Thursday, August 11, 2005

On how long it takes to get into print and the circuitous routes for getting there

With the universe’s typically skewed sense of timing, at the very point when my work life is at the most precarious and stressful that it’s been in years, getting work published seems to be getting easier.

I explained on my last post that my first anthology of short stories, “Writing Naked”, went into print this week. I’ve also heard that I’ve had stories taken up for two other anthologies: “Santa Claws” a comic Christmas fantasy is in Susannah Indigo’s “Sex and Laughter”, coming out this month; and “I want to watch you do it”, another comedy piece for Maxim Jakubowski’s “Best New Erotica 5” coming out in January 2006.

It shows what a long term process getting a story published is. I wrote “Santa Claws” in 2002 as a fun piece for an ERWA Theme weekend. It was later used in a slightly modified form on Clean Sheets in 2003. It didn’t seem a likely anthology candidate to me: it’s about a devil (he wanted to be Satan’s Claws but there was a mistake on the paperwork and now he wears a Santa suit) sent to summon a (slightly overweight but carrying it well) super-heroin to Hell on Christmas Eve. But then Susannah Indigo manages to pitch a collection on “Sex and Laughter” (who can resist that combination?) and suddenly this story is mainstream.

“I want to watch you do it” is another example of story that was a long time coming. The humour in this story comes from the trouble that follows when a guy is told by his girl-friend that she wants to watch him masturbate. The original version was written in early 2004 and was much shorter – when the humour stopped, so did the story. I submitted it to Clean Sheets and encountered one of those editorial reactions that keeps me going back to Clean Sheets time after time: Bill Noble came back to me and said something like: “The opening to this is really funny. Wonderful. But then it just sort of collapses. How’s about you re-write it with a better ending?” This could have been my cue to through a tantrum and take the story elsewhere but I re-read it with Bill’s comments in mind and I decided he was right. On re-reading it was clear that I’d sort of run out of energy once the humour in the situation was explored. But the characters still had more to offer. They loved each other in a complicated kind of way and I wanted to know what would happen next. So I extended the piece, Bill accepted it and it went on to Clean Sheets in the middle of 2004. Susannah then chose it as the opening story for “Writing Naked”. By the time it makes it into “Best New Erotica” it will be nearly two years old.

I learnt from “Santa Claws” that sometimes you just have to find the right anthology for a story to fit in. I’m hoping to do this with the upcoming “Aqua Erotica 2” which has pushing the boundaries as its theme. I liked the style of the first “Aqua Erotica” could resist a waterproof erotica book that you can read in the bath – and I’d like to have a place in the sequel. I’ve sent some of my favourite (though not necessarily easiest) stories through for consideration. I’ll keep you posted.

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