Friday, April 29, 2005

Cinnamon and Sacharine

The golf team finished 4th at regionals. No trip to Austin for them this year.

Took Thursday off completely as comp time because of backlog of hours covering sporting events. Went with Patricia to Texas A&M-Commerce to use the library. Blew a tire on the way home. While merging on the highway, 18-wheeler wouldn't yield and my right wheels went off the concrete. Front right tire blew on a pothole between the pavement and shoulder. Thank goodness for AAA and cell phones.

I had to cover 3 different events today - regional track and field, a softball playoff game and a baseball game. All in different cities. Haven't looked at the trip odemeter, but I'll guess it was a 150-mile swing around the region. Started the day at the office at 8 a.m., got home at 9:45 p.m. This line-up was one of the reasons I took Thursday off.

Nice thing is, everyvody won - baseball team, softbal team, and we had at least one kid qualify for state.

Nothing on the fiction front, except that after watching a TV report Wednesday about a new Broadway musical called "Spamalot" - loosely based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail - I really got a bellyfull of the Arthurian Mythos. When they trotted out The Lady of the Lake, I muttered "I'm sick of this Arthurian crap! Machine-gun the (Bleep!)!"

Which got me thinking, and I came up with a title, "The Man Who Machine-Gunned the Lady in the Lake". After 2 hours and 4 cups of coffee laced with cinnamonn and sacharine, I have a 2,100-word first draft of the story. It takes place in the small town of Camelot, Texas, and involves, witches, The Lady in the Lake, an old boy wood chooper named Heavy Heyward, an AK-47 and.. well, I hope you get to read it some time.

Jeez, I don't know where I come up with this stuff. It's also one of the few stories I've ever done that fantasy. No science fiction in there that I can see - at least none you'd have to list on the label.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Does two 4ths equal a 2nd?

The North and East Texas Press Association (NETPA) had its annual meeting this past weekend. No one could attend from the paper because of the upcoming special section - most of us worked 12 hours Saturday and half a day Sunday.

Found out yesterday what we won in the annual press contest. I took 4th place in Sports Writing and 4th place is Sports Photography. Not the highest of awards - but the recognition's still nice. The paper also won for Community Service, and took a 2nd in column writing and 4th in new writing.

Lenox Ave. Returned "Wish List". I sent them "Comes the Juju Man".

Off for a 120 mile drive to cover the regional golf tournament.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Rejectomancy 101

I wrote this in response to a thread over at the Asimov's board, where I have also posted it:

In the 2 1/2 years since I started writing science fiction, I've written 50 stories. I've had 18 acceptances and 216 rejections. I have 17 stories in various slush piles currently. This is what I think I've learned about the subject:

There are seven kinds of replies you can get. In ascending order, they are:

1. Form Letter - Long Version: This is when the mag says "You're story didn't work. Here is a laundry list of reasons why you probably screwed up. Read them and think about it." You didn't come close.

2. Form Letter - Short Version. Rejection letters are not personal correspondence. In this case, shorter is better. If the letter just says, "This didn't fit our needs", take that at face value. It's not a bad story. If the letter also says "We hope to see more of your work", also take that at face value. They might be starting to notice you.

3. Form Letter - Short Version with Note. If the editor feels the "best" form rejection isn't quite enough and writes a personal note, that means you are being noticed.

4. Personal Letter - OK, this means the editor thinks you have promise. It may be short, but usually includes at least one pertinent comment. These comments may be ranked as follows:
a. Didn't work for me - when words like "unlikely" or "implausible" appear, it means you had a good dead but didn't execute well enough.
b. Liked, but not enough to buy - Means exactly what it says.
c. Liked, but not right for publication - Again, means what it says.
d. "Good story, but I just bought one like it." Drives you nuts, but it happens. To be a good writer, not only do you have to have good ideas, you need to be first out of the gate.
Words like "enjoyed", "fun" "well written" are good signs you're making progress.
Note: As far as I can tell, F&SF sends out typewritten letters to everyone, so this is meaningless for them.

5. Personal Letter - Might Consider After Rewrite: This is NOT an acceptance, but you got close enough the editor wants to encourage you. If your story was accepted, the editor will still almost always ask for some reworking, anyway.
DO NOT bother to resend and send story again to the same editor, unless it is unrecognizable after rewrite. Editors go ga-ga is they see the same story twice. Rewrite it and send it to someone else.

6. Personal Letter with Critique of Story - If an editor rejects the story but takes the time to critique it, he basically knows you're going to toss him one that will stick soon. I have this from people such as Michael Swanwick and Howard Waldrop. This is the way John Campbell worked, and Gardner Dozois, also. No busy editor is going to take the time to write a critique unless he feels he's going to buy a story eventually.
Note: Personal letters with only 1 comment are a show of good faith that the editor read your story, and this is really No. 4 above.

7. Acceptance. The editor almost always suggests changes - but it's still an acceptance.

Some magazines use rejections with checklists. If they turn around the stories fast, fine. Otherwise, send the stories to where you can get some useful feedback.

Some magazines only reject or accept - nothing in between. Their rejections don't tell you anything. Again, if they turn around stories fast, use them. Don't tie up stories for months and months for a form letter that gets you nowhere.

The only major venue I know that uses a slush pile reader is F&SF, and their rejectomancy is a sub-specialization.

Some venues - Alienskin and Andromeda Spaceways come immediately to mind - have an editorial board, so when you hear back from them, the feedback reflects some collective process. Andromeda actually divvies up the stories to a first reader, and if he forwards it to the editors, they let you know. A story there goes through two readings before it can be accepted.

Almost no one in "unrejectable". The only writers I think would t fall in that category are Arthur Clarke (who doesn't write short stores any more), Harlan Ellison and Michael Swanwick. Lots of multiple Hugo winners get rejected all the time.

The only advantage of being a pro is that it usually gets you past the slush pile reader (if there is one).

Saturday, April 23, 2005

I Help in a Manhunt

Haven't done much writing the past few days. We have a big project at the office deadlining today - Saturday - for next Thursday's paper. In fact, I have to work on Saturday.
Yesterday (Friday) I worked from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with only a lunch break. I worked from 8 a.m. until 6 at the office and then had to go straight to a softball game.
I dropped "The Man Who Ran" in the mail to "Realms of Fantasy" I've never sent them anything before, but the story was sitting around and it occurred to me it would probably be considered fantasy by most people - so what the heck?
Always looking for new markets.
Joke of the Day:
I helped capture an escaped mental patient yesterday. I was driving in town when I heard on KMOO that a "mentally challenged" adult had walked through an open gate at a state hospital and was wandering Wood County.
I called the sheriff's department down in Quitman and told them, "I can help you catch the guy. Meet me in Brookshire's in 10 minutes."
When I went into Brookshire's, I told the deputies, "Just wait a minute and keep your eyes open."
I walked into the Express Lane aisle. As soon as I moved towards the counter, a drooling moron ran ahead of me and got in line.
"That's him!" the deputies cried. They quickly grabbed him and put him in an ambulance to go back to the state hospital.
"How did you know he was in the grocery store?" one of the deputies asked me as the ambulance sped off.
"It was easy," I said. "Every time I get in the Express Lane at the supermarket I always find the biggest idiot possible is always right in front of me.
"So I knew if I walked up, 'poof'! He was sure to appear."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

They Got Their Act Together in Tulsa.

I got an e-mail link to the guest questionnaire for Conestoga. I went to the site and filled it out. It was a very well done form. It was easy to use, and I liked the proposed list of panel subjects. Just convinces me more that I will enjoy the convention. They seem to be on the ball.

Brutarian returned "The Dragon's Black Box". I e-mailed it to Strange Horizons. I just sent Brutarian "V.S.A."

I also just sent "The Silver Dollar Saucer" to Lone Star Stories.

I'm wearing long sleeved shirts and the spots on my arms caused by the high blood pressure medicine seem to be fading.

Looking forward to "Big Girl" going up at Ultraverse May 1.

My boss was a at home yesterday and called me. She was doing a crossword puzzle and the clue was "Science Fiction Author Frederick _ _ _ _. She knew I'd know the answer. I told her not only do I know who Fred Pohl is, he's got a story in the same upcoming issue of Asimov's that I do.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sun spots

Stanley Schmidt returned "Avatar". He said it was "pretty well written" but didn't have enough new ideas to warrant a purchase. I sent him "The Queen of Guilty Pleasures".

Challenging Destiny returned "Good Old Gal".

Ellen Datlow returned "VSA". She said it was an interesting alternate history, but didn't rise to a purchase. I'm sending her "Good Ol Gal".

Sheila Williams returned "The Silver Dollar Saucer". She said it was fun but implausible.

I sent "The Hideaway" to Alienskin and "Fermi's Fraternity" to ASIM.

Oh, the title of this entry: I recently started taking high blood pressure medicine. A couple of weeks ago, my forearms broke out in small red spots. They didn't itch, they burned. When I went to see the doctor Saturday, he said the medicine has caused photosensitivity. The spots are small blotches of sunburn.

Rather than change the medicine - which is working - I'm going to start using sunblock and wearing long-sleeved shirts more. Being a sports editor, I get out in the sun a lot.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tulsa, here we come...

I've been invited to be a guest at Conestoga9 in Tulsa this July. That should be lots of fun. Jayme Blaschke, Brad Denton and Howard Waldrop - all people I've come to know and like since taking up this sf writing racket - are all going. We should be quite a posse. Visit their web site to learn more:

Get a load of this exchange off the Asimov's discussion board (the topic is the June issue):

By Gardner Dozois on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 04:16 pm:

"The Little Goddess" is the first really good, award-level-quality story to appear in ASIMOV'S for the last twenty years that I didn't personally buy. I'm jealous! I want to have been the one who bought it! Obviously, though, I left the magazine in good hands.

By Tom Purdom on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 11:24 pm:

That's amazing, Gardner. I automatically assumed the magazine was still using your backlog and you had bought it. There were several good stories in this issue but I felt "The Little Goddess" and the Kage Baker were perfect, first class examples of what a science fiction story should be.

By JTS on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 02:38 am:

Just out of curiosity, gardner what was the last story you bought as editor, has it appeared yet

By karl B on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 07:57 am:

Gardner: was there an average turnaround time between acceptance and publication when you were editor? Or was it strictly on a case-by-case basis?

By Lou Antonelli on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 11:26 am:

"Just out of curiosity, Gardner what was the last story you bought as editor, has it appeared yet?"

It's called "A Rocket for the Republic" and it is running in the September issue, according to Sheila. That means it will be out in July.

It was Gardner's last acceptance and my first pro sale. I'se done cashed the check, sent the bio and checked the galleys.

Lou Antonelli

By Gardner Dozois on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 12:47 pm:

Sheila has wisely been mixing her own new purchases with my backlog in every issue since the beginning of the year; so far, there have been two or three of her new purchases in every issue, with the rest taken up with stuff I'd bought before. I've enjoyed a number of her purchases before this, and most of them I probably would have bought myself, but "The Little Goddess" is the first one that's really knocked my socks off.

Baker's "Bad Machine" was from my inventory.

Karl, it was case-by-case, especially with the pro and semi-pro stuff.

Yes, Lou's "A Rocket for the Republic" was the last story I bought--I figured, hey, after buying THIS, the ne plus ultra of stories, the story of stories, there was no point in going on, and so I hung it up.

By Unconscious in Texas on Monday, April 18, 2005 - 01:04 pm:

**Lou faints**

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Slow Prometheus

Continued working last night on "Prometheus and the Little Lost Spaceship". This story has a few "deep concepts" in it and the writings going slower than usual, for me at least. So far I think I have 1,600 words.
One idea I'm tossing out in the story - that our solar system is the only one that has life, and it will be mankind's role to seed life through the galaxy - probably not go over well with s-f editors, who are more conservative lot than they would like to admit when it comes to the assumptions of the genre.
I explain that the 'aliens' we have been seeing are really time travelers from the past and the future and the answer to Fermi's Paradox is that - there's nobody out there.
This is not an original idea, so I'm not giving away any trade secrets.
I have a story outline - in fact, I think I started the story but stalled out at like 3,000 words - based on the "aliens as time travelers" story concept, called "Time Like a Rope".
"Prometheus" is the closest thing to Stapledonianism I've ever done. It's set 11,000,000 years in the future and the human race is extinct.
Sometime I even impress myself with a turn of phrase. I have an artificial human ask an old space probe when was the last time it encountered humans.
It describes the last humans it ever saw as "devolved child-like creatures wandering the ruins of its machines and eating vermin" or something like that. I'm quoting myself from memory, I don't have the story in front of me.
Jeez, what a bleak depiction - but it's what the story calls for.
One thing that's bothering me is that I can see the fuzzy outlines of a brilliant ending. I hope it clears up before I finish the first draft, or it will be another one of those stories I set aside for months and finish up later.
I think I finished the first draft of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" last August, but my gut tells me the longer I wait to finish it, the better it will be.
It's an alternative history story - which are always a hard sell - so it will have to be real snappy.
I finished the first draft of "A Rocket for the Republic" in July 2003 and then didn't finish it until October, because I changed jobs and moved in August.
Chris East at Futurismic returned "The Hideaway". Says it's not right for them - he's probably right, but he also turns around stories so fast, I don't mind running things by him.
One of the reasons I haven't written too much of "Prometheus" is that I worked on a serious revision to "Berserker" last night.
This was the story I workshopped at Turkey City last October. It was named "Death of a Monster" at the time.
This third incarnation of the tale has the alliterative title "Why I Came to California".
It's already made the rounds of the major venues. I noticed Chris hasn't seen it, so I decided to send it, but not before doing a worthy rewrite.
I had sent "Fermi's Fraternity" to Andromeda, but didn't get a response from their Slush-o-Matic, so yesterday I e-mailed a query. Robbie Matthews replied and said they didn't seem to have it, so I'd best resend.
I've been paranoid about not getting acknowledgment ever since I sent a rewrite to Chizine and didn't follow up.
By the time I queried, the reading period was up and the editor had never gotten the story. I blew a potential pro-level sale there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

New story

I started a new story this evening. I do plan to do the revision to "The Idiot Box", but I wanted to start a whole new story to stick in the mix. My rationale is the new story will go better because after I write the 1st draft, I'll take a break with "The Idiot Box" and then go back to the new story.
I've had the basic idea for the new story for a while, but I was hung up, mainly because I couldn't come up with a snappy title. Today I had to cover a golf tournament that was about 27 miles away, and while making the drive, the title came to me. It's called "Prometheus and the Little Lost Spaceship".
It's not the first time I came up with a story title while covering a sports event. I came up with "The Silver Dollar Rocket" while coverings a softball game in Longview. The title changed to "The Silver Dollar saucer" before the story was finished.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Four submissins in one day

Ideomancer rejected "The Runner at Dawn". I've run off a hard copy and it's going in the mail to Gordon Van Gelder at F&SF.

I'm also dropping "Death of a Monster" to Lynne Jamneck at Simulacrum in New Zealand.

I've sent "The Hideaway" to Futurismic.

And I did a revision to "Wish List" and e-mailed it to Lenox Ave.

Next: Revise "The Idiot Box" so it can get back out in the slush piles.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Shadows of Saturn

Shadows of Saturn, a small semiprozine I've not submitted to before, returned "Berserker". The editor sad he enioyed it, but t just wasn't right for the mag. He asked for more, so I'm dropping "Insight" in the mal to him tomorrow.

I'm trying to decide where to send the revised version of "The Hideway", but I'm leaning towards Chizine or Futurismic. I'd like to to have something at both right now. Have to give t some thought.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"A" wins

I did the rewrite on "The Hideaway" last night. Probably revised 10% of the original story. I've run off a new manuscript and will edit it tonight.

Strangely enough, the word count really didn't change.

Nothing's come back in the past couple of days. That's good.

I really want to start "Riders of the Red Shift", but I've been hung up because the story involves near-light travel, and my physics is so shaky. I think I have the solution, though, I'm going to go back and read "Tao Zero". That might help me scoosh by.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Big Girl, the Finger Lakes and Fermi's Frat

Due to some stuttering fingers, a fragment of only the title was just posted. Here's the real post:

Chris Africa at Ultraverse says the rewrite of "Big Girl" is fine. He asked for one last clarification and a bio, which I shot off. The story will be running in Ultraverse's May issue. Jayme Blaschke at RevolutionSF says "Dialogue" should be running in May, also.

"Twilight on the Finger Lakes" is done and went in the mail to Sheila Williams at Asimov' during the lunch break. That's three stories in the slush pile at Asimov's. Sheila is the only editor that lets me multi-sub (there were times I'd have as many as a half dozen piled up on Gardner).

The last story she sent back was "Fermi's Fraternity". I just sent that to Andromeda via e-mail.

Now, what to do next?

a. Revise "The Hideaway" and "Wish List"?

b. Finish "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"?

c. Start a new story, "Riders of the Red Shift"?

Big Girl, the Finger Lakes and Fermi

Lou's News and Views

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Man Who Traveled in Elephants

Drove to Houston Friday, attended the state power lifting meet all day Saturday. It was well worth it - our local boys won the gold medal for their size school. Another school only ten miles away - which we also cover - won the silver in their conference. Between the six local boys who attended, they took three gold medals and two silver. The last boy finished 4th.

The meet ran all day. I hit the road at 6:45 p.m. and drove home. I was back about 12:30 a.m.

OK, to science fiction. Friday I had lunch on the road in Tyler, and took a break to visit a book store after lunch. I bought an old copy of "Destinies VI", the Jim Baen anthology from 1988. It was the Robert Heinlein Memorial Issue.

I read through the book Friday evening while at the motel in Houston. I was especially intrigued to read "The Man Who Traveled in Elephants", which - it was noted - Heinlein's favorite story. No wonder I'd never read it. It's not science fiction - it's fantasy. Very sentimental, too.

Got back a couple of rejections via e-mail. "The Hideway" didn't clear the second round of reading at Andromeda Spaceways. They sent back a very long set of editor comments - very helpful. I probably will work on the story as a result. Futurismic rejected "Wish List" - also said nice things.

There's something I want to fix in the story - I had forgotten to do it earlier.

Whatever happened to that old Sunbelt?

By LOU ANTONELLI Managing Editor It’s rained almost daily for the past four months. The ground is saturated; walking across grass is lik...