Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Start All Over Again.

I was hoping to have more good writing news to finish off the year, but sadly it seems as though that's not going to be the case. On the other hand, I do hope to shortly have some to see in the New Year. And that would get 2015 off to a flying start.

It's been a good year for me, although one that has been slightly odd. Changing schools in March, then finishing up there as the work dried up. Prepping to return to my old school. A great trip to the UK and Turkey, catching up with family and then going to Worldcon in London. A fabulous week in Istanbul and spending time with an old friend from Tokyo days. Setting goals and focusing on writing self-discipline, and actually seeing results from it. (Who'd have thought?) And having a few epiphanies about myself along the way.

Resolutions? I don't believe in them, and I don't make them. I believe if you want to change something, then just get straight into it. You don't need to wait until New Year to get started.

I do, however, see New Year as a time to wipe the slate clean and start again. Time passes, and years are what we use to measure that passage. As a teacher, who works to a calender academic year, I see this time as very much the ending and beginning. A time of recovery, re-energising and rebirth, so to speak.

And I feel writing wise, 2014, although successful in many ways, was not all I hoped it would be. It was the year I put several plans into action. It was the year I developed long-term writing plans. I know where I'm going and what I'm doing next year. And I have high hopes it will happen.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

View Who?

Doctor Who was something I watched only occasionally as a child. I'm not really sure why. I suspect one TV, four channels and six people had something to do with it.

When new Doctor Who started in 2005, I made the decision to hold off watching it til I ran through all the old episodes. I eventually started doing just that, a year or so ago, and from time to time continue on from where I left off. I still have quite a way to go.

So I made the decision recently to watch in parallel. Continue with the old Who, and start on the new Who. I also decided to do my research, to find the viewing order for each of these series, specials, spinoffs, and mini-episodes.

I figured it would be quite easy. Surely in fandom someone would have sat down and worked out an easy-to-read viewing order for every single piece of Who that has been shown. Well if they have, I've yet to find it.

I found several where fans have constructed an order for the bits they want to include. Some were very detailed indeed. But I wanted a simple plan. I wanted one where I could, for the most part, switch between entire series of Torchwood, K-9, Sarah Jane and Doctor Who rather than alternating single episodes. And so I've started constructing the order I plan to watch them in. I still have some work to do on my order for old Who.

On the menu to the right is a Doctor Who tab. You'll find my viewing order there. It is a work in progress, as I'm sure I've missed bits.

Oh, and for an Whovian experts out there, I would appreciate any ideas, comments or inclusions.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Dimensional Foray.

Another sale this week.

Keith Stevenson at Coeur de Lion has bought a story to be printed in Dimension6. He previously published So Sad, the Lighthouse Keeper in Anywhere But Earth, and The Last of the Butterflies in issue 3 of Dimension6. I'm thrilled I'll have the opportunity to work with him again.

This story, entitled Lodloc and the Bear, will be published in Issue 6, due in October, 2015.

Congratulations to my writing buddy, David McDonald, who also sold a story to Keith this week. His work will be available in the July issue alongside a piece by Stacey Larner.

Dimension6 publishes three issues a year, each with three stories. Keep an eye out for them in 2015. Based on the first three, you can't go wrong. Oh, and did I mention they're free?

A sale like this certainly puts you in the right frame of mind for the festive season, now doesn't it? If I don't see you before, have a great Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Writing Aimlessly.

I've had a very productive couple of months.

I've completed the first drafts of seven or so stories since October, rewritten two of those, subbed five, had a reprint, sold two and I'm waiting on the rest.

But for the past ten days or so, I've found it difficult to get my teeth into any one story in particular. I have maintained my daily wordcount average, but mostly I've written openings, a few paragraphs that may or may end up going somewhere further. Admittedly, I've been very busy finishing up at work, and all those other reasons that prevent me writing as much as I'd like. But I just couldn't get the groove happening. And then two nights ago I started a piece that has hooked into my subconscious and has started taking on a life of its own.

For me the most important thing was to keep writing, to get something that fired up and felt like a story could occur. And it has.

Will this story see the light of day? Possibly.

Sometimes we wander aimlessly when we're not sure where we want to go, and the places we discover when we don't plan too much  can be exciting and wonderful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Year In Boxes.

I've emptied my desk at work, loaded all my workly possessions into my car, and watched someone else take the prized spot next to a window and natural light.

It's a rather sobering experience.

Friday is the Christmas breakup, so really I only have tomorrow left at this school. It's been a great year. I've had a busy year, learned a lot about teaching, and really enjoyed my time with my colleagues.

And I thank them for that.

Next year I'm back at my old school. A school where I've been for almost ten years. In many ways it will be a new experience, returning with fresh eyes. It will be great to see my old colleagues and students again.

This year has been fantastic. I have high hopes for next year as well.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Almost There.

A week of school to go and then hopefully I'll have some time to write.

Or at least that's the plan. Yes, I have lots to do around the house, and I have some planning and preparation to do for next year's classes, particularly since I'm moving school and have some year levels and texts I haven't taught before. But with the time I have off over Christmas, I should be able to squeeze a few extra hours out.

My writing continues apace, and I'm still producing some stories with which I am very happy. I'm still waiting to hear back on a number of submissions. And I'm still watching six stories that I need the time to go back and re-draft. They're sitting here, fading from my memory, so when I do get back to them they'll be fresh to me and I'll find all the flaws.

Or at least that's the plan.

Oh, and there will be watching of Doctor Who.  After all, it is my holiday and I deserve the break.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another Story Finds A Home.

I had another acceptance last week, a few days after Aurealis bought one of my stories.

That was kind of nice, receiving two in the one week. I'm very happy about it, and I will certainly let you know more details when I feel I'm more able. Like when the contracts arrive. There are still a couple of other stories out in the wildwoods I'm waiting on. One in particular would be a really encouraging sale at this point of my development. And although I'm not sweating or checking my email every thirty seconds, I am becoming a little more anxious as time passes.

Is it taking longer than others because they're holding it and on the verge of accepting it? Or have they simply not reached that far down in the slushpile yet.

Rejectomancy is an evil area in which to venture. For now, No News is No News.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Days Of Constant Writing.

A couple of months ago I decided to try an experiment.

I would write every single day, regardless of how tired or busy I was, regardless of whether I had a story ready to go or not, regardless of anything. I would write, and write daily, just like Heinlein recommended in his infamous writing rules.

Now this is one of his five rules that I always had a problem with. Everyone's circumstances, goals, desires, abilities are different. And writing everyday doesn't necessarily mean decent words. In fact, I thought it might mean the opposite: forced words would be aimless.

But I thought I'd give it a go in an effort to try and write more frequently, to complete more stories, to build writing experience, and to create a habit. And I also decided to keep a wordcount spreadsheet to motivate myself, and to create some accountability.

I'm proud to say I've now been writing daily for more than two months.  Work has been busy these past few weeks, and that's eaten into my writing time somewhat, yet I've still managed to write 65,000 new words, averaging just under 1000 per day.

And I've completed something like 8 new stories, two of which have already sold.

For me the experiment has been a success thus far. Onwards to my first million words.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

School Days, Old Ways.

I'll be changing schools at the end of the year. I will, in fact, be returning to my previous school.

I came here on a contract, replacing a teacher who was going on family leave. The leadership were unclear how long she would be gone for, and I was hoping it would be longer, but she's returning at the commencement of 2015. And there's no room for me here.

Due to some bizarre legalities, I can return to my previous role as I had a permanent position there and the new contract was completed within 12 months. It's something for which I'm quite grateful, and certainly took into account when I applied for the transfer. I was well aware I held that security, rather than facing the possibility of unemployment at the end of the year. So I'm pretty happy about that.

It's kind of a strange feeling, being part of a team, that's planning for the coming year yet knowing I won't be around to bring it to fruition.

I've enjoyed my year teaching here, and although I'm disappointed to be leaving I'm not unhappy about slipping back into the familiar.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Good Week.

I've sold a story to Aurealis, and I'm very excited by that.

Now this is something I've wanted for a very long time. I have previously submitted there, but not for a long time. I was never quite sure my writing was right for Aurealis. This time, however, I had a story I thought might suit them and I'm thrilled they agreed. I have no idea when it's slated for publication but I will post that information here as soon as I know.

And, of course, this week I had a story published in The Best of Galaxy's Edge, edited by Mike Resnick. Yeah, I'm still grinning from that one too.

And I received word that an anthology, which has one of my stories in it, is moving closer to fruition.

And I had my 500th blogpost.

What a great week. Yup, everything's moving ahead here at Chateau Cameron.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Best of Galaxy's Edge 2013-2014.

I'm delighted to announce that Mike Resnick has selected my story, Holland:1944, to be reprinted in The Best of Galaxy's Edge 2013-2014.

And what a TOC. I'm in there with Brad R. Torgersen, Andrea Stewart, Tina Gower, Marina J. Lostetter, Kary English, Lou J. Berger, Ken Liu, C.L. Moore, Nancy Kress and Larry Niven.


(So, is this a fitting entry for my 500th post?)

Run, Buy, Preorder, Purchase. It's due for release next week.

Here's the table of contents:

Introduction, by Mike Resnick
I, Arachnobot, by Brian Trent
Pocketful of Mumbles, by Tina Gower
Creator of the Cosmos Job Interview Today, by Nick DiChario
Will You Volunteer to Kill Wendy?, by Eric Cline
Neep, by Kathleen Miller
Effect and Cause, by Ken Liu
Ghost in the Machine, by Ralph Roberts
The Prayer Ladder, by Marina T. Lostetter
Holland: 1944, by Steve Cameron
The Spinach Can’s Son, by Robert T. Jeschonek
Intersection, by Gio Clairval
No Place for a Hero, by James Aquilone
Happily Ever After, by C. L. Moore
Upright, Unlocked, by Tom Gerencer
Love in Bloom, by Sabina Theo
Icarus at Noon, by Eric Lief Davin
Matial, by Lou J. Berger
Do You Remember Michael Jones?, by Nancy Kress
Zombies at Work, by Leena Likatelo
Exemplar, by Mercedes Lackey
The Nechronomitor, by Brad R. Torgersen
Today I Am Nobody, by Tina Gower
God Walks Into a Bar, by Larry Niven
Totaled, by Kary English
The Unchanging Nature of Stones, by Andrea Stewart

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shhhh! Good news!

I have good news, although I can't share it yet. In fact I have three pieces of good news, and I'm hoping I'll be able to share two of those within the next few days. But for now, shhhh!

Yes, all are writing related. Three separate things that relate to projects which I've wanted to achieve for some time. As you young folk would say, achievement unlocked.

One of these I've known for several months. And I've wanted to tell people since I was first told. It can be frustrating at times, hanging onto news when you long to share it but editors won't permit it. I do, however, understand why that occurs. And I suppose it's better announced closer to fruition rather than far too early.

As for those stories hanging out there in the void? Let's hope I'll have even more good news to share shortly.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ideas From The Backburner.

I've recently written a few stories for which I had little more than an idea that had been floating around for a while.

Of course an idea alone does not equal a story. It's merely the launching point. But I thought these were pretty good ones, and I dutifully wrote them in my notebook several years ago. At the time I didn't run with them for two reasons. Firstly, because I didn't know what to do with them, how to develop them into something more. Secondly, I didn't feel I had the skill to pull off the descriptions I knew these particular ideas would require.

But a few weeks ago I knew I had to ignore both those self doubts and just start writing them. And I did write them. And I finished them. And I'm really happy with how they turned out.

I usually have a rough idea of where a story is going to go, and tend to work within that loose framework. From time to time they take me in unexpected directions. And this is what happened with both these stories. It was actually rather exciting to see where they went, because in at least one of them I had nothing beyond the original idea and the first paragraph of setting and character.

These are good stories. They will sell. You will see them.

But now they're settling, before I go back in a week or two and give them the second draft they so long for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Waiting Continues.

I don't usually sweat on stories.

Once they're written I send them off and do my best to forget them. At some later point I hear back, either a rejection or acceptance, and I'm either happy and beaming for a day or so, or annoyed for about five minutes. With a few rare exceptions, the days of stewing for days over rejections are long gone.

Mostly I have some idea as to when I expect to hear back from the editor or publisher. The submission guidelines give some clue of how long they expect to take. Other websites such as Duotrope or The Grinder keep data on submissions so a writer can anticipate response times.

But this week I've actually been checking my email a little more often than usual. I have six stories out, and most of them appear to be overdue a response, based on the data I'm seeing online. These are stories I have high hopes for, and I'm keen to receive a couple of acceptances.

But there's danger in reading too much into long response times. No news, after all, is nothing but no news.

In the meantime, I'll be over here refreshing my email.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Heal The World.

Thirty years later, and Geldof has marshalled a bunch of musicians into a studio to re-record 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'

This time to raise money for the ebola cause.

Some new faces, some old faces and some unusual ones.

Angelique Kidjo, Bastille, Bono (of U2), Clean Bandit, Disclosure, Marcus Mumford (of Mumford and Sons), Elbow, Paloma Faith, Fuse ODG, Ellie Goulding, Chris Martin, Olly Murs, Seal, Sinead O'Connor, Rita Ora, Robert Plant, One Direction, Emeli Sande, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Underworld, Jessie Ware, Zoe Sugg, Alfie Deyes, Nick Grimshaw, Joe Sugg.

I've read that the UK government has made it tax exempt so more profits will get to Africa.

Available either on download, or soon on CD (with remixes I believe, including one by Underworld).

Even if this song isn't your thing, consider supporting this cause. (and share this post.)

* Photograph: Band Aid Trust/Brian Aris/Camera Press

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dimension6: Annual Collection 2014.

Keith Stevenson is reprinting my story, The Last of the Butterflies, in the first Dimension6 annual anthology.

From the blurb:
Dimension6 magazine takes you on a journey beyond the borders of the real. This first annual collection features all new stories from some of the best speculative fiction authors working in Australia today including Richard Harland, Dirk Strasser, Jason Nahrung, Alan Baxter, Robert Hood, Cat Sparks, Robert N Stephenson, Steve Cameron and Charlotte Nash.
 It's now available for Kindle pre-order at Amazon.

And for a ridiculously low price you get nine great stories by some great Australian authors.

Run, don't walk. Order now!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Someone Is Reading Me.

You write a story, you send it out into the world. It is published, and then you wait.

Usually there's nothing. Not a mention, not a ripple. Only silence.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you see a review, a comment somewhere online. If you're very lucky, you receive an email or a message on Facebook from a reader.

And that makes for a very happy writer.

I feel very fortunate in that I've had both personal emails and published reviews. They've mostly been very positive, which is always wonderful, and they usually arrive at a time when I need a confidence boost. (Although for most writers I suspect that is 'always')

So I was delighted to see AntipodeanSF say the following about my story, The Last of the Butterflies, which Keith Stevenson at Coeur de Lion published in Dimension6.

Standout stories I've read in the past couple of months or so that have impressed themselves on me for one reason or another.
Short Story: The Last Of The Butterflies
by Steve Cameron

Post apocalyptic religious society study that hinges on undercurrents that threaten the survival of anyone that was bioengineered before the disaster. Bottom line? There's danger lurking in comfort, and the ideas of others. Go flying.
In Dimension 6 Issue 3

Rob Hood's story, The Shark God Covenant, from the same issue was included, as were half a dozen other names I feel more than honoured to be listed alongside.

Thanks, AntipodeanSF and Ion Newcombe. It's great to be mentioned, and to know at least someone is reading and appreciating my work.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Six Out.

It's been a long while since I've had this many out at once.

Yep, I currently have six stories out on submission, with one of those on hold, one of those still under consideration longer than others I know who submitted, and a couple more I have some confidence in.

Add to this another five stories congealing on my desk, waiting for a bit of distance and space before I have another look at them and send them out.

I also have at least three more publications in the next few months, and I'll be relieved when I'm given the green light to mention them. Plus a couple of stories underway.

However, it's been a while since I've received an acceptance email. Even just one would be great. Six would be better.

Editors, are you reading this? You know you want to buy my stories. Come on, do it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Kicking Myself.

So that story I expected to be rejected was rejected. And the misread guideline was mentioned in the rejection.

And so I was really annoyed with myself.

I don't know whether my story would have been accepted had I got that one element right, but I'd like to think it would have. It would certainly have stood more chance than it did. But it's been given a quick once over and sent straight back out. I believe it's a good story and it will find a home.

I realised this week is the four year anniversary of my first publication. Now that was a feeling I'll never forget. It was a good sale, and it's a story of which I'm proud. Looking back, I can see how much I've progressed and how much I've achieved since then. Of course it's not as much as I would like to have achieved, but I plan to continue improving and selling stories.

Ahhh, hindsight. It's a wonderful thing, isn't it?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Guidelines And M&Ms.

Before I submit a story, I research the market. I like to determine the kinds of stories the editor likes, word length, sub-genre and so on. I read through the guidelines and do everything I can to comply. I have, on occasion gotten it wrong, like the time I sent a story as a DOC rather than a RTF file. They still read my story, but made a comment that I should have sent the correct format. I had actually prepared a RTF but simply attached the wrong document when I was writing the email.

But a couple of weeks ago I made a bigger mistake. I read the guidelines several times, as I do, and missed one word, one simple word that would have changed the way I would have written the story. I'm not going to go into details at this point because, surprisingly, the story is still at the market. I've seen evidence that other writers have already had their stories rejected. Of course this could simply mean the editor has yet to read my story or, and I am quite optimistic, it's sitting in a 'hold pile', having been read and passed the first round of reading.

I'll have a better idea when I receive the email that accepts or rejects the story.

But I am frustrated at myself for not having read the guidelines closely enough to have picked up that one, small, game changing word.

Sometimes I read the guidelines and see requests for stories to be submitted in only one particular font, or with particular spacings, or selected words in the heading. I shrug, comply, and then wonder whether the editor is being a bit rock star - you know, all those demands rock stars make? Van Halen are infamous for their contract demand that a bowl of M&Ms be backstage, but with all the brown ones removed.

Many times the request is simply to make the editor's life easier. For example, it saves them reformatting the many stories they receive to suit their particular reader. And I can think of a bunch of other reasons why they request particular formats in the emails, cover letters and manuscript.

Or maybe it's to simply weed out those who haven't actually read the guidelines.

Van Halen's request is not as ego-based as it first appears. Their contracts include a lot of technical and safety requirements, and generally run to something like 150 pages. Hidden in the middle of all this is the M&M clause. And should they arrive at a venue and find a bowl of M&Ms with brown ones included, then they know immediately the contracts haven't been read, which could lead to safety issues.

I know the judges at Writers of the Future, a speculative fiction contest and publication, receive manuscripts of all sorts. Everything from romance, to memoirs and even recipe books. Seriously.

Too many writers, particularly 'newbies', send their story to every single market without researching properly. Perhaps some of those submission guidelines are the editor's brown M&Ms.

The wrong heading might mean they don't even bother reading it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Little Sir Hugh.

In the late 70s a friend played Commoners Crown to me, an album by Steeleye Span. I was familiar with Bob Dylan and the like, but this was my first introduction to folk music in the traditional sense.

I was a teen and I can clearly remember being blown away when I heard Little Sir Hugh, the album's first track. I spent ages examining the record's cover, a carved crown consisting of thousands of people. On the back were the names of the band's members alongside small carved figures. No further information, no internet to rely on. My brain went into overdrive, imagining these medieval musicians misplaced in time.

I soon became a fan. Buying Steeleye Span albums was no easy task in the pre-computer world. Suburban record stores never stocked them. I had to hunt through catalogues and order them by title alone.

Little Sir Hugh is still my favourite track on that album. It tells the story of a young boy who is playing with his friends who kick their ball over a wall. A lady invites him into her garden to retrieve it, but instead tricks him and murders him in quite gruesome detail. The song is told from Hugh's point of view, as his ghost tells his mother of the murderous events. I knew it was a very old traditional song, but I had not realised where and why it had originated.

My wife is from Lincoln, in England, and so we visit there quite regularly. I've walked up Steep Hill and visited the iconic Lincoln Cathedral many times. I  never realised until my visit in August that these were the very places where the events in Little Sir Hugh took place.

The true story is tragic, an unsolved murder which resulted in false accusations against the local Jewish community. A few years later, this incident led to all Jews being expelled from England. There are still a couple of buildings on Steep Hill (Jew House and Norman House) that existed in that time, and were in the area where the murder occurred. I had seen them before, but this time I visited them with renewed eyes.

And then in Lincoln Cathedral I managed to find the shrine to Little Hugh, a shrine where his body is interred. It was last opened more than a century ago and the remains of a boy were indeed found inside. The lady at the information service in the cathedral was helpful, permitting me to read four pages of notes on the history of Hugh. She asked me why I was interested, and I mentioned the folk song - which she'd never heard of.

All these years I've been walking right past the site of one of my favourite songs. Now with the knowledge of its origins and a bit of research, both the song and my wife's hometown took on a new life.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Letting Go.

I keep a list of story ideas. Sometimes there's a whole paragraph, other times there are only a few words. I have a list of titles I think may fit somewhere along the line, a few quotes I've seen that may come in useful. Even stories I've commenced that have nowhere to go yet.

In the past few weeks I've been trawling back through this list, grabbing some of the ideas and writing the stories. It's a wonderful feeling when I finish a piece that had its genesis some time ago and has since been kicking around in the back of my brain.

When I sit to write I have some idea where I'm heading, but I don't usually end up exactly where I thought I was going, or I take unexpected detours along the way to where I was going. And the end result is always better than my original thoughts.

I learned some time ago to let the story go where it wants, to let it have its head.

And it works. Whether it's your own subconscious taking over, because it has a better sense of what's needed than you do, or whether its just an element of randomnity, I don't know. And it doesn't really matter.

Learn to let go. It's something I've started doing, and thus far I've been thrilled with the results.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On The Move Again.

You know that plateau I mentioned a couple of weeks ago? The one where I thought I was stuck and my writing wasn't improving?

I think I've started moving again.

No, I have no new sales to report, although I'm hopeful I'll be able to announce some soon - once those editors read my masterpieces stuck in their slushpiles. But I'm writing with a renewed confidence and self-awareness.

The penny finally dropped. A couple of things I learned a long time ago have finally fallen into place. I knew these writing guidelines/techniques in my head, and I even thought I was applying them to my writing. But this week I realised I wasn't, not to the extent I should have been.

And BAM! It all made sense.

I'm really enjoying the process of writing at the moment, and I really like the resulting stories. And I look forward to having them published.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's Full Of Stars

Last week I read where a writer was upset they'd only received a 3 star rating for a novel on Goodreads.

I love Goodreads. It's a fun site, and I use it as a guide when I'm researching books to read. But I also consider it to be wildly inaccurate at the same time.

Let's say a local author with a pretty good debut gets 5 stars. That's as high as the rating system goes. Really? It's so good that it can be compared with the greatest literature of our time?

Okay, so we liked the book, enjoyed it enough to consider buying the next offering. But 5 stars is too high, so we drop it down to 4.

Fair enough. Let's jump over to IMDB and check out some of our favourite TV shows. Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, West Wing - all sitting between 7.5 and 8.5. Hmm, so they're averaging (quick maths conversion) 4 stars.

Is our friend's debut as good as those?  To be honest, no. Those shows are amazing. Alright, so we have to drop it to 3 stars, if we're going to be fair. But now that's not looking so good. It's average. We don't love 3 stars, we think it's an OK rating reflecting an OK read.

We all get a bit hung up on ratings these days. And with good reason. With the increasing onus on authors to promote their own work, reviews and ratings seem to be one way to try and stand out above the crowd. These days, unfortunately it seems everything on Goodreads is above average.

I've seen poorly edited, poorly written self-published novels receive 5 stars. I've seen brilliant classics receive 1 star. I know we all have different tastes, but you have to question how much we can trust these reviews and ratings.

I've been fortunate enough to receive some 5 star ratings for my stories. (And no, it wasn't from my Mum - they were from strangers and even professional reviewers.) They made me very happy indeed, but I don't think I would compare my writing, which I consider to be still developing, to some of the all time greats.

Not yet anyway.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

He's So Low.

As a teenager I started to read Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I can remember thinking it was pretty weird, and I think I only got a few pages in.

I still have that book - I never got rid of it, but for some reason I never went back to it. Until now.

One thing that surprises me is how naive some of it is. For example, the idea that the first expeditions to Mars will be undertaken by undisciplined oafs who brawl at the drop of a hat, get drunk and throw their beer bottles in canals. They sound more like a pirate crew than our brightest and best.

Once the colonising ships arrive on Mars, they pretty much land anywhere and wander off claiming land. Even when these stories were written I find it hard to believe Bradbury thought colonisation wouldn't be controlled by authorities.

Then as soon as nuclear war erupts on Earth, everyone (and it literally is everyone apart from 2 or 3 people) board ships to desert Mars. I suspect if the story were real, it would be quite the opposite.

Many of the stories don't really fit with the others, there are inconsistencies with the world building, inconsistencies in Martian behaviours and history. Some of these stories were obviously placed on Mars simply to squeeze them into The Chronicles.

Not to say I didn't enjoy them, I absolutely loved them. Which says a lot about some of the ideas in there, but once again I am reminded that Science Fiction is not about the future, it's about us.

Oh, and the title? It's a reference to a Kenny Everett joke. "He's so low he could kick a Martian in the chronicles..."

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pah, Proofreading Is Over-Rated Anyway.

About two weeks ago I was facing a writing deadline with twenty four hours to go and a story that wasn't working.

The story is fine, it just wasn't going where it needed to go. It needs time to sit and congeal, before being reshaped and lashed into place. It will happen, but it wasn't going to happen in time for this deadline.

The deadline was firm. Online submission system means they shut you out at midnight, and they don't take late subs. After deciding to abandon my work-in-progress, I was left with two alternatives. I could either not worry about submitting to them, or start something new.

I didn't want to miss this market, and I felt it wouldn't be good for my own self- discipline as a writer if I let it slip past, so I decided to start a new story.

I banged out words, banged out some more the next morning, and finished the first draft only twenty minutes before the deadline. I quickly printed a copy, started proofreading and making minor changes on the screen. Unfortunately I only managed a couple of pages and then realised there were five minutes left.

It's a good thing I write quite clean copy. I had no choice. I sent it and received the automated receipt with a couple of minutes to spare.

Then thought of the one short paragraph I should have included.


I tried not to let that bother me too much. I tried to forget the story - no point crying over spilled milk and all that. In fact, I haven't even gone back to look at it since.

Until now.

I picked it up a couple of minutes ago and read the ending. It's pretty decent, and I'm pleased with it. I'll have a great story to tell if I receive an acceptance for a first draft. It's a good story, though, and I have no doubt it will sell. It won't need much in the way of revision.

And who know, it might just go as it is. It's fresh, hasn't been polished yet and sometimes that works. Plus, miracles do happen.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giving Up Or Pushing On?

I've recently been having a bit of a writing crisis.

The sales I've made have been good ones. The editorial feedback I've received on my stories has been great. The comments from readers has been excellent. Yet I continue to feel as though I'm not advancing.

Is it just my imagination or am I on a plateau? Others seem to be scooting past me, better and more frequent sales, receiving more publicity, being invited into anthologies, having their work read and reviewed - even if they've only had one or two minor sales.

Jealousy? Yes, probably there's an element of that in there. Those are all the things I want - and more.

I recognise that there are some really talented writers out there who will advance quicker than me. I recognise that there are writers out there who network better than I do, who are more approachable and are more frequently seen. I also recognise that circumstance (luck?) can play a small part in all of this.

I read a post this week from Brad R. Torgersen. I knew Brad (online) way back before his first ever sale, and I've been thrilled to watch his career bloom. I've learned a lot from Brad. I don't always agree with everything he says, but I consider him an inspiration in many ways. While I disagree with some aspects of this post, it once more made me question whether I should continue writing.

I saw a bunch of comments on a forum about writing and rejections. A whole lot of writers consoling each other with "Don't feel bad. It's not your writing, it just doesn't fit the market." Which may or may not be true, but mostly isn't. And since I've been receiving more rejections than acceptances, (and only form rejections from one market in particular) I've been reflecting on what it means for me?

The upshot of all this? I've come through this crisis more determined than ever. I'm writing more than I have in a long time.

But we're an insecure bunch, us writers. As Hari Seldon would have said, "See you next year at the next crisis."

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Last Of The Butterflies.

Issue 3 of Dimension6, including my story, 'The Last of the Butterflies, is now available for download.

For those who aren't aware of this great new magazine, Keith Stevenson, award-winning publisher at Coeur de Lion, commenced this project last year.  Dimension6 is DRM free, distributed free on the internet three times a year, and has garnered very positive reviews so far.

Keith, of course, previously published my story So Sad, the Lighthouse Keeper in Anywhere But Earth, a fantastic anthology which deserves greater recognition.

Issue 3 features:

Shark-God Covenant by Robert Hood
You never make a deal with the Devil. But what about the child of a god?

The Last of The Butterflies by Steve Cameron
Let me tell you a story about when I was young and the world was a very different place.

New Chronicles of Andras Thorn by Cat Sparks
Just like his uncle, Andras Thorn wanted adventure and excitement. Unfortunately he found it.

Are you still here? Are you still reading this? Go and download Dimension6 now!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Through A Crystal Ball, Darkly.

I'm thrilled Alban Lake has just published my story, Through A Crystal Ball, Darkly, in Outposts of Beyond #6.

This is now the fifth time I've been published by Alban Lake.  My work can be found in both Outposts of Beyond and Disturbed Digest. Thanks, Alban.

"What a great way to close out this year’s issues, with the long-awaited “The Felling of Wystwood” by Beth Hudson; Wayne Carey’s “Pooka;” and Sandra Unerman’s allegorical “The Lion Keeper’s Daughter”; plus another fine piece by Australia’s Steve Cameron, reviews of “Sand and Blood” and “The Breathless Stars,” and as always, much more. It’s time to order your copy, or better yet, a subscription. Head on over to our bookstore and look under O, please."

Saturday, September 27, 2014


I think it was 1995 when I first got internet access. I was living in Japan at the time, and it opened up the world for me. I was suddenly able to research stuff, something I've always loved doing.

Take XTC, for example. During my time in Tokyo I fell in love with this band and their albums. I'd heard a track or two in 1982, but nothing since. A friend recommended them to me, and I was hooked. Of course I knew nothing about them, where they were from, their history. And so I signed up for The Little Express, a fanzine out of Canada.   It arrived a couple of times a year, I devoured it from cover to cover, and then read them over and over.

It was through these pages I was first contacted by Danny, my penpal and friend.

Once I got the internet, I found Chalkhills, the online equivalent. Their mailing list kept me up to date on news, information and releases. At its height I would receive updates a couple of times a day. (Particularly during the late 90s French Trombone scandal - yes, I was there for that.)

In 2009, when I first met Paul Haines, we realised we were both XTC fans. We also discovered we'd been reading each others posts on the Chalkhills mailing list for 15 years. This was one of the shared reference points which resulted in us becoming friends, and Paul becoming my mentor.

In the past few years the frequency of updates had fallen to only a couple a year. This was partly due to the sheer amount of information available on the web, but mostly due to the band (and its members) having pretty much gone into musical retirement.

Which is a shame - both the mailing list, but also the cessation of releases.

And so, last month, Chalkhills buried the mailing list. The website, which is a fantastic archive of all things XTC, is still active.

Thanks to the Chalkhills community which kept me entertained and informed all those years. But mostly thanks to John Relph for running the whole show.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two Deadlines.

I'm currently working on two stories, both of which I need to finish by the middle of next week.

One of them is fine - it's sailing along nicely. I'm expanding it, because it needs to be a little longer than it currently is. It's been critted by some of the scariest minds I know and their comments have been taken into account.

The other story, on the other hand, is causing me headaches. I know roughly where I want it to go. I've decided to just write it and see what happens. Let the details take care of themselves. Unfortunately I'm only 1500 words in, and I'm kind of stuck. I know what I have to write, I know the scene I want to write, but it's just not writing.

Lunch, some coffee, and back into it.

With deadlines, these things have a way of working themselves out.

See you on the other side.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


This week I've mostly been playing old albums, albums from the early 70s - a time when I was first getting into music. As a kid I was in a youth group, and so had a bunch of friends who were a few years older then me. These friends introduced me to their music, which often meant I was the only kid in class who listened to these bands. Of course I listened to what was popular as well, but mostly it's those older ones that have stuck with me.

I've played some Deep Purple, some Mountain, some Ten Years After and some Free this week. Musicians playing real instruments, who could play the crap out of them. Drums with tone and timbre, keyboards that sounded analog, not digital. Guitar solos which make you want to weep cos you can feel the pain. Singers with range, melody and voices.

I watched Jeff Lynne's ELO concert, which was Jeff and Richard Tandy, and a bunch of hired hands. His first show in 28 years. I cranked it, loved the opening tracks - but about halfway through I was getting bored. Why? Because the versions had no drive, no oomph, no punch. Those hired hands sounded exactly like hired hands. Technically perfect, but they weren't invested in the music. I later threw on an ELO disc, and the difference was night and day. It rocked.

Yeah, I know I'm getting older. And I know that music speaks to me because I was there. I recognise all that - but it's my music and I love it. There are some modern bands who manage it, who speak to my soul. But I still love my past.

I've also become a little obsessed with the image of a jigsaw puzzle I once owned. I used to do them quite often, when I was younger, and there was one I had which I wish I still had. My memory may be imperfect, but I remember it like this. It's a photograph along a cobbled street in Europe, with an outdoor cafe. Set in the late 60s, I think. I think there was probably a harbour on the right, with boats and yachts. Everyone is simply enjoying the sun, eating, drinking. I remember a few people wearing RayBan style sunglasses. No one pays any attention to the camera - except one kid who is gazing directly at the lens, and therefore, at me.

I've tried hunting for this photo online. I'd love to see it again. And there'd be a tip of the hat to anyone who could point me in the right direction.

What does all of this mean? Nothing, except I've had a week of nostalgia, and it's been great.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scottish Independence.

I haven't previously posted or commented on Scottish Independence. Mostly because I didn't feel it impacted on me enough to entitle me to a say.

But I've come to realise it will affect me and my family.

I was born in Scotland but we emigrated when I was a year old. I still have citizenship and possess a European/UK passport. My parents receive a British pension.

How would I vote if I could?

I don't really know. I'm not up on all the information. I haven't thought about it in those terms. I think I agree with my father, though. "My heart says 'yes', my head says 'no'."

Scots, think wisely on this. It's a big decision and affects a lot of people.

Good luck.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Swings, Hits And Misses.

I was fortunate enough to attend Worldcon this year. I've decided I don't write con reports as well as others, so apart from saying London was great, I met some fantastic people and had a fun time, you won't get a report out of me.

I returned a couple of weeks ago, and have since been catching up on my teaching,  marking student work and writing reports for the end of term. Despite this it has been quite a busy time on the writing front.

I went through the edits on The Last of the Butterflies, the story Coeur de Lion will publish in two weeks time. (Dimension6 #3) I wrote the article that will accompany it, rewrote it, then wrote it again until I was happy with it.  I subbed two stories, received a rejection, and made a sale.

The rejection was unexpected (and undeserved - ha), while the sale was even more unexpected. More news on that when I'm permitted. It is such a very good sale, too.

But I finish teaching for the term in a couple of days, and then I have two weeks off. And I have plans. Writing plans. Lots of writing plans.

I can't wait.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Revisiting The Past.

I recently decided I wanted to revisit some of the series of novels I loved when I was younger. I looked at my Julian May (The Saga of the Exiles) series, my E.E. 'Doc' Smith (Lensmen) series, Stephen Donaldson (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) series, my Stephen Lawhead (Pendragon Cycle) series, my Christopher Stasheff (Warlock) series, my Isaac Asimov (Foundation) series, and more. I also realised it has been years since I'd even touched a fantasy novel. Far too long.

Fantasy books are renown for being ridiculously thick. And I must admit that's one of the things that has deterred me from reading the fantasy series by George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan. I want to read the newer Thomas Covenant books, but first I have to go back and re-read the original six. I also want to read the newer Hitchhiker's Guide book, but first I need to go back and read the first five. In the end, I opted for alternating between Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams, and The Belgariad series, by David Eddings.

Firstly, neither series of books are too thick. All eleven books are about the size of two novels by George R.R. Martin. Secondly, I have fond memories of reading them, although my memory of the Belgariad is limited to the first few chapters. And thirdly, I love the covers on the Belgariad series I have.

I'm tearing through them quite rapidly. The Belgariad is nowhere near as heavy as I recall - it's a gentle, easy read. Yes, the world-building is a lot more flimsy than Middle-Earth, but that's fine. I'm really enjoying them.

I suspect Thomas Covenant may be next. But you never know. One day I may actually tackle one of Martin's chihuahua killers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WSFA Shortlisting.

Congratulations to some friends on their nominations for the WSFA Small Press Award.

David McDonald is a crit buddy and a friend. I'm thrilled his story, Set Your Face Towards the Darkness, published in Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land (Satalyte Press), has been shortlisted. Congratulations David, and to Stephen Ormsby, the publisher, who struck twice from the same anthology. Sean McMullen is also on the list.

Tehani Wessely, publisher of FableCroft scored a shortlisting with a story by DK Mok, from the anthology One Small Step. Congratulations, Tehani and DK.

Eric J. Guignard won the Bram Stoker Award for editing After Death. Now Jonathan Shipley has been shortlisted with his story from that collection. Congratulations Eric and Jonathan.

And congratulations to all the others on their nominations.

This annual award, administered by the Washington Science Fiction Association, is highly regarded. According to their press release:
The WSFA Small Press Award honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction. The award showcases the best original short fiction published by small presses in the previous year (2013). An unusual feature of the selection process is that all voting is done with the identity of the author (and publisher) hidden so that the final choice is based solely on the quality of the story. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Be A God.

"If you want to succeed at writing, you make it happen."

We're sitting in a restaurant on the banks of the Bosphorus. We're in Turkey, in Europe. Across the river, less than a kilometre away is still Turkey, but it's in Asia. There is a gap in the land opposite, the entrance to the Black Sea. Ships emerge and enter at regular intervals. I sip my beer again, as Erdal continues.

"You're a writer. I'm a writer. We're gods. You're writing, and you need a town." He mimics typing. "You create one. You need a person. You create one. You don't like someone." More typing. "You kill them."

We pause. I'm thinking. Erdal is drinking his raki.

"You want to be a successful writer? Be a god. Make it happen."

I first met Erdal Güven in Japan twenty years ago when he was the Asian Bureau Chief for The Hurriyet. We soon became good friends. I have fond memories of evenings spent in his company in the streets of Tokyo. Since then he has become a respected author, both fiction and non-fiction, in his homeland.  We lost touch for a few years, but reconnected. And now I'm in Istanbul, we're catching up.

"You want it? You write it. It's all up to you."

My wife nods sagely. I'm still deep in thought.

"But it's not that easy," I counter.

"It is that easy, and that difficult," he says. "After all, it's only words."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Do The Knee Jerk, Baby!

Whenever I relate a story to others, whether it be colleagues, friends or one of my classes, I'm usually asked where I heard/read/saw it. If it's a story that seems unlikely, I'm also questioned as to its authenticity. And if it's with my students, at least one or two will tell me the story simply cannot be true.

And sometimes they're right.

I've told some whoppers in my time. I used to tell Japanese students that I had a pet kangaroo named Fluffy, which I rode to school on a daily basis. I've told students that James Cameron, the film director, is my uncle - but we had a falling out and he won't talk to me anymore. I've told students that I used to be a hitman for the CIA, and my life is still in danger.

Although some seem to fall for some of these tales (OK, none have fallen for the CIA one), most either question me or laugh at me. Ahhh, kids. I do, however, continue to teach them to question things, to read between the lines and not believe everything they read.

Things seem a little different in the adult world. One troubling trend that seems to be on the increase is the lack of discernment by people on social media. Adults who believe and share everything they see without questioning. Or are simply outraged by some article- from zero to fury in seconds.

The latest is a story about a school teacher in the U.S. who was suspended from teaching after it was revealed he'd written a couple of SF books under a pseudonym about school massacres 1000 years in the future. Articles and comments appeared about how the authorities were concerned by these dark leanings, by the use of an 'alias', and how he'd been suspended from work, arrested and confined for no actual crime. His sales at amazon skyrocketed as a sign of support. Petitions were started, and blogs and posts were written about this injustice. and now it has been revealed they've known about his books for two years, and he was not arrested. He was suspended pending examination my mental health experts after sending a four page letter to the school board, and other odd behaviours.

Knee jerk, baby!

I saw a number of posts last week about Lego creating a female scientist character but limiting production, thereby making it difficult for little girls to obtain this piece. Outrage, calls for boycotts, demands and petitions. Except it seems as though Lego do have a number of female pieces already in existence, and this one character everyone is upset about was always intended to be a limited edition collectors' piece - something Lego create and sell on a regular basis.

Knee jerk, baby!

I've posted a couple of items on facebook recently, one about Breaking Bad returning for a 6th season and another about North Korea informing its citizens of a series of wins in the recent World Cup. Both turned out to be faked - something I wondered about when I shared them. In fact, I mentioned as much when I did post them. I did some research at the time to try and confirm the stories, but could find nothing. The Breaking Bad story appeared to confirm an earlier interview with Bryan Cranston where he hinted the show may not be done yet. It was later proven, however, to be someone's idea of a joke, which was neither funny nor satirical. I pointed this out as soon as I became aware of it. The North Korea story I figured was probably a fake, but it was funny, so 1984, so close to something they might try (remember all those North Korean photoshops?) that I put it up anyway. I got pulled up pretty quick on that one. Again I pointed out I figured it was fake.

And in both these instances I was accused of not doing my homework (which I had actually done). These were minor, mostly funny stories. There was no outrage, I made no threats to boycott, no one's business was going to be harmed. But that cannot be said of some of these other knee jerks.

He said this, she did that, this company did this, he was arrested for doing nothing.

Yes, sometimes, and sometimes not. Sometimes these things do happen. And we should rightly be outraged when they do occur. But check them out first. Don't just click and share.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

So Where Does Luck Come Into It?

In the past week I've been on the fringes of two online discussions regarding self-publishing, gaining audiences and rejection. Both are on different venues with different participants. Both dialogues evolved from quite different starting points. Both conversations have a number of similarities.

I thought I'd look at some of the points I've noticed.

There can be a feeling among newer writers that their work is not selected for publication simply because they're unknown. This is common, and I believe it is often due to an inexperienced writer not seeing the problems with their own work. The automatic reaction, and I confess to having passed through this phase myself, is that the editor obviously missed the whole point of the story. This seems to be accompanied by a feeling of  'what's wrong with the story, and I'll change that.'  The writer seems to look for the simple fix. Did I use too many commas? Should I change the character's name? Did I use the wrong font? If the fix was that simple, the editor would have asked for a simple rewrite. No, it's often more complex than that.

At this point the consolation from other writers often kicks in. "I'm sure your writing is fine. It's simply the wrong market." Even though I concede that this can be true, this approach generally annoys me as too much false praise can be harmful. If a story has received several form rejections, then perhaps you need to consider the possibility that the problem is in the writing.

Shortly after gathering a heap of rejections, some writers decide that since editors are all too stupid to see the value in their work, they will self-publish, unleashing their masterpiece on the world. And so Smashwords and Amazon are filled with stories, novellas and novels for bargain prices. As I've pointed out before, I have concerns about publishing work that a number of editors have elected not to publish. Surely there's a message in that. Oh, and please stop pointing out the two or three self-published successes that continue to be the poster-children. They are exceptions, and extremely rare ones at that. However, I realise self-publishing has its place. The best piece of advice I received from my mentor was not to stampede towards publishing your own work or your first collection.

Accompanying this is the current trend to refer to all self-publishing as 'indie publishing.' Sure, I recognise that there is a certain amount of independence in self-publishing, but I feel it detracts from the true independent publishers, the small presses that strive to build reputations, and differentiate themselves from the major houses.

Then there is the spam I receive on these venues from a number of self-published authors promoting their latest work - often three or four times. The argument raised in their defence is that it's hard to break free from the millions of other self-published stories. Yeah? Well spamming me has simply ensured that I will never buy your work. And if your work has been rejected by a number of editors, what makes you think it will stand out anyway?

Then, of course, comes the old argument about how difficult it is to get your work published. How difficult it is to even get your work seen by an editor. How all those other successes were simply lucky. It may surprise some people, but editors want to find good stories, want to publish stories and novels that sell well and win awards. And agents, they want to have authors on their books that will make them money. "JK Rowling was rejected 17 times. All those editors got it wrong. They don't know what they're doing." Actually 17 rejections isn't that many. Many writers have had far more than that. Those editors obviously couldn't see how the book would fit into their imprint. There was no precedent for the success of that tale. The publisher who did pick it up, Bloomsbury, was a minor player, who only did a small print run. They weren't even sure if they were going to take the second book. It was only because Scholastic picked it up for U.S. schools and kids' word of mouth that caused it to go nuts. Yes, editors can get it wrong sometimes, but they're more often right and good work will be picked up eventually.

"Oh, but it's all luck," I hear. So many of those authors made it because they knew someone, or were in the right place at the right time. I actually take offence to that comment. I know that I have minimal experience and successes, but I've had to work hard to achieve those sales. I studied, learned, wrote, rewrote, submitted and resubmitted for all those sales.

Yes, luck can come into the story. But ultimately its about the quality of the work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Coming To You From Another Dimension.

Keith Stevenson at Coeur de Lion has revealed the TOC for issue 3 of Dimension6. It will be available for download in early October.

For those who don't know this great new magazine, Keith commenced this project last year with the first and second issues already published. DRM free, it is distributed free on the internet three times a year, and has thus far garnered very positive reviews.

I'm thrilled to be included in issue 3 alongside Cat Sparks and Rob Hood. And it's great to be working with (for?) Keith again. Keith, of course, previously published my story So Sad, the Lighthouse Keeper in Anywhere But Earth, a fantastic anthology which deserves greater recognition.

Issue 3 features:
Shark-God Covenant by Robert Hood
You never make a deal with the Devil. But what about the child of a god?

The Last of The Butterflies by Steve Cameron
Let me tell you a story about when I was young and the world was a very different place.

New Chronicles of Andras Thorn by Cat Sparks
Just like his uncle, Andras Thorn wanted adventure and excitement. Unfortunately he found it.
Cool, huh?  Which reminds me - I'd better get those edits back to Keith, those edits I promised him last week.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Future Career?

I have a post graduate qualification in careers development, which qualifies me to give careers advice to students. I spent two years as a counsellor, until my career path took me in a different direction. In this role I had a number of tools that I could use to assist students in thinking about their futures. There was one in particular, an online program, where you were required to answer hundreds of questions with those 'strongly agree' through to 'strongly disagree' radio buttons.

One day I needed to run through the program to get to last part where the user receives suggested careers and options to consider. I did so, rapidly, without looking at any of the questions. Some I answered randomly, others I made patterns on the screen.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the final screen to be informed that my 'most suited' careers were:

1. Writer
2. Teacher
3. Astronomer

I teach in a secondary college, I write and astronomy is one of my hobbies.

Last year I had my fortune told, and I was told that I would have some success in an endeavour and come into some money.

Sounds good, huh?  If I combine these results, watch out publishing world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Overheard At Breakfast.

Several months ago. A couple at breakfast in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

He's having waffles with cream and maple syrup for breakfast.

"Honey," she says, and reaches over to take his hand. "I'm scared that one day I'll find you dead from heart disease."

He glances at her fruit and yoghurt.

"I'm scared that one day I'll find you've taken up jogging."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Mystery Of Writing.

Nothing we do is as mysterious as we like to pretend.

I'm paraphrasing, because I can't remember the exact words. But it's close enough to something Amy Espeseth said at a writers' workshop I recently attended. It struck a chord with me because it's something I'd recently been thinking about anyway.

There are a number of writers who seem to play up the apparent spirituality of writing, speaking of muses who won't leave them be, words that seem to have been received from some ethereal place beyond our physical universe. Writers as alchemists, turning the 26 letters on a keyboard into something much more. And I suppose non-writers may see writing that way. "Where do you get your ideas?" is an extremely common question.

Of course I get ideas and inspiration, and I make notes as soon as I can. And if they won't leave my mind, then I push them forward in the queue and start work on them.

Dean Wesley Smith offers a different approach. They're just ideas, just words, and he has hundreds of them. No pataphysical explanations, just a mind at work. I guess this is how I see it as well. When I don't have enough ideas for a particuler story, I make them. I create them. Over the past few years I've learned some exercises that help me do this.

But there are those times when I'm writing, when I'm in the 'zone' and the words just seem to pour out, and I wonder. Maybe, just maybe there is a muse watching out for me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Vale: Robin Williams.

I woke to learn Robin Williams was gone.

I was a huge fan of Happy Days when I was a kid. We all were. I can recall the episode with Robin Williams. He made an appearance as Mork, the first time I'd even heard of him, which later was the basis of the TV show, Mork & Mindy.

That was a great show, at the time. I tried to watch some last year, and it was enjoyable enough in a nostalgic way. But that era hasn't aged very well and neither has the show. It was widely reported at the time that Williams ad-libbed much of the script, and I seem to recall hearing that the scripts often had 'Robin say something funny here' in place for many of Mork's lines.

In the mid 80s I watched Robin Williams Live At The Met, a film of his stand up routine. It truly was funny. I remember being in tears with laughter. And this one has aged well. Later I saw Good Morning Vietnam which I had to watch several time because I missed so many of his lines the first time, both from the speed they were delivered and from my own laughter. And then there was more comedy, but some great dramatic roles too. The Fisher King, Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting are a few that leap to mind.

I didn't love everything he did, particularly later in his career, but if I saw a teaser that he was being interviewed on a TV program I made an effort to watch, simply because you never knew where he was going to take it.

My wife literally bumped into him many years ago in San Francisco. Another family member once had dinner with him. They say he was as charming as the twinkle in his eye suggested.

He will be missed.