The strange condition of being a writer – latest newsletter

Sep 1, 2023

My latest newsletter just went out via Substack, reposted here.

Being a writer is bloody weird. In some ways, it’s entirely natural to me because I’ve never really known anything different. I’ve always loved telling stories. But the longer I do this as a job and the more often I’m interviewed about it and asked about it, the more I have to interrogate what it actually means to be a writer.

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ll know how I feel about writing rules. Spoiler: I fucking hate the prescriptive bullshit. All this “you must write every day” and “only write what you know” stuff makes my teeth curl. Who the hell knows dragons? Or demons? Or even the reality of a crime scene? Eh, don’t get me started. The one and only “rule” of writing is that you must write. How often, how much, when, what about, whether you’re published or not – all that is variable and irrelevant. If you write, you’re a writer. That’s it.

But despite all those variables, I think writers exist as writers all the time, however much or little they actually write. The strange condition of being a writer means always living in a certain, subconscious way.

For one, we notice things. We see the inconsistencies in existence, the little snagged edges where life gets caught. And while lots of other folks may or may not notice those things too, we as writers remember them. They get filed away in the weird writer cupboard in our brain and there they fester and germinate and eventually burst forth anew as stories.

But do we notice and remember these things because we write or do we write because we notice and remember these things? Are those even separate considerations? This is something I ruminate on occasionally in the dark quietude of the night. I have no answers, of course. I just find it interesting.

You know what else is interesting? (Pro segue there, Al – you see, I’m a writer!) I’ve got a new agent. I recently signed with Becky LeJeune of the Bond Literary Agency and I’m super excited for the future with her support. I knew it would be a good relationship when she wore a Camp Crystal Lake t-shirt on our first Zoom meeting. I am enormously indebted to Alex Adsett, who has been my agent until now and will still represent my interests in several ongoing areas. I’m hopeful that Becky will be able to get my work out to bigger audiences and this new arrangement will be of massive benefit to us all. We’re starting off with a brand new novel, so watch out for news on that sometime in the future. Cross your everythings for me.

A couple of other things are current.

PS Publishing (who own Absinthe Books) have announced The Leaves Forget in their newsletter. There will be a hardcover and a signed and numbered limited edition hardcover (only 100 copies!) both with that sweet Ben Baldwin art you see at the top of this post as a full wraparound cover, and there’ll be an ebook, of course. If you’re keen for one of the physical copies, you can order now. I haven’t actually had the signing sheets yet for the limited edition but I’m told it’s selling fast in pre-orders, so if you’re keen for one of those, best to jump in quick. You can order directly from PS Publishing here:

Here’s the blurb for the book:

Olivia has been missing for months. Her family have tried to accept that perhaps she’ll never be found, and they’ll never know what happened.

So when her brother Craig unexpectedly receives a stack of letters from Liv, all written not long after her disappearance, he’s both excited and frightened. Reading through her correspondence, Craig begins to get a sense of where she was, but he still doesn’t know where she is now, or if she’s even still alive.

Using what clues he can from the old letters, Craig sets off with his partner and his father to find Olivia, hoping for the best, fearing the worst.

I hope you’ll give this one a go.

And that brings me to the Ditmar Awards. I’m absolutely thrilled to be shortlisted four times this year. Four! I’ve been nominated for Sallow Bend in Best Novel; “Gulpepper Curios” from The Fall in Best Novella or Novelette, The Fall itself in Best Collected Work AND Damnation Games (which I edited and have a story in) also in Best Collected Work. Wild. I’ve never won a Ditmar before, so fingers crossed.

Voting is now open, and all Conflux 2023 members (full or supporting) and members of the last 5 Natcons (Continuum 2017, Swancon 2018, Continuum 2019, Swancon 2020 and Conflux 2022) are eligible to vote. All votes must be in by 22/9/23 and you can vote online here: If you’re eligible to vote, please do! The more votes that go in, the better the awards reflect the views of the reading public.

What I’ve Been Enjoying

I’ve been flat out lately and haven’t had much reading or watching time, but I have finished bingeing Better Call Saul, the sequel series to Breaking Bad. It was really good and I enjoyed it all, but I think Breaking Bad is better. I was left a little sour with the final few episodes of Better Call Saul. On the one hand, I get it. On the other hand, I would have done it differently. I can’t say more without spoilers, but hit me up if you want a chat about it.

I’ve been to the movies twice recently. I saw Dracula: Voyage of the Demeter which is a great horror movie. Monster on a boat: it does exactly what it says on the tin. And I saw Talk To Me which is simply one of the best horror movies I’ve ever seen. An Australian film, no less. It’s truly brilliant and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Try to know as little as possible going in, if you can.

Reading-wise I’ve just started the third volume of C S Humble’s horror western trilogy, so I’ll report back about that soon. So far, it’s excellent. I also read the new Chuck Tingle horror novel, Camp Damascus. It’s an original and clever take on some old horror tropes and while I felt like it skipped parts and made some strange leaps in narrative, I enjoyed it a lot.

Okay, I think that’s all from me for now. If you’re anywhere near Sydney, I’ll be a guest at Oz Comic-Con on September 23rd and 24th. It would be awesome to see you there. I’ll have lots of books to sign, stickers, badges and general bonhomie. All you need to know is here:

Big love from me, feel free to get in touch and I’ll see you next time.


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