Failure

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been posting a book she’s writing entitled The Freelancer’s Guide to Survival on her blog a chapter at a time. I think I mentioned it here before, but in case I didn’t, she’s been at it for a while now and has compiled a lot of great info and advice.

Ms. Rusch is a writer and editor who’s worked in a number of genres (I’m familiar with her from SF/Fantasy — she used to edit F&SF) and does this stuff full time, which is the definition of “successful” in the writing world if ever there was one. She’s also run a couple of businesses, one in publishing and one not, so she knows what she’s talking about.

She’s posting the book on her blog with a tip jar, rather than just writing it and letting us all wait until it’s been published, because the current economic mess has forced a lot of people into freelancing, and is encouraging a lot more to give it a shot. The info needs to be out there now, not two years from now, so she’s making it available as a community service.

Note also that the info she’s giving is applicable to all kinds of freelancers, whether you’re a writer or an artist or a landscaper or an architect or own a shop — if you’re your own boss, this book has great info you’ll find helpful.

The most recent chapter is on Failure and even if you don’t read any of the other parts, I think you should read this one. Even if you’re not any kind of freelancer, there’s still some stuff in here to make you go, “Huh.”

Because the bottom line is that everyone fails. We all have failures in our past, and unless we get hit by lightning five minutes from now, we’ll have failures in our future. It’s part of being a human and trying to get along in the world. Certainly people who’ve achieved great things have all (so far as I can tell) had some failures on their resumes, and often some pretty spectacular ones. The trick is what you do when you fail, how you respond to things coming crashing down. Do you pull yourself up and keep going, or just sit there and cry and swear you’ll never try X ever again?

Which made me think about romances, because seriously, I wish I had a nickel for every romance book I’ve ever read where the thirty-some-year-old hero is cold and snarky to all women because his mama was mean to him when he was a small boy and he’s Never Trusted A Woman Since. Or where the heroine was betrayed by her first teenage love, or had a boy she liked laugh at her, or whatever, and has therefore Never Let Herself Fall In Love.

Really? I mean, seriously, I know there are a few people here and there who do have reactions that over-the-top to single incidents, but they have major issues, you know? I’ve always eyerolled over these kinds of characters, but I’ve never articulated why I thought they were idiots until now. But reading Ms. Rusch’s Failure chapter made me see that this is exactly it — these characters had one failure and in response they shut down an entire chunk of their lives and personalities. These people need a lot of therapy. And yet it’s presented in romances as a normal and understandable way to respond to a painful setback, something which requires careful nurturing by The Great Love Of His/Her Life to bring them back into a normal mode of living and feeling.

Yet in reality, most of us have multiple romantic setbacks before finding someone to live with and love for the rest of our lives. And even the person you thought was The One might turn out not to be, ten or twenty years down the line. When failure happens, we keep going. Sure, we might need some time to cry and some time to wallow in life’s suckitude, but then we get up and keep going.

Then, however many years later, we look back and see that everything we experienced in our lives up to that point, including all the pain and all the failures and all the embarassment, has contributed to making us who we are now, and putting us in the situation we’re in right now. I have a lot of suck in my own background, some of it pretty darned major, but if it all contributed to getting me where I am now — a published writer with the best husband in the world — then I don’t regret a bit of it. Sure, I have occasional fantasies of hopping into a time machine and changing this or that, things I regret or which still embarrass me to think about. Then I wonder whether I’d have ended up here if this or that had been different, and suddenly I don’t want to change anything.

Learn from it? Sure. But it all brought me to where I am, and it’s all important. Good enough.

Angie

Will You Read My Story?

Josh Olson, the writer who did the screenplay for A History of Violence, wrote an article for the Village Voice entitled I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script, explaining exactly why he, and many other pro writers, won’t read scripts, stories, novels, outlines, treatments, etc., that hopeful newbies try to hand them. Although his tone is rather harsh [cough] he makes some excellent points and I agree with him; pro writers don’t owe random newbies anything. If they’re asked by a random newbie (or even a newbie with a vague connection, like a spouse’s brother’s roommate or similar) to read a story — or recommend the newbie to their agent, or share names/numbers/e-mails for editors, or whatever — then “Sorry, no,” is never a rude response and doesn’t merit any immediate abuse or later bad-mouthing to others.

There’ve been some interesting responses from around the net, and Cleolinda over on LJ has the best collection I’ve found, along with some personal input of her own. She’s a published writer herself, and has had relevant experience.

The original piece and some of the responses focused on obligation and courtesy and favors, and whether or not a pro owes anything to random newbies. Some of the other commenters point out that there are also legal issues involved, and that pro writers can be and have been sued for plagiarism because they read (or could have read, whether they did or not) some newbie’s story or idea, and later came up with something on their own which the newbie thought was too similar. See David Gerrold’s link in Cleolinda’s piece, in particular, for an excellent take on that side of the question.

This issue affects every writer, both published and hopeful, and I recommend everyone read this set of posts.

Angie

New Book and a Signing

Not mine, but a friend’s. 🙂 Charles Gramlich, who’s a university psych professor in his day job, wrote a book called Write with Fire, subtitled “Thoughts on the Craft of Writing.” I have it and enjoyed it very much.

It’s different from most writing books in that it’s not set up like a textbook. Rather, it’s a collection of essays talking about a wide variety of topics, some the same as or similar to what you’ll find in a typical How To Write book, and others different, more real-world practical. So while there’s a section entitled “Creating Sympathetic Characters” which is about what you’d expect it to be about, there’s also a section called “The Workingman’s Curse,” which discusses writing around a day job and how to cope when everything goes pear-shaped.

I highly recommend the latter section, by the way, for its entertainment value as well as any actual lessons to be learned. (Sorry, Charles!) He lists the events of one particular week when he got no writing done at all because of an ever-growing series of crises and calamities, and I have to admit I was LOLing by the end of it — poor Charles must have desecrated a shrine or something, seriously. 😀

There are discussions on punctuation and getting started and work habits, which are fairly typical of writing books, and sections on blogging and criticism and keeping hydrated, which are less so. And the whole thing is written in the very clear and readable style I’ve come to know while following Charles’s Blog for the last couple of years. I highly recommend this book to everyone, those who’ve been at it a while as well as those who are just starting out.

And for those of you in and around Louisiana, Charles is going to be doing a talk and then a signing this Saturday the 19th, at the Mandeville Branch Library, 845 Girod St., Mandeville, LA 70448-5209, (985) 626-4293. The talk, which is about writing, starts at 10am. Then he’ll take whatever questions and then sign books. If it weren’t around fifteen hundred miles away I’d definitely go. :/

Angie

The Outer Alliance

I recently ran across mention of a group called The Outer Alliance, a support and advocacy group for people involved in GLBTQ speculative fiction. Their mission statement is as follows:

As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity. I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work.

Pretty basic and definitely something I can get behind, so I joined. I missed their Pride Day, which was on 1 September, but was just in time to see a statement go up Regarding Queer-Unfriendly Markets. The issue specifically concerned the sentiments and opinions of Mr. Jake Freivald, owner of Flash Fiction Online, who’d rejected an advertisement Crossed Genres tried to place (a paid ad, through Project Wonderful) soliciting material for their upcoming LGBTQ issue, on the basis that he didn’t accept “sexually themed ads.” Click the link above to see the ad in question — there’s nothing sexual about it, unless one has an “Eeek, sex, dirty!” response to the term “LGBTQ” itself.

The Outer Alliance wasn’t trying to persuade its members to boycott Mr. Freivald’s site, but was merely presenting the facts. The post opened with:

After much discussion within the Outer Alliance, a consensus has been reached that when our writers or publishers encounter a market that is specifically unwelcoming to queer content, that we ought to make sure our membership is aware of it so that they may decide individually whether or not they wish to try to conduct business with such a market.

I think that works. There’s certainly a clear implication of what the organization thinks, but nobody is going to be tossed out for publishing with FFO.

In this case, the issue is purely one of principle for me, since I neither read nor write flash fiction. I certainly would want to know, though, whether the owners or people otherwise in control of a market I might be considering submitting to hold homophobic (racist, sexist, whatever) views; not only would I prefer to save my time and effort if the content of my stories might get them rejected off the bat, but I’d just as soon not have my name professionally associated with these kinds of people. Mr. Freivald is free to think whatever he likes, and to run his business likewise, but I and other writers and readers are correspondingly free to respond to his views as we please, and to choose to do business with him or not based on our responses.

If this is the sort of info Outer Alliance will be providing, then it’s worth my time to poke around on their site periodically just for that. They’re just getting going, though, and I hope to see a wide variety of news and information of interest coming from them. We’ll see.

If you’re interested, the link at the top is to their blog; becoming an actual member means joining their Google Groups site, which only requires a line or so saying why you want to join.

Angie

Review — “Candy Courage”

PD Singer had some nice things to say about my short story, Candy Courage:

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I don’t review in the traditional sense: I don’t assign ratings or stars, or warble on and on about something a friend has written that (if truth be told, as it so seldom is) is riddled with typos and has at least one plot hole that a medium-duty truck could drive through without scraping the rear-view mirrors.

Instead, if I read something that makes me happy, really happy, for some identifiable reason, I might be inspired to tell you about it here. Mate from Lauren Burka got my attention that way, because of the truly outstanding world building. Angela Benedetti’s Candy Courage inspired me to start typing, and given the sheer volume of my reading, that puts it in a special class.

The trigger-tripper was the tiny magical element that fueled this Halloween tale; the elderly man adds a special ingredient each year to the treats he shares with the neighborhood. This year it’s courage, but what did he add in previous years, I wondered, and what unintended consequences did it have? For surely the old man did not plan that a father of a trick-or-treater would become brave enough to take the offered treat. That treat was very sweet indeed, and good reading on its own, but the tiny vignettes of the other trick-or-treaters who gained enough courage to do something they desired but had hung back from added a human element that lifted the story above the usual younghandsomemeninbed tale.

Because framing the fear and desire of one man to reach out to another in terms of a child touching a dog that outweighs her and whose huge jaws are so near her face is a stroke of genius. I’ll be reading this again.

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Read the whole thing here. Thanks to Ms. Singer for her comments. 🙂

Full disclosure: PD Singer is a fellow writer, and we both had stories in the anthology Walk the Plank.

Angie

Irony, Thy Name Is Government

Also incompetence, but it’s the irony I’m mainly appreciating here.

This morning at around ten, the Coast Guard carried out some exercises on the Potomac near the bridge where President Obama’s motorcade passed by on his way to a 9-11 memorial event. Unfortunately they didn’t think to, like, maybe notify any other agencies of what they were doing, so the exercise resulted in CNN reporting ten rounds fired at a suspicious vessel, and departures from the nearby Reagan International Airport being held for almost half an hour while the FBI scrambled to respond to the hostile incident.

Oops.

Good to know our tax dollars are being used wisely in these harsh economic times, to say nothing of the government’s great respect for the time, money and feelings of its citizens (especially on this day — come on, people!) who get caught up in this sort of fiasco, whether they were near the bridge and worried that they were going to be killed, or were stuck at the airport being made late for meetings, missing connections, etc.

The gold standard of irony is toward the end of the article, though, where it says:

The Coast Guard is part of the Homeland Security Department, which was created in response to the 9/11 attacks. The massive reorganization was designed to promote sharing of information within the department and among other law enforcement agencies.

Umm, yeah. I think they need to work on that.

Angie

Anthology Markets

I’ve been getting a lot of hits on these posts, so if you’ve just wandered in off the internet, hi and welcome. 🙂 I do these posts every month, so if this post isn’t dated in the same month you’re in, click here to make sure you’re seeing the most recent one.

Markets with specific deadlines are listed first, “Until Filled” markets are at the bottom. There are usually more details on the original site; always click through and read the full guidelines before submitting. Note that some publishers list multiple antho guildelines on one page, so after you click through you might have to scroll a bit.

Non-erotica/romance writers: the Mo*Con Anthology is pure horror, although they’re looking for a thinking horror rather than mindless gore. The pay’s great too; check it out. Also, Panverse Two, down at the bottom with the UNTIL FILLED markets, will accept plot-oriented sex but isn’t looking for it.

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1 October 2009 — Blood Sacraments — Bold Strokes Books

Length: 2500-10,000 words
Payment: $50, on publication

LOOKING FOR: Gay erotic tales of the vampire, by new or established writers. Think sensuality and eroticism, rather than hard-core porn. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the box and create a new mythos for your story. Strong writing, plot, and character development is more important than the erotic content; we are looking for stories to engage the mind as well as the nether bits. Reprints are okay, but original stories will be given priority.

GUIDELINES: Stories must all be double-spaced in either Times, Times New Roman, or Courier 12 point fonts. Each page must be consecutively numbered in the lower right hand corner. Header line must appear on each page with the name of the story, the author’s name, and an email address. First page of story must also have all contact information for author: name, address, email address, and phone number. Submissions must be mailed to: Todd Gregory, c/o Greg Herren, 5500 Prytania Street #215, New Orleans, LA 70115. Questions can be emailed to gregwrites@gmail.com. Electronic submissions will not be accepted. All submissions will be recycled unless return envelope with adequate postage is provided.

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15 October 2009 — Boys Getting Ahead — STARbooks

Everyone has heard of the casting couch, but did you know it stretches far beyond Hollywood? Many a stud has used his “talents” to get ahead, whether in an office, a loading dock, a store, or especially in politics. After all, to get ahead in life, you sometimes have to take it like a man, or give as good as you get.

BOYS GETTING AHEAD is about those ambitious young men, who will do what it takes as often as necessary to grab the brass ring or at least wear it. There are no limits to what some of these guys will do. If the boss wants it rough, that’s cool. If the boss wants romance, that’s perfectly acceptable. And, if the boss wants to throw you to the curb and treat you like a whore, that’s the chance you take. Who said having a successful life was going to be easy?

We do request that your ambitious boys be at least 18 years old!

I am seeking well-written stories that are erotic, not just pornographic. There are no limits to the possibilities or scenarios. All we ask is that writers be creative, have fun, and offer our readers something fresh and new. And, humor is always greatly appreciated! I want well-developed characters and plots, believable and accurate situations (even if it is fantasy or science fiction, it must make sense), and settings, along with internal consistency. All characters must be at least 18 years of age.

Feel free to query me about the thinking you may have about a story for this anthology at mickey@starbookspress.com.

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21 October 2009 — Christmas/Holiday Sips — Torquere

Which list would your boys fall on this Christmas? Naughty, or Nice? It doesn’t matter, because we want both! Give us your best version of naughty or nice for our Christmas Sips this year! Stories should have a holiday theme, should feature gay or lesbian characters, and should range between 3000-8000 words. We want romantic, sexy stories with great characters and engaging plots! Sips are a royalty paying line, and pay 25% of the cover price on distributor sales and 35% of the cover price on all Torquere site sales. Send your Christmas Sips to submissions@torquerepress.com by November 1, 2008.

Please see our general writer’s guidelines for formatting and submission information.

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31 October 2009 — 28 Days of Heart — AllRomanceeBooks

Charity drive to benefit the American Heart Association. 28 stories will be chosen from submissions received between July 1 and October 31, 2009. Any author who has an eBook available on ARe, or whose publisher lists eBooks with us, is eligible to submit. Submissions must be 10,000 to 20,000 words. The preferred heat rating is 4 or 5 flames, though stories rated a hard 3 flames will also be considered. An explanation of the flame rating system can be found on our site. We are looking for a wide variety of themes and sub-genres, as long as the story is a romance. Questions should be emailed to cat.johnson@allromanceebooks.com. Final selection of participants will be made and announced in November 2009.

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1 November 2009 — Mo*Con Anthology

First, all the stuff you really care about: Pays 5 cents per word up to 5,000 words. Deadline is November 1st. Reading period opens June 1st. Payment on acceptance.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mo*Con, you’ll be operating from an extreme disadvantage. It’s the annual horror convention, named after myself, that revolves around discussions of spirituality, writing, and social issues. Horror, too often, has been thought of as the non-thinking genre, home of the “monsters in the dark” with little to offer in terms of depth. Mo*Con defies that image of the genre. Its themes so far have covered spirituality, race, gender issues, art, and love.

So what am I looking for? Smart, literate stories that fit in with any of the themes of Mo*Con. Horror/dark fantasy stories with depth, that stretch the genre. Stories that make you think, that comment on the human condition and the social order. Stories that are rich in their language use. However, a s much as I love social commentary, don’t forget to entertain me. You should also note that about half of the anthology has already been filled with solicited pieces.

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UNTIL FILLEDMM and Menage Steampunk Antho — Phaze

Call: M/M and Menage Steampunk Anthology, Title TBA
Edited by: Leigh Ellwood
Projected release date: late 2010
Format: eBook (with possible print release)
Publisher: Phaze Books
Payment: $50 for one-time electronic and print rights, plus copies

Hey, all you steampunk enthusiasts, grab your goggles and get to writing! Phaze Books is planning an M/M (and bi-M menage) steampunk collection for eBook publication in 2010. If you have a yen for 19th century history with a touch of good humor and technological innovation (and a whole lot of manlove!), we hope you’ll send us your hottest steampunk erotic romance of 10K – 20K words. If you’re not sure about the genre, check out this Wikipedia entry for steampunk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk) to get an idea of the style of stories we’re looking for. Think H.G. Wells or Wild Wild West, then turn up the steam factor with an incredible M/M or MMF/MMM match-up!

This call is open indefinitely until the spots are filled. Contributors will offer one-time electronic and print rights to their works and receive a one-time payment of $50 and contributors copies (eBook and/or print, if the book goes to print).

To submit to this anthology, please follow the Phaze Books structural guidelines at http://www.phaze.com/submissions.html and attach your RTF submission to Leigh Ellwood, c/o Phaze Books at submissions @ phaze (dot) com. Please use STEAMPUNK ANTHOLOGY is your subject header.

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UNTIL FILLEDPanverse Two — Panverse Publishing

Editor – Dario Ciriello

PANVERSE TWO is the second of a series of all-original novella print collections, with publication scheduled for Late Spring 2010.

Interested? Please read the following guidelines carefully. We look forward to reading your work.

The anthology will be open to submissions until we have enough good stories.

Looking for pro-level novellas of between 15,000 and 40,000 words. Stories should be Science Fiction (except Military) or Fantasy (except Heroic/High/Superhero/S&S). We’ll also look at Magic Realism, Alternate History, and Slipstream (whatever that is). The story should be original and unpublished in any medium (this includes web publication).

Depth of characterization will count for a lot – however clever the idea, if we don’t care for the protagonist, we’ll bounce it. We like stories that instill wonder. Subject matter is pretty wide open. If we care, can’t put the story down, and find no big holes in the plot or worldbuilding, you’ve got a good shot.

What we don’t want:

Military SF, High Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Horror, RPG, superhero, or shared-universe stuff, etc. Vampires and Cthulhu-mythos stories are strongly discouraged unless you’ve done something absolutely original with either theme. No gratuitous or wildly excessive sex or violence: what this means is that sex or violence which serves the plot is okay, within limits; the same goes for language. Think R-rated rather than XXX-rated.

NOTE: there are some unusual bits in their formatting and cover letter requirements. Nothing ridiculous, but definitely click the link and read the full guidelines before submitting.

Perfect Conditions

Isn’t it wonderful to wake up to the dulcet tones of jackhammers outside your window? Absolutely conducive to concentration and creativity, right?

[headdesk]

Our building has had sewer line problems for years and the Association finally decided to do something about it. Which is all good and fine, but the process sucks. (And I imagine it’ll be stinking as well soon enough.) Eight to five for the next two weeks, yay. Or longer if the job runs long. And since it’s 12:30 and they’re still at it, I’m wondering whether they plan to knock off for lunch. :/

It’s been incredibly hot here recently, so much so that for a couple of weeks we had to shut the computers down from mid-afternoon to mid- or even late evening because of the heat. It’s just started cooling off a few days ago and I’m trying to catch up on things that have piled up online, plus a few other things (like writing) and now this starts up. You really can’t win, you know? It must be something about this time of year.

I hope everyone else is doing well and having a more pleasant day than I am. [wave]

Angie