Thursday, September 28, 2006

Story Titles

Story titles are frequent topics of conversation with readers and writers of all kinds, though I do think science ficiton and fantasy and horror lend themselves to more interesting titles. And readers and writers (and editors) ask a lot from titles; we want them to to convey some essense of what the story is about, to intrigue the reader (hopefully enough that they want to read the story), and to do so in a way that verges on the poetic. That's not easy.

Here is a short, randomly arranged list of titles I have seen lately in the IGMS submission pile. These are titles that I liked, or was at least intrigued by.

The Shadowman's Heir
When I Kissed The Learned Astronomer
A Congregation of Casseroles
Skyscraper Dance
The Frankenstein Diaries
Bonpo of Bees
Joe Halo
Mermaids Don't Drown
Dark Vegas
Tides of Moon and Bone
The Most Stubborn of Tears

That last one ("The Most Stubborn of Tears") is an interesting case. I thought "Tears" meant those salty things that flow from your eyes when you're sad, but reading the story made it clear the author meant "Tears" to be what happens to your shirt when it get caught on a fence and you keep going anyway or what you do to a piece of paper to turn it from one piece into two. Just goes to show that you have to pick your words carefully and use them in a context that makes it clear what you mean. I ultimately rejected that story, not because of the title, but I will say that having expectations of one kind get turned into something completely different doesn't help an author's cause either.

As a writer, the title that always got the best response was from one of the first stories I ever wrote. It was called "The Trouble With Eating Clouds." I still like that one; if I'm ever fortunate enough to publish a collection of my own short stories, that will be the title of the book, too.

On the other end of the spectrum are bad titles. I'll get into that next time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

General Update

The good news is that issue three of IGMS should - and I say should because you never know what last-minute glitches will rear their vile heads - should be out in the next week or so.

For those writers who are waiting on a reply to their submissions, that, unfortunately, is going to take a bit longer. I've just started putting the next issue of NC Career Network Magazine together, I've got a short story for an anthology due by the end of this month, I signed a contract to edit a non-fiction book, and I also took on a project to write the web-content for an advertising firm's client. Not as glamorouos as working on IGMS, but projects that all come with decent paychecks. Since I've yet to figure out how to eat the glamour associated with being an editor, I have to do these other things, too.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Apex Alert

If you love to read SF the way I do, you'll know why I say that I don't want to see any science fiction magazine fold. Unfortunately that's the possibility Apex Digest is now facing, which is why today I'm directing you to go here for details:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I've noticed my last few posts have been getting a little on the long side, so this one will be brief. I just wanted to let you know that the interview I did with Mur Lafferty for her podcast "I Should Be Writing" is now live: it's her entry for September 14th. My sending you there is a something of a leap of faith, as technical difficulties have prevented me from hearing it myself. Someone drop me a note if I sound like too much of a fool...

Sunday, September 17, 2006


When Doug Cohen, assistant editor over at Realms of Fantasy, interviewed me a few months ago for his blog, he asked if I thought being editor of IGMS had helped my writing. I told him I absolutely thought that it had, primarily because it let me see how much good writing was out there, and that I now understood that “good” was no where near good enough. What I hadn’t yet realized was that this new perspective was a double-edged sword. I now also see all of my own writing through the eyes of an editor, and it makes writing anything a real challenge because it has to live up to a higher standard. And this "editor" thing that is growing in my brain is not shy about saying, Hey, you're going to have to do better than that.

That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Just a lot more work.

Take for instance the short story I’m working on right now (the one I mentioned in my last entry here (Thrusday). It’s called “The Rat Beneath the Ice" and it's due in thirteen days. I was chugging along pretty well until I came to the conclusion that the writing was okay, but the pacing was too slow. I was on page 12 or 13 before I finally showed the “creature” the story was about, so I boiled the opening down from six pages to one, thus moving the main action closer to the beginning.

But in rewriting my beginning I also lost my “hook,” so now I had to re-write the opening so there would be something to catch and hold the reader’s attention. Okay, so I did that and got back to work, writing, writing, writing.

Then, right before I went to bed last night, I re-read my story again, and came to the painful conclusion that although the pacing was better, I was relying too heavily on the curiosity factor without giving the story’s characters compelling reasons to do the things they were doing. And if there’s nothing compelling the characters to act, there’s usually also nothing compelling the reader to read.

So now I’ve devised what I believe will be significantly more compelling actions and motivations for the characters. And, again, the story will be better for the time and effort of yet another major revision.

But God help me, I hope that’s going to satisfy once and for all this fiend inside me called “editor,” because he is making it awfully difficult for me to get any writing done.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another Day, Another Deadline

I wish I had something new to report with IGMS, but we’re still waiting for the final pieces to be put in place, and still aiming for a release date around the end of this month.

I've also set my own novel aside for the moment. Several reason for that, mostly coming out of DragonCon. One is that I talked at DragonCon with an editor from Penguin and she told me that 'historical' pieces don't really sell that well, and even a genre story set in the 1930's would be considered historical fiction. So I'm trying to work out a way to make my new novel (working title: Waxing Human) contemporary. I have a few ideas, but need to do some more research before I start writing. No point in writing something a NY editor tells you ahead of time is going to be a tough sell.

Also, at DragonCon I got invited to submit a story for an anthology called Crypto-Critters. It's an anthology using creatures from cryptozoology, including mythological creatures like unicorns and mermaids, 'mystery' creatures like Nessie and Big Foot, and appearances of creatures thought long extinct. The first antho is out and is doing so well they're already working on the next one. I told the editor I had read and enjoyed Crypto I, and he told me he had an author cancel on him last minute for Crypto II and offered me a slot in the book. Only now I have to come up with a finished, polished story by the end of this month. It's supposed to be about 5,000 words long, and I'm up to almost half that now. I was further along, but then I realized the opening I had written was slow and could be boiled from six pages down to one. Doing so made the story read better, but it also set me back about 1,200 words. Such is the life of a writer, I suppose.

And lastly, I also just made a deal with someone to edit a non-fiction book for them before they send it to their agent. It's not an exciting or glamorous job, but the pay is decent and I'm going to have to get that done as quickly as possible, too.

So that's what happening in my world. What's new in yours?

Monday, September 11, 2006

My First Resume

Many folks today are talking about the events of 9/11/01, which is only natural, given that this is the 5th anniversary of those horrific events. But for better or for worse, I'm not going to. I grew up in New York, and although I moved away a long time ago, it will always be home. I have an old childhood friend who worked in one of the Towers who was supposed to get married two days after the attack. She got out alive, but too many others didn't. The wedding went on, but you can imagine what a somber event it was. Because of that (I suppose), the events of 9/11 are still too painful for me to confront head on. I have made a studious point of avoiding the TV today because I know it will be innundated with images from that day.

Instead (as with so very many things in my life), I'm going to go in the opposite direction from the masses; I'm going to tell you a little anecdote from my days in NYC. Folks have asked what path lead me to become an editor, so I'm sharing this bit of personal history. This was step one on my road to editorial fame and fortune:

My First Resume, or
(Good God, y’all – what is it good for…)

I’m not sure which yet, but the world is full of either poetic cosmic signs, or random, meaningless coincidences. Let’s assume for a moment that the poetic-cosmic-sign theory has some validity and I’ll tell you about the first thing I ever did with my resume. This story goes back nearly twenty years now, but I remember the details as vividly as if it happened only two decades ago. It’s one of my best drunken party stories, though, and it’s high time I committed it to paper.

I lived in New York at the time, and when I first began job hunting after graduation, I answered a help wanted ad in the New York Times that brought me to one of the multitude of employment agencies around Fifth Avenue and Fortieth Street.

In the agency’s office, I took a seat, along with fourteen other Recent College Graduates, and waited breathlessly until the powers-that-be called me to meet my “career counselor,” who eventually told me I was not only qualified to interview for a human resources position they were trying to fill for the famed auction house Sotheby’s, but that she could get me into Sotheby’s for an interview that same day.

This, however, turned out to be something of a mixed blessing. The good news was that I had my resume with me: it was concise, impressive, type-set and printed on heavy, tan paper. The problem was that I had folded it up in quarters and stuck it in my jacket’s breast pocket. This, my counselor informed me, was no way to treat a document so sacred as a resume.

Determined to save the day, my career counselor so she photocopied a half dozen copies of my poor, abused resume and then sang Allah’s praises when the creases didn’t show.

With my resume now safely protected from further harm by a manila envelope, I made my way on foot through the streets of New York to my first-ever job interview. Unfortunately, the closer I got to Sotheby’s, the more it became clear if I didn’t find a restroom, and find one soon, I was going to have to skip the interview for reasons of personal hygiene.

Miraculously – and if you’ve ever looked for a public restroom in New York City, you know the order of magnitude of miracle we’re talking about here - I found a fast food restaurant with functioning facilities, went into a stall, threw my pants down around my ankles, and did what I had to do.

Close call averted.

It was only after my great relief that I became aware, with even greater dismay, that something vital was conspicuously absent.

There was not a shred of toilet paper. Anywhere. Not in my stall, not in the adjacent stall; not nowhere. I stood on tiptoe and peered over the divider, confirming with a growing sense of panic that there weren’t even paper towels in the dispenser next to the sink.

I was, if you’ll pardon an unpardonable pun, in deep do-do.

It was at this point that my eyes fell on the manila envelope with my photocopied resumes…

And it really wasn’t a tough decision to make.

I sat back, crumpled and uncrumpled the pages several times to make them as soft as possible - and ended up at my interview with a smile on my face that no one could figure out, and only one copy of my resume. It was folded neatly in quarters.

Did I get the job?

Are you kidding me?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Parting Plug

Returning to the subject of DragonCon, I do want to talk briefly about meeting Jason Sizemore, the editor in chief of Apex Digest, and Jetse de Vries, one of the editors of Interzone. They shared a table in one of the dealers’ rooms, so I bought a couple issues of their respective magazines, and got to chat with them.

I mainly talked with Jetse at the dealer’s table, and the big Dutchman is quite a character. Later I had several opportunities to talk with Jason (over lunch one day, and dinner another). Though both meals were with groups, I got to know Jason a bit better. I’m not going to go into detail about what we discussed, but suffice it to say that both Jason and Jetse impressed me as knowledgeable, passionate people, who love what they do and are committed to doing it very well. And their work reflects their commitment. Both magazines are excellent reads, and look gorgeous, too. If you haven’t tried one or the other, find a copy of Apex or Interzone; I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dragon On Home

And a good time was had by all.

Let's see... DragonCon 2006...

Got to plug InterGalactic Medicine Show here and there (which was kind of the point of going).

Got to hang out with a good group of writers.

Got to meet a few editors, including book editors from Tor and one from Penguin, as well as Jason Sizemore of Apex Digest and Jetse de Vries of Interzone.

Got to see some crazy people in crazy costumes (they tell me one woman was wearing a bikini made entirely of duct tape, though I never saw her myself). I did see somethings I could have lived without seeing, but they that one room full of 25 to 30 Princess Leia's in slave girl outfits more than made up for it.

Got interviewed for a podcast called "I Should Be Writing," produced by Mur Lafferty (I'll tell you when and where to find that as soon as I know myself).

Got invited to have a story in an upcoming anthology called Crypto-Critters II (I ran into the editor of the first Crypto-Critters antho (cryptozoology - the study of 'unknown' creatures, which, yeah, is really quite the oxymoron when you think about it)) and mentioned to said editor that I had read and enjoyed Crypto I. He told me it was such a success that he was doing another, but one of the writers had had to cancel out, so he gave me that guy's slot. That didn't suck.

What else...?

Here's a fun moment: I'm sitting in a dinner with a group of people, waiting for a table to open up. We've been waiting a while, so I start reading poetry to the group (and anyone else unfortunate enough to be sitting near by)(one of our group is in grad school and happened to have a bunch of poetry with her (this is why hanging out with writers is so much fun)(okay, okay, enough parenthetical enclosures already; on with the story...))) anyway... my cell phone rings. I see that it's from another one from our group, Alethea, who we've been trying to reach, so I answer the phone saying, "Ed's dinner and poetry reading corner, how may I help you?" Only it wasn't Alethea; it was Kevin J. Anderson (the Kevin J. Anderson who's written a gazillion books, you ask? The one whose next Dune novel is set to debut at #3 on the New York Best Sellers List when it comes out in a few weeks? Why yes, that's the one...) Apparently he had dinner with Alethea the night before and had her cell phone. It’s somewhat embarrassing to get your first call from someone like that and answer the phone that way, but embarrassing stories are the best ones, so the next time I see Alethea (and ask her if she'd gotten her cell phone back), I tell her this story. She tells me she's already heard it. Apparently Mr. Anderson was telling it, too. I haven’t decided yet if I’m amused or mortified (which, you’ll note does not prevent me from telling it again here).

I’m sure there’s more, but as I’ve said before, I despise con reports that go on for 20 pages. DragonCon was DragonCon (if you’ve ever been, you know what I mean; if you haven’t ever been, you’ll just have to go see for yourself). Special thanks to my con partners in crime, Alethea Kontis, Steve Saville, James Maxey, Eric James Stone, Jason Sizemore, Oliver Hanson (m-bop), Ada Brown, Gary Rinehart, Helena Bell, and Allen Moore, who made a good weekend great.