Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May? More Like "Meh"

The old saying, "April showers bring May flowers" seems to be reversed in may case, at least in terms of my literary output. Well, perhaps "output" is the wrong word; I've put out over 10,000 words of prose in May...the problem is that I haven't been able to put them together.

Two different stories reached word-counts in the thousands, and both ended up in my Sucky Stories bin (as in folder; I never throw anything away). The only story I actually managed to complete this month was a bit of Twitter fiction entitled "Disposition in situ", which I'm surprisingly proud of, despite it's size (boy if I had a quarter for every time I've said that). I'm still not sold that Twitfic is really fiction, even though I won't complain, as it suits me to look the other way, at least for right now, but I think at some point we'll have to reevaluate things. I almost want to say that it should be considered poetry, though I'm sure there are poets who would cuff me for that. Anyway, that's another topic for another day. Today is for my writing and subbing.

Speaking of subbing, that's one thing I did very well this month. Nine (count em': 9) submission have been made since May 1st, which is a new record for me. And what's more, only two of those nine subs was one story being resubmitted, so, if I do the math correctly, that means....carry the six...divide by the circumference...seven! Seven stories made their way out, which is another of my personal bests.

All this excitement, you'd think I'd have gotten a sale somewhere along the way, but sadly, I did not. Oh well, there's always next month!

Oh, and speaking of that, as of next week, as I said in my last post, I will be moving up to the weekly W1S1 challenge.

Here's the breakdown:


Disposition in situ


Disposition in situ 

Back in the Day

(Non W1S1 Subs)

The Bright Walk

The Last Dragon Dancer (x2)

...And Other Significant Junkies

The Liar


Back in the Day (Fiction Collective; anderbo)

The Bright Walk (ChiZine)

The Last Dragon Dancer (Fantasy Magazine)

Friday, May 27, 2011

1000 Nights

When Ray Bradbury offers advice to aspiring authors, what comes out is less advice and more instruction manual. I'm not surprised that such a prolific author takes such a regimented approach to his craft; rather, I'm surprised by just how simple it is.

Write a story every week, or thereabout. 

Quantity over quality? Not quite; Bradbury simply believes that if you write enough, eventually you're going to come up with something worth publishing. "...at the end of the year, you have fifty-two short stories, and I defy you to write fifty-two bad ones." Nor can it be reduced to a matter of monkeys pounding away at typewriters; practice makes perfect, and Bradbury's theory is just a clever spin on the advice all writers worth a salt give: Keep on writin'! 

This rather specific method is the basis for the Write1Sub1 challenge I'm currently participating in, and if you follow my blog, you're familiar with it (and there's every chance you're a participant). And it got me to thinking: Is there a yin to his literary yang? Bradbury believes that every good story is a metaphor, thus every good writer is a metaphor machine; and given that he believes good writing is a skill learned and honed rather than god-given (so to speak, said the atheist), it stands to reason that he'd have a method for us newbies to become said machinery, does it not? 

As it turns out, it does.

In the video An Evening With Ray Bradbury, the then-80-year-old Bradbury challenges the young writers in attendance to "read one short story, one poem, and one essay" each night before bed, for the next 1000 nights. Why a thousand? I have no idea, but who am I to question the master? 

If you have time to watch the video, it's worth the 54-minute investment. If you don't have the time, then I'll shorthand it for you: Writers have to work at their craft, and they have to work hard. There are other ways to go about it, sure, but when a titan of genre fiction lays out his plan, why not give it a try? 

(Note: There is much more to the video than Mr. Bradbury telling you how to go about becoming a better writer, but the opening "Writer Hygiene" portion is very cool) 

So that's what I'm going to do. I will omit, for a lack of time (and, dare I say, interest), the essays, but I'm actually going to try reading at least one short story and one poem per night. And to make up for skipping the essay part, starting next week, I am going to join the Big Boys & Girls and do the Write1Sub1 challenge properly: One story per week, for 52 weeks. 

Each week, along with my W1S1 check-ins, I'll also list the week's reading material, just to stay honest. If you think you have the time and energy (and resources; my reading list by necessity includes quite a bit from the free Project Gutenberg), feel free to join me!

Monday, May 23, 2011

(Not Quite So) PRL: ChiZine

Dear Joe,
Thank you for thinking of ChiZine.com. We have read your fiction. Though the submission was interesting and well-written, after consideration it has not been chosen for publication. Best of luck placing your story elsewhere. Please think of our 'Zine again when submitting your work.
The Editors 

 Yet another rejection for the pile.

Oh well. Time to find another market!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May at the Midway

Well, we're two weeks into Write 1 Sub 1 for May, and things are already a bit more fruitful than they were two weeks into April. If you recall, I spent most of the month pouring thousands of words into a story that I eventually abandoned last-minute, and wound up writing two shorter pieces in the last week to beat the deadline.

This month I decided to tap the well of previous endeavors by rewriting the pre-W1S1 story, "...And Other Significant Junkies". This was after cleaning up another oldish story, "The Last Dragon Dancer", and sending it out. That, along with other stories I have making the rounds, makes for five subs this month already, which is only one less than I had in all of April, and one of my most productive months ever, at least as far as submissions go. Is it a coincidence?

I don't think so. I'm telling you, having a goal, even if it's something small like one story written and one story subbed per month, is a huge help. It's like an outline for your career, and that kind of accountability is very important for someone like me, who can never seem to stay focused. If you're reading this and you haven't tried this challenge yet, do it.

The one negative is that you'll get your share of rejections. I've had three total for the month, but it's all good. You just give it a hug and send it back on its way.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ambition vs Ability

I have a story to write. I have a premise, and a couple of characters, and the vaguest semblance of a plot. I have a climax, and something like an ending. I have a beginning and a middle, too.

What I don't have is the nerve to start.

I'm afraid that I am not up to the task of writing this story. What I have in my head elicits the same emotions and images of beauty and darkness that I've seen in the top magazines and anthologies, but I don't know if I can make it work on the page. I'm afraid to even try. What if I ruin it?

Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever held on to a story for fear that you won't do it right? Actors have stage fright, and "performance anxiety" has become a euphemism for erectile dysfunction, so what's our neat little term? Hackaphobia? Trite Fright?

Literary Shrinkage?

Help me out here. What do you do in those moments of doubt, when you're not sure you're good enough?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Well That Sucks

So I'm doing my nightly "Duotrope Dive", which is where I go to the listing and website for every market I currently have a story subbed, and click around and read stories and check news updates, etc.. So I get around to Macabre Cadaver, which is where I currently have "The Bright Walk", my vampire story, in the slush pile, and I see CLOSED beside the listing.

Hmm. Odd.

Not TEMP CLOSED, as one of the other markets where I'm currently subbed says, but CLOSED. Just...CLOSED.

Inside the actual listing is the warning "DO NOT SUBMIT HERE."

Hmm. Double odd. So I go to the site and I see

August 2008 -- May 2011

That's it. No "Sorry to all of our readers," no "We're releasing all of the stories currently in our system," no nothing.

I feel like I should have known something was up, now that I think about it. I visited the site about a week ago to check the status in the online submission manager, and didn't see my story. But I figured, hey, what the frig do I know? and just ignored it. I KNOW I submitted it (there was a whole forgotten password situation, so it was all rather memorable), so I figured maybe this was just part of their process. It hadn't really been long enough to query, so I just decided to wait it out. 

And now this. 

As I said, I was there no more than a week ago, and I don't recall there being any warning for this. Maybe I missed it? No matter, is it so much to ask that at the very least something be posted on the farewell page beyond "RIP"? If they don't want to tell us why the market is closing, they aren't obligated to, but for all of the writers currently waiting on the fate of the work, wouldn't it have been appropriate to at least apologize for the sudden exit and wish us luck elsewhere? 

I don't know, maybe I'm wrong here, but that chafes me raw. I'm very sorry for whatever brought about the end of that market (with one of the coolest titles in the business, by the way), and I don't mean to make this about me...but it's kinda all about me! 40 days I waited for a response, and it's a damn good thing I Duotrope Dive at least a couple nights a week, otherwise I might have waited 40 more. 

Anyway, I guess it's time to find a new slushpile for my baby. I wonder--does this count as my "Sub 1" for Write 1 Sub 1? I'll have to check that out.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dis and Dat

I received a couple more rejections on my pair of flash stories (will go into more detail at the end of the month), but otherwise things have been pretty quiet on the slush front, which would explain my relative silence. In fact, I don't really have much to say right now, but I didn't want that last post to be the headline any longer.

Well, maybe that's not true; I've been doing a bit of plotting and outlining, actually, for a novel that I hope to begin writing soon. Seeing as how I'm more of a "feel" writer than a nuts-and-bolts guy, I've never really given plotting or outlining a try. This should be an interesting experiment. And so far, so good.

What else? Oh, I finished "DYING OF THE LIGHT", the debut novel by George RR Martin from way back in 1977. Definitely not his best work, but worth a read. The plot wasn't as tight, and the prose not quite as flowery as his later novels (namely the Ice & Fire series) but there were moments that very much hinted at the then-young writer's potential. He has a knack for giving races, places, and people incredibly imaginative names, and there are times in this book where he's just flat-out showing off.

I originally picked up "DYING" after setting down Carmac McCarthy's "BLOOD MERIDIAN", which I only set down because I had just finished his more recent "THE ROAD", and needed a pallet cleanser. Now that I've had it, I am right back where I left off with McCarthy's classic, and I'm sorry I ever stepped away. Not only does he break all the rules and write unlike anyone else (no one uses commas as sparsely as this man), but there's no one better at making you feel every word of the prose. Seriously, if you haven't read this man yet, get to it. You will feel worse about yourself as a writer, but it's the good kind of hurt, trust me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Got 'Em!

I don't normally use this blog as a soapbox for my opinions on politics or social issues. I avoid it because it isn't relevant to my writing, but also because a blog is such a narrow frame that I could be easily be defined by my beliefs should I make them public, and I have no interest in that. I'd rather people get to know me by my journey as a writer, because that's all that really matters in this context. 

However, I am an American, and the news of Osama bin Laden being killed in a raid in Pakistan affects me deeply. I was 20 years old when we were attacked, and working at UPS in the weeks and months after, in a time when many of us were afraid of further attacks--the anthrax scare was particularly frightening for us in the shipping industry. I, like so many others around the world, have spent the last ten years watching videos of Osama firing assault rifles, hugging his cronies, celebrating the deaths of my countrymen while calling for more attacks. It has felt as though he was behind all of the bad shit that went down over the last ten years, even though I know this isn't true. Whether it is intentional or not, he has become the face of terrorism. 

I am against the War on Terror. I know that, much like the War on Drugs, it is a useless fight that can't be won. You can't kill an ideal, and you certainly can't kill an ideal with troops and missiles. I think our government has exploited our grief, anger, and fear stemming from 9/11 to make money for oil companies and weapons manufacturers, and, in turn, the politicians in bed with those interests. But I can't deny that I have hated Osama bin Laden since that day. The images of the burning towers, of people involuntarily jumping to their deaths from eighty stories because they could no longer stand the heat and the smoke, are still fresh. I'll probably never forget them, or ever completely get over them. I still cry when I see the footage of firemen covered in ash and dust, and my blood boils when I see New Yorkers fleeing giant clouds of fallout from the falling towers. 

There's a very big part of me that is absolutely stoked that this scumbag is dead. I'm proud that my country never gave up looking, even ten years later. It's a sign of how stupidly stubborn our policies are, but in this case it works. I mean, look at the footage: this is a unifying moment in our country's history. And in an odd bit of irony, it's 66 years to the day that Adolph Hitler's death was announced to the world. 

It's unfortunate that bin Laden's death does not mean for the War on Terror, or for the world at large, what Hitler's death meant. I think in the weeks and months to come, that reality will sink in, and it'll suck. I think it has been hard to divorce Osama from the War on Terror, too easy to see him as the catalyst rather than the trigger. We've been told that he's likely not even an active participant in today's Al Qaeda operations, due to his having to avoid phones and internet access, but I don't know that it has ever really dawned on us that his death really doesn't change anything. 

But maybe it will. Maybe the same people who have supported this war from the beginning will realize that it does't matter how many of them you kill, how many figureheads you take out, you can't kill the idea, and their appetite for war will sour. Maybe seeing just how usual business is for Al Qaeda following their spiritual leader's death will weaken our resolve, and make us realize that tanks and guns and unmanned drones aren't going to solve the problems in the Middle East. 

Here's hoping. 

But in the meantime, I'm going to celebrate this one.