Sunday, February 10, 2019

Wheels Turn Slowly.

When I first started writing, I attended a workshop where one of the attendees was the editor of a well known and reputable sf magazine. He liked my story, said it was "very very good" and told me to send it to him.

I did. And in my naivety and innocence, was surprised when I didn't hear back in a few days. Or a week. Or even a month. The website suggested querying after three months, which I did, and I never received a response to that email.

I received a response to my submission, though, four months later, and it wasn't good news. Yes, a short story which was going to earn me a grand total of about $50 was rejected after seven months.

While seven months is towards the top end of response times, it's not completely out of the ordinary. Most sit between three and four months. My fastest was two days, my longest is ...  well, technically about 8 years as they never responded at all. Not even after a couple of very polite email enquiries.

And then, of course, it can take up to another year to reach publication. Oh, and bear in mind most publishers ask you not to send the story out to more than one publisher at the time, which means you might only send a story out a couple of times a year if they hang onto it for too long.

And this is only for short stories - novels can take much longer.

I have a story out at the moment with a publisher who usually responds within two months. It's currently been out for 5 months, and although I have sent an enquiry email, I have not heard back at all. This is unusual, but I'm not particularly worried as I understand most  small press publishers have day jobs and other commitments.

But it would be nice to have a response. Especially as I have high hopes for this story. Now that I've written about it, and knowing the world's sense of humour, I'll probably hear back today.

Maybe that's why I wrote this piece - to try and force the world's hand.

Monday, January 21, 2019

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Table Of Contents.

Late last year I read an anthology from a publisher with a solid reputation. I had picked it up some time earlier, partly because of its cover art (which was fabulous) and partly because of its title and theme. When I read the TOC, I was thrilled, as there were quite a few name authors I had never previously read. The bios of the other authors filled me with hope - award winners, university and lecturers in writing and published authors. In fact a diverse range of gender and ethnicity.

It sat in my 'to be read' stack for a few months, then I pushed it to the top.

The first story was 'Meh'. The second also. And then it dropped in quality. Nothing rose above average, and in fact, a couple of the name authors appeared to have 'phoned-in' their contributions. Some were just completely ridiculous.

Disappointed? You bet.

Now I know taste has a great part to play in all of this. There can be a certain amount of subjectivity. (I know someone who told me it's all subjective, but that's not true. A good writer is a good writer, no matter whether it appeals to me or not.) Many of these stories, however, were full of plot holes, idiotic protagonists and convenient plot devices. They weren't as clever as they author thought, and at least two stories I worked out the ending in the first page or so.

There are times Goodreads can't be trusted, as family, friends and the authors themselves overvalue everything. This anthology had a stack of 4 and 5 star reviews. And then, right there in the middle was a one-star review, which pretty much detailed my own observations of the collection. I couldn't have written it better myself.

I've written along similar lines before, an again even further back. It seems I will regularly be disappointed by some offerings.

Sometimes I should judge a book by just its cover, not the TOC. Although, this time. I would have still purchased the book as the cover was fabulous.

Oh well, a quick dose of Jasper Fforde followed, and all was well with the writing world.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Welcome to 2019.

Happy New Year.

I've had a great break - a really relaxing time with family and friends. We didn't travel anywhere really, but managed to catch up with some people. Mostly we relaxed and ate great food. And I didn't over-eat or feel bloated.

The car decided to get a puncture on Christmas Eve, and of course they don't supply spare tyres anymore.  But this was a puncture where the spray can of foam stuff and nursing the car to the garage wasn't going to cut it. It meant, however, we either stayed at home or walked for a few days, which at this time of the year isn't necessarily a bad thing.

New Year's Eve was pretty quiet. We did stay up but went to bed shortly afterwards. I had too much to do on my secret project the next day to be up too late. And yes, I did get lots and lots done.

As I said in a recent post, I don't really do the whole resolution thing. I make my plans as I go, prioritising and re-prioritising as need be. I do have some plans for this year, one of which is to try and keep track of the books I read. I made a list a few years ago, just on a word document for myself, and if I can find it, I might even post it. This year, however, will be the only other time I have kept track of my reading. I've decided to add a page to this website and make the list public. Have look sometime.

I also plan to write more. You might even see some longer fiction emerging. You just never know.

But I have work to do now, and need to be gone from this page. All the best for the coming year.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Reading Again.

I'm not sure how this happened. I am busy still, and seem to have less time than before, but I'm reading again.

Not that I ever stopped reading. Reading is hardwired within me, and I always have a book on the go. But recently I seem to be back into the same quantity of books I read a few years ago.

Of course I long for my teenage years, or into my early twenties, when I devoured books, reading in bed until all hours and coping daily on a few hours sleep. But those days are long gone, and I simply cannot manage like that anymore. As you get older, you need your sleep.

I've been reading a real mix of books - new authors (to me, anyway) and revisiting books from a few years ago - even a couple from my teenage years. And yes, for the most part, they are still as wonderful as I recall.

I re-read all my Thursday Next books (Jasper Fforde) and then forged into the latest few which I had never gotten around to picking up. I started back into the Saga of the Exiles quadrilogy (Julian May,) which I first read back in the early 80s. I read a wonderful collection of short stories from Alice Munro. Another from Martin Amis. And yet another from Jeanette Winterson. And even more. Brilliant stuff. There's also been a few anthologies, both old and new, from mainstream (SF) publishers and small press. I've done my bit to get to know the local UK small press market.

And my 'to be read' stack is looking healthy. Ann Leckie, more Andy Remic, Thoraiya Dyer, Cat Sparks and others.

In the middle of all this, and around it and through it, I've done my fair share of academic and non-fiction as well.

If only there were more reading hours per day.

I love reading. I always have and I believe I always will. This is one of the main reasons I became an English teacher - to share this love and try to enthuse others.

And if you haven't read a book in a while, stop reading this and go and grab one off the shelf. Now.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Racing Around the Sun Again.

Another year is drawing to a close, and there is so much left undone. Not that I am one for resolutions, but like most people I have goals - either specific and planned, or vague and loose. I did complete some of my plans, but along the way other plans intruded in my life. And as I undertook those, other activites were pushed onto the backburner by necessity.

Yeah, that novel I never started at the beginning of the year never happened later either. And I doubt I'll have it done (or even commenced) by New Year.

I'm OK with that, because I have achieved other things this year I never thought I would. Big things. For reasons of my own, I'm not sharing these at the moment. One day, when the time is right, I will.

We've almost completed that arbitrarily designated end to yet another journey around the sun. Another year, another orbit, another winter.

It's getting darker and colder. I'm heading out to work and returning home with my headlights on. Soon it will be dark as I arrive and leave the office. For some people this is depressing. For me, and maybe because it's a bit of a novelty still, I enjoy it. It means Christmas is coming, and Christmas makes a lot more sense here than it ever did in Australia. The lights will be up in the streets, and we'll have warm cosy evenings snuggled around roaring fires.

Think about it. Christmas as a northern hemisphere celebration is out of place in Australia. Having experienced a few up here, it's obviously a transplant. I always enjoyed it, but it never felt right.

As out of place as a sausage sizzle at an English hardware store. Yeah, Bunnings tried that here and it failed. As did Bunnings as a store. They've pulled out of the UK, having bought Homebase for large sums of money and selling for next to nothing.

Guess I'll just have to go and buy a Bratwurst in a bread roll on the high street, all wrapped up in my scarf and jacket.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

My First FantasyCon

I've been to conventions before. I used to attend Continuum every year in Melbourne, visited Conflux once and even managed to get to WorldCon a couple of times. Since moving to the UK, I've been to a couple of Edge-Lits and a few Sledge-Lits, the winter counterpart. But I haven't really immersed myself in the British SF scene.

Scene. I choose that in place of a better word instead of 'Community'. Ah yes, the 'Myth of Community'. I am planning to write about that soon, but I'll leave it as it is and just move on for now.

Last weekend I visited Chester for FantasyCon. I was hoping to catch up with old friends, make some new ones and even meet a hero or two. And I succeeded on all counts. It was wonderful to see Philip and James again, to spend time with Penny, Simon, Adele and Tom (as well as a bunch of others I haven't mentioned), and to chat, albeit briefly, with Ian Watson. Ian is a fabulous writer, someone I started reading back in the late 70s and never dreamed of meeting. I managed to get a book or two signed, and even copped some written abuse from him in one of them - which was pretty special.

I spent time chatting with Dr Abbey from Japan, even though my Japanese was rusty and he was polite about my abilities, and met Ian Whates and Adrain Tchaikovsky, who were both delightful and fascinating.

Restaurants, bars, sitting outside with friends, walks, and even listening to the karaoke (bleah) made for a memorable weekend.

Seriously though, how do we manage to spend an entire weekend based in a hotel and still not catch up with people we know? I missed a few people I had planned to see. And they were there! I've seen the photographic proof.

If you haven't been to FantasyCon and you live in the UK, it's highly recommended. I plan to be there next year again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Vale: Tim Chandler

One of my great musical loves, probably my second favourite band after the Beatles, is Daniel Amos. I've been a huge fan since 1979 when a friend dropped the needle on their Horrendous Disc album and told me I had to listen. I remember that moment vividly, and I was instantly hooked.

They're a band who went through a number of changes, both in line-up and style, yet I've loved every incarnation - even the country band they were before Horrendous Disc. Alarma, Doppleganger, Vox Humana and Fearful Symmetry (known collectively as the Alarma Chronicles) were released throughout the 80s, with each album changing style and instrumentation which also reflected the lyrical content.

Tim Chandler joined the band in 1981, in time to tour and record the Doppelganger album. I immediately loved his bass playing. He had his own style, his own musicality and brilliantly creative bass lines. His sound was distinctive and recognisable. Tim played on albums by a bunch of artists, and his playing was always second to none. Standouts include his work on John Wayne by Terry Scott Taylor, and Daniel Amos's own Darn Floor Big Bite.

Apparently he was a really lovely guy. Funny too. He was a member of the Swirling Eddies, a pseudonymous Daniel Amos side project. Berger Roy Al, as he was dubbed, had his own personality, who would suddenly appear in Daniel Amos forums ranting and verbally attacking Tim Chandler. Mad, mad, hilarious stuff.

I only managed to see Tim once. He played bass in Phil Keaggy's band when I saw them at a small venue in Melbourne during the 80s. I still regret not waiting to chat to him after the show.

Tim passed away a few days ago. I saw it on social media just after his friends all changed their profile pictures. Apparently he was ill, but I didn't know that. In fact there is very little I actually know about the man, yet his passing has saddened me.

RIP Tim, I wish you safe travels.