Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Crazy Time Of Year.


The end of school year is approaching, which means people think teachers are starting to slack off. But there's a lot of marking, report writing and course planning for 2014 to be done. I'm also completing kitchen renovations at home, as well as a few other bits that need doing in the garden and the house, and preparing for visiting family.

In about 2 weeks I feel like I'll finally be able to kick back and relax a little, and even maybe get some writing done. But for now it's full steam ahead.

And darn those torpedoes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Indoctrinaire To The Islanders.

One of the first SF books I ever read as a teenager was Indoctrinaire by Christopher Priest.

It has been a very long time since I read it last, but I do know that as a young man I fell in love with the book and with Priest's writing.  Over the past three (and more) decades, I've read pretty much everything he's published. Every time I read his words I'm blown away at how efficiently beautiful they are.

This week I suddenly realised I'd never read The Affirmation, despite its occupancy of my bookshelf for many years. I started reading it a couple of nights ago. It is, of course, superb. I was completely thrilled to discover elements of the story take place in one of my favourite worlds, a string of islands known as The Dream Archipelago.

Priest has a short story collection with this title, set in this world. The opening story, The Negation, is one of the most beautiful I've ever read. A 'novel', The Islanders, was released a couple of years back. It's like a Lonely Planet guide to the islands, although the entries build to tell a story. Truly amazing.

So I was thrilled to be back in The Dream Archipelago. I always enjoy my visits there. After that I might visit some of his other worlds.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Deal With It.

Rejections are odd beasts.

I've written a few times about how they don't bug me as much now as they did when I first started subbing. That doesn't mean they don't still frustrate me, though.

In the past year I've received a few rejections that have even made me laugh. Along with the usual 'well written' and 'just not for us' comments, I had one where it was obvious the reader hadn't actually read the story. The comment referred to an event that didn't occur. I guess the reader probably glanced at the first page while eating dinner and watching some reality program on TV.

I had another one tell me my story wasn't a story. Of course that piece then sold to a much better market, and has since received great comments.

And then there was the one that said that while the story was good, it wasn't SF. Hmmmm. I looked at it again, and realised if I were to pull the SF element from the story, the whole thing collapses. That makes it SF in my book.

These rejections didn't do any more than frustrate me for a minute or so. Of course I pay attention to the comments and suggestions, but I trust my own discernment in deciding whether to tackle to story again. Each of those stories were subbed straight out again at other markets. Different reader, different editor, different comments.

Pffft.  I blow my nose at your rejections.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christmas, Decisions And Tantrums.

It's closing in on the end of the year.  I've already heard Christmas carols in shops, and seen Christmas commercials on TV. Far too early, in my book. There's still five or six weeks to go which is more than ten percent of the year.

Bah, humbug!

I've already commenced planning for next year at work. I had to make decisions about which 'positions of responsibility' I would apply for, and then submit an application. These are extra roles to my classroom teaching, but we have to take one on anyway.

A tough decision had to be made. Fortunately I think I made the right choice. I feel good about it, anyway. And that's a start.

My horoscope, which I don't usually even look at, told me that in order to have success I needed to make demands and throw a tantrum. I asked my boss if he thought that was a good idea. He seemed bemused, for a moment, then said it was an idea - not necessarily a good one.

I decided not to yell.

We're on the downward run of 2013. Of course I haven't achieved half the things I planned to this year, but that's OK. I achieved a bunch of things I didn't expect to.

But it does feel as though the years are speeding up. I have a good feeling about 2014.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What Big Words You Have, Grammar!

I spent six years teaching English in Japan. I didn't work within the education system, but for private conversation schools. Mostly solo or in small groups, my youngest students were around 3 years old, while my eldest was well into his 80s. It was fun and interesting, and very educational. Those students, who had been studying English since they were in primary school, had varying spoken abilities, but generally their grammar knowledge was far in advance of my own.

I recall the first time I was asked whether a particular word was the 'past participle' or not. I panicked, not even knowing what that meant.

But during that time I studied and learned and picked up a great deal of grammar.

By the time I went to university to study English teaching, at the ripe old age of 37, I knew much more grammar than my fellow students. This certainly served me well, and I can remember a couple of time I was asked by the tutor to explain a concept to the rest of the class. EFL experience helped a great deal.

Now that I write none of this knowledge and experience is wasted. I don't always get it right, and there are times when I've written something that's more obvious to me than my beta readers, but generally I'm told that my pieces, even the first draft, are very clean.

Personally I think a writer should be interested in language. As an English teacher I  encourage my students to develop more sophisticated writing styles and reading habits. I also try to engender a love, or at least an appreciation, of words and language.

Sometimes I even succeed.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Experiencing Horror.

A few days ago it occurred to me that I've had my fair share of horror in my life. No longterm horror, living through war, abuse, disease or anything like that, but enough small individual experiences and moments that all make great fodder for writing.

Let me explain and give a few examples.

As a youngster, I sometimes used to go and spend weekends with my Grandparents. Now while most Grandparents lived in regular houses with yards, my Grandparents didn't. They were live in caretakers at the Royal College of Surgeons. Which meant that we had long hallways, labs and lecture theatres to play in. And, of course, the museum.

Looking back, it's a wonder I wasn't scarred (or scared) by wandering through glass cases exhibiting real body parts, often with cut-aways to reveal muscle, bones and organs. I even remember walking into one of the labs one day where a cadaver was laid on the autopsy table in a clear bag. I believe that's one occasion when I ran out immedately.

And yes, now, as an adult, it seems strange a body was left on the table overnight. (I do recall the room was chilled - or maybe that was just me!)

As I said, all good writing fodder.

Later, as a police officer, I've faced even more horror. I've held a month old baby in my arms that was completely blue and cold, I held a man in my arms, seated in his blood pouring from a gunshot wound, and watched him die. I performed CPR on the victim of a motorcycle accident who had half his leg missing. I've knocked on doors and asked to speak with family members after fatal accidents. I've faced people armed with knives and sawn-off shotguns. I've talked a man out of cutting himself any further, and taken people into mental institutions because they were no longer coping in the real world.

Of course there's more, and some of this is just the obvious stuff.

We all face horror in our lives, and it's all a matter of degrees. I've seen people in much worse situations than I've ever been in. And there are others I've merely read about who have faced horrors of the most unimaginable kinds.

But those moments, of dealing with people, speaking to others living in different realities to mine. It truly is an amazing life experience to have had.

And I consider myself most fortunate.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Hate The Phrase "On A Journey"!

I really do.

"I've been on a journey", or "it's been a journey", or "you're just starting on a journey." Unless you're actually travelling somewhere exotic, that is. But when people use it for some kind of experience or learning, it bugs me. Don't worry, I won't block or delete you if you do say it.  It's me, not you.

But Brad R. Torgersen could be forgiven if he were to use this phrase. (He didn't.) But he did post this.
It's November 5. I just realized today is the 4th anniversary of me finding out I'd won the Writers of the Future Contest with my story "Exanastasis." My first pro sale/publication. Wow. Where did the time go?
It's the 6th November here in Australia, but it's still the 5th in the U.S.A.  (Still behind the times....)

I actually remember that day. I remember Brad being announced as finalist weeks earlier, and then watching him sweat as he waited for the results. I was supporting him, cheering him on. (Sorry, guys, but 'rooting' has a far less salubrious meaning Down Under.) And then I remember the first hint that he'd received the phone call from Joni, that he'd won.

He posted a smiley emoticon.  That's all.

I messaged him to ask whether he'd won. I can't recall his exact response, but I think he acknowledged it without saying directly.

But I knew Brad (online) before that, and I remember him not really being sure of his own abilities, or even understanding much about how the industry worked.

Now, of course, he's won awards and been nominated for a bunch more. He's sold heaps of stories, has his own collection out (Lights in the Deep) and recently signed contracts for his first novel. (Now that he's big time, I hope he doesn't sue me for pinching his photo from his website.)

I haven't had the opportunity to meet Brad in person yet, although he does owe me a drink. I look forward to catching up with him as some point. I saw Brad as an inspiration then, and I still see him as one. He's pretty much where I'm aiming for at this stage. Step by step, inch by inch, goal by goal.

What a long strange trip it's been. (and continues to be!) Congratulations, Brad

Sunday, November 3, 2013

In And Around.

A couple of rejections this week, although they were not unexpected and I'm not overly disappointed by them.

That's not to say I didn't have hopes they would sell, or even that I was sending the stories to markets where they had no chance. I'm a firm believer in aiming squarely at your level and not wasting editors/readers time by sending them every little thing in the tiny hope they might like it. No, if I send a story to a market I'm of the belief the story could sell there. It simply that these markets are very difficult to break into as they take so few stories.

But I find that for the most part I can handle rejections quite well. And so those stories, with barely time to catch their collected breaths, were shipped straight out to other markets.

An interesting week all round. Work was fabulous, the renovations at home continue, and my wife and I went to the taping of a new show with my brother and sister-in-law. It was a lot of fun, I scored some loot, and we all went out for dinner.

New ideas for stories continue to stockpile - and of course I make notes on them all. I even started work on one of them - although I managed only the opening. It will do for now.

Tuesday is a public holiday, students tend to take Monday off, and I have a few things to look forward to in the coming week.

Life is good.