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Archive for December, 2015

I am pleased to announce that my Victorian ghost story “Tryst,” which originally appeared in the late White Cat in 2011, has been re-sold to new magazine Cosmic Shores and Eldritch Roots and is scheduled for inclusion in their debut issue in January, 2016.

This is one of my favorite stories; it gives me great pleasure to know that it will have a chance to be re-discovered by new fans. When the issue comes out, you’ll find the announcement here…

 

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I’ve talked about rejections in this space, both form and personal, and I’ve talked about acceptances, at least in the sense that when I’ve had one it’s been the subject of a post. But (unless my aging memory betrays me) I haven’t had reason to discuss the other state of matter, between the solid thud of rejection and the airy euphoria of acceptance: the fluid state of rewrite requests.

It sometimes happens that an editor will ask the writer to make certain changes (usually minor) before making a final decision on whether to buy. The editor will typically emphasize that even making the requested change will not result in a sale (but the odds are good that it will, presuming your vision of the alteration matches the editor’s). Unfortunately, the editor’s request is often rather vague, or concerns an issue of theme or overarching plot, so meeting it can be hit-and-miss.

Which means the writer’s response often hinges on (1) how major the change is, (2) how much money and prestige are at stake, and belatedly, (3) whether he agrees with the change. In a perfect world, (3) would be (1), but this isn’t a perfect world and most authors can’t afford to be that principled. (Of course, if you do agree with the changes, there’s no issue and principles are easily satisfied.)

But let’s say (3) is a problem, or at least you’re not really sure at first. Then your first two considerations come into play. If the change is minor, even your authorial objections can be set aside: It’s not a big deal, and besides, authors are not the best judges of their own work. If it’s a major change, then consideration (2) is likely the deciding factor. After all, the pay rate is set, and the potential benefit to your career is reasonably easy to calculate (and usually analogous to the pay rate).

When the market involved is not so prestigious, and the pay not so high, things again get chancy. Number (2) is really the only item on this list that can be easily quantified. Take that out and you’ve got only your own feelings to go on. Things get even more difficult when you’re selling a reprint. How much can you change it, even if you want to? How much work do you put into the revisions for a story that will pay only a fraction of what it’s already paid? (And will take as much time as something original you could sell for a lot more?)

In the end, of course, it’s up to the individual. How far does your belief in your work extend? How much do you trust the editor? And why are you in this business in the first place?

Actually, that last one is something writers ask themselves every day. Especially the days when they get rewrite requests…

#SFWApro

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Well, not Christmas, really, so much as Santa Claus, and most importantly, writers’ significant others.

Why? Because writers are very hard to buy for. It isn’t that their loved ones don’t try. It’s because what they want isn’t on any store shelf. Santa can’t build it in his warehouse. They want sales. They want contracts. They want to publish.

Now maybe your SO can give you that–if he or she is head of a major publishing house or magazine. Not only are there very few of those to go around,* but then you’d never know if you really earned that spot, or if it was just an act of misguided love. Sure, writers want to be published more than anything, but they have to earn it.

See why they’re so hard to shop for? When you’re young and starting out, there are writer-related things you need or want, and those can be purchased (and usually not by you, because you’re a writer, which means you’re probably poor). There are helpful books, and computer programs, and ergonomic chairs (if you’re not poor). But as you progress, helpful items are fewer and further between. Yes, you may need a new computer every few years, but that’s a lot to ask, and it doesn’t help the rest of the time.

So while writers are closeted in their garrets tearing their hair out trying to resolve a plot line, their families are stuck down in the kitchen tearing their hair out trying to resolve the question of what to get you for Christmas. (Hint: If the garret is unheated, go for socks. Or a new furnace.)

Of course, the answer is that, other than publishing contracts with movie options and international rights clauses, writers don’t really want much. They are cursed by that “earning” mantra; if they yearn for material possessions, they also yearn to be able to buy them ourselves with their, yes, earnings. Which doesn’t make your job easier.

But you want to know what writers want for Christmas? Support. They want to know you believe in them, believe in them enough to let them climb up to that unheated garret every night when all you want to do is snuggle under the covers on the sofa and watch Hallmark Christmas movies. They need that, more than they need a sale. It’s true.

They need to know that even if they can’t sell to save their lives, and Santa has given up on finding them the perfect gift, you’re still in their corner, with your unwavering faith and love.

It’s worth more than any story sale. Or even a novel. Now, if you throw in a TV option…no, not even then.

*Even if I could have one, I wouldn’t trade it for what I have now.

#SFWApro

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From now until Christmas Eve, The Invisible City, Once a Knight, and The Choking Rain will be on sale at Amazon and Smashwords for $1.99. If you’re looking for a fun read (or two) to while away those long winter nights, this is the place…

 

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You see, I have this theory. It’s been germinating for a long time, I’d say a couple of hours now, so it must have some validity. My theory is–

–Facebook is saving us from having to read a lot of really bad writers.

As Inigo Montoya said, “Let me ‘splain.” Part of the allure of being a writer is the feeling that you will be leaving something behind when you’re gone. A part of you will outlive you (at least until it goes out of print, and then maybe again if someone publishes a “classic” edition). This is an understandable drive, and not unreasonable by any measurement. (It’s a lot more likely than making any money, at any rate.)

Until relatively recently, the only way to accomplish this was to publish something (or draw, or compose). Now, though, it’s possible to post all of your thoughts, pictures, events, ultrasounds, cardiograms, or restraining orders directly onto your “page,” and allow virtually everyone to know who you are!* You may only let your friends read it, and it may never have a wide circulation, but on the other hand, nothing on the Internet ever goes away. (Please remember that before you email any of those pictures.) Theoretically, then, anything you place on your page will outlive you, possibly for a very long time. No one may look at it, but it will be there.

So that means a lot of would-be writers don’t have to write a book that no one will read (or worse, someone will publish). Yes, self-publishing is still an option, but maintaining a Facebook page is a lot less work. If my theory is true, a lot of people will save a lot of time trying to do something they really aren’t suited for, and will achieve the same goal. It’s a win-win!

Of course, some will continue to strive, and suffer. Some will even not set up a Facebook page! To each his own, I say. But to those who choose the Facebook option, who prefer to share their own lives rather than try to make up someone else’s, I also say this:

Thank you. I don’t need the competition.

*I am not unaware of the irony that writing a blog amounts to much the same thing.

 

#SFWApro

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There certainly has been, and will be, enough written about Star Wars: The Force Awakens to satisfy 99% of those who care to read about such things. That’s why I’m getting my two cents in now. Next week will be too late.

I’ve not read much about it myself because I want to see the movie with as few preconceived notions as possible. Since I won’t be seeing it the very first day (unlike Star Wars–and no, I won’t call it A New Hope), that’s going to be difficult. In fact, I already have a preconceived notion, but I can’t blame it on SWTFA hype, it goes back a long way.

My notion is that if anyone can screw up the franchise worse than George Lucas did with the prequel trilogy, it’s JJ Abrams. I mean, he did more damage to Star Trek than Voyager and Enterprise combined, and he ended Felicity in ghastly fashion, so how can I expect he’s learned his lesson now?

Abrams’ problem is that he wants to tell his story, facts, plot, and continuity be damned. I mean, Star Trek has had some awful movie installments (no. 5 should be burned), but they were just badly written in an MST3K kind of way. Abrams’ movies are insulting; he doesn’t care how bad they are. He doesn’t care that you care how bad they are, because he knows enough people will shell out $12 to make the movie a hit anyway. But that’s not writing. There’s making it up as you go along, and then there’s just making it up as you go along.

I know there are many out there who like JJ Abrams movies. That is your right. I don’t. Look at Star Trek: Into Dumbness–I mean, Darkness. Khan needs to wipe out Starfleet Command, so they decide to hold their emergency anti-terrorist meeting in a glass-enclosed office with no external security. Really? Or the fact that Spock has to fight Khan on a moving train/truck/vehicle, so now they can’t beam Khan up because he’s moving. We’re all moving! All the time! Have you never heard of planetary rotation?

I could go on, but I won’t. It’s not that I don’t love Star Wars, I do. I’ve been a fan longer than you have. I will go see the movie, but I won’t rush out unless the reviews gush so much you’d think they were written by a Disney employee.

And maybe they will. To paraphrase Darth Vader, “Trust your feelings. You want this to be true!”

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So a few days ago I announced the paperback, print on demand, edition of my novel, The Invisible City. I made the obligatory pitch for everyone to buy it, reminding you that Christmas is coming and you need to buy presents anyway, so why not buy my book so I can afford some presents, too?

Well, that’s all fine, and the results have been gratifying, but sales are not the only result of this little operation. Folks, I have published a paperback book. Yes, it’s self-published, and no, it will likely never be on the shelf at your local Barnes & Noble (in fact, there may not be any local Barnes & Nobles soon), but it is a physical book, it has my name on it, and there’s a copy at hand in my office as I write this.

Is that cool or what?

True story: I had the first set delivered to my office, so I could be there when they arrived. That afternoon, I took one home (they’re kind of big, and I didn’t want to carry them all on the bus), and I took the opportunity to read the first chapter to myself. (Writer’s marketing trick: read your own book in a public place. Works like a charm.*) After the first chapter, I put the book down and pulled out my iPod. I put in the earbuds, turned it on, and the very first song that played was–I kid you not–the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.”

Now I have been listening to this song since the 70s, and it never fails to give me chills. It is about a guy who wants to be what I always wanted to be: a paperback writer. (Okay, a hardcover writer, too, but first things first.) And now that I was one, that was the first song I heard. Too freaky. As if I could be any more excited.

I recently bought a car. It was on order and took some time to come in. When it did, people asked me, “Are you excited?” What, about a car? I just published a novel, folks. In paperback. That’s exciting.

I can’t honestly say I’m living the dream, but I don’t have to say I’m just dreaming any more, either. Damned right that’s exciting.

*No it doesn’t.

#SFWApro

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