Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chinese Day.

Today's the day.

In the past 18 months I've travelled to China twice on study tours of their education system. Today my Chinese colleagues arrive for a study tour of ours.  They will also bring a number of students with them to spend a week in our classes, interacting with our students, and doing a bit of sightseeing. Yes, yes, you will see koalas.

It will be wonderful to see Hunter again. We became pretty good friends on the first visit, consolidated that friendship on the second, and this time he'll be on my turf.  Which means I can now control the game.  Mwah, ha, ha, ha.

Lot's of work to do to ensure their comfort and 'optimisation' of study. Plenty of time for socialising. Far too short a visit.

I hope you all have a fantastic time here in Australia.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Please, Please, Please.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a writer I don't know, asking me to buy their e-book. Actually, when I re-read the wording, they were begging me to buy it. Only $2.99 for five stories. And please let them know what I think.

I checked out this writer, and discovered on their blog that all of these stories had been rejected everywhere. And so the writer decided all those editors were completely wrong, and that these are fantastic stories, and not only does everyone deserve to read them but we should have to pay for them.

I did consider replying and asking whether this writer had purchased any of my work. I also considered asking them why I should pay $2.99 for five stories that had been rejected everywhere, probably hadn't been through an editor, and from someone who needed to go begging for customers. Especially since I can buy an issue of Asimov's or Analog for the same price. Not only have those stories been selected by a team of staff, but they've been put through an editing process. Oh, and they include more than just five stories as well.

In the end I deleted the email and ignored it.

But again, this is the reason I don't self publish.  I'm not against it in some cases, but there's just so much average stuff out there. Even the good stuff finds it hard to break through the flood of whitenoise.

And if the fact I was being begged wasn't enough of a deterrent, then spelling  and grammatical errors in the blurb isn't going to win me over.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Much Writing To Be Done.

It's been a busy couple of weeks, here in the plush writing studio at Chateau Cameron.  Unfortunately little of it has actually been writing.

I've received a personal rejection for one that I had high hopes for, I'm sweating on a couple of others out there in the wide world, I've got a couple of rewrites that need doing and a whole swag of great ideas that need time.

Work has stepped up a gear or two in the past month, and at home I'm in the middle of renovations. It'll all be worth it in the end, but it's occupying much of my attention.

But no excuses. I simply have to write.

Write, write, write.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

She Loves Y'All.

When John Lennon was five years old, he was put in the position of having to choose between his parents. His father, a merchant sailor home from sea, had taken him away for the weekend with the intention of absconding with him. His mother caught on, and there was a confrontation where John was asked to choose which of his parents he wanted to stay with.

He chose his father. And it was only as his mother was walking away he changed his mind and ran back to her. If that had not happened, John may have become a New Zealander and The Beatles might not have happened.

About a year ago I considered writing a story set in an alternate history where this occurred. I just haven't got round to it yet.

Josh Rountree took a similar premise and had John move to Texas as a teenager, only to fall under the spell of Bob Wills and become a country great.  Wills is a musician I had not previously encountered, but since reading the story I've fallen under his spell also.

Rountree's story, Can't Buy Me Faded Love, is the title story in his collection. If you love music and spec-fic, then I would thoroughly recommend this book. Each story comes with liner notes and a recommended playlist. It's fabulous.

I also recently read Snodgrass, by Ian R. MacLeod, which is another Lennon alternate history This time 50 year old unemployed Lennon ponders his life and what he could have been had he not fallen out with McCartney and left The Beatles. "We could have been bigger than The Hollies," he declares.

And then there's I Was The Walrus, my John Lennon re-incarnation story, which was published in Eric J. Guignard's collection, After Death, and had been receiving great reviews. Three John Lennon spec-fic stories in as many months. Anyone know of any more?

Last night I had a dream in which these three stories were published together and did very well.  How about it, guys?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Short On Words.

People regularly ask me where they can buy my book. Which is great, because it means the people I meet and have contact with are genuinely interested.  The problem is, of course, that I don't have 'a book' as such.

As a short story writer, my stories appear in anthologies and magazines along with a bunch of other writers. And so I have to explain this to the person asking. Usually it makes little difference, as they ask where they can get hold of ones of those books.

In the past week I've had four or five people mention to me just how much they've enjoyed not only my story, but the others in the book. They mentioned how it was nice to read something that could be digested in a single sitting. It's as though they've never really read short fiction before.

It's true that we don't teach enough of the short form in school (and there are explanations for that), but a colleague and I have made a concerted effort to try to introduce more into our classes.

And it seems as though the students, although puzzled at first by the brevity of text, are starting to enjoy and appreciate these stories.

Long live the short form!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

That Means A Lot.

Last night I fell in love with The Beatles all over again.

I can't remember when I first heard them, although I suspect it was when I was fairly young and probably watching the cartoon series on TV. I know my uncle was a fan and he certainly shared a lot of my musical taste. But I've loved their music as long as I can remember.

I was three when they played their last live show, and six when they broke up. As a teenager I always hoped they would re-unite and I'd get the chance to see them live. That dream was shattered in December 1980.

Some consider me a bit of an expert on The Beatles. I've read as much as I can on them, I collect their music and recordings, videos, interviews and other assorted stuff. I've written articles on them, written stories based on them (or at least inspired by them) - even been acknowledged in a Beatles book.

One of the highlights of my life is the afternoon I spent in Abbey Road studios. I sat at the console in Studio 2, stood where they recorded much of their work and even played the piano Paul used on Lady Madonna.

I've never really been into tribute bands - I guess I always figured they weren't the real thing. And so in all my time as a Beatles tragic, I've never been to see a Beatles cover band.

Until last night.

I made the decision to go and see The Bootleg Beatles in the city. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured since I'd never really get to see the real thing, why not go and have some fun and hear these songs live. What I didn't expect was to become so emotional during the first number. The Bootlegs walked out on stage, velvet collared suits like the '63 fabs, and played a spot-on rendition of I Wanna Hold Your Hand. It choked me up completely. And then they continued with three costume changes and two-and-a-half hours of perfect musical replicas of the originals.

The banter, mannerisms, movements were authentic. And there were plenty of little nuances in there that only a Beatles trainspotter like myself would have noticed.

Thanks, Bootleg Beatles. You made a dream of mine (virtually) come true.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It Never Stops.

In my last post, last Sunday, I questioned whether I'd ever be able to find the elusive 'X-factor' that pushes a story head and shoulders above the others.

A couple of hours after writing that, I went to SuperNOVA, my writers' group. I had submitted a story for crit, and was rather looking forward to it. Nobody savaged my story, most people seemed to like aspects of it, and everyone had advice that was pretty good.

But one of my fellow writers, who has previously read slush for a well know magazine, suddenly said "This is a good story. One that I would have pushed up to my editor. But not one that would have excited me enough to text him straight away." (or words to that effect.)

Had she been reading my blog? She did a pretty good job of explaining to me where the story was lacking, along with the others, and the scales fell from my eyes. I could actually see what they were saying, and damn them, they were right.

It never stops, this learning thing, does it?

Now to rewrite the story with what I've learned.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The X Factor?

I read a lot of professionally published short fiction. Sometimes I wonder how some of those stories get bought.

One story I read this week was just plain awful. It had problems with its grammar, had lots of exposition, had inane dialogue and was generally pointless. Yet it had been purchased by a well known and respected editor.

A lot of people revert to the 'matter of taste' argument.  OK, I can buy that in some instances, but not in all cases. And certainly not in this one. Sometimes I read a story I don't like, but I can see why it was bought. This story would have been lambasted at many crit groups. I cannot believe it was published at all - especially professionally. In this case I'm not alone. Online reviews suggested similar points of view.

So what is it that pushes a story up from pretty good to publishable? There is, of course, an 'X factor' involved in buying stories. That indeterminable thing that you can't put your finger on. Some elusive quality that makes the story stand out. It is, of course, the magic ingredient I'm looking for. My stories are yet to sell at the pro level. And it's certainly not merely a 'matter of taste' when my stories are rejected from several pro markets. (And yes, I realise there are other factors at play - suit the market, word length, similarity to other published work, etc)

I suppose the editor saw something in that story that I and a bunch of other readers didn't see.

Or maybe the editor just got it wrong this time.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

School Holidays Are Here.

I'm in the first week of my term break, and starting to relax. Although I must say I actually haven't had much 'down' time.

Lots of work to do around the house, particularly with this unseasonably clear weather. It's supposed to rain for the next week or so, which means I'll have some time to get some writing done.  I did manage to free up Monday, and spent the day writing, and tweaking a story for a deadline. I sent it off with a couple of hours to spare. No we wait. And the waiting can be long. 

It's an unusual story for me. Different style, different genre, and different format.  Hopefully it pays off. If not, then I've tried something and pushed my own personal writing boundaries.

Apart from that I've built a gate and a fence, repaired outdoor steps that had broken, and generally done stuff around the house.

But the physical work has been good. It's a nice change from the classroom, but it's not something I'm particularly suited to, or something I would want to do full time.