One of the things about working from home full-time is that my engagement with the outside world, and particularly with adults in the outside world, is minimal. This is mostly okay with me, but every once in a while I start getting antsy to engage with co-workers etc. Today I had the chance to do that and it was interesting.
I was working onsite for a temporary web content project at my old university and for the first hour or so I was working in cramped office with one other person and that wasn’t any fun at all, but then we moved to a conference room with everyone else who was working on the same project and that was awesome. We were bouncing ideas off of each other and joking around and doing some good work as well. It’s as close as I’ve experienced to what I imagine a writers room for a TV show would be like. It was nice to be able to wear jeans and tennis shoes instead of the traditional khakis and grown up shoes normally required in an office environment.
Every once in a while I get a strange craving for cubicles and water coolers and rote office work, but that goes away after a while and I can’t say I’d ever want to do that again. But for someone in a creative field who craves structure, the occasional day out into AdultLand is nice. It’s also a nice reminder that things like traffic and parking and gas and weather suck and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with them in my every day commute.
So tell me about your office life. Anyone out there like me and actual enjoy it once in a while?
I have arrived in Milwaukee for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. This is a surprisingly beautiful view of the parking lot from our room. The most beautiful view though is of the gas station across the street that has gas for $2.99 a gallon. Go Milwaukee.
I’ve discussed here on a number of occasions my concern with the increasingly isolated short crime fiction community and the false claims of a short story renaissance. A few Facebook posts recently reminded me of one particularly depressing moment from last year that I think needs further discussion.
When I was in Milwaukee for Murder and Mayhem in Muskego, I popped into the local Barnes and Noble and found a copy of the most recent Best American Mystery Stories collection. I have bought the anthology every year since 2003 and it is likely the single most influential publication on my current writing and reading interests. It opened me up to so much more than the mainstream crime fiction I’d been reading since junior high and introduced me to a community from which I’ve made a number of close friends. It was also a major factor in legitimizing online crime fiction. So every year I buy a copy and gleefully flip to the table of contents and to the listing of notable stories to see how many online stories made the cut. And last year, for the first time since I’ve been buying the anthology, there wasn’t a single online crime fiction story in the anthology or in the notable story listings.
My first thought was that there weren’t any stories selected from online crime zines because there weren’t any stories submitted by online crime zines. I’d noticed two trends that I thought played into that. First, the online zines had been moving almost exclusively toward flash fiction and second, these new crime fiction editors seemed content to publish only for a small group of readers that was mostly made up of other writers. contributors to one zine were editors at another and so on. I saw the same 10-15 names pop up in almost every crime zine as either a contributor or editor.
My thoughts about the first point were validated when Otto Penzler announced the line up for his flash fiction anthology and I saw a number of the more popular crime zines represented. But from what I’ve read and heard, most of those stories were found by Otto and his readers not from submissions from the editors or writers from those zines. I don’t know if it’s just that these editors don’t know things like BAMS or the StorySouth Million Writers Award exist, or if they genuinely have no interest in expanding their reach and content beyond a very narrowly drawn crime fiction niche.
Chad Eagleton pointed out in the comments on one of my previous posts that we have yet to see an online publication that offers the full variety of crime fiction styles like the big two print publication do. There are a number of valid concerns regarding Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines, but the lack of variety is not one of them. Both magazines have published more noir and dark crime fiction stories than these other magazines have published traditional or light crime stories.
But maybe I’m just an old man pining for the old days and readers and writers don’t care about stretching themselves or expanding their audience. I love being part of the mystery community and for the most part I have no qualms about how it operates, but I think short crime fiction is an area of high potential that has been woefully neglected and is need of new energy, new readers, and new ideas. And when the next edition of BAMS comes out, I hope to see the fruit of that new energy legitimized on it’s storied pages.
For stories published in 2013, send a hard copy to:
Best American Mystery Stories
58 Warren Street
New York NY 10007
You know, I’ve been blathering all over social media about my career change while I’ve neglected my one true love here. I’ll have some more Deep Thoughts about what led to the transition, but for now I’ll plunk my various status updates here for the permanent record for when Facebook eventually (hopefully) dies.
So I suppose now is as good a time as any to make my Big Announcement: As of September 1st I will be burning my khaki pants and going full-time as a freelance editor. It’s weird and scary and also very exciting so expect to hear a lot more about it as my last day in the cubicles mines approaches.
Also, please send me work.
And then just yesterday I posted this one.
With my full-time freelance lifestyle on the horizon I have gotten my hustle on something fierce. Starting to pitch for writing work as well as editing work. Ain’t to proud and all that. Pitched One newspaper chain, one magazine, and one agency so far. feel like I should be wearing stacked heels and a feather hat.
Working in the cloud has made my professional life so much easier but every once in a while you run into a few days like I’ve had recently where your entire cloud life evaporates into thin air and you’re left dangling, unable to work, and forced into spending an absurd amount of time messing with cable companies and modems and website servers and any other number of technological pieces that don’t work together in any sort of coherent way.
But I did, and now I think I’ve got everything back to normal, though I’m about a week behind on my work. Blech. As part of this revamping of my cloud life, I bought into a 3 year prepaid deal for web hosting through 1and1.com which is where I have my domain name registered. In the back of my mind I’ve been thinking about switching to a self-hosted blog through WordPress.org, but in the immediate term, the reason I signed up was because I was able to get 50gb of cloud storage and 250 email addresses with 2gb of storage each for $35 for three years. Even if I keep my website housed on WordPress.com, which at this point I’m more inclined to do due to lack of sufficient time on my part to handle the maintenance of a self-hosted site, the web storage and email addresses are worth the price alone.
I’ve been interested in getting into some cloud storage that isn’t sponsored by one of the major email companies. Right now my stuff is spread across Google Drive, Skydrive, and Dropbox. Skydrive is where I have pictures and video stored, Googe Drive is where I have my writing stuff stored, and Dropbox is where I keep my editing stuff because they work better with my iPad and Microsoft Word. I’d love to get all of my pictures and videos into storage with my web host so I’m better protected if Microsoft folds or randomly decides to get out of the cloud business.
So that’s where I am with the cloud these days. Is your head in the cloud at all?
As always, I’ve had a bunch of stuff I want to talk about but found myself lacking either the time or energy to do it here. But I also know that if I don’t come back here regularly enough the ground will grow fallow and this blog will wither away and die. We can’t have that. I really would like to do this thing daily but…well, never mind the excuses. I’m still trying to figure out my life right now and where various projects of varying degrees of importance should rank. I should probably talk more about my work as editor because I think that has the most potential to help readers out there and help grow my audience. But I don’t want to resort to those awful SEO-bait lists and topic jerks either. So for right now it’s still just mostly about me.
Come to think of it, I think part of the reason I’ve been reluctant to fully embrace discussing editorial stuff here is because I’m afraid I’ll get a bigger reputation for being an editor than a writer. But the fact is, I think far more people know me as an editor than as an writer already. I’m particularly sensitive to this now I guess because editing work has taken up much of what used to be my writing time. It’s hard to bitch too much about that though as I’m making roughly 10x more money doing editing that writing. But I’m sure it will all work itself out in the end.
UPDATE: As I was waiting for this to post, I think I made a decision. I think I’m going to do another month, starting in June, but the focus will be on editing mixed with bits of my personal life rather than writing mixed with bits of my personal life. Maybe I need to fully embrace this editor thing.
I’m in Kansas City this weekend for the RT Bookfest. It’s fun because this is my first conference in an editorial capacity more than a writing capacity. I’ll be meeting Carina authors, meeting Carina colleagues, and drinking Carina-purchased alcohol and food. Go me. For the next little bit though I’m in my room and I’ll be taking off my editorial hat and putting on my writer hat to do some work on the urban fantasy novel. Then the author hat goes back on and I’ll be headed to the Carina author cocktail party.
I’ll be doing my prose writing, and in fact I’m doing the writing of this blog, on my iPad as it’s the only computer I brought with me. This is the first time since I’ve owned a laptop that I haven’t traveled with it and so far I love it. I didn’t have to take it out of my bag at airport security, I didn’t have to lug around a massive cord and power brick, and the lightness of it makes carrying my backpack around so much nicer. I’m starting to think I may never go back to using a laptop for anything.
So if you’re in Kansas City for the RT festival, come see me. If not, I’ll be sharing my adventures here in such vivid and entertaining detail that you’ll feel like you’re here. We’ll start with a picture from my hotel window.
I’ve been very lucky lately that the fates have conspired to drop a whole bunch of freelance editing work in my lap that has allowed me to grow my business faster (and with a higher quality of clientele) than I would have been able to otherwise. While this has allowed us to splurge at Christmas and pay down some credit cards, it’s also kept me very, very busy on top of the day job. What’s suffered is my own reading and writing.
Up to this point it hasn’t been a big deal. My reading need has been met by all of the manuscripts I’ve had which have been, for the most part, pretty good. I finished the final draft of MURDER BOY back in November and after the emotional toll that thing took on me for four years I was happy for a break from writing. I’ve been editing another novel that I think is perfect for ebook publishing but that’s been about it. Now I’m start to get antsy in both areas.
I’m really itching to write some new prose, though I haven’t decided whether it will be the urban fantasy novel I started or another pulp crime novel, but I want to create. And as enjoyable as the manuscript reading is, I want to read something for fun. I want to read crime fiction for fun. The bulk of what I’ve been reading has been romance, fantasy, or science fiction. I’ve only read one published novel this year.
I’m sure things will work themselves out, but right now this is where my thoughts are and I wanted to record them. So there. What are you all reading and writing these days?
The observant among you will notice I’ve updated my Editing Services page with more details on my services and editing philosophy. If you’re interested in hiring me go check it out and tell your friends. If you couldn’t care less, well then carry on with your Saturday and maybe the next post will interest you.
I’m talking about it over at the Carina Press blog today.
Go leave your smart ass comments over there.