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 featuring....me. 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 type...it 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...now 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 it...it 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 sooner...it'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.

Fear of Rejection

I stumbled across some blogs belonging to fellow aspiring/fledgling writers today, and immediately noticed a theme...

Almost all of them had been published. But almost none of them had been published in a paying market.

I wondered to myself, did this writer submit their work to a paying market first? Did they suffer rejections from Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's? Chiaroscuro? Lightspeed? We are, thankfully, not as short as we once were on paying short fiction markets, and yet the thought crept into my mind that these people hadn't even bothered.

Granted, I don't actually know if they have or haven't, but I get a sneaking suspicion the latter is true. And I know exactly what they're going through.

When I first started writing seriously, the major hurdle I had to clear was my fear of rejection. Yeah, I mean, at first it's not even real to you, the idea that someone would reject your work. I tried to tell myself that I'd probably get 50 rejections before I got one acceptance, and that it wouldn't be the end of world when it happened. But did I really believe that someone would read my story and pass? After all, I'd wrote it, and I'd read it, and I loved it...why wouldn't they? So no, despite all the times I tried to convince myself that I would suffer rejection, I never honestly thought it would happen.

And when it came, it was crushing. It was in a form letter email from Macabre Cadaver magazine. It was so short, so matter-of-fact, that it almost seemed insulting. Of course it wasn't really, but if you've had rejections, you know what I'm talking about.

So for a long time, any time I finished a story, I did a ton of research into various small presses and magazines, trying to find places that I thought would like my work. That is a nice way of saying, I was looking for magazines with low standards.

And my first acceptance came from a place called Midwest Literary Magazine. A very, very small press that didn't even have a cover for their monthly e-zine. They accepted "Goldie" in mid-February...for their February edition. Now, please, don't misunderstand; I am not knocking MLM. They're a nice little small press who isn't looking to knock anyone's doors down (They call themselves "The Quiet Press" for a reason), but I also know that they just aren't going to get the same quality of submissions as a paying market. And if they aren't receiving submissions from the likes of Kij Johnson and Tobias S. Bucknell, then they're a hell of a lot more likely to say yes to me.

I look back on those times with more than a hint of shame.. Was it that I really considered myself second-rate, or was it merely that I could not get over my fear of rejection? And are many of the authors who share their journeys here on Blogspot just as frozen by their fear as I am? Is that why they submit to places that don't pay and don't have any significant readership?

I came to the conclusion not all that long ago that I would stop living in fear. I have plans to make a living at this, after all, and hiding from the Big Boys isn't going to make that happen any sooner. I decided to submit to paying markets first (when available) and upon rejection, move down the list. If I'm going to be accepted to a non-paying market again, it's only going to be after all the paying markets said no. And why not? Why should I settle, when I'm about to turn 30 and still haven't had a professional sale?

The answer is, I don't have to. Every story I believe can move people will go to the biggest markets so as many people can see them as possible. I know it's probably taboo to say where you submit your work, but do you know where my latest story is? It's in the slush pile at the New Yorker.

Yeah, that's right. The New Yorker. I saw an interview there today in which Stephen King talked about them passing on one of his stories last year. Granted, it was because of length, but it doesn't change the fact that they rejected the most famous living American author just last year. And you know what? If they reject it, it will suck, but I'll just turn around and send it somewhere else. Someone, somewhere, is bound to publish it. And if that ends up being "VAMPIREZ ANTHOLOGY VOL III: BLUD IN THE NITE", so be it.

At least I tried.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My Fiction

I promised that I would tell you why I write, and this is me making good on that promise.

When I was a kid, my mother was a librarian's assistant at the Schenectady County Public Library, which was the main branch in the county. A huge, sprawling place, bigger than any Barnes and Noble store that I know of. Or, that's how I remember it, anyway--I haven't been there in years, not since my mom retired, and even before then, I had graduated to buying books, and you were more likely to find me at a Barnes and Noble.

Whether it really was or not, I remember it to be a majestic place, with too many books to count, too many aisles to walk, shelves that seemed to touch the roof (and a roof that seemed to touch the sky). When I first took an interest in reading, it was from picking up one of the half-dozen books my mother was reading at any given time. When she noticed this, she promised to bring home books specifically for me. And she did: murder mysteries, courtroom melodramas, political thrillers, and more. Before long, she was taking me in on her days off just so I could pick out books myself.

That's where the love affair with reading began. And from it grew the desire to write my own books, tell my own stories. When my father brought home our first PC, he loaded up Wordperfect 5.1, and I swear to you it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Never before had empty space meant so much to me. I used it to write stories--mainly forms of fan fiction, based on my favorite television shows or movies, books or games--and though I've moved to a newer word processor, I'm still filling those blank spaces.

So, I guess the point of the story is that I write because I love it. It's all I've ever wanted to do with my life, and the point of this blog is to document my trip from unknown aspiring writer to...well, I guess we'll see, won't we?

Welcome to the Jungle

Hello there!

I'm Joe, and as you can tell by the description over to the right, I am a writer. I haven't made that first professional sale yet, but I'm working on it. I have had one acceptance, however: "Goldie", a story about a mother and son through the years as told from the perspective of their Christmas ornaments, was accepted by Midwestern Literary Magazine (though I believe they just go by MLM now...) and published in the February edition of their ezine. And very soon, the story will feature in their print anthology HANGING BY THREADS. Obviously, I'm thrilled by this.

I suppose I should answer all the of the standard questions--why I write, what inspires me, etc.--and I will, in due time. Right now I'm just trying to get started on this darn blog. I had a livejournal account previously, but according to a terminally-hip writer friend of mine, Livejournal is for losers, and all the Cool Kids hang out here at Blogspot. Or Blogger. I guess. I dunno.

See ya around!