Friday, May 29, 2009

Even better news!

I'm dashing in, in the midst of last-minute packing, to say that QueeredFiction have accepted The Visitor, a gay time travel romance, for their Queer Dimensions anthology. This story had been accepted for two previous anthologies (with other publishers) that were cancelled before they got off the ground, so I'm delighted to have found such a good home for it at last.

The editor doesn't yet have a release date but I promise to let everyone know the minute I find out!

Now, I really am off on holiday...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Good news

I'm delighted to say that From The Asylum have now been in touch with me and the editor has confirmed that 'Things Aren't What They Seem' is still going ahead in spite of the closure of their publishing business. I'm very happy about this because it means Boyfriend From Hell still has a home after all. It's nice to know that I won't be having to punt it round the publishers all over again.

And there's a great review of Shifting Perspectives 2 at Bitten by Books, which describes the stories as 'interesting and unique'.

I'm travelling away on holiday tomorrow so won't be around to update this for a few days.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Currently working on...

A gay horror story for the next QueeredFiction anthology, adapted from an earlier unpublished story about a haunted house. So far I've written about 3,500 words, but I'm going nowhere fast. I don't write a lot of horror and I'm struggling to find the right tone. I'd like it to be dark and chilling, but at the moment the characters are hijacking it and keep turning it fluffy. And fluffy horror doesn't really work, or didn't the last time I checked.

I shall persevere, even if it means knocking my own characters over the head with a frying pan to stop them running off with the plot.

And no, I'm not going insane. Why do you ask? :P

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

News on From The Asylum?

Has anyone heard anything further about this online zine/anthology publisher?

Back in February I had a story accepted for their latest anthology, called 'Things Aren't What They Seem'. I sent off my signed contract in the post, plus a load of other bits and pieces (story in a different file format, updated bio etc). Since then I've not heard from them, and not received my counter-signed copy of the contract.

Then I saw from EREC that their publishing arm was closing down. According to their website, last updated in early April, they are honouring the anthologies they had already accepted stories for, including 'Things Aren't What They Seem'. But I'm not sure how they're going to sell the books if they are effectively closed (even their online business is apparently closing in July).

On Friday I wrote to the editor with a few queries including whether they'd received my contract and whether they still wanted my story. So far I've had no response. I really, really hope I'm wrong, but it's beginning to look as though this is a completely dead market. Unless anyone has any different information?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More fishy news...

I wrote yesterday's blog in a hurry because I only found out that my story had been posted at The Pygmy Giant about ten minutes before we were due to go out to the cinema to see the new Star Trek film. So it was a bit light on details, because I only really had time for the basics.

So, here's a tad more information about the story. I wrote it while I was on a writing course a few years back, when the tutor challenged each of us to do a crossover between noir and one other genre. I chose humour, which sounds completely perverse, but oddly it seemed to work very well and I've always been rather fond of the result. So much so, in fact, that I decided to try my hand at one or two other stories in the same style - one of which is Rock and a Hard Place, currently appearing in Radgepacket Volume 2.

You wouldn't think that noir and humour would marry together well at all, but it seems to give rise to an intriguing 'gallows-humour' style of writing which can be quite fun.

And the film? It was terrific. Lots of thrills and spills, great special effects, an exciting plot (as long as you don't think too hard about the time travel causality loops), and excellent acting from the new young cast, in particular Zachary Quinto as a more-Spock-than-Spock younger Spock. A great night out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fish Out of Water

My daft little flash about a blind date is up right now at The Pygmy Giant, where you can read it for free.

Feel free to leave a comment over there if you liked it - or even if you didn't. :)

An architectural carbuncle

I love reading about the origin or early useage of words, and this article in The Times is hugely entertaining. It describes possibly the first use of the word 'carbuncle' to describe an architectural design, in this case for Buckingham Palace, the Queen's official residence in London.

Prince Charles more recently described a proposed extension to the National Gallery as "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved and elegant friend"; it's interesting to see where he might have borrowed the phrase from.

And this bit, about the works on the palace in 1825, made me giggle: "Costs soared. The Times speculated that nearly all of the original grant of £150,000 went on raising a small hill to prevent the hobbledehoy of Pimlico being able to see in through the windows."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Most overused line ever?

This is more from the world of screenwriting than books. But it gets my vote for the most overused line in the world, ever:

"Everything will be all right, darling, I promise you."

Have you noticed it? It's in everything. Films, tv shows, soap operas... you name it, the characters regularly spout this drivel. It's very lazy, and it's also very unbelievable, because you can't possibly promise anyone that you can 'make everything all right' for them for ever more. Just doesn't happen like that in real life, does it?

Do people actually use dialogue like this? Or is it a case of Screenwriter's Formula #103?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Weird research

It's amazing the stuff you have to look up for stories sometimes. Last week I was deep in the rather arcane regulations surrounding the use of child car seats in the UK. Yesterday I had to research the lead actor's name in Twilight (Robert Pattinson, in case you didn't know either) and Russell Crowe's age.

None of these was for the major theme of a story, but just those off-the-cuff little remarks that can make all the difference if you get them wrong. I've seen this myself when I've had my reader hat on. Years ago I found a story in which the hero was on a cruise ship which docked overnight in Paris. A Paris that had miraculously translocated itself to the French coast. By the time I'd finished boggling, I'd totally lost track of where I was in the story and had to go back and start it again. I'd hate that to happen to anyone reading my work.

Besides, it's actually a lot of fun. You never know what you're going to have to find out about next.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Firing off submissions

I seem to have had stories flying out of the door at a rate of knots lately. Usually I like to average at least one submission a month, to keep things ticking over and to try to ensure a steady supply of new stories for my readers, but sometimes it actually works out as more than that.

This is one of those times - I've sent three off in the last couple of weeks and have another almost ready to go. So far, I've sent a story about a Christmas holiday gone wrong to a contest at Words Magazine; a time travel romance to QueeredFiction's latest anthology; and an updated version of the three little pigs to Mslexia for their 'bricks and mortar' themed flash. Later in the week I'm hoping to send another one off to Mslexia, this time a longer piece about a poster for their 'idols' call.

Of course, the only trouble with sending lots of stories out is that you tend to get 'em all back again, in a heap, accompanied by rejection slips. But I can always hope.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Smile of the day

Headline seen on BBC text news this morning: 'Stationery company to make cuts'.

Hmm. That would be paper cuts, presumably? ;)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Offputting guidelines

When I first started submitting work to publishers I was naive enough to pretty much send anything to anyone. A few burned fingers later, I'm older and wiser enough to read the guidelines with a magnifying glass, and there are a few 'red flags' that will make me squawk every time. If I see any of them, I'll start having second thoughts. If I see two or more, the publisher goes on the 'no way, Jose' pile and I'll probably never send work to them.

So what are my pet hates when it comes to guidelines and/or a publisher's business practices? Well, here's some of them, in no particular order:

1. Seeing typos or grammatical errors in the guidelines, or elsewhere on the publisher's web page for that matter. These people are going to be editing my manuscript and I'd expect them to be able to copy edit their own site.

2. Any mention of 'no passive writing' in the editing guidelines. As I've mentioned elsewhere, too many editors are mistaking past imperfect ('was doing') for passive and I can't face taking every instance of past imperfect out of every piece of work I submit.

3. A list of editing/formatting dos and don'ts that's longer than the piece of work I'm submitting.

4. Weird formatting requirements that would take me the better part of a week to achieve. I'm always happy to oblige with font, font size, spacing etc, but intricately detailed formatting should really be the publisher's responsibility, not the writer's.

5. Any invitation to send your work to the publisher's in-house editing staff before, during or after submission, especially if there is a fee. This could represent a conflict of interests on the part of the publisher and it's all too easy for them to refuse a writer's story until that writer has paid for their editing services...

6. Lack of information on the eventual product: will it be electronic or print, when is it due out, will it be an anthology or a series of stand-alone books, will it be distributed via book stores and distribution sites or just from the publisher's website? Believe it or not, I've seen calls for submission with none of the above information, which makes it kind of hard to be certain the work will ever appear.

7. Any sign of the publisher 'rallying their troops' in response to reasonable queries about their business practice. This is quite possibly the biggest red flag of all for me; it's desperately unprofessional and leaves such an unpleasant taste in my mouth that I'll usually add a publisher to the 'no' list the minute I see them doing this.

Does anyone else have submission processes that make them see red? I'd love to know!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Google opt-out update

Some slightly better news from the Google 'opt-out' mess - we authors now have until September to choose whether to opt into or out of the deal. Which does give everyone a bit more time and breathing space to choose what's best for them. In the meantime, I understand that the deal is being re-examined to see whether it's even legal, and whether it best represents authors' interests. I'll be fascinated to see what the result of that is...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Pygmy Giant accepts story

I heard yesterday that The Pygmy Giant, a British online zine of flash fiction and poetry, have accepted Fish Out of Water. This is a fun little story about a blind date in a posh restaurant which goes horribly wrong.

Bert ran his fingers round the inside of his collar, saw Trudy looking at him, and stopped. He put his elbows on the table, and then he thought perhaps he shouldn't and took them off again. "Are you sure it was fish I ordered?" he muttered. The menu might just as well have been in Greek for all the sense it made to him.

I don't yet know when the story is due to come out, but will let everyone know once it's available to read.