Sunday, December 30, 2012

Faking The Blues.

This week I read an interview with a blues artist I've never heard of before, Eugene Hideaway Bridges. I still haven't had a chance to hear his music, but it was a pretty cool interview. And he said some really interesting things. But there was one quote I especially liked.
"A fake blues is like listening to Dick Van Dyke play an English person in Mary Poppins."
Which is true. You can tell when someone is faking the blues - the same as you can tell when a writer is faking science fiction, or any other genre for that matter. It just doesn't ring true.

Which comes back to 'write what you know.' And know its history.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why Are They Called Deadlines?

Christmas was quiet, which was great. We had a lot of fun and lots of great food.

How was your Christmas?

This week I am overwhelmed with ideas and excited by possibilities. Unfortunately my free time is limited and deadlines approach.

Writing and re-writing must be done.

I can't talk right now, just be sure I'm working. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mayan Blues.

And so the Mayan apocalypse came and went with barely a blip on the radar. It was a bit of fun, counting down the minutes, but ultimately I don't know anyone who actually took it seriously. Or at least I don't think I do.

Here in the afterlife, things are pretty much the same. The list of stories to be written on my wall is largely unchanged, the stack of books waiting to be read seems larger, even though I get through a couple a week, and most TV is still rubbish. Thank goodness for DVDs.

I've been listening to a lot of old blues. B.B. King, Taj Mahal, James Cotton, Johnny Copeland, Stevie Ray Vaughan - just to name a few. Seems appropriate in this post apocalyptic world.

Remember, the blues ain't nothin' but a feeling.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The World Is Round.

And BANG!, just like that I had an epiphany.

I'm in the middle of a writing workshop and yesterday, while doing an exercise, a whole lot of things suddenly made sense. Structure, character, setting, opening. I can suddenly see how these things need to work together.

I'm all re-energised about my writing. A half-completed story is no longer a problem. I have more ideas than I know what to do with. I expect my writing will improve leaps and bounds over the short term.

Today is the second last day of the school year. I should soon have some free time in which to let my imagination roam free.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Things I Learned This Week.

I've just returned from Adelaide. Unfortunately I wasn't there for the launch of Midnight and Moonshine by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga) - I left Adelaide mere hours before it commenced. I was on a more dangerous mission - a school trip with almost 60 teenagers. And I learned a number of things during the week.

1. Modern top 40 radio sucks. I spent the week listening to drivel without melody, or lyrics of any substance.

2. Autotune and computerised backing tracks do nothing to improve these so-called songs.

3. Teenage girls, singing (bellowing?) along have the uncanny ability to find those exact frequencies that will grate on your nerves the most.

4. Some people need to learn manners. I do not like rude people. The same applies to those people who lack respect for others, are dishonest, think they know everything, or are incompetent.

5. The kids on the trip from my school were fantastic.

6. I could get used to the feeling of buying a magazine simply to read, and to discover a review of an anthology I'm in. Even if my story wasn't mentioned. (Epilogue, reviewed by Cat Sparks in Cosmos #48)

7. Adelaide is a fun place with lots to do.

And yes, I had a wonderful week - despite one day of illness - and look forward to the opportunity of going again.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vale: Ravi Shankar.

I first heard Ravi Shankar as a teen, when a friend gave me a tape of The Concert For Bangladesh. After that initial playing I tended to skip the first part as I didn't 'get' Indian music. Later, of course, I recognised Shankar for the genius he was, and quite enjoyed listening to his work.

His influence on The Beatles, and George Harrison in particular, is enormous. Although Harrison had first become interested in the sitar during the filming of Help!, it was 1966 before he met Shankar and travelled to India to study with him.

As a musician, a teacher and a lecturer, Shankar toured the world and taught at a number of universities. His work brought international recognition to the music of his homeland.

He died in California at the age of 82.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little Dreams And The Big Time.

Once a month, my Dad and I watch old movies together. It's great spending time with Dad. The movies are a lot of fun too, and I've learned a lot from them. Not just about plotting, and structure and dialogue, but a couple of quotes from recent movies have hit me recently.

Great lines from a couple of classic movies that really spoke to me.

For Me and My Gal (1942)

Jo Hayden: "You'll never be big time because you're small time in your heart."

A Star Is Born (1954)  

Norman Maine: "Listen to me, Esther, a career is a curious thing. Talent isn't always enough. You need a sense of timing - an eye for seeing the turning point or recognizing the big chance when it comes along and grabbing it. A career can rest on a trifle. Like - like us sitting here tonight. Or it can turn on somebody saying to you, 'You're better than that. You're better than you know.' Don't settle for the little dream. Go on to the big one...Scared? Scared to take the plunge?"
 Motivation anyone?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vale: Sir Patrick Moore.

Sir Patrick Moore, a British astronomer, has died at the age of 89.

He joined the British Astronomical Society at the age of 11, and within three years was running a small observatory. When World War 2 broke out, Moore was only 16, yet he lied about his age and joined the RAF Bomber Command as a flight navigator. During his initial training in Canada, he met both Albert Einstein and Orville Wright while on leave in New York.

Post-war, Moore was heavily involved in mapping the moon's surface. Much of this research was later used by both the Americans and the Soviets.

As the Messier Catalogue was restricted to objects in the Northern Hemisphere, Moore created the Caldwell Catalogue. (Caldwell is his middle name) This list of interesting deep space objects is a wonderful place to start for amateur astronomers.

Moore was an astronomer, researcher, author, TV presenter and radio commentator. But I will remember him for his acting. He played himself in the famous Big Bunny episode on The Goodies.

Times Are Lean.

Several months ago I made two sales in the one day. And a few others around the same time.

It felt good. I shared the news. Alan Baxter told me to enjoy it while it lasted, as I'd enter times that were much quieter.  Now is such a time. I haven't sold a story in around five months, and I must admit it's frustrating me somewhat.

Ironically, I've had a story published in each of the past four months - September, October, November and December. But that's simply indicative of the slow moving cogs that is the publishing business. And apart from one story slated for release in March, the next few months are looking quiet for me.

My time will come. A year from now, when I sell a bunch of stories in as many days I'll be telling you of that as well.

Editors. Stop procrastinating. You know you want my stories.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm Dreaming Of A White Christmas.

While I don't like the commercial aspects of Christmas (and I have taken big steps to minimise my financial involvement) it is a time of year I do quite enjoy.

Here in Australia, Christmas is bang in the middle of summer. Christmas lights don't really work to create a cheery atmosphere when they aren't effectively visible until 9 p.m.  Roasts and plum puddings aren't the ideal fare for days around 40C. Cards with snow-covered buildings and fat men in red, fur-lined suits don't remind me of anything festive at all. And don't get me started on the awful renditions of carols that supermarkets seem to play. Perhaps they get them really cheap.

I have to say my most memorable Christmases were the ones I spent in the U.K. Everything makes a whole lot more sense when it's cold, snowy and dark by 4.30 p.m.

My English wife simply can't correlate longer, hotter days and lighter evenings with the end of the year. It just feels 'wrong' to her.  One of my best friends, however, commented a few days ago that now we've had some really hot days it's starting to feel like Christmas.

I know what he means. I guess I used to feel like that too. But once I had spent time in Europe during this time of year I was able to recognise where certain elements of the Christmas tradition really belong.

For me, it'll be the chance to spend some quiet time with my wife and friends. And that's what Christmas it truly about.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Deep Thoughts For The Week.

1. Unfortunately, as defined in a dictionary, means undeserved bad luck, disastrous or regrettable. Most editors and publishers commence rejection letters with this adverb. My rejections have nothing to do with luck, they weren't disasters, and I suspect the editors didn't really regret their decisions.

I've recently had three or four personal rejections that commenced with this word, and then pointed out strong aspects of my work before declaring that the story simply didn't fit in with the 'vision' of the anthology.

So what is this elusive vision? My stories hit the guidelines and met the published 'what we're looking for' criteria.  I guess at some point during the slushing process the editor forms a more detailed overview of the direction the anthology is taking.

I understand this, but I do feel a little frustrated this couldn't be defined earlier. (And I recognise that's not always possible) I only wish they could let me know my story isn't a fit prior to the closing of subs to allow me a second chance. I feel most annoyed when my story is rejected like this, but when I read the final anthology I see stories that neither fit the guidelines or theme. (None of this is a criticism of the editors and their processes.  They can choose to buy and publish whichever stories they want, like and believe fit together the best. It's merely my own frustration and lack of understanding at what they are looking for.)

So when I receive a rejection with the words 'unfortunately' and 'didn't fit the vision', I have to wonder whether this is completely true, or whether they are just being polite and trying to pre-empt further correspondence from crazed writers.

2. Duotrope is about to become a paid service.

I have previously donated, but I must say I haven't yet sold enough work and made enough money from writing, or found Duotrope necessary enough to warrant the $50 per year subscription charges.

One area I do find useful is the suggested response time based on data received. The suggestion is that this user data represents approximately 10% of all submissions. As of next year I suggest this will fall as fewer writers will subscribe. Thus, of course, will lead to less accurate data.

I understand the need to finance this website. I don't believe it's worth the subscription they want.

3.  So the Universe is accelerating its expansion. I've known this for some time, but the consequences of this hit me during the week. Of course, we can't think of this expansion occurring from a single central point as it's more of a stretching expansion that anything else.

The Universe is estimated to be around 136 billion light years across, and it's expanding at a rate of 74.3 plus or minus 2.1 kilometers (46.2 plus or minus 1.3 miles) per second per megaparsec (a megaparsec is roughly 3 million light-years).

OK, fast and big. And one day it's going to tear itself apart.
See? Not all my thoughts are happy thoughts about writing.