Clockwork Phoenix #4

Not a bad way to start the new year. Almost literally. I got a request from Mike Allen, the editor of the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series, for a small tweak in the story I’d submitted. The request came in just before midnight on the 1st, I approved it, and the confirmation of the sale came in just after midnight, January 2nd. So my slightly surreal, modernist fairy-tale, “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl,” will be appearing in CP#4.

Pleased as I am about that, it’s not really what I wanted to talk about today, other than to note that “Beach Bum and the Drowned Girl” has something in common with “Three Little Foxes,” an entirely different sort of story that appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #105 last year– those were the only two usable stories I wrote last year. Right. All year. While 2012 was a pretty good year in some ways, so far as writing progress goes, it kind of sucked. While I’m not the most prolific writer I know, I’m usually more productive than that. I generally manage 8-12 stories a year, and usually sell most if not all of them. Those two stories I did write were, in my humble opinion, pretty good ones and I sold them both which makes me happy, but they shouldn’t have been alone. 2012 was a fallow year.

If you’re a writer and have been doing it for any length of time, chances are you’ve had this happen too. While a whole year is pretty unusual, a fallow period is not. They happen. A few months to even several months. You’re not “blocked.” You’re just not writing. You can turn it into a block if you stress enough. I try not to do that. I try to recognize a fallow period for what it is–for whatever reason, your writer brain turns off for a while. If you’ve got a book due, you manage to write anyway, but if you can afford the time, you take it. More to the point, try to get a handle on why it’s happening. Maybe, upon honest reflection, you realize you’re just not happy with the work you’ve been producing. You know you can do better, or you know that you’re ready for a new direction but fear has kept you producing what you know will sell. Or maybe you’re just confused about where you stand. Markets that are both good and open aren’t as common as they used to be, or rather there are too many, and their editorial tastes are all over the map.

I finally came to the conclusion that this was what happened to me. More to the point, the loss of Realms of Fantasy had hit me harder than even I realized. BCS, for instance, is a great adventure fantasy venue and a lot of stories I once would have published at RoF may now find a home there. But not everything. RoF, whatever faults it may have had, was ecumenical. “In the Palace of the Jade Lion” would have worked there, but then so would “The Swan Troika.”  If I were writing that latter story today, I wouldn’t have a clue where to send it. And that was exactly the problem, in my opinion. I was getting story ideas that I didn’t know what to do with, and after a bit the writer brain stopped sending them. That’s what happens.

So on January 2nd I started a new story. I like it so far. I’m reasonably certain that it’s going to be a decent one. And I haven’t the vaguest idea where I can send it once it’s done, but that’s all right.

I’ll think of something.

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