Duotrope for the win, and other submissions stuff

December 31, 2010

So, one of the items I mentioned on my December goals list was ‘submit two short stories to publishers,’ and I’ve been putting that off. So I finally sat down to do it this afternoon after I got home from work, and I remembered that Elizabeth Twist had mentioned something about a new way to find markets in the Hamilton Nanowrimo lounge. (As well as Ralan, which may be very complete, but just always makes my eyes hurt to spend much time on.)

So – Duotrope! This is a very nifty little writer’s market site, with a submission tracker that lets you state where you’ve submitted what stories, what the response was and how long it took – and a search engine that lets you say what kind of story you’re looking for a market for and it comes back with a list of possibilities. The two of them are integrated, as well, so that you can tell the search engine to order results based on a good acceptance rate or quick response time, and it’ll use stats from other writer’s trackers to give you those results. Very cool.

I submitted the new rewrites of “The Landing” and “Wolves of Wyoming” to places with decent acceptance rates, and spent some time working on getting the formatting right for each of them. And then I came upon something else – this little article at sfwa about the proper way to calculate a word count.

Now, there’s some very good points to this. It makes sense to me that the ‘word count’ that an editor would be interested in would have very little to do with words as we understand them, but more with the characters/6 metric that they were using since back before there were computerized word counters. I hadn’t thought of the extra fudge factor designed to take account for short lines of dialog and estimate how many lines worth the text will cover – though of course that metric will vary based on how many characters per line you can fit in with your font and margins.

The ridiculous thing, to me, is the notion that we should still have to tote this magic number up by hand in the 21st century!

It seems like it should be possible to get an MSword macro to do all the logic for me – but I’m not quite sure if it can actually be done or how, because you’d need to make MSword VBA aware of the way the text is actually broken up into lines on the page. Is there actually some function or property for that?

Happy New year, everybody, and wishing us all great creative energy and focus (not to mention plenty of time,) in 2011.

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Laser printer – yay!

December 30, 2010

So, both my brother and my sister’s family gave me gift cards for ‘The Source by Circuit City’ (formerly known as Radio Shack Canada,) for Christmas. And, Christmas morning, I tried to print out a little home-made coupon to include in my mom’s card, “good for 1 copy of Documents To Go for Blackberry.”

It took 3 tries, and the highest quality setting, to get the coupon legible – there were bands in every row of letters where the print faded out entirely. Since this isn’t the way the Canon printer usually behaved when it was running out of ink, I decided that the printer itself was starting to die.

I also managed to put the wrong date on the fake ‘coupon’, so that it expired last September instead of September 2011, whoops.

But anyway, I needed a new printer. A laser printer, since I’d heard that they were much cheaper on a per-page basis, and I’m fed up with going to Staples for nice copies of my stories to take to the local writing group.

I looked at the Source’s website, and didn’t find an affordable black laser printer there, the only entries in the ‘laser printers’ category were expensive all-in-one deals. But I took my gift cards down to the mall on Boxing Day anyway, to see what I could get with them.

And there was a Brother black laser printer on the bottom shelf, marked down on sale!

I actually went back home with the model number and looked it up before purchasing, just to make sure that it was a decent unit, but I did get it, and after sitting in the box in my bedroom for four days, I finally got it installed tonight. Works really great, I like it so far.

I did think that the first question in the optional survey after registering the printer was a bit revealing:

“If you’re not planning to buy one of our other products in the next 12 months, we don’t want your survey!”

And as a final note – WordPress has a fairly good statistics package, and I always like seeing some of the things it can tell me about who’s coming to take a look at the blog. And I really got a big smile when I saw that somebody had found me by entering the following search term:

‘including priests in writing fantasy’

I wonder what they thought about the Father Ismay series.


Trying to tie up plot holes?

December 29, 2010

I’ve been working since October (but not during Nano,) to complete a basic first-pass edit of one of my Roswell fanfiction stories, ‘Runaway with me.’ It’s fairly basic stuff – some spelling and grammar checking, basic proofreading, changing phrasing here and there for better phrasing – and also just keeping track of places where the need for more in-depth changes seems glaringly obvious to me. In those spots, I tend to put a very terse note to myself in [square brackets] and just move on. For instance. [Review this for consistency with chapter 17 later.]

I’m noticing a lot of places where I’m needing to put in square brackets, partly because the story was one that I didn’t plan out too much beyond a vague notion of where I wanted some of the plot beats to be going, (Organic Linear Plotting, they call that,) and maybe because it was one of the projects that I would work on for a little and then leave alone for weeks or months at a time.

Among some of the issues that I remember flagging are:

– I’ve included references to later aspects of the mythology of the tv show, such as the Granilith, dream archetypes, and even the Destiny book, that are almost entirely contradicted by the ending that I ended up tagging onto the story.

– Since I couldn’t figure out a good ending to a chase scene at a time, I ended up skipping ahead, describing the aftermath as Max and Liz return to Roswell, and have them figuring out what happened bit by bit, piecing clues together. Unfortunately, not all of the clues mesh perfectly, and there’s at least one place where a particular character, who would know the entire story, keeps procrastinating on filling in the blanks for the other characters, until I forgot that she knows things that she still hasn’t told them, and doesn’t mention it again.

– Somebody spills a drink, and the fact that the broken glass appears unbroken later on is a plot clue – but I described the original spill without mentioning the glass getting broken.

– For some reason, when describing a characters homework, I appear to have made up a poet named Willis Chesterley. Not a horrible thing, but I’d like to find a real poet that fits the reference I think.

– The fact that one character has had her appearance shifted to resemble somebody else, and I think that I have the same characters suspecting this two or three different times without any mention that it’s a thought that’s occurred to them before.

It’s a story that I do really like parts of, but hopefully I’ll be able to figure out a way to sort out a few of the small issues like these without causing other problems or being forced to cut out the parts that I like.


Fanart 7: Signature banners for Support Stacie Auction

December 28, 2010

Fanart series index.

This next batch of fanart was something a little different. It started because I was involved in the ‘Support Stacie’ fandom auctions. They were an effort to raise funds for a lady who’d been very active in several fandom communities, including Roswell Fanatics, who was going through cancer treatments and struggling to pay the medical bills. The basic idea was, fanfiction authors would put themselves up on the auction block, along with general guidelines for what kinds of story they’d be willing to write – whoever placed the high bid got the opportunity to place a specific challenge or otherwise suggest elements for the story, and they’d get to choose if the finished story was posted online or for their personal pleasure. And technically, all the stories were ‘donor thank-you gifts’, I guess because there were awkward legal issues to writing fan fiction in exchange for money. 🙂

So, anyway, the people running the auction put out a call for anybody to come up with small message board signature banners that could be used to promote the auction, and I ended up making a series based on moments in the run of Roswell where the characters talked about stories:

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Sunday Blogisode Four

December 26, 2010

Blogisode index.

Okay, but enough rambling about Melissa and my unrequited love for now, it’s not that important anyway. I waved a little bit and sat down on the other side of Vic’s bed from her. “Hi, there. How’s the communication outlook?”

“More than a little puzzling,” Melissa admitted, making a disgusted face. “We’re stuck in the position of trying to translate total silence. There’s no radio, no microwaves that we can pick up, and no gear that we’ve been able to spot in the Space Habitats for communications lasers. As far as we can tell so far, they’re not talking to each other, and they’re not trying to talk to us.”

“Mysteries added to mysteries,” Vic muttered thoughtfully. “Is it possible that they don’t have the level of tech that they’d need to operate radio anymore? You’d think they’d have had it at the time that they set up their space program, but maybe the culture has declined since then.”

“That’s possible,” I said, a little doubtfully, and noticed that Nat had stepped over again. “Oh, hi Nat. Do you need Melissa in for tests too?”

“That’s probably a good idea,” she said, “but I had something to say to you, Ensign Walker. Go and grab something to eat from the mess. I can tell that you haven’t eaten since we inserted from hyperspace, and you need it. That’s a medical order.”

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SDMB Holiday Short Fiction Contest

December 25, 2010

Well, Christmas festivities are over. Thanks to my family for the candy and the gift cards.

Time to buckle down on writing/critiquing/editing, and even though I really have enough other things on my list, I’m going to participate in the third Straight Dope Message Board writing contest. I’ve really enjoyed participating in it each time before, and last time I basically got my Nanowrimo idea from the short fiction contest, so that certainly recommends trying again.

A few things about the format are similar – every writer gets the same three prompt words and a photo that they have to include in the finished story, and a time limit. On account of holiday schedules, they’re trying a new wrinkle in which not every participant has to fit into the same writing window – you send an email to a particular mailbox to signal that you’re ready to begin, and get an autoreply with your prompts. You then have two and a half days, (or 60 hours) to complete your entry and email it in.

To take best advantage of my available free time for the holidays, I’ll probably start around 8am tomorrow, so that I’ll have until 8pm on Tuesday, the evening before I go back to work. And I actually have a little secret weapon of a plot notion that I *might* work in, if it looks like it’ll fit with the prompt.

It’s nice to get a chance to go with little unplanned side treks like this in my writing when other commitments allow. The first SDMB contest, I ended up coming up with something that wasn’t exactly fanfic but somewhat close – it was a little spy story that was a spoof of the TV show ‘Chuck’, with Chuck’s character painted as a completely incompetent secret agent, and his long-suffering brother-in-law constantly covering for him. Last time, I ventured a bit further into original territory, coming up with a storyline of an angel on a mission who fell in love with a human girl and ran away with her, which got tweaked somewhat as the basis of “The Angel’s Charlie.”

I can’t wait to see where the paths less traveled take me this time.


So many great storytellers…

December 24, 2010

This isn’t a particularly uplifting holiday thought for Christmas eve, but – sometimes doing critiques for other writers can be very personally discouraging. Because most of them are so good.

I keep thinking that I shouldn’t feel that way, that it should be incredible how many interesting stories are being told, but… in terms of my goals of becoming a famous, published, or notable author, it can be depressing to stand in a huge crowd, and not be able to turn in any direction without seeing somebody who looks just about as talented as me, as far as I can tell. There can’t be enough room for all of us in the bookstores, can there? There just might be enough room on Amazon for all of us, but how many people would keep searching that long?

I’m going to stop this ramble early, or I’ll just bum myself out even more. Happy Christmas to us all, and goodnight! May whoever you believe in provide good loot under the Christmas tree.


Happy Holiday season to all!

December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas, or whatever other winter holiday you may happen to observe. (Festivus for the rest of us, anyone?)

I’ve got all of my Christmas shopping done, and nearly all wrapped, though one item that I bought on ebay looks like it won’t be arriving in time to actually give it on Christmas – my sister will probably get that for her birthday in about a month’s time. I also went to see Stuart McLean live in concert Monday night, at Hamilton place, which was a great show, and he told some really funny stories.

Saturday afternoon will be the big family celebration up at my sister’s place in Kitchener, along with my Mom, brother, nieces, nephew, brother-in-law, and my brother’s new lady friend. Once that’s done, I actually have three days off, and can hopefully catch up on my creative to-do list, which has been falling somewhat behind, as well as maybe getting some Boxing week shopping done.

And a happy winter for everybody!


Fanart 6: AU/Crossover banner for ‘The Wizards of Roswell.’

December 22, 2010

Fanart series index.

Moving forward again into August 2009, I wanted to spotlight a little banner I made for an unusual AU/Crossover fanfic.

Sidetrack: I often find I enjoy playing around with the raggedy edge of crossovers rather than the traditional ‘A meet B’ formula, especially taking a concept from fandom B and transplanting it to fandom A, or re-imagining the characters from fandom A entirely within fandom B. ‘Wizards of Roswell’ was an example of the latter; I took the rules and setup from Diane Duane’s excellent “Young wizards/Feline wizards” series, but not any of the familiar characters like Nita Callahan or Kit Rodriguez. Instead, Max and Isabel Evans and their friend Michael Guerin were teenage wizards in Roswell, and Max saved Liz Parker’s life with magic after she got shot. And then I introduce the vampires.

Getting back to the banner, the pictures are fairly simple. I went with screencaps from the Roswell series pilot, since the fanfic covers some of the same material and would probably fit into more or less the same time period, allowing for the differences between universes. One shot of Michael and Max reacting to the shooting seemed too good to pass up, and I included Liz in the science lab, and a more or less random shot of Katherine Heigl as Isabel, because she’s also an important character. Maria and Alex didn’t make the cut this time.

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Blogosphere Monday: Teralyn Rose Pilgrim

December 20, 2010

Sorry, today’s feature is going to be very short, because I’ve got a busy day and a headache. But I didn’t want to skip showcasing this week’s blogger.

Teralyn has lots of great stuff up about feedback, queries, finding an agent, and the energy and focus it takes to write. Check her spot out!


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