Monday, March 31, 2014

Reprint sales

Warren Lapine is relaunching the magazine Fantastic Stories as a webzine. He’ll be opening in late May to submissions and he says he’ll be paying $.15 per word — with a maximum of $500 — for original stories.

In the meantime he’s putting together a pair of online anthologies.  In March he said he was seeking reprints for those. I sent him a pair, “Hopscotch and Hottentots” - which was published in a very small mag - and the flash story that ran in Daily Science-Fiction in 2012, “Double Exposure”.  I got word from him yesterday via email that he’ll be taking both; that’s its good news to start the week.


Warren owned Fantastic Books back in 2009 when he published my first collection, “Fantastic Texas”. It’s good to be back on board with him.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Story complete

Finished "The Rainbow Run" today, 4,300 words, and submitted it.

It's the longest story I've completed since I started using the Dragon software. it's the sixth short story I wrote in March. Five of them since I started using Dragon.

The voice recognition software has been a big help. I've written as many stories in March as I had in the previous 16 months.

"The Rainbow Run" is the 117th short story I've written since 2002.

Right now I have 17 stories in various slushpiles.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Rainbow Run

If a Christian fundamentalist government took over the U.S. and outlawed homosexuality, would gays use an underground-railroad type escape route to Canada? Anyway, that's what I'm exploring with my latest WIP, "The Rainbow Run".

Started it yesterday, did more work tonight, it's up to almost 1,700 words. The story is set in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, only 50 miles from the Canadian border.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Letter in the mail

As some of you might recall, last June I was inducted into the academic Hall of Fame at my high school in Rockland, Massachusetts.  At the time I met an old teacher, who I hadn’t seen since I graduated in 1975.

I promised to send her a copy of “The Clock Struck None” when it was published.  I sent her a copy last month and in today’s mail I received a very nice handwritten thank you letter.

 “I greatly enjoyed reading “The Clock Struck None” History in the subjunctive and alternate universes are wonderful ways to critique our culture…  I also approve - of course – of using the immortal as a teacher in a recovering civilization in “Tell Gilgamesh I’m Sorry.”

“My Ugly Little Self” is quite a tribute to Asimov’s story, and also “The Clan of the Cave Bear”.

“I love the dedication to your wife and wish she had been able to join you at the RHS academic Hall of Fame awards night in June.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Another one

Well, I think the Dragon software is proving itself, it seems to be a real help in getting the stories to flow. With "Message Found Written on an End Roll of Newsprint" I've written four short stories so far this month - more than I wrote in all of 2013, with a cumulative word count of 9,138 words between those four stories.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cannabalerinas

Here's another case where I made up a story to fit a clever title, or in this case, a neologism - "cannabalerinas". Wrote 2,000 words of the first very rough draft. The actual story title is "Message Found Written on an End Roll of Newsprint".

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pace picks up

I spent time Sunday doing minor rewrites to two stories as a result of feedback from editors who had returned them. I then sent those back out as well as two other stories that had come back last week.


As a result of a short burst of inspiration prodded by felicitous phrase that had appeared in a Facebook post, I wrote a new story, “The Grove of Curiosities”, over Sunday night and Monday morning and submitted it Monday morning. So that’s five stories that were sent out in two days.

"The Grove of Curiosities" took 14 hours from start to submission. That may be a record for me.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sympathy for the She Devil

I just learned that a fairly proficient author named Vera Nazarian has started one of those crowdfunding campaigns for a purpose that is drawn some controversy. 

She was the sole proprietor of a small press called Norilana, which printed some pretty good books and some very good authors — but a few years ago she went through a period of incredibly bad health and stopped paying royalties.  She went through bankruptcy couple of years ago.

Her funding drive is to pay royalties she still owes to authors. By her own accounting she owes over $20,000. This is drawn a lot of flak, because people feel since she spent the money herself somewhere along the line she should pay the money back herself.

As someone who went through a disagreeable business failure a number of years ago – a small newspaper rather than of a small press – I understand how agonizing the whole process is. Sole proprietorships are dangerous creatures; they are often the best way for a small business to start, but when they implode there is usually no place to go for funding.

You end up robbing Peter to pay Paul, co-mingling funds and hoping that eventually you’ll get caught up. When you run out of time, your bookkeeping can look like a pot of spaghetti someone dropped on the kitchen floor.

My newspaper ran into difficulties because of a confluence of politics, demographics, and some health issues on my part. Apparently in the case of Vera, it was all health and very severe. A wise man once said “Sometimes you can die of bad luck” and from what I can tell, Vera was fighting for her life.

I think like any average genre writer, the odds of her coming up $20,000 out-of-pocket would be difficult under any circumstances. I think it’s interesting that she is still trying to do something about this; the average schmuck would just blow it off and go on.

The people the lambasting her, I think, need to remember those sayings about walking a mile in someone’s shoes, or throwing the first stone. That’s not to say what she did was wasn’t wrong, but we all make mistakes in life. We don’t have debtors prisons in the United States – yet – and despite what some people think, you can’t put someone to death for owing you money.

My experience in the speculative fiction publishing field is that a lot of people do it for love and/or fun. They consider themselves fortunate if they simply don’t go in the hole. As in the case of a marriage or a relationship, it’s difficult to admit things have not worked out. We all know how often people stay in marriages and relationships past the time when they should have broken up; this also happens to in businesses that are labors of love.

In marriages the financial fallout is that you owe alimony. In a business failure, you owe creditors. When my newspaper was going under, someone came to my office and smashed it up, and knocked me around a bit. They got away with it, because of collusion between law enforcement and the courts. Well as Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “and so it goes.”

So I find it hard to work up ahead of steam of righteous indignation over the Vera Nazarian’s plight. I may very well toss in a few dollars myself. Some people have suggested looking up the authors she still owes money to and paying them directly. Which is not a bad idea. But at the very least, I think people should at least try to imagine what circumstances led to her financial difficulties as well as her decision to go public in a project that has subjected her to public humiliation.

We are all human, and at any given time most of us are broke.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Con conflicts

One unusual development this year is that there are two cases where conventions I have attended in the past have moved to fall on the same weekend. As a result I've had to turn down two invitations to be a panelist..

Last year I attended Galaxy Fest in Colorado Springs and ConDFW in Dallas on two successive weekends in February. This year they were both held the weekend of February 21-23rd. I regret having to turn down Galaxt Fest, but I really felt I needed to participate in the Dallas convention.

I have the same problem in June when both Soonercon in Oklahoma City and Apollocon in Houston are being held on the same weekend. In this case I turned down Apollo con — despite it being a Texas convention – because Oklahoma City is actually closer to me than Houston and I have some closer ties to people in Oklahoma City. But I really really wish I could go to Apollocon also.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Unfriend

Well I had to do something Thursday that I hadn't done before really and it was unfriend someone on Facebook for a nonpolitical reason. The past few times I've unfriended anyone it was because they posted personal political opinions that I found so obnoxious that I did want to read their posts. Obviously these weren't close friends or else I would've already known that personal opinions.

However one Facebook Friend kept doing something I found it inappropriate. I post updates on my Facebook wall of how my writing is going -I think some people find it interesting -but every time I posted some update of my writing this guy would one up me to make some comment about his writing and how much he was writing. He was essentially using my Facebook postings for his self-promotion. I don't think it was malicious, from what I can tell he's just an Uber geek. I basically felt this was inappropriate and if he doesn't know what the problem with that is well that's his problem and I unfriended him.

Update: I think taking this action has helped. I posted on Facebook today about the completion of my latest story and I got 16 comments and 18 likes, which is more than usual. In the past it seemed this person's propensity to respond with some kind of self promotion after each comment stifled the thread. I mean, why post a comment when somebody's going to respond right back at you and their new own writing skills?
A few people have commented about their own writing output, but the not as methodically as this one person I removed from my friends list.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Send off

I finished editing "The Girl Who Couldn't Fly" and sent it off for its first submission today. The first rough draft was 4,100 pages, but by the time it was finished it was just over 3,400 words - a good sign, in my opinion. The better edited a story is, the tighter it gets and the more it shrinks. This is counter-intuitive for most people, and also the opposite of journalism where - since you always write tight to begin with - the more you work on a story the longer it gets.

"Girl" seemed to tighten somewhat more than average, but I believe that is because it was dictated using the Dragon software. That seems normal, storytelling is more chatty that writing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"The Girl Who Couldn't Fly"

Well I finished the first rough draft of my latest short story this evening, "The Girl Who Couldn't Fly". It's approximately 4100 words. Another run-of-the-mill cross dimensional Antonelli alternate universe story. This is the second time I've used Dragon software to do the first draft of a story.

As I mentioned a week or so ago, Nebula nominations were completed and the ballot ready to be voted on. During the nomination period, a number of fellow authors asked me to read their stories. A few days ago I received my first free download offer and a request of another author to read their story which is on the final ballot.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Useful

Well I've written about 5000 words of new fiction this weekend, using the Dragon voice recognition software. It seems to be very useful. I finished up one short story of about 1300 words, and completed about 4/5 of another story for another 3500 words. As a result of this new material I am deep in the editing phase of both stories.

The real advantage of using Dragon to me will be that it will enable me to finally write a book, because in the past that kind of concentrated writing would blow out my wrists.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Enter, Dragon

One of the problems I have - since my day job as a newspaper editor involves typing and my second career as a fiction writer also involves typing -  is a lot of wear and tear on my hands and wrists and I've had to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome over the years. This past week I also sustained a relatively minor sprain to my right shoulder and that's been really painful, and the combination of the carpal tunnel and the sprained shoulder has kept me from keyboarding. It's just painful.

Well, I had an idea. I finally plunked down some money and went and bought Dragon voice recognition software and I've started to use it. In fact that's what I'm using to do this post. I'm dictating into Dragon. It seems to work.

Hopefully as I use this in the future it will take some of the wear and tear off my hands and my wrists and that should be helpful. It should allow me to write and post more regularly.

I just started using the software today. I installed this afternoon and started using it this evening. So, it seems to be going well.

Tonight I used it to start writing a new fantasy/science-fiction story. Apparently I dictate as fast as I type, which is about 1000 words an hour. But honestly, using Dragon is a lot less painful, and causes a lot less wear and tear on my wrists.

By the way, those of you know I like to write, when possible, with a typewriter probably think using this latest technology is strange. I'm not constitutionally opposed to new technology, I just like the tactile feel and the sound you get when you use a manual typewriter.

However, trust me, a manual typewriter is harder on your wrists than a keyboard, but the nature of a typewriter is that you go slower than on a keyboard, so therefore it is not as intense on your hands as a regular keyboard — especially if you type like I do, with two fingers.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Not this time

"Everybody knows, I thought you knew...hearts made of stone."

The nominees for the Nebula Awards were announced a week ago. The ballot has a nice selection of authors, and a myriad of great stories.

One story I nominated did make the ballot, "Wakulla Sprimgs" by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages. It's novella. None of my short story nominations made the ballot.

I touted my story in the Song Stories original anthology, "Hearts Made of Stone". Still, I enjoyed the opportunity to bring it to people's attention.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Gone so soon

I was saddened to hear of the death last Thursday of Aaron Allston, who was only 53. He was a panelist at the first convention I ever attended, ConDFW in 2003.

Before I met him, I never knew an author who came out of gaming, or who wrote in a shared world. It was all part of the learning experience for me as I began to write speculative fiction.

He had a major heart attack in 2009, and had been in precarious health. I hate to see it when someone's quality of life is diminished by that kind of debilitating health problem.

I didn't know him well, but I know a lot of people who did, and regarded high very highly. Such a shame, and such a loss.

Mixed bag

ConDFW was a mixed bag for me this year. The panels topics seemed to be especially well-planned and a good fit for my interests.

On the down side, though, attendance seemed to lag from previous years. From 2003 until maybe 2008 - from the first con I ever attended (which was ConDFW) until the Recession kicked in - attendance seemed to be on the upswing, then it obviously dropped as people lost their jobs and disposable incomes. Conestoga in Tulsa, one of the best cons I attended in that period, went away completely. But in the past couple of years, my impression is that convention attendance was on the upswing again.

ConDFW was the first con I've been to in a few years where the attendance seemed to have dropped from the previous year. My first panel Saturday only has three people in the audience - an equal number as the panelists - until halfway through when three more people walked in.

Another issue I have was the decision to put the authors' signing in the dealers room, at the back. The last time I was in this situation, at an AggieCon in College Station, the same thing happened. Sales stunk.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Radio silence

My apologies to my internet friends for the relative silence this past week, but after getting back from the convention in Dallas I've had to deal with a week missing one staff member at the day job. We had an employee whose last day was Feb. 21, and the person we hired to start on Monday changed their mind, so I've been short-handed all week.

Coming soon!

This is one of my best ever alternate histories.