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Archive for March, 2009

Please note, this is a slightly edited version of a short article I wrote a few years ago, highlighting the plight of small press magazines. It has appeared as a reprint no less than seven times. Even though it was a reprint, both print and electronic publications kept snapping it up every time I subbed it, which cannot give a clearer indication of how I struck a cord with the difficulties they face. Alas, the problem affects many authors who need these markets in order to succeed.

Potential talent has always had the problem of being recognised, tapped, and finding its place in the world. Writers everywhere have reason to mourn each time they say a fond farewell to yet another of their advocates, and bury the remains in the expanding graveyard of small-press magazines.

Editors of, and writers for, these magazines face the same conundrum. Such magazines have selected availability and are usually obtainable by post or limited outlets. Therefore, the majority of the public do not get the opportunity to view much of the excellent body of work that is out there. Consequently, editors who wish to help talented writers often end up financing such endeavours from their own funds, for at least the first few years if not indefinitely. Struggling writers end up supporting the very publications that may help to launch successful careers that might otherwise have the misfortune of falling by the wayside. This leaves both the editor and writer ‘numb’ and disillusioned.

The subject is often further confused by the mistaken belief that editors and writers have ‘unlimited’ funds. The truth is the majority of writers, even published ones, often need to support their income by working on a part-time, if not full-time basis. Even when a small press publication is doing well, the editor usually tries to show his appreciation by paying contributors, even failing to cover costs, making it definitely a love rather than profit venture. Hence, many publications are transforming into ‘webzines’ as these are considerably cheaper to produce. This has a mixed reaction. On the one hand, I’ve come across a particular kind of snobbery that publishing on the ‘web’ isn’t real publishing. But the truth is, if your work has to meet a certain standard and demands of an editor, it should be no less valid than if produced in print. This form of publishing needs to be encouraged, not sneered at – it is, after all, meant to be a new millennium. In this regard, the advent of email makes submissions and replies cheaper for the editor and writer alike – it’s not only time that concerns the writer but the cost of paper, ink and postage. Writing can be ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences, but it is also costly in time and money.

From a writer’s point of view I try to support at least one such publication on a regular basis and others ‘as and when’, which also keeps me up to date with what they are currently publishing. In addition to this – as pointed out to me by editor, Trevor Denyer, of Roadworks magazine (now currently the editor of Midnight Street), – “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for writers submitting their work, to study the market by buying AT LEAST one copy of the magazine. If everyone who submitted work did that, it would go a long way to helping protect the markets that they rely on.”

I also have to admit that, when I’m going to be in print, I’m not above telling friends and family and asking how many copies they would like. I’ve heard so often how proud they are and I’m only asking that they put their money where their mouth is! I’m asking no more or less than I would do for them. After all, they fork out good money for total strangers and value their books for a lifetime!

Night to Dawn is just one example of a small press magazine and issue 15 features my short story “Effigy in Garnet” (which is also available in Aoife’s Kiss September 2007 issue from Sam’s Dot Publishing). As for my story, is it romantic? Yes, though in a rather dark way. Is it horror? Yes. It’s been described as “a keeper” and one that an editor couldn’t refuse. Seeing as two editors felt that way, I think that’s a good enough recommendation. As you can tell I’m especially proud of this story, though for those of you who know me best for my romance novels this is definitely a different style of story-telling but one I enjoy immensely. You can purchase Night to Dawn at www.bloodredshadows.com
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By Geoff Nelder

I laughed the other day because I received a request from a baby naming site to link with my writing one. Initially, I thought this was a curious variation of a Nigerian bank scam, but once my stomach subsided I realized there was some sense here.

 

When I started writing fiction, characters’ names appeared from a mix of telephone directories, atlases and local newspapers. A snag with the directory method is repetition and so time consuming. As my fiction reached into more exotic parts I found a site with a name engine that gave me lists of real names from different continents.

 

Choosing the right name for a character is as important, if not more so, than choosing one for a newborn. You don’t want a tough gangster being called Cedric, or – I realize I may be upsetting real people here – an academic called Buster. It isn’t so simple. One of our aims is to have our main characters undergo change during the plot. The change is usually one gleaned from experience such as surviving a crisis, or it could be a coming of age. For such a character a name that can also ‘grow up’ is handy. That’s why many novels use Robert. Bobby as the kid, Rob as he matures, Robert as a gentleman then Bob as an ancient with dementia.

 

As my main genres are science fiction and fantasy I have great fun making up names. It was a voyage of discovery when I conjured up a name for a prehistoric man living in the Middle East. Twenty thousand years ago was before any established religion so Mohammed was out. However, I reasoned that since that region would likely have had a proto-language that led to early Arabic. I played around with Omar but although ancient was too new for my character. I felt I needed a Q in there since it is a feature of so many names in that region. Oqmar thus was born. If you google Oqmar 99% of the hits are for my ancient man in my recent book.

 

So what was the link I was asked to make from my website? It is Quick Baby Names. I gladly acceded because apart from having spent months trying to convince daughter that Ewan is a great name for her baby, the site gives the derivation and meanings. My daughter chose  Oliver, and he’s gorgeous.

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