24 December, 2009

Blogging for Santa

Dear Santa,

Been thinking about what I'd really like for Christmas. You see, it's normal to wish for things that we can't control. Essentially, one usually wishes for luck. But I wanted to break that norm. I decided that I would wish for the strength to persevere, the energy to work extraordinary hours and the passion and the insight to craft great stories that resonate in people's hearts.

I've decided not to wish for any of that, but to do it instead. I can control all of that. As a writer, it's very important to focus on what I can control. I can't put an editor in the right mood when he picks up my submission from the slush. I can't make myself lucky. I CAN fight my hardest, and I can make my hardest extremely freakin' hard. I can put my heart and soul into the study of the craft. I can be compassionate and empathic in my views of humanity, and I can write with compassion and empathy.

So instead of wishing for things, I decided to make promises to myself. I never break a promise. Here goes:

1) I will work ludicrously hard to get into Clarion. This is a dream of mine, and I will do everything in my power to make that dream come true.

2) Regardless of my Clarion application's outcome, I will not miss a beat. I will work as hard on the day I receive that fateful letter as on the day previous.

3) I will work to make each story all it can be. I'm lucky to be prolific, but if one focuses on such things, then one isn't focused on the creation of art. Each story, I will slave over, striving with all my heart to create a masterpiece of emotional and psychological acumen. That way, one day, I might succeed.

No one can guarantee success, but I can control every facet of a herculean attempt. For a herculean goal, to use the other sense of the word, nothing else would suffice. It's as Michael Jordan says, 'I can't accept not trying.'

Given all that, luck is the only thing left to wish for.

Dear Santa,

Please let the powers that be throw a little luck my way. I promise to always work hard enough to deserve it.

Merry Christmas,

Wm. Luke Everest

02 December, 2009

Sleepers with our hearts on fire, aren't we all?

Some words on the present economic/political state of the world: our ancestors worked very hard to force governments into being democratic, which is basically enforcing humanist regulations upon the wild urges of power.

But the market remained wild and unregulated, and now we live in a world where the MARKET HAS MORE POWER THAN THE GOVERNMENTS! What do you think that means?

Strictly speaking, we have never lived in a democracy. We have never discussed or voted upon specific issues. Rather, we vote upon which cossetted shit-bag gets to sit in the big chair. This was, at first, justifiable due to technological limitations and a high population. But now we have the technology to live in something much closer to democracy, and we shouldn't be complacent. Governments will not alter themselves, for they are ruled by cossetted shit-bags. More importantly, governments are no longer the greatest power in the world.

The secret no one wants you to know is, the corporations aren't the greatest power either. We are. Why make art? Because art has the capacity to wake people up.

As a writer I can never hope to achieve the monetary hoard of the new-world kings, but I can make them fear me. One day, one day. Imagine if everyone in the world suddenly became compassionate and intelligent, if everyone woke up and became suddenly unsatisfied with the opiates we're given to swallow. Tomorrow would be chaos, and the day after would be paradise. Make it happen.

31 July, 2009

Whingers and Winners: A short rant about the F&SF workshop

Here you have it, another rant about F&SF running a paid workshop and printing stories of quality from it. The difference is, since I'm not an idiot, I'm going to rant in favour of the workshop.

The complaints are basically as follows:
1) Stories from the workshop will be chosen for publication, should Gardner Dozois deem them excellent.
(Here's the thing. It's Gardner Dozois. He knows a publishable story when he sees one. Publishable stories DESERVE publication. You'd deny them publication in a top market simply because the writer made an effort to learn to write? That's stupid. Yes, they're learning to write through the magazine, but this problem bares the assertion that F&SF workshop stories will have a greater chance of publication than other stories. They will, but only because the F&SF workshop stories will, for statistical reasons, have a higher likelihood of being good.)

2) The workshop costs money, so aren't people effectively paying for publication in F&SF?
(Well, are you paying to have a job as a lawyer by going to law school? No, you moron. You're paying for the knowledge and skills necessary to be a lawyer. To become a lawyer, you apply for jobs. Meanwhile some firms will talent scout at some universities. Is that wrong? No. Firms can seek out lawyers all they want. It's their right, just as it's Gordon's right to publish good fiction he sees when it's submitted to him. I'd bet the authors of this workshop will retain the right to refuse publication, if they are insane.)

I think what people need to realise is that Gordon exclusively purchases GOOD stories, regardless of the author's experience. Ray Bradbury writes a short story every week. He doesn't submit them all, probably because many aren't considered great by his own standards. My guess is he's a very good judge.

Gordon Van Gelder is also a good judge, and if a story is very good, it will rise from the slush pile and probably get published. There's no secret hand shake or special query letter format experienced authors know that newbies don't. Experienced authors just generally write better than your average newbie. Gordon is interested in selling magazines TO READERS. That's it. No secrets there. He's doing it for readers and so he wants stories his readers will like. If he sees one, and he's sure his readers will like it, he buys the story, because otherwise a competing magazine will buy it.

I once went out of my way to help someone who was considering self-publication. I told him that if he really wants to be a writer, he should begin studying the craft. I pointed him in the right direction. I gave him links to University courses, I told him about Clarion and Critters, I named several excellent books on writing and warned him of several terrible ones. He replied with hostility, saying I should "take my student wisdom back to the cafeteria and tell someone who cares."

I did. I had no more time for him. Why? He's hopeless. Let him waste his money on self-publication. Let him waste his life on self-delusion. I'm too busy fighting for my dream. The fact is, if he really had it in him to become a writer, his first thoughts wouldn't go to self-publication. Instead, he'd consider that if he wrote something worth reading, people in the business of selling stories to readers would buy it. He would, therefor, work very hard to discover every opportunity to study the craft. He would have visited all those links I sent him.

If there had been an F&SF workshop at the time, I would have pointed him towards it.

The workshop is a tremendous opportunity for new writers to learn the craft. I submit that ANY new writer who has a problem with the idea of a WORKSHOP WITH GARDNER DOZOIS (for cryin' out loud!) doesn't take the craft anywhere near seriously enough to ever learn it.

When I first heard of the workshop I leapt out of my chair and ran to tell my girlfriend in an excited frenzy. I then returned to the computer to see people complaining. That's insane, but I'm actually glad. The more writers have some kind of weird problem with it, the fewer will sign up.

Imagine a one on one apprenticeship with Gardner Dozois. Now imagine how hard I had to work to get a one on one apprenticeship with Paul McAuley. If you have a dream, fight for it, and ignore the people who whinge and complain. They are not like you. They are weak. To accomplish your dream, you must be strong. Now what are you doing surfing the internet? Get back to work.

19 July, 2009

Environmental Survey

I was sent a survey from an undergraduate student at Kingston University early this morning. It was about environmental awareness/concern. I like to wake up slowly, so I took it.

It got me thinking how little relevance each question had. Buying organic nuts is not going to save the planet. Hybrid cars don't work. The real issue is one of politics. I gave a short rant at the end of the survey in the opinions section, and I'd like to share it with you.

Here goes:
Money. Money money money. Protection of the environment is a luxury that most students simply can't afford. Moreover, the biggest issue is one of energy efficiency. That's why hybrid cars don't help, where hybrid turbo-charger technology does. Saving fuel is about increasing engine performance per fuel-unit intake. That's why SUVs are incredibly irresponsible.
As are hippies. They complain about the environment and then drive cars with poor gas mileage.

If I could afford a good car, and afford to shop in organic stores, I would. Another big help would be if the political system worked. Then voting would make a difference because people would be able to vote on issues, not just assholes. Real democracy requires a wealthy populace (so healthy distribution of wealth and a society not run on greed), an informed populace, and politicians who are aware of the concerns of the average people. We have Etonians playing God with wealth and idiots. Society simply does not work.

I should add that "Etonian" is English for "people who went to Eton. The American equivalent is just to reference the super-rich. I should also say that i believe, in this age, ignorant people are idiots. There's no excuse when you have the internet, but to tell the truth, there never was. Ignorance is a choice.

If anyone ever reads this, please visit www.aeristech.co.uk. My brother invented hybrid-turbocharger technology (HTT) and is trying to find a car manufacturer willing to invest in what really is a technological leap.

19 June, 2009

Power and progress

Been thinking about why I write. I'm halfway through watching Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. What a terrible world we live in if the average person is impressed by the actions of evil, selfish men. What they covet is nothing more than power, and so they are nothing but imbeciles, fools.

If evolution is nothing but the progress of power, the result would certainly involve forsaking all that mankind holds dear. Does art have any place in such a world? Yes. Art is necessary. Art has the power to wake people up, to make them more caring, more intelligent. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone just tried to make the world good, if we all tried together. Not with politics, but with care for our fellow man. (Don't let politicians convince you that the conflicts we see today are an inevitable, natural process. Think for yourself.) First, here's something to help you conceptualise the world if we stay silent:

Pearl Jam - Evolution (A collaboration with Todd McFarlane (the Spawn series))

As an artist, I can never hope to achieve the kind of money the new-world kings possess, but money means nothing of itself. I can wake people up.

18 June, 2009

A strangely emotional day...

I had my last meeting with Paul McAuley recently. It's funny studying under someone whom I'm a genuine fan of. (Don't end a sentence with a preposition? That's a French rule, popularised by Victorian snobs. At least I think they were Victorian. They were definitely snobs, and they were wrong. It's not an English rule.) I really wanted to impress him, which I think I accomplished as far as I could reasonably hope for. (There I go again.) He sent me off with kind words in a signed book, kind words in person and a hand shake. I got the impression he genuinely hopes I do well, which makes me happy. At the same time, there was the distinct melancholy of a good thing having come to an end. He has more to teach, I have more to learn, and frankly, I like the man. He's kind, unassuming, fiercely intelligent and generous with his time. If you ever read this, Paul, a thousand times thank you.

Just in case anyone ever reads this blog looking for writing advice, I'll share two things with you. First you should know that in my last meeting I had re-drafted a story called Dud Hands, which will probably wind up called something else.

The first thing relates to my last post about hooks. I had complained about a story I read in which the author didn't explain enough about his world at the beginning. Sometimes this is done extremely well. I recently read something by James Patrick Kelly, published in Asimov's Science Fiction, that started right in the middle of a visual scene. That's a great way to start a story, but it doesn't always work. It worked for James Patrick Kelly, not for the other guy who shall remain nameless. But Paul asked me an important question when I complained.

I said I didn't know enough, and he asked, "Did you want to know? Because that's the whole point."

Truth is, I didn't want to know in a good way. It was more a process of Sci-fi jargon clouding my experience of the narrative. James Patrick Kelly, on the other hand, was extremely artful about withholding information. I wanted to know, and nano-seconds before it became irritating, at the precise cusp between intrigue and annoyance, he told/showed me. Always take the reader where the reader wants to go. When Sol Stein said otherwise, he was talking about withholding resolution artfully, not pissing people off with stories that fail to keep their implicit promises. There is a promise that runs through all fiction, constantly, and a writer must never break it.

What's Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman about, for instance? It's about a feisty, intelligent girl and her conflict with the status quo. What happens in the first scene? She learns something intriguing and potentially quite horrid about the status quo. She is in conflict with the status quo from that moment on, and she wants to know more about the thing she learned. So do we.

Tada! That leads me to the second important thing I learned. This I found so insightful I wrote it on my wall. For this comment alone I must thank Paul McAuley. It's a real gem and it's something hard for a new writer to realise:

The reader isn't following the story. The reader is following the character.

I don't know what you'll get from that, but alarm bells rang for me. It's why one should never ask (as I used to), "What happens next?" (Scott Bradfield once told me that I agonized over the wrong things. Ding ding.) One should instead ask, "What would my character do here?" I think, in the few seconds it took for me to hear those words, I became a better writer.

05 June, 2009

Looking at the opening: what in blazes is a hook?

Editors talk endlessly about hooking the reader. It sounds complicated, but everything I've learned about craft is, compared to how it originally sounded, actually much simpler once you understand it. Here's something I learned from a short course with Paul McAuley. Hooking the reader means getting expectations and/or questions running in the reader's mind. That's it. That's how writers talk about hooks.

Think about it: if the reader is wondering about things they are feeling involved in the story. If they have expectations they feel involved in the story. What can you do to help? Let's see...

1) You're not going to build expectation/intrigue unless there's some story element strong and clear in the opening. Usually you see character and setting, but sometimes stories do it differently. Character and setting seem very important, though. I always try to give character and setting and I find that method extremely helpful.

2) An interesting idea will, naturally, build wonder to a greater extent, and thus help build expectation/intrigue. If you're interesting idea is well drawn, there will be narrative elements tied to it, of course. Include those elements, or at least expectation/intrigue for those elements in your opening.

There are other ways, I'm sure, but these are the most important ones I can think of right now. I have to get back to writing.

OK bye.

(The hidden message in all these posts were I rush off is that if you want to be a writer you'd better be busy writing. If you have a job that's fine. Back when I had to work a full-time job I averaged about 2000 words per day. I itched to write constantly while I sat in my squeaky chair in office Hell. I used to sneak off to the bathroom to plot my stories. I convinced one boss I had bowel problems for that purpose. On Saturday, instead of going out, I wrote. I didn't just want to. I had to. If you've stumbled upon this blog and you want to write, let me pose the most important question to you: how badly do you want to write? If you want to make a career of it, the answer had better be that you have to. I don't even know you and I guarantee you can succeed if you have a dream. Talent is great it you have it but it won't make you succeed any more than intelligence will get you good grades at school or big money at the office. Work does that, and it often brings people success even when they lack talent.)

30 May, 2009


Frequently, I will submit a story and tell you about it. This blog is mostly for me, to keep me motivated and log my activities. It's good to keep a work diary. Hopefully this will be interesting to my fans one day.

Moreover, there's handy advice in this stuff, too. You can learn about what magazines are out there. Learn from my experiences. Here are a couple of things:

1) Always read the submission guidelines. Do everything you can to make reading your story an easy, pleasant experience for the editor, including write a good story with a clear narrative. Most magazines are happy with Standard Manuscript Format: http://www.sfwa.org/writing/vonda/vonda.htm. Beyond this article, which is pretty good, just google the thing. It's fairly simple and editors often don't bother reading stories that don't subscribe to these guidelines. Why should they? Anyone who can write a decent story should also be professional enough to know the rules.

2) Learn the editor's name and address your letter/email to him/her. Always.

Thanks for reading! I'll let you know how my submission goes. Could I acquire more than another friendly rejection letter? This week it's Abyss & Apex. They're a very good semi-pro e-zine. Being published there would be great. I sent them a story entitled Wake that I wrote late last year.

28 May, 2009

Best quote ever

“Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”—Norman Mailer

So true. That goes on my wall, right above my computer screen. Now I will stop procrastinating, and even though I'm recovering from a cold and my girlfriend is sick (probably my fault, that) I'm going to keep working on that short story. (It's called Dud Hands, in case it ever gets published.)

Oh, and one last thing. I read The Demon's Lexicon, which is by a friend of mine named Sarah Rees Brennan. You should read it, too. (By "you" I mean the entire population of the internet.) It's very good. Buy a new copy, though, because otherwise the author doesn't see a dime.

Something helpful I found on the sfwa website

Here you go, you! Who are you? What the Hell? No one! Oh well. Enjoy if you are someone.

Actually I can't get it to copy correctly so here's the link:

It's a very handy article about English usage and abusage. It covers everything not covered in the extremely handy "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. Now, I basically logged in here to procrastinate so, leave me alone, internet! I have to get back to work! I'm re-writing a story, making use of a great deal of advice from Paul McAuley. If you haven't read anything by Paul McAuley, I recommend this:

My favorite stuff of his, though, is in a printed collection called King of the Hill. You can get it fairly cheap on Amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/King-Hill-Paul-McAuley/dp/1857230086/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243554682&sr=1-2

Now stop making me procrastinate! People will only read this blog if I ever write any FICTION that's worth reading. Blogging is really just for posterity... maybe a little prosperity if I'm lucky.

27 May, 2009

What the Sam Hill?

So what's this blog for? I've been wondering. No one reads it. You will, damn it, but you don't, so why write it? Because I hope to have readers one day, and there's something I learned from years of martial arts study that applies here: if you want to achieve mastery, act like a master everyday. I do that with writing. I write everyday and I read everyday. That's what it's all about. Many writers also keep blogs for their fans. I don't have fans, but I do have a dream and the spirit to carry me through to success in that dream. I'm going to act like I have fans.

A good blog needs an angle. That's what they say. Who's "they"? Editors, publishers, agents. All that crowd. The type of people who would notice the choppy sentences here and wonder if my fiction looks that way. Perhaps. But then, perhaps I just let the paragraph be boss.

So what's my angle? I don't have one. Sorry. I met Stephen Jones (script editor of Hellraiser) the other day and he told me that a writer needs a persona. I nodded at him. It's often true, but I can think of many best-selling authors for whom it isn't. I have a persona. I just don't have to fake mine. You see, I'm honest in a way that not many people are. That's my persona. I guess it's my angle, too.

This blog is about me. As such, it's also about the journey to becoming a successful writer. It's really, really hard. For a long time now I've worked to impress my teachers, Scott Bradfield and Paul McAuley. I worked hard to seek out such good teachers, and it's certainly paid off in my fiction. I don't have all the answers. If Paul McAuley began posting about fiction writing, I'm sure it would be a great resource. However, I can show you the process in a way that a successful writer can't; not without a very good memory and way too much free time.

I'll try to post with what I'm up to every week. Obviously I have selfish reasons for doing this, too. I hope the blog motivates me to accomplish something every week. I'm not lazy at present. I write everyday, but I don't necessarily learn something new every week, and now I have to.

Some of my posts will be things I've learned about writing. These might be highly theoretical and even sometimes obscure. Such snippets of understanding are certainly useful to me, and I'll do my best to explain them.

Other posts will be about my career. Things I learn that help me build a career will be posted here, and those things should, hopefully, also be useful.

Here's a bit of advice for today:
"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people," said Thomas Mann, a German writer (1875 - 1955).

Think about it. It's true of everything from choosing words to building plots.