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Writing: Rejection Letters

Ah rejection letters, how I hate thee. Who doesn’t? We all want to be perfect and have all our pieces sell first time out. Chances are that if I was writing in the 50s I would be selling most pieces, but then probably some of my stuff would be banned since mindsets have changed since then.

One thing you can usually depend on when writing and submitting work is that you’ll receive back some indication as to whether your piece is rejected or accepted. A rejection might not be more than a boilerplate email, where the same message is sent to all rejectees. It might be a short personal note, with even a brief indication of why the editor didn’t accept it. Sometimes rejection letters are a combo of boilerplate with a personal note. And some editors have different degrees of rejection letters, from no thanks ,to no thanks but send us your next.

There are a few magazines that don’t send rejection letters, such as AdBusters. Personally, I find this rude and if I can go to the effort of sending my work in they should be able to go to the effort of hitting reply to send a response. I find I don’t really tend to send to magazines where I can’t gauge when they’re done with it, or I might simultaneously submit (sending to more than one publisher at the same time).

Interesting to note that as I was recently throwing out old rejection letters I found long talky rejections from editors. These were

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Ah, rejection, too constant a companion. Creative Commons: http://gettingpublished.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/coping-with-rejection/

from the 90s when the internet was still a youngling and letters actually came in the mail, and I guess, editors had time. I didn’t even remember being on first name basis with some of the editors who took time to tell me what worked and what didn’t. Maybe some day I’ll do a post with the best of those letters, because you know, I had keep those ones.

But, I ran into another area of rejection that turned out to be grey where I thought it was black and white. Some publishers will do reprint anthologies. A regular anthology might be all unpublished fiction, a mixture of published and unpublished or all published pieces. The reasons for a full-on reprint anthology could be it’s the best of starfaring giraffes or the year’s best bizarro fiction. It might also be done because the publisher can’t afford to pay high enough rates and reprints are often paid at a lower rate, or because the topic is small enough there just might not be enough material without having old and new, or as a retrospective. There are different reasons but reprint anthologies are handled differently.

In some cases, such as the Year’s Best that Ellen Datlow edits, she will have read a galaxy of stories already (I think she might be cloned). If you have a piece you think she might not have seen you’re encouraged to send it in to her. For other reprint anthos the onus is on the author to send the piece. With Ellen’s it could be either the publisher or the author. They run the gamut.

I’ve had some honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the Year’s Best SF. In those cases, either the publisher submitted or Ellen had already read them. I found out about the honorable mentions in most cases from the editors, though once, for my story “Hold Back the Night,” which received mention in both Year’s Bests I only found out about three years later when I was doing a google search.

With other topic specific ones I’d send in my story and get either a rejection or an acceptance. This year I’d submitted to a couple of others, and in one case I received no letter. I just happened to see the list on another group. I sent an email, since it was a friend and said, “What, not even a rejection letter?” To make the long story short, the editor believed one doesn’t send rejection letters for retrospective anthologies, like Ellen Datlow’s, but then I don’t know if I sent her a story if I’d get a note or not. I was under the impression that if I submitted work I’d get a notice, even if only a group email of those in the antho. The editor was under the impression that no notice was necessary.

We actually both had reasonable expectations of what we thought was standard. Neither was really wrong. I suggested though to save on time and annoyance for everyone that it would help to clarify guidelines so that people aren’t emailing constantly wondering if they missed the notice. Making guidelines clear and succinct helps writers know the rules for each publication. So saying, “Do not respond before four months have gone by. If you have not heard from us until then, please query.” Or “Due to the volume of submissions we will not be sending out rejection notices. Table of contents should be listed by X date.”

So there you go. Just when you think you have it figured out, some new twist let’s you know there’s still room to grow. Now if I could only have it all figured out on how to be a millionaire in my writing. 😉

 

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Writing Update

writing, publishing, stories, novels, fantasy, editing

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Hello, world. Well two reviews have come out for Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies which has my story “It’s Only Words” as the opening story. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but Des Lewis seems to have delivered another intriguing anthology. The reviews are quite favorable to my story so check them out here: Matthew Fryer’s  and Karim Ghahwagi’s.

I am also now working steadily (finally!) on my novel with the working title of Lyranda. It’s the name of the world but will not do for the title at all. It’s medieval style on a different world, with three races. I haven’t read Game of Thrones yet but after watching the first season I was inspired, thinking yes, my novel could be this good.

I tossed out about half of the first 30,000 words and was working on writing through one of the three story arcs, so I had something like chapters 2, 7, 12, 14, etc. done. But I finally got to a point where I needed to go back and familiarize where one of my other characters is going, since the three are on separate arcs till they all meet up halfway through. So now I’m going back and rewriting some of the original chapters. Procrastination is a powerful thing and I think I beat it down, finally. I’m going to try to keep up the impetus there.

“A Book By Its Cover” has just gone through edits and will soon be going to press in the Mirror Shards anthology, edited by Tom Carpenter. Witches and Pagans #23 should be arriving any day and has my poem “Shadow Realms” in it.

I’m working through slush still for CZP and reading a medieval style fantasy right now. That author has also inspired me to get on with my own story. I won’t know whether I’ll send that on to Sandra yet but it’s reading very well (after I asked for some rewrites) and I’m kept intrigued so we’ll see.

A discussion came up recently on our SF Canada list (and seems to be resurfacing): should one comment on a review of their work, especially if the reviewer got something wrong or didn’t read through the full story? The overall consensus is not to comment as it could just get ugly. But it’s okay to say thank you, or in some cases clarify info, but one must tread carefully. To get embroiled in the merits of a review is just not going to go well no matter what. There are even some infamous cases out there of authors going ballistic all up and down a reviewer (Anne Rice) for one and it just does not help. What do you think?

That’s it for now. A bit too busy to write much for the blog but I’m sure that won’t stop me. 😀

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Guest Blogging: Confessions of a Technophobe

writing, blogging, editor, stories, being busy, busyness

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Today, I’m a guest blogger at Steve Lockley’s blog: Confessions of a Technophobe.

You will notice that yesterday’s post and today’s start on similar topics and then veer. That’s because as I was writing about busyness yesterday I took off on a tangent. Then I tried to pull it back together for Steve’s blog. Steve is a writer of speculative fiction and lives in England. Cross-pollination happens through conventions and of course social media.

I’ll be attending Britain’s Fantasycon this fall in Brighton and look forward to meeting more compatriots of writing.

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Writing: Shopping for an Editor

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I recently rejected an author’s manuscript and gave him the possibility of rewriting and resubmitting at a later date; a very rare thing to do both. At Chizine Publications we ask for three or four sample chapters and a short synopsis. I had already asked the author to send the full manuscript, after he made corrections, fixed grammar and numerous homophonic typos (bare/bear, to/two, hare/hair, staid/stayed, etc.), as well as adding details to certain sections that I had read.

When I read through the full manuscript I found many of the same errors and it looked like little had been changed if anything at all. Editors have many manuscripts to read, and day jobs on top of it in most cases. We get irritated when people don’t follow instructions, which can be anything from not submitting in the correct manuscript format, to sending inappropriate material, to not making an effort to correct what we ask for. Of course, a writer can ignore all of these things and just send to someone else.

I concluded that the writer needed to learn grammar and punctuation better and overall, story structure, but feeling his story had worth I gave a caveat of retrying with a rewrite, in time, but not right away. He wrote back and was surprised to learn that most publishers don’t give feedback nor mark the manuscript unless they’re buying the story (I had done both).  I also explained my irritation at which point he apologized because he had felt rushed and hired an editor to do the changes requested.

I sincerely hope he didn’t pay the editor that much because I don’t know what that editor did. He/she certainly did not read the sentences to catch the homophone typos, nor to check the sentence structure and catch the run-on sentences. It is possible that the author asked the editor to make corrections in regards to my notes. If that was the case then my notes only gave examples, not the full extent of what was needed.

If I’d been given such a job as a copy editor I would have been fixing those sentences. I’ve found with a few other clients that they had gone to bigger, more expensive editors first, paid out a ton of money and came back with a manuscript measled with errors. Anyone who takes on copy editing (this is different from structural editing) should look for grammar, typo and punctuation errors as the most basic step. If one is a structural editor then you’re looking at the overall plot and structure of the story.

Almost everyone can use a second set of eyes to catch errors because our fingers like to type different words than our brains think. I often put down for done or type meanign instead of meaning. And then there is the too close to the forest to see the trees syndrome. If you’ve written something and gone over it a few times you might miss a scene or a description that the reader needs to be able to understand the story.

If I was hiring an editor I would lace in a couple of different errors in a sample page or three and see what they caught. But that only works if you understand grammar and sentence structure enough. As it was, this writer left too much to an unknown quantity and didn’t check over the manuscript first so he ended up with many errors. He would have had to flesh out his own scenes because an editor cannot necessarily write in the same style nor know where the writer’s mind is for the story.

I sometimes wonder why I don’t charge more when I see the work done by more expensive editors. Like anything else, there are good and bad editors. Learning how to write will of course save you money and mean you need a copy editor’s services less. Getting comments from an editor, even if you’re rejected, are a plus. Many magazines and even book publishers send out form rejections that say something like, “This didn’t work for us.” If you get comments, if you get an invite to resubmit and rewrite, take it seriously and feel lucky that you got that far. Magazine and book publishers always have limited spots are there are always other good works on their way so don’t take any feedback for granted.

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Writing: The Process

I’m sure I’ve written about this before but right now I’m in the middle of the full-fledged process. I’m trying to get a story done for the World Horror Convention writing contest, as well as doing and online interview with the other Evolve authors on Bitten By Books. Go over there now if you have questions to ask or want to see a bit of how different authors view the process of writing or writing specifically about vampires: www.bittenbybooks.com I’ll also be at Orycon from Nov. 12-14 in Portland to talk about writing and to do a reading, maybe two. Right now I think I might read this virginal story I’m working on.

Indirectly, perhaps, it involves the picture to the left. Those are barrow mounds in Ireland, at Knowth. However, to back up to the beginning of this process is the kernel of an idea I had. Perhaps it started with Nancy Kilpatrick saying she was doing a second anthology of vampire fiction. I wrote one page and couldn’t think of a plot. I had atmosphere, a character and…that was it. Well, sure there was a thin plot showing itself but it was a cliché vampire tale and I didn’t want to write that, nor would anyone want to buy it.  So I put it aside and pondered. And pondered.

And came up with nothing. Thinking this one page still had something I finally emailed a bunch of people and said, “Is anyone willing to read one page of fiction and tell me what you think the story should be.” About five people responded. One went for humor, which this story was not, two gave suggestions not really suitable even to the first page, and two others gave me enough suggestions that I could kickstart the thinking process again. Sometime we need a mental smack upside the head to knock us out of those cliché grooves.

Often my next step in the writing process is this: ruminate. Turn the ideas over, think about this or that factor, literally sleep on it and work out a whole bunch logistics in my head before even hitting the paper. Then I start to make points, bits of conflict, images that come together. I went to Ireland a few years back and I’ve never used anything Irish as a setting for a story. Once I started thinking that my story started to come together better and the characters inhabiting it made more sense. Then those thoughts lead to the ability of my character to change or not and the depth of the conflict.

Next, I start writing. And stopping. And writing. And going to clean. And writing. And napping. Sometimes the story pours out and sometimes it creeps shyly. I wrote six pages last night after taking a day to write one page. And now I’m stopped (procrastinating writing this) as I try to work out the next stage. My character has overcome one conflict, but is that it? No. A good story usually has internal and external conflict so I need to bring up her internal conflict and whether she succumbs, fights or changes will remain to be seen but I have to make sure there are enough stakes in the game for my character (whose name is changing as I write this) to either emerge triumphant or changed by her travails.

Some stories have taken me years to finish because I can never satisfactorily work out the plot and conflict to my satisfaction. Some stories leap fully grown from my head like Athena from Zeus’s brow. And some are a bit of both worlds; parts flowing out while others turn to concrete in my head.

And now that I’ve defined my problem, the internal conflict, I guess I need to decide if in fact the theme that I often write about in my stories will be the same here. Morality. “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” was a morality tale. “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” is maybe an immorality tale and this one, well, yeah her morals are question. I’ll see what the character decides.

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Writing: Publishing News

I finally received my copy of Shroud #7, with my story “A Kind Hand.” However, though I just received it, it did come out last fall. Sometimes there are time lags and sometimes there is miscommunication. I’ve been paid for stories that were never published. I’ve had articles published for which I was never paid. I’ve signed contracts after the story came out and I’ve been paid and informed of a publication after  it happened as well. None of these things have been frequent but none are optimum.

Publishers and writers sign contracts, which are agreements as to publication, for how long, for which rights and for how much. The contract indicates a definitive agreement and set of rules by which both parties agree. The right order is to accept the piece, send and sign the contract, publish the story and/or send payment (some publishers pay first and publish later, and some publish first and pay later, but not too much later; usually on publication). The publisher should give the author a copy of the contract as well. To sign a contract after publication could very much screw up the publication should the author not agree to the terms. This leaves the publisher open to embarrassing circumstances at least and legal action at most.

Thus far, I have been paid for all of my stories though the order was sometimes a bit mixed up.

I have also just been paid for “A Taste for Treasure” coming out (on the shelves now) in Alison’s Wonderland. I’ve also just signed the contract for the poem “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” in Witches and Pagans #21, which will be out soon.

“A Kind Hand” took me about eight years to write and is based on a tale about the Germanic hearth goddess Berchta. I had the idea and the plot, but for some reason I just moved it along very slowly. “A Taste for Treasure, based off of one of the many Grimm’s fairy tales (tales that they collected and wrote down) was written specifically for the anthology. The poem “Of the Corn” was part of a Greek revisioning series of poems. Some of the other poems are are about Athena, Persephone, Leda, Psyche. I don’t think I’m done with that series yet, which looks at the untold feelings of these mythic figures. The Persephone/Kore poems are a set of three and now two have seen publication.

And slowly slowly I’m working on my Mary Magdalene story. The scenes are now plotted and half of them are written. It’s taken a fair amount of research to place a story in ancient times during the time of Christ. That alone has slowed me down as I’ve read various gospels, the Dead Sea scrolls, books on Mary Magdalene and on Christ in my attempt to get a sense of the climate (both geographical and political, the flora and fauna, clothing, food and daily life of the characters. This is only a short story but the amount of research for certain historical times can be phenomenal. And of course about 70% of what I research doesn’t go into the story but helps me flesh out the characters and places.

I’ll need to finish it by August so I can get going on it. So it’s time to knuckle down again and see what I can get done in the next few weeks.

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Book Review: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed IV

For anyone just tuning in, this is the fourth and last segment of reviewing Mitzi Szereto’s In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed. Mitzi chose fairy and folktales from diverse sources. These aren’t just Grimm brothers or Arabian Nights. There are Japanese,  Persian or Sanskrit, a cultural mosaic of stories from sources around the world.

Written in Sanskrit, “A Tale of the Parrot” is an Indian tale where a talking animal relates various lessons or stories, much as Shahrazad did to her husband. An emir’s daughter is wasting away and the Spanish Infanta comes to try a cure, and discovers the Turkish Khan’s (who wants to marry the girl) emissary stirring a cauldron with a stick. The stick is actually his penis, with which he “agitates” the contents of the cauldron. The Infanta helps stir only believing his penis to be a growing stick. Then she takes a cup of the “creamy” broth to the emir’s daughter to break the spell. Now, whether Szereto is completely ignorant of cleanliness taboos of Arabic lands or not, the cleanliness taboos of Europeans would balk at this. Albeit, many of these tales have fetishistic aspects but the Infanta next takes a scrubbed chamberpot to fill. This would be repulsive to many people, even if they’re fine with a young woman drinking goblets of ejaculate.

I was actually surprised to see “Little Red Riding Hood” because, even with erotic rewriting, it’s almost been done to death. It has similarities to myths of gods changing shape, or magical beings consuming a string of victims. Here, “Red” sets off to Grandmother’s house on the lookout for “handsome young huntsmen.” She has a reputation for twirling about, revealing much beneath her skirts, to the workmen who grab their “bulges.” At least this phrasing makes it clear what they’re doing. When she wanders through the woods she actually hikes up her skirt, given as she is to the thrills of exhibitionism. The story follows the more traditional path when viewed in its sexual context, but with some  amusing twists with Red Riding Hood’s exhibitionistic tendencies, and refreshingly few odd twists of phrase.

“The Traveling Companion” is a popular riddle tale, especially in the Scandinavian countries and reworked by Hans Christian Andersen. Poor Johannes is like his counterpart Michel Michelkleiner and his innocence causes his poverty to increase before he has barely set out on the road. He meets an older, more experienced man who has a magic ointment for curing ills, and that he rubs high up under the skirts of an old lady, and a wooden marionette, which leads to the whole puppet troupe being rubbed and coming alive for a flesh and wood orgy. The two travelers learn of a princess whose suitors must answer three riddles and if they lose, they lose their heads.

Johannes uses the ointment to fluster the princess, and his traveling companion does not rely on the ointment alone but folllows the princess to discover her secret. He enters her bedroom where she is sound asleep with her nightdress having ridden up, “exposing a pair of graceful thighs and the corresponding hills above.” I wasn’t sure at first when he starts spanking her if these were her breasts or buttocks, but presuming buttocks, it would have helped to know she reclined on her stomach instead of trying to be tossed out of the story to figure it out. Other than this one aberration, the story is amusing if somewhat black in humor, and though bawdy, not overly erotic.

“The Turnip” brings us to where we began in Cinderella with the turnip (or parsnip) loving stepsisters who used the vegetative length and firmness for sexual diversion. This poor farmer has magical turnip seeds but his own member grows to gigantic turnip proportions and though he wishes to remove it, the king moves him into residence where the man is used for the king’s riding pleasure. This is another story that disturbingly borders on rape and does not meet erotic content so much as sexual abuse.

Also known as Brier Rose “The Sleeping Beauty” has long had an undercurrent of sexuality or even rape, where the prince kisses or impregnates the sleeping princess. Instead of the witch’s curse, Szereto tosses in a lecherous frog and then the story proceeds apace to the prince many years later breaching the brier thorns. By this point I confess to becoming quite annoyed with the bizarre euphemisms and found I was ejected from the tale when the prince lifts the sleeping princess’s dress where, “A pair of gossamer wings began to slowly unfold….the fragile creature was being held back by two fuzz-covered pods,…” What the–? I could not imagine what this was at first and then believing Szereto to mean the clitoris and labia I was dumbfounded. How is this description, even given to hyperbole, slightly erotic? Fuzzy pods? Gossamer wings? Has anyone ever seen genitalia that looked like this?

“The Twelve Months” is the last tale, with a stepmother and sister who envy the pretty daughter and send her off on tasks designed to kill her. She meets 12 men who are the months and tends to their “branches” in three ways. It is somewhat erotic and one of the better stories.

When I started out reading this collection I really thought I’d love it. I like what I know of Mitzi Szereto and I like the retellings of fairy tales (and many originals as well). Granted, eroticism is different for each person, I still find it hard to believe that many people would find these tales sensual at all; they fall more into the category of bawdy, if anything. The euphemistic phrases don’t work because the description is too bizarre, especially for our modern sensibilities. Why Szereto felt the need to follow this style I’m not sure, except maybe to mimic the style of earlier centuries, but why then the anachronistic aspects dropped in without making the whole tale of another era? It’s as if she was still writing these for children, which is not the projected audience at all. I did like the introductions  about the evolution and history of each story, but I would have liked to have seen a reading list or some lists including The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, etc. as well as scholarly works by Zipes or Bettelheim. I believe that Szereto can write but if I was in Sleeping Beauty’s bed, I was left wanting.

http://www.cleispress.com/gosearch.php?textfield=in+sleeping+beauty&search_type=TITLE

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Vampires in the New Year

Well, I hope you didn’t expect some retrospective of last year or the hopes and fears for this year. Predictions about and it would be easiest to say some politician will be accused of a scandal, another politician will again say we need so investigation into gas prices and nothing will be done, Vancouver will bubble with the hype of the Olympics and its citizens’ taxes will/have already gone up to cover the deficits that they said wouldn’t happen, Harper and Campbell will ignore all protests and implement the HST, charging us more for what we should not have to pay for, a rock/movie star will suffer from drug overdose, more record-breaking climactic disasters will happen with a small camp of naysayers telling us that climate change isn’t happening, corporations will continue to use bailout money to give themselves exorbitant salaries while they lay off workers, a movie/sports star will leave/love/cheat on each other, etc. It might all sound like fiction but it’s so much of the same that happens every year that it’s not really worth speculating about.

However, in the world of possibilities, there is the genre of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction includes horror, fantasy, science fiction; basically anything that you might speculate about, which then means almost any fiction. Confusing? Yes, just another way that people try to parcel stories into little packages.

But in that vein is the anthology coming out through Edge Press. Edited by Nancy Kilpatrick Evolve contains 23 stories and one poem. This is dark fiction, stories about vampires but ones that have evolved. How each author handles that theme will be different but there are no vampires of the past, only a present or a future. For my own story, I dealt with an alternate history where vampires are the dominant mammal (homo vampirii) and homo sapiens is something…less.

Nancy Kilpatrick is a veteran author and editor. She delivers good dark fiction. The collection is of authors from across Canada with a presumably regional balance. There are four authors from BC, Rhea Rose, Mary Choo, Sandra Wickham (new author) and me. Every province is represented and it will be interesting to see if there is any regional flavor in the stories. Sometimes there is a “Canadian” flavor,whether in movies or stories. These influences often involves the environment/climate in some ways. Of course, once you have a vampire you will most certainly have some battle/avoidance of the environment in the way of sun, but it depends if all the stories involve vampires sensitive to sunlight.

There will probably be not sparkling vampires, or angels masquerading as vampires. They’ll probably all be a bit darker than this. The books are being released at the end of this month, with collector editions and signed trade paperback editions.  For a list of authors, their bios and more information, you can go to www.vampires-evolve.com/ to find something to sink your teeth into. I’m quite curious so see how other authors handled this theme.

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Dracula’s Descendant Brings New Tales

stoker-2L-book-areaFinally after a hundred-plus years there is another Dracula book, a sequel; Dracula: The Un-Dead. (Dutton Books, $26.95 USD) You might be wondering how this is significant as there have been many Dracula books and even more vampire books, a subgenre all of its own. Well this one is different, written supposedly by Bram Stoker’s  great grandnephew, Dacre Stoker. In the family tree end of things this is Bram’s brother’s son’s son’s son.

Bram had a fair number of siblings (6) and it doesn’t seem that all of them wrote, nor any of them achieved his notoriety. But there is this penchant in fiction these days for the descendants of great writers to suddenly lift the pen and write a sequel to a story, as if the blood that ran in the veins of a great writer has been distilled down the decades to make more creative geniuses. If this were indeed the case, it would be a surprise that anyone took up any other profession but the successful careers of their parents: lawyers begetting lawyers, painters begetting painters, murderers begetting murderers.

But of course we have individualism and of course there is no guarantee that a relative will have the same talent as their ancestor. Yet we’ve seen sequels to Dune written by Brian Herbert, to Lord of the Rings by a Tolkien relative, to a few other great names with relatives getting involved. And sometimes there have been sequels but not by a writer’s descendants but someone else given free rein in the established territory (the sequel to Gone With the Wind for example).  Yet the publishing world loves its marketing gimmicks as much as any big business. And maybe it helps…for selling.

However, I’ve not read the book yet because it’s was launched Oct. 13, a nice spooky date, coinciding with the Hallowe’en month and the unlucky number of 13. When you look at the cover you see that it is written by Dacre Stoker (large letters) and Ian Holt (smaller font). Check out the bios for Stoker and Holt, you will see that Stoker is a past world class athlete and executive director of the Aiken Land Conservancy, a Canadian citizen living in the US. Holt, on the other hand is a writer, who (surprise surprise) has written previous Dracula based novels and screenplays. Just like the books that William Shatner has supposedly written it will be a case of maybe Stoker supplied a few ideas and Holt did the writing, knowing he’d have the Stoker name to pull in the sales. A sweet deal all in all.

From the website’s own pages http://www.draculatheundead.com/index.htm:

Dracula The Un-Dead is a bone-chilling sequel based on Bram Stoker’s own handwritten notes for characters and plot threads excised from the original edition. Written with the blessing and cooperation of Stoker family members, Dracula The Un-Deadbegins in 1912, twenty-five years after Dracula “crumbled into dust.” Van Helsing’s protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict obsessed with stamping out evil across Europe. Meanwhile, an unknowing Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school for the London stage, only to stumble upon the troubled production of “Dracula,” directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself.

 The play plunges Quincey into the world of his parents’ terrible secrets, but before he can confront them he experiences evil in a way he had never imagined.  One by one, the band of heroes that defeated Dracula a quarter-century ago is being hunted down.  Could it be that Dracula somehow survived their attack and is seeking revenge? Or is their another force at work whose relentless purpose is to destroy anything and anyone associated with Dracula?

 Stoker’s characters had Victorian sensibilities and not so shadowy personalities as this sequel seems to indicate. But like all those comics with the dead superheroes that somehow get resurrected, perhaps Dracula is back. Or maybe not. I won’t be rushing out to read this and it will be up to each person to make their own decision as to how good a Dracula story it is. I just don’t place any faith in a descendant carrying the torch of former writing glory even if supposedly this is from some notes of Stoker’s. Of course, those notes could be as simple as: Dracula=evil, Harker=just and good, Mina=corrupted by evil. I’d love to see what these notes were and having those published in a book could be far more entertaining.

And of course, it’s no surprise this book is being looked at to make a movie. In fact, it started as a screenplay idea and then supposedly Dacre said it was best to start as a novel. More revenues no doubt. As to what Stoker thought of himself as a character in a Dracula sequel and whether or not he’ll be rolling in his grave? Well, we’ll just have to sit beside the mausoleum where his ashes are and keep the garlic away to find out.

http://io9.com/5361879/bram-stokers-descendant-pens-official-dracula-sequel

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Writing: To Shine or Not to Shine

It’s been a while since I posted anything on my own writing. Partly because I’m in a slow stage and partly because well, I guess because I’ve been plugging at one story for a bit and revisiting an old novel. Earlier this year I polished up the long running story (long running in that it took me 15 years to write) and sent it off to the Shine anthology being edited by Jetse de Vries in the Netherlands.

It’s an intriguing anthology because the point is that the future is bright, not the dystopian worlds so often shown in SF and fantasy, and especially in short stories. The subgenre (or maybe getting back to the grassroots genre) of “mundane SF” looks at the world within the next 50 years, on our planet (mostly) and with a possible, believable extrapolation of future science and technologies. No bug-eyed aliens, no extra worlds or space-faring races.

For Jetse’s anthology, he also wanted a future world that was better than this one. My world starts out worse but with a hopefully uplifting future, so it didn’t fit. But there have been discussions of late, on the SF Canada writers’ list, as well as at Worldcon about all the dystopian SF that’s being written. How, some editors were asked, do you get people to write something uplifting that takes place in the near future?

A good question and I think one reason we are writing so much dystopian fiction is because of the inundation our culture receives of news stories about the terror and horror and pollution and the fall of civilization. In some ways, today is no worse than it was fifty years ago. In other ways, it is worse. There are more pollutants, more severe forms of crime (even if there is less crime), more illnesses and allergies. Or is there? Some yes, but we have 24-hour news channels, and as they say, no news is good news.

With the constant fear-mongering, the visuals of graphic crimes, the devastating natural disasters, the “wars on terror” we find our mindset dwelling on THE END, or the present and how to survive it. We have no faith of a good future. We have no pretense that there will be endless resources. We’ll run out of water, oil, food and space. So how indeed do we write utopian fiction?

This discussion and Jetse’s comment to me has got me thinking. My own fiction is often dark but not always. Yet I’ve never sold the two humorous pieces I’ve written, but then they’re fantasy more than SF. Still, part of bringing our future, our tangible world to a brighter place is to not succumb to the gloom and despair but to hope and work towards a dream, not a nightmare. I’ll consider this as I write some of my future fiction.

So with that in mind, Jetse de Vries is planning some contests for the pre-release of his anthology, Shine. Here is what he said:

 

Shine is slated for an early 2010 release, and until that time I will keep several features (‘Optimistic SG around the World’, ‘Music that Makes You Feel Optimistic’, etc.) running on the Shine blog, while adding new ones. 

First, I will be running a number of stories that came very close, but didn’t make the final cut for a variety of reasons (I’ve tried to walk the tightrope of getting maximum quality while also obtaining great variety in tone, content, characters and setting). This to promote Shine and optimistic SF in general. I’ll probably be setting up a new site for that.

Second, I will be holding a competition where people need to guess the correct ending of a certain paragraph—choosing from four alternatives: three bogus, one real—and this for 16 paragraphs, each from one of the 16 accepted Shine stories. Extra points for guessing who the author is. I’m working on interesting prizes. Depending on the actual launch date of Shine, I intend to hold this competition in November or December 2009.

Jetse de Vries
Editor, SHINE anthology & OUTSHINE Twitterzine

 OUTSHINE guidelines: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/outshine-submission-guidelines/  Shine: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/ Personal blog: http://eclipticplane.blogspot.com/

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