Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wabbit Season? No, It's Awards Season!

Chronos Award nominations close today, Ditmar Award nominations have just opened and Aurealis Awards short-lists should be announced soon.

Yep, we're right in the middle of awards seasons.

The Aurealis Awards are judged by panels, and are (hopefully) awarded on the merit of the work. Ditmar Awards (national) and Chronos Awards (state) are voted by conventioneers.

So just how much is a writer supposed to tout his or her own work?

I know of some writers who push their work quite a bit, while others sit back and just hope they are noticed. I'm eligible for So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper in the short story category, and for my reviewing in Dark Matter in the Fan Writing and Review categories. I've tried to mention the awards only once or so, and pretty much simply to remind voters I'm eligible (anyone in fandom can nominate). And then I sat back and hoped for the best.

The Chronos Awards, being state awards, are drawn from a fairly small pool of writers. I've also seen some criticism of these awards - suggesting they are given for popularity, or voted on by certain blocs. Already this year I've heard someone say they have nominated someone they like, without having actually read the work under consideration. That's just something we have to accept, and realise that this will occur from time to time. While this is obviously not in the spirit of things, it's the way things are. All we can do is is promote the awards, get more people to nominate and vote, and encourage voters to vote on the merits of the work.

I'm not going to be heartbroken if I'm not nominated. Awards, in the end, don't always reward quality work or success. But they can be a sign of recognition and give some validation. And I love the look of the Chronos.

It would look mighty handsome sitting on my desk.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No Language In Our Lungs.

We gathered.

Somewhere between the house and the small winding creek, we sat or stood, thinking, meditating, waiting quietly on the clipped green grass. That was my first impression - how green everything was. For a moment I thought I saw him, but then realised it was his brother.

A small stage in front of a huge willow tree. Rows of chairs. Wife, daughter, family, friends, admirers. People spoke and music was played. A perfect soundtrack and commentary to an amazing life. On the way I'd listened to No Language In Our Lungs. Kind of a personal tribute, a song I know he loved and a sentiment I think he'd have appreciated. A moment shared privately between us. Once I'd arrived the moment stretched and was shared by all of us.

Taking a photo crossed my mind - for posterity. But somehow it seemed wrong, seemed intrusive into this private place, this sanctuary. For a short time this world was kindly opened to us, but it is still a home and a place for family to withdraw. The only photo I have is indelibly etched into my mind.

The sky was overcast, and yet over time I felt the back of my neck warming, my face tightening, my skin starting to burn as those Scottish genes failed me yet again. Here Comes The Sun indeed.

Later we sipped wine, nibbled at sandwiches and cakes and chatted. We talked of writing, the words, the past, the friendship, the people and the music.

And the man. Always the man.

And on the way home I wound down the windows and turned up the volume on Senses Working Overtime.

I have no doubt he'd have approved.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vale: Paul Haines.

It is with great sadness I write of the passing of Paul Haines after a long battle with cancer.

I was fortunate enough to have had Paul as my writing mentor through the AHWA. It was during this mentorship we became friends, sharing an interest in not only writing, but music. In particular, XTC - a band Paul loved and occasionally included in his stories.

Late last year, when it became obvious Paul would not be with us much longer, I decided to write to Paul - a long letter telling him exactly what he meant to me and the influence he's had on my writing.

Paul was gracious enough to take the letter in the spirit it was meant and wrote me a long response that I will always cherish.

Paul Haines will be missed.  The Spec Fic community is just that little bit less now.

My thoughts tonight are with Jules and Isla.  And Paul, I wish you safe travels.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reading And Writing.

It's important to keep up to date.

I recently read an anthology of short stories from a (very) small press.  There was nothing startling about the collection. One story stood out as excellent, a couple I thought were merely OK, while the rest were, in my opinion, quite below standard.

It so happens that I've seen the author of one of those 'below standard' pieces online - bragging about the sale and obviously  very proud. And I have absolutely no problem with that. It's a little unfortunate that in their naivety they haven't recognised the level at which they have been published. I did, however, have a chuckle when the writer started suggesting the story was truly original, completely brilliant and was even talking about major awards.

It was simply obvious to me that the writer hadn't read much SF.

While the writing was fairly uninspired and flat, the real problem was the story was one that I've read many times before. And I picked the ending in the first paragraph or so.

It's important for a writer to know the history of their genre. And to keep up to date.

When I submitted one of my first stories (So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper) to a well known small press, the editor told me that I'd obviously read a lot and all that reading had paid off. He told me that it showed in the confident and calm manner of the writing and the descriptive prose. He then advised me that the story wasn't done yet, rejected it and broke my heart.

And damn his eyes, he was right. It needed more work.

I try to keep my reading broad. I read a lot of non-fiction, not just science but historical, biographical, travel - anything that takes my interest. Fiction-wise, I read almost anything - stories of all genres and all lengths. I regularly read Asimov's, Andromeda, Analog, and a couple of others. I can even tell you the differences between the purchasing tastes of Sheila Williams, Gordon Van Gelder and Stanley Schmidt.

And don't forget local small press. I read what I can from the markets I sub to. I try to ensure I know what Ticonderoga, Fablecroft and Twelfth Planet are publishing.

After all, if I plan to sell to these markets, I must know what they're buying.