Monday, April 25, 2011

Making Progress

It's amazing what one can do, if one has just a little bit of extra time. When I was working a temp job, I never seemed to have any time to get my stories submitted anywhere. In looking back over my records, I sent out only 2 or 3 submissions in that 5-month period, and those were in the first couple of weeks. After that, any spare minute I had at home was spent writing, which is still a form of entertainment for me.

So, let's compare that to the 6 weeks that I've been 'retired' (again) since the end of that assignment. In the first week, I submitted 2 fantasies to contests. By the end of that month, I had rewritten one of my sf stories into a radio play and submitted it to a contest in England. And in the past week, I have sent a sf piece of flash and a fantasy short to two more contests. And this doesn't count all the work I've done getting another fantasy ready to be e-published.

Sounds like I've been busy, doesn't it? And I have been. But while I've sent out 5 pieces and almost another, I haven't been working on anything new.

This isn't really the kind of business where you can work in cycles; write half a dozen stories and then do nothing but send them out to editors. You can't sell what you haven't written, nor can you sell what you haven't submitted. You need to do both. I need to do both. So I'd better get started on a new story.

PS Yesterday, I had a fantasy short come home after sitting in a slush pile for 7 months. Now I'll have to spend a quarter hour or so looking for the next place to send it. Like I said, I can't sell it if I don't send it out.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Constellation 2

Just got home a couple hours ago from Constellation 2, a sf convention held in Lincoln, Nebraska. Yes, I'm still suffering from 'con head', a type of confusion suffered on a con's 3rd day, probably caused by information overload, lack of sleep and some sugar/caffeine indulgence. But even so, let's see what I can remember of it.

As a writer, I tend to look for panels on the creative or business side of writing. And I did find some of those at Constellation, though it is not the same as a writer's seminar. (So I hear; sometime, I'll have to actually attend a writer's seminar so I know the difference.) I also attended panels put on by a new Klingon ship in the area, an improv group, a discussion of the possibility of time travel, Tolkein's elvish languages, and a creative writing workshop put on by local author Matt Rotundo. I had plenty of opportunity to absorb ideas.

If that wasn't enough, I wandered through the art show a couple times, and the dealer's room, then attended the art auction (and bought a piece for myself), followed by the costume contest. I finished up Saturday by stopping by the OSFest party room. As Co-chair of OSFest 4.0, I figured I had to be there for some talking and joking, which is not my normal 'me', but I didn't want people to think I didn't exist. It wasn't too bad, because I found most of the people there I had been talking to for years at other events, so the introvert in me did not consider them 'strangers'.

The best part – for me – was the camaraderie I found with other authors. Constellation's Author Guest of Honor was Jim Hines, who is an entertaining speaker, though I didn't get to spend time with him other than being in the audience of some of his panels. I did, however, get to converse and compare notes with Matt Rotundo, Travis Heerman, Robert Reed and Daniel Nielsen. These are all Nebraska authors, and even though I haven't been published – yet – we compared notes on markets and how quickly or slowly they respond to submissions, our working habits, and so forth.

I may not have been writing this weekend (I left my thumb drive at home!), but I was definitely working. On so many levels.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Today, I read about DNA and genealogy. I think most people are interested in who their ancestors were, but of course, other than grandparents, you're probably only going to find any information on ancestors who were famous. Supposedly, I and my siblings are over half German, with the remaining not-quite-half consisting of 8 different ethnicities. Typical American melting pot, I always figured.

I never heard that any of my German ancestors were famous, but then, it was the other side of my family that displayed any interest in this subject. And according to rumors on that side of the family, I'm a direct descendent of Sitting Bull and Betsy Ross.

Impressive, huh?

Hang on, I'm not done. The claim of Sitting Bull came through my maternal grandfather, who couldn't seem to decide if he was full Indian, half-Indian, or only quarter-Indian. That came from my maternal grandmother, whom he abandoned with five kids to raise on her own, so there was probably some bitterness there, and no way to track down the truth.

Hey, but I still had Betsy Ross, right? A few months before mom passed away, she and I spent a weekend searching through a collection of papers grandma had given us; yellowed copies of newspaper clippings, census pages, and so on. This was the best we could figure out – back in the 1800s, grandma's great-grandparents were moving west with their children. One of the daughters was named Lindy, who later married … well, I forget his name. What's that got to do with anything, anyway? Because Betsy Ross had some younger sisters, and one of them had a son or grandson, whose wife was named 'Lindy'. That, apparently, was my direct descent from Betsy Ross.

On the other hand, one article I read said that most everybody alive could count royalty in their ancestry. Guess I'll have to be happy with that, at least for now.

It did get me thinking. What if some person on the planet didn't have ANY royalty or famous people in their ancestry? Would he/she be different from the rest of us in some way? If they became aware of it, would they become determined to BECOME the most famous person in the world, or set themselves as the start of a new royal dynasty? Something to think about.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Confusion Abounds

If you read newsletters with advice for writers, it probably won't be long before you get confused. I know it wasn't long before it happened to me. But it wasn't immediate; it waited for me to get comfortable with getting hints and information from this source.

I don't read a lot of newsletters. I receive two weekly newsletters from one editor/writer, and two monthly newsletters from agencies. I've considered subscribing to more, but it takes time to read these carefully, pick out the pieces I want to remember and discard the rest. While I read the newsletters in hopes of becoming a better writer, they take time away from the actual writing. I could wind up spending all my time reading, and not writing. So I decided to limit my subscriptions.

Even so, I have to pick and choose what I pay attention to in those newsletters. Consider the newsletters from one source and you'll see what I mean. Perhaps early in November, the editor told her readers not to bother with writing for word mills; the pay was so horrible, it simply wasn't worth your time. And then a few weeks later, that same newsletter had an article written by someone who has written that type of article for three or four years and thinks it's a great idea. I appreciate the editor's willingness to look at both sides of a question, but I'm left trying to figure out what to do. Should I look at writing for these sites, or not?

Over the years, I've learned that every writer has their own methods and rituals of working. A location and time that is perfect for one might leave another with severe writer's block. I also remember that I got distracted from the path I had wanted to travel, in my search for a career early in my life. I don't want that to happen again. So when I get a suggestion from a newsletter – or conflicting suggestions – I ask myself one question; "Is that something I WANT to do?" And that settles the question.

With a little experience, you'll probably find a way to decide what hints and suggestions would benefit you, too.