Friday, June 29, 2007

Magical Realism markets

Anyone know of any good short story markets for magical realism? I can think of a few that would probably be open to it, but nothing jumps to mind as being a definite, we-love-magical-realism market. I may have to look at some of the so-called mainstream markets as well, which I don't know as well. Any wisdom greatly appreciated.
New Trails, running and writing

When we first moved to Colorado, we lived for half a year in an apartment on the other side of town. It was very close to the trail system, so there were two sections of trail I ran frequently. That was the one negative of moving to our house--at the time it was no where near the trails (though a few months later they built a new trail that runs almost right beside our house and connects to the other trails).

So yesterday, my son and I went up to the park and petting farm that's beside one of those stretches of trail, and before we visited the animals we went for a run. It was great to revisit this trail I'd been on so often. Because I was starting at a different point, I also was able to continue beyond where I'd always turned around...and that was even better, seeing a stretch of trail I'd never seen before.

I've always loved that kind of thing--I grew up exploring fields and little strips of woodland, following the railroad tracks, the creek (or crick?), the two-track roads that tractors took as they made their way all around. And in college when I worked in the library, I loved being asked to get something from various backrooms and using the key to explore what was down some of the hallways even we library workers didn't get to go to most of the time. (When the first floor of the library building was the history department my first year or two of college, I remember discovering a tunnel that took me all across the open green space in the center of campus and to the science building on the far side, though that was discovered as part of the historical simulations club and not as a library employee.)

What's this have to do with writing? Just that I'm the same way there. I love discovering new things, trying new things, going where I haven't gone before. In both writing and reading. I think that shapes a lot of what I like to read and why I like it. I understand the attraction of revisiting a familiar place, of taking what might be cliche in someone else's hands but treating it in a way that it isn't, of retelling a fairy tale with your own twists and your own words. But it's the new roads, the strange and offbeat that's more likely to snag my interest.

So whatever and wherever you're reading and writing and running today, happy exploring!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gulp

Polishing is done for Signs and Wonders. I just have to burn a CD and print out the cover letter...and head to the post office. I really don't know what kind of reaction this one will get. This is a manuscript I wrote, oh, a couple of years ago and decided when I'd finished that it was too out there, too experimental for anyone to take from an unknown author. But then I read Gene Wolfe and decided to pull it back out. I did some revisions and posted it for my critiquing group and was actually pleasantly surprised by the response, including from writers whose tastes are quite different from mine (and different from what I'd guess would be the target audience).

And then about a year ago I was still feeling like the story was missing something...and finally decided what that something was. And that got even higher praise. And the final revisions last fall and then the polishing just now has made it considerably stronger since then (I think). But a part of me still wonders if it's still too far out there. Just a few days ago I compared it to music that's "pretentious without the skill to back it up" because I sometimes feel like that's what this is. My skill as a writer was no where near enough when I started it...it remains to be seen if my growth since then (and I know my writing ability has improved dramatically) has reached the point where the story is as it needs to be. I hope so. I go back and forth between thinking it's brilliant and will cause a stir in the field (even if it's never anything close to a bestseller) and thinking that an editor will look at it and say that it's just a bunch of hand-waving disguising an inferior story. Or inferior storytelling. Or whatever.

I'm getting so used to sending out short fiction and not worrying about whether it gets rejected or not. But this...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Piano (and running)

We did get our free piano Monday night--it's great to have it here, though it needs some tuning (not as much as I would have expected) and the wood is in quite rough shape. I've looked a bit into restoring pianos online, and I don't think I'm up for a full restoration, so we may have to make do as we can. But at least I'm hoping that it can stay in tune decently. It was originally a player piano, though the player part of it is missing. Maybe a hundred years ago it sat in some saloon out here in the West with swinging doors on the entrance and gunslingers playing cards at the tables. I don't think it's actually quite that old, but it's fun to imagine. Makes me want to write a story that somehow uses a piano in it--will have to file that thought away.

We haven't had a piano the whole time we've been married (about 6 years, I guess), so when I'd played something last night, but wife said to me, "I forget that you're that good at piano." Not that I'm really all that great--twelve years without practicing makes you a bit rusty, and even before that I was never comfortable playing in front of people--but she hasn't really had many chances to hear me play. So it's fun.

I also went running this morning, despite the heat--stopped part way through at the children's garden, which my son loves. And for the first time in almost a month, my knee isn't bothering me after a run, so that makes me relieved. It's not a gushing acceptance from a professional-paying market, but it's a couple of good things anyway.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ouch

I was hoping today to be able to say I'd gotten a piano for free. All afternoon I kept my email open (not just for the piano but also because I'd listed a few things to sell on craigslist and was trying to work out those details with a potential buyer, which also fell through for today), and I spent a while calling around to get some friends to help move the piano... Well, I'm still hoping to get the piano later this week.

But instead what I got was a whole bunch of rejections. Five, that's right, five stories and poems in one afternoon (now granted, three of those were poems from one place). And I'd just had two stories rejected two days ago--all of these for respected, professional or nearly-so venues that had the submissions for longer than their usual or stated response times. When a place does that, it gets my hopes up. Now several of them were personalized rejections, which is nice both from the standpoint of getting ideas of how to strengthen a piece and because I'm getting personal rejections from major markets...but it's still a bit rough to have them all at once like this. So it goes.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Nemonymous, Art & Prose, and Tangent Online

Well, good things in triplicate today. First, my copy of Nemonymous 7 arrived already. Here I was preparing myself for a long wait, but the international shipping was impressively speedy. The book looks very cool, and I'm looking forward to reading it. The anonymity of it leaves me in a bit of a bind, though. First, I usually mention something about the origin of a story when it's published--can't do that here. And second, I like to read some of the other stories in whatever magazine or ezine or what have you the story is in and give some impressions of some of them. Can't do that here either, because you'd know I wasn't referring to my own. So I'll just say that I enjoyed the first story I read there.

Also, the June issue of Art & Prose has just been released, including my story "The Underdweller's Fight." This story started with a story prompt in one of my critiquing groups, and my aim was to capture some of the feel of cyber-punk--not so much the cyber aspect as the gritty realities of the downtrodden in a futuristic city. So it's a gang story in the tunnels beneath a city that calls itself (facetiously) "The Peaceful City." The setting will be somewhat familiar to those who read my story in OG's Speculative Fiction, though that one takes place primarily above ground. I have another story kernel for this setting, but I haven't developed it yet.

Finally, my review of Vera Nazarian's Salt of the Air went up today at Tangent. I enjoyed the stories--as you can see from the review, my biggest complaint was that so many of the stories seemed overly alike. Not in plot so much (though some overlap), but in mood and tone. I imagine this is often a struggle with single-author collections, though I think the best authors are able to work at a broader range of styles and moods. Still...good stories to check out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If I were starting an ezine, part 2

I hope no one was kept awake waiting for this second part...

One thing I realize I didn't mention in what I posted on that other forum is the question of pay. I think there are worthy magazines out there that pay a low amount, and some of them grow enough to gradually increase that pay to a respectable amount, but I suspect that's rare. Well, success of any kind over many years is rare, but I'll argue that starting with a higher pay is better--you'll lose more money at the start, but you'll (hopefully) attract the kind of names to in turn attract the kind of audience to be successful. That's my theory anyway (there have been a few high-paying markets that have closed in the past few years, and a bunch to that have started...so it's hard to know how much the overall balance is). I'm not sure if I'd aim at 3 cents a word, earning at least semi-pro status or aim right away for pro status (Clarkesworld started with 10 cents a word, and Heliotrope started with 7 and is now up to 10, and IGMS and Baen's Universe both started out paying above the minimum for professional status). But somewhere in there would be ideal--between 3 and 10, the exact number depending on further research.

So, now for 4-7:

4) Art. I would want to pattern this after the music section--publicity for an artist who sells his/her work elsewhere so that the cost to the magazine is minimal (though you could certainly also have a specific artist who gets paid for the online equivalent of cover art as well). It'd be nice to be able to have a featured artist gallery every week, though if that got too much you could alternate it with music week by week.

5) Son and Foe method? I'd want to ask Jeremiah Sturgill about this one--I always thought (and still do) that the business idea of Son and Foe was a good one, that is the idea of having all the stories of the coming issue displayed at the start, and someone can pay to download the entire issue immediately or wait to read them as they come online for free. For some reason Son & Foe hasn't been successful, it would seem, but there may still be value in this. I would think that this would be only for the fiction (and poetry?), but then bundled with more extensive music of the featured musicians (and possibly additional art?) that's exclusive to the download. I'd resist the temptation to have any fiction be exclusive to the paid version.

The other non-fiction content would be too fluid to have it available in advance. I think I'd also go on a monthly basis for this, though maybe not--if I have to wait 2 1/2 months for a story I think I'll like, then I might be more tempted to shell out the money, whereas if I only have to wait 3 weeks, I might be more patient. Hmm.

6) Chapbooks? Again I'd want to talk to other editors to see how this goes for them. Clarkesworld does limited runs of signed chapbooks--do they sell enough to make it worth it? I don't know. Heliotrope is going to experiment with chapbooks starting with issue 4 also, I believe. So their experiences could help with this decision (if they'd be willing to share them, that is).

7) Ads. This is what #2, 3, & 4 are leading to. I don't like ads. I'm the type to read Adbusters--in fact, read my "Sports Fable Press" for my feelings about how advertising can take over our lives. But from a business standpoint, I think they'd be necessary, and with the new content coming up everyday and the broad multi-media focus (music, art, fiction, non-fiction, and especially the not-blog-posts/not-articles), I think you'd get enough unique visitors to be able to charge a reasonable amount for the ads. As someone on that forum pointed out, there's a question of demographics with SF/F ads--so that would be part of the planning as well when considering the target audience. Ideally publishers would be a strong part of that, but would they have the budgets to be enough? Probably not. I'd do all I could to keep the ads unobtrusive...but still of value to the advertisers.

I'd love to hear other comments on this--counter arguments, other things to consider, etc. Let me know!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nemonymous--go buy it!

Don't worry--I'll get to part 2 of my grand thoughts on starting an ezine (since there's such a clamor for MORE! MORE!), but first I needed to point out that Nemonymous is available now to be ordered, and my copy should be winging its way across the Atlantic (or maybe swimming). Check out the ordering page for info.

Also, if you'd be interested in reviewing the book and have a well-trafficked blog or site to post the review on, let Des know (follow the Nemonymous link on the right to get his email address). Or simply let me know, and I can pass that on to him. This is the first time Nemonymous is allowing the public to know ahead of time what authors are in the book/magazine/anthology/megazanthus (though as you probably know by now, not which story goes with which author), so he's asking us to help get the word out.

And for every (fellow) aspiring writer who reads this, let me just say again that this is the type of venue that deserves your support. If you've ever felt a story was rejected because you don't have that famous name or that a story by a famous writer was published only because of that name, then Nemonymous (and others that remove identifying info, like Shimmer) are experiments and venues you should certainly support.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

If I were to start my own ezine... Part 1

This came up on a forum I've been participating in, and I just wanted to duplicate my answer here. Much of the discussion actually focused on people strongly disliking certain types of writing that I happen to like and favoring types of writing that I'm less a fan of, but I'll leave that aspect out of this. First, though, I assure you that I'm not intending to start a magazine of any kind. To do it right I would want to have some significant money available at the start, which I don't have. And I just don't see myself as the type of person who would have the business sense and endurance to make it work, not without doing a lot of research (and marketing-type training) and giving up my own writing. So anyone can take these ideas and run with them.

Actually, these aren't even all my own ideas. Some of this comes from discussions I've seen on Nightshade forums (including links away from there to blogs that I found sparked some of these ideas...but which I've since forgotten), as well as other forums.

So here's some of what I've been thinking:

1) A known and respected person as editor (in-chief), someone whose name will mean something to both the target readers and the writers I'd like to submit. Jim Baen's name means something, and OK, he was never editing Universe, but for those that the name means a lot, Eric Flint probably will also. Same with Orson Scott Card for IGMS. And for its target audience (which I'd fall in line with more than the target audience of those other two), Clarkesworld does well to have Sean Wallace and Nick Mamatas attached to it. So who that name is will depend on the target audience. I'd probably also commission a few stories at least in the first few months from select writers to help give a sense of what I'd offer and what I was looking for, but I'd want it to be open to general submissions.


2) New content (almost) daily, though not a new story. It's something I think Strange Horizons gets right (or halfway right at least--I think they could be doing it better). I'd have new stories (and poems if the zine included poems) appear on a regular basis--every Monday or every Monday and Thursday. But I'd want other new content as often as we could pull it off, and a variety of content. I'll get into a few more in later points, but for now reviews are fine, as SH does--not just books, but movies, TV shows, video games (though for myself I usually skip those non-book reviews at SH). And also the occasional article or essay or interview. But also something...I'm not sure how to describe it. I've seen others refer to Boing Boing as an example--I haven't spent enough time there to know if it matches what I have in mind (the times I've visited it's been so tech-heavy it puts me to sleep), but something that's somewhere between a blog and a formal article from a handful of people with a vested interest in the magazine so that they don't need to be paid on a per-word or per-article basis. Again here, the names of the people could be helpful, and the target audience would help determine what kinds of things they might post. And the more of this new content without paying for it the better. It could be helpful to encourage those writers who have stories accepted to contribute in this way as well, though the logistics of that might not make it ideal.

3) Music. To give credit, this is inspired by Scott Sandridge's SpecFicMuse blog where he identifies good music to listen to while reading certain types of stories (and vice versa)--have a featured musical group every week, perhaps with an interview and definitely with streaming audio of a sample song. Present it to the musical group as a form of media exposure--not like stories where you have to pay the writer. So this would be free publicity for them and free content for the zine (assuming whoever does the interview or seeks out the musical groups is a part of the editorial team and willing to do it for free--otherwise it might have a small cost).

Numbers 4-7 next time!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Editing--uggh

Well, I've been (ostensibly) getting in some editing and polishing of a novel manuscript these past few days...which means, really, that I've spent too much time on various forums, rediscovering old games on my computer, and whatever else I could find to distract myself. I'd say that I've gotten a lot better at editing over the past couple of years. I don't hate it nearly so much as I used to, and once I get into the flow of it, it usually works well. But sometimes it's so hard to get into the flow. I feel like I'm constantly pushing against that initial resistance instead of simply pushing through it once and then just running with it.

I suspect a part of it is that I've edited this manuscript so many times that even though I have certain things I want to tweak and one minor thread to add to the entire length of the story...a part of my brain keeps saying that it's ready already, just send it! Well, I have a busy non-writing day most of the rest of today, so maybe by the time I come back to it tonight (or tomorrow), I'll be able to refind the focus I need.

Completely unrelated, but B. A. Barnett is heading out today to Odyssey, so I wish you luck and all other Odyssey participants. (She's in a critiquing group with me, so what I really hope is that she comes back and is able to really challenge my stories with new-found critiquing aspects...but now that I've said that, I better hope she doesn't drop by here before she goes... ;) ) Have fun!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Internet Sleuthing

I got an email today from Des Lewis that copies of Nemonymous 7 should be shipping soon. And don't forget that you have a chance to win a free copy...with a little internet detective work. Just search through the blogosphere and writing forums for others who have announced that they have a story in it, send the list to Des (see the Nemonymous page), and if you're among those getting the most right, you'll get your very own copy. There are 17 of us in all, and you already have one name if you're reading this, so see how many of the others you can find.

(I'll help you out even--I did a bit of sleuthing a few weeks ago and came across one live journal (I think it was) of a writer who calls herself "Fish Monkey." See if you can figure out her actual name--it shouldn't be too hard. She wrote one of the stories I reviewed in Text: UR for Tangent. Another is an editor of Science Fiction Weekly (or former editor? not sure how recently that part of his home page was updated) who had a story in Nemonymous 5 as well. Oh, and just now I see an announcement on SF Canada for another--so that's four you can get with a minimum of work. Now you do the rest.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Cool Breakthrough

I've been beating my head with a story for the last couple of days--something I'd started months ago and liked it but had to move away from it to work on other things. So when I finished whatever it was I just finished, I brought it back out. I still liked the writing, still liked a part of the concept...but it was definitely lacking something. And then I realized, it had no conflict, not really. But I couldn't seem to come up with a conflict that didn't feel tacked on.

But I just did. After distracting myself with different online forums, games like Hearts that I'd thought I'd gotten over years ago, house- and yard-work, and other mindless stuff, I finally figured out how to get a logical conflict in, and the ending came quickly. I don't think it's a perfect story by any means yet--now I have to go back to the beginning and layer in other stuff, build up properly toward the ending, and all that. But I'm just pleased by how the denouement worked out for me. I'll figure that other stuff out tomorrow.

Now...I'm doing some world building for a new project. I must be crazy.