Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Aiming the pistol at the foot

Despite all my bluster chivvying authors into brave faces, preaching that the un-achievable is attainable, when it comes to my own career as an author I tend to shrink back into the shadows. I have no idea why I do that. But I do. Always have. Call it a character flaw.

However, every now and again I emerge from my cave, or shell, or whatever, and decide, HEY! I can DO THIS! And I summon courage and analyze stories and send out submissions to magazines, collections and the like, keeping careful log of their journeys through an Excel spreadsheet (yes, yes, I know all about Obsessive Compulsion Disorder.)

The current attempt to shoot off my feet comes in the form of the call for submissions for the Tesseracts 18 anthology. I've been trying to break that market ever since Judy Merrill first launched it way back. No joy. And I doubt very much there will be joy this time, but the point is I've at least tried.

Lester B. Pearson, former Prime Minister of Canada, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, once said: The only failures are those who fail to try.

Hon. Lester B. Pearson

So Lester, ol' bean, old sport, I'm trying. I don't hold out much hope. But to the best of my knowledge I've targeted the right story for the right market.

Of course, this comes on the heels of finding out all the primary round of rejections for the Fearful Symmetries anthology have taken place, and the remaining 355 stories are either still being considered, or have now been forwarded to editor, Ellen Datlow. In this case, no news is good news.

Now, there is a synchronicity about the fact I haven't heard thing one as yet regarding my submission to that heady anthology, because back in the day when Omni was the nirvana of short speculative fiction (I was at Clarion the year Ted Chiang made his first short story sale with the first short story he'd ever written, which was to none other than Ellen Datlow at Omni) I had dreams of maybe, one day, breaking into that market, of having someone like Ellen Datlow pat me on the head and reward my closet scribblings with publication. Alas, it never happened.

Ellen Datlow

But here the gyre curves round again, and I find myself in six degrees of separation.

Dear god, there are days I truly wonder why I do this? Why do I peck at the keyboard, dreaming dreams of people and places, of hurt and triumph, of destinies and deeds? Why answer the sibilant whispers in my head who constantly narrate stories for which I am but a vehicle? I don't know.

But somewhere between editing other authors' stories, creating print layouts, rounds of meetings and discussions and all the trappings of being a publisher, I still pursue this calling of being a story-teller. Keep writing. Just keep writing. And the foot? Ack. It will heal.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: The Polaris Whisper, by Kenneth Gregory

The Polaris WhisperThe Polaris Whisper by Kenneth Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Originally a Wattpad publication, The Polaris Whisper, by Kenneth Gregory appears to be a self-published book through the services of The Black Staff Press. I received a PDF copy of Gregory's debut novel through Black Staff on Net Galley.

The novel has all the potential of a truly great novel: great subject matter, interesting characters, a delicious melange of history and mythology. Set during the Dark Ages (the early to mid 1st century) amid Norse raids on Ireland, Iona, and England, the story follows the lives of a disinherited and exiled Norseman, Vidar, the son he places into foster care for protection, and the people (including a dwarf from a society with prescient talent) who form his association. The main thrust of this, the first of a planned series of novels, is Vidar's quest to find a glacial cave which is a portal. A portal to what, we never find out, but the dwarf who charges Vidar with this quest has invested considerable wealth and his life into the undertaking.

There are intrigues and loves lost and found, betrayal of friendship, tests of courage.

And while all of this has, as I wrote, the potential of a great novel, it falls short for all the same reasons so many novels fall short: lack of a good developmental editor. Along with the need for a developmental editor is the need for a good copy editor, as there were many punctuation errors as well as errors in word usage. Certainly were I Gregory, and if my supposition is correct that he paid Black Staff to publish his book, I'd be a mite miffed with the lack of quality services.

A decent entry, in my opinion, enough that I'd entertain reading the next instalment. However, let us hope Gregory undertakes to surround himself with more qualified editors.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 2, 2013

Guarding your time

I have freelanced most of my adult life as a writer, journalist, editor, artist, and during those near 40 years it has always amazed me how people generally have no concept of how hard a self-employed person works from home. There seems to be the assumption we can simply swan off whenever we like.

Well, that is true in part. Those of us who work from our home offices are at liberty to call our own hours, set our own dress codes, take breaks whenever we like. However, without a certain discipline nothing gets done. So that means if it's summer, and you'd rather be in the garden than editing a manuscript, well, you better bloody well get that manuscript edited cause it surely isn't going to edit itself. And fail to do so will likely mean you'll piss off your client, your author, your colleagues, which then means no payment at the end of all that labour. The garden will still be there.

Same applies if you're working on a painting for an upcoming exhibit or client, or writing an article for a periodical, or putting together a website for a new or existing business owner. If you work from home, the work comes first. The play comes later.

Sure, we take time out to take a walk and clear the head, to ride a bike along a difficult trail in order to nurture the body to nurture the mind. We allow ourselves 10 minutes to blast away at Mah Jong, or alien invaders. We wander aimlessly, favourite beverage to hand in order to escape the office chair.

But we do return, again and again throughout the day, often putting in longer days than our colleagues who commute to an office and punch 9-5.

We don't have time to chat on the phone, answer text messages, email, phaff about on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Because we work at home we have relinquished a certain amount of freedom in order to gain a certain freedom. We have embraced discipline and order and routine. We have eschewed the indulgence of long lunches, shopping sprees, and Internet browsing at the expense of our employer. Why? Because we are our own employers, and it turns out we're harder task masters than the bosses we left behind.

So, for those of you calling for a chat, thinking I'm out in the garden on this lovely summer's day, or are touring the area and thought to stop in for an impromptu visit -- lovely thought, but sorry, I'm working. Would be pleased to make a date, schedule you in. But right now, don't have time. Have to guard my time.

And that's just the way it is.