sheer silly-crazy fun.

How about you?

I hope your reading year was also filled with old favourites, new discoveries, unexpected knowledge and ideas to spark other reading or your own writing. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments!

And Then… : Support a new anthology from Clan Destine Press

and then...Clan Destine Press is putting together a new two-volume anthology of adventure stories! And Then… the Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales is exactly what it says on the tin. A big book full of tales of derring do, swash and buckle, rockets and railroads, guns and swords, action and heroics and ALL THE EXCITING ADVENTUROUS THINGS!

My story, Virgin Soil – set in Melbourne in 1851 and full of dark magic, strange family, gold fever and a shapeshifter who can’t remember if he started as a man or a rat – has been accepted to the anthology!

I’m there in excellent company. Other great Australian writers appearing include Kerry Greenwood, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Alan Baxter, Mary Borsellino, Jason Franks, Jason Nahrung, Jack Dann, Amanda Pillar, Sophie Masson, Lindy Cameron, Jane Clifton, and Peter M Ball – for starters!

All the stories have some kind of Australian/New Zealand connection, and it promises to be two volumes of a rollicking good time. The stories will be illustrated by Vicky Pratt, whose art for one of the stories appears above.

Clan Destine Press is running an Indiegogo campaign to fund costs for author fees and illustrations – and it would be so wonderful if you could be part of that.

You can support the project for as little as $2, and there are a few stages (including rewards of 50% off the books) before the first where you are guaranteed an e-copy of the book at $20.

Of course there are higher levels of pledges too, which include choosing other Clan Destine titles, getting the And Then... volumes in paperback, getting And Then... merchandise, and for the highest levels – And Then… in hardcover, and special writing tutorials from writers like Alan Baxter, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jason Nahrung, Kelly Gardiner and me!

Please support this great project – and the writers and artist included in it – with your love but also, if you can, your dollars. You’ll get something amazing in return. I promise.

You can find out more about the writers for the anthology, how funds raised will be used and all the different levels at which you can support the project at Indiegogo – just follow the link.

Support And Then… at Indiegogo

And thank you in advance for supporting Australian writers, artists and publishers (or at least thinking about it!

Writing short stories vs novels by Amanda Pillar

Graced Ebook High ResThis week, Amanda Pillar is my guest! Amanda’s new novel, Graced, has just been released, but she’s  written mainly short stories until now.  Today she talks about the difference between the two.

I began writing back to front. Rather than tackle the shorter and more attainable short story, I started with a novel. I spent hours tapping away at my 386 computer, painstakingly crafting a derivative and unimaginative first person fantasy that thankfully never saw the light of day. In fact, it was several (short) novels later that I wrote my first short story.

Looking back, I’ve been writing short stories for longer than I initially realised. Whenever we had creative writing at high school, I’d use my 500 word essay to write about vampires or witches or something magical, much to the annoyance of my year 10 teacher, who wanted me to write something else. But I persisted. In fact, one of my high school essays became one of the first short stories I ever had published.

It was at this point that I realised I needed to put the novels aside and work on my short fiction. I’d gone about getting published the wrong way; at least that’s what I thought at the time. I’d shopped my second novel around to publishers (agents, what were they?) and had received good feedback, but I was missing something. What, they couldn’t say, and I didn’t know. So I decided to refine my craft.

Writing short stories taught me that they were hard. In a novel, the reader is a bit more forgiving if you take a few pages to flesh out the character; in a short story, you have a couple of paragraphs. And yet, my novel writing had taught me how to develop a character, how to learn all their ins and outs. So this helped. I approached short stories with fully formed characters.

Short stories also taught me that the first sentence is paramount; the hook really is vital. Just as important as the following paragraphs. Every word in a short story has to count. Superfluous words are the enemy; there’s more lenience in novels for that kind of thing. That’s where your adverbs and ‘filter’ words really hurt.

And then I tried to write flash fiction. If anything, that is even more difficult. 1,000 words or less to make a reader 1) care about your character, 2) develop a plot and 3) have a conclusion. 1,000 may sound like a lot, but when you start out writing novels, 1,000 words is nothing. It’s often less than most opening chapters!

I then began editing as well. This helped my writing more than some might realise. It’s easy to pick out the errors in other people’s work, but it also made me realise some of the very common issues I kept noting I was guilty of, too. And so I began to look at each short story of my own more critically.

Then I went back to writing novels.

The hardest transition between the two is for me is pacing. And yet writing short stories means that every chapter I write in novel hopefully begins in a punchy way and ends with a conclusion of some sort, whether it be cliff-hanger or resolution. Every word in my novels now counts in a way it didn’t previously.

So for me, I think my roundabout way of going from novel writing to short stories and back again has taught me more about character development, plotting and word use than I may have achieved going from short stories to novels, but then, I’ll never really know. I just know that I love writing both.

About Graced:

City Guard Elle Brown has one goal in life: to protect her kid sister, Emmie. Falling in love – and with a werewolf at that – was never part of the deal.

Life, however, doesn’t always go to plan, and when Elle meets Clay, everything she thought about her world is thrown into turmoil. Everything, that is, but protecting Emmie, who is Graced with teal-colored eyes and an unknown power that could change their very existence. But being different is dangerous in their home city of Pinton, and it’s Elle’s very own differences that capture the attention of the Honorable Dante Kipling, a vampire with a bone-deep fascination for a special type of human.

Dante is convinced that humans with eye colors other than brown are unique, but he has no proof. The answers may exist in the enigmatic hazel eyes of Elle Brown, and he’s determined to uncover their secrets no matter the cost…or the lives lost.

Buy Graced:

About Amanda:

Amanda_small-1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith. Amanda has had numerous short stories published and is working on her eighth fiction anthology. Graced is her first novel. By day, she works as an archaeologist travelling around Australia.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Never say never (almost)

13186868_sA long time ago now, I spotted a post on Twitter from a bookseller who had overheard a male customer saying “I would never read a book by a woman”. It struck us as an odd thing to say. Why cut yourself off from half the books in the world, regardless of quailty or subject, because of the (apparent) gender of the writer?

Another contributor to the discussion added the amusing story of a man who said who never read fantasy by women but only by men – men like Robin Hobbs.

Oh, how we laughed and laughed.

The discussion moved on, however, to declarations of the books we ourselves might never read, and some fairly blanket terms came up, culminating in: “I’d never read a book by a footballer!”

I thought about this. I’m not very interested in sport, and might have declared I’d never read a book about football – but I had enjoyed Angela Pippos’s Goddess Advantage – One Year in the Life of a Football Worshipper. It was funny, clever, insightful and, yes, about football, but much more about family and community and one person’s life. But it also made me quite like football, through her eyes.

Would I refuse ever to read a book by a footballer, I wondered? I couldn’t imagine what they might have to say that would interest me, but that was just about being selective about what I read in my limited reading time.

I had decided a while back that I wouldn’t read books by certain authors because I found aspects of their very vocal opinions (one a rampant homophobe, another a convicted violent criminal) so repugnant that I was reluctant to contribute to even the price of a cup of coffee for them from my purchase. But there are maybe three writers on that list.

But that’s not a blanket ban on a type of person or on any particular subject. There’s always the chance that a good writer, or a good story, can come from anywhere.

So… as an experiment, I tried to find a book written by a footballer that I might like to read. My call for assistance ended in a friend lending me a copy of Jason McCartney’s After Bali (co-written by Ben Collins, who is credited in the fly-leaf, though not with his specific role in the creation of the book).

That was maybe two years ago. I’ve been putting off reading it in favour of books I was much more committed to reading, in my relatively limited reading hours.

This weekend, I finally opened it and gave it a whirl.

The book is written interview-style, with Jason McCartney’s story of being caught up in the bomb blasts in Bali in October 2002, his injuries and recovery, interspersed with quotes from family, friends, medical staff and others.

I tried and tried and tried to like it.

Half way through, I gave up. I just don’t have the time to keep reading books I’m not enjoying.

I feel bad about it. McCartney endured much, suffered much, achieved much, and it’s a rude of me to want the account of his experiences to be more articulate or more insightful or more… something. But the truth is, I found the writing awkward, repetetive and ultimately a bit dull. I wish him and his well, I do, and I feel awful that I was not sufficiently ‘engaged’. But I wasn’t.

What do I conclude from this experiment?

It isn’t that I will never read a book by a footballer. It isn’t that I will never read a book about personal suffering and endurance, or one about football, or any of those things.

I conclude mainly that not every writer or every subject or every writing style is my cup of tea, and that’s okay. I may choose not to continue a book, or not to read particular authors because I don’t particularly enjoy their work (or their personal politics) or because there are just so many other books that engage me much more at the time.

Never say never, or at least almost never, is what I conclude. I don’t want to close myself off from books and ideas that may be unexpected and brilliant, or at least educational.

But I’ll continue to be discerning in my choices, because I only have so much time, and there is ever so much in the world to read!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

[Image by ponsuwan at 123RF.com)

Support your local writer

12840582_sSo. A friend of yours – maybe a close friend, maybe just an acquaintance you quite admire, maybe an actual relative – has just had a book published. Perhaps their first. Perhaps their latest.

It’s entirely possible that you love this book. It’s entirely possible that you will buy it, hard cover, hot off the stands, read it and tell everyone you love it, etc etc etc.

It’s also entirely possible that you won’t like it much. That it’s not really your genre, not your cup of tea, not what you love in a book.

But you love that person, or like that person, and you want to be supportive somehow.

Here are some tips on how to support the writers you love, and the books they write (which you may also love).

Buy the book

mgapcoverThis is one of the first, best things you can do. Support your writing friend by putting your money where your mouth is. Buy the paperback, or buy the ebook (or buy both). And if it’s not really your thing? Psst. You don’t really have to read it.

I mean, yes, of course, read it. Books are written to be read, and the writer in your life hopes you’ll read it, and hopes you’ll love it, or like it, or at least not hate it. But if it’s really not your thing, you’re at least helping to boost the signal. It’s still worth something.

I can’t afford to buy the book; and it’s not my kind of book; and isn’t buying it and not reading it a bit shifty?

Well, yes, there are reasons both financial and personal that can bar you from buying your friend’s book. But there’s a really cool standby technique for this:

Get your library to buy the book!

thedaytheymetIf you lack funds, or bookshelf space, there’s a cool thing you can do that will support that writer with sales (and therefore income) and still give you a chance to read the book (or not read it, as the case may be).

GO TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY AND REQUEST IT.

In fact, I’ve just done that with The Day They Met. (Despite the fact I already have the e-book and have the paperback coming!)

I went to my local library, found out how to request books, then I logged in and I asked for that book! I used all the necessary details I could find on Amazon (Full title, publisher, publication date, ISBN etc) and put that in the system and said HIT ME UP WITH THIS AWESOME SHERLOCK HOLMES BOOK, IT’S WHAT MY TAXES PAY FOR BABY, GIMME GIMME GIMME. Only in more formal language.

NilByMouthYou can even do this if you already own the book, because it’s a great way to help people who do not know and love your friend to be exposed to their work. This can be especially important if their book is not your cup of tea – people who really love that lapsang souchong stuff are out there this minute, scouring libraries for their delicious beverage of choice!! HELP THEM FIND IT!!

Hell, if you can, go to your siblings’ libraries, your parents’ library, your school or uni, GO TO ALL THE LIBRARIES AND ASK THEM TO GET IT IN FOR YOU.

This sells books for publishers and authors. This exposes books you love to wider audiences who may not hear of it otherwise but might see it on the shelf or in a search.

Feedback Do’s and Don’ts

Of course your writer friend would love to know that you loved the book but… yeah, sometimes you don’t. What to do?

Well, don’t lie. Dishonesty isn’t a great thing, and it’s a downhill road for a friendship. (Especially when you might feel you’re expected to support your gushing with quote from favourite bits.

(And here’s a word of advice for writers – don’t ask people what they thought of the book. If they love you but they don’t love your book, it puts both of you in an awkward position. Here is the only occasion on which Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell is an acceptable policy.)

However, you can say how proud you are of your friend, or comment on how great they must feel. Comment on the effort if not the words in question.

And for goodness’s sake, if you spot an error in the text, a typo or a factual error in the final published work, DON’T SAY ANYTHING.

There will be plenty of people who have no emotional investment in the personal relationship who won’t hesitate to bring those things up. The thing to remember is that you are supporting a friend here, and errors that have slipped through the editing and proofreading and all those things to be in the final product are there for keeps now. The book has been published. It’s too late to fix them. You can’t recall the entire print run to fix a bloody typo! Leave it to those whose job it is to review and critique to do that. Chances are your writer has already seen that goddamned typo on page 47 and is praying like billy-o that no-one else has noticed. Don’t be the one to burst their hapless bubble.

Reviews!

If, on the other hand, you really really loved the book, and you have honest to god things to say about it – by all means, give some  encouraging feedback or, better yet – write a review. On Amazon, Goodreads, on your blog, whatever site is selling the book. Reviews help people who are, once more, looking for their particular literary beverage, find that book and decide whether or not to buy it. You don’t have to write a long analysis, though if you feel it’s in you, go for it.

(I should add here that there are many books I’ve loved but not reviewed because my time is finite, so lack of feedback on my part is not necessarily lack of literary love. Just lack of literal time.)

Support means you get new work by writers you love!

f2m The Boy WithinAnd whether or not you know the writer, if you love a book, support it. Spruik it and review it and share the love, because the noise-to-signal ratio out there is high, and every little boost helps. Very few of the thousands of writers out there make a living out of writing fiction. Help a few of them at least make enough to buy a celebratory cupcake.

More importantly, good reviews and good sales will encourage them to write another book, and encourage publishers to publish it as well, so you can enjoy a new book by the writer you love! EVERYBODY WINS!

In short – support every writer whose books you love. Especially new writers, those out there for the very first time.

SPREAD THE WORD.

SPREAD THE LOVE.

Some hot recommendations

devilThese are books by people I know, and like and love – and whose books I do, in fact, love. I’ve bought said books in paperback and in ebook form (and in both when they’re available sometimes). I’ve reviewed them on Amazon and Goodreads (or this blog) and I’ve asked my local library to get copies in. And now here I am, spreading the word and spreading the love.

And remember my motto – I may be biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong!

  • The Day They Met by Wendy C Fries – 50 short stories on alternative ways Sherlock Holmes and John Watson may have met. Each and every story a gem, and many that had me laughing madly on the tram to work.
  • Mind the Gap by Tim Richards – a fantasy action-adventure with Egyptology, dreamscapes and trains. Snappy pacing, real serial-adventure with cliffhangers stuff and engaging characters.
  • Nil By Mouth by LynC – one man’s experience of an alien invasion of earth. Thoughtful, unexpected, human, compassionate, horrifying and deeply humane in turns.
  • The Devil’s Mixtape by Mary Borsellino – Part horror story, part declaration of love for non-conformists, especially those who embrace being outside the norm.
  • f2m: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, the story of a transgendered boy learning how to be true to himself.

Take this opportunity to support the writers you love and tell me your hot recommendations!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Writers’ Insecurity? Stake that vampire in its cold, dead heart!

No doubt the topic of writerly insecurity has been covered before. And it will be again. And we will probably all quote Neil Gaiman’s story about calling his agent to say how awful his latest book was.

But the thing is, this writerly insecurity is a persistent infection. It’s a nasty little bastard that makes life hard. So we need to innoculate ourselves frequently. It’s not a waste of time to repeat the story. It’s a damned survival skill.

I read that story of Gaiman’s years ago, and it was a kind of lifeline to me. The news that Neil Gaiman experienced the same doubts that I did was a revelation. The fact that his writerly insecurities happened so often that he talked about hating every single word as simply a regular phase of writing made me feel so much better as a writer.

I mean, if Mr-Hugo-Nebula-Carnegie Winner feels that way too, then it’s obvious that I’m not alone, and that all writers must get attacked by the same collywobbles in much the same way.

Furthermore, that means that the voice in your head telling you that what you’re doing is rubbish is not necessarily telling you the truth, and that the little bastard is certainly not your friend.

Obviously, it never hurts to assess what you’re working on, and to work on it till your fingers bleed and your eyeballs dry out from staring, to ensure you are doing the best work you know how. But if you are working like a Trojan already, then chances are that the snide little voice in your head is what one playwright called a ‘Vampire of Doubt’.

In the musical [Title of Show] there is a whole song and dance sequence about the self-doubt that creeps in. With wit and nifty harmonies, the song Die, Vampire, Die identifies that voice of doubt and disparagement that whispers in your ear to “give up, you’re no good, blah blah blah” and gives some quite good advice about it.

(Here it is – with a language warning!)

 By the way, one of my favourite bits of the lyric, which is a spoken section, is:

“Why is it that if some dude walked up to me on the subway platform and said these things, I’d think he was a mentally ill asshole, but if the vampire inside my head says it, It’s the voice of reason.”

We are always all too ready to accept our vampire of doubt as the Voice of Truth. And it’s not.

Of course, writers need to develop a rational and balanced sense of our work, to know when it’s not coming together as planned, when to do better. But we need to learn to separate the rational practice of improving as writers from the simple fear that we’re not good enough.

If you want to improve as a writer, then write more. Write differently, experiment, play around with ideas, push yourself, ask for external feedback, collaborate.

Start, continue, finish – then start again.

But don’t let the vampire of doubt make you stop.

Stake that bloodsucking bastard right in the heart and keep on writing.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Cannibal Writer

One writer, served in the Australian style

The Cannibal Writer

First of all, I tender my apologies for the length of time between blog posts. The last few months have been fraught not only with a lot of work, but with a lot of family drama that has swallowed up my writing energy even when I had the time.

At the risk of sounding like an appalling human being… at least all of the drama will someday be worth the pain when it gets mulched, ferments and comes back out somewhere and in some form in a story.

Because that’s part of what writers do. It’s not the only thing we do, of course. We don’t only make stories from our own experiences. Our own joy and our own pain. No. Sometimes we make stories out of the pain and joy that we observe in others too.

We sound awful, don’t we?

But part of what it is for me to be human (I can’t speak for anyone else) is making sense of my world, both observed and experienced, through my words. I tell stories to explore the universe in which I’m immersed, and this ship of flesh and bone in which I navigate that universe.

My writing is filled with the things I’ve learned, or am curious about, or am hopelessly ignorant about but hope to become less so, as I burrow into motivation, unpack detail, peer at the nuances of my own reactions and guess at the motivation and reactions of others.

I do sometimes put people directly into stories but mostly, I dismember myself and others to build characters and situations. I make a great big soup out of my life and splash select parts of it onto the page to tell stories to myself first, and later to others, about the enormous, complex beauty and terror that being human can be.

I know already of something that happened last week that will find a way into my stories.

Walking along a hospital corridor with my youngest brother as we accompanied my ill mother into an operating theatre to have her broken hip repaired, we were filled with anxiety and grief, because the surgery was risky but the only option.

But we were haunted down that corridor by the clacking of my mother’s false teeth in a plastic box, which I promised her I’d keep in my pocket so they wouldn’t get lost. It was like we were being followed by a ghost right out of a schlocky Victorian-era horror novel.

In one of the most emotionally intense moments of our lives, we kept giggling – because life is filled with tragedy but also absurdity, and often at the same time.

(Oh, and spoiler alert: My mother came through the operation and is getting stronger every day.  She also got her teeth back.)

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

The Peacemaker Playlist – guest post by Marianne de Pierres

Peacemaker Tour Banner

A lot of writers listen to a particular set of songs while writing a specific book. It helps to set the mood while writing and can sometimes influence a little of what’s going on.

With Marianne de Pierres’ new book Peacemaker out soon, I asked her to share the playlist she listened to while writing.

The soundtracks that authors compile while writing novels are often quite revealing: better, at times, than an interview. Thanks to Spotify, you can now hear PEACEMAKER soundtrack in all its quaint glory. My dad would approve!

Gunfighter-Ballads-Robbins-CD Big Iron – Marty Robins

 Wild, Wild West – The Escape Club

 Riders on the Storm – The Doors

 Timber – Pitbull/Kesha

 Rawhide – Frankie Laine

Alvin_harlan county line Prairie Fire – Marty Robbins

 Harlan County Line – Dane Alvin

 Bad Things – Jace Everett

 Saving Grace – Everlast

 They Call the Wind Mariah – Paint Your Wagon

Timber Pitbull Kesha The Gospel of No Name City – Paint Your Wagon

 There’s a Coach Coming In – Paint Your Wagon

 Counting Stars – OneRepublic

 Royals – Lorde

 Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Do you listen to music when you write? What playlists have you got for your books?

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.