Archive | April 2009

Word Cloud

I got a letter in the post today – making a nice change from bills and advertising. Oh, wait, no I didn’t, I just got advertising I was interested in.

Anyhow, another website has been developed for writers to post work and get some feedback. The thing that seems slightly different about the Word Cloud is the number of published writers involved and the emphasis on constructive, challenging critique. A cursory look at the website impressed me more than these things usually do, so I’ve signed up. I might even post some work and see what the critiquing is like.

Hub, Issue 79

The story in Issue 79 of Hub is another that plays with format. SBIR Proposal by Richard K Lyon takes the well used guise of a letter from one organisation to another. There is quite a lot of back story early on that I think would be unlikely to form part of the content of such a letter. The central idea is entertaining and suits the letter format, but it might have been more effective to have had an exchange of letters. I found myself skipping a couple of paragraphs. It’s a neat idea that could have been executed better.

Hub, Issue 78

OK, I’m steadily catching up.

We’re on to Issue 78 of Hub, only five issues behind now. The story is Gravestones by Mari Ness and it’s a real treat. I’m really interested in structure and the impact it has on a story. The same tale structured in different ways can be so different. I like to see something new. Gravestones is a short, anecdotal story, given a lift by a staccato structure. The graveyard is given a discordant, creepy feel in a deft manner and the ending was hilarious. I laughed out loud.

I’ll be looking out for more of Mari Ness’s work.

Getting Behind

I’m trying to defeat procrastination. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by my to-do list but yet wary of going back to the bad old days of perfectionism. I used to be someone who had a clean and tidy house, who did all the chores and all my work and kept up with my correspondence. I also used to be tired, stressed and possessed of the crazy belief that if I didn’t keep up appearances everyone would hate me.

These days my self-esteem is healthier and I prioritise writing and relaxing over cleaning. Yet I still have a problem with procrastination but whereas before I would avoid writing with chores, now I do it with jigsaws and DVDs. And I have a list of chores that need doing.

The plan is simple – one day at a time, a little bit of everything a day. So, a little time spent job-hunting and dealing with the benefits system, a little time spent writing, a little time spent on housework (regular and springcleaning), and a little time for me. Wish me luck.

Yesterday was a good day – I worked on my novel a little and wrote posts for this blog; ran some benefits related errands; picked up my dead PC; did a comparison shop between Tesco and Asda (Tesco won); did laundry, cleaned the bathroom and defrosted the freezer section of my fridge. I also managed to find time to eat properly (home cooked food not junk), chat to some friends, and spend the evening watching DVDs and doing a jigsaw. Let’s hope today is as satisfying.

Hub, Issue 77

I’ve heard on the grapevine that Hub is the semi-pro place to get published these days, at least in the UK.

The story in Issue 77 is Hidden Underneath by Malin Larsson. This is an anecdotal tale of a cabbie who is hard to like with an enchanting ending. I’d decided that I didn’t like the story – the writing was competent but not remarkable and the POV character sees the world in stereotypes. I was put off by the negative, cynical narrator. However, the ending is so lovely and memorable that I’m sure it’ll stay with me for longer than many other stories.

I’m catching up a little bit. Then on to Crossed Genres and Issue 9 of Pantechnicon.

Hub, Issue 76

Montgolfier Winter by Alisdair Stuart is quite a bit longer than the recent fiction in Hub has been. The start is a little ropey, there are some clunky sentences and a couple of typos. I’m being picky – Hub has set itself high standards. However, the writing becomes more assured after a while and what follows is good. The story question is essentially – what else is there on this planet and what is the mad professor chasing after. The suspense is built up well and the reveal is handled excellently. The characters are a little two-dimensional but no more so than most plot-driven commercial fiction.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that I’d like to know more of the backstory. How did the characters come to be where they were? How is it that a church could buy a planet?

Hub, Issue 75

The fiction in Issue 75 is not so much a story as a sketch. A Little Mystery by Len Bains is a short, well written exploration of what it would be like if you knew everyone’s secrets. It’s a great idea and the author alludes to some devastating consequences. I’d really like to see it expanded, to have the story unfolded as it happens. I guess that’s why this piece is the way it is, otherwise it might just have to be a novel.

Is it stealing to expand on someone else’s short story?

Hub, Issue 74

Well, this isn’t quite turning out to be the ‘daily writing exercise to get me motivated to work on my novel’ or ‘small writing thing I can do every day so that job hunting doesn’t take over completely’ activity that I imagined when I started. Still, I’m not one to give up just because something doesn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

I’m quite behind on reviews of Hub – and they seem to have got back to their weekly schedule – so I’ll try to catch up this week.

Issue 74 has a new design. It’s ok. It’s clean and simple and doesn’t detract from the content, all of which are very good things.

The story is The Astronomer of Baghdad by Matt Keefe. It’s a tale of cursed mummies, fabulous treasure and greedy men. I liked the formal, archaic style of the writing that supported the setting of the story. Something I find jarring, which really disturbs my ability to suspend my disbelief and commit to the world of the story, is a contemporary tone, idiom, or contemporary attitudes or behaviours on the part of the characters in an historical setting. This story nicely avoided that. I liked it.