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.

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.