Saturday, February 27, 2016

Opportunities

After being the proprietor of my own community weekly newspaper from 1995 to 2001, after six years I had to toss in the towel and admit the business was a failure. I turned over what assets remained to settle some bills and took a regular job.

Being self-employed had been extremely time consuming, and as a result of taking a normal job I had - or at least felt I had - time on my hands. I started writing and submitting short stories in the fall of 2002. In March 2004 I sold "A Rocket For the Republic" to Gardner Dozois at Asimov's Science Fiction.

Fast forward a few years. I was the managing editor of a small daily newspaper from 2007 to the start of 2015 - seven and a half years. The paper struggled during the Great Recession, and by the time it was sold to a newspaper chain, I was working very long hours.

In January 2015 I took a job as managing editor of a weekly paper, and again, I took advantage of the time gained to write, but this time I tackled a novel. I wrote "Another Girl, Another Planet" in four months, from January to April of 2015. Ten months later I sold "Another Girl, Another Planet" to Kevin J. Anderson at WordFire Press.

Your mileage may vary, but at least in my case I have always taken setbacks, looked at what opportunities they may hold, and then set forward again.

Whoops!

There's a belief among fiction writers that any feedback from an editor sent along with a rejection is helpful. I've found that to be true; in fact, I wrote a whole book about that, "Letters From Gardner"

Yesterday I got a very good example of that. In his comments accompanying a rejection, an editor noted a certain implausibility in a scenario I set up regarding a hole 150 feet deep. I realized with a start that I goofed up what I had meant to say. I said 150 feet deep when I meant 150 feet below sea level.

Thanks to his taking the time to read the story, I now see the misfire and I'm going to do a little rewrite to correct the problem.

I've found that even when an editor doesn't "get" a story or doesn't understand something, that can be helpful. For example, if they miss some plot point, it may mean that it is too subtle, and would be missed by the reader also.

In another example, I had an alternate history story that came back with comments indicating it had been read like it was straight space opera or hard s-f (the science had been critiqued), which tipped me off I needed to submit it to someplace that was more fantasy-oriented (which was more appropriate, anyway) and it sold quickly.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Sometimes you find someone who gets it

I'm kind of puzzled why some people are still rehashing the 2015 Hugo nominations. That dead horse was beaten into discrete atoms months ago.

Having said that, on the blog "Women Write About Comics", Doris V. Doris Sutherland has been comparing 2015 versus 2014 nominees for a while. On Thursday her post "2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Related Works" caught my attention because she had a very fair and perceptive review of "Letters from Gardner".

She's the only person I know who actually "got" the one story that was never formally published:

"The stories themselves are hit or miss—Antonelli cheerfully admits that a few of them were rejected for good reason—but there are some strong works on offer. For my money, the best part of the book is a chapter entitled “In the Wake of the Columbia Tragedy.” Here, Antonelli describes his reaction to the shuttle disaster of 2003, which occurred over his home state of Texas. To exorcise his psychological demons following the terrible incident, he wrote a story called “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” in which a man finds a strange crab-like being amongst debris from the crash. The protagonist realises that it is a parasite that evolved to live off spacecraft, and was responsible for destroying Columbia; he then kills it in disgust.

"Gardner Dozois rejected the story on the reasonable grounds that, while Antonelli’s motives were heartfelt, a reader could easily misinterpret the story as crass exploitation. The chapter gives insight into the creative processes of both Antonelli and Dozois, which it places into historical context..."

Here is the full article.

Sutherland was equally perceptive in December when she discussed my short story nominee, "On a Spiritual Plane:

"Antonelli acknowledges that his background as a journalist shows through in his fiction. In some of his stories, the matter-of-fact clarity of his writing style works in his favour. With “On the Spiritual Plane”, however, he picked a subject that is just too subtle to fit his authorial approach."

Which, in reflection is probably quite true.

But I tried.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Another Girl, Another Planet" sold to WordFire Press

Last Friday I posted on Facebook that I had gotten some really good news, and I advised everyone to stay tuned. I can announce that good news now.

I have signed a contract with WordFire Press to publish my retro-futurist alternate history novel "Another Girl, Another Planet". After 95 short story publications, I am finally committing novel.

Thanks to Publisher Kevin J. Anderson and Acquisitions Editor Dave Butler for having faith in me. I think everyone is going to enjoy "Another Girl, Another Planet", and I'm proud to become a WordPress author.

I'll keep everyone posted as we move towards scheduling a publication date. The esteemed Bryan Thomas Schmidt is developmental editor. Meanwhile, as we say in Texas, "YEE-HAW!!!"

What is retro-futurist alternate history, you might ask?

Well, I use "futurist" to describe the way society viewed the science fiction future - in the case of "Another Girl, Another Planet", the setting is what someone after World War II MIGHT have thought the space program would look in 1985. But since now 1985 is 30 years in the past, it becomes "retro".

By definition, it is alternate history, because the story takes place in a past that never happened.

WordFire Press Acquisitions Editor Dave Butler describes "Another Girl, Another Planet" as a "Heinleinian / retro-futurist / coldwarpunk story of politics, espionage, and murder on the Red Planet," adding "In this story, the US colonizes the moon under the leadership of Heinlein."

"Another Girl, Another Planet" is one of Butler's first acquisitions since he took his current post on Feb. 19. A mid-size new-model publisher, WordFire Press continues to develop and release fiction from an impressive stable of authors and creators.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I wonder whatever happened to the club Spit in Levittown?

Back in 1984, I was 27, single and living in Manhattan. I decided I needed a change in scenery and decided I was going to move to Texas. As the year was closing out I was packing up, and while I was puttering around my apartment I had my favorite radio station on.

It suddenly struck me that I was going to miss WLIR, and then I had an idea. They were doing a countdown of the Top 100 alternate rock/New Wave music of 1984 on New Year's Eve. I grabbed a handful of cassette tapes and recorded it all.

It took five cassettes, but it was worth it. I still have them. This weekend I picked up a vintage Panasonic compact audio system and so I have stereo tape player to play them.

It's great stuff, and the commercials are a hoot, also.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

See you all there!

I am proud to announce I have accepted an invitation to be a panelist at this year's ConQuesT in Kansas City again. Last year was my first visit and I enjoyed it immensely.

For many years it was impossible for me to attend this convention because it traditionally meets Memorial Day weekend. In the town where I live the annual high school graduation is held that weekend, and as the local newspaper editor it was my responsibility to attend and provide coverage for the newspaper. But I changed jobs last year, and now the local high school holds graduation the first Saturday in June, leaving me free on the Memorial Day weekend.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Secret finds

Many book lovers like to talk about their experiences in haunting bookstores, especially used ones, since you can find some treasures there.

I like to be different.

Anyone can ransack the shelves in a used book store, but I like to look for books in more off the beaten path places, such as antique stores and flea markets. For example, you'd be surprised how often a flea market or antique store might have a small pile of books on a shelf some place.

They were probably picked up by the proprietor who bought up an estate sale. They often don't know much about or care much about the books, so there may be some treasures there you can get for a buck or two.

In once rummaged through a junk shop and bought a 1981 copy of Terry Carr's "Treasury of Modern Fantasy" for two bucks.

In furniture stores - both new, used, and antique - they leave books around for looks, and pay no attention to what they are, so long as they look nice. You see many volumes of Readers' Digest Condensed Books.

But one time I found a copy of the 1946 copy of "Adventures in Time and Space" sitting on an antique dresser once, and gave the shop owner 75 cents for it.

By far, the best of these secret finds was when I saw, atop a piece of antique furniture in a shop in Gladewater, Texas, a thick red book, which turned out to be a special 1926 Literary Digest Edition of The Complete Works of O. Henry published by Doubleday.

I didn't even know there was a one-volume compilation of O. Henry's short stories. It's 1,400 pages long, printed in small type on onion-skin like paper. But, wow! All that great fiction in one book. I think I gave the lady watching the shop two bucks.

That's the book I'm holding in the photo.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Anyway, works for me.


Here's a little trick of mine: I use 5x7 manilla envelopes as mouse pads, so that when I get an idea while typing furiously I can quickly jot down a note.

When the envelope is full, I transcribe any notes that need saving. Occasionally I'll cut stuff out.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Inside joke

On the subject of strange curse words, this isn't a curse per se, but when I was little Jimmy Durante was still entertaining, and a couple of times when I saw him on television doing stand-up, he would mutter a word, "umbriagga".

He would say it in obvious consternation or exasperation. I just thought it was a nonsense word. Then one night my father was watching television with me, and when Durante dropped the U-word, dad chuckled.

He explained that "umbriagga" is Italian slag for schnockered - drunk. Durante was obviously expressing his opinion of some audience members.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Latest story

Years ago at a convention I attended, Analog editor Stan Schmidt mentioned some story ideas he regretted never writing up. He said he always thought "The Man Who Sold His Soul For His Country" would be a great title to use for a story.

It took me 12 years, but I finally had an idea for a story that would fit that title. I finished it today. It's my first short story of 2016, the 138th I've written since 2002.

The spin rack is STILL making a comeback!

I'm still engaged in my policy of buying genre books from the spin racks in Dollar General stores to encourage them to stock these &q...