Tag Archives: short stories

Five years of writing every day.

keys.jpgFor a moment, I thought I’d wait until I hit 2000 consecutive days of writing every day, but I still feel like five years (1826 days) is a good round figure.

So, last December 31st, 2016 I made it through five years of writing every day. I counted the words written each day as I went (heading for annual targets). Some days I wrote a little (156 words for my lowest count), some days a whole lot more (over 8000 on my best day), most days around 1500.

Each year my total wordcount has crept up. From just over a half million in 2012 to well over 600,000 last year.

What did I learn?

Well, I hope I learned to be a better storyteller. Raymond Chandler is supposed to have said that every writer has “a million words of crap” in them before they start writing readable fiction. My five years has produced over 2.5 million. With the years before, I suspect I’m up well over three million words. I’m not convinced that I’m not still writing crap.

Dean Wesley Smith would say that a writer is the worst judge of his or her own writing. I’d agree there. Some of my stories I think are duds sell, and some I think are wonderful circulate and circulate without finding a home.

(Chandler also said “A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled” – I like that one).

Along with learning about writing, I’m learning about the business of writing. How to manage my time more effectively and how to worry less often. I guess another thing I’m learning is patience. Whether that be waiting for the response from a publisher, or waiting for my readership to grow. Getting there.

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Sir Julius Vogel Award nominations open.

smFront-v5The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s science fiction awards. Presented annually at the convention in June.

The ceremony brings out the cream of the New Zealand science fiction scene – too many to list here, but I’d include Lee Murray and Octavia Cade, both of whom won awards in categories for which I was a finalist last year.

I am eligible once again, though this time just in the short story category.

I had the a few stories published during 2015 which are eligible and some of which are available as free reads.

Scour in New Myths (click to read for free)
Penny of Tharsis Montes in Amazing Stories (click to read for free)
The Bubbcat in Cirsova Issue 4
The Root Bridges of Haemae in Aurealis
Wakers in Asimov’s
Go For The Dome in Perihelion (click to read for free)
Ink for a Verbal Contract in Ad Astra (click to read for free)

I’d also like to do a shout out for a couple of others here – Lee Murray for her novel Into The Mist, and Octavia Cade for her novella Eating Science with Ghosts – Asimov’s October/November 2016. If I am fortunate enough to be nominated this year, at least it it won’t be up against these two, since they’re different categories (then again, they may have placed stories I haven’t spotted yet).

Previous winner AJ Fitwater also has some eligible stories, listed on her website there – a nice tale in Shimmer – “An Atlas in Sgraffito Style”.

Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray deserve an editors’ nomination for At The Edge, their Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror anthology. This also includes AC Buchanan’s story And Still the Forests Grow though we are Gone.

Nominations are open at the SFFANZ site, through until March 31st. Good luck to everyone.

My current story in Asimov’s – “Crimson Birds of Small Miracles” is not eligible, since it’s in the January issue. The story will be eligible for the 2018 awards.

Why I didn’t enter the Sunday Star Times Short Story contest this year.

sst-logoThe Sunday Star Short Story Contest is an established New Zealand contest. For the most part it’s run annually. With the disappearance of The Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, the Sunday Star is now, as far as I can tell, the major New Zealand short story contest. And one of few that does not ask entrants for an entry fee.

The prize is substantial. $1000. For a 3000 word (maximum) story. That’s about thirty-three cents a word. Getting into the non-fiction per word payment range. Pro-fiction rates get up around ten cents a word, mostly around six to eight cents.

That tells me I should enter.

I’ve been long-listed for the contest in the past. My writing’s getting better. I’m losing eligibility for other contests because of my pro/almost-pro status.

So I wrote a story. I’m pretty pleased with it. I got it proofed and ready to go.

I went to the site to enter. That’s easy. Fill out the form, attach the document, click the ‘enter’ button. By entering I agree to the rules.

You know those sites we sign up for and we tick the box to accept the terms and conditions? Some of those documents are massive. We put our trust in them. Mostly that’s just fine.

Anyway, I decided I should read the rules. Really there were only eighteen. A little more than a page. Compared to some of those ‘terms and conditions’ documents, nothing more than an eye blink.

In the past the Sunday Star Times Short Story Contest. offered prizes to the first, second and third place-getters. Now, it’s just one prize. That’s okay. Things change.

– Open to permanent residents only. Check.

– Maximum of 3000 words. Check.

– Maximum of one entry per category. Check.

– Original work. Check.

– The finalists’ names, entry details, biographical information and photographs will be required by Fairfax Media and will be used for promotional purposes without compensation. You consent to this use of your details by entering the competition and agree to your name being published without notification or prior approval.

Uh. Hold on. “Without compensation”? Oh well, I suppose that’s all good promotion. Name and photo in the paper, if I happen to be a finalist. Nice for the ego and so on.

Okay. On with the rules.

– All entries submitted remain the property of the entrant. However (my italics), Fairfax Media and Penguin Random House New Zealand have the right to publish the winning and highly commended manuscripts of the Open Division, Secondary School Division and Non-Fiction Essay entered without fee. (my bolding).

What? “Without fee”? Really? So that amounts to: If I enter they’ll be able to publish my story without paying me.

It does say ‘winning and highly commended’, but it doesn’t say what constitutes highly commended. From my point of view anyone who gets it together to write a story and send it off should be highly commended. It takes courage and effort. Well done. If that’s the criteria, then any and every entry could qualify for publication ‘without fee’. Oh, except for the winning entry.

While I’m having a rant; right now there’s a New Zealand magazine that publishes a short story each month. As I understand it they take a vote or something at the end of the year and choose a winning story from those twelve and give that writer a prize. The other eleven do not receive anything save publication. I’m not even clear that they get copies of the issue in which they were published. Effectively those stories appear ‘without fee’.

This is why I didn’t enter. Writers get paid. The journalists in the paper and magazine who write the articles about the treaty and the housing crisis and climate change all get paid.

And that’s why I didn’t enter. That story I wrote? I’ll be sending that off to a paying market.

Fifty-six submissions

fcrop2I’ve made fifty-six story submissions to various magazines this year. This is the first year I’ve actually kept track and I’m kind of surprised. I knew I kept my stories out there, but I didn’t realize I was sending that many.

A few weeks back, when I’d made about forty submissions, I thought I’d post here when I hit fifty. Except that over the last few days I got a bunch of rejections and the number leapt. Some markets respond very quickly.

I didn’t write fifty-six stories. In fact I’ve only added four new stories to the mix this year. But anytime a story comes back, I send it off again to another market. I think this is fairly standard practice. I’ve heard of writers who make changes and edit on the basis of feedback, but I avoid that. Best to keep it moving to find the editor to which the story is most suited.

In that mix of statistics, I’ve had seven acceptances, and still have twenty-five stories under consideration.

Slowly I’m filtering stories out of the cycle as they age. I throw them to the wolves of Apple and Amazon and other retailers. On occasion readers find them. Even after all that time, I’m honored they find an audience.

I don’t know how the picture relates, but I kind of like it. Bugs crawling around fungi out at Totara Reserve (photo taken by me).

The weeks ahead – publishing plans

The Cly front cover thumbRight now I’m busily preparing three books for publication. I’d like to have them all out by the end of May.

The first, my new novel, continues to trip me up. First, the title was not my working title, but that title doesn’t work. Titles trouble me (sometimes, more on that below). It seems the best one here is the name of the alien species (following Jack Vance’s novels The Dirdir and The Pnume, and doubtless many others.

Also the tag line (another thing that always trips me). “Earth on the verge of annihilation”. Sheesh, really. Well, that’s kind of what it’s about. Kind of.

And then, putting “Aurealis Award Finalist” on the cover by my name. Hmmm. It’s true, I have been a finalist for the award (lost out to Garth Nix there, so that’s okay). But is it okay to put it there when it wasn’t for this story? I guess I’ve kept it by my name, rather than by the title. And many authors do have all sorts all over their covers. Am I bragging too much there? Or in the right way? Should it say “Aurealis Award Finalist Author”? But then I’ve got “Author of Gretel” right underneath and doesn’t “author” twice in tags look silly?

Despite doing this for a few years now, I’m still second-guessing and learning and trying new things. I do like the cover – courtesy of Luca Oleastri/Innovari.

The other two books are stories, one a small collection and one a big collection. The first is titled “Celeste Without Gravity” and the other “Listen, You!”. I do like Celeste’s title (following on from above), not sure about the other.

Anyway, The Cly will be out by the end of this week, Celeste sometime next week and, all going to plan, Listen, You! the following week.

All in time and out of the way to get the next novel Athena Setting (my darling, see previous posts) out in early June.

The Writer as busker

Stone Goddess UpdatedI’ve been self-publishing/indie publishing for about four years now. Learning as I go. Kind of like a busker or a street performer. Out in public practising. Getting better as I go, I hope. Taking courses and reading books and learning all the time, too.

On occasion, some kind reader buys one or other of my stories, like tossing money into a buskers cap. It’s encouraging. I hope they enjoy the stories they purchase as I practise in public.

With the learning, as soon as I feel I’ve got a handle on the writing, I seem to discover some new technique or approach. Often things that seem obvious. Right away I incorporate that into my writing, with various degrees of success. When I look back over my stories, some I’m very proud of, others seem to have been written by a different person.

The other key thing I’m learning is business. That’s a much tougher road for me. I don’t think I’m a natural entrepreneur, so I have to concentrate. I have to make an effort to take those risks, invest some cash, and push into those realms that are a whole lot more uncomfortable.

One of the things I’m beginning to look at are some of those older stories, with bad covers and terrible blurbs. Case in point: Stone Goddess. It was a fun little story I wrote some years back. It got published in an anthology titled Horror Through the Ages from Lame Goat Press. No monetary payment (at the time I was fine with that: I was happy to be in print). It also got a podcast at Cast Macabre (and seems to be still available, for free). Again no monetary payment.

At some point along the way I realized that giving stories away was not a path to making a livelihood (slow to catch on, I know).

I started putting my stories up on Smashwords, Kindle, iTunes, Kobo, Nook and so on. Even putting some of the longer ones in print. I did my own covers. I wrote my own blurbs. Learning all the time.

Now, I’m going back and gradually updating some of those older works with some of the things I’ve learned more recently. So “Stone Goddess” has a new cover. To my embarassment, I’m putting the old cover next to the new. I like the new one better.

Original cover image by me. New cover image by © 1971yes | Dreamstime.com

I’ve redone the interior too, and added a couple of other stories to fill it up a bit (“Stone Goddess” is kind of short) for some value for money. A new blurb too:

Top Mars researcher Ben James loves getting out into the field. Under the stars. Into the dust and stone.
But today something’s amiss. Something’s out there. Calling to him.
Something he’s got to find.
Even if it means breaking every protocol.
A short story from the author of The Molenstraat Music Festival. Includes three bonus Mars stories.

I think it could still use some work, but I dare not show the old blurb (omigosh amateur ramblings).

The story is pretty much available at your favorite ebook retailer. I’m thinking about making a print version (though it’ll be slim). If you’ve read this far (thanks) here’s a coupon for a free copy from Smashwords. Click here and enter the following code:

Promotional price: $0.00
Coupon Code: XH22Q
Expires: April 26, 2021

Five years was the longest I could set the coupon for. I think you have to create a Smashwords login – if you’d like a copy without all that palaver, just let me know here.

All that said about going back, I am continuing to go forward. Trying to write better stories. Working on having consistent covers. And writing sensible, engaging blurbs.

Busking.

2014 in review

2014 in review

2014 has been kind to me. I’ve acheived a couple of lifelong goals: having a story published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, and winning a writing competition – The Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest.

I also wrote more than ever before. In 2012 I first took on measuring my output and writing every day. That year I managed around 507,000 words. 2013, still writing everyday, I hit 519,000. Last year I also made sure I only submitted stories to paying markets (that’s a long story for another time).

This year my current count is over 566,000 words and I might even hit 590,000. As well as the two pro “sales”, I sold numerous stories to semi-pro markets (some of these publishers have been very supportive as I’ve developed my writing: I have a soft-spot for them). The second half of the year has seen a slow-down on acceptances, but I keep writing new stories.

As well as numerous short stories and collections published indie, I managed to get out The Deluge, the sequel to The Tunnel in my Hidden Dome universe. Current writing plans have the third book The Eye out next year.

Speaking of next year: more focus on novels; more focus on getting things to publication; still writing every day; still learning about craft; more learning about business; less goofing off – I might have to give up a block of time to the new Tomb Raider game due out in 2015, but writing will still happen :-).

Overall a pretty good year (actually, an astoundingly good year). It’s given me a lot of energy to push on and feel confident I’m on the right course.