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!