Back from America, and other stuff

As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t been that active, either here or on social media, etc. Well, that’s because for the past few weeks I’ve been paying a visit to good ol’ US of A. And you know what? I had a ripping good time.

Not all of it, though. We ran into at least a dozen complications with our booking before we even got to the mainland, this namely being the airline forgetting to put my dad’s last name on his ticket (how we even passed the gate in Sydney is an enigma that’s never gonna be solved), the travel agency assigning us to the wrong airline, an airline that we had to pay for both entertainment (a sorry selection at that) and meals. On a 22 hour flight.

Oh, and we couldn’t even sit together.

But we did manage to solve this all in the end, although the process was nothing but painful.

First stop was Hawaii before our connecting flight to Los Angeles, but I can’t say I remember too much of it since I was half-dead and completely jet-lagged. I just remember it being hot, sandy, and stormy. L.A. was a different matter entirely. We spent three days at Disneyland, California and Univerisal Studios park, and I can’t remember a time when I ever felt more like a kid. You’re never too old to go there, seriously.

You may, however, recognize these locals.

 

 

IMG_2431I’d have hoped you’ve seen Back to the Future, right? RIGHT?

IMG_2435 However, you’re less likely to have seen Gone Girl. This was where they filmed the kissing scene next to the sugar factory at the beginning. Yes, I was looking for the boxcutter.

Oh, and we went to this little place called the Hollywood walk of fame.

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And then was the drive to Vegas. Six hours through nothing but this.

IMG_2489It was a beautiful sight, though. You always hear about the Mojave desert, and you see the Mid-Western desert a lot in films. But to actually see the barren landscape for what it is…that’s a different story altogether.

And then, there was Vegas. Oh, Vegas….

IMG_2511I mean, seriously, who builds a metropolis of gambling, sex and booze in the middle of the desert? Americans, of course, and it was awesome. Not the gambling and sex, of course, but you can get some dirt-cheap beer in the States.

The thing about Vegas is that it’s wrapped in a time-warp. You can wonder the streets for hours and hours like we did, and suddenly realise it’s 1:30am. There’s no change in crowds, and (almost) everything’s open around the clock. I also couldn’t help thinking what would happen if there was some sort of apocalypse how lucky everyone in Vegas at the time would be. You’d likely be shielded from the worst of it and in one of the most lavish places on earth. But then they made a videogame out of that, so I won’t be copyrighting that concept!

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Oh, and I couldn’t not share this.

IMG_2540*Slow clap.* 10 points for creativity right there!

Sadly our trip there was pretty short and we drove back to LA in the early hours of the morning for our flight to New York City. We stayed in Brooklyn. Easily the highlight of the trip. It’s such a progressive place: it’s got such a *now now now* vibe to it that you can’t help but kept swept up in it. IMG_2575 IMG_2569

 

 

And then there’s Times Square.

 

 

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Seriously, there’s no place like it on earth. We only had a few days there, but it definitely wasn’t enough. A month would have only allowed us to scrape the surface. It’s a gold-mine of discoveries in that city and I’m roaring to go back.

I also had the opportunity to meet up with fellow author and editor Alex Shvartsman. A good many conversations over various things were had, and an extremely tasty pizza was consumed. I even reviewed his collection for Strange Horizons, which you can check out here.

I just wish I had more time in that place…IMG_2671

 

Oh, and look what I happened to pass by!

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Anyway, we were onto Boston to stay with my aunt and uncle. Now here’s where we ran into a roadbump: I got food-poisoning. Or something. I dunno what it was and at this point I’m afraid to ask. All I know is that our six hour drive from NYC to Boston consisted of me hugging my stomach and needing to stop every few minutes because I was on the verge of puking. Thankfully I didn’t and after what seemed like a drive through Satan’s personal traffic lane we arrived in Boston. It took me a good three days to recover. Three days of eating dry toast, drinking flat lemonade and sweating in bed. Amoung other things, but I’ll spare you the gory details.

Eventually I did recover, and we set out to explore Boston. It was definitely a much more relaxed pace than before – we weren’t rushing around desperate to see everything like before. And I have to say that Boston is a beautiful city. Very English. IMG_2690Oh yeah, did I mention Americans like guns? Like, like like?

No? Well, I am now. IMG_2732

I swear, there were more guns in that room than the entiriety of Australia. Rows and rows and rows of ’em. And yeah, I got to hold one. More than one. Many more than one. And that’s all I’m gonna say on the matter. But still, it’s strange to see these killing machines on the racks as if they were bread rolls!

A few more pictures o’ the landscape, including one that wouldn’t look out of place on another planet! Seriously, look at those veins in the rock!IMG_2743

We stopped at a little quaint village for coffee, and this was our view. You could do much worse.

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Aww, bless your heart, auntie. You’ll make anarchists out of us yet.

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Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and I’m back in Sydney, knee-deep in uni work and other stuff. It’s my last semester, which I have mixed feelings about. I can’t wait to get away from the study and work and turn to making a career out of writing and working in the publishing industry somewhere…but never getting up in the morning and going to your favourite class? No longer seeing your friends daily? No longer experiencing that university spirit? It’s a toughie.

 

Oh, and I do have news. Well, pretty big news in fact. We’ll call it That Thing that I Can’t Talk About™. Unfortunately I can’t talk about That Thing that I Can’t Talk About™ just yet, so it’ll have to be on hold. But it consists of several things, and those things are sales to major markets, including one I’ve been trying to break into for several years now.

But enough of my rambling. I’ll update you when I can.

And ’til next time, America! Keep being weird.

The Dreaded Query Letter

jeremyszal:

Anyone hoping to even have a sliver of a chance at getting an agent to look at your novel, reading (and applying) this is not optional.

Originally posted on Red Sofa Literary:

By Melissa Seymour, Spring 2014 intern 

Melissa SeymourThis past semester I had the pleasure of interning for Red Sofa Literary. I learned so much and had the ability to see what happens behind the scenes at a literary agency. One of my main tasks at Red Sofa was helping to read queries. And let me tell you, it’s not an easy task…for the writer or the letter recipient.

I have now been on both sides of the query letter. I’ve been the nervous writer sending my life work into the unknown and I’ve been the one clicking through hundreds of queries, searching for a golden egg.

Writers often associate words like “dreaded,” “terrifying,” or “the worst thing in the entire world” with the query letter but working for a literary agency has given me a new perspective. Your query letter is an opportunity. It’s exciting! This is your chance to show…

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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

George R. R. Martin Approves of StarShipSofa, and episode round-up

As you may remember, StarShipSofa recently released a podcast of a story by George R. R. Martin, written in the 70s with a severely limited print run, but you can find more about that and how we got it here. But the night of launch, the entire podcast net exploded. Neil Gaiman retweeted and promoted us. Podcastle retweeted and promoted us. So did Drabblecast, Pseudopod, Apex Magazine, Jo Fletcher books, the Roundtable podcast, Cast of Wonders, Tor books, and countless other (big!) authors. Boing blogged about us, so did SFF Audio, and even Westeros org posted it, making connections to the podcasted story and the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, drawing links between the two.
We quite literally all together were given the stage in front of millions and millions of virtual viewers. Neil Gaiman himself is scraping 2.5 million twitter followers alone, let alone a publishing house like Jo Fletcher books! We had a mountain of people helping us out and giving their thoughts. We’ve shifted several thousand downloads, possibly reaching into the tens of thousands by now. A lot of people had an input on that.

Oh, and George R. R. Martin himself

Wait, what?

Yep. Mr. Martin actually went to his blog here and promoted the episode, also adding “Check it out for yourself. It’s free, and I thought they did a nice job.”

Just….wow.

GRRM

Not only did GRRM take the time to speak with me and allow us to use his story while Season 5 was AIRING (even as I type this the finale is being prepared for viewing on TV), but he also went of his way to promote the episode and praise it as well. Meaning that he listened to, at the very least, a part of our production.

Wow. Wowwowwowwow.

I said this on the blog, but I’ll say it here again. I first read ASoIaF when I was 13 or so, and the show a few years later when it came out. His worlds, his characters, his prose and complete mastery of world-building, plot and the English language has captivated and inspired me for more than half a decade. To get recognition (and praise) from him, and approval of the job we did, means so much to me I can’t even put it into words. That story he wrote all those years ago is part of his memory (he even put his mood as “nostalgic” on the post), something very precious to him. He could have refused to give us the story, and he could have been disgusted with what we did to it. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t, and that fact alone, coupled with how he stole away the time to express his approval, is by far the highlight of my writing slash editing career. His work means so much to me, and has done so much for publishing and fantasy, the genre I love, so having be given the honour of working with him and on his story has humbled us all very, very much.

Thank you GRRM. Thank you Nick for the narration. Thank you Tony. Thank you everyone who helped promote the episode. Thank you all the fans. Thank you all the listeners. Thank you.
– Jeremy

George R. R. Martin…on StarShipSofa!

Did you read that right? Yes, yes you did. I’m having trouble believing it myself, but it’s true alright. StarShipSofa has managed to procure a story by Mr. George R. R Martin himself.

How did this happen?

I’m glad you asked.

Getting this story was far from easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. GRRM is a household name, and the idea that a little scruffy guy like me, (19 years old at that) could possibly work with him, or even get a response from him, was always a long shot.

But I told myself it didn’t matter. I looked up a handful of his older stories, selected the one best suited for our podcast, and one that was unique, that being “The Men of Greywater Station”, first published in 1976, and shot over multiple requests. I basically told him who we were and what we did, gave him a pitch for adapting the story, then resigned to never hearing a thing from him. I mean, this is the guy who’s responsible for the multimillion dollar franchise, Game of Thrones. He’s basically the guy’s turned epic fantasy mainstream, sold millions of books, conned the term sexposition, and gotten countless fans weeping and moaning for the next installment of his series. Long story short: he’s the biggest writer working today, period. What hope in hell did I have?

Then one day, in the middle of my university lecture, GRRM responded. He wanted to know what sort of audio adaption it would be and how we’d do it. After scraping my brains off the ceiling, I told him the details. We talked a bit, straightened a few things out, and then he gave me the green light/go ahead. We had a George R. R. Martin story!

Only there was one problem: both the story (and the collection it appears in) are out of print (and have been since the 70s), and have never appeared online. Ever. I went back to him about this, and he offered to send me one of his own copies, or failing that, a carbon copy of the story.

So I gave him my address and that was that. Nick (our narrator) went ahead and bought the book himself, and did a smashing job of the narration. And now StarShipSofa has officially had the honour and privilege of adapting a story by King George R. R. Martin, Lord of the Literary SF/F kingdom and protector of the realm. Not only that, but this is the FIRST TIME the story has ever been online, or even available to the public, since the 1970s. No electronic file exists publicly, and certainly no audio version. Until now.

You can find the podcast here, and get some details on the episode and more, here:

I still remember reading the books for the first time watching the HBO TV series when it came out, being both thrilled and awed, horrified and swept away. I’ve been an avid fans for so many years, and at my age, with such little experience, to have had the honour of working with Mr. Martin and being entrusted with a little piece of his literary heart and soul to do it justice…no words can ever cover that. None. Ever.

So thank you, Mr. Martin. Thank you.

Something VERY, VERY big coming to StarShipSofa

So, me and Tony have been teasing this one out over the last couple of weeks. Something MASSIVE will be docking at the StarShipSofa. What, may you ask? That, I cannot say. However, I can tell you that it includes one of the biggest and coolest authors of modern SF/F today. It was bloody hard even reaching out to them, and negotiating was akin to walking on a tightrope made out of dental floss.

But I managed to secure a story from them, and I’m over the moon, man. And so is Tony, believe me. And our narrator, Nick Camm did a cracking job of the story. He always does, but he put everything he had into it.

And I can also tell you that getting the green light was only half the deal. Getting hold of the story was another matter entirely. It was extremely unconventional, and all four of us, (that being me, Tony, Nick and the author in question) had to work hard to get it done. But now it’s complete and I’m super stoked to hear the response.

Come on, tell us, I can hear you whining. Nope. Sorry, no go. Approximately only five or six people are aware of what’s coming, and we plan to keep it that way. Yes, it really is that big. I can guarantee with my life that you know this author and the work that they’ve done. But my lips are sealed.

Look out for it on Wednesday! June 3rd will be the day!

Until then…..

Jeremy

Interview with Jeremy Szal (StarShipSofa)

jeremyszal:

I was interviewed for Stuart Flynn’s blog about my work as an assistant editor for StarShipSofa. I probably said something I shouldn’t have, but that’s part of the fun.

Originally posted on SCy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn:

It’s almost closing time at the pub and I’m still trading beers with Jeremy Szal, assistant editor of Hugo award-winning podcast StarShipSofa.

SCy-Fy: Jeremy, I guess we should finally start this interview before they throw us out. How do you prepare for a show?

JS: There’s a lot to it, actually. If I happen across a story I like, I contact the author to get permission for audio rights – if it’s a submission, this part is obviously skipped. If I get the green light, I find an appropriate narrator to match the story. I take it to them, and if they accept the job, I give them a timeframe. After nagging and following up, usually with not so thinly-veiled threats – bringing a dog into the equation works well – I get the episode file back. I listen to it to make sure the quality is up to…

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It’s that time of year again….

Some days I love uni. I love going there, meeting up with friends, attending great lectures, having lunch together and (sometimes) finding that spot where I can bathe in the winter sun  and read a book.

And other times I really, really hate it. Replace really with an expletive and you get the general gist of it. Droll lectures, horrendous readings to do, completely impractical ways in which you’re taught to write (I’d like to think I’ve got SOME notion of how to kick a story into shape, but apparently I either need to take drugs, be extremely political, or just try to re-revolutionize the entire process of penning a story in order to make something of value), amoung countless other things.

Oh yeah, then there’s the work load.

I’ve got so much end of semester work to do it’s like I’ve got weights fastened to my feet. I just came off a four-day film shoot, which in all honesty, was incredibly fun (but incredibly difficult, with brutally long days). And now I’ve got almost 12,000 words in essay questions to write up, assignments to hand in, summaries to scratch together, and more stuff that I’ve probably forgotten about. Hell, I’ve even delayed buying my Playstation 4 until I can clear all this work off my desk.

But frankly, it’s not the difficultly of the work that’s strenuous. It’s the mental-space that it takes up. The 3500 word essay looming over you might not be that hard of a job to knock into something comprehensible, but it’s just all cramming in my brain, occupying space that I honestly don’t have room for. There’s agents to query, novels to write (I’m half-way through my 4th one), short stories to write and submit, copy edits to go over, reviews to write up, people to contact, interviews to conduct, stories to solicit, and so much more. Again, none of this is particularly difficult. It’s just the mental space that it occupies. The straw that broke the camel’s back. And there are a lot of straws on my back.

I’m sure I’m going to miss university when I’m done. Hell, I’m sort of not looking forward to it already. I’ve enjoyed the three years I’ve spent there, and it’s going to be so hard to walk away. But at the end of the day, I’ll be damned if I choose to go to a lecture instead of querying an agent, or tightening a chapter on a novel. I’ve got so many things I want to do and catch up with, so many projects to start and finish, but I need to shut them out just for a little while longer while I wrap all this up. I wish I didn’t have to, but since when does anyone always get what they want? And I’m not entirely sure anyone should.

I’ll be hanging in there.

Published…in Nature!

Well. This is a little late. Half a week, to be exact. But as they say, better late than never, eh?

Anyway, a few days ago my first professional story was published by Nature magazine over on their Physics subdivision. There’s a link there, but I’ll give you another one here, because I’m awesome like that.

This is my first professional level, SWFA-level publication, and so far the results have been incredible. Getting a pro sale at 19 is cool enough, but the amount of work and effort my editors and publicists have gone to has been incredible. I’ve had tweets all week, cover art, blog posts on the story behind the story, and even excerpts posted.

I’ve had bad editors. I’ve had good editors. And then there are these guys – the sort that extend the hand and take incredibly good care of you. I can’t thank Colin and the team over to Nature enough for picking me up and buying my story. And to be published under Pan Macmillan, too!

And then, there’s the cover art.

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Seriously, that’s some really, really awesome stuff. And as I said, they’ve been shooting out tweets like these all week…

CEUIuyLXIAAOHJl.jpg large…and I hadn’t even seen the physical copy of the magazine yet! Speaking of which, if you’re interested in chasing it up, it’s in Nature Physics: May 2015, Volume 11 No 5

But anyway, do check it out. I’ve had some feedback – both from fellow writers (who I admire very much) and randoms online, and I’ve been overwhelmed by their kind words. And to be published in Nature…I’m never getting over that. In fact, I know a veteran SF writer who told me he knew nuclear physicists and other scientists who would sell their own grandmothers into slavery to get a shot at being published in Nature.

Well, my granny had better learn how to swing a pickaxe, or she won’t last long in those mines!

Amnd

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