Persistence is Rewarded, Despair is a Mistake

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So I’m proud to announce that “A Choir of Demons” was just accepted by Aurora Wolf magazine, with a projected release date of October 1st. More news as that gets finalized, but I’m more interested right now in the process by which this story was sold. Had I acted on feedback which made me despair on the story, I might have changed it ways that ruined it for its right home.

As I’ve documented before, I once sent my stories out to many places, only to get discouraged, and created a narrative that I’d sent them out until I exhausted the markets, and gave up. The reality was that several stories I told myself were no damn good actually got great feedback, but the markets that wanted to publish them went out of business.

Maybe those markets went under because they weren’t accepting better stories, but actually, many, many magazines went out of business right around that time, so I really was in a market contraction – and a time crunch, as I quit work on stories as my PhD ratcheted up, as I cut back writing because of RSI, and because I helped found a startup.

But when I started sending things out again, things got much better. I still get only a 15% acceptance rate, so on average I need to send a story to half a dozen markets or more before I get a success. But my latest story, “A Choir of Demons”, a steampunk police procedural which I wrote specifically for Analog or Asimov’s, wasn’t getting a lot of traction: it racked up almost a dozen rejections.

Most were form letters, but a few had detailed feedback. But that feedback was strange and contradictory. One complained that the beginning of the story didn’t get inside the character’s head … when the first two pages were primarily the protagonist’s reactions to her situation. Another complained the story wasn’t sufficiently standalone, when I tried to make it specifically standalone. And so on.

I was considering a major rewrite, but remembered Heinlein’s famous advice for writers: “Write. Finish what you write. Send your work out. Keep it on the market until sold. Only rewrite to editorial order” and so reactivated my subscription to the story-market service Duotrope, finding another dozen markets I hadn’t seen on the free listings on the similar site Ralan.

I have to give kudos to Duotrope – I found three markets that each responded almost immediately. The first two gave me prompt but nice rejections. The third was Aurora Wolf – whose editor passed on a few kind words which essentially called out “A Choir of Demons” as the kind of thing that they were looking for.

Had I limited myself to just a few markets, I might not have found a right home for “A Choir of Demons”. Had I changed the story to mold it to fit the markets that didn’t want it, I might easily have broken the things about the story that made it a good fit for its ultimate home.

So persistence is rewarded – but the road of persistence can get lonely at times, and it’s easy to lose your way. Don’t despair while traveling that road, or you might drive off the road straight into a mistake.

-the Centaur

Book Reading: 1pm Sunday

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So, Dakota Frost and Jeremiah Willstone fans, come to Dragon Con this Sunday at 1pm and you’ll get to hear me read from both series! I’ll be reading from one of FROST MOON or LIQUID FIRE (depending on how many fans in the audience there are who have read each book) and from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE. Also, I’ll likely read one or more of my flash fiction pieces, probably “Solomon’s Baby” and possibly a few other short pieces depending on time.

  • Reading: Anthony Francis
    Sunday 1pm, Edgewood – Hyatt
    Anthony Francis reads from the Skindancer series, from THE CLOCKWORK TIME MACHINE, from his flash fiction work, and answers your questions!
  • Steampunk/Alternate History Is Here to Stay
    Sunday 8:30pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    Is the Steampunk market soft? Writers discuss keeping the genre alive and kicking. How to infuse your Steampunk/Alt History novels and stories with new life.

Later, I’ll be talking more about steampunk at 8:30pm as well. Also, at 10am on Monday, not on the schedule, I’ll be on a panel about starting a small press. Drop on by, and I hope you enjoy!

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Pictured: a cool staircase because it’s cool, and the neat badge schedule things they give us to tell us where to go when.

-the Centaur

Learning while Contributing

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I’ve been going to conventions for about thirty-five years, but have appeared on panels only in the last ten, and even that only consistently for the last five – so I still feel like a fanboy up with all the more experienced authors. And while sometimes I have a lot to contribute, I often find it’s better not to ask whether I have something to say, but whether I have something to add. It’s frankly awesome to be up here with luminaries like John Ringo or Esther Friesner, and it’s often just best to to sit back and listen – but even then, don’t give up on yourself. I was on three panels today with more experienced people, and I made sure I both shut up and listened and stepped up and said something at the appropriate time – with the result being that several people came up to me and thanked me for my contribution to the panels that I’d been on. Several of the authors got together afterward, and we all seemed to think that it was our interactions with each other that made the panels great. So … think of what you can add, but never give up on your own unique contribution. It’s there, you just have to find it.

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Pictured: the forward and reverse angle on viewer for a panel on “101 ways to kill a character” which I was on with John Ringo, who chose just the moment I took my selfie to lean over and ask someone a question.

-the Centaur

Con Crud!

So, I had all sorts of plans to post on my upcoming panels and the ambience of Dragon Con, but I overslept. Not by, like, an hour, or two hours, but more like eight hours. Sure, I got up and killed my alarms, a few times, but what really happened as I kept trying to get up and kept crashing out was that I realized I had caught a case of con crud.

Science fiction conventions gather an enormous amount of people, and hence, their diseases, and hence: con crud, that mysterious illness that hits you a day or two after you get to a con. I know a lot of people who have been knocked out by it, but it’s hit me hard only two or three times.

This time, I ended up sleeping on and off for twelve hours out of sixteen. Fortunately I didn’t get the cough or sniffles, though I felt them starting. But I rested up, and got up when I felt rested, and even though I missed hitting the dealer’s room today, I had a lot of fun at my two panels.

So what I’m saying is, be good to yourself. It’s easy, when you’re at a con on a mission, to get caught up on all the things you could do. Well, do the things you should do, take care of yourself, and relax: cons will roll around again, and you want to be healthy enough to survive them.

Up tomorrow, 10AM: You’ve sold your first book, now what? A bunch of people much more experienced than me tell you what to do when you’re facing book two. Oh, and I’ll be there. At 2:30PM, I’ll be talking about synopses that will sell – or not sell – your book. And at 10PM, I’ll be talking about fun ways to kill your character. Oh, hell, here’s the whole list:

  • You’ve Sold the First Book, Now What?
    Saturday 10am, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    What happens next? Publishing professionals offer information about the industry–what they’re going to do, and what you need to do for yourself.
  • Writing a Synopsis That Will Sell Your Book – MODERATOR
    Saturday 2:30pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    Writing a great synopsis may be harder than writing a book. These outliners and pantsers will offer suggestions to make the process easier.
  • 101 Fascinating Ways to Kill off a Character
    Saturday 10pm, Embassy CD – Hyatt
    Description: Our favorite writers recount some of the more interesting ways they’ve eliminated characters–or tried to.

Also, THIRTY DAYS LATER is still on sale for $0.99! Onward!

-the Centaur

THIRTY DAYS LATER on sale!

Hey gang, I’ll be at Dragon Con’s Avoiding Historical Mistakes tomorrow at 7pm, but if you’re interested in a lot of good steamy stories, go visit your favorite e-bookstore, where THIRTY DAYS LATER is on sale for $0.99! Thirty tales of alternate history for a buck – you can’t beat that! And it has the two latest Jeremiah Willstone stories in there – “Fall of the Falcon” and “Rise of the Dragonfly”, so go check it out!

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-the Centaur