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April 2016

April 2016 update

Somehow, this annual April update skipped a year. It’s April 2016? Really? Are we sure about this?

Here we go then.

Family

When I wrote the last April update, our third child hadn’t yet been born. Nella Walsh-Smith burst into our lives on her due date, and has proceeded to dazzle us on many occasions with her unquenchable thirst for adventure, her indomitable love of life, and her blonde, blonde, blonde head of hair.

And just two months ago, Molly Walsh-Smith made her debut in the world, and is currently setting records for being the world’s easiest baby. Damn, jinxed it.

Annie is in Year One, and will own the world right on schedule. Liam is getting his first tastes of preschool this year, and it’s an experience that seems to have two speeds: awesome and traumatic. Nella is a big sister for the first time, and loves it. And every single one of these kids has a different relationship with every single other one. Keeping track of it is an amazingly rewarding challenge.

In addition to raising the children full-time, Katie is heavily involved in the school councils, and is president of a local women’s group. Busy seems to be a meaningless word when you’ve got a family this size, but it’s still a word that I think applies to her schedule quite well.

Me? I’m at the tail end of two and a half months off from work to celebrate Molly’s birth and reconnect with the family. It’s been pretty great. And I’m still writing (more on that in a moment).

Writing

Since the last update, I’ve run three Kickstarter campaigns, released four new books, and entered into creative collaborations with something like thirty other people. Two more of my books have been shortlisted for awards. I’ve attended a decent handful of comic/literary events, and sold books to a range of awesome people.

The Lesser Evil

More often than not, The Lesser Evil is still my best-selling book at conventions. Beyond that nugget of information, there’s not much news to impart.

Peaceful Tomorrows

Peaceful Tomorrows 2 did not win an Aurealis Award in 2014, but I’m still thrilled to have had it on that list of finalists, alongside juggernaut names like Tom Taylor.

The Game

The Game ended up being the inaugural title of Deeper Meanings Publishing, and was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award. It didn’t win (losing out to Tim Molloy), but again: honour to be nominated. For the second year running, I attended the ceremony, which was here in Canberra. Here’s me in the corner with my lovely wife, anxious as all-get-out and being as anti-social as humanly possible.


(Photo by Catriona Sparks)

(Photo by Catriona Sparks)

James Flamestar

James Flamestar finally got a proper release, also through Deeper Meanings. It’s my go-to title when punters need an age-appropriate title, and I’m thrilled to include it among my list of books. It doesn’t get the critical nod, the accolades, or the fan response that my other books get, and there are things I’d like to change about it, but overall, I think it’s on par with my other titles.

All The King’s Men

The Kickstarter campaign for All The King’s Men fell a long way short of meeting its target. Since then, I’ve blogged extensively about what this project taught me.

For a while, this project was shelved. It wasn’t going to get up without money, and I didn’t think a second campaign would raise what I needed. The entire project needed a bit of a rethink.

At some point, I decided to be the only artist in the book – at first this was a money saving measure, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. This is my first time at bat editing a project like this – if I stuff up, I’ll probably inconvenience the artist more than anyone else. If I’m the artist, I’m the one who bears the brunt of the last-minute rewrite. I can live with this.

In late 2015, I applied for a grant through ArtsACT to revive the project, and it was accepted. I was quite frankly stunned by this thrilling outcome. I now had $7,500 to make this book a reality.

People came from far and wide to investigate an opportunity to be paid for their writing. The anthology website received around 22,000 hits in six months, with an estimated 6,000 unique visitors. For someone at my level, those are big numbers. Lots of eyeballs. Plenty of people know my name now.

Submissions for the anthology closed on 31 March 2016, and in all, I received 175 pitches for the book. Sorting through those pitches to select just two dozen to work with was a daunting task, but immensely rewarding too. Next step: making the book. It’s going to be an awesome ride.

Undad

To this day, I have no idea where the idea for Undad came from. I can find the public forum where I first discussed the idea, but it’s one that popped into my head fully-formed. The elevator pitch for the story has barely changed since the day of its conception. That’s a particularly unusual first for one of my books.

It came together quickly. I used what I’d learned from my failed Kickstarter campaign to produce a campaign for Undad that was so successful, we ended up getting two additional issues made with the money raised. We bypassed the issue stage and released a trade paperback.

I thought that this was the end of it.

Then I noticed, totally by chance, that a grant opportunity was closing in a couple of days. This was the MATCH program, administered by Creative Partnerships Australia. Fresh off the success of the first Undad campaign, I knew I wanted to run another one at some point, but I didn’t have any particular ideas. Undad Season Two was born in a rough skeletal form out of this opportunity.

Not a particularly inspirational genesis, I’ll admit, but I contend that everything about the entire Undad endeavour came together so seamlessly that it was meant to happen this way.

Undad and Undad Season Two were both released in 2015, and quickly became a table favourite at conventions. The ten-second-sell almost always gets a laugh, and people really seem to dig the family-drama-zombie-horror genre that I’m on the fringes of here.

Undad was also shortlisted in the Australian Shadows Awards for best graphic novel. It didn’t win, but I’m thrilled it got some recognition. I’m really proud of this book.

Messar Dreams/Line in the Sand

Around the time I played Telltale’s The Walking Dead for the first time, I decided that I’d like to try my hand at writing a video game one day. A branching story that allowed players to choose their destiny. From this ambition and a single dangling thread in The Lesser Evil, the Messar Dreams project (later renamed) was born.

An early prototype got a decent response from players, and I ran a tumblr briefly that covered the period of its development.

I applied for a Screen Australia grant to fund its production, but alas: the application was not approved.

It’s a little too early to know what’ll become of this project. Suffice to say that I’ve put a lot of effort into planning it and designing it. I’ll need to train myself up in Unity to get it made properly, but I’m keen. I think it’ll be a blast, if I can carve some time out of my creative schedule once All The King’s Men is complete.

Projects going nowhere fast

Triumviratus: haven’t touched it in almost two years. I notice that I called this my level-up potential two years ago. Not sure what that says about my prospects. I’d still like to revisit this one day. It’d be cool to have some epic fantasy on my table.

The Tube: coming up on four years abandoned. Might be time to officially pronounce this one.

Conclusion

It’s hard to summarise two years in a way that truly captures how fulfilling this is. I’m so absorbed in each project, each event as it happens, that I can scarcely believe that all this can take place in just two short years.

It has been yet another massive couple of years, that’s for sure. And things are only going to get busier from here.

It’s gonna be awesome.

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