NEWS EVERY WRITER WANTS TO HEAR

It’s been a good week. On Tuesday I was told that my first novel had been accepted for publication. On Thursday I signed the contract.

My novel Dead Air isn’t science fiction—it’s a story about a morning radio show host who’s life is already falling apart when he begins to suffer harassment from an unknown source. As nasty pranks escalate into outright attempts on his life, he struggles to cope with the threat and find out who wants him dead. Before they succeed!

I wrote the novel while I was hosting a radio morning show myself, and the scenario is plausibly unnerving. It’s going to be published by Scrivener Press of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, a small press that does good work and has high standards. Scrivener Press is also the publisher of my friend and mentor, Sean Costello. It’s a perfect fit for Dead Air because the novel is set in Sudbury. The only downside is that Dead Air won’t be released until the fall of 2012, so you (and I) have a long year to wait before we can hold a copy in our hands.

On Sunday I was gratified to learn that my short story “Once Upon A Midnight” has been accepted for the upcoming anthology In Poe’s Shadow from Dark Opus Press. It’s a dark-humour story inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, about a woman having relationship problems while she’s working at a storage and research centre for deadly bio-agents. I’m not sure when that anthology will see print. There’s a chance you’ve already read the story—I had it available for download here on the website, but I’ve taken it down as a courtesy to the folks at Dark Opus. Now you’ll have to buy the book.

I’ve been meaning to make audio versions of my free stories available on this site for some time, and I finally got around to recording my story “No Walls”. So now you can read it online, download a PDF version, or listen to the MP3 recording. The audio is in two parts, available from the “No Walls” page. I hope you enjoy it.

Yes, it’s been a good week. Now if I only had time to get some writing done!

Does A New Year Make A Difference?

At the change of the year it’s the tradition to examine the past twelve months and develop a new strategy for the next dozen, in the form of New Years Resolutions. I’ve never gone into that in a big way. If there’s something I think needs to be changed in my life I don’t wait until January 1st. Every day is just as valid as any other for the beginning of a new me.

So how do writers evaluate the past and plan for the future? Especially somebody just getting a career rolling?

For me, 2010 was a productive year in terms of the amount of material I created—I finished a first draft of a novel, polished another, completely rewrote a third (an earlier work), and began a fourth. Plus I wrote at least a half-dozen short stories. But it wasn’t so productive in terms of publishing credits. I only sold one fiction piece during the year. (Thank heaven I’m not counting on that income for survival!) Instead I aimed higher—I took a shot at the bigger, hardest-to-crack markets, reasoning that they’d be more impressive publishing credits when it comes time to solicit interest in my novel-length work. For my daring, I got some encouraging rejections from some of the most influential editors in the biz. Close, but no cigar.

So what should I resolve to change?

Thanks to some tips from Robert J. Sawyer, I’ve already begun to strive for more deeply meaningful stories, with significant themes. Writers like Sean Costello have taught me how to polish and cut and trim and polish some more. Each time a story is rejected it goes back under the knife for reconstructive surgery, to some degree. I’ve also taken greater pains to ensure there’s a real scientific basis to my SF stories. It didn’t help them sell.

As other writers before me have noticed, there’s been a shift—in the short fiction markets, at least—toward well-written stories with striking prose and SF-style premises, but no real science backing them up. In that sense they’re reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s fiction. Don’t get me wrong—Bradbury was a terrific writer, and I’m a fan. But at the risk of sounding like I’m crying sour grapes, I think having the whole genre skew that way is unfortunate.

So will I change my style? Chase the markets? Aim lower, just to see my stuff posted on somebody else’s website?

I don’t think so.

I will crack those big markets. I will get an agent, and a book deal (though maybe not in that order). I think 2011 will be the year.

Come along. It should be a good ride.