Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Thursday, 3 August 2017
In case you don’t know much, or anything, about it – ChiSeries is a public reading series run and hosted by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory - Ontarians both - and publishers of the celebrated ChiZine Publications which has won all sorts of awards and published gorgeous books by some of the best literary, speculative fiction authors in the world, including Craig Davidson, Helen Marshall, Tony Burgess, Caitlin Sweet, Michael Rowe, and Gemma Files.
Thursday, 27 April 2017
My first published story was in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. It was available on my local newstand plus several others in town. I think I bought six copies. Holding it in my hand gave me something much like a new car feeling. Sort of a "new me feeling."
That natural high lasted for a week.
When I sold a story to Pulphouse The Hardcover Magazine issue 1 and appeared alongside Harlan Ellison, Ed Bryant, Kate Wilhelm, Charles de Lint and Michael Bishop, I bought at least four extra copies, gave some away and sold the other two.
Despite more than half a dozen fiction sales over the past three years, my bookshelf has stopped growing.The bookcase contains very little printed since 2010. Now everything is virtual. And I do hope people discover and read these publications - even though my only evidence they ever appeared is my bibliography coupled with my increasingly leaky memory along with an e-pub or pdf in some subfile of a subfile. Somehow, it doesn't sound like much of a legacy anymore. I guess it's more important now than ever to point readers to those publications, so...
I'm proud to say, that The Colored Lens #23 (Spring 2017) contains my story, "Ladder of Ashes" - a ghost story set in an old British settlement in Myanmar.
(Read my story, "Along Dominion Road" from issue #17 free here)
As of February, my story (with Sally McBride), "The Birthing Blades," is in the anthology Unbound 2 - Changed Worlds. (This one has a POD version available, but doesn't send authors hard-copies as part of payment)
In Winter 2017, my story "Two Yurts" will appear in Hidden Animals: A Collection of Cryptids from Dragon's Roost Press.
None of those are in my bookcase (although as soon as my Pal Pal account gets reloaded, I will buy a copy of Unbound 2). Nor are they at risk in case of fire. They exist only as virtual entities. I have to confess that the internet has taken away something very precious to me.
I've read quite a few books on readers and tablets. Most I happily release back into the electrical field. But when I like them, I almost always want to reread them in hardcopy.
That's not a point of view that gets expressed often, because we all want to be seen as forward thinking, environment friendly and responsible.
But, I have always been a very tactile person, which explains why I was drawn to sculpting. Online art is hard to appreciate - since my mind can't put a value on it and my material self can't pine for it - I can have it whenever I want it.
So, as much as I am proud of my recent and upcoming story sales, I am wishing that modern publishers still gave writers and artists something to hold in their hands. It is lovely to get paid, and Pay Pal is handy when I feel the urge to go music shopping. But I would take a single samisdat assemblage of staplebound pages - with my story inside as payment - rather than cash. And if I thought your publication was cool enough, I'd buy copies for friends, family and self-promotion.
Thursday, 27 October 2016
|Ponderer - 2015|
|Reflector - back|
I decided that if I could see all the rich colours and organic detail while sanding, it had to be possible to make it visible in the finished sculpture.
Why isn't this working? Because it's too expository, doesn't draw the reader in, has shallow characters, ends where it should be starting...yada, yada, yada. If I find an answer, I'll ask myself "How do I fix it?" And then do it. So simple, right? Why don't I do that all the time?
Friday, 30 September 2016
There's nothing better than having your stories republished in a great venue that you're proud to appear in. I'm pleased to say that's happening to me now!
My near-future, grimy-black comedy story "Bad Copies" appears in Stories from the Near-Future.
You can pick up the paperback at Amazon: https://amzn.com/1945467010 - and Stories From the Near Future earns my respect and devotion by sending every contributor a hard-copy book (no longer a perk writers can count on)!
If you don't care about hard-copies - then you can get the e-book for $2.99 from Kindle or Amazon.
Kindle link: http://a.co/2XNgItb
Congratulations to editor Andrew McRae and all the writers published within the pages of this handsome book. Now...go order your very own copy.
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Then, there's usually an additional wait for publication. Four months, eight months, a year. If you've been writing for a long time, you've undoubtedly experienced what it's like having a story accepted only to have the publication go under before they get around to publishing your story. Or paying you for it.
Monday, 11 April 2016
I have found writing these to be a wonderful way to creatively kickstart my brain and have written quite a number of the over the past few weeks. I expanded the definition a bit, writing a Double-Drabble. And here, making much ado about next-to-nothing, I am unveiling my epic Trilodrabble...
Fellowship is the Thing
When I was eleven, Uncle Bill gave me a ring. It left no black mark around my finger and had no gap at the back to accommodate my growing physique. It was real gold.
When I put that ring on, I became the opposite of invisible. My friends thought it was swank, and grown up jewelry turns girls on. I could do anything. So I never took it off – even when my finger started turning purple. Then black.
When the finger fell off, I threw it into a volcano in a desperate attempt to stop "the change" in its tracks.
The Two Flowers
The lava-spewing monstrosity was in a neighbor's yard, right beside a mountain of manure that had two flowers growing at the summit – incredible red flowers with stamen as yellow as the sun.
The girl I liked, Carrie, never looked at me anymore. So when I got down from the volcano, I decided I just had time before the school bus came, to pick her those flowers.
When I tried to give them to her, she told me I smelled like shit. And when I took off my shoes, she saw how big and hairy my feet are. Oh, well.
The Non-returnable King
A male charm bracelet, I thought. Why not! It would be the next big thing. Swank. Sexy! It could have soldiers and baseball players, grenades, dice, pistols, celebrity clitorises and a variety of balls. Gold, silver, precious stones. I even dreamed up a little gold Elvis Presley – jointed, with swingable hips.
I convinced some investors it would make us all rich. We stayed the course, kept hoping it would catch on. We waited and waited, before we finally lost our shirts.
Too late to change course, or make a new plan. The die were cast. The King's hips were frozen.
Acknowledgements: The idea of celebrity clitorises from Nick Cave's The Death of Bunny Munro.
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
I understand pretty much all of the arguments for e-books: ecological friendliness (Save a Tree!), lower costs, availability, accessibility, scalable type and so on. Good arguments.
But it's rare to hear anyone talk about the downsides. And oh, yes, there are downsides.
I understand that a lot of people read on their phones, and in fact, I see people doing it. But I simply cannot comprehend how someone could indulge in that activity for any extended length of time.
A cellphone has never struck me as an acceptable medium for reading fiction. Tweets and texts – fine. Most web sites are built to absorb in snippets. But chowing down on a 2000 or 3000 word essay – not so much. Even short stories lose continuity for me, as I zip from one screen to the next.
I am a reader who frequently flicks backward and forward; rereading passages to better appreciate something that comes later; doublechecking the names of characters to make sure they are who I think they are; reestablishing my place in the narrative; and so on. Poems and short stories are readable in that fashion, as long as they're not dependent on layout – but not novels. The centre cannot hold.
When the screen is tiny, there are far too many pages. It's easy to go too far or not far enough, and too hard to find my place again when I'm done my search. Reading Lord of the Rings or Moby Dick on a cellphone would be akin to listening to a song one bar at a time – which would suck the joy right out of it!
I've heard of people writing novels on their cellphones! Seriously? With those itty-bitty keyboards and my enormous thumbs, texting is a challenge. Maintaining a coherent narrative would be like painting the Sistine Chapel on playing cards (thus creating the world's largest and most unhelpful jigsaw puzzle – where every piece fits almost everywhere).
All of my problems are exacerbated if I'm connected to wi-fi or a network. The constant bleeps and whistles are complete concentration destroyers. Even if I'm unconnected, the telephone is a constant distraction. And God forbid the fucking thing should run out of power or spontaneously decide to install an update as I'm turning a page.
I've never measured, but I would guess that when I'm reading a hardcopy book, I read at least 20 full sized pages at a sitting. If I got through that many on a cellphone, it would be a minor miracle. And since it takes 12 cell phone pages to equal one real page, I would be clipping along at a rate of about a page per sitting. Anton Chekov stories would be mini-marathons. Game of Thrones? No, just no.
My reader experience doesn't improve that drastically with tablets. I've used small and large screens, dedicated readers and all-purpose androids. Each of them has different problems:
- If I don't read fast enough, the screen dims.
- If I move my hand, or touch the wrong spot on the screen, I turn pages I didn't intend to turn.
- Or I turn them too fast – a chapter at a time is not unheard of.
At first, I thought that once I got used to this, it would get easier. But I've now read dozens of books in e-pub format and I still don't like it. Yes, it's doable, and it's convenient and desirable in all the ways I mentioned in the first paragraph. But I still don't find e-pubs very reader friendly. The tech, the apps, the connections are all unreliable. And adding bells and whistles somehow makes the devices even less reader friendly.
Maybe if I had grown up reading for pleasure on electronic devices, it would be less annoying, more intuitive. Maybe. But in truth, it would also be more distracting. Video games, movies, socializing, gossiping, videos, animation – they're ALL easier than reading and far, far easier than writing.
The formats in which we digest our entertainment have always been dictated by available media, and I honestly believe this is the beginning of the end for all the literary forms we currently know and love. There will always be people who love different forms and seek them out. But once the tools for modifying "literature" are available, accessible and easier to use, I believe that fiction will become more interactive, multi-channel and multi-sensual.
The seeds of it are at websites like sub-Q Magazine. Hasn't caught on yet and probably won't for awhile. And what we see there is a long ways from whatever form it will ultimately assume. But what they're aiming for is fiction that is created specifically to consume online – an admirable and inevitable goal that might actually make reading onscreen enjoyable. Until then – well it is cheaper, and more convenient. Maybe I'll...hmmm.
Hurry up interactive fiction. Your time has come.
Friday, 11 March 2016
So the short story marketplace is becoming incredibly crowded and competitive. Other than being a great time to buy short story collections and anthologies – what does that say about the literary landscape?
Is it actually easier – or harder to get a novel published these days than a short story?
Well if we're talking big name publishers, it's almost certainly harder than ever before. Lots of publishers have gone under in the past fifteen years – unable to hold their own in a marketplace where people who can barely string a coherent sentence together suddenly have the power to make their dreams come true by self-publishing a book.
According to a 2002 NY Times article by Joseph Epstein, more than 80% of people in the U.S.A. believe they have a book in them and 80,000 books are published in America every year. Remember – this was 2002 – ten years before the self publishing boom. These days, every one of those 200 million people has the resources to self-publish their book.
You may have considered such a thing, or, like me, have actually gone there. If you have a few dollars to spend and can afford to pay for a good cover and cover design, your book can be indistinguishable from the masterpieces or the gripping thrillers or the intellectual tomes that you're positioning yourself against. But the public is slowly starting to catch on to the signs that separate self-published books from their more well-heeled competitors. Like the imprint. If something comes from Doubleday or Harper Collins or Simon and Schuster – that means it has not only appealed to a distinguished and experienced editor – but also gone through a rigorous editorial process (or as rigorous as it gets these days). These processes do not guarantee quality, but they at least promise that the book will come up to the minimum standard that all books once had to achieve before they saw the light of day.
Over the past few decades, the stigma of a self-published book has been enough to ensure that said authors are not taken seriously by the literati – the critics, other writers, bookstore buyers and so forth. Most self-published books suffer from "cheap design." Even if the author has gone out and consigned a wonderful work of art to grace the cover, and hired a professional copy editors to vet the prose – there are still tell-tale signs that give it away. Many of these books waste the beautiful cover image by embedding it within poor design – a badly chosen or overly familiar typeface – sized and coloured or poorly placed on the page; there may be a complete absence of design on the spine or back cover; badly laid out pages inside, with lack of margins or white space, hard to read or uninspired typeface or similar design problems. None of these problems fatal in and of themselves, but collectively they conspire to reveal the final product as "amateur."
And even if the book gets all those things right, it can give itself away in a multitude of other ways: lack of reputable blurbs on the cover or within the front or back pages; 100% five-star rave reviews online; and most obviously, an imprint that no one has ever heard of. A web search for the imprint reveals that they have published a total of five books – all by the same author.
A self-published book that doesn't display any of those obvious tells suggests an insider perspective. It's a sign that even if the book was self-published, the author knows books, understands marketing and has invested the time and effort to put out a professional looking product. This is also a clue that their book may be considerably better than most of the self-published work on the market (or not). The process can also work the other way – where a brilliant book is hidden behind layers of bad design and poor marketing choices…but I like to think, or at least hope, that the author involved in such a project stands at least some chance of getting discovered and building an audience for themselves.
As for the book-buying public – we're all on the lookout these days!
Which brings me to the trend that I was intending to talk about. The rise of the accidental small publisher.
Once an author has self-published a few books, they will likely make many of the above discoveries for themselves. Coming to realize how important design is in creating a professional looking product, they find and hire a good designer. They may bring some literate, unemployed friends on board as editors and start building a publishing infrastructure. And having done so, they discover that their books still stand out as self-published because there are no other authors on their imprint. If they network and belong to a writer's community, they may know other authors who are producing good work. By publishing their books (maybe with some personal investment from the writers involved), they can build a small stable of writers. They discover they can get the word out about their company and attract visitors to their website by publishing short story collections. This works better if they actually pay authors a nominal amount like a penny a word. Gradually, the website starts looking more and more legitimate and this begins to boost sales of their own titles. At that point, they probably just pay novelists commissions on sales on their books – which gives them a way of not only recouping their own investment, but bringing the writers back with more and better books. And then, some of these accidental publishers may come to the revelation that if they are willing to pay advances – on the novels as well as the short stories in the anthologies – and as little as a couple hundred dollars will distinguish them from 95% of the micro-publishers in the marketplace – they may be able to attract some truly outstanding writers. Because with the current state of publishing, there are hundreds of writers who would have (or actually have) been mid-list writers or better in the old regime. And they are grateful for any publisher who will pay them real money. Suddenly the new imprint is getting some respect and maybe even an award nomination or two.
From out of the ashes of the old publishing model – I can see more than a few of these publishers rising. Many will likely continue to grow and evolve, because they are not saddled by the same sort of infrastructure that "real" publishers have to deal with. They can write their own ticket. And in the process, they can provide a worthy home for some wonderful writers who were left wandering the wilderness with their poor tattered manuscripts.
Publishing is dead. Long live publishing.