Tag Archives: Aberrant Dreams

Ebb and Flow of the Olympics

We’re nearing the end of the Olympics and this is partly what it’s been like on the streets: traffic has been far better than normal. There are fewer cars, even if going away from the downtown core, so either everyone is at the Olympics or they left town. Which means I’m not looking forward to Monday morning traffic, which will be heavy and chaotic.

This lack of car traffic has all translated into a feast of famine aspect for many merchandisers and restaurants in the city. There are so many people in the downtown core that even the street food vendors are making thousands to tens of thousands a day, and the restaurants have constant lines. Olympic related merchandise is selling but little else. Yet if you’re in the food and drink business you are truly making a killing.

On Commercial Drive near where I live, it’s a different story. On Tuesday night I walked up the street to have a drink at one of my regular spots, The Libra Room. I passed the Latin Quarter and thought it was closed. Not a soul inside except one person at the bar watching a TV screen, and he was most likely staff. A couple of the Italian restaurants were equally void of life. Only the Charlatan, a sports bar with several large screens, was busy because of the Olympic sports. The Libra Room had a few people but they were way down on patrons and I’ve never seen the owner looking so unhappy.

What this means in the long run is that there are a few places and people making a true killing downtown and business has gone down everywhere else. In total revenue for the city, it is probably higher than normal but not as high as one might think. And yet, everyone who has been going downtown says that it’s crazy but it’s fun and the energy is so positive. Some people have just gone to people-watch.

Although I hate crowds I was planning on going down tomorrow night but I’ve now injured myself at the gym so it might not be possible. And should I manage it, one friend lives downtown so we can take refuge when it gets too cold or wet or crowded.

This is also the end of February. Two years ago, come March, I started this blog and have tried to write five days a week except for when I was on holidays. I think it might be possible to run out of opinion on things but I’m not there yet. However, even though some of these pieces have less research than they would if I was employed to write them, they still take time. I will be cutting back to writing three times a week as of March, hopefully giving me more time to write on other things, such as my novel or short stories.

With that note, Aberrant Dreams is relaunching with hopefully fewer of the time snags that caught them last go round. I will be back editing as senior fantasy editor. If you want to check out the site (still developing but submissions can be sent in) then go here http://aberrantdreams.com/content/ and read the guidelines. It’s hard to run any kind of magazine these days and Joe Dickerson and Lonny Harper have been trying it without any sponsors so it’s out of pocket for them to pay people. Some day I’d like to run my magazine as well but that will take some $$ first.

So in the meantime, go enjoy the last of the Olympics any way you want, whether that’s staying far away, just checking stats on the computer or going into the throng. And here’s to all the amazing athletes who have competed, whether they won or not. They’re still the best in the world and have dedicated time and energy to their achievements and sports. Go World!

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Writing Update March

I’m way behind this year on submissions. Normally I do a blitz in January. But this year I was working on a large editing project for a client. I just seemed to busy to hunker down. Right now I’m trying to get a story rewritten for one anthology and write a new story for another anthology, as well as work on my novel. And I’ve been trying to get my taxes done. So I don’t think I’ve submitted anything new yet this year.

I’ve received some rejections for stories sent out from last fall, but yesterday saw some reward. I arrived home to find a letter from Barton College saying my poem “Finding Dionysus” was awarded second prize and will be published in Crucible. As well, there was an email from Shroud magazine saying they had accepted my story “A Kind Hand” for publication in issue #6.

Yesterday I said that perseverance is a large part of writing and becoming published. I’ve also talked about revisionist poems. Although “Finding Dionysus” is from Persephone’s point of view it’s not as revisionist as some of my others but is part of a series I’ve done on Greek gods. The poem was written about six years ago but as is often the case with submissions, an editor’s preference can be for a particular type or style of writing. As well, magazines may have themes or just published a piece with a similar theme. I was once told by one magazine that they had just published a torso story and they couldn’t take another or they would be seen as a fetish magazine.

“A Kind Hand” is a tale of perseverance in the writing. I started the story probably ten years ago, wrote a bit and let it sit. I liked the idea but for a while wasn’t sure where to go with it. I was basing it off of a Germanic folktale about Berchta (a hearth goddess) so I had the plot but I wanted to give it a more human aspect. Some stories flow out easily and all at once. Others come out in fits and spurts and seem to be a jumble. “A Kind Hand” was somewhere in between and when I wrote on it, it came out fairly smoothly. However, taking so many years to write the story meant that I had to keep rereading it to figure out where I was going. Also, one’s style can change from story to story and year to year. I had to try and continue in the style in which I had started, which I really liked.

Once it was done I sent it out but also sent it to a friend to read. He made some good comments so I brought out the threat aspect a bit more and once it was rejected, sent the story out again. I think I had only submitted this one a few times before Shroud.

Looking at start to finish on the poem was probably seven years. The story was ten or more years in the process. I have ideas like this, that I start because I had an image in my mind, but perhaps no plot, or no ending. They sit and sometimes I do finish them. There are those stories that I complete but am not satisfied with so I maybe send them out once and then they wait for a rewrite so that I can figure out how to make them better. Rarely does a story or poem flow out quickly, all in one piece, with minimal rewriting. And rarely does it go from creation to publication quickly. My quickest was probably “The Fishwife,” which flowed out in no more than three days, needed a minimal rewrite and sold to the first or second place I sent it. Still, with the time taken for submitting and the selection process of the magazine, it was about a year.

This doesn’t even include the time from acceptance to publication. The tardiest rejection I ever received was seven years. Some pieces that have been accepted may be  a year (or more) from acceptance to actually being published.

And last, as fantasy editor of Aberrant Dreams, I have released all stories but one back to the authors. The magazine is going through some structural changes and it was becoming far too long in holding stories. I hate giving up good stories but it wasn’t fair to hang on indefinitely. I have two letters to send out, releasing one more and letting one author choose if he wants his accepted story to sit in the to be published pile or if he’d like to withdraw it. Then we wait for the restructure.

Time is not linear in the world of writing and submitting, nor on the publishing end of a magazine. Patience and perseverance really help.

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Warrior Wisewoman & Cone Zero Reviews

In writing news, there isn’t much except I was writing stories for the alphabet erotic anthologies and the publisher has chosen to cancel it. Unless the editor finds another buyer and the anthos remain the same, I’m now needing to shop around a couple of more stories. Alas.

I’m waiting to hear on a couple of stories going through a second reading but won’t jinx anything by naming them or the publishers yet. And I don’t know when my poems will be out in Pinecone, On Spec and PanGaia, and the story in Don Juan and Men. Holding patterns for now while I ruminate on three stories I’m trying to write and do some editing for Chizine and Aberrant Dreams, and on a friend’s collection of poetry.

The novel requires more energy than I have at the moment but I’m hoping that week I get off on the holidays won’t all be eating and drinking and I’ll be able to move forward on some of them.

Here is another review for the Warrior Wisewoman anthology. Although it says no good or ill of my story it does cover all of the stories. http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=7231

And for Nemonymous 8: Cone Zero another two reviews though I still cannot say which story is mine. To find the specific review, scroll to the bottom of the page: http://www.horrorworld.org/reviews.htm

Serendipity’s is here: http://www.magicalrealism.co.uk/view.php?story=89&print=true

This one I already listed before from the Fix: http://thefix-online.com/reviews/cone-zero-nemonymous-8/

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Writing Catch Up

With all the running about and schmoozing at World Fantasy I haven’t had time to actually post anything or even send out many submissions.

However, the Best New Erotica 8 edited by Maxim Jakubowski will be out by Robinson (UK) in a month. It features a reprint of a story of mine “Stocking Stuffers.” I have also just sold “The Boy Who Bled Rubies” to Caro Soles for Don Juan: Tales of Lust and Seduction. I turned in an erotic fairy tale for a Harlequin anthology but have yet to hear the details on that. Other stories and poetry are out but with no firm dates of publication.

I did just receive my certificate and free chapbooks for “Don Quixote’s Quandary” which received a judges’ choice in the SFPA contest. It’s probably the least I’ve been paid (pay presumably in the mail with the chapbook of winning poems) for a poem in years. But what the heck, it was a contest, I have many poems and oh well. I plan to post a couple of published poems up on this site in the near future.

There was a poetry reading at World Fantasy on the Thursday night. Joe Haldeman, David Lunde, Rhea Rose, Eileen Kernaghan, Carolyn Clink and I think one other person read in round table style. Mostly we read to friends and spouses it seems. I wish poetry was more accessible to people. I want to have a poetry reading one day where the word poetry/poem are never mentioned. Lure them in and then gobsmack them with some poetry. I’ve done a lot of performance poetry in the past and maybe that’s what’s needed to bring in a few more people. Alas, poor poetry, dismissed and neglected by so many, including SFWA.

I have a rough draft of “Our Lady of Redemption” done but need to clean it up. I’m still waiting for some readers to look over “Awaking Pandora,” a novelette that took me 15 years to finish. I’m working on a monkey/elephant story and a cat story. Never thought I’d really do a cat story but it’s very nebulous right now as I work out the details of the mystery in it.

Editing wise, I’ve been fighting some pretty nasty viruses on my computer but will be working through some of the poems for Chizine soon. For Aberrant Dreams, we’re still in a holding pattern, though new content went up for October. “The Girl Who Swallowed the Sky” by Jacqueline Bowen is one of the stories I accepted.

Some people will be hearing from me in the near future on the Aberrant stories. Unfortunately being backlogged means rejecting more. Be prepared. I also have to write up a report for SF Canada. That was supposed to be done tonight but other backlogged paperwork caught up to me. I’ll be meeting a client tomorrow evening and then finishing that report.

I think I need to set a firm date for working on the novel. I’ve drifted a bit there and no one else is going to write it for me. Time to set aside part of at least one night a week. Perhaps Mondays after bellydance.

Speaking of novels, many years ago, a woman in our group, Lydia Langstaff, wrote a first draft. She died at 28 of congenital heart problems and never got to go further with her work. Her husband Jeff approached me after her death about doing an edit on her novel. Even though I was going to give him a deal, I still would have needed to charge for my time and the rewrite would have been extensive. He couldn’t afford to do anything at the time and asked me to hang on to it. And then time passed.

It’s been more than ten years and I can’t find Jeff Langstaff. I don’t want to throw out what might be the only copy of Lydia’s work. If I rewrote it, could I publish it with both our names? Would I want to? What’s moral and ethical in a situation like this? Take half the money and donate it to heart research? It’s not my labor of love but it was hers. Would I want to invest the time, not knowing if it would sell? I guess I could send out query letters on the story but I’m not sure that’s my right. If I could find Jeff or Lydia’s family I could ask. But for now her manuscript sits in limbo and I can’t throw it out.

I’ll try again to find a relative but it’s an odd conundrum.

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Writing: Grist for the Mill

It’s Friday and I’m feeling lazy. My brain is half empty from drinking at a BBQ last night. I could write about the opening of the Olympics but I’ve already done one rant, and I just don’t care. I could write about the really bad drivers I had to deal with this morning but I can’t work up my vim. I could write about life but I’m kinda tired.

So… I’ll just do a wee catchup on writing. For Aberrant Dreams http://www.hd-image.com/fiction.htm I have accepted two new stories: “Exposure at Dejima” by K. Bird Lincoln, which takes place in medieval Japan and is a touching tale of love, kamis and presenting a particular face to society. The other is “Rhindor’s Remission” by William Argyle, a wonderful, humanist tale about an old wizard who just doesn’t care anymore. Unfortunately I’m not sure when they’ll go up on the site. We’re a bit behind but catching up on the backlog and should be caught up by the end of September. That’s for fantasy. Joe Dickerson has finished with the anthologies so he’ll be devoting more time to the site.

I’ll soon be helping out at Chizine http://www.chizine.com/ as one of the two assistant poetry editors to Sandra Kasturi. That should start in the next month. I finally sent my bio in to Sandra.

And I finally, finallyfinished a story I started fifteen years ago. My gods. It’s a novelette called “Awaking Pandora,” and it is the grist for the mill. I’m going to be tossing it to the wolves, or two (hopefully) writerly friends who can give me feedback. I’ve been looking at bits and pieces for so long that I need other perspectives on the story.

I have a fair number of stories that I start and then they languish. Usually, it’s because I have a germ of an idea, a setting, a world, even a what-if. But often I have no solution to the conflict, no way to resolve the story. My bane; getting my conflicts down. It’s for this reason that I don’t think I could ever write a mystery and I quite admire the minds that do. To resolve all those puzzle pieces is like a finely woven tapestry.

My Kama Sutra story will finally be out at the end of the month in The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra. I’m looking forward to seeing it and barely remember the story right now.

I’ve also still been managing to write 200 words of fiction a day, though yesterday was more bits of rewrite so I may have to write extra today. And this weekend I’ll be starting on the antagonist for my novel, writing his first chapter and seeing how that goes. I’ve been ruminating for weeks and I’m still trying to come up with a good name for him. But that can change anywhere along the way.

Oh yeah, and I wrote a new poem this week, titled “A Good Catch.” Rhea Rose and I sometimes work on a poem by picking a word/object/phrase and then we put both of them into a poem. So I gave “fish scales” and Rhea gave “spoons.” We have each written a poem that has those images in some way. The poem in Chizine, “The Trials of Lemons” was conceived this way with the images of lemons and of dragonflies. It’s fun to mesh them and think along new paths. Now, I’m going to work on another half-finished story.

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Writing: Bits and Pieces

I can now say which stories I’ve accepted so far for Aberrant Dreams, in fantasy. The contracts will be going out as soon as I get back from the workshop in a week. http://www.hd-image.com/stories.htm

I still won’t know when they will be up but here they are:

  • Kiss of the Blood Red Pomegranate by Kristin Janz
  • A Taste of Nettles by Katie Howenstine
  • The Girl Who Swallowed the Sky by Jacqueline Bowen
  • Year of the Mountain Lion by Maria Schneider
  • Helkappe by Claire Cooney

Kiss and Helkappe are underworld stories. They are all strong in imagery and original plots, presenting an alieness or a humanness that is intriguing. We’re slowly catching up and I know there are others that have had longer waits. Joe has put some books to bed that he’s publishing so we should see things moving faster.

The Lawrence, Kansas workshop is half over and maybe it’s time to talk of the town. Lawrence is small, maybe 80,000 people before the students arrive in the fall for KU. There is one main street with stores and a few side streets. The box stores are farther out but they have a bit of everything. It’s quaint, it’s easy going and there is hardly any traffic. I love that aspect.

It does get blistering hot with high humidity (at least today-we’ve been luck) and it gets winters and tornadoes. It could be too small too. But it’s a nice place to visit. We walked to town yesterday and got to take a closer look at the sandstone(?) buildings on campus. They date to the turn of the century (1900) and are of a light brown stone. They look so clean and light, unlike similar buildings I’ve seen elsewhere. I don’t know if this is because there is less pollution here, the tornadoes scour them (unlikely) or because they scour them. A few buildings are in a deep red brick. The Natural History Museum is nicely done with carvings and gargoyles, and “Darwin” carved below one window and “Huxley” below the other.

There are a number of houses that date to the early 1900s, some earlier. A few are in brick but many of wood with the gingerbread finishings on them. There are a few cobblestone streets of rectangular red bricks, much like the few streets that still exist in Vancouver. And there are many fairly unremarkable homes. The shops offer quite a range of latest fashions.

I don’t know if I could live in a town this small over all but it is certainly appealing and the smog is low level. It’s definitely tempting.

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Writing News

Right now I’m more in reading than writing mode. I’ve accepted another story for Aberrant Dreams, with a few in the queue. And my friend Sandra Kasturi was in swamped mode, probably moving closer to swamp thing. After all, she runs Kelp Queen Press http://www.kelpqueenpress.com/ but she also is poetry editor for Chizine http://chizine.com/, is working on an animation plus other projects.

I had a few poems in submission for a while at Chi when she mentioned she was way behind because of several projects. I told her to get some slush pile readers because they’re all the rave and everyone has one. Perhaps I should have been quieter because she came back to me and another person and asked if we would be her readers for poetry. So there goes another editorial hat to wear.

That’s not started yet but mostly I’m reading the first three chapters of eight novels in preparation for the novel writing workshop I’ll be doing in Kansas. That’s at the university in Lawrence and is part of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. http://www2.ku.edu/~sfcenter/novel-workshop.htm Two weeks in July, novel bashing and brainstorming. I have to write a critique for each novel and outline. I’m hoping to do one a day. This does mean that although I’ll be posting here, my blogs will probably concentrate on writing and workshopping for the two weeks, but maybe not.

The other writing projects: the Berchta tale, the barge people, the co-written one with Rhea and the monkey girl story  (including the three stories near completion) are on hold though I may take a few of these with me for when I’m sick of looking at my novel.

I applied for two grants through the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council. Yesterday I received word from BC Arts that the grants have been delayed so I won’t find out till after the fact. I’m expecting Canada Council to take longer. So, even though I’m going to the workshop I may have no money. Say hello to Mr. Plastic. 🙂

Writer Beware: In the past couple of days a writing contest was listed on Craigslist, stating that SFWA was holding a contest. For a $10 entry fee you send in your story and winners and honorable mentions will be published by a big name publisher. The anthology is titled Asimovs of the Future. However, this is a fake contest. SFWA has issued a statement saying they have nothing to do with it and that someone is trying to bilk writers of their money.

 

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The Muse: When a Story Sings

As recently appointed, senior fantasy editor for Aberrant Dreams http://www.hd-image.com/fiction.htm I have the privilege to accept a few stories and the job of rejecting many. In truth, I have several slush pile readers who sift through the stories first. As well, I haven’t been senior editor long. This was in part to move the backlog along. The editor-in-chief, Joe Dickerson, also began publishing some novels. Between that and running the website and making final decisions, well, the webzine was grinding to a halt.

It’s still in the jerky throes of getting up to speed and I certainly can’t speak for the horror or SF editors but we’re now answering within the 5-month limit indicated at www.ralan.com  I haven’t yet seen my first picks go up and it could be a while to get through the accepted backlog, but hopefully we’ll see a bit more new work. Before that, I was a reader for about a year. I took on the job for several reasons. I have, in recent years, wanted to edit a magazine or anthology. If you don’t have your own wad of cash, then it’s working for another mag and the positions are few and far between.

I saw the ad for more editors and applied. My other reason was that by reading what other people are writing I might get a better idea of what the trends are, as well as why some of my own stories don’t sell. Becoming senior editor meant that I also would now choose which fantasy stories would be published.

With every story I’ve rejected I’ve tried to tell the writer why. It helps me concretize what is a good story, both for them and me. I also know that as a writer any constructive comment in a rejection is rare and writers really appreciate having an idea of what didn’t work besides the ubiquitous “it’s not right for us,” which can mean so many things. There have been a few stories I’ve had to reject because I have a quota. Those were the hardest and if several were of a similar theme (magical mystery, ghost, heroic, etc.) then I would narrow within that theme.

A story that I’m most likely to accept is one that sings. It’s how I describe it and what it means isn’t exactly exact. But to sing means it stands out above the rest, is somehow noteworthy and memorable so that I might be thinking of the story or characters weeks later. Some of those singing qualities can be a world/scenario so unique that no one has written on it before (either created completely by the author or a very new POV). It can be a voice (the style of the writing) so catching that you’re carried along by language and description. It can also be flow and conflict; a story so touching, terrifying, thought-provoking that you sit up and pay attention.

It’s a delicate mixutre and some people have a natural knack for it. Most of us mortals have to work at it and sometimes the story, the description, the language, the world, all come together to form the perfect piece. And then the story sings. I’ve learned a few things so far in editing for a magazine. Perhaps it will translate into one of my own stories and the muse will visit more often.

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On Editing

I work as senior fantasy editor for Aberrant Dreams http://www.hd-image.com/fiction.htm and have only been senior fantasy editor for a short time. But I did work as slush pile reader for the last year.

I took on this job for several reasons: It would let me see what types of stories are being written these days. I might understand better why some of my own stories don’t sell. And some day I’d like to have my own magazine or anthology to publish. It’s good experience on several levels.

What I found actually amazed me. I was expecting a lot of stories that were rough, missing one of the essential elements of plot, characterization, dialogue, conflict or setting. Most stories were very complete and written well enough. But I could only choose a very few to send on. As senior editor, that number doesn’t change. There are only so many slots in the magazine and unless we want to hold a story for a very long time, in the end I must even reject good ones.

I try when rejecting a story to say what didn’t work. Why am I rejecting this story but not the others? In some cases I can only say, we didn’t have enough room. And if I have too many magical mystery stories, I will choose the best one only. I am down to selecting three out of about twenty sent to me by the readers.

To make it a little easier I ended up making a chart with a section for character, plot, language, setting and uniqueness. This last category can be the idea itself or the way it’s written–the turn of a phrase. As I’ve said before; there are many good stories but a story really has to sing to be accepted. This is the singing category. Then I grade each aspect from 1-5. The top scores then are accepted.

What have I learned so far? It’s tough to choose and tough to reject a perfectly good story. Some of my own stories don’t sing. Some aren’t worth the massive rewriting, some are. And all my new stories must either have that truly unique plot or way of using language. It is both inspirational to see so many good writers, and daunting as a writer to know what I’m up against.

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