Monday, October 25, 2010

Burnt Out

Earlier this year, rejection after rejection poked through my thin skin and made me want to quit writing. I thought I wasn't good enough, and I walked away. From March until July, I really didn't write much of anything. Real life sucked at the time, though that's no excuse; some of the greatest writers have written their best work while their lives crumbled around them.

In July, though, I decided I wasn't going to let rejections beat me, and I started writing again. This time, I was more focused, and a few stories into my return, I was writing better, and more prolific than any other time in my life. A handful of stories, a ton of submissions, and a bunch of rejections later, and here I am.

But "here" isn't a good place. It's a tired place with no good ideas and no real distinct voice. See? How shitty was that imagery? 

The point I'm trying to make is that I'm tired, and I'm burnt out. I'm not bothered by the rejections as much anymore, but I literally haven't stopped writing since that night in July when I made the decision to refocus my life. Maybe I need a week or two off? I could catch up on my reading, let my muse nap a little bit. 

I don't know if it's the right answer, but I'm out of answers now. I'm not a prolific writer by any means, but in the last two months I haven't even come close to my modest daily best of three or four thousand words. That's too long to be a slump. I think if I let my brain reset a little, it can only help. 

In the meantime, I've still got eight stories on the market, and all but one or two of them are good for another dozen submissions before I trunk them, so no matter how long this hiatus lasts, you'll be getting regular updates from Yours Truly, so there's no reason to not check in on me from time to time. 

Until next time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hothouse of Horrors

Well, I've left the writing group I joined about a month and a half ago, putting an end to one of the most dysfunctional experiences of my life. What I thought was going to be a professional group of writers interested in the common good turned out to be anything but that. 

Hint: when the person running the group is more interested in you flying to England to have sex with them than giving helpful critique of your stories, it's time to leave. 

Anyway, back on my own again. And in a way, it feels good. I'll miss the advice of the more helpful members of the group, but it just wasn't worth it to stay. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Waiting Game

Submitting your work for consideration takes a kind of courage some writers don't possess. I was one of those writers for the better part of my 20s. Now, just a few months from my 30th birthday, my urgency to get published wins over fear of rejection. But some things don't change, no matter how many times you take that leap and submit your work.

Waiting is the worst. Well, okay, it's the second-worst. I currently have seven stories making the rounds right now. Thanks to places like Duotrope Digest, writers now have some idea of how long they can expect to wait for a response, which is both a blessing and a curse. When a story nears the estimated response date, I can't help but get nervous. A decision, most likely, is imminent. It's like waiting for the guillotine to drop. 

A perfect example is my story "Glory in the Wasteland", which is currently on submission at Lightspeed. One of the quickest turnaround times in all of genre fiction, Lightspeed's average response time is something like two days--a day and a half for rejections, five and change for rejections, and I think it's somewhere like three days for rewrite requests--so you know from the moment you submit that you're going to hear back quickly. 

Being the pessimist that I am, my first fear is "I hope I don't hear back today," because it will invariably be a rejection, and who wants to set a person record for quickest rejection? But I've been "Under Consideration" for two days now, which, if you listen to Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld magazine, could mean good things. ...or it could mean that the editor took the weekend off, and hasn't gotten around to sending my rejection letter yet.

I have been driving myself crazy with this submission, but this seems to happen every time an estimated response date nears; I will find myself checking my hotmail account every five minutes, checking submissions systems every ten minutes (if applicable), opening and closing and reopening tabs just in case it isn't refreshing properly, etc.. 

Does anyone else go through this? I suppose it would be easier if I had kids to worry about, or some other real life issue to take up my time, but unfortunately (or fortunately) I have most of my time to dedicate to writing. And yet when these dates roll around, the one thing I can't do is concentrate enough to write! 

Anyway, here's a list of my open submissions and where they currently are:

The Bright Walk / The New Yorker / 83 days waiting / 134 day mean average RT / 90 day EstRT
Postcard From Arborville / / 50 days waiting / 190 day mean average RT / no EstRT (this could be out a year)
The Machine / On Spec / 17 days waiting / 134 mean average / 180 EstRT
All Debts Public and Private / Ploughshares / 14 days waiting / 76 mean average / 150 EstRT
Broadcasting Live From Bensk / Pedestal Magazine / 13 days waiting / 39 mean average / 60 EstRT
...And Other Significant Junkies / Glimmer Train / 6 days waiting / 66 mean average / 90 EstRT
Glory in the Wasteland / Lightspeed Magazine / 4 days waiting / 2 mean average / 14 EstRT

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Time is on Your Side

About a month ago, I finished the first draft of a short story called "Glory in the Wasteland." After the first draft was done, I moved on to other things, leaving it unedited.

Yesterday, I returned to the story, and gave it a good read-through. The story, overall, was great, but I cringed at a few touches I had thought at the time to be "cool" and "Tarantino-like." I mercilessly murdered those ugly passages, and now the story is ready for a spit-shining (or total destruction) at the hands of my Hothouse writing group.

The only how-to-write-fiction book I've ever read was "On Writing" by Stephen King (I'm sure many of you have read it, as well), and one of Stephen's many rules is that you should walk away from your story for at least a couple of weeks before editing it. Reason being, he says, only time can create enough distance between you and your story that you can read it objectively. Or, reasonably objectively.

In the few times my impatient butt has been able to wait long enough to adhere to this, the results have been startling. "Magic Words," after a few months, proved to be a flat-out badly-written story, "Dragon Dancer" turned out to be worth keeping, and "Glory in the Wasteland" might just be a winner. No matter what the case, the weeks between readings really does give you a better perspective. You're not longer in love with phrases or styles you used, so if you fall in love with them's a good sign. And if you don't, then you know what to cut.

Give it a try, sometime. Writing is the profession of patience, so it's not like you're in any hurry.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The City & The City

Well, I finally finished China Mieville's "The City & The City" last night. I tore through the last hundred pages in just over a day, as I usually do. Now, I'll preface this by saying I'm a lousy reviewer, so what follows will be very brief, probably clumsy and un-reviewy (the first mark of a bad reviewer is made up words!)

Okay, where do I start with this? The spoiler everyone interested in Mieville or this particular book has already heard is that the two cities in which this story occur--Beszel and Ul Qoma--are located in the same geographic location, so I'm not really giving anything away there. Mieville himself has said so in interviews, albeit somewhat begrudgingly, and lamented spending five chapters building to it when basically every reviewer on the planet give it away in the first line.

So, yeah, two cities in the same place. Of course, your house is in one or the other, and there are various places throughout that are totally in one or the other, but most of the topography is "crosshatched," or shared by both. A building may have a floor in Beszel, and another in Ul Qoma. In some instances, two rooms on the same floor may be separated by three feet, and an entire country.

These are unique and unusual borders, and arguably arbitrary, but they are some of the most fiercely guarded in the world, thanks to the shadowy overlord-ish group known as Breach, who seem to appear out of nowhere when a citizen--or a tourist--crosses that invisible line (which, honest to god, can be as simple as standing still; some crosshatched areas are fine to walk through, but standing still puts you in Breach).

This book is a murder mystery at heart, a detective novel in the vein of Chandler. A young American student living in Ul Qoma winds up dead by a skate park in Beszel, and Inspector Borlu is on the case.

Anyone used to reading the baroque, lavish style of Mieville's Bas-Lag novels (like me) will most likely need a  minute to get used to his voice in this book. I won't say it's stripped down, because that would imply that the prose is somehow worse, or lesser than in the other books, but that isn't the case at all. The prose is extremely effective, and China still sends me running for my dictionary every now and again, but the writing here is more straightforward, more focused, than in his other books.

Borlu, for 99.999% of the book, is supposed to be speaking either Illitan or Besz, which are both (imaginary) European languages, and the prose reads almost as if it is was meant to be translated from them to English, and along with it comes all of the bumps and clumsy phrases that don't quite sound right in English as they do when spoken in the original tongue.

Anyway (great segue!), this book is great. It's a great detective novel written by the best fantasy writer alive today, and that makes for a really cool read. For me, part of the appeal of The Dark Tower series was that it was a fantasy written by a horror writer, and as such, it read that way: King's skill for keeping you off-balance and creeped out lent itself brilliantly to a story about a gunslinging hero fighting his way to the apex of existence; "The City & The City" is the same way, with Mieville's fantasy sensibilities (ancient, mysterious artifacts with "strange physics, and a third, hidden city existing between the other two) making a crime novel something more.

In a way, it's like if you could take your favorite sports star and bring him into another sport, and he was actually just as great at that one as he was the first one. Imagine if Michael Jordan hit .300 for the White Sox, instead of flunking out of their farm team? That's sort of what's happened here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Seems like I've fallen a bit behind on submission updates, and the like, so here's a snapshot of where I am today.

Since the last time I gave an update, Asimov's has rejected "The Machine," while Daily Science Fiction has rejected "Live From Bensk." Both are back out on the market and under consideration. "All Debts Public And Private" is under consideration, as well. 

"The Bright Walk" is still in the slush at that particular (unnamed) magazine, and has been for 71 days, which is very close to Duotrope's 90 day estimated response time...but barely halfway to their "average" response time of 140 days. So I'll either be hearing from them this month, or more than two months from now.

"Postcards From Arborville" is 38 days out, but there's every chance I don't hear back for 8 or 9 months, maybe more. This market gets a ridiculous amount of submissions, and as such has notoriously slow response times. 

"The Cantina" was rejected by Strange Horizons on September 29, and after rereading it, I really don't think this one is ready. So, as of that rejection, I have "trunked" the story. I might give it a rewrite in the future, or pick its bones for material, but as it is now, it's not going back out. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

"Magic Words," as I think I've mentioned, has been at Basement Stories since August 11, and despite the the site's claim that everyone who submits will hear back by September 15, I have yet to receive a response. About a week ago, I sent a query, but have yet to hear anything. My guess is that it maybe got lost along the way, but I did go back and check my outbox just to be sure, and everything is in order. So either they deleted it, it went to their spam box, or it got lost in the shuffle. Whatever the case, I'm left hanging, and it's very discouraging. I understand long response times, but not hearing anything back almost a month after the date promised is tough. If I don't hear something back within the next week, my next communication to them will be to withdraw it.

What else? Well, my time at the Hothouse has been extremely educational and productive. I'm a better writer already, and I haven't been there more than a month, I don't think. It has been tremendous. Other than that, I'm still writing, still submitting. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Based On A True Story

I recently finished the second draft of my latest short entitled "All Debts Public and Private." For the sake of brevity, let's just say the story is about two people reuniting after years apart following a rough breakup. It is more or less inspired by real events in my life; in fact, the desire to write the story came to me when I heard a song that reminded me of her.

It's one of the most personal stories I've ever written, and the writing of it was fueled by emotion rather than inspiration. Now that the rewrites are largely finished, I've been thinking about the experience, and I'm still not sure what to make of it. I'm tremendously proud of the writing, and I think it's probably the best I've ever done. The framework of the story is largely true, as I've said, but the climax of the story is all fiction, and something I'm also very satisfied with. But the whole endeavor has me a little bit worried.

William Faulkner, at the Nobel banquet in 1950, while lamenting how the world had become blinded to the spiritual by a fear of physical death, said,  "Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat."

After writing "Debts," I think I see what he means. I still love science fiction and fantasy, and I still want to write it, but I'll never write anything of substance until I put my heart into it. Even if the day comes when I can spin perfect sentences without need for a writing group to help me, what good are those sentences without feeling? I look back on my work, limited though the bibliography is, and I don't see one story that has my heart in it. Sometimes I give lip service to it, but after writing "Debts," none of feels real.

I should stop before I sound too self-aggrandizing here, but I'm trying to say that I didn't have any trouble writing this story. It isn't the greatest thing ever, but for now it's the best I'm capable of, and I don't think it's a coincidence.

George R R Martin also quoted Faulkner in his retrospective anthology "Dreamsongs," and what made George such a successful writer then (and now) is that he wrote from the heart. I've read stories of his that involved necrophilia, lonely space stations, brain-eating alien jello, and all of it has the heart that all of my stories lack.

All but one, that is.

I wish I knew how to put that same heart into my other writing. I guess that's part of the growing process, huh? Figuring stuff like this out?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Can Haz Tag?

I've been tagged by the Red Wench! (that's RedLorry, for those who don't know)

For the uninitiated, I have to answer some questions about me, so ya'll can get to know me butter. Better. Whatever.

1. Four Things I Always Have With Me

  1. iPod Touch
  2. Wallet
  3. Cellphone
  4. Keychain (I have the greatest keychain ever, and it's like my security blanket)

2. Four Things on my Desk

  1. Cup of Diet Pepsi
  2. Empty can of Diet Pepsi
  3. Empty can of Diet Pepsi
  4. Duct Tape...don't ask...

3. Four Things in my Bedroom

  1. "The City & The City" by China Mieville
  2. XBox 360 (ladies?)
  3. Piggy PJs (...ladies?)
  4. No girls (coincidence?) 

4. Four Things I've Always Wanted to Do But Haven't

  1. Write a Novel
  2. Backpack Across Europe
  3. Wake up at three in the afternoon and not feel like a scumbag
  4. Host Saturday Night Live

5. Four Things I Enjoy Very Much at the Moment

  1. China Mieville's "The City & The City"
  2. "inFamous" for the PS3
  3. Talking baseball with my 73 year old mother
  4. Being so handsome

6. Four Songs I Can't Get Out of my Head

  1. Thnks Fr Th Mmrs -- Fall Out Boy
  2. More Than a Feeling -- Boston
  3. Dig -- Incubus
  4. Coin Operated Boy -- The Dresden Dolls
7. Four Things You Don't Know About  Me

  1. I sing in the car...every time. 
  2. I'm more girly than the girls I date
  3. I am a Mixed Martial Arts fanatic
  4. I cry during TV show finales. Doesn't matter what it is. Even if it's a show I've only seen the finale of.
8. Four Blogs I'm tagging

Er, I'm pretty sure everybody I know has already been tagged, so I'm just gonna be "it" for a while, I guess! Muahaha! The power!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RIP Greg Giraldo

I know this is a writing blog, and I don't talk about everyday stuff too much, but I felt like this needed to be said. Comedian Greg Giraldo passed away today at the age of 44 after an accidental overdose this past weekend. If I have a love that rivals my writing, it's watching stand up comedy. Ever since I was a little kid watching Rodney Dangerfield and Sam Kinison, I have believed it to be an art and a noble profession. I've also known that comedians, even more so than writers, are often depressed people battling personal demons.Greg was no different.

He was the funniest roaster around, and I thought of him as this generation's Don Rickles. But he was more than that, and had one hell of a routine outside of the roasts. And those roasts just aren't going to be the same without him. He was the headliner, hands down, and now he's gone, and that sucks.

If there is any good that can come of this, let it be that we are all more aware of our friends and family who are battling addiction. I have a brother who has been struggling with it for years, and it's extremely difficult, but I try to make sure I'm always there when he needs me. I hope you all do the same.

RIP Greg.

What, No Celebration?

I just realized that my last post was number 50, and I didn't acknowledge it in any way. Not that there's much one can do....but still.

I guess the party will have to wait until the 100th post. (someone remind me when I'm getting close?)

Anyway, I do have some good news to pass along tonight: My flash fiction entry to Spectra Magazine's flash fiction contest has been included in their latest issue. I didn't win the contest, unfortunately, but I did make the "Best of the Rest" portion, and hey, a credit is a credit. I don't know if the stories were placed in order or not...but I'll pretend they were, because my story is the fourth one, so I'm just gonna go ahead and assume I came in forth. :D

In other news, I think I set a personal record for shortest draft time today. I started my latest short in the wee hours of this morning (like four or five) and finished it about a half an hour ago. That's, what, fifteen or sixteen hours from start to finish? Of course, I still have to edit and maybe do some rewrites, but for a first draft, that's pretty special. For me, anyway.

I think it's because the story was so near and dear to me, and the emotions--if not the details--are semi-autobiographical. Interestingly, it is totally devoid of pulp, and the first wholly mainstream story I've written in a long time. No rayguns, no nonvirii, no spaceships or time travel. Nada. I guess that means all the markets I'm used to submitting to are out. Anyway, more updates on that as they come (including the story's title, which does not yet exist)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anybody Got a Light?

I'm to the point now in my life as an ex-smoker that the usual tasks I used to be unable to accomplish without a cigarette in hand--or at least the promise of one as reward for completion--no longer remind me that I am, in fact, an ex-smoker. I'm less than a year and a half removed from my last cigarette, but it took all of a year to get over that. 

One of those tasks is writing. And not just writing, but writing madly; you know, those really good sessions where you're hitting all the right notes, so confident that you start improvising like Satchmo. Finally, these sessions don't make me crave the cancer stick. 

Though writing about it, of course, now does.

Anyway, the last two nights have been very productive, and I finished off the first draft of my wasteland story, tentatively titled "Chasing the Sunset," though if you followed my old Livejournal blog, you know I change title like I change underwear. (that's daily, in case you were wondering)

I think it's a good story. I hope it has style and substance. I'm still trying to learn how to write distinctive first-person stories, and I don't know that I'm there yet. Reading a lot of China Mieville lately has me doing that; he's the most literary writer of pulp I've ever read, and it has me blushing with jealousy every time I pick up The City & The City. I don't know if this story has the voice I want it to have, but I think it's as close as I've come so far. 

Anyway, I'll see if I can polish it up in the next day or two so my fellow Hothousers can tear it apart and make it better. In the meantime, I'm waiting rather impatiently for Spectra Magazine to announce the winner (and runners up) of their September Flash Fiction contest. The editors were somewhat vague about when we'd find out, saying only that we'd hear about the grand prize winner "before October," and to "check issue two for the runners up." Issue two SHOULD come out on Oct 1, given that Issue one came out on Sept 1...but this is a genre fiction magazine, and anything is possible.

If the editors are reading this, I in no way am attempting to influence your decision, but...PICK ME. Daddy needs him some Kindle. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Chase

So I was just doing a little Duotrope-Diving, and realized that my story "Magic Words" has been out longer than the average response time and estimated response time the site offers. I went to the site to double-check, and not only does the site say that all submissions for Issue Two would be responded to by September 15, but they've gone ahead and opened up reading for Issue Three!

Something is amiss...

So for the first time in my life, I have to query (or "chase") my story. I went ahead and double-checked my original email, and the attachment is safely attached, the story itself meets all the standard guidelines, and everything seems to be in order. I wonder what happened.

We'll see. They say "feel free to query" but they don't provide you with any sort of query-specific (or even preferred email address, since there are a few on the site) so I just sent it to their slush pile. We'll see, I guess.

New Design

Well? Whaddaya think?

I like it. Feels a little more earthy, a little more natural. I liked the whole whole Space/Mountains/Rainy Window vista I had going, but this works better, I think. Can't guarantee this is how it'll stay, but we're going with this for now.

Maybe this little exercise in Blog Shui will help my mojo in the writing world.

On that front, I have a new story going that I'm pretty excited about. I'm a bit torn by it, though, because I really don't know where it's going. I feel like I want this to be my first legitimate crack at a novel, but that in itself creates a couple of problems.

The first problem is psychological. When I was in my early-mid 20s, I was relatively unaware of the short story. I was an avid reader, but I read novels, not magazines or anthologies, and I had no idea that there were sites dedicated to short stories online. As such, it never occurred to me that there was another way into the business besides writing a novel. That is to say, I didn't know that doing what I do now--write and attempt to sell short stories as an attempt to build a resume--was an option. So I plodded through beginning after beginning, Chapter One after Chapter one, having no clue as to what I was doing.

For some writers, writing novels is easy. Brandon Sanderson honed his skill by writing four or five novels that he never intended to publish. Eighty, ninety, one hundred thousand words comes easy for some, I guess. For me, not so much. I was aimless, and though even I could tell that my prose was promising, I had no sense of how to string a story together over the long haul.

Today, I'm the author of a dozen or so short stories over the last year and a half. I know my sense of story is better, but there's still that fear nipping at my butt. Do I have the stamina? Can I really do this? Is this story really worth it? If not, will I know that it's the story that's lacking and not me?

The second problem is that I have very recently become a member of a writing group that deals exclusively with short fiction. There is a very lenient one story per month minimum, but that could very well rise at any time, and I have a legitimate concern that I won't be able to meet the bar while working on this manuscript.

But hey, maybe this is all premature. I'm barely through a chapter on this story, so let's see where it goes before I make any decisions.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Asimov's Science Fiction

...just rejected me.

But it's cool, it's my first one from them, and I'm happy to be a casualty of such a famous magazine.

The story was "The Machine," which is really starting to pile up the pink slips, let me tell you. But that's part of it, isn't it? Oh well. I gave it a hug and sent it right back out.

Not much else going on. Have an idea for a story that might just be a novel, but we'll see. More as it happens...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Long Time, No See!

Hey internet peoples! How ya been? You're looking good! Did you lose weight?

I know, I know: I'm slacking on this blog. And I apologize. It's just that I've been really busy with the Hothouse writing group, critiquing and making sure I have a suitable story up there to be critiqued. And I've been trying to read a lot more, as well, since you have to be an avid reader to be an effective writer. Excuses, I know, but those two things alone chew up enough time and energy to make a simple blog post seem like a daunting task.

On the writing front, I've just finished a new story entitled "Broadcasting Live from Bensk" about a news anchor for a government-run news agency in a small (fictional) European country who sits down to interview the country's leader. The interview, of course, is totally scripted, but our intrepid newsman decides to change the script, and, in the process, changes the world.

On the reading front, I'm finally dedicating time to China Mieville's "The City & The City" and it has been worth every moment. What a great read. A detective novel set in the strangest city you could ever imagine (also in a small, fictional corner of Europe. Coincidence?) I've got a few short story reads under my belt, as well, and I'll probably go ahead and review a couple of them for you guys today, when I get a few minutes.

Anyway, I promise I'll update more often, as I know you're getting bored and lonely without me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rejected: The Machine

So, I just heard back from Apex magazine, and they sent what I think is a very brief form letter saying they're not going to take my story, The Machine. This is just a day or so after getting a rejection on "The Last Dragon Dancer," so I'm pretty bummed out.

If I can take anything away from this, it's that this is just part of the game. Everybody gets rejected. Everybody. But it still hurts, man. Wow.

Onward and upward, as they say.

Monday, September 13, 2010

PRL: Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Well, the story I sent out most recently, "The Last Dragon Dancer" was the first of my babies to return...and that's not a good thing.

Here's the rejection from Assistant Editor Karen Marshall:

Thanks very much for sending this story to _Beneath Ceaseless Skies_. 
Unfortunately, it's not quite right for us. Fenin didn't feel as vivid to
me as I'd like; I wished I got a stronger sense in the opening of his
personal investment in his task--what drove him, what he feared, and what
conflicts lay ahead for him.

We appreciate your interest in our magazine. Please feel free to submit


Kate Marshall 

Assistant Editor 

_Beneath Ceaseless Skies_

So that sucks. But on the bright side, this is the most in-depth rejection I've ever received; they tell me what they didn't like about, and what they wish they saw. That's pretty awesome. But this creates a new problem: Do I edit, or do I just ship off elsewhere?

I think this is a job for my new writing group. I'm going to post it over there and see if I can get some input.

Stuff & Such (and stuff)

Wow, I am really falling behind here. But that's a good thing! It means I'm reading more, writing more, and critiquing more.

What's that? Critiquing, you say? Yes, I do say. I have been accepted by the prestigious HotHouse writing group, from the brilliant mind of Mike Coombs (of GUD and The Oddville Press fame) and I've started critiquing pieces posted by my fellow writers. It's a scary prospect, critiquing. I'm always concerned I'll be wrong, somehow...

I've finished a story tentatively titled "The Ultimatum," and am writing another story after having an epiphany on the bus ride home from Queens last night. This other story is titled (tentatively) "Glory in the Wasteland" and I'm very, very excited about it. It feels different enough to be special.

I'm starting to really plow through China Mieville's Hugo-tying novel "The City & The City" and it really is fantastic. It's every bit like the crime dramas I used to read in my youth, but the element of two cities existing in exactly the same geographical location is so fantastic that it gives the story a weirdness you just don't find in this genre.

OK, well, I have a couple of stories to read and crit, a short story of my own to work on, and a handsome face to show the world. Have a wonderful rest of the day!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Sorry I've been falling a little behind on Ye Olde Blogg here, but it's been a fairly eventful week. First, I was invited to apply to a rather prestigious writing group, which, of course, blew my mind. I spent two days punching myself in the forehead, but no ideas came. Then, in the wee hours of that second day, it hit me, and I spent all of two hours pounding out the 500-word (875-word, in reality) application story. I'll post an update when I hear back from them on their decision.

On other fronts, I was sitting my living room yesterday when I noticed two suspicious folks wandering around my car. I ran outside to meet them, and it turns out they work for the complex I live in. I had somehow missed that my registration had expired, and according to their policy, unregistered vehicles cannot be parked on their grounds. So I had to get that taken care of today (only $50, but still, that's $50 I needed for other things). The inspection also just ran out (I'm a dumbass, I know) so I still have that to get taken care of, but that isn't quite as pressing as my registration, which is now kosher, and my car won't be towed.

My 60-word short story is still up at the Spectra Magazine forums. It is tied for the most comments, and has a slight lead in views over the competition, but it was posted, what, a week ago? It's heading towards the bottom of the page, so if you are reading this and you haven't stopped by and signed up to post a comment, please, for all that is holy and good and kind, click on the link I have just provided, and say something about my story. It's 73 words total (13 for the line we all have to use, which doesn't count toward the total) so it won't take up more than 30 seconds of your time, if that. And signing up is a breeze. Remember, if I win, I get a new Amazon Kindle. If I finish in the top ten, I get published in their magazine, and a cut of the royalties.

What else? Oh, I'm working on another awesome story right now, but I'd rather not jinx it by giving too much detail. I'll post most when it's finished.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Stats and Milestones

I was just having my daily poke around Duotrope, when I decided to take a look at my submission history. Not just what I'm waiting to hear back on, but everything I've submitted. And I found some interesting stuff.

My first submission ever was the original "GPS," and I sent it to Macabre Cadaver on March 9th, 2009. I received a form rejection letter a little less than two months later, on April 20th.

I obviously wasn't ready for the rejection, because I didn't submit another story until October 1st of that year. The story was the first incarnation of "The Bright Walk", and it was rejected by Clarkesworld Magazine the very next day. Talk about a kick in the pants.

Shock Totem rejected it next, and I sent it off to Dark Discoveries around Halloween, and wouldn't hear back for months.

Proving how much of a delicate flower I am, I went through another period of not writing, which saw me not submitting another story until January 4th of 2010. That story, however, was "Goldie," which was accepted on February 19th and appeared in that month's edition of Midwest Literary Magazine. This spring, the story was anthologized in "Hanging By Threads."

Two days after acceptance, I received my first personalized rejection letter (PRL). It was from Dark Discoveries, for "The Bright Walk." My next rejection was personal, as well, from Flash Fiction Online for the short story version of "The Machine."

Fast Forward to August of 2010. There were eight submissions in the month, a new record for me. I received  four responses: three form letters from Daily Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, and The Absent Willow Review; And I received one PRL from John Joseph Adams at Lightspeed Magazine.

August was huge for me. Still looking for that first pro sale, but it looks like I'm getting there. I wonder what September will bring...


The first draft of "The Last Dragon Dancer" has been finished! Woo!

I have to admit, I'm a little burnt out after writing that ending, so I might hold off on revisions for a day or so. More updates as they come.

Edit: Oh, for those who care, the word count on the first draft is an impressive 6044. I'm sure that will come down some in revision, though.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Friendly Competition

I took a break from finishing my story today and decided to have a look around Duotrope's Deadline Calendar, which lets writers know when magazines, anthologies, and contests will be closing their respective reading periods. It's very handy; it even tells you what, if any, theme the market is using. 

So I did a little snooping, and I found a couple of very interesting contests/themed reading periods upcoming, so I thought I'd share them with you. 

The first is from Writer's Digest. They do one of these every month, so there's not particularly any hurry here, but whatever. There is a prompt that you must follow, and the max word count is a hard 750. The prompt is as follows: 

Prompt: During your weekly housecleaning you find an unfamiliar cell phone in the cushions of your couch--but can't recall having any recent visitors. It rings. 

Based on previous contest entries, you'll be up against anywhere from 500-1000 others, so remember to bring your "A" game to this puppy. The winner will have their story published in a future edition of the digest, and receive $100 in books from the company. That's a pretty sweet deal. Contest closes in on September 10,  (or 10 September for you Euros out there) SO HURRY UP. Here's the link to the contest.

The second entry comes from the cleverly titled "Poe Little Thing" magazine. Rather than a contest, per se, it's an open reading period for their themed quarterly issue. Here's what they say about that theme:

The theme for the autumn 2010 issue will be:


The word count is a "soft" 1000 (meaning, if you absolutely must go over by a few words, they'll work with you). If you are selected, you will receive a professional rate of .05 cents per word (fifty bucks for a thousand-word story), which means it would be a professional sale! Yay! Deadline is September 20th, or until the issue is filled. Here's the link to the submissions page.

There you have it. I figure given the short length and quick deadlines of these two items, it might give my fellow writers an opportunity to flex their literary muscle, and maybe earn a little something in the process. Enjoy!

When All Else Fails...

The Blargs (or writer's block, to the lame and unimaginative) have locked me in their boring, taupe cells plenty of times, and like any good convict, I have learned a few methods of escape. One of the more effective method is to abandon whatever story I'm stuck on, and pick up another, preferably unfinished (or only finished in rough draft), and get to writing/revising. This doesn't always work, and there is a risk of totally abandoning the original story you were stuck on, but I find that more often than not, I will get the juices going sufficiently that an idea will hit me that breaks through the stalemate.

That's pretty much what happened a couple of nights ago. 

I was stuck, as I mentioned, deep in the Blargs. So I dug through my folder of unfinished or unedited manuscripts, where I found "The Last Dragon Dancer," a story about a man who can communicate with dragons.

I had originally planned to submit this to John Joseph Adams' "Way of the Wizard" anthology open call, but I wasn't happy with how un-wizard-y the story felt, so I left it alone and tried my hand at something else...nothing else worked out, and the deadline for the anthology reading period came and went, and "The Last Dragon Dancer" went into the trunk. 

After re-reading it, I don't know why. Most of the story is very well written, and only loses steam at the end, where looks like I was trying to rush it. If a story can stand up to a reread months later, I take that as a good sign that it has potential. To contrast, my "Magic Words" story did not stand up to a reread, and even a good hard editing didn't really leave me all that confident in it, so it's safe to say that the months-removed reread is the ultimate test. Someday, if I am ever lucky enough to do this for a living, I will never submit a short story anywhere that hasn't aged on the shelf for at least six months. 

Anyway, the last four subchapters to the story read like a detailed summary rather than a story, so I was struck with the idea of fleshing them out without having to necessarily reinvent the wheel; I merely expanded upon the ideas already there. I'm nearly finished (only a few hundred words to go, I think) and then it's submission time.

Luckily, with the changing of the calendar to September, many markets that close their doors for summer sabbaticals reopen around this time, so I have many more options today than I did a week ago. 

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Le Blargs

I have my comfy chair, my Diet Pepsi icy and ready to guzzle, my word processor open and gobbling up my laptop's memory, my want and desire to finish what I think might be an excellent short what's missing?

Ah, right. The words. 

For whatever reason, this is one of those days where I literally have nothing. All of my sentences sound like they've been ripped from an instruction manual; totally devoid of style, mass. There's no emotion in any of it, and so far nary a word has survived my itchy Backspace finger. 

This is what I like to call, The Blargs. We've discussed this before. 

You may call it Writer's Block, or something else, but this is what I call it. What do we do to get over it? Do we read? Do we just carry on, pounding away without quarter until every uninspired syllable has been exercised? Do we go for a walk, or a run? Take a hot shower? 

The trick of this question is that any of these things may work on any given day, and, in turn, not work on the next. As such, you can't consult colleagues and friends in hope of a miracle tonic; all you can do is ask them for a Quick Pick lottery ticket and hope that the numbers pulled do the trick. 

Back to the drawing board. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flash Contest!

No, this isn't an invite for the ladies to show me their boobies...or is it? OK, no, it really isn't. This is actually regarding a flash fiction contest over at one of the more exciting new markets, Spectra Magazine. The contest is being held in the forum section, and the winner will receive a new 3rd-generation Amazon Kindle! And the best of those who don't win will be published in the next issue of Spectra Magazine!

So if you're following this, head on over and post a comment about my story! It is entitled "My Pretty Babies," you can't miss it!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another Tuesday Update

This is starting to become something of a ritual, these Tuesday updates.

As of right now, I have five stories making the rounds: The Bright Walk, Magic Words, The Cantina, The Machine, and most recently, Postcards From Arborville.

Of those stories, The Bright Walk has been out the longest, at 35 days. The "estimated" response time from Duotrope is 90 days, with the average being more like 140, so I probably won't be hearing back on that one for a few months yet.

Magic Words has been out for 20 days, but the estimated and average response times for its market are around 30 days, so I might be hearing back within the next week or so.

The Cantina has only been out ten days. The estimated response time here is 70 days, with a 45 day average, but this market temporarily closed in order to catch up on the slush pile just a day or two after I submitted my piece, so the response might take a little longer than usual.

The Machine, which currently owns my personal rejection record (three), has been out less than a week, but the response time from this market is generally about a month, so it wouldn't surprise me if this is one of the first two I hear back on.

Lastly, Postcards has only been out for a couple of days, and I don't plan on hearing back on this one for a long time. Response times from this particular market are so slow that Duotrope won't dare an estimate, and the average is nearly 180 days. From visiting the magazine's site, I can tell you that they're still working on slush from 2009, so I honestly wouldn't be surprised if I don't hear back until sometime in the summer of 2011.

I've mentioned before that my two dream markets, Lightspeed Magazine and Clarkesworld, have mandatory seven-day period following a rejection in which they ask you not to submit to their magazine. It helps the slush piles, to be sure (though I wonder how many writers actually follow that guideline), and I'm more than happy to wait. Well, the waiting periods are over as of Thursday (though I can submit to Clarkesworld as of today, if I chose to), which is very nice news. Unfortunately, I don't have any finished stories to send them, so I guess that's how I'll be spending my week.

Which brings me to my current project, the yet-to-be-titled story about a hitman in sorta-near-future Paris at a time when robot emancipation is only just beginning to be discussed seriously. I'm only about 2,300 words in, but I don't really see this one climbing to the 7,500 word range (gosh, does that make Postcards a novelette?).

I've had fun with this one so far. It takes place in Paris, so I incorporate quite a bit of French into the text, at least when referring to titles and places. I guess I'm a stickler; I'd rather not Americanize France's Assemblée Nationale into the National Assembly. There's also been a lot of Google Earth's Street View to get the lay of the land. I swear, you don't even have to have been to these places anymore. If your purpose is to have a nice exotic setting for your story, you just need the interwebs.

OK, I guess that's all for today. As always, I am on call 24/7 in case of a finished draft or a response from a magazine, but failing that, I will check back in a day or so. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Higher and Higher...

...grows the pile of rejection slips. A mere 24 hours after sending "Postcards" to The Absent Willow Review, it has been returned with a form rejection letter. 

Form rejections never feel good. They just don't. That letter in your inbox is the same one they send to the hack who can't string a cogent sentence together...and yes, there is always the temptation to draw conclusions based on that sad fact. 

It's a very strange trip, this writing stuff. The range of emotions really is incredible. Form rejections are about as cold as it gets, and they leave you feeling bad about your story, and probably yourself, while personal rejections can run the gamut of disappointing to uplifting. And acceptance is, well...

I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. Though I appreciate the well-wishes from the few friends of mine who frequent this blog, this is as much a journal of my experiences in the world of fiction as anything else, so the mere act of writing my thoughts down is enough to make me feel better, even if just a little.

Anyway, time to find a new market for "Postcards." 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Act of Submission

"GPS" was one of the first stories I ever finished. But today, it looks nothing like it did back when I first wrote it. It weighs in at about 7,400 words now, as opposed to the sub-5,000 litheness of its youth. Hell, it doesn't even have the same title anymore: This very morning I have retitled the story "Postcards From Arborville", which I think suits it much better.

So I packed it up and sent it out on its way to a non-paying but high-exposure market that I've always wanted to crack but haven't had the stones to try. This brings the total of stories out on the market to five, matching my all-time high.

As always (er, usually?), I do not divulge the name of the market until I have received an acceptance or a rejection. Nobody's ever told me I can't, but I've always felt weird about it, so I don't do it.

Juggling Act

Since I finished my first short story in February of 2009, I have written more or less three days a week, with a pair of major interruptions (weeks) when I had become frustrated and disheartened with the process. Two months ago, I came out of the second of those setbacks, but this time I focused my efforts, and decided that it was time to get serious and write everyday. 

I have, by and large, lived up to that standard since. I may have missed a Sunday or two, but I've never gone a day without at least doing cursory revisions on one of my handful of unfinished stories, and on the greater majority of days, I'm either writing original prose or editing a completed draft--sometimes both. 

But I have neglected something in this process: Reading. 

I read every day, mind you, just like I write every day, but I used to be able to lie down with a great book in prime time and not look up from it until the sun starts peeping in through the windows. I haven't sat down and had one of those Big Gulp sessions in a long time now. 

Balancing your writing with other aspects--work, social--of your life is a common dilemma, but has anyone else had a problem balancing writing and reading, or is it just me?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Play It Again, Sam

I seem to recall writing a rather lengthy post in my last update, a good deal of which being dedicated to my thoughts on rejections, and how to take them. It's funny, you see, because just a few hours later, here I am, writing another one.

This one won't be as lengthy, however. I promise.

In the wee hours of the morning, I watched my submission to Lightspeed Magazine climb the reading queue (they have one of those fancy submission tracking systems) until it reached the Number One spot. About a half an hour later, I received an email from Mr. John Joseph Adams.

It was a rejection.

But, I must say, it was the best one I've ever received. Here it is:

Dear Joseph,

Thanks for submitting this story, but I'm going to pass on it. It's nicely written and I enjoyed reading it, but overall it didn't quite win me over, I'm afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way. I hope you'll try us again with something else.

Not too shabby, eh?

I have to admit, I was all smiles after this one. Given the nature of the blog post I had written mere hours before, how could I be anything else? After all, rejection is a necessary evil in this subjective industry, so the worst thing you can do is let these things get to you. As I've said before, I've let rejections get to me, and it cost me weeks (sometimes months) of my life where I felt too defeated to write anything. Those are weeks and months I can never get back, time that I could have spent honing my craft, submitting stories, fielding rejections.

When you think about it, it's a pretty sweet business, isn't it? Most of the people running short story markets are writers themselves, and they understand what it means to suffer rejection. A select few of them are too busy to personally respond, and so was born the dreaded From Rejection Letter. But there are two sides to every coin, and because the form rejection is so dreaded and so common, the Personal Rejection Letter has become more than the sum of its parts; now it's something of an uplifting event, if viewed through the right prism.

The beauty of it is that the people running these markets know that the personal rejection isn't so much a  polite courtesy, but an uplifting event for a writer who hasn't sold yet (or hasn't sold much) and so they take time out of their busy days to send these letters--these brief, two- or three-sentence apologies--and give us the next-best thing to a sale.

Thanks, Mr. Adams. Your letter made my day.

As for the story...well, this is the third rejection for "The Machine," which makes me sad, because I think it's a great story that's well written and a lot of fun to read. Oh well. As always, the story barely had time to take its coat off before I handed it directions to its next market. Should hear back in a few weeks on that one.

That's all for today (hopefully).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tuesday's Updates

I got my book today!!!

Yeah, I'm really excited. I was a little concerned that maybe it wouldn't look very professional, considering that MLM is such a small press, but boy was I wrong. I have a copy of China Mieville's "The City & The City" here, and it is identical in quality to my book. Very, very attractive nice softcover book.

Speaking of writing (clever segue, huh?) I had arguably one of the best writing experiences of my life last night. An idea came to me for a story about a hitman making a hit on a political figure, but I sat on it for a couple of days because of rewrites on "GPS." Late last night, though, I got an image of the lonely hitman pining for his lost love, whose name I already knew was Alice. From there, I started toying with the idea of telling the hitman narrative, and the narrative of his love affair with Alice, but in different directions; that is, I would tell the hit story straight, chronologically, but the love story would be told backwards. When the story is finished, then drafted and polished, what I hope for is that the opening of the story (which is really the closing of the Alice story) is dramatic and intriguing, that the end is both poignant and shocking, and that the dramatic arcs sort of meet in the middle. I'm very hopeful it will work out, because this is the first time I've ever really played with structure.

On a less exciting front, the rejections have really piled up around here. I don't have any new ones to announce yet (thankfully) but there are a couple of stories I should be hearing back on pretty quickly, so we'll see. But, to be honest, it's not all that disheartening. Sure, getting a form rejection on "The Machine" was tough, especially since I really love that story, but I know better than to assume that it's an indictment of my ability as a writer.

A few years ago, I struggled with not knowing when to pursue a story and when to walk away from it. I couldn't tell the difference between an idea and a story, and it drove me crazy. In a way, it was a lot like being in my early teens again, where I pined for my freedom from parental supervision, but knew it was years away from happening. Sometimes that feeling was like standing in quicksand, and that's pretty much how I felt in my mid-20s as a writer.

But now I'm there! I'm not the best writer I can be yet, but I have a little bit of experience under my belt, a respectable lifetime word count, a growing catalog of stories that I have authored, and even one that has been seen in print. Today, I can tell the difference between a neat idea with no plot, and a story worth telling.

So I guess what I'm getting at is that these rejections, they're just part of the process. Like literary acne.

Eventually, those rejections will turn into acceptances. That's how I have to look at it, not because I'm some starry-eyed optimist, but because history tells me that the struggles lead to improvements, and the failures lead to successes.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I'm starting to get used to this.

I received another rejection today, this time from the fine folks at Clarkesworld magazine. It was a form rejection, so I don't even that to be happy about.

Oh well. It has already been submitted elsewhere.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Well, just got the dreaded Form Rejection Letter for "The Cantina".


Seriously, two rejections in one week is a kick in the butt.

I think it was Lorry from Writer's Beat who said that when she got a rejection, she "gave it a hug and sent it out again". That sounds like a good idea.

Off you go, little guy.

Recommended Reading

I may have mentioned it here before, but I recently realized that I don't have any "Best Of" collections in my personal library. For a person who loves short fiction, this seems like a fairly glaring error. I'm kind of science fiction nut, so I was pleased to find that the local Barnes & Noble had the last couple editions of Gardner Dozois' "The Year's Best Science Fiction". 

2009 was a good year for me, and I read quite a bit of short science fiction, so I had already read some of the stories featured in that year's edition, so I opted for 2008. It's full of stories from great authors like Jay Lake and Ian McDonald, and though I've just scratched the surface, one story has truly stuck out to me. 

"N-Words" by Ted Kosmatka is a brilliant short told from the perspective of a newly-widowed woman in a time where racial prejudice is arguably at an all-time high. The title is deliciously misleading...but I won't give it away. Here's a link to an excerpt.


That is the word count for the first draft of "GPS", which I have now, at 3:06 in the morning, Eastern Daylight Savings Time, finished.

Wow. What a ride.

Today started with my realizing I hadn't written much in the last couple of days--maybe a hundred words or so yesterday, maybe fifty today--and it ends with, what, three thousand? Talk about getting your second wind. That's about three thousand in four hours, too.

As for the story...

I love it. I really, truly love it. It's not perfect, obviously, and the second half of it needs to be revised (since I wrote it from scratch after revising the first half) but that can be my project for tomorrow. Right now, I feel like the story is really strong, and is going to work. The strange thing is that it didn't necessarily go in the direction I thought it would. I originally planned on one of those sudden twist endings that totally screws the protagonist, but later decided that something horrible, but with a dash of hope was in order. Well, neither turned out to be the case, and the story has something like a happy ending.

Rest assured, some pretty horrible, terrible stuff goes on in the middle. Maybe that's why I wanted to end it on a good note? I dunno. I'm tired. I'll save the psychology for another time. Anyway, that's that. It's on to revisions next, and then...who knows?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The novel above is the finest science fiction novel I have ever read. For those who don't know, Robert Charles Wilson is a Canadian writer of Sci-Fi, who hasn't really gotten as famous as his recurring role as Hugo and Nebula finalist should have earned him. And, for my money, he's the best science fiction writer writing today. Axis, the sequel to Spin, was hauntingly good, and after waiting about three years now, RCW has announced on his website that Vortex, the trilogy's finale, is finished sitting on the editor's desk at Tor.

It has been a long wait...and will probably a bit longer of a wait yet...but that wait is almost over. I am totally psyched. Wilson is a master of writing deeply personal, affecting stories about real people with real problems, and setting those stories against these unimaginably fantastic Sci-Fi backgrounds. For example, Spin is the story of three childhood friends who deal with growing up and growing older, all while the planet has been cut off from the rest of the universe. The Chronoliths tells of a divorced couple who must try to deal with their wayward daughter while a warlord from the future sends massive monuments to the past, commemorating his military victories.

Do you see the pattern here? Familiar people with familiar problems who have to deal with extraordinary problems.

OK, moving on to subjects more personal to me...

I have had my eureka moment with the story I mentioned before, "GPS". When I first dug it out of the trunk, "GPS" was a 7,500-word boondoggle, charming but flawed, aimless. It represented my writing almost two years ago, when I wasn't quite sure what I thought scary was. What's interesting is how, in the original version, I cling to typical horror tropes in such unimaginative ways despite the rather original premise that I'm working with.

The story has been given a significant makeover. But it wasn't your typical hack-n-slash job; it began innocently enough as a quick revision so I could send it back out for consideration. I had an idea of how to change a phrase towards the middle of the story, and then another, and that became an entirely new direction for the story. That new direction rendered the entire conclusion of the story useless, so I deleted it. And now the story weighs in at a much more respectable 4,500 words, with maybe a thousand or so to go. Needless to say, I'm very excited. The plan is to finish it tonight, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans...

Something a little less heartening is the progress on the untitled "Underground" story I was so excited about a week ago. Did I say progress? Well, let me take that back, because there isn't any. I haven't touched it in days. I'm sure I'll get back to it at some point, but every time I start it up again, I get pulled away by something else. It's the story that won't end.

That's it for today, I guess. I'll post an update, as I always do, when the next story is finished.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good News & More

After three weeks of waiting, and sending harassing emails, I finally got a response from Anthony Shields, editor of Midwest Literary Magazine, regarding the print publication that will feature my story "Goldie". I'm pretty sure I've already talked about this, but if not, here's the gist of it: MLM accepted my story for their ezine back in February, and apparently they liked it enough that they put it in their print anthology "Hanging By Threads". Well, there was no contract, no payment, no big deal, but as a result, I was never told that they had decided to put me in the anthology. Why is that a problem? Because they're a very small press and they sold out of the books before I ever knew I was in it.

Well, thankfully, Mr. Shields was kind enough to offer me the copy from his own bookshelf. So that will be shipping shortly, and for the first time in my life, I will have a copy of a print anthology Yeah, it's pretty cool.

OK, on other fronts, I did more digging in my hard drive the other night, and found "GPS", a story about--you guessed it--an evil GPS unit. Now, this really, really stunned me. Back in March of 2009, I submitted it to the then-fledgling Macabre Cadaver magazine, and received a form-letter rejection a little more than a month later. Looking at it now, I see that it wasn't even in Standard Manuscript Format, it was in the wrong font, it was in 10-point was just a mess, all-around. Now, I'm not saying that's why the story was rejected, but I am saying that there's no way it helped.

So I'm currently going through and revising, because I remember how I originally liked the story. It's classic "took a wrong turn, now I'm in hell" horror, and it weighs in at a whopping 7,500 words. I had forgotten that. So I guess that's how I'll spend the last hours of this fine evening, and probably the wee hours of the morning. I'd like to be able to say I have five stories on the market, after all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rejection: Take It Personally

OK, as a disclaimer, you shouldn't take rejection personally.

But I got a personal rejection letter from one Mrs. Ann VanderMeer of Weird Tales. It reads as follows:

I am so sorry that I held onto this story for so long, especially since I'm going to have to pass on it. Not quite what I'm looking for.  You are welcome to try me again with something else

At this point in my career, to get a personal rejection from someone the likes of Mrs. VanderMeer is as good as gold.


Remember my post a few days back about how I submitted the wrong draft of "The Machine" to a major professional market? Well, it got down to crunch time yesterday, to the point where the online submission tracker the magazine uses (which is a godsend, by the way) showed my story in the 24th position in the queue.

So I logged onto the magazine's forum and made a public plea, hoping that maybe the editor would see and save the day. It's a desperate move, I know, but I was, in fact, desperate. Finally got a response today that the editor found my email in his spam folder (??) but would gladly go ahead and delete the bad story immediately, clearing room for me to submit the correct version whenever I like.

Ready for this? Here it goes: SIGH.

There, all better. OK, so now "The Machine" in all of it's proper, correct, final-draft version glory is sitting in the queue in position 131. And now it's just a matter of waiting.

I can't tell you how relieved I am. If it's going to be rejected, let it be rejected at its best. Then I can have no complaints or regrets.

EDIT: I just checked my submission tracker on Duotrope (sign up and use it; it doesn't just help you, it helps others who want to know statistics for a market) and I realized that I suddenly have four stories out on the market. The Bright Walk, The Machine, Magic Words, and The Catina are all at different markets. It seems like just the other day I was complaining that I only had one out there are four, and I have another one nearing the end of the first draft, and some really killer ideas marinating in my mindgrapes...hmm. Maybe I'll turn out to be a prolific writer after all!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Busy Bees

Wow. Where do I begin?

So, Magic Words went under the knife a couple of nights ago, and I have to admit, I'm not thrilled with the way it came out. I just couldn't get a feel for it, and I really don't think it was written as well as it could be. But I got the best I could out of it, and sent it off to a smaller market in hopes that someone will love it more than I did. I know the "rule" is that you shouldn't send out stories you aren't 100% in love with, but the fact is that I'm almost 30 and I'm not waiting around anymore. Everything I finish is going out. Period.

I was in the middle of mid-draft revisions on my latest short when an idea seized me. This doesn't happen a lot, so I decided to minimize that window, open up a new document, and get to work. And "The Cantina" was finished about three hours later. Fifteen hundred words, and a whole lot of love. I posted it on WB that night and got some EXCELLENT feedback from Lorry (her blog is on my blogroll as Red lorry's Journey) and a talented fella named Andy. Both were excellent critiques that I feel totally made the story work. I was so in love with the finished product that it's already in the slushpile at a paying market. Yeah, that's right, I wrote and submitted a short story in 12 hours. New record, ya'll!

Anyway, it's late, and I don't know what, if anything, will be written tonight.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Magic Words

Ah, revisions.

I'm about 80% finished with my latest short (still no title, though) but I decided tonight to pick up an old story and see if I could fix it up. It's called Magic Words, and has already notched a rejection from Shock Totem in its brief life. Reading over it again, I can see why. I think I've learned a lot in the last few months since really putting my nose to the grindstone, and I can see the difference between my stories lately, and this story, which was written back in February.

I know, I know, it's just six months, but I really do think I'm finding my voice now, and those stories from 2009 and early 2010 weren't my best work. A great example of the difference between me now and me then: I finished Magic Words on 2/3/2010. I sent the story out for submission on...? You guessed it: 2/3/2010.

Probably no revisions. Even in my late 20s, I'm still like a horny teenager in a lot of ways. I was so eager to get in her panties that I skipped all the foreplay. And as a result, she rejected me and found someone else. (Extended metaphors for the win!)

Anyway, I think tonight will be spent digging the great story out of this mess.


OK, I hate talking publicly about making stupid mistakes, because it's basically like tripping over your own feet when nobody saw, but then posting a video of it on Youtube. I could totally get away with this dumb mistake without telling you guys...but where's the fun in that?

So, I submitted a story to a pro market the other day, and then came to the nightmarish realization that I had sent them the wrong draft. It's a long, stupid story as to how this happened, but the gist of it is that the story, in its first draft, had one ending...and the second draft had an entirely different one. The problem is that the draft I sent them is sort of a transitional piece, with the new ending not making sense in context. This problem is obviously corrected in the REAL final draft...but that's not the one they have.

An email has been dispatched to the magazine, so fingers crossed that they get to it before they get to my flubbed manuscript. But hey, no matter what, at least now I have a story to tell in interviews when I'm a rich and famous author!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Well, I didn't meet the Sunday night deadline for finishing "The Machine".

Where do I begin? Well, I re-read the story about four times on Saturday, and it felt fine, but I was concerned with the ending, which felt kind of flat. But I didn't revise anything, or write a single word of prose the whole day. Sunday comes, and I'm still not in the mood. And believe it or not, this is strange for me.

Sunday night, I get the radical idea to change the tense of my story. It was written in first-person past....but in the original writing, I unconsciously slipped into first-person present, and I really liked it, but the forty-five hundred words before it were all first-person past, so instead of changing the whole thing, I just changed the ending.

But on Sunday I say "Why not?" and go back and change the entire story's tense.

I think it reads better this way, actually, but I still need an ending. I sat in front of my laptop all day today (quite literally) and got nothing done. I even had my brother come over (he's a writer, too) and we brainstorm, but come up empty.

Out of the blue, it hits me. I have my ending. I have my ending, and I have my story.

And now that story in the slush pile at a certain magazine. I will not break my personal code (the one I broke last time) and say where. But don't worry: this market is among the fastest in the land, and if I'm rejected, I'll hear back in a day or two, so you'll all know before the end of the week, most likely, what the outcome is. Of course, if they want to publish could take a little longer.

ANYWAY. I'm just very relieved to be done. I have literally looked at this story every day for the last two weeks, and I'm about as sick of it as a person can be. It got to the point tonight where I couldn't look at it and be happy about it, and I think that's when I've held a story too long. I would have just started making changes for change's sake (God I hope I didn't do that last night...). Is the story perfect? No, but I think it's good, and I think it can stand with any other story in any professional market.

Let's just hope our friends at the magazine agree.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cleaning out the Trunk, and Other Musings

"Trunk" is probably the wrong word here, because the stories I uncovered today aren't really trunk stories--they're just unfinished stories that were left unfinished (and subsequently forgotten) when I let the rejections get to me earlier this year.

Looking at them now, I see a ton of what I call Bits 'n' Pieces, or a bunch of individual documents that include plot summaries, scene snippets, or entire chapters of various different projects I was working on at the time. This folder reminds me of Prypiat twenty years after Chernobyl. Some things are abandoned mid-sentence, as if my email box chimed as I was writing, and I paused to open what would be the rejection that finally sent me over the edge.

Man, what was I thinking? How did I let a few stupid rejections stop me from writing this stuff? The wonderful fantasy story that had me so excited last year is here, ripe, waiting to be plucked; the wizarding school story I wrote (not like Harry Potter, don't worry) is sitting here, almost finished, and quite slickly-written. I even stumbled across the first draft of a dragon story that's actually complete, just awaiting revisions. Oh, and there's a story called "Magic Words" that is complete, ready, done. It's even been rejected once.

What the hell happened to me? I was churning out stories and ideas like a madman. Why the hell did I stop?

This is good. This is good stuff. I'm going to start tearing into these stories, see what's worth keeping, and get the ball rolling. I was worried that I only had one (soon to be two) stories on the market--this should take care of that in rather short order.

Oh, and I finished the second draft of "The Machine" today. I'm eager to start a third draft, but it's after 5pm on a Friday, so I have all weekend to get it polished up proper before anybody would ever see it anyway, so I might as well take my time with it. But the goal DEFINITELY is to have it ready for submission come Sunday night. That's a promise I'm making to me right now.

Or not. We'll see. haha.

A Second Revision Runs Through It (It's Puntastic!)

Have I mentioned how puns are the guerrilla warfare of comedy? If you've got nothing else going, just hide a few in a sentence or two, and BAM! your unsuspecting victim never knew what hit 'em.

Anyway, we're not here to talk about my comedy chops. We're here to talk about the revisions on my story "The Machine", which have gone fairly well so far, if a bit slow. I started the process with a word count of just under 5,000 words at the start of the day yesterday, and after the addition of a major passage that I believe needed to be added, the count actually climbed to 5,200.

But, I got my head on straight after that, killing awkward phrases and clunky sentences like a viking gone a-raiding, and brought the count down to about 4,900. This revision, however, isn't finished, so one of my goals today is to at least finish the second draft.

I should note that I'm excited about this story. As I tighten up the prose, my voice is strong and clear, and I think kind of poetic in places. I'm sure this story, when it's ready to go, will suffer rejections just like any other, but this is another one that, at least for now, feels like it's good enough to find a home in a professional market. I don't say that about everything I write, but I mean it about this one.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Rivision Runs Through It...

I told someone the other day that I loved revising as much as I loved writing. Man, how full of crap was I?

I'm working on the first revision of "The Machine" today, and it's a slow process that leaves cuts and bruises on both sanity and soul. I enjoy fixing clunky passages and sentences, or trimming fat, but doing so shines a light on how un-tight my writing is to begin with. The whole time I'm writing the story, I feel like I'm the next Heinlein. But the whole time I'm editing, I feel like I'm Crappy McWordsuck, the Guy Who Couldn't Write to Save His Life.

At the end of it, though, I usually come out feeling extremely proud of myself, and have the utmost faith the story will find a home somewhere, sometime. It's the stuff that comes between the writing and the sending, though, that really tests me as a writer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Blargs

Ever have a day when you just can't seem to get out of your own way? I tried to write a little bit this morning, but that wasn't working, so I tried to do a little revising of "The Machine". I figured I'd waited long enough, right? Well, that wasn't working, either.

So I figure, hey, I'll go to Barnes and Noble and get myself that China Mieville book I've been wanting to read. What can go wrong there?

I go to leave, but I can't find my keys. I find those ten minutes later, but then I realize I don't know where my wallet is. I spend an hour...AN HOUR...looking for this wallet, tearing my entire apartment to shreds. I found it under a laundry basket on a chair in my room (don't ask). So then I get in the car and go...but there's road work, so a five-minute ride to my favorite bookstore turns into a forty-five minute ride to my favorite bookstore. Is anybody keeping track, because I've counted two hours and fifty five minutes since I decided to leave the house, to actually arriving at Barnes and Noble.

So I pick up The City and The City, and also the 2008 Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozios, and the story ended fairly well. But I've still got the headache I woke up with today, and I still can't write a damn word of prose.

Hence, BLARG.

Good Reading

I actually bought this book months ago, but I just saw that it won the prestigious Locus Award for Best Collection, and I thought I'd give it a shout here on the ol' blog.

This book doesn't necessarily define the titular sub-genre, but it definitely does an admirable job in trying (even though Gardner and Jonathan are adamant that they weren't trying to). Stories like "Shell Games" by Neal Asher, "The Lost Princess Man" by John Barnes, and "Inevitable" by Sean Williams are beautiful, well-crafted tales that will make you wish you were half as clever as they are.

But, for money, the big winner of this collection is the one that's batting leadoff: "Utriusque Cosmi" by Robert Charles Wilson. RCW is the Kobe Bryant of Science Fiction, displaying both uncanny technical skill and unmatched creativity in every story. He can take huge, universe-spanning Hard Sci-Fi ideas and manage to make them relevant in very human ways to his characters, and this story is maybe the best example of it.

If you don't have this collection yet, and you're a fan of Big Huge Science Fiction, aka Space Opera, then you're crazy. Go get it, and thank me later.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Smooth Sailing

I've been a productive little Joey this morning! After totally screwing up my sleep schedule lately, I thought I had it all turned around as of yesterday, but there I was, awake at three in the morning again. So instead of pouting, I turned on the laptop and got crackin'. }

Well, OK, "crackin'" isn't the right word. I didn't really get started on my writing until five or so (maybe's hard to say. But that's a good thing!), but it's almost 9:20 now, and I've got nearly 1800 more words in my story! Yay!

And, surprisingly, I don't think I'm done for the day. Usually when I approach the vicinity of 2000 words in one sitting, that's about it, and all else produced from that point is likely to end up deleted the next day. But I feel good. Maybe I'll take some of that good energy and put it into the first revisions of the last story I finished, "The Machine". We'll see.