TQR Confidential

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Persistence of Vision with Hank Quense

FOREWORD: When you talk venture capitalist around TQR the name Hank Quense invariably comes up. Not because he is the most successful, but because he is the most prolific venture capitalist to ever drop some cap in our collective inbox. And just because he hasn’t cashed in with any capital gains (yet), that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

TQR: Hello Mr. Quense, thank you for agreeing to sit down with me here in the Rump. Your persistence in subbing cap is legendary around here. Just ask Boligard Doomey. Anyhow. In the words of that chaw-chewing cracker sheriff's deputy in the Bond film Live and Let Die (modified slightly to fit our purposes): "What are you boy? Some kind of capital venture-spewing machine?!"

Hank Quense: I don't know what the question means or what I'm supposed to respond to

TQR: In other words, how much short fiction do you crank out in a week?

Hank Quense: How many stories do you crank out in a week? In a week? None. My stories take a lot longer than that. Sometimes years pass (literally!) between the initial idea for a new story and the first draft. A more usual time frame is several months. Many ideas for a story never come to fruition and I have scores of story ideas that never made it past the concept stage. As to how many stories in a given time frame? I set an objective every year to produce six new stories. However, since it takes several years to sell a story once it's finished, a large inventory of unsold stories can build up over time.

So far this year, I've written two new ones and sold two stories written in prior years. Last year, I managed to write six new stories and I also sold six, but I think it is a coincidence that the numbers match. Much
of my time this year has been spent in revising and rewriting stories written in the last few years. As one gains more experience, stories that I though great three years ago, I now think as pitiful and in great need of fixing.

TQR: That's quite a regimen, sir. One to be commended and emulated. And congratulations on your 20th sale! Would it be safe to say you may be the hardest working writer in the business?

Hank Quense: Thanks. It's been a hard slog to get to twenty. MY next objective is to reach the two dozen mark. Maybe later this year. I doubt if I qualify to be even near the top of the hardest working writers list. I'm in a private on-line writers group and one of the writers works much harder than I do. She's also a lot more successful.

TQR: You write exclusively in the sci-fi/fantasy realm. What is the reason for this?

Hank Quense: I read a lot. Mostly I read historical novels, fantasy, SF and history. So, I write what I like to read. But I have discovered another reason to use dwarfs, elves, aliens etc. in my stories. If I write a satiric story using a particular group of people, I could face a lawsuit from lawyers representing the group who will claim that I have disparaged everyone in the group. This doesn't happen if I use dwarfs as a metaphor for the group because there is no Sons Of Dwarfdom Association with lawyers ready to defend the dwarfen image.

TQR: Do you prefer form or personalized rejections. Or is a rejection is a rejection is a rejection?

Hank Quense: While there is no such thing as a good rejection, some rejections are less bad than others. I guess I qualify as an expert on the damn things because I've accumulated way over five hundred of them. I've identified three different types of rejections (not the two you questioned me about). At the bottom of the pile is the form rejection. Much higher in usefulness is the personal rejection. What's the difference? To me, a personal rejection indicates the editor (probably) read the entire story. With a form rejection, I'm never sure the editor read anything but the opening paragraph. At the top of the rejection pile (i.e. the least bad) is the rejection note that contains feedback on why the editor rejected it. This type provides valuable
insights on how to improve the story. Several editors use a check-off form that also provides useful information.

TQR: Based upon your rejections from TQR, would you recommend us as a VC-(writer-)friendly place to submit?

Hank Quense: Sure, you pay a reasonable stipend and you have a very good response time. There is a lot of room for improvement in publishing my stories however.

TQR: Certainly, our styles, so far, have not seemed to coincide, but that has not dampened your enthusiasm for submitting. What is your secret to the acquisition of the coveted writer's thick skin and dogged determination?

Hank Quense: I develop my thick skin during a career in sales. I was a sales rep and a sales manager for twenty years. I sold super hi-tech equipment to telephone companies including the ones in Manhattan. If you can't deal with rejection, then you have no business being in sales. To professional salespeople, rejection is motivation to ensure you make the next sale. Manhattan has the toughest customers in the world. I literally would get phone calls from them that went something like this: “Hey Ass-wipe! We bought your competitors equipment. Har Har.” click. Compared to Manhattan customers, editors are all pussycats.

TQR: So you developed your prerequisite pair of brass balls making sale's calls in Manhattan. Very interesting, sir. And that bit of dialogue at the end of your answer is positively divine. Have you integrated some of that work experience of yours into your fiction? And, if not, why not? And if so, why haven't I seen any of it?

Hank Quense: I only wrote one story about a salesman. Hell's Best Salesman was published in Neo-Opsis issue 8, January 2006. Most of my stories incorporate my observations of Manhattan customers in the way my characters react to situations. It's a predilection to something called Tunnel Vision in which the character filters all experiences in terms of what it means to him to the exclusion of all possible reactions. Thus, a customer who was an expert on the use of older equipment, would oppose the introduction of my new (and better) equipment because it represents a threat to his status as an expert and consequently, the benefits to the company offered by the new product are of no concern to him. Yet another customer may see an opportunity to impress his boss by becoming a champion for a competitor's product knowing his boss didn't like my company. Selling in this environment meant, on a daily basis, overcoming the selfish obstacles presented by these guys. I have grown so accustomed to dealing with this Tunnel Vision that it permeates all of my characters.

TQR: Regarding your only having writ one piece about a salesman, I must recapitulate my "Why?"

Hank Quense: My primary (and secondary) reason is that I have no interest in writing another story about sales or salespeople.

TQR: Enough said, then. I am off to read your most recent submission, which appeared in my inbox about halfway through this interview. Any last words?

Hank Quense:
Okay. I'm cool with this. I was fun.

AFTERWORD: Although Mr. Quense is still searching for his first TQR success story, he’s still got a pretty good sense of humor. I don’t believe that I was fun line was a typo. Damn you, Quense! Any complaints, please send them to Mr. Quense's Web site.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Rorschalk and G-Mosh Go Toe-to-Toe

Foreword: G-Mosh (aka, Gary Moshimer) is the second VC to become a multiple CG recepient with his fine piece Rest Stop due in the upcoming spring issue. I met up with him recently in the food court of a very large metropolitan hospital where we shared a few words and a big bowl of chocolate pudding.

TQR: You're the second venture capitalist to be published twice in TQR. Do you think you're lucky, punk? Well do ya? (Or are you just good?)

G-Mosh: I was lucky to find a bunch of editors with weird and good taste, and who are down to earth.

TQR: We try, sir. We try. Speaking of which, have you nominated your favorite TQR piece of 2006 here http://www.storysouth.com/million_writers_award/2007/03/reader_nominations_for_2007_mi.html And if not, why not?

G-Mosh: I will do that soon. For me it's a struggle between Coat City, with its wondrous language, and Night/Day people. I'm honored that Deplancher thought enough of Accidents.

TQR: Very well. You know, it's OK if you vote for yourself, though, right? But tell me true, are you as humble a man in person as you seem to be online?

G-Mosh: I think it would be bizarre to vote for yourself, plus I don't think Accidents was as good as those other stories, really, being objective. You have to be humble in this writing business, or you'll go nuts. You have to be very thankful to have anything accepted, there are so many good writers out there. Plus, it's not about you, the writer, it's about the story. Did someone famous say that? It sounds good, doesn't it?

TQR: Sounds good, but we want capital that tastes good, too. What is your well of inspiration for conceiving of, and bringing the goodstuff into the world?

G-Mosh: I usually just get one idea, and then try to make a whole story out of it, not really knowing where it's going until I get there. For instance, I thought about a son collecting his father's dying exhalations into a balloon, and went from there. A lot of inspiration comes from the hospital work I do. But I like to twist the normal shit around, to make it like something I'd want to read, asking questions but not really answering. Sprinkle the tasty morsels out there and let the reader gather them and make them into what they feel like eating. Or something like that.

TQR: When did you know you wanted to be a venture capitalist, and how long was it before you actually threw yourself into the ring? And how is your requisite thick skin treating you?

G-Mosh: I've been sending stuff out for years. Most of it sucked, of course, and I was sending it to markets where you'd wait up to a year for a response and then get no feedback. Very discouraging. It wasn't until the explosion of E-zines that I felt any hope, and after my cap in TQR, I felt a new world open up, and went on a crazy lucky streak. My skin is holding up, since I know there are readers out there for me, someone who might read something and tell someone, 'I read this really cool story.'

TQR: Again with the 'lucky'? Ah well. We know otherwise, sir. And if I may inquire, do you have any plans to conquer the longer forms of capital venturing? Or what about poetry? Have you every written a haiku that you are particularly proud of? Show me yours, and I'll show you mine. Oh bother. I'll show you mine.

empty glass of beer
sadness unsteadily grasped
eating dry pretzels

What do you think of that, sir? Does it speak to you?

G-Mosh: I'd like to start a novel, about a family of crazies in upstate NY. I'd also like to put my collected stories in print, if I can figure out how.

"At the Recruiter's Office."
Babies ring my bell again
Giggling they toddle off
Pacifist bastards!

"Ted's Wife"
Lightning hit Ted's wife,
Leaving her with just one thought:
Electrocute Ted.

TQR: Although it does have the correct 5/7/5 syllable break down, I'm not so sure I care for that last one, Mr. Moshimer. Be that as it may, do you have any parting shots or words of wisdom for your many fans here at TQR?

G-Mosh: Well, I'll stick to the long stuff. IT's much easier. Anyway, just keep up the good work, and I'll put the word out to my circle of VC's concerning the fine and fair folks at TQR.

Afterword: Well, well. Isn't that special. Was it Lear who said something about when fair is foul and town is not speaking of country matters? No matter. The only truly fair one I'd administer that title to would be Maggie Murdoch (DePlancher smokes entirely too many of those smelly gitanes), but lately ... ah screw it. Just read G-Mosh's fine work in the spring issue, will you?