Been a while since my last post. Reason being…there’s not much news on the writing front. Various pokers in the fire, none ready to withdraw yet. Past two weeks spent in Cornwall, the last week in the Lizard, the most southerly part of the United Kingdom, a peninsula surrounded on all sides by coves and cliffs and harbours and beaches, each day spent at a different one. Glorious. My body and mind are still recovering.
Very pleased to announce my story “The Edge Of Magic” will be included in the upcoming charitable anthology “Fantasy For Good”, edited by Richard Salter and Jordan Ellinger, published by Nightscape Press. Net proceeds will be going to Colon Cancer Alliance.
The anthology’s contributor line-up includes some of the best known names in fantasy writing. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m sharing a ToC with these people: Michael Moorcock (I grew up reading Elric, Corum, Von Bek, et al: they’re a part of my writerly DNA), Piers Anthony (again, I grew up reading early “Xanth” novels, “Kirlian Quest”, “Blue Adept”, etc.), Alan Dean Foster (before “The Empire Strikes Back” was more than an improvised twinkle in George Lucas’ eye, the only Star Wars sequel that existed was Foster’s “Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye“), Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Orokafor, Carrie Vaughn, Jay Lake…the stellar list goes on (see more here). Oh, and there’s also some guy called George RR Martin, who’s recently enjoyed some modicum of success with a popular long-form tale involving dragons, knights and zombies — but to me, he’ll always be the author of “A Song For Lya“, “Sandkings“, “In The House Of The Worm”, “The Way Of Cross And Dragon“…some of my very favourite SF stories.
Oh, and the anthology cover. Lookit that cover by Paul Pederson. Judge the book by it. Go on: judge it.
So yeah. Many, many reasons to rush out and buy multiple copies of this anthology when it comes out this summer.
I’m honoured and humbled to be a small part of it.
So far January has turned out to be something of an antidote to the dark and dismal last months of 2013. November and December provided nothing writing-wise but a rolling wall of rejections. The start to this year has been much better: two acceptances (one provisional, depending on edits), and a Schrödinger’s hold note that may or may not collapse into a sale. My success rate in that sort of situation — and I’ve been in it a few times now — is about 50/50. So by mentioning it, I’ve probably just disturbed the wave function and jinxed it. Damn.
One of the acceptances is particularly exciting for me, because a) it’s for a story I really like, and b) some of the contributors already announced are seriously wowza. Like in, never in my wildest imaginings would I have wildly imagined sharing a ToC with these authors. In fact, I’m not sure I believe it yet. So I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm. Just a little.
More details when I can share them. Hopefully soon, one way or another. What I really need to do now is not get distracted and knuckle down and write some new stuff.
So it’s that time of year again. Time to look back. Time to look forward.
For me, a year of contrasts. In many ways, my best year ever, certainly on the publication front, with seven stories out:
- “The Key To El-Carim’s Heart” – Daily Science Fiction, Dec 2013.
- “The Clay Farima” – Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Aug 2013.
- “The Bargain” – Daily Science Fiction, May 2013.
- “The Unforgiven Dead” – Magic Creatures From Celtic Mists – Anthology, Artema Press, April 2013.
- “Three Kisses” – Daily Science Fiction, January 2013.
Only a couple of years ago I was wondering if I would ever get anything accepted and published. Ever. At all. So, really, this is great. More than great.
But it’s also been a frustrating year. There is no magic point — at least, certainly not one I’ve reached yet — beyond which your writing suddenly becomes effortless and every story automatically publishable. Of course there isn’t. Just because you’ve had a story accepted before doesn’t mean your next story will get anything other than a form rejection. There is no Rubicon, no sudden “levelling up”, or club you join with a secret handshake (or if there is, I haven’t received my invite yet — hint hint), no flawless author magically emerging from a papery chrysalis of rejection slips, no golden ticket; each story and each submission stands and falls on its own merits, in competition with great stories from great authors, all vying for attention on the editor’s desk.
So the only thing to do is to concentrate on the variables you control. The continued practice of your craft. The amount of work you produce and send out. Revise, re-target, carry on. Inch towards that elusive destination, that place where your words are finally perfect, your story greater than the sum of its parts. Where concept, theme, plot and character combine in a nirvana where nothing you could change, or add, or subtract, could make it any better.
Yeah. I know. That place doesn’t exist.
But that’s no reason to ever stop trying to reach it.
Your story keeps getting rejected? You think it could be improved, but you’re not quite sure what needs to be tweaked? You want to break into the pro market, but you’re not quite sure what it takes?
Daily Science Fiction is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund their authors, September 2013 to March 2014.
A story critique by yours truly is available as one of their Kickstarter rewards (Update: now gone! But please do check out the other authors still available.). For a story up to 5000 words I’ll do a line-edit and give developmental suggestions and comments. Critiques are available from other DSF authors, too.
As well as featuring established authors, DSF has given many new writers their first professional break (including me). All their online content and their weekday e-mail stories are absolutely free of charge to readers, yet they manage to pay their contributors well above minimum pro rates. It’s a Kickstarter cause well worth considering if you’re at all interested in the genre.
So my last post seemed to do the trick: summer has arrived with a vengeance. The countryside sizzles and shimmers, the air is filled with BBQ lighter fuel fumes, insects buzz and bite. Even the road tarmac threatens to melt. Of course, it will only last until the school holidays begin, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts…
The big news for me this month is that I’ve finally joined the SFWA as an Active member. Which, for me, is A Big Deal.
I don’t remember exactly when I first became aware of the organization, but it was probably as a teenager when I used to read and collect Analog, Asimov’s and F&SF. Joining the august ranks of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America seemed like a distant pipe-dream at the time — it required at least one professional story sale — but it was always an ambition. A sign of having Made It.
Teenage dreams, eh?
By the time I qualified to join as an Active member this year, I have to admit I had my doubts about joining at all. First off, was sheer relevance. I’m not American, as it turns out. Would there be any purpose in joining, apart from as a badge of vanity? I certainly don’t consider myself a “professional” writer (yet); that remains a distant pipe-dream. And I don”t want to get into the various recent controversies about rabid weasels and inclusivity and Bulletin covers here, but from the outside looking in — it didn’t look good. Not good at all.
So why did I join, in the end?
Simply…those teenage dreams. It may well turn out there’s something to them.
I’m willing to see how the reality shapes up.
Not. At least not in these parts.
If summer is going to arrive at all this year, it’ll be late at best.
Same with my writing output at the moment. There’s a few stories bubbling close to submission, including a “sequel” to The Clay Farima, a prompt-based cyborg laserfest, various flash length works, and a long-standing piece that riffs on the theme of societal displacement (woah, dude)… some, none, or all of these may be ready to send out in the next few days and weeks.
I’m keenly aware of keeping up some sort of writerly momentum, a pressure to maintain at least an arithmetic progression of publication…but that’s just crazy thinking. There’s still so much I need to improve, so much more to learn; it’s these things I need to concentrate on, not chasing some illusory timetable or arbitrary numerical ambition.
Quality, not quantity. That’s what I need right now.
Thanks to a wonky jet stream it’s been a long, long winter in the Northern Hemisphere this year. Finally — finally! — it looks like the ice is beginning to retreat, at least in this corner of Old Blighty. Similarly, my own writing has been proceeding at a glacial pace these past couple of months. Hopefully the thaw will reach down into my brain and unfreeze the muse locked inside.
Learned today that my short flash story “The Bargain” has been accepted by Daily Science Fiction. This is my fourth acceptance at DSF, and will be my sixth story to appear there in total (if you count Three Kisses as three separate stories). It also means that I already know I will (very probably) have at least six stories published in 2013 — and February’s not even ended! Not quite believing it all yet…I keep looking up, waiting for a piano to drop on my head and restore the karmic balance…
More details about “The Bargain” closer to its publication.