Thursday, April 17, 2014

From Tax Season to Anthology-Editing Season

Tax season ended on Tuesday; thanks be to God. It was made more challenging this year by the fact that I caught a cold six weeks ago and didn't get over it. I've been coughing for weeks, and I think I'm making people nervous. I'm not contagious, but I must sound awful; a woman whose tax return I was preparing on Tuesday was worried she'd catch whooping cough. I assured her that she couldn't catch it from me; my vaccines are current.

I went to the doctor's on Wednesday, and all I have is bronchitis. I don't need antibiotics, but I now have prescription cough syrup. It's helping the cough, but I'm getting headaches as a side effect -- and I thought that codeine was a painkiller. Sigh.

For years I have set the reading period for Sword and Sorceress to start the Saturday after tax season ends. This year Easter is the next day, which means that I will be starting during Holy Week when Thursday, Friday, and Saturday have their own volume of the Monastic Diurnal (The Monastic Diurnal Revised: Part II).  The services include long sections of Lamentations, and nine lessons interspersed with the psalms at Matins. The Little Hour (Terce, Sext, and Nones are combined -- after all, we need to have room for the three-hour Good Friday service) has all 176 verses of Psalm 119. While we say the entire psalm every week, it  is usually spread out over more than three services. Reading the submissions for Sword and Sorceress certainly will be a change of pace.

I'm setting up the spreadsheet I use to keep track of all the manuscripts for this year, and I've been reading some of the notes from last year. The guidelines clearly state that maximum word count is 9,000 words, so the manuscript that was 150,000 words long has "RTG" in the notes field -- short for "Read the Guidelines." A few lines above that one is a note: "subject, verb" that means the writer made a grammatical error, putting a comma between the subject and the verb. I will reject stories for bad grammar. The occasional error is one thing, but a writer who has no clue how to use commas is quite another. I'm an editor, not an elementary school teacher. I'm also not going to buy a 2700-word story that has three point-of-view characters. I don't care if your protagonist is a squirrel as long as she is somebody I believe my readers can identify with. Some comments become cryptic even to me a year later; I don't know what I meant when I wrote "let's talk about the weather" other than it probably had something to do with The Pirates of Penzance.

I don't have quite the passion for the slush pile that MZB did, but it does have its moments. I love finding a terrific story or a new author, and I do get terrific stories. I bought sixteen stories last year for Sword and Sorceress 28 and reluctantly rejected twenty-four I would really have liked to buy. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing what I get for Sword and Sorceress 29.


  1. A squirrel protagonist?

    Who would ever do that? :)

    Still, I hope to have another one all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for your perusal in another week or ten days.