Sunday, June 30, 2019

Dreadlines.

Douglas Adams said, "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." And from all accounts, he would know. Even a quick glance at any of his biographies will reveal exactly how difficult it was for anyone to get written words out of him - never mind on time. From memory, one publisher pretty much resorted to kidnapping and keeping him hostage until he finished his promised work.

I commenced this month with all good intentions of completing two short stories for deadlines this coming weekend. I'm sad to report I won't meet them.

These were open submissions for a couple of projects I would have loved to have been part of. Unfortunately life took a rather busy turn (in a couple of areas) and I simply haven't had the time to get behind the keyboard.

Lost opportunities? Perhaps. But there was no guarantee my stories would have been accepted, and there will be other opportunities.

Of course, yin and yang, swings and roundabouts, doors opening and other motivational chat.  Which is my way of saying that despite my being busy (or partly from it) I've had some great news too, and further opportunities have arisen and been met.

So once again I will share more when I can - although it won't be soon as these will play out in a much longer time frame.

From what I've seen, this weekend is going to be lovely and warm - 30c on Saturday. And that means I might be sitting in the backyard with a nice cold beer as that deadline whooshes past.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Walkabout in Derby.

I love going to conventions. I try to go to at least one a year. Since I moved to the UK, and can't get back for Continuum in Melbourne, I usually manage to get to Edge-Lit up in Derby. Last year I managed to also get to FantasyCon, which was a bonus. It's a bigger con, slightly larger than Continuum with some great writers and presenters attending.

I've booked this year's Edge-Lit, and I'm excited about catching up with some friends. Usually the crowd from Leicester are there, and I honestly enjoy their company - even if they do try to drag me into Walkabout every chance they get. I really don't see why visiting a chain "Australian" bar is either enticing or humourous. Especially when said chain isn't Australian, other than hanging flags out the front and selling Fosters. Sigh. Don't even get me started on the "Blokes"and "Sheilas" toilets.

I usually meet a few new people at these events too, and that's always a bonus. Socialising is a huge part of conventions, and as writing can be such a solitary activity, it's an important part. I've made good friends at cons, people who are important to me, people I regularly contact away from cons, people whose interests overlap my own.

I hope to see you in Derby next month. For those in Australia, I think Continuum is this weekend. If you're going, enjoy!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Twenty-Four Days And Counting.

It's about a month to my birthday.  I've been asked what I want, and I have a couple of ideas. Some Beatles, some Lennon, some Goodies, cake.

Cake is always good.

Going out for dinner is always an option - as is staying home and having something nice brought in. Might even get to spend some time with family.

I usually enjoy birthdays, but for some reason I'm really looking forward to this one. More than usual, anyway. I'm not sure why but I can't wait for it to arrive. I have to work that day, but that's not a big issue. I kind of like people in the office wishing me a happy birthday. And our office usually has cards and so on, and sometimes singing. Yeah, even that is good.

If you really want to send me a present I can make a few suggestions. I'm also open to surprises.

And if an editor wants to buy one of my stories to publish, that would be a great present too.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

More On The Way.

It was fabulous to receive a story acceptance overnight. It was even more fabulous than usual because the editor added, "This was a really good story, btw."

For a number of reasons I haven't written or submitted much for a while, so this was a nice surprise. I sent it out a few months ago, because I wanted to get something out, and this is a good story that deserves a home, and had just been kicked back from a major publisher with some good feedback.

I'll share more when I can. Watch this space.

I recently received other publishing news I don't think I'm allowed to share yet, exciting though it is. And this is good stuff. I'm looking forward to announcing this one.

On top of all this I had some other good news today, which won't mean anything to anyone else but is important to me. And then I bumped into a colleague I used to work with but haven't seen for a long time, and finally received email from a much respected and admired friend and mentor I haven't seen or heard from for even longer.

It's been a good time all round.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Farewell, Millie

In 2006 we went to the animal rescue centre to buy a dog. We came home with much more.

We walked out with a Jack Russell/Fox Terrier cross, who was tiny and nervous, but smart and loyal. She may have been small but she had a huge heart and despite her nerves, was courageous. I saw he go into battle against larger dogs who were threatening her sister, our other gentle dog.

When we moved to the UK, Millie came with us. I've been told that someone even asked my family why we had shipped her, as you can easily buy a new dog in  the UK.  I guess that person never had a dog,

I sometimes hesitate to use the word "owner". Sure, we could probably dig up a receipt, and the government probably has us listed as registered owners, but dogs, good dogs, have a way of getting into your heart and becoming more than a pet.  With her sister, she sat in the back seat as we drove through France, into Scotland, across the UK, and around parts of Australis. She made us laugh, cuddled us both, and made me feel good and wanted when I arrived home after a stressful day.

Millie died a few weeks ago, at the ripe old age of 17. We had to let her go, even though we didn't want to. That was a tough choice, but we did the right thing. Her vet here (as well as the one back in Australia) was fantastic, and we are greatful for the service they provided.

Goodbye Millie. Sleep well.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Pet Hates and Other Bugs.

We all have our pet hates, things that bug us for no real reason except they're wrong. As a trained and experienced English teacher, many would expect spelling, punctuation and grammar to be one of mine. I might occasionally shake my head at a job application with spelling errors and misuse of capitals, but for the most part they don't bug me too much. Even when students write entire essays using 'dose' instead of 'does', 'defiantly' instead of 'definitely', or even mispell their own name. Yeah, that happens more than you could imagine.

I notice them in books, typos or sloppy editing, but unless they continually occur, or make me laugh, then I don't even bother mentioning them.

This blog is pretty much my happy place. I try not to write about the things I don't like. I think there's enough negativity and anger on the internet. The last time I did, however, I received a message from a friend that they quite liked the curmudgeonly Steve.

So, in order to please a friend, here's a personal list of things writers do that bug me:

  • Ask me to buy their book on their birthday as a present to them. Seriously. We're not close enough that we usually buy each other presents. And anyway, are you going to buy my stories on my birthday in return?
  • Tell me how awful your writing is, and how bad this WIP is. Why would you keep suggesting publicly your work isn't worth reading? And if it's a false modesty, then I don't enjoy that either.
  • Self publish and then announce it was rejected everywhere.  Yeah, maybe that's a clue it's not worth reading.
  • Pretend that there's something mystical or magical about being a writer, or the source of your inspiration.  It's an idea you get. You put words in the right order. Some people are better at it than many others.
  • Continually moan publically about how little money you earn from writing. As soon as you start selling work seriously, it's a business like any other. You're not a salaried employee. You're selling a product. Some sell lots, most sell little.
  • Continually moan about the "business" side of writing when you're trying to sell stories. Yeah, see above.
  • Acting like you're zany or crazy or out-there when you're just like everyone else. No, please don't tell me how you live in a swamp with pet alligators who have wings - unless you really do. I actually prefer normal, informative bios.
  • Comparing your work to.... No, it's generally not like Philip K Dick, Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. Even if it's good.  Let others make the comparisons.
  • Non-stop name dropping of friends who are famous. Interesting when aspiring writers only share pictures of themselves with big names. We see what you're doing.
  • Running workshops and giving writing classes when you've had one or two very minor sales. (or even worse, never published.) Truly, I've seen this. I want to learn from people with track records.
  • Announcing your story is featured in a publication when you mean included. Unless your name is one of two or three on the cover you're not featured.
I think that's enough for now. Yeah, this is a year or more worth of pet peeves, but they're just my opinion. You can do whatever you want.

Bah Humbug!

And as for my one grammar pet hate, please learn the difference between initialisms and acronyms. CD, BBC and CIA are not acronyms. WTF?

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Trash and Treasure.

Another disappointment story.

A few months ago I bought a book I had heard great things about. It seemed like the kind of thing I would like, the author seems like a cool person I would love to hang out with and chat, the publisher is a name publisher, and the reviews were glowing. Almost universally so.

I threw it straight to the top of my 'to be read' stack, and dived straight in.

Here, a few months later, I find myself thinking about it again. I'm not sure why but it was on my mind when I woke this morning. But not for any good reasons.

It was dull, slow and plodding. Crises points were manufactured to the point of ridiculous levels, dialogue was clunky and unnatural, and some of the scenes and events were plain hokey and would have seemed out-of-place in a 1930s novel.

I really wanted to love it. I really did. Instead I merely tolerated it.

I haven't checked, but it's probably won some awards and been nominated for 'best of' lists. So what is it I'm missing that apparently others are getting?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know taste comes into things. I know people enjoy different reads. I know we all see different things, but this isn't about taste. It's about quality of writing, being able to create snappy dialogue and events that flow naturally.

Is it simply horses for courses?

On the other hand, I've just picked up another book from another name author and this one ticks all the boxes. I'm 30 pages in and hooked. Yes, I've enjoyed this authors other works, and reading this one I can see the reasons why. And I'm learning things from this work.

Oh well. One person's trash is another person's treasure. It's just a shame the above-mentioned novel wasn't one of my treasures.