Thursday, April 28, 2011

Catching Waves

Hi, everyone. It's good to be back at MGC after a nice Easter break.

Thanks to Amanda for running a great Friday slot! And plugging my upcoming novella in the Yos universe - Flight of the Phoenix - which is coming from Naked Reader in May:)

We took the whole family and the dog up to Currimundi beach on the Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane. We had a nice time catching waves and running about on the sand.

While the surf was not excellent, the water temperature was perfect. It made it worth getting in even when it was a little windy or overcast.

Catching waves - body surfing - is a favourite pastime of mine from way back. My family used to own a fibro holiday shack at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast (Queensland), and we used to go down in late spring every year.

Learning to judge a wave is really an art. The way it looks, the feel of the water drawing back across your legs and body. You get the feel of the power of it, when and how it will break, and whether it stands any chance of taking you down to the edge of the sand.

There are those perfect waves - the ones where all you have to do is get yourself in the right place at the right time and jump on board. You need to do little but enjoy the ride.

Then there are the rest of the waves. Some just do not have enough power to take you anywhere, but there are a lot of waves that may not have enough power to pick you up, but will get you through the surf if you give them a bit of a hand - paddle and swim furiously enough to stay on board until they break and the water gets shallow enough to give them extra speed.

I think publishing - and success in general - is a lot like catching waves. What you start out looking for is that perfect wave. Being in the right place at the right time. Some people get lucky and actually catch it. They sit back and enjoy the ride. And there is nothing like whizzing past all the other people in the surf with a wave like that at your back - you feel like a king.

Then after the perfect wave fails to appear, or for one reason or another you were in the wrong place to catch it, you realise that the real way to get back to beach is to catch any damn wave at all and just swim like hell!

At one point I was watching a television documentary about the 'hot' actors of the 1980s and 'where are they now'. It was fascinating. All these guys were at the top. Most were talented.

Yet the ones that really stayed at the top were the ones who worked. They might have had even more flops than the young guns who ended up in B-grade - but they had twice as many that worked! They were not afraid to take roles, and even if the role stunk they damn well gave it there all. They put away the pride and did not let the fact that they were 'hot' stop them from experimenting, taking risks and generally putting their hand up for just about everything - even if their 'hip' contemporaries sneered at similar roles as being beneath them, or not lucrative enough.

Anyway. I guess what I am trying to say is you never know where a particular piece of work or project might lead. At one point I sweated for months over a SF novella - The Eyes of Erebus. Like everyone else I dreamed of publication in Asimovs, or maybe Analog. In the end I could not sell the damn thing anywhere. Then I got an offer to publish it electronically in the Daikaiju series put together by Robert Hood and Robin Pen. I really vacillated. Then in the end I just thought. Why not? It's getting it out there.

In the end the editors decided to publish it in print in Daikaiju 2: Revenge of the Giant Monsters. The story then went on to be short-listed for the Aurealis Award in the SF category.

Have you ever been surprised by a story that led to unexpected success?

2 comments:

Chris L said...

Hey Chris,

Sounds like a nice holiday. You forgot to mention that sometimes you can catch the perfect wave without realising how perfect it is. You just think all the waves will be like that one.

You quickly find that they're not.

When I first started writing shorts last year, almost everything I sent off was accepted. Proof I was an awsome writer!

Well perhaps not. When I started writing longer, more complicated pieces, I found it harder.

Much harder. I now yearn for the heady days of last year...

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Chris. Good point. Maybe if I had actually managed to get anything published on the first few goes I might have had that experience. But pretty much I have watched those waves just sail by.

I've been 'damn close' to contracts with major houses about three times in twenty years. The first time was in 1994! It would have been a very different last two decades if that had come off.

More paddling in the shallows for me. . .

Sounds like you are doing well, though. Keep it up!