Why I didn’t enter the Sunday Star Times Short Story contest this year.

sst-logoThe Sunday Star Short Story Contest is an established New Zealand contest. For the most part it’s run annually. With the disappearance of The Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, the Sunday Star is now, as far as I can tell, the major New Zealand short story contest. And one of few that does not ask entrants for an entry fee.

The prize is substantial. $1000. For a 3000 word (maximum) story. That’s about thirty-three cents a word. Getting into the non-fiction per word payment range. Pro-fiction rates get up around ten cents a word, mostly around six to eight cents.

That tells me I should enter.

I’ve been long-listed for the contest in the past. My writing’s getting better. I’m losing eligibility for other contests because of my pro/almost-pro status.

So I wrote a story. I’m pretty pleased with it. I got it proofed and ready to go.

I went to the site to enter. That’s easy. Fill out the form, attach the document, click the ‘enter’ button. By entering I agree to the rules.

You know those sites we sign up for and we tick the box to accept the terms and conditions? Some of those documents are massive. We put our trust in them. Mostly that’s just fine.

Anyway, I decided I should read the rules. Really there were only eighteen. A little more than a page. Compared to some of those ‘terms and conditions’ documents, nothing more than an eye blink.

In the past the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest. offered prizes to the first, second and third place-getters. Now, it’s just one prize. That’s okay. Things change.

– Open to permanent residents only. Check.

– Maximum of 3000 words. Check.

– Maximum of one entry per category. Check.

– Original work. Check.

– The finalists’ names, entry details, biographical information and photographs will be required by Fairfax Media and will be used for promotional purposes without compensation. You consent to this use of your details by entering the competition and agree to your name being published without notification or prior approval.

Uh. Hold on. “Without compensation”? Oh well, I suppose that’s all good promotion. Name and photo in the paper, if I happen to be a finalist. Nice for the ego and so on.

Okay. On with the rules.

– All entries submitted remain the property of the entrant. However (my italics), Fairfax Media and Penguin Random House New Zealand have the right to publish the winning and highly commended manuscripts of the Open Division, Secondary School Division and Non-Fiction Essay entered without fee. (my bolding).

What? “Without fee”? Really? So that amounts to: If I enter they’ll be able to publish my story without paying me.

It does say ‘winning and highly commended’, but it doesn’t say what constitutes highly commended. From my point of view anyone who gets it together to write a story and send it off should be highly commended. It takes courage and effort. Well done. If that’s the criteria, then any and every entry could qualify for publication ‘without fee’. Oh, except for the winning entry.

While I’m having a rant; right now there’s a New Zealand magazine that publishes a short story each month. As I understand it they take a vote or something at the end of the year and choose a winning story from those twelve and give that writer a prize. The other eleven do not receive anything save publication. I’m not even clear that they get copies of the issue in which they were published. Effectively those stories appear ‘without fee’.

This is why I didn’t enter. Writers get paid. The journalists in the paper and magazine who write the articles about the treaty and the housing crisis and climate change all get paid.

And that’s why I didn’t enter. That story I wrote? I’ll be sending that off to a paying market.

100 Submissions

Last great time house.png So, as well as tracking my word count this year, I’ve also tracked my number of submissions. Now, I do keep close track of where and when I’m submitting (it would be kind of silly not to), but this is the first time I’ve ever recorded the actual number as well.

So far this year I’ve made 100 submissions. That’s submissions of short-stories/ novelettes/ novellas to various markets. It doesn’t count items I’ve sent to indie/ self-publishing.

To be clear, though, I have completed a total of fourteen new pieces. All of those submitted. There have been some novels that have gone directly to indie, so I’m not counting those.

Getting to one hundred submissions means some of those fourteen, and some of last year’s stories (and a couple from the year before) are finding themselves resubmitted. This is pretty standard practice. One market rejects a story, off it goes to another. Repeat. Heinlein would say ‘repeat until sold’.

Of those fourteen, I’ve so far sold six. Not a huge number for me, but I’ll take it (of course). Pretty low ratio in terms of submissions: six percent, but not too bad in terms of stories completed.

Cover illustration for The Last Great Time House of Muldemar Ridge © Ateliersommerland | Dreamstime.com

Ganymede – new album from Shadows on the Snow

ganymede20coverKendall’s been busy again, keeping up the releases from our band Shadows on the Snow. This one has sounds mostly by me, recrafted and textured brilliantly by Kendall. This is the kind of thing I like about our collaboration – how we each bring in something new.

You can download Ganymede for free from archive.org.

Check out Kendall’s new December Nightskies album Rainbowdrone from This Winter Will Last Forever records.


To check out the full catalogue of Shadows on the Snow releases, see archive.org – here.


Thomas K. Carpenter’s story – The Minotaur’s Wife, at Galaxy’s Edge

cover001My friend Tom Carpenter has a new story The Minotaur’s Wife in Galaxy’s Edge magazine. For the moment it’s available to read for free on their website.

Likewise, another friend makes his fourth appearance in Galaxy’s Edge: Martin Shoemaker with Bookmarked, also a free read for the moment.


Aussie SF Snapshots 2016

aussie sf snapshotsAussie SF Snapshots takes a quick look at the Australian SF community with a series of incisive interviews. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by the esteemed Shauna O’Meara for the 2016 Snapshots. Shauna’s widely published and a Writers of the Future winner. I’m honored to be among such great company.

My interview is here: Sean Monaghan

Some of my friends also have snapshots.

Shauna’s is here: Shauna O’Meara

Steve: Steve Cameron

Gerry: Gerry Huntman

Talie: Talie Helene

Oh, and while I am actually living back in New Zealand, I hold dual citizenship, and I completed my masters at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Ink for a Verbal Contract – new story out in Ad Astra

Water-in-ColorTo round out a busy month of publications, my story “Ink for a Verbal Contract” is out now and available to read for free in James Gunn’s Ad Astra, together with a gorgeous illustration from Susan Nicolai.

This story goes back a long way. Once upon a time, it was a finalist (my one and only) in the Writers of the Future contest. So it came close. I’m just about to pro-out of the contest (it’s open only to non-professional writers and I’m soon to be considered professional), so it’s cool to see this story published.

With that, this story was my baby, in a way, a cherished one. I was not about to let it vanish, so it’s stayed on the submission rounds, and I’m pleased to have it in Ad Astra (my second story with them, after Mars Bomb Bound for Titan a couple of years back).

I also need to acknowledge my friend Monique Bowers for her invaluable feedback when I first drafted the story. Thanks Monique!


Ink for a Verbal Contract

by Sean Monaghan

Gemma felt the pain right away. She sighed, stretching, angling her limbs and hips, trying to find a more comfortable position. She blinked, looking at the Arhend side table strewn with folders.

Her Gadjet saw that she was awake and sat up, a message flashing on the screen. Alex had called during the night, and the Gadjet had let her sleep, waiting until now to show the message.

“Good results here,” the message said. “Promising prospects. Call you later on.”

… click here to continue reading


To join SFWA, or no?

SFWAcolorWith my recent publication in Asimovs, I am now eligible to be an Active member of SFWA. Cool, that feels a milestone.

The Science Fiction Writers of America is a professional body, advocating for sf writers. I know that several of my friends are members. It seems like a wise move on my part to join up, and I probably will. Mixing with my peers is always fun.

The slight hesitation I feel revolves around location. While I have some American heritage, I’m not really ‘of America’. More like ‘of New Zealand’ (though I also hold Australian citizenship). Some of the benefits-medical support, attendance at the Nebula weekend, etc-feel like they’re only useful if I lived a whole lot closer.

Then again, I do get the the U.S. from time to time. Perhaps this would encourage me to flit over more frequently. And there is that whole collegial thing. What do you think?