29th July

or: Leaving this month’s post to the last minute, and other procrastinations.

A strange month in all. Let’s start with a highlight.

I got a new First Reader gig. With Fantasy & Science Fiction. Charles Finlay put a call out for applicants, I applied, my application was accepted. The team got to work just as the submission hiatus ended and have worked through nearly a thousand of the over eleven hundred submissions received. I’ve read some awesome stories. I look forward to some appearing in future issues.

One of the things I have noticed is more than a few stories where sirens of some sort are a key feature of the tale. I blame Rhonda Parrish. Her Magical Menageries collection Sirens is now out, and that means there are a few related tales that weren’t included still available. I myself wrote two stories for the anthology. One never got as far as submission, the other never made the cut. I hope to do better with the Equus call – though I need to get my finger out and finish writing the story.

Which means I need to be busy writing because over the next four months I am challenging myself to write a 40k word novella. To be fair, I have about 15k of early draft work done, but it will still be my biggest challenge. This is a story that has been with me for some time. Elevator pitch? The crew of a small salvage ship scraping a living on the fringes of the solar system find a derelict space yacht. It’s been drifting for two hundred years. What they  discover aboard sends them on a journey back to all the things left behind, and will change Earth/Mars relationship forever. How does that sound? I’ve never done one. The reason I’m undertaking this is to submit it to the Ab Terra call being edited by Yen Ooi.

In other, non-writing related news, I was at the hospital on Wednesday. I received official diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue. This wasn’t a surprise, but rather the culmination of a couple of years deterioration in my health. I had hoped my most recent malaise was a recurrence of glandular fever I suffered three or four years ago, but the blood work all came back as negative. The frustrating thing is on Wednesday I really needed to be sat at home with my foot up, as I couldn’t I have now strained ligaments. The constant pain is sapping. Imagine bad toothache, in your foot, for three days. Of course, as the family carer I’ve had to do more than I should, thought today and tomorrow should be days I can rest. If I’m sensible I’ll do some writing, or editing. It’s all highly annoying as I’ve just purchased a bike (2nd hand) to try and rebuild some strength, and have been swimming at the local beach (Cawsand).

Next month I hope to move back to weekly updates to help keep track of my novella progress.


16th March

I received an acceptance, and a contract. My first pro sale. That’s significant. It’s only a three hundred word story, so not likely to make my fame or fortune. But it’s the next step up the ladder.

Currently I have 11 pieces out for submission. The last four or five I think are heading towards the territory I need them to be, but we’ll see what the editors have to say.

As part of the continual effort to move forward I’m doing a tuition with Richard Thomas. This was a backers reward for the new magazine Gamut which he is launching with a stellar cast. I suspect I chose the wrong tory for us to workshop, but it already I have added a new process to my writing structure, and look forward to incorporating it in my next project (which as of yet is not decided on).

Let’s see what happens next.

26th February

I’ve not written a blog post because I’ve had nothing to say. Better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and confirm it, as the saying goes.

I’ve been writing a story that has a strict 2k word limit. My initial draft was over 3k. The venue the story is for is on my ‘hit-list’. I have a story for it that has been in production for about 14 months, but is still not finished because I’m still seeking the right balance of theme/presentation and don’t want to spoil the core idea with a less than best story. The current story, though, is a beast of a different nature. I jotted down the parameters, did an solo idea-blast session, then a short free-write to coalesce the better ideas.

From there the story flowed out & 3k words later it was time to start cutting. I did a whole bunch myself, then reached out for help. Mark Schultz did a first pass for me and gave some solid help, then kicked me in the butt and said ‘finish the rest’. So I did. But being a delicate flower I asked for more help.

My fellow first reader at Plasma Frequency, Gemma, stepped in.

She spotted the flaw at the heart of the piece.

See, in cutting it down from 3k to 2k I had lost all the subtleties that allowed the MC to be the MC they were. I ended up with an easily guessed twist and on the nose dialogue. Panic time. (Also, this came on the same day I had 2 submission rejections, and one of them pointed out several 101 typos – it was not a good day for my writing confidence).

Option 1, the easy option, was to do nothing. Forget the whole thing and put the story into my burgeoning ‘to be revised file’. Option 2, the cowards/fools option, was to submit it as is. This was never going to happen. Option 3, wallow in self pity and then do the damned edits required.

I went for Option 3. It reads better. The feedback is positive as well (apart from an odd typo).

I’m in no way sure that this submission will get past the first readers, never mind anywhere near publication. But I am massively pleased that I chose Option 3. Too many times I’ve tried Option 2, so many of my pieces are victims of Option 1 (often as a result of being put through Option 1).

Onwards and onwards.

November 30

The last missive from these quarters told of a pending move to Cornwall. Said move has now occurred. What a month.

There’s still loads to do in the house, which will take time to work through (and money) but already the move has been worth it. The house overlooks the lake and I have already got plans for a small table and chair at the end of the bed where I can sit and write with the window wide open so I can hear the gulls, smell the sea (which is at the end of the lake), watch the villagers going to and fro, feel the wind on my bare arms.

As for writing, I haven’t done much. Moving proved a burden to great to bear. That’s fine, writing isn’t my job, caring for the family is. We all got moved safe and sound, so that’s a success in the necessary areas.

But now, time to start carving out time to write. Currently I’m looking at a slot of 9-11pm (which will knock out my sitting by the open window plan). And I want to work on the novel I have started. For December I probably will concentrate on planning the writing structure, deciding on key plot points, fleshing out character sketches, etc.

I also want to plan a couple of stores for anthologies that are opening in January. One of them already has an idea floating around, the other remains a tabula rasa a this point.

There is also a plan to return to a set amount of daily writing for 2016. This year has not been as productive as I wished and I have definitely lost the writing rhythm which I had in 2014. If I can work that 9-11 writing slot I think a plan of one hour writing, one hour editing previous work would be a sensible plan. And I need to learn to edit to death, because for my novel I will be utilizing the services of an editor, and need to not have her wasting time, even if I am paying for it.

Next month I will do a little round up of the year, do a little bit of bragging etc.



31st October

With today we are 5/6ths of the way through 2015.

Which is a fact about nothing and for no purpose. This is something I have been pondering recently. In writing I like digressions, I like nuggets that stand out from the main story and give you something to chew on, a bit like raisins and nuts in a bar of chocolate. For stories I submit I have to work hard to strip them out, try and offer up just the pure chocolate, unadorned.

That makes me sad.

I was sitting last night with some unexpected free time (id est insomnia) and found myself at a loose end. What to write? Should I get going on NaNoWriMo? That felt like cheating – which is weird considering I’m going into it with a quarter written story. What about one of my other projects? Epecuén is still languishing in an incomplete state. I ended up doing a flash piece inspired by a title that popped into my head a few weeks ago – 4 Cocktails That Saved Me From The Watery Apocalypse – I generally despair with titles, they do not come easy. But that one just walked in, dropped its bag down, collapsed to the couch and stuck its feet up on the coffee table. It’s been sitting their demanding attention for over a week and so last night, I attended. Part of which meant tweaking the said title to: 4 Drinks That Got Me Through The Apocalypse

What came out was a maudlin little 752 words about the aftermath of an alien invasion. So, not really an apocalypse, though I suppose the existence of intelligent extra terrestrial life would be a revelation to most.

Yesterday was also a day of high excitement (possibly the cause of the insomnia). We received confirmation about the house we’re moving to in Cornwall. This was expected, but it was still nice to have that conversation with the estate agent to know things are nailed down. Presently we are living in a house of chaos. Boxes, clothes, papers, et.al. are strewn about all over the place as we look at things and try to decide if it’s needed or not. I have a feeling that a lot of stuff that comes with us will end up being thrown out.

Lastly, and my apologies for this being so bitty. two and a half hours of sleep are not conducive to coherence in my experience,I came across a new site that may be of interest to self-publishers. Pronoun. It’s still in development, but if it comes of as it advertises, I will definitely utilize it. But as one new thing appears, another disappears. This week word was received that Quarterreads was coming to an end – though there may be a reprieve if discussions go well. This little site has been great for putting short stories on and, for twenty-five cents, getting to read some of the best writers int he short story market. Ian has done a great job, and I hope that he pulls through whatever difficulties have beset him.

April 20th

Of Apiaries and Shimmery things

It’s been quietly mental the last week or so. A post or two back I mentioned my unsuccessful attempts in regards to the flash fiction blog competitions I enter. Well, I’ve now won one of them twice. Which is pretty awesome. The corollary of winning is that the following week I set the prompt, and judge the entries. This was an interesting experience.

Since I stepped down as a Senior First Reader with Spark: A Creative Anthology I have done only a handful of first reads for the magazine. It was just too difficult. Mentally I struggled to be in a place where I could be objective about the piece in front of me, and at the same time disassociate my own writing from the judging process. In the first week that I judged Finish That Thought there were eight entries. It almost caused a meltdown. Thankfully the stories were good and carried me through, but I had to let Brian know I wouldn’t be doing much reading right now. I hope to get back to it soon. In the mean-time if anyone fancies spending an hour or two a week reading submissions to a great magazine, go here.

I intend to do a post tomorrow, or by the weekend, about a couple of great classes with Cat Rambo because the rest of the post is going to be about my current WIP, and the magazine I’ll send it to first.

I’m writing a story about a world with cat-sized bees, an unusual queen bee, and someone who requires apatoxin (found in bee venom). I intend to submit this story to Shimmer. Shimmer is one of my ‘hit-list’ markets. Any time I have a story idea, it gets run against the hit list, and that may or may not determine how the story develops. This one felt like a shimmer sub from the start. But it scares me. I don’t have a pro pub yet, and Shimmer is a pretty exclusive club. So apart from a story idea, and stalking the editors on twitter, what process is there to go through?

Well, some time ago those editors did a twitter chat and gave some insights into hot buttons. I kept the chat and here it is:

Tobler: Birds, angels, pyramids, awesome women, abandoned places, cities in clouds, drag queens, confidence, demons, weird, buttons

Tobler: Ice cream, possibility, skilled hands, food magic, small cities, sprawling cities, maps in the stars, maps in the waters

Tobler: Dichotomies, imbalances, circles, monkeys, jungles, temples, moons, daughters, journeys, goodbyes, pleasures in the weird.

Tobler: Unusual hobbies, book magic, creativity, pears, bears, lairs, love that cannot be but still is, compasses, lockets, rockets.

Tobler: Islands, mountains, bridges, rivers, Mars, Pluto, Africa, Peru, Antarctica, China, Greece, New Zealand, fields of clover.

Tobler: Stories that are wholly confident in their direction, no matter how strange.

Wodzinski: layers and nuance and shades of gray.

Tobler: Yes. Nothing is only one layer–the best cakes have several and each changes the meaning of what came before. Mmm, cake.

Tobler: Diversity, experimentation, fun, bent, weird, twisted, beauty in unexpected places, honesty in ugly places, ghosts, air, sky.

Now, I haven’t tried to be a hot button whore and hit everyone, but I have tried to salt one or two of them through the story. A notable absence will be badgers. I hope that will not be a fateful blow. I believe Simmer likes the badgers, or uses them as staff, something like that.

Anyway, back to the story. It was stalled. I had the beginning and middle & very end. But there was a chunk missing, and it refused to come together. Then I read a tweet saying that Shimmer needed some stories which didn’t end in death, gloom, and destruction. Well dang, that’s my palette, my œuvré. It was also the nudge I needed to unblock the story. The ending has gone all warm and fuzzy, in a really bizarre way.

It may yet lack shimmer, but it’s given me a story. Now, all I need to do is sim sub it and at least one Shimmer editor (this one) will welcome me like a god. 😀