My short story “800” is now out in the March 2014 issure of Black Denim Lit. This is free to read online. It’s a 3000 word sci-fi/literary tale about ageing and generation gaps. Nothing too serious. Here’s how it starts:
Today my daughter is turning 769. July 16th. It might not seem like a milestone–no easily divisible figure like 750 or 777–but it is.
For me, at least.
Mary was born when I was a couple of months shy of my 31st birthday. This coming September I will turn 800.
Thrilled today to have my short story “Quisic Smith and the Russian Puzzle Doll” published in Perihelion’s January issue. This story’s a bit more light-hearted than a lot of my writing. It’s free to read online. Here’s how it starts out:
QUISIC MARCHED FOR THE back of the store. The credit bot followed at a safe distance, hovering above and behind, throwing out looping light tendrils as it checked the merchandise. One of the fluorescent tubes above the aisle flickered.
He had to find the doll set, and quickly. Trawler Cooper needed it today, and Quisic needed the payday. He was going to need more too, with the way the lawyers were fleecing him.
“Try Lavendish Mango for men,” one of the bracket displays advised him. It gave an aerosol burst of a woody-fruity scent. “Impress the girls.”
My story “Stone 382” has just been published in the August issue of Perihelion Science Fiction – you can read it online for free (though you can donate at the site: they’ve already paid me for the story). This story was an honorable mention in Writers of the Future Q1, so it’s cool to see it published.
Here’s the opening:
“We’ve got a vessel incoming,” Jimmy said.
Keith saw him reach towards his console glass and tap it. Keith wished the kid wouldn’t do that. It was a nervous habit that was just irritating. Mostly Keith liked Jimmy, but sometimes his little habits annoyed him more than they should. Twenty-three years old, fresh out of training, and cocky. Too long cooped up in the tiny stations.
Close to the end of the year, close to completing some goals, distant from others.
My word-count goal went well: from 300,000 for the year (completed in August), upped then to 450,000 for the year (completed in November) and upped again to 500,000, and right now sitting at 497,065. Catastrophes aside, it looks like a slam dunk on that one. Yay.
Publishing 300,000 words didn’t go so great. It went pretty good – right now it’s around 203,000. Mostly self-published under my Triple V Publishing banner through Smashwords, Kindle, and CreateSpace/Amazon. It was gratifying to have several acceptances by publishers in there – about 26,000 words of that total were published in online and print magaziens such as MicroHorror, The Colored Lens and Takahe.
What about the other 97,000 words? Well, I sure wrote them. Part of it was procrastination: sitting on a 60,000 word New Zealand Literary novel instead of sending it out to some publishers (and then self-publishing it if it came back as noes). I’ll remedy that in the new year, with my new goals. Part of it was a pig-headed determination to keep things on the market – that is, numerous stories, novelettes and novellas that get rejected and go out again, rather than self-pubbing. I’ll fix that too: with some of the pieces that have been to the seven or eight main markets: the next time they come back I’ll pull them out of circulation and publish them through Triple V.
I felt like I spent much of the year feeling out in the wilderness: I’ve had more than a hundred rejection slips since January. Mostly form rejections, but there have been a few personal notes which has been cheering. The acceptances have helped out too – early in the year my sci-fi novella The Wreck of the Emerald Sky appeared in The Colored Lens. I had a few flash-fiction acceptances through the year, which was nice, but most of the longer works seemed to keep cycling. Then, a late rally. An acceptance for Takahe (a New Zealand literary mag), a third-placing in a regional short story contest, and an acceptance for Aurealis – one of Australia’s leading science fiction magazines. Coming just a couple of weeks before the end of the year, that acceptance has buoyed me no end: I am on the right track, and persistence pays (real money in this case, too).
Next year, I’m aiming at 500,000 words from the git-go. And aiming at publishing 600,000 (whether self- or traditional) – and have a plan in place to make the possible.
Lately I’ve been following the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith – if you’re a writer, you should be following them too: filled with wisdom and great ideas and, wonderfully, they do not suffer fools gladly. They are husband and wife, and run WMG publishing, and used to run Pulphouse publishing. They blog about the publishing industry, and sometimes seem to contradict each other (Smith says he can’t see a reason to hire a professional editor, Rusch says go ahead and get one), which is fine, I’m gleaning gold from both. My novel is getting professionally edited, but I’ll stick some stories up from having a single reader and a proofread.
Smith is doing a challenge this year to write and publish 100 stories. He writes them, proofs them and publishes them. I’ve bought and read the one of them (so far) – “On top of the dead” – and it was pretty good. Not perfect, not gemstone polished, but it was a story and, seriously, I enjoyed it and was engaged from start to finish. Isn’t that what counts? The study guide I teach from states that the fiction’s only rule is that it must compel the reader.
When I was interviewed by Shells Walter earlier this year, I was asked about my advice to beginning writers. I said that your first draft is not good enough, probably not your second draft either. Now I think I’m inclined to agree with Smith, though with a caveat – Smith is no beginner. He’s published around 90 novels, over a hundred short stories, teaches and has run publishing businesses and worked as an editor. I guess he knows his way around stories. Something he’s noted is that students don’t necessarily improve their stories on the second and third drafts, and often make them worse (I’m paraphrasing here, but I don’t think I’ve misunderstood – though don’t quote me as having quoted him). On occasion I’ve noticed that with my students, though that said, sometimes the final story for the year is a much improved version of the original.
So, should I edit this blog post, or just let it out with a simple proofread? What, you saw a typo?
From time to time my stories can be dreadful. I don’t need a reader to tell me that. I put them aside, come back and really they’re not working. I rewrite from scratch. Now, that usually works and I get something I’m happy with – Where there’s water took a couple of runs at before it was working. A current story – Sleeve Tattoo – is at a second draft stage and I know there will be wholesale deletions, some extra bits to write and so on to make it work. Other times I do write quickly and the first draft needs tightening, proofing and seems ready to go. Back from Vermont was like that. So was Deadstick. Both got published out in the real world. One of the keys is to know when it’s just not working, and I’m still learning that.
I’m not that much younger than Smith and Rusch, but certainly by comparison I’m a fledgling writer (though my first publication was more than 20 years ago, and I have published over 100 stories, I’m still earning a living from tutoring and librarianship). I’m learning lessons and growing as a writer. With my new publishing venture – Triple V Publishing – I’ll start electronically republishing some stories that have only been in print anthologies, and then, taking a lesson from Smith, perhaps start writing and publishing stories right away.
Deadstick – the first Triple V story, will be out soon. It was one that was written fast – over a couple of weeks – and came out pretty much how I wanted it, with a few changes (though in it was originally conceived as a fairy story, it became dieselpunk – more on that closer to release).
I’ve published a lot of stories this year, as you can see from my bibliography. They’re all, for one reason or another, personal favourites, though some I might have thought a little less of have proven more engaging for some readers. I’ve tried a variety of styles and genres this year, from hard sci-fi to humourous horror and been published both in print and online.
Anyway, this selection is my favourite five online stories from the year:
Overall, it’s been a good year, a banner year in fact – I’ve published more this year than all previous years combined – exceeding my own ridiculous goal (lesson: aim high). I still have so much more to work on and a set of new goals that will push me and challenge me – I will publish far fewer pieces, but look for longer stories, and different approaches.
My quirky sci-fi flash “The Path to Centauri” is in the October issue of KC Ball’s quarterly flash fiction magazine. 10Flash publish ten flash fiction pieces in each issue, all around a common theme. October’s theme is “stop me if you’ve heard this one” – as it implies, the issue is filled with some pretty humourous stories.
I seem to have a lot of publication announcements at the moment – one of those convergence things. I have a couple more to announce next week too, but then I should be back to my usual self of ranting about politicians and global warming.
Antipodean Science Fiction is an online Australian speculative magazine which publishes flash fiction up to 500 words. They’ve published a couple of my stories over recent years – ‘Puncture Wound’ and ‘How Things Fall’ (both archived at The National Library of Australia’s Pandora Web Archive) – and this new piece is kind of interrelated to both of those, using the character (such as a character can be in a 500 word piece) Bayliss. She also appears in my story ‘Xuento’ in the Lame Goat Press book Kings of the Realm – A Dragon Anthology (yes, that’s a hard sci-fi story in a book about dragons).
The story, Redcord MacroNano Engine in Error State in the September issue is a hard-sci adventure. It’s fun taking these characters out for a spin in the depths of vacuum and I think I’ll keep on writing about them.
Discovered a very cool blog called QuasarDragon with lots of links to free fantasy, science fiction, horror and so on stuff – mostly online fiction. It’s a good way to keep up with goings on in the world of genre fiction on the web. Full Disclosure – some of my stories have been linked to from the site.
More flash-fiction out for enthusiastic readers – a new Sean Monaghan story Long Jump has just been published on PowderBurnFlash. This one’s about 700 words, so the length is creeping up a bit. Thanks to MysteryDawg – there are some cool stories on the site.