2015: The year that was

japan 1drt6gAs far as writing years go, 2015 was pretty good. I’ve acheived my goals, realized some dreams, and learned a few lessons.

I had numerous publications over the course of the year, and was pleased to be in the pages of Asimov’s Science Fiction and Landfall once again. My second stories in each of those magazines, over consecutive years, and that suggests to me that the first wasn’t a fluke. I may actually be doing some things right.

I also had stories in Perihelion, Capricious, Takahe, SQMag and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. A good mix of literary and science fiction.

Good news on the competition front too. I was first equal in the Gernsback Amazing Stories innaugural competition this year for my story “Penny of Tharsis Montes”. That should be out in the first issue in February.

I self-published numerous short stories, and five novels. Sales of these have been unspectacular. Included in the plans for 2016 is more learning about marketing, discoverability and the like. I’m confident I have a good product: I lack the skills to get it noticed.

I’ve also taken more courses and read more books about writing and business. I’ll continue that next year.

As Shadows on the Snow, Kendall and I had a lot of music come out. Kendall’s brilliant at getting the stuff out into the world. Thanks Kendall!

I managed to fit in a jaunt to Japan (hence the photo), which was fabulous. Almost a month there visiting Hiroshima, Kyoto and Naoshima Island among other places, sampling okonomiyaki (yum) and green tea ice cream (not so yum).

For the fourth year running I wrote every day (including on the trip, albeit slower). Also for the fourth year in a row, I wrote over a half a million words. Funny thing; the goal is 500,000, but I hit that on November 19th. With forty-one days left, I wondered what to do. Why not write another novel? So I ran with that. Athena Setting will came in at around 57,000 words and I’ve just finished it tonight, New Year’s Eve (squeaked in at 11.59). These days, it’s not often I’m up at midnight for new year, but there you go. I celebrated finishing the novel (as I usually do) by starting the next piece. Might even be a new novel.

For the first year since starting that word count, I also published over a half million (about 100,000 over that – not bad). I have more words (should say complete stories/novels) written this year and last, that haven’t made it out yet. Next year.

Next year’s goals remain the same, with clear additions. Write every  day, write a half million words, and publish ten novels. Also; learn a whole lot more around business and marketing and so on.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

Conductive and Flammable in takahē

takahē 85

It’s been a little while since I’ve had any external publication news. My short story “Conductive and Flammable” has just come out in the latest issue of takahē.

Recently widowed, Beth’s dealing with a teenage son, a complicated estate and a neighbour who’s constantly burning stinky garden waste right at her back fence.

takahē has an enduring history in New Zealand literature (as you see, it’s up to issue 85) and I’m honored to be published there again. Thanks to fiction editor Karen Zelas for taking my story.

“Scorched” in Takahe 81

Takahe 81I have a long history with the New Zealand literary magazine Takahe. I first had a story in issue 11 too many years ago to mention. And I’ve had numerous since (seven in total, I think). This year they’re celebrating their 30th year of publishing.

Issue 81 includes my story “Scorched”, a little tale about a new marriage, a petrol station and an underground cable driving machine. Guess from the title how well that goes. It’s just 2800 words: now I need to learn how to write my sci-fi that short (I tend to go on a bit when I’ve got robots and implants and giant alien spaceships).

The issue came out a little while ago, but my copy (it’s only in print, no ebook) got lost in the mail. I’ve only just received the replacement (and cheque, thanks!). Eventually I’ll pop the story into an ebook through Triple V. My last Takahe story, “Back from Vermont” is out in a little collection with a couple of others here for $4.49.

Changing Modes

DSCN2859b small Last night I finished the draft of my first novel of the year.

That’s change mode number one. For the previous twelve-plus months I’ve been focusing on short stories so have mostly been writing in the 3000 to 10,000 word range.

Writing a sustained story that’s 60,000 words long takes a different kind of process. Glad I did Dean Wesley Smith’s Pacing Workshop (non-affiliate link!) over summer. That gave me a whole new way to approach a novel.

Change mode two: once I finished the novel I got started on a literary short story. Each year in New Zealand there are a couple of big literary contests and I make sure I enter both. One of them has a prize of $10,000 – seriously! I guess my chances are about 1/10,000, but that’s better than that Lotto thing and I still get to send off my story to other markets when it doesn’t win (one of last year’s entries has just been accepted for Takahe, a NZ literary magazine, yay).

So I went from the validation at the end of that sixty thousand word hard sci-fi novel to the opening of what will be a 3000 word piece focused on language and character more than action and wonder. I hope I can pull it off.

And, yes. I got started on the story as soon as I finished the novel. I saved the file called “pirates 25 2 2014” and created a new file called “the accident 25 2 2014” and began typing. Some writers apparently take a week off after finishing a novel. Nice for some, I guess. I want to capitalise on that momentum and carry on with writing. Anyway, I have a daily word count goal to hit.

Oh, that busy bee in the sunflower? Just last week in the garden. Summer is really giving us a scorcher for the moment. I know most of you are practically snowbound at the moment – I hope the pic gives you some cheer.

After all those noes, a yes.


It’s worth sticking with it. I’ve lost count of the rejection slips I’ve received this year. Give me a second, I’ll go check…

… back now, thanks for waiting. It’s fifty-four. 54 rejections so far in 2012. That’s from around 25 stories out and circulating. I’ve had a few acceptances, but mostly for non-pay* or token pay anthologies/magazines. Most days when I get a rejection, the story goes out to another publisher the same day. I love these days of email submissions: so much easier than back in the dark ages of envelope, stamp, return envelope and postage, printed cover letter, fresh print of the ms because the last publisher crumpled their copy.

Why send it out again ever? Well, publishers have different opinions, different needs and different expectations. On occasion some particularly generous (ie who has the time?) editors give some feedback… and the feedback can be wildly different: the aspects of the story they found didn’t work will be entirely different. I also keep trying to remember that last of Heinlein’s rules – keep it on the market until it is sold.

The new acceptance is from a New Zealand literary magazine – Takahe – who’ve published stories of mine before. It will be nice to be in print again.

*Why take no money for a story? That’s kind of contradictory to good business sense, no? Well I guess part of it is my ego is still tangled up in there. Another part of it is that when I come to self-publish the story through Triple V as an ebook (and possibly print), then the rights revert to me immediately.

Back from Vermont – short story in Takahe


My story “Back from Vermont” has just been published in Takahe 73. Takahe is a New Zealand literary magazine, published three times a year. After a long time of focusing my attention abroad, it’s nice to be published here at home (even if I did write a story set in the U.S.).

The story opens like this…

___________________________

In the time before my parents separated my father began building miniature trains and, over the course of an evening, would lay a mile or more of track through our neighborhood then rumble around until first light. It started on a Saturday and that following Sunday morning brought us a stream of folks from around the street, thumping on the door, demanding to see my father. My mother stood in the doorway, trying to deflect them, but for the most part they just wanted to know how they could join in