Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Gradual Decline Of KL Noir.

Fixi Novo is the English language imprint of a Malaysian publisher. I picked up a couple of their titles when I was in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago and have bought more each time I visit. They look great, they're generally high quality, and they give me an insight into another culture and its storytelling.

KL Noir is a set of anthologies published over the past few years. Consisting of four volumes (subtitled Red, White, Blue and Yellow - based on the colours of the Malaysian flag) this series published stories looking into the dark underbelly of Kuala Lumpur. Fixi Novo held open submissions, attracting writers from all backgrounds and publishing experiences.

How much do I like Fixi Novo? Enough that I have seven or eight of their books. Enough that I subbed a story set in KL. Enough that I was disappointed when it wasn't accepted.

Red and White set a high standard. I enjoyed the majority of stories in these volumes and looked forward to Blue and Yellow, which have been published since I was last in KL. At first I tried to order them from a bookstore, only to be told the postage would be more than triple the price of the books alone. Finally I knew someone who was visiting Malaysia on holiday, and I begged them to pick these two books up for me.

Boy, was I disappointed.  I don't know whether the standard of submissions dropped, or whether it was the selections made by the editors, but I was seriously underwhelmed. There were a few exceptions, a few really good stories, but for the most part they were below average. Some were poorly written, some were poorly edited. Many simply weren't noir at all. Quite a few were completely ridiculous.

Blue even had an extraordinary number of reprints included, which didn't make sense for an original series. Yellow was, for the most part, dull and boring.

I figured I might be alone here. I might be the only one that thought this, but last night I discovered these online reviews, (Blue and Yellow) which, for the most part, I agreed with. Well done, Mrs Giggles.

Fixi Novo. You have some wonderful writers in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a fantastic city about which to write. Don't let your standards slip.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's About Time.

Despite having five stories slated for publication this year, it's been about four months since I've had a sale.

I've had a bunch of close calls. Making shortlists, personal rejections from markets I once only dreamed of subbing to, and great feedback. But they're not sales. And that's what I want.

On the one hand I guess it means I'm improving. On the other hand it can be frustrating getting so close only to be rejected. But a miss is as good as a mile, they used to say. Close, but no cigar.

These are good stories, and I have no doubt they will sell. It would be nice, though, if it were soon.

In other news I'm currently setting up a music blog with an old friend. We're currently determining the scope and the format. And the name.

A good name is vital, and we've started shortlisting. More information on that when we're closer to launch.

Have a great week. I plan to.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

More Tension.

Crank it up.

The tension, that is.

It's something I've been told many times during my writing career. More tension. More pain. I thought that was exactly what I was doing, but it's only in the past year that I've started to realise exactly how little  the crises I was creating were.

So many of the characters in my earlier stories were far too passive, and not enough happened to them. The crises within stories been to be amped, the fears of the characters need to be raised, they need to face the risk of losing everything.

This is something I now try to do with all my stories. Sure, there are stories and times when the whole passive thing works. But mostly not.

If you're not hurting your characters, then you maybe need to consider it.

More crises. More tension. More pain.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Three Heads Make Sense.

It's sometimes difficult to know how much attention to pay to readers' comments on a story.

The first time I received crits on a story was when I was just starting to write. Lots of comments, lots of comments. I tired to incorporate every single one of them. And sucked the life from the story.

Those changes were discarded. The story was rewritten, later one when I'd learned some discernment and had suggestions from someone I respected.

This week I had a rejection from a magazine I thought might like my story. It was an interesting rejection, though, because there had been three slushreaders, and the rejection included their comments.

And all three readers said very similar things. And, when I thought about it, the suggestions made sense.

I slashed into that story, armed with a will to improve it, and rewrote it in a matter of days. And I believe it's for the better.

Thank you, slushers. I appreciate it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

And In The End, The Love You Take Is Equal To The Love You Make.

I've been listening to The Beatles a lot recently.

Anyone who knows me well may not think this is particularly surprising. I collect Beatles music, books, newspaper cuttings. I've read hundreds of books on them (yes, hundreds) and I'm even acknowledged in one for my comments and critiquing. But for the past few years I've listened to them in much the same way a casual fan would listen to their albums.

I used to listen more like a scholar, (OK, some would say obsessive freak), comparing this mix with that mix, this take with that take, even this pressing with that pressing. I'd listen to hours and hours of Get Back rehearsals, listen to them as they created and constructed their songs. As they chatted about the weather, the news, even what's for lunch. I loved nothing more than finding a fragment of conversation or (oh my goodness) a song I'd never heard before. But with the advent of the internet, I think it all became too easily available and I no longer had to hunt for things. Perhaps too I had access to too much and I became blase about what there was.

But a break is as good as a holiday, they say, and I'm back into it, deep into 1969 rehearsals and listening to perhaps the greatest band the world will ever know as they implode and self destruct.

It makes me sad.

I watched the rooftop session last night. The last live performance they ever gave. It was a cold January morning and they shuffled up onto the roof of the Apple building to run through some songs. And for a few precious moments, you can see them happy, lost in the songs, actually enjoying making music together. Which is unbelievable considering the misery the rest of those three weeks were for them.

And then with a couple of police officers telling them to pull the plug, the dream was over.

None of them could be bothered even touching those rehearsal tapes. They were given to Phil Spector who cobbled the Let It Be album together. Sure, they went back into the studio six months later and recorded Abbey Road, a swansong, but it was never going to be the same again.

Yoko wasn't at fault for the breakup. She was a symptom. As was Linda, Ringo's film-making and George's exploration of all things Indian and spiritual.

If only. If only John and Paul had agreed to sit down and work things out. If only the others had been keen to continue. If only The Beatles were still The Beatles.

Watching them on the rooftop, grinning, flubbing lines, living in the moment is exciting. But it's also sad.

Only a few months after Woodstock, the sixties were over, The Beatles on the rooftop and The Rolling Stones at Altamont had killed the dream.

Write. Read. Make art. Create music. Live the dream. Don't regret. The time is now.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Openings And Scraps.

The weekend was hot. 36c both days. Fortunately for me I was down the coast with my wife.

The foreshore was lovely. Crowded later, but we went out before it got too warm while there weren't too many people on the sands. The weekend was brilliant. I drank cold beer, ate prawn pasta, nachos, read a lot and generally just relaxed. Then to finish it all off, breakfast this morning was amazing.

So I was playing some music as we drove down there. My wife made some comments about the song, and bam - I wrote the opening to a story in my head.

An idea is not a story. Nor is an opening. And I had nothing more.  But I started playing with what I'd written, wrote a few more lines before I needed to know where I was going next. I opened a few files, a few unfinished scraps I'd written in the past, things I thought I might use one day, or simple writing exercises I'd done for fun. One of these leaped out at me, and as soon as I collided it with my new opening, I knew they would work together.

Within the hour I had the entire story outlined and started writing it.

I have 2,000 words of this beast done. I have a good feeling about it. I'm excited by it.

A productive weekend, a relaxing weekend. I like those.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bleah And Bleah.

More rejections this week, which was disappointing but not devastating. I don't actually worry about them so much anymore, although I obviously prefer sales. I had hoped these pieces would sell to these particular markets. But they didn't, yet I know they will sell because I know they're good stories.

I already have five stories slated for release this year, but I want more. I guess that makes me a writer.

I didn't have the best week. A couple of stupid comments from people who should know better, as well as a few situations that frustrated me. And then those rejections.

Sigh.

I'm hoping this coming week will be vastly improved. And if the events of last week is the worst than can happen to me, then I am indeed privileged.

Oh, and editors? Buy my stories. You know you want to.