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New Release, New Sale

FAR ORBIT speculative space adventures
I'm happy to announce the release of Far Orbit - Speculative Space Adventures, an anthology edited by Bascomb James. It has a lineup of new writers (including yours truly) and well known authors. Tangent had a nice review of it as well. Mine's a short story called 'The Vringla/Racket Incidence'. Alien babysitters, oh my.

And while we're at the good news, I've sold 'Master of Business Apocalypse' to Unidentified Funny Objects, the humorous fantasy and science fiction anthology edited by Alex Shvartsman. I've really enjoyed the first two anthos, and I think there's room for far more humor in SF and fantasy, that makes having a story in UFO3 is extra, extra special.

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The Resubmission Blues

It's been a while since I last sold a story. As of today it's 75 rejections, to be exact, and all of the short stories I wrote in 2013 are among them. I'm not quitting, not by a long shot, but I do have the resubmission blues... Play it!

Resubmission Blues
What do you do when a story comes back?
Your high-flying hopes got shredded by flak.
You'll send it back out; it's not chaff, it's pure grist!
But you've exhausted the 'zines on your pro-market list

Refrain:
When you had a dream like Martin L. King
But your story sales fly like a buffalo wing
You'll contemplate sacrifice in a fairy ring
Just to find out where to send the damn thing

Readers said, "Golden, not twenty-four carats."
"It has too many pirates and not enough parrots."
"Lacking in cardsharps and the plot is a shuffle."
"Gryffindor's good, but cut back on Huffle…"

It's a sell; no tale ever saw such a twist
But you've exhausted the 'zines on your pro-market list

Refrain
When you had a dream like Martin L. King
But your story got knocked out of the boxing ring
You'll tie your soul to the devil with unbreakable string
But you still won't know where to send the damn thing

Birthday

Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. - Mark Twain.

I want to say thank you to all of you who sent me birthday wishes :-) I had a great day with my family; we celebrated by going out to dinner at an Italian restaurant, and by having cake in the afternoon. Mmmm, cake! My daughter gave me a homemade painting that she'd spent several days making, and that made me very happy. She tells me she wants to be an artist when she grows up, which I'm supporting, of course. Anyone who can make people happy with a painting ought to call themselves an artist :-)

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Halloween Baking

Mrs. D. loves to bake, and Halloween presents a good opportunity for her to put her skills to good use :-)

Spooky Finger
Happy Halloween to all of you!

A Sojourn to Rome

Monday, Mrs. D. and I took a flight to Rome for a rare no-kids-allowed holiday. We'd both been to Rome before we met each other, but we wanted to see it again, together. The Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, the lovely piazzas and fountains and the narrow streets between houses and palaces that date back five centuries... I mean, they practically built this city for couples like me and Mrs. D., who met each other when we studied history :-)

We had the best three days in a very long time. Tuesday we took a long stroll through the city, just looking at what we found, and consulting our guidebook whenever the sights alone weren't enough. We stopped for juice, lunch and coffee, but otherwise it was all walking and taking in the city.
IMG_1747
Your's truly in front of the central fountain on Piazza Navona.

Wednesday was taken up by a visit to the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel, which was an overwhelming experience (in a good way). Both the Chapel and the collections of Roman and renaissance art are filled with masterpieces, and we could easily have spent the entire week there. We also wanted to check out the nearby Basilica (St. Peter's), but it had been closed off earlier that day due to some kind of religious ceremony (seriously--don't they care about the tourists?!?) and the lines to get in were killers. Instead we saw Castel Saint'Angelo, and had an evening in a marvelous restaurant.

Thursday: The Dome of St. Peter's (551 steps climbed), the Basilica itself, a quick lunch and then a metro train for the Colosseum. That was a pretty solid afternoon, which we topped off with a visit to Piazza di Spagna and the Trevi Fountain.

We were about ready to go back to the hotel and hunt for a restaurant when I had a text from the airline stating that our flight home on Friday had been cancelled due to a general strike in the transportation sector. As in, trains, planes and ferries will not go anywhere... After a bit of panic (you all know that gif of Kermit shaking all over the place) we went back to the hotel, hooked up to wi-fi and decided to find a plane home right away. We missed the kids, and they were missing us, so finding a plane on Saturday really wasn't an option. So five hours after the Trevi Fountain, we were on a plane to Copenhagen... almost the last one out of Italy in 24 hours.

We got back home to Aarhus by night train and arrived tired and short one car, since the flight to Rome had been out of Hamburg, and our car was still parked there. I spent fourteen hours fetching it yesterday, which was a less-than-great ending to a fantastic mini holiday in Rome. We'll be back!

Piazza Navona
The market on Campo di Fiori.

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Revision Update

That revision I started? Doing better. Much better, in fact. I've mostly finished revising the first three chapters (or about 50 pages), and according to my readers that was the part that needed the most intensive rewrite.

It did. Once I got the comments under my skin and got the problems lined up, I started seeing the things that needed to be shown in a different way.

The most pressing problem was that I had so much information I wanted to include that it was more of a wiki than a novel. Well, that's slightly exaggerated, so let me rephrase: The reader would need a wiki to parse all the information.

The solution has been to rearrange the information in longer scenes and make some hard decisions. The result is that: 1) I've cut a lot of background information and setting - places, names, non-human races, etc. The places etc that I kept now play a more integral part of the story and setting. 2) I narrowed the number of enemies down in the beginning and made notes for introducing them later along the way. 3) I changed the point of view character in one scene to give my outlandish magician the time and space to introduce herself coherently. 4) It should now be much clearer what problems the characters are facing, and what they're keeping from each other.

There's still a ton of work to be done (about 300 pages to go, for instance). But the story is off to a better start, and if my readers are right, the story flows better after the first four chapters. 

Full Brain

I'm in Copenhagen waiting for the train back home to Aarhus after a weekend of Fantasticon - the Danish convention of the fantastic. I saw a couple of kickass panel discussions on "science in fiction", male vs. female worldviews, and exciting talks by authors Karin Tidbeck and Tricia Sullivan. My head is full of words and ideas and inspiration and lack-of-sleep-fuzzy.

There was also a great presentation about some of the science being conducted by the Curiosity Mars Rover science teams on Earth. The presenter worked with preparing data on rock slides and rounded vs. sharp-edged rocks, so that geologists in the US can calculate whether there was water flowing on Mars (and how much and perhaps when). The job consisted, among other things, of counting those rocks... Of which there are a LOT.

The lack-of-sleep-fuzzy is in no small part my own fault for staying out late with my oldest friend, attending RAW, a full-night techno event with five stages and lots of people. Usually I'm a rock guy, but it was a great night for electronic music, and people were having a good time all around. Before the dance I also had my first introduction to sushi... a luxury introduction, I should add, with really great taste and beatifully served. I've never been a fan of the idea of raw fish, but this was brilliant.

Spell-check this if you want - I have a train to catch.
I'm writing this mostly for myself, but I also have the audacity to think that it might be interesting to other writers who have to deal with feedback from readers. Because even though there's no doubt that feedback is necessary to improve writing and sharpen stories, you're also dealing with a bundle of emotions that can be hard to handle.

So, I'm in the process of rewriting my novel. To assist me I have a lot of excellent notes by two sharp and conscientious readers. One has given me line notes and short, overall pointers, the other reader has provided me with a thorough overall critique of the things the reader didn't understand. They're an immense help and will make revisions much easier, especially for those things that the readers agree upon – those will have to be changed.

But logic only takes me so far. I'm an insecure man at heart, often doubting my own worth and the worth of my writing. I've had some of these notes lying around over the summer, and yet I'm anxious to look at them. Yes, they are the tools of my trade, but they also spark a lot of emotions in me that a hammer will never provoke in a carpenter. And emotions, I find, are both a curse and a necessity when you deal with writing.

So, here are a few of my anxiety generators:
·        There's no clear indication from my readers that this is a smash work that will conquer the bookshelves everywhere. And so what, you could say. I could even say so myself—it's only my second novel, and there are worse fates for a poor manuscript than ending up in a drawer. BUT I WANT THIS TO BE A SMASH HIT and it's not, and who knows if it'll ever be, and what if I've been wasting my time and no one will ever look at it again...
·        There are more things here that the readers don't understand than I expected to encounter. In fact, sometimes I feel that half the points I'm making haven't registered with the reader(s). So when I face certain criticisms I find myself divided between rewriting entire chapters and ignoring everything out of spite because-I-know-better-darnit.
·        The main character is a pretty ordinary guy with no special skills. He has real trouble, though, and real motivations, and still he comes over as 'vanilla' in a spicy world to my readers, and I fear that's going to kill the story's chances of publication. I chose his non-special-skill status specifically because I think main characters don't have to be superheroes or young adults with special powers (or ultra-pale boyfriends), but I'm agonizing over this at the moment. Should I make him more swag? Should he be a provocative sum-bits who should never have set foot in a courtroom. Or should he simply be what most people are, even in fantasy worlds: A normal man going about his business?

I don't have the perfect answer to dealing with all this, but there's one thing I know I have to do when revising: I have to be conscious of my feelings. I have to know if I'm annoyed with a comment because it hurts my pride or because it's factually wrong. I have to know when I'm so scared of failure that I feel like deleting an entire chapter – or when I'm so afraid of failure that I gloss over the critique and pretend everything in a scene is just hunky-dory.

Working through the novel will help tip the balance towards a better, more believable, and hopefully more enjoyable story. That's what revisions are all about, and I'll do it to the very best of my ability.  But hell, it's not easy.

So my advice, should you ever find yourself in the same situation, is to be prepared to face your feelings and think about how they influence you while you improve your story. Because they're part of the game, and ignoring them will only make the revision harder.

And please, if you have anything to share about revisions and emotions, I'd be delighted to read it. 

Because I Can

I've decided to jump back into blogging. That all went south over the summer because we were busy getting the kitchen reworked. From this:

Old
To this.
New
And obviously we've come a little further than that (but this is the latest picture I have on my PC right now).

What with all the coordinating between electricians, painters, masons, carpenters, more carpenters, deliveries and a zombie invasion miscellaneous, it's been a busy summer. The result is great, though. We have a kitchen that doesn't try to slice our fingers off with loose plastic film. A utility room that isn't all yellow and brown and no longer has rusty pipes. Wooden floors in four rooms on the lower floor. A window that doesn't drip water onto the sill whenever it's raining. And a roof gutter that doesn't leak at the wrong end.

The summer was also busy with for-hire work, freelance writing for a coach, a painter and a webshop specializing in, eh, feminine couture designed with possible amorous adventures in mind.

I guess what I'm trying to say, it's great to be back at the keyboard writing fiction. And one thing I discovered during my absence from LJ is that posting about writing makes the whole author-thing feel a little bit more real and a little more relevant. Not much - the stories count for most of that - but not telling anybody about writing progress makes it feel a little less like an achievement.

So here's progress for you: two new short stories of about 5000 words each. One is off to find a good home, the other is off to see my local writing group (and hopefully survive the encounter). And after that I have some great feedback to apply to the novel, which is something I'm really looking forward to.

I've been following my F-list from hiding over the summer, so I haven't forgotten any of you :-) But if any of you need to brag about important writing news, the comments are open to your awesomeness. 

Sale - Again!

Whoa, so after six months of no sales I've suddenly sold two stories less that two weeks apart!

This latest sale is called 'Hidden Folders' and it was picked up by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. Robots and racism and trouble on Mars. Not a funny story, as they usually print at ASIM, but it's a story I've believed in for a long time.

Hidden Folders also sold once before to a magazine that folded before printing the story. So I knew it had some merit - I just didn't know who else would pick it up. I'll be happy to see it in issue 60 of ASIM.

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