Sunday, December 26, 2010

Know the Industry?

Authors are told to 'learn the industry'. If you can't actually work in the publishing industry, then you're supposed to study the trade magazines, and learn what you can that way. As far as I can figure out, "trade magazines" for the "publishing industry" equals Publisher's Weekly. At least, that's the only magazine dealing with the publishing industry that I can find at the Omaha Public Libraries, and I can't imagine any other place in this berg more likely to have such magazines.

Anyway, for some time now, I have dutifully made my way to the library on a particular day of the week, just to read the most recent issue of Publisher's Weekly. Well, the most recent they have available; by the time they get it processed and ready for use, it's a month old. So by the time I read about an 'up-coming' book signing or fair, it's already gone by.

What am I looking for as I read this magazine? Nobody ever explained that to me, except for a blanket statement, like, "Oh, you know, what editor is moving where, what agent is selling manuscripts like hot cakes." These days, does that knowledge do me any good? Seems to me I don't need to know the latest editor at Penguin or DAW, or wherever, because you don't submit directly to the big publishers anymore; most of them no longer have slush piles. They expect agents to do their first reading for them.

And even if you can figure out which agent is selling manuscripts 'like hotcakes', that agent is probably too busy to take on another client, so what does that get you?

So, I'm reading, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for. Is there a Cliff Notes for this magazine, something to point out the important bits?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bear Ancestry

I think I must have some bear in my family tree somewhere.

I vaguely remember reading a scifi book back in the 60s where the author wrote about some semi-cat creatures; not quite human, but more than a normal cat. They had been created in a laboratory to-- Well, my memory fails me, but it made sense in the book. And, of course, there's also stories about mermaids, centaurs, werewolves – all those creatures that are not quite animal, not quite human.

So, the idea of having some non-human ancestors isn't that shocking to me. And this thought – that I must have some bear in my family tree – came up last week. The weather's turning cold, the days short and dim, and I found myself becoming surly, eating everything in sight, and spending my time longing for my nice warm bed. Yes, I wanted to hibernate! So I started thinking about great-great-grandpa. What kind of bear am I related to?

Probably not polar bear, because I REALLY hate extended cold weather. And now that I've mulled it over for a while, my sluggish mind has realized that bears are not the only animal that hibernates, so maybe great-great-grandpa wasn't a bear. Squirrel? No, I don't think so. Even on my best days, even in my youth, I didn't do much frolicking around or chattering away. No, I think my gait is a little closer to a bear's amble, more deliberate, you know? And if I'm faced with a problem, I'm likely to worry it a bit, break it down into pieces in search for tasty grubs. Wait. I prefer nuts to grubs.

Still, I'm thinking I've got more bear in me than squirrel. What about you? If one of your ancestors was an animal, what type? Which of your habits and behaviors point to that relationship? Occasionally, a writer compares a person to some animal, so I'm not the only one to think in this direction. To me, this type of 'exercise' is just one more aspect of writing that can be great fun.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Study Part 2

I recently started examining holidays and how/if they would be established in Colony X on some distant planet. There is another American holiday in November that I haven't yet examined. It would be stretching back a bit to look at it now, but otherwise, it will be another year before I get to it, so … why not?

Veteran's Day is an opportunity to remember those soldiers who have made it possible for us to live in our version of freedom. I don't see this colony as holding over many (if any) holidays from 'the old home', as they are looking for a new beginning … their version of freedom. Likewise, I don't see them as fighting any wars to establish their colony, since the planet has no 'intelligent' natives, and the old home hasn't followed them to this planet. So I don't see any reason for them to establish a 'Veteran's Day', not for many generations. After they've grown enough to swarm over the planet and form opposing governments that inevitably go to war with each, then it might happen. On the other hand, they might have someone who stands out as a hero – someone who successfully warns them of some impending doom so that they can avoid it. That might make a big enough impression that the people – looking for an excuse to party – might decide to celebrate Brok's Day. The Americans have several of that type; Martin Luther King Day, Washington's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday (those two now rolled into Presidents' Day) and so on.

I can't speak for all Americans, but it seems to me that for most of us, Veteran's Day is simply an opportunity not to go to work. Retail uses holidays as an excuse to have sales. Fraternal orders based on military service might have some kind of service or remembrance on Veteran's Day, but if you don't belong to one, don't have a close family member who belongs to one, you aren't likely to care. And so I see Brok's Day as developing, over the generations. After all, once the river has been dammed, removing threat of flood – or whatever Brok saved the colony from – would anybody really care? So Brok's Day, at some point during the year, to celebrate the continuation of the colony. Go, Brok!