Process

I’m a little tardy with this today, but at least I have a good excuse—I was working through the editor’s notes on “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village.” Did anyone out there think the job was done once the story was written? Heh. Quite often, that’s the easy part. Then there’s marketing, deciding where you’d like a story to be published—and no, the answer is NOT “anywhere that will take it.” You have to be picky about those things, even from the beginning. If your first venue turns you down, then you consider where next, but only then. If you believe in your work, you want a showcase, not just a venue.

Then, if you’re lucky enough to get the story placed where you want it, odds are more than likely there will be galleys, probably electronic these days, and it’s time to revise the story again, this time taking into account where an editor thinks it can be improved. You can agree or not—it’s your story—but be very clear on what you’ll accept and what you want, and keep your ego out of it. The goal on both sides is to make the story the best it can possibly be, and there WILL be things you missed, points in the story where you didn’t consider all the implications of your text. Keep an open mind, but fight—politely—for your vision. A good editor will not try to turn the story into something you didn’t intend. She is your ally, not the enemy.

And, when all that is done and out of the way, comes the waiting. Again, though this time it’s for the story to be published. As with submissions, the time passes easier when you don’t have your eggs in that one basket. Write the next one.

Time to take my own advice.

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Story Time: The Last Romantic

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this week’s Story Time is a love story…sort of. “The Last Romantic” originally appeared in MIke Allen’s MYTHIC #1 back in 2006. It was written long before that, a reminder that sometimes a story stays in your files because the right venue for it does not exist…yet. I’m not sure if patience really is a virtue, but it sure is necessary.

 

Standard Disclaimer: “The Last Romantic” will remain online until next Wednesday, February 21st. Then it won’t be.

Story Time: Doing Time in the Wild Hunt

Today’s Story Time is “Doing Time in the Wild Hunt.”  It was originally sold to an anthology to be titled Splatterfaires from the first incarnation of Pulphouse Publishing, which went under before the book was published. From there it found its way into my first collection, The Ogre’s Wife: Fairy Tales for Grownups.

Here’s what I wrote about the story for the afterwards in the second (Kindle) Edition. I don’t think I have anything to add now.

 

“Happily Ever After” is the most difficult and dangerous part of the story, and yet it’s the part you almost never hear about. There’s a reason for that — marriage is complicated. Slaying a dragon by comparison is simple. Not easy, mind, but simple. Consider: A dragon is between you and your Fated One and you’re a hero/heroine in love. What do you do? Duh. Now cut to this scene after the fairytale wedding, because sooner or later it’s going to happen. Your love is pensive, unhappy. You ask what’s wrong and they say, “Nothing.” When pressed they will explain: “If you don’t know what you did, I’m not going to tell you!”

What’s the plan now, hero?

I was driving to work one morning in 1994 and saw a white doe in the woods near the Natchez Trace. Far from blending into the trees and brush nearby, the deer was about as hidden as a neon sign. It seemed odd to me how it had managed to survive so long against all the odds but here it was standing there, watching me drive by. A miracle. Or maybe the deer was just doing what it had to do and, with a little luck and care, getting along. Maybe that’s the miracle. I don’t know. I just wrote this story because, once upon a time at the beginning of my ordinary day, I saw a white doe. My wife told me that, of all the stories I’ve ever done, this was the only one that made her cry. Discarding the other possible explanations, I take that as a sign I got the story right.

Take that, dragon.

 

Usual Disclaimer: “Doing Time in the Wild Hunt” will stay up until next Wednesday, February 14. At which time I might be too preoccupied to take it down, but don’t count on it.

February Snow

It’s a seasonal thing. I’m getting a later start on this blog because, well, it snowed last night. Not an unsual thing here in central NY state in February, but when it snows there’s snow, to state the obvious. Snow covering the path to the garage, snow covering the steps and sidewalk, snow covering the car and driveway. It has to be, as they say, “dealt with.” So I spent part of the morning shoveling and pushing snow from where it was to where it needed to be. Then a break for lunch and, now that the car and driveway were cleared, a trip to the store for supplies before the next round of snow hits. It’s sort of a recurring theme.

Another recurring theme this time of year is that it’s 1099 time, which means publishers that paid you for work last year send the proof. Not quite as good a reminder that you really are a writer as the original checks, but in the same vein. Considering that I only published two original stories last year* (not counting the originals that went up during Story Time) , it was a bit of surprise to discover that both “In Memory of Jianhong, Snake Devil” and “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts,” published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies last year made the Locus Recommended Reading List in the short story category. That was a pleasant surprise. Not a huge deal but still a lot better than a poke in the eye.

More snow is predicted for tomorrow night. Best to make sure one knows where one’s shovel is.

* Edited to Add: Actually, there were three. The third was “The Cat of Five Virtues” in Tales of the Sunrise Lands. Amazing how much trouble I have keeping track.

Perspective

I’ve been playing a game of “dueling temperatures” with an old friend via email. I moved to New York State from Mississippi. My former home does not handle winter well. That is, when actual winter conditions occur, which is rare. But a lot of the south, from Texas to Georgia has seen significant snowfall, whereas here the temperatures have varied from -17F to +43F. So snow one week and rain the next. Then everything freezes. The difference is, an inch or three of snow down there is a “We’re all gonna die!” situation. They’re not equipped for it because it happens rarely and you don’t spend your budget on snowplows that are (almost) never going to be needed. So how difficult things are is mostly a matter of perspective.

Which applies to almost everything.

Whenever I’m feeling down about how little I’ve accomplished, it’s good to stop and remember that there was a time, writing wise, when I had accomplished exactly nothing, except to write a bunch of beginner stories that no one other than I and much put-upon First Reader were ever going to see. When I had written novels but never sold any, but then graduated to an entire four book series. Now when I’m holding fire on three novel projects, I can remind myself that I can do this, I’ve done it before, and there was a time when none of that was true.

It’s too easy to forget that, no matter what stage you’re at. If you’ve written stories but not sold any (if that’s your goal), at least you’ve written. Same for writing a novel. Maybe you’ll publish, maybe you won’t, but most people who start a novel never finish it, and maybe you did. That’s something, and it’s a whole lot more than nothing.

Perspective.