Words and words and words, starting a new project

For those of you who’ve been following my tweets recently, I’m neck deep in a new project. Not a new short story, a new novel. I finished my YA epic Slavic fantasy about a month back. I took a short break before thinking about what I was going to do next. I didn’t want to jump into edits straight away – me and my YA fantasy didn’t have a very good relationship in the last third of the book. We needed, need, time away from each other. In a couple of months I’ll come back and start hacking away at it with an axe.

But until then I needed something else. I’ve had this idea boiling in the basement of my skull for quite some time, but didn’t have the backstory to support it. I took a few days to flesh it out, do some outlining, then threw myself into writing. No side projects, no short stories, no editing. Nothing. Just words words words.

I stated that book two and a half weeks ago, about 18 days. Right now it’s sitting at 19,000 words. That’s my part time job at the moment. Butt in chair, pouring my mind on the keyboard and screen. No inspiration quotes, no #amwriting hashtags on twitter, no in-the-zone yoga mind experiments.

Just black words on white paper.

My minimum target is 1,000 words per day, not including plot outlining, world-building, and running off to jot down some cool idea. And so far I’m not doing too badly. I know where my characters are going, where they’ve come from, and (most) of the world around them. I can’t say much about the project, but it’s a space opera crossed with a murder mystery. It’s not YA either, my first adult book since my first rubbish attempt at writing a SF/F when I was in highschool.

I’m not thinking about how to sell it, how to pitch it, if the current market is good for it, nothing. I’m just having fun and getting that work down. It’s hard sometimes, and I hate every sodding word on the sodding page, but I’m doing it. It’s going to be one ugly half-breed when it’s done (coming from a half-breed), but it’ll be done.

One of the worst things I ever did was let my YA fantasy sit and rot for whole months at a time over a stretch of one year and three months while I was finishing university. It grew old and stale, and even now it’s in desperate need of a scrub up and tweaking. So I’m not making that mistake here. I’m living and breathing this world and this world alone, and it’s pouring out of me fast.

By this time next week I hope to be at 26,000 words, perhaps a little more. By the time this is over my fingers are going to be worn down to the bone and my brain having gone through a deep fat fryer, but no one said this job was meant to be easy.

‘Until then….

StarShipSofa: Submissions and Slush Update

Hey guys,

Just an update for you in regards to StarShipSofa’s submissions. I’m so sorry that it’s taking so long – I got far many more submissions than I could possibly have expected, many of which were in the 8k+ and upwards length. Additionally, I became very ill at one point and couldn’t muster the strength to sit up in bed, let alone read slush. And now that I’m back at university, things are more hectic than ever. I’m starting to read submissions during my lunch breaks between classes, it’s the only way I can keep up.

But enough excuses. At this point, I’ve read and responded to everything up to June 23. If you haven’t heard back from me at this point, I’ve put your story in the 2nd round and I’ll be holding onto it before making a final decision. And good lord, you guys have made those decisions hard as hell. Seriously, there have been some pieces I’ve found so hard to let go, but ultimately had to. This is both a good and bad thing, as it means I can take the crème de la crème, but also makes it very difficult to send that rejection. But if I took everything that I wanted to, StarShipSofa would be backlogged for years. Several years. Yes, I got that many submissions. You guys are awesome.

Also, just so you know I always personalize my rejections, and I try to give some feedback as to why I had to say no. And if I asked you to submit next time we’re open, I definitely mean it.

I’ll keep reading as fast as I can. If I haven’t gotten back to you that means you’re still under serious consideration. Please be patient, and thanks again for sending me your work.

– Jeremy

StarShipSofa Submission: Closed and Submissions Update

Hey everyone,

So now submissions for StarShipSofa are closed. Please do not send me any further submissions, and any sent will be deleted unread. I hate having to do this, so please don’t make me do it.

But anyway, thank you so much to everyone who submitted. I’m not going to disclose how many I got, but let’s just say that I received enough stories to last StarShipSofa for several years. Several, several years, in fact. So obviously this means I’ve got a massive wealth of stories to choose from and I’m looking forward to it.

But it’s going to take some time. More than I anticipated.

By my count, I got at least twenty stories of the novella-ish length. That’s around 15-20k of words each, multiplied by twenty. That’s easily the size of one of the longer A Song of Ice and Fire books, and that doesn’t include the other submissions, many of which are pretty damn long in their own right. But I’m not complaining: I asked for long submissions and I got ’em. But it’s going to take some time to read through them all.

Am I going to finish all these beasts? No. But I will definitely read for as long as I can, as a writer myself I know that the ending can make or break a story, and I’m not one to read a couple of paragraphs and instantly smash the big ol’ red reject button. But there does come a point when I’m prettttty sure I’m not going to pick this story up. But a lot of the time I can’t justify an answer unless I’ve gotten to the end, or near it. So please, be patient with me and I’ll have an answer for you sooner or later.

That’s it for now. Thank you all again for allowing me to consider your stories.

– Jeremy Szal

StarShipSofa Submissions: An update

This is my first time reading slush, and it’s lovely to see all the fantastic submissions pouring in. And ¡Ay, caramba!, I’ve come across some ripping stories. It’s an absolute joy to see this talent blooming, by both new authors and established authors alike.

I’ve already sent out a handful of acceptances, as well as a few rejections. Sending a rejection sucks just as much as receiving one, and I always try to pin-point what I personally didn’t like about the submission, or my reason for rejecting it. Remember, it’s just my opinion, and someone’s already picked it up, so you’re already on the right track.

But please, do remember to follow the guidelines. I’ve had a few submissions where the original publication venue is not listed, it’s addressed to “dear editor(s)” (despite the fact that my name is on the email address itself, and last time I checked I don’t have a double, as much as I’d like one). The latter I can forgive, but the former I cannot. I need to know if it was self-published by a vanity press, or if Ellen Datlow picked it up for her Tor anthology. It makes a big difference, and I will not read the work unless you follow these guidelines. Yes, it sucks, but I don’t have the time to trace its origin when I’ve got another 50 submissions from people who did follow the guidelines. It’s not fair on anyone. But overall I’ve had nothing but fantastic work and marvelous people, so keep that up.

This is the way I sort out the submissions. When the stories come in, I read from the earliest sent. I keep reading, and sometimes I’ll know immediately that this is a story I cannot let go, and I’ll email over the acceptance. Other times I’ll sadly have to send over a rejection immediately, as the story is not what I’m looking for. But most of the time, I’ll read the story and like it, and move it to the “Maybe/further consideration pile”. This means your story has a fighting chance, but I need to weigh it up amoungst the other submissions in the pile and decide against those merits. So basically, if you haven’t heard from me, you’ve moved to the maybe pile. The longer I hold on, the better. And I’m getting a lot of submissions, sometimes clocking it at 18,000 words, and for the most part can’t justify a response unless I’ve gotten to the end.

So, that’s it from Szal towers for now. Keep those submissions rollin’ and I’ll have an answer for you…sooner or later.

– Jeremy Szal

Hugo Nominations 2015 – My thoughts

Before we get started, I’d like to clarify one or two things. Yes, I am aware of all the controversy that’s been going on this year. No, I did not get involved in it. I am not a member of WorldCon, and I did not vote. And quite honestly, the sort of books I read rarely, rarely get covered in the Hugos, with the exception of The Wind-Up Girl (which I loved) and A Song of Ice and Fire.

So, rather than name everything I disagreed with, I’m going to highlight the ones I thought worthy of being there. There’s enough negativity in the world, and I’d rather not get into pointless debates. I don’t have the time for that, and I’m here to have fun, not make enemies. Life is too short for that.

Anyway, the full list of awards is here, incase you wanted to check them out. Here are my highlights:

Abyss and Apex: Very well deserved. I’ve enjoyed almost every story I’ve read of theirs. They’re an exceptional magazine, publishing marvelous stories, and it’s great to see them on here.

Andromeda Space In-Flight Magazine: Now this one is excellent. Based down in the tiny corner of the world that is Australia, they’re one of the last surviving SF/F magazines down here that still publishes regularly in print. PRINT! Not to mention that they have one of the best submission systems I’ve seen for any magazine ever, and the high quality of their stories, their place on this list is very well deserved.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies: I adore this magazine. One of the few on the market that actually (consistently) publishes high/epic/medieval fantasy, their fiction is free to read online and pays their contributors very well. If I could get published by any venue, it would be this one. I’m a fan and always will be.

Anne Sowards: She’s the acquisitions editor for Ace and Roc/Penguin, and she’s brilliant. She edits a colossal range of marvelous books and series and it’s great to see her on this list. Picking what books to publish is no easy task, but she does it. A round of applause!

Black Gate: I’ve been a long-time reader of this publication, and although they no longer publish fiction, it’s still great to check them out and read up on fantasy news and the like. Glad to see them on here.

Laura J. Mixon: She’s only written one major piece that I’m aware of, but that alone makes her worthy of being on here. I won’t say more than that.

Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”: It’s Game of Throne, what do you expect? If this doesn’t win I’ll take the black. I mean that half-seriously.

Almost everything on the Dramatic Presentation (long form) list: Guardians of the Galaxy, Edge of Tomorrow, Interstellar….great films. It’s going to be hard picking between them!

Anyway, that’s about it. I haven’t read any of the short stories, novelettes, novella, or novels on this list, something that’s seriously going to need to change! Otherwise, I’m more or less pleased with the works that I’ve noted. It will be interesting to see the outcome in August!

Award winning story now available

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You know that award that I won (an Honourable Mention, to be specific) from the Writers of the Future contest? Well, the story that won it is finally available. It was purchased by the good people over at On The Premises Magazine, in Issue #23. Do you want to read it? Oh, why am I asking; of course do you. And you can read it here.

Enjoy, and do inform me of your thoughts, good or bad. I’m hoping that the majority, if not all of them, will be positive. I’d love to be proven correct.

Also, the brilliant artwork you see at the top was provided by Ken Kirkpatrick and the fantastic folks over at Bloody Cake News.

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