Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vale: Pete Seeger.

Pete Seeger has passed away. He was 94.

I first heard of Pete when a friend gave me a cassette with an Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger concert on it. I was already an Arlo fan, and pretty soon I fell in love with Pete and his banjo. I also realised I was already familiar with a lot of his songs.

Pete's contribution to music, the union movement, the environmental movement and the civil rights movement cannot be underestimated. His actions in the 50s and 60s, in defying the Unamerican Activities Committee, his subsequent blacklist and jail sentence, and the years he was unable to perform due to this would have destroyed a lesser man.

If I Had A Hammer, Turn Turn Turn, and Where Have All The Flowers Gone? are all Pete's. And don't forget all the stuff he did with The Weavers. Then we must remember all the traditional songs that would have been forgotten had it not been for him.

Keep on sailing up, sailing down, Pete.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ten Times As Big As A Man.

I went to see the musical production of King Kong last week. Now I shoould point out that I'm not a fan of musicals - at least modern musicals. I quite like Jesus Christ Superstar, Rocky Horror, Jungle Book and musicals from the 50s. But modern musicals leave me cold.

Many years ago I sat through The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera in the name of romance, and while it wasn't exactly suffering, I certainly didn't enjoy them. Being a drama major means I've studied theatre quite a bit, and I've even produced high school musicals. As such I was at least able to appreciate these two shows and I could see why others loved them. They just weren't my cups of tea.

King Kong was awful.

The narrative was confused, as was the musical direction. Pointless and forgettable songs were inserted simply to get into the show with little connection to the narrative. Audience members had to guess what had happened, how events had unfolded, why scenes had jumped so much. People around me were scratching their heads, and by the second half even the polite applause after each song had disappeared.

Oh, except for the gorilla. That was unbelieveable. It was fabulous to see, brilliant puppetry and control. Technically, a brilliant show.

But I think the entire experience is best summed up by a voice I heard from nearby during the first half. "Come on. Skip this crap and bring out the monkey."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This Post Will Blow Your Mind And Make You Cry.

Like most people on Facebook, I share the occasional article, meme, funny picture or video. And I am generally informed, entertained or amused by those shared by my friends.

But I'm usually less than impressed if it comes with a hyperbolic tagline.

"This video/photo/story will restore your faith in humanity." Um, no actually. I'm not that cynical about life and my fellow beings. I'm generally more cynical about the truth of the cutesy little article.

"This will blow your mind." Again, no. Never have I had my mind blown by one of these shared links.

"You don't have a heart if this doesn't make you cry." Again, no. Not yet. And generally I question the authenticity of the picture/article etc.

"...but nothing can prepare you for the last picture."  Again, after looking at a series of pictures, I generally have some idea of what's coming.  Hmmm...  Maybe I am cold and just don't have a heart.

Oh, and I'm not impressed by cats. I never click on anything with cats. I hate them.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

You Don't Owe Me Nothing.

I received a form rejection this week. I had been hoping for a sale, or at least a personal rejection. Unfortunately that wasn't to be.

Form rejections, for those that don't know, usually follow a standard wording, something along the lines of:

"Thank you for sending us your story. Unfortunately it does not fit our needs at the moment, and we wish you luck in placing it elsewhere."

Which basically means it's not good enough, or it just didn't grab the editor's interest.

There are sometimes 'better' form rejections, which might include a line about sending more stories to them in the future. And then there are the personal rejections.

A couple of markets try to give personal feedback for every submission, and I've often found that to be valuable. But with thousands and thousands of submissions per year, some markets simply cannot spend the time giving individual responses.  (Bear in mind that some writing is so poor the editor rejects the story in the first sentence.)

I can't find it now, but some time back I saw a post from a writer who'd received a form rejection, and had then emailed the editor asking for further feedback. Now this is generally considered to be bad form, as the editors will already have given feedback had they chosen to. The editor in question firmly but politely responded thus, but the writer went public, bitter and nasty, and declared that she deserved feedback. She compared the submission to a job interview, and felt that she should be told why her story was rejected.

I wonder if she still has that attitude, or if she's still writing and submitting.

Firstly, submitting a story is not like a job interview. Out of hundreds of job applications only a few get an interview. That would be more like those whose stories are placed on hold and either accepted or rejected in the final cull. Even then potential employers don't have to give feedback on your interview.

Anyway, this analogy doesn't work.

When selling a story the editor is less an employer and more a customer. The writer should display their best wares and hope it fits the market's needs. And we should expect no more.

When salesmen visit me at home, I don't feel inclined to explain why I don't wish to purchase their products. And I certainly don't take it well if they choose to hassle or complain.

Any feedback is a bonus. And editors will certainly remember those who act unprofessionally.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Eyes Of Other Days.

Two people observe the same scene, the same event, the same people, the same movements and interactions, hear the same dialogue, breathe the same air.

Get them to each write a description. They won't be the same.

I spent thirteen years in the police force, and you'd be surprised how often witness statements don't match. I had witnesses and offenders even tell me things I knew to be untrue. They weren't lying, it was simply how they perceived, how they remembered the situation. Their reality was different to mine.

For example. I once arrested a young man who had broken into a store at night. He told me he panicked when I pushed my gun in his face. My gun had never left my holster, nor had my partner's. He was telling the truth as he saw it. Was it his fear of being caught that caused him to remember it that way? I have no idea.

So someone has a similar idea to yours. Don't worry. An idea is not the same thing as a story. I give a 'topic' or an idea to a class of 25 students at school, and no two stories will be the same.

I recently read a piece that was based on an event at which I was present. There were only about 8 people there, and one of us wrote a beautiful, lyrical description of it. Not only did I love the writing, but it was nothing even remotely similar to anything I would have produced from that same event.

If I'd even thought to create something from that time.

Try it. Share an idea with another writer, and create two pieces of work. Compare.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

First Steps in 2014.

I have big plans for this year.

March will see my first pro-level publication in Galaxy's Edge 7 (edited by Mike Resnick) and I certainly see it as having one foot placed on the next rung. All I have to do is swing that other leg up and step up.

I desire more pro-sales obviously. First I need to get more stories written and submitted, and sold of course, and that will happen. And then there are a couple of other ideas lurking dangerously beneath the waters, and tentative plans to pull a couple of others in on my schemes. I hope these people will agree to go along for the ride. Where it leads, however, will be another matter.

I have a deadline at the end of this month, and research and writing continues for that piece. A different type of writing for me, but one I'm enjoying quite a bit. This week I should have two complete days available for writing that will see the piece well on its way to completion.

And then onto the next story. Then the next one. And the one after that. Repeat.

This whole writing and publishing thing is getting addictive.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Old Who.

I never really got into Doctor Who as a kid. I can recall watching a few episodes, and possiby being scared by them, but mostly it clashed with something else my family wanted to watch. In the 80s I saw some of Tom Baker, then many of the Peter Davidson episodes, but that was about it.

And so I recently decided to bring my viewing up to date.

I've started watching from the beginning. William Hartnell, 1963, and 50 years of episodes to catch up on.

The sets are a bit wonky, the dialogue is naff at times and the characters undeveloped as yet. I've been told the next story, The Aztecs, is the one where the actors start to find their way.

But there's something there, and I can see why people started to watch it.

I missed it first time around. I was in the UK, but I was about 4 months old. And I suspect my parents weren't fans.

Will it reach 100 years? I doubt I'll be around to see it.

But you never know.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Funeral.

My story, The Funeral, has just been published in Outposts of Beyond.

This is a story I loved writing and I know my first readers were quite moved by it.

A new release is a fantastic way to start the new year and I'm thrilled to be in this magazine. The editor, Tyree Campbell, has once again given me and my story a great introduction.
"Dostoyevsky said you can judge a civilization
by its prisons. Cameron says you can do it by
the way they regard those who die. Dostoyevsky
was trying to poke the Tsar in the eye with a
sharp stick. Cameron suggests you wear a visor
while you read this."
 Alban Lake continues to impress with its fine publications. Thank you, Alban. You can also find it here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Here In The Future.

It's 2014, and we're well into the 21st century - something which still sounds bizarrely futuristic to me. When I was a kid I could barely imagine 1999, never mind where we are firmly sitting now.

I've spent some time this week with someone who is incredibly talented and creative, and this has done nothing but inspire me and increase my hunger to write. I've had a bunch of ideas, made lots of notes and I'm ready to put words on paper.

I missed a submission deadline I'd hoped to meet, but it was always unlikely it was going to be met. Life and stuff.

But there are a couple more coming up shortly for which I will be ready.

Wishing you all the best in this new year.