Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Just Don't Get It.

I read a story last week that a whole lot of people raved about that I thought was really average. I was, in fact, seriously underwhelmed.

It's not a new story, it's a few years old. This story won an award and a quick google shows lavish praise from people I respect.

So what am I missing?

We could say it's a matter of taste, and that could be true to some extent. But it has to be more than that. I thought the writing was quite average, and the story was unoriginal and contrived. And yet it was published in a respected market, with a well known editor, and people raved about it.

So what am I missing?

Is it a cultural thing? American author, American publication, American award, and all of the accolades I saw were from Americans. I'd be surprised if that were the case. A lot of my reading is American, and the story was not in a particularly American setting. I also spoke to an American friend who told me she thought it was vastly over-rated. And this was before I'd shared my thoughts on the story.

So what am I missing?

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's just not my style. Maybe if I could recognise its brilliance, and write like that, I'd be selling more regularly.

I'll re-read the story tonight, see if I missed something. Or maybe it's more simple than that. Maybe I'm right and everyone else is wrong.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vale: Johnny Winter.

I was a teenager when Paul introduced me to the music of Johnny Winter. My friends were listening to the more popular music to be found on 3XY while Paul was playing Mountain, Ten Years After, Iggy Pop and Johnny Winter for me.

I remember that raw voice, the 'I feel rock'n'roll' scream at the beginning of Johnny B. Goode, the guitar picking. I remember wondering why the band was called 'Johnny Winter And.' I wondered why the album cover showed only his back, and how this scrawny, weird looking, long haired white guy could play the blues so well.

One of the first bootlegs I ever bought was a Johnny Winter live double album. It had a great sound, a tight band and a fantastic setlist. I played those discs so often I could recall every guitar lick in their grooves.

I finally got to see Johnny live in 1986. I will never forget the moment he walked on stage. He asked how we were doin', played a few runs, then tore into Hideaway, and the band were off and running. Playing the licks so effortlessly, reaching for his Firebird when he played slide, that cool Texas drawl when he spoke to us.

Johnny was on tour in Europe when he passed away. He has a new album due for release in the next few months.

He was 70.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

That Wave.

Do you remember record stores?

Not CD stores, nor those chain record stores. Those beautiful old shops, often dimly lit, with racks crammed with vinyl.  The records, the artists, the album titles were all mysterious. I had no idea who half of them were, had no idea what they would be like, or even what style they played in. We didn't have the internet in those days. I often didn't even know what was available, except through word of mouth or from an article I'd read in Ram or Juke. And the album artwork - a decent size that could actually hold detail and be seen.

I close my eyes, and I can recall some of those stores. The smells, the colours, the moods. I remember flipping through the racks, carefully inspecting covers and liner notes, finding a tidbit of information that connected this record with that artist, or studio, or producer, or player. I remember reading song titles and wondering what they would be like, or what they could possibly mean. I'd buy an album, hurrying home with it safely tucked under my arm, desperate to drop the needle and be lost in the sounds.

I occasionally still find a used record or book store that evokes those times - superficially, though. I walk in through the door, and I'm back in the past. But as soon as I look through the racks it's gone. I have too much experience, too much information at my fingertips. I've seen all those covers before. I even carry a phone which permits me to google the 'unknowns' right there and make an informed decision.

That's not to say there are still gems to be found, it's just the process that has changed. And the expectations. With so much music available, it's more difficult to be impressed.

But sometimes, just sometimes I push a CD into the player, close my eyes waiting for that wave to crash over me and drag me under. And for a moment I'm sixteen years old again.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Back Into The Fray.

I woke up to a story sale this morning, which is a fabulous way to end my holidays.

I'll be back at work tomorrow, but it's been a really good break, a necessary break. The end of last term was possibly the most hectic I've ever had - partly due to the ever-shifting demands of teaching, and partly due to changing schools partway through the semester - but I just about feel rested and recharged and ready to return.

I was fortunate in that I was able to focus much of these two weeks on writing. I completed several new stories, finished a couple of rewrites, and sent out a few submissions. I had one rejection which disappointed me, an acceptance (the one this morning), and I have another story out there upon which I'm currently sweating. I really want to make this sale - it will be an important one. There are, of course, no guarantees, but I have some confidence that my story hits all the criteria in the submission guidelines. Oh, and I think it's a darn good tale too.

I hung out with some friends and colleagues last night. We made our way to the Burrinja Cultural Centre for Khristian Mizzi & The Sirens' album launch. Khristian is a top-notch songwriter, as well as a talented musician and singer. I was really impressed by the show last night - not only the musical abilities of the band, but with Khristian's lyrics and his ability to paint a picture, evoke a mood and touch our emotions through his music.

Between songs he spoke about his own life, his own emotions and feelings, his art, his goals - heartfelt and honest words which caused me to pause and reflect on my own writing dreams.

Tied in with a couple of recent conversations, a number of things are becoming clear to me at this time.

As an online friend, Martin L. Shoemaker, says,  "Write. Write. Write. Submit. Submit. Submit."

Oh, and do not be distracted by the antics of  others around you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Travelling In Pages.

I read widely. Not just in regards to genre, but also gender and culture.

Everytime I travel overseas I try to pick up at least one collection of locally published fiction. The last time I was in Kuala Lumpur, for example, I grabbed a couple of Malaysian anthologies and collections, as well as a couple from other Asian countries. Mostly these are 'literate' stories, although Asia is very good with its horror. In the past few months I've read collections by Malaysian, Japanese, Israeli, Colombian and Egyptian writers.

It's fascinating to see how others construct stories, quite often very differently to the 'rules' I've been taught. Many of the stories I've recently read, for example, have no resolution. One in particular, by an Egyptian writer, was absolutely stunning. It's a story that has stayed with me, and features a construction I'd love to attempt one day.

We all perceive the world differently. Check out how others see their lives.

How far have you travelled in your reading?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Yet Another Dimension.

The second issue of Dimension6 is now available, and features stories by Dirk Strasser, Alan Baxter and Robert N Stephenson,

Editor Keith Stevenson, of Coeur de Lion, commenced this project last year, with the first issue published a few months ago. DRM free, it is distributed free on the internet three times a year, and had thus far garnered very positive reviews.

I feel very fortunate to have been included in the inaugural year's schedule, with my story, The Last of the Butterflies, slated for release in Issue 3. (October 2014)

If you haven't yet downloaded and read Dimension6, what's stopping you?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

This Week, I'll Mostly Be Writing.

It's term break and I've devoted this week to writing. Three days in and I'm already kicking goals.

I've written a complete story, rewritten an older one, and submitted both. And I'm really happy with them.

I generally plan my stories before I start writing them -  not in complete detail, but I know where they're going to go and how I'll get there. In writing terms, I'm a 'planner' rather than a 'pantser.' But the story I wrote on Monday I hadn't planned. I knew how it was going to start, and had a couple of ideas for scenes along the way (two of which I ended up not using), but no idea where it was going to end up.

So I pantsed it. (I guess the term comes from the phrase 'fly by the seat of your pants') And it worked really well.

This time, at least.

I'm not sure it's something I'd be able to pull-off every time, but it has built my confidence and made me realise I can do it. And I've learned I can write a complete story in a single day.

Not that I want to do that every time.

But two stories subbed, and a third started this morning. Now I have to wait for the editors to make a decision.