Thursday, 29 January 2009

A dissection of Xmas and Birthday presents.

Gifts are a haphazard affair these days. The things you receive, even from friends and family, come from a skewed perspective of what the giver imagines you’d like. Back when you were a child, you could demand gifts with exacting specifications and omit this guesswork, but we are less inclined to do this as we get older.

That is, most of us don’t.

As the years have progressed and the truth of ‘it’s the thought that counts’ finally penetrates the hardest of heads, gifts become more meaningful. They now show if the giver hasn’t got a clue or is incredibly insightful.

This year I got lucky, (in a tangible, gift-wise sense), with my Birthday and Xmas gifts. I don't remember greeting any of them with ‘What the fuck is this?’

(As an aside, I lump these two, significant occasions together, having been cursed with a birth date at the beginning of January. I’ve suffered from ‘combined present syndrome’ all my life. Anyone with a December/January birthday knows what I’m talking about.)

Alcohol flowed freely from all who know me well. (My new mate, Bob the Brit, sent a bottle of Gueuze Giradin 1882, black label beer from England at enormous cost.)

Spirits and beer are always well received. You should make a note of that. Now, please.

I received clear beer glasses after whinging to a friend about not having anything suitable for my beer reviews, and they were wrapped in a very nice Chevy T shirt. (That shirt may soon become a collector’s item if they go into receivership like they keep threatening.) Best of all not one paisley-patterned, puce coloured skivvy was received. (And a quick reminder to everyone not to send knick-knacks. Our next move is imminent and your cooperation is mandatory. With the exception of books, which I am still addicted to.)

My In-Laws stand out as the type who remember your likes and dislikes, and ensure a gift has meaning. For some reason they ignore the cost of postage and have forgotten the ease of lottery tickets and gift vouchers. They like to surprise people with actual items and I got some real clangers.

One of them was a 'Sexy Lady Car Air Freshener'. The obscene kind that will get you punched in the face by a feminist. Now, I look for inappropriate stuff like that, but you never see it in Supercheap or Autobarn. By the way, the Monaro is supposed to smell like fuel and oil but I’ll dangle her from my mirror until a female cop pulls me over and tears it off.

I mean the deodoriser.

Talking of cops, I got a speeding ticket. And I also got a shirt from the In-Laws. Huh? The two incidences meet up when I dragged my feet down to the station to absolve my sin whilst wearing the aforementioned shirt. I’m in total ignorance of the error about to be made. You see, the shirt reads ‘I am the Stig’. (The In-Laws must have remembered the race-car driver from the Top Gear show I like.) Anyway, I approach the glass door, checking out my well-muscled reflection, and only then do I see what I am wearing. In a cop’s eyes that particular combination of words changes to ‘I’m a dickhead, please punch me in the face’.

Thankfully it was lunch time. The lazy bastards actually lock themselves away from scumbags like me for a couple of hours.

I scarpered, and that shirt is now designated ‘wear at home only’.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Multiple Submissions

I recently had a horrible feeling. I wondered if I’ve been doing the right thing by adhering to publisher’s guidelines too strictly all this time. And I wondered if I might be harming my chances of being published by doing so.

In the beginning I sent my submissions out into the world, to carefully chosen publishers, in the formats they wanted, and then waited the months they stipulated.

Nothing would come back. Not even a form letter of rejection.

So, I’d question its worth, as you do, edit the story and send it somewhere else.


It got to the stage where a rejection email would get me as excited as winning the lottery. Sort of.

I guess I don’t have the experience behind me to take silent rejection in my stride. I need feedback. I know what you’re thinking, and it crossed my mind too. Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I’m the guy clutching his wonderful, dog-eared book of crappy poems, who won’t admit they’re garbage.

I don't want to be that guy. I also don’t want to be the guy struggling to carry bricks when a wheelbarrow is close by. If there’s a better way of doing something, I wanted to know about it.

I joined a very useful writers group. On the Internet as I don’t live in Metropolis. I seem to have lucked out with this forum. The one I latched onto actually has active members who want to help. Better yet, some of them have the backgrounds to give proper answers to my stupid questions.

I put to them the query of making multiple submissions. Does it increase my chances or is it the anathema publishers warm against.

Unsurprisingly the answer is ‘DON’T’.

The question arose from trawling the Internet and finding a few writers’ blogs encouraging that very thing. ‘Flood the market, someone will pick you up, and screw the rest.’

Common sense, and empathy for an editor’s workload, already told me it would only piss them off to finish their vetting process, accept a story, and then get a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ from the writer in return.

Mind you, it’s good to have my belief confirmed by industry professionals. I’d hate being the only one still standing in line while everyone else has used the side door and are already inside.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Fatal Cure Update

I'm really, really sorry to do this again to my Killer Serials - Fatal Cure readers. I said way back in January 2008 that I wouldn't change previous chapters, or bugger up the continuity, or force readers to back-track... but... I had to.

To avoid a spoiler situation I'll only say Chapter 83 has been altered to make what happened to Sam much more traumatic. I didn't think it felt right even while I hit the publish button the first time and I usually hold off until it does feel right. But it had been three days since the last episode and I feared losing momentum, which is hard to come by at the moment.

While I don't expect forgiveness, you have to understand how fluid the story is at the moment. I have no notes, no draft, and only a partial idea of how this thing ends. (And I only got the idea for that ending in the last few weeks.) Really I could hammer away at Sam for years but I don't want him to get stale. If I finish this series and move on to another project I might have the inspiration to do a Parasite sequel some time in the future.

I also intend, (later), moving the story one chapter at a time to my WordPress site which will involve a heavy edit. You are reading a fairly polished draft, but it is still a draft. It is also full of experimentation with words and ways of implying moods which may not have come across as I need them too.

Please keep reading. I promise not to screw around like this too much and I'll always let you know when I do. This is a once a year event so far. Think how my poor sister must feel. She has to edit this stuff.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Voluntary donating made easy.

Recently I’ve had discussions with several fellow bloggers about simplifying the way people can show their appreciation and give feedback for other peoples work. People rarely leave comments. If they like something, maybe they’ll come back, if they don't, most likely you’ll lose them for good.

Then there are the polls. A lot quicker and less personal, for the visitor’s convenience. And still possibly ignored by more than half your traffic.

Lastly we have our hopes set on the ‘donate’ button. But the happy reader, intent on gratifying your need to eat with their hard-earned cash, has to run a gauntlet of checks, fees and restrictions. How many of them give up before completing the transaction because they have second thoughts about giving up personal information? A fair few.

People are lazy. Myself included. If something is too complicated we’ll do the thing that’s easier, like nothing at all. But what if we had a uniform, global system of credits or tokens that could be used anonymously with a single click? And what if those tokens could be exchanged for cash directly to and from our bank accounts with very low fees and very few restrictions. I think we’d have a revolution of paid services on the Internet.

Here’s how I’d like it to work. Say I go to a site, like I did late last year, to get information on how to get the lid off my toilet. I get the info, and I’m ecstatic. The guy who sat down and wrote the ‘how-to’ deserves a reward. He’s possibly saved me from breaking my dunny in a fit of wrenching and screaming and kicking, and I want to thank him with a few cents. I click on his ‘Reward My Brilliance’ button, (or some such wording), and instantly donate a credit or two, and then I move on to ‘how to fit a supercharger to my engine’.

Before you start yelling "tight-arse" at my stingy gratuity, have a think about the traffic on your site. You might have a lot of advertising but is anyone clicking those adverts? I bet they aren't. Wouldn't you rather a much higher percentage of the people who visit your site deposit one or two cents directly into an account that you have complete control of? I bet you would.

Want to make it easier? Make a subscription to your site cost one cent. You could also implement the opportunity to contribute when downloading something from your site.

Surely no-body minds shelling out such a pittance to support the sites they find entertaining or informative. Even a kid, or a broke writer like me can find a few dollars a month, or less, to show several hundred someone’s that you give a shit about what they are doing.

If there is something out there I should know about, point me at it.

Please don’t mention the site that lets you Pay your Pal. They suck.