Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Bad Guy

Still cranking away on Seattle Pizza, and still enjoying it...I find myself getting stuck often and often stare at the wall on the other side of my monitor for long periods of time, but it's coming eaiser, and I'm starting to understand my two MCs enough to speak for them consistently. I realized this week that I was missing something: a protaganist. My concept was that it would be these two guys who, in a roundabout way due to their work in paranormal investigations (I know, I'm a fount of originality!), find themselves in legal, my concept was that the bad guy was, in general, the law (and by proxy, the prosecutor). 

After watching Dark Knight again this week (awesome hype aside, I thought the Dark Knight/White Knight and Batman/Joker story arcs were brilliant, although they blew the movie when the Two Face story began), I realized how much more a complex, bona fide bad guy could add to the story. So, I'm going to do some rough outlining before I dig in again to see how it would's still early enough in the story that re-writing (a first draft no-no, I know) would be minimal. I'd love to do a super-sinister character, a la Mssrs. Vandermar and Croup...maybe a female baddie.

So, on the list before we're off to visit relatives for the holidays: at least 5k more written, read and respond to Cate's MS, and maybe a year-end post.

Lastly: I played this game earlier this year...The semi-cheesy MIDI music is addictive, and the graphics (once you get past the first level) are pretty cool. I woke up this morning with the piano riff in my head, and thought I'd share. Some of the levels are difficult, but the music is so hyper-mellow that it's like audio ganja...

Almost forgot to plug Barry Napier's web serial Blood Routes. I've read the first couple of posts, and it looks like an interesting story. I really like the concept of a web serial...I think it's a natural progression for literature. With the popularity of the Kindle picking up and it's blog-reading functionality (despite having to pay to register each blog...), it's really something for all short-story authors to consider.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No news is no news

No writing today, nor yesterday...over the last few weeks we've had a fresh influx of scorpions (Katy got a nasy sting Wednesday night), and I've spent the last couple of days sealing up the house like a ziploc baggie (the lastest in a four year effort). And, tonight is our tenth anniversary, and tomorrow is my 26th, no writing tonight. Once Amy gets home from work, we're off to have dinner at a place in the Palms Casino called Little Buddha.

Since learning about winning the critque from Apex, I've been pushing to get as much done on Seattle Pizza as possible so I can at least present a second draft of the first half of the book, and not writing for more than a day makes me feel tremendously stressed out.

But, duty calls...I had to at the very least blog today so I didn't feel entirely worthless for writing work.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What a strange thing to pay for...

So, Jamie was the first to tell me this afternoon that Apex drew names for their charity auction, and Jeremy winned something! Woots all around! (Jamie won too, which also rocks).

Something pretty gee-darned cool, too. If memory serves, they had like 4 or 5 critiques of varying lengths offered, and I bought 2-3 tickets for each one. The one I scored is with Apex Editor Mari Adkins, and it's for up to 30k words. And I need this point in my would-be career, that is probably what I need the most (besides not dancing about writing). So now, I just need to grind through a long enough manuscript to give her something to read. I am having a lot of fun with The Seattle Pizza Company; that's the one I want her to critique.

Isn't there something kind of BDSM-ish about paying someone to tell me how bad my writing is?

In other news, I started Douglas Clegg's Afterlife, and am having trouble getting into it. I did OK until two characters engaged in a dialogue, and they used langage that bugged me for some reason. It just didn't seem like a real discussion, like Clegg had never actually heard two people in that circumstance have that kind of intimate discussion. Or maybe my life experiences would have forced me to write it differently. But, Clegg is a well-liked author and obviously leaps and bounds more successful than I at the just struck me at how easy it is for language to derail what could be a very good story.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Clearing, and Thoughts on the Industry

As of last night, my second accepted story, Clearing, is online! You can click here to get to it directly (with no way to back out to their main site...I think Abandoned Towers is one of the last of the heavily-frame-laden websites in the web-o-tron), or you can go to the Abandoned Towers site, and click on the Science Fiction section on the left.

I tend to be pretty laid back with a lot of things in life: for example, I program in PHP as a hobby; I know a little bit and can build most any functional thing, but I have no desire to become the best programmer that I can be; it just doesn't mean enough to me to take classes, read books, and stay up late for months-on-end and become a world-class über-programmer...I don't need to see the matrix, I just want to make a button that will generate a report.

Writing, however, isn't that way for me. It's become one of those things that, at least once a decade or so, I will become obsessed with (business was that way for me once, and that took me from being jobless and homeless during a chilly Oregon winter to seven years in business school and, eventually, a VP-level job in banking). I really, really want to do it as well as I possibly can and hope to do it for a living someday, and I love studying other writers' work and sponging up industry knowledge to learn what works and what doesn't.

To that end, as I mentioned to CJ earlier, I have been stalking agent and publisher blogs for a couple of weeks now. This has been a very valuable exercise. In that short time, I've gained some insights into what is selling, what seems to be declining, and general gut-check info from folks who are elbow-deep in manuscripts and New York publishing house drama (First Five Pages-type info). One thing I've learned, which I'm sure is no surprise, is that the publishing world is getting slayed by the economy, and some publishers have stopped, more or less, accepting manuscripts. And that sucks. So, I guess I could have picked a better time to try and get published for the first time; but, I guess it's tough all over (banking is no picnic right now, for sure). But, as one agent wrote, it's a good opportunity to wait out the recession and knock out a couple of manuscripts, submit to agents for, if nothing else, feedback, and keep grinding the axe.

But, I suppose I'm not all that worried about the selling part now, as I am yet to complete a full manuscript. That is definitely putting the cart first, but I guess it all becomes part of the long-term strategy. The important part of writing is...well, writing.

And, like Steve Martin said: talking about music is like dancing about architecture...same goes with writing. So, I'm off to the Land of Words...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tag from CJ

Tagged from Cate's blog: the who the hell are you and what are you doing here post...

I feel kind of silly doing this since I've only been at this a short time (especially compared with the rest of the folks on the left nav of this page), but I feel guilty reading everyone else's stat sheets without, without further ado:
  • Age when I decided I wanted to be a writer: 24...I had a blast writing papers in college on my rusty little typewriter and got great feedback (the one kind of cinched it for me was a history prof who was impressed with my essay on pre-war German culture; he asked me where I went to H.S., and when I told him I dropped out in my sophomore year and got my G.E.D. years later, I guess he was so taken with my untrained writing style over the semester that he let me skip the final exam with a 4.0 and the reward-for-writing synapse formed instantly...I continued on to an MBA and became a banker, which is about as far from a creative writer as you can get)
  • Age when I wrote my first story: I started about a dozen, but didn't actually knuckle down to finish one for another 11 years: 35...I had zero confidence in my ability to write and got caught up in my day job and raising kids for the next decade.
  • Age when I first submitted a short story to a magazine: 35 became my do-it-now-or-forget-it-forever age for writing.
  • Age when I sold my first short story: 35 (Billy Don't Like Clowns to Niteblade)
  • Total number of submissions: 14
  • Total acceptances: 2
  • Thickness of file of rejection slips prior to first story sale: zero...the first story I wrote was the first story I submitted, and also my first acceptance. Sounds way cooler than it is...I was extremely lucky.
  • Number of short stories/novelettes/novellas sold for cash money: One...Billy sold for $1, which I donated to Ralan anyway (that was one of Niteblade's payment options).
  • Poems sold: zip...I enjoy story-style poetry like Sherman Alexie's early work, but poetry, for the most part, is beyond my understanding
  • Age when I started writing my first novel: 30
  • Age when I started writing my first completed novel: Haven't finished one yet
  • Age I finished that novel: Well, since I'll be 36 in less than a week, I'm going to be optimistic and say 36.
  • Age I started my second novel: NA
  • Age I finished my second novel: NA
  • Age when I sold a first novel: NA
  • Total number of novels written: Finished? Nada.
  • Books sold: 0
  • Books in the process of querying: 0
  • Short stories in the slush: 2 shorts and 1 screenplay
  • Short stories written this year: 8 stories and 1 screenplay
  • Age when I became a full-time novelist: (shakes magic 8-ball): "Reply Hazy, Try Again Later"
  • Age now: 35

Monday, December 1, 2008

Remember, Remember, the month of November

OK, time for the November roundup...

  • Mrs. Marsupial's Tea Party, written and submitted to the Cafe Doom contest in October, took the silver medal for good behavior at Cafe Doom...subbed it to Clarkesworld (rejected), and is now in-slush with Sybil's Garage.
  • Started and completed Contract of Men, which now sits with GUD.
  • Started and completed Filtered White Light, out with AGNI.
  • Started and completed The Tucker Farm Incident for Dark Jesters (also pending).
  • Knocked out about 20k of Mojave, doubted my storyline, and put it aside to simmer.
  • Clearing (version 2.2) (does everyone version their stories, or just me?) accepted for the online edition of Abandoned Towers
  • Inspired by the story started in Tucker Farm, started a new story-of-indeterminate-length called Seattle Pizza Company v. The State of Washington. I knocked out about 3100 words last night, which I think is my one-day record.
Given that I got one acceptance and some positive feedback for Mrs. M, I'm calling November a success.

In addition to working an insanely busy job in banking, raising a family, trying to keep my old house from falling over, having a year-round infatuation with Halloween special effects, and trying to break into writing, I also do some programming on the side, and just knocked out a massive project that has been dogging me for over a month--which frees up a little more time for the other things on the list, and takes the stress quotient down a bit.

It's 8:30am on the west coast, and is now time to concentrate on the job that pays the bills. Tonight, back to the Seattle Pizza Company.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Number Two (no, the good kind of number two)

After about seven weeks in round two, I got a minor revision request from Cyberwizard for Clearing and, within a few hours of resubmitting, an acceptance for Abandoned Towers! Woohoo!

Yes, it's for the website (she gave me the choice of web or print, and I chose the this point I think I need broader readership more than another hard copy ToC); and yes, it's FTL (and we all are aware of the debate stirring around that topic... apparently that thread is still active, and, if you scroll down the bottom, plumbing new depths of pettiness and backbiting). But, like I mentioned over on Aaron's blog, this is the point in my career where I need some of that free love...of the few FTLs I've subbed to since kicking this whole writing thing off in July, I have gotten some great feedback from many of them, including early feedback from the former submissions editor for Abandoned Towers...and I am incredibly grateful. So, until I'm cool enough to sell exclusively to pro and semi (that's all I've subbed to since October or so), I'll enjoy a symbiosis with folks who are in a position to cultivate talent, and take whatever attention I can get, given that this is my second published work to-date.

To summarize: WooHoo! She said she'll put it up once she gets a hard copy contract, so hopefully in a week or so.

Also, I finished the Cemetery was a very cute book packed with Neil Gaiman creepyisms, and seems to definitely be set up for a sequel. My kids are really looking forward to the Coraline movie in February as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ha-ha funny or Sweet-Fluffy-Jesus-No funny?

I can't seem to get back into the groove of Mojave, and I've been in kind of a funk for a couple of weeks and everything I write has ended up kind of brooding, which sucks. So, over the last few days I knocked out, re-wrote, spellchecked, and submitted a piece for Dark Jesters...I needed a laugh, and that did the trick. Hopefully they think it's funny, too...I really liked the story--so much, in fact, that even if it doesn't end up in DJ I'd like to do a series of short stories (or even novellas) featuring the MCs, kind of Arthur Conan Doyle-style.

Congrats, by the way, to everyone finishing up NaNo projects! Extra helpings of stuffing for you tomorrow (if non-U.S., you must buy a box of bread stuffing and eat as much as you can in one sitting).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life is what happens when you're busy with other stuff

I sat down last weekend to work on my full-length Mojave, on which I have not yet broken 20k (that's pretty much why I didn't do NaNo this year...between work and life, I knew it wasn't going to happen) was the end of a crap day capping off a crap week and, being a moody sort of person, I threw my big project aside to do something a little more edgy to vent some steam. The end result was a story I just finished tonight called Filtered White Light; I am obviously trying to shake off having read McCarthy's The Road this month, and this story reflects that: stark, dimly lit, short sentences, and, although there is some dialogue, not a goddamn quotation mark in the whole story. Risky to try and sell something formatted like that, but it seemed to work for the flow...but, I guess I'll find out if I'm overstepping my current state of development based on if anyone wants to read it. My bigger fear is if the story itself was too subtle, but I guess I'll find that out, too.

It was, at least, an interesting exercise to see how the story flow changed with minimal punctuation (I added and removed and re-added and re-removed the quotations about six times) really have to try harder to make it friendly on the eyes, but if you strip it down enough to make the dialogue stand out , the starkness of the format kind of weaves itself into the story, and that kind of takes it all in a certain direction.

I have one story (Mojave) in the hopper and five in the field. At least one I should be hearing back on soon, I hope. I passed the first round and was told I should hear "in a month or so", and today is like 6 1/2 weeks, which I guess is still within that range.

Am I justified in being hesitant/nervous about pinging an editor for a status? Is that considered...rude? or pushy?

Friday, November 14, 2008

...and the winner is...

Not me, but that's OK.

The winner of the Cafe Doom competition this year was an author named Jaelithe Ingold (not sure if she still uses that blog, only linkie I could find) for a great story called The Rules. It will be published by-and-by in Necrotic Tissue, be sure to check it out when it is released...

I was, however, fortunate enough to take second place in the competition--which, to me, is mind-blowing. There were some really great writers and fantastic stories this year (of the authors whose blogs I read regularly, I know Felicity, Cate, Rob, and Aaron had stories in) , and it is an honor to have not only had a few of them pick my story, Mrs. Marsupial's Tea Party, within their top three, but also to have Scott McCoy from Necrotic Tissue pick me in the top two. Just awesome. The third place winner was Monica O'Rourke's The Cellar, a good, creepy story as well (assuming I found the correct Monica O'Rourke's MySpace, she has a biblio as long as my leg).

The only bad news out of all this is that only the fastest horse gets published in Necrotic Tissue (although I now have $100 to spend at Shocklines, not to mention some mad props to cut-and-past into a Word doc and re-read when I need a little ego stroking!). So, to that end, I submitted Mrs. M. to Clarkesworld along with a cover letter telling Mr. Clarke that Mrs. M. is the best thing since sliced breadpeople, everybody already loves it, and the only thing left to complete the holy cycle is for him to buy it.

So, once again, to those who liked and voted for my story, Thank You; for those who read but didn't like it, thank you for reading it and for participating in the contest; congratulations to Jaelithe and Monica; and, lastly, thanks again to Ed and Scott and Matt for sponsoring it!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

That's brilliant, Q--but can it fill plot holes for me?

Had a rough time working last night with the kids home and bored stiff, since it now gets dark at 5pm here in the Southwest. Didn't start writing until about 9:30, and even then I spent more time going back over the last couple of chapters of Mojave to try and figure out where I was heading. That took two hours, and it was midnight by the time I hit 1,000 words for the day. Sigh...

My wife and I (and our 12YO daughter, but not so much the 9YO) like Daniel Craig's iteration of Bond...Amy is going to see Quantum of Solace Friday night with a girlfriend, and I'll probably take Katy on Saturday. I've been seriously considering picking up a Sony Reader this year as I'm collecting a lot of books and magazines in PDF form (I'm waiting to see if the new touchscreen edition drives down the price for the other models...I think $299 is too much). They have an Ian Fleming edition that comes with a few Bond titles; that may be my excuse to finally get around to reading some of his work.

On that note, you needed a new song stuck in your head today, right?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grant me the serenity...

It's been a long week already...I had to sit on a conference call for a data center move Saturday night-Sunday morning for 8 hours and didn't get to bed until 6am, and I'm still paying for it. So, I'm calling it a night after a measly 500 words on Mojave (taking me to 14.5k). Tomorrow is a bank holiday, which means I can sleep in; we're going for a short hike on Frenchman Mountain (which is about two blocks away) in the AM, and then I can spend a few hours writing in the afternoon. My minimum goal per day is 1k words, but I really want to hit 16.5 by tomorrow night, and 20k by the time I go to bed Friday.

You all probably already knew this, but short stories are addictive, like tattoos. Once I settle in on my novel, I keep thinking about how fun it would be to nip off and knock out a couple of pages on a new short...come on, I think, It'll just take a few minutes. It'll be fun. Just click "New...". It's easy. Do it now.

Speaking of short stories, I really want the Cafe Doom contest to be over so I can stop obsessively checking the site for new votes. I think voting ends tomorrow, and by my count there are still about 10 or so authors who haven't voted, assuming each story is from a unique author. There are some really fun stories up there, I'm sure a lot of them will get sold after the contest ends.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Free as in Beer, and Doldroms

Some of you may have gotten this email as well, but GUD Magazine is having a lottery-style magazine sale...I picked up the summer issue for like $.56, or something crazy like that. In addition, they sent me a voucher for some lucky individual to get a copy of same (on PDF form) for free. If you're interested in using my voucher, first one to post their email addy here can have it (I'm sure they will want to put you on a mailing list afterward, but their mail volume seems reasonable...only a couple this month).

Obviously this is a way for GUD to increase readership and populate their marketing lists, but this made me think, long will it be before the U.S. economic downturn really starts affecting the markets we all depend on for selling stories, poems, essays, and pictures? Markets come and go, but we can only hope that not too many of these good magazines and websites fold in the next year, or become FTL-only. My personal opinion, for what its worth (taking into consideration that I have spent the last decade with one of the largest banks around, and may have some perspective), is that we have another 9-12 months of doldrums ahead, and things will get better, gradually. It's just getting through 2009 that will be tricky.

This really feels a lot like the post-9/11 economic was tough and scary and full of uncertainties, but I try to remember to take the long view on what's in the bank, and the short view on what's in my pocket. I guess the point this thinking is leading me to is that one of the best things that we writers can do to help the markets survive long enough for us to be able to feed our hobbies, help us express ourselves, pay the bills, or keep working toward that career-launching story, as the case may be, is to subscribe and support. I personally need to make a list of at least 2-3 magazines that I can subscribe to and stay within my comfort zone financially (not including the occasional donation to Ralan and/or Duotrope).

I'm certain that I (and my waistline) can survive one week without eating out so that Glimmer Train can survive long enough to reject more of my stories...

(steps off of soapbox)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gaiman-isms and Updates

I didn't write a word yesterday, due to going to see Neil Gaiman do the keynote address for the Las Vegas Lit Festival. It's funny, I spent like 20 hours with Neil's voice listening to Neverwhere last month, so hearing him in person is like being in a meeting with someone I actually knew. Weird. Neil is full of insight and advice for writers, and the target audience last night seemed to be not only fans but writers as well, and Neil tailored his talk appropriately. He talked about how he got his start in literature (lying about his resume), what inspires him (noticing things, talking to his kids), how he decides what project to work on next (whatever makes sense), and funny anecdotes from his career (apparently he spent a couple of weeks at a bankrupt hotel in Vegas while writing American Gods, and had spent time sitting on the ratty couch in the lobby watching TV with multiple Elvises in different colored jumpsuits, and had a running issue with a "defective bible" in his room). He also read two yet-to-be-published children's books of his coming out next year. Well worth staying up late to attend...he didn't do a signing, but had pre-signed most of his published works and had them for sale in the lobby (I picked up The Graveyard Book, and I thought my kids would like Coraline).

In writing news...after finishing up Contract of Men and tossing it over to GUD (they rejected Clearing pretty quick, but I think CoM might be a better fit for their mag), I was finally able to spend some time on Mojave. I was a little worried about getting back into the flow of the story after not touching it for about a week, but I broke 11k Wednesday night, and am at a point where I'm really anxious to figure out where it goes, and am enjoying the story a lot...a couple of interesting characters (I hope).

After just over 3 months, Faith, which is the second story of my would-be career and, in retrospect, not a very well put-together story, was rejected by Glimmer Train for the August Very Short Fiction contest. Ce'st la is, after all, Glimmer Train. I don't think I'll re-write that least not for a while. It's more interesting visuals and feelings but not a strong story.

Monday, November 3, 2008

October Roundup

Not a very eventful month for me, sadly...lots of words, not much submitted.

  • I managed to get a screenplay off to Hotel Guignol, but I think that was actually in September, now that I think about it.
  • Clearing was rejected by GUD, bounced by Clarksworld, but passed through the first gatekeeper at Abandoned Towers, where it currently sits.
  • I submitted a piece to Cafe Doom for their annual Writer's Choice contest...I can't tell you the name of it, as voting continues for another week or so, but I will say that of the twelve current votes, it's "on the board", so to speak. That is very exciting...really, unbelievably cool. There are some great stories up there by some excellent writers, and the fact that I've gotten any votes from that crowd is beyond flattering, even if I don't end up in the final three. I have about ten more stories to read before I can vote.
  • I knocked out 10k of Mojave, which will, hopefully, become a growed-up novel one day...but, I lost traction with the Halloween haunted house project (here are some pix, if you're also kept me off of Blogger for a week or so, hence my radio silence), Cafe Doom, and...
  • A new quickie project that popped out of my keyboard half-formed. It is called The Contract of Men, is non-speculative, and very much inspired by the humbling style of McCarthy's The Road (which I'm about halfway through).
So, there's on the docket: finish Contract of Men, keep grinding away on Mojave, and go hear Neil Gaiman speak at the library on Thursday. I did consider it, but I'm not WriMo'ing my NaNo this year...I'm scared of getting sidetracked off of Mojave again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Everybody sing...

Five more days 'til Halloween...Sil-ver Shamrock

We spent the day at the Springs Preserve, a desert-eco museum located on the site of the original springs that brought settlers to the Las Vegas valley for the first time thousands of years ago. Neat place, and to make it even cooler, they had it decorated for Halloween. They did some kind of Halloween show after sundown, but... reality calls--laundry to do, grocery shopping beckons, Amy has homework, and we were tired of walking.

I'm about halfway through Cormac McCarthy's The Road. What an amazing book. I've never read his work before, but he is obviously one of these authors that makes other authors question their choice of vocation. He breaks the rules in a way that makes me want to re-write everything I've ever written (until the realization sets in that I could never do it as well as him and I'm best off plodding along on my current route).

I was up until midnight last night finishing my third draft of a story for the Cafe Doom contest (thanks for the heads-up, Cate). I'm kind of nervous putting my work out for peer-review (peer here meaning people much more experienced than I). It was a fun break, but now its time to bury my head into Mojave once again. Kind of funny, but I read or saw several things today at the museum that may make their way into Mojave; I'm actually writing the book using Google Earth to lay out the geography of the story and the journey of the MC, and seeing the geographic history of this valley helped me think in those terms. I thought it would be fun if, knock on wood, Mojave was published, I could put out a kmz file (Google Map overlay) with info on the story, kind of a Tolkein-esque map of the story.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mojave Update and Advice from the Past

No new news, really, but in keeping in the habit of updating my bloggy-dee-dum...

1. Just cracked 9100 words on Mojave. Been a fun story so far and have kept momentum, although finding time to write between family and work continues to be a struggle...sound familiar? I just wrote a class of monster (what is this, D&D?) that actually gives me the willies to think about. That's pretty cool.

2. Saw Shaun of the Dead Saturday night-- Best. Movie. Ever.

3. I'm going to try and resist cheating and submitting Mojave to NaNoWriMo (hopefully well past 25k words by 11/1), but I definitely won't be starting a new project. In thinking about NaNoWriMo, I remembered some of the well-timed emails they sent out last year with advice from people who make a living at this game. As this seems to be the Year of Neil Gaiman, I thought I'd reminisce on Neil's helpful advice for the midpoint of a novel, posted at NaNoWriMo.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Career Perspective

In the latter half of 2008, the only really good thing left about working for a Large Global Bank©, other than just having a paycheck, is all of the paid holidays. Today being Columbus Day in the U.S., I was able to (mostly) resist the urge to fire up my company laptop and work, and wrote for a good chunk of the day (in between naps, playing guitar, and helping the kids with homework). It was rare and nice.

After a couple of weeks of dryness, I just broke 5300 words on my Vegas story on the third day of writing (Mojave is the working title), and it seems to be going well. I've spent a few sleepless nights the past week thinking about the storyline and characters, and I think I have a grip on what it is I'm trying to tell. Mostly. I'm trying to be mindful of telling a strong story, and not just describing stuff and having people talk and all of the "wouldn't-it-be-cool" moments of this world I'm knitting. I was tempted, but I didn't want to wait for NaNoWriMo...I needed to get moving on this. Hopefully I can keep momentum and finish a draft before I loses me mojo...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Dangers of Nyquil

After 4 days, Clearing was jettisoned by Clarkesworld with a form letter...yesterday, I submitted a query letter for Clearing to Abandoned Towers, got a positive response, submitted the story, and just now received another positive response from the sub editor, saying it "seemed well written and put together with nice clean dialogue" and has passed it on to the editorial group...not an acceptance, but I'll take it, even with the word seemed attached. That makes me happy.

I'm sick yet again, and had to choke back some Nyquil, mostly so that my poor wife can sleep through my gasping and choking and coughing. Since Sunday, I have been thinking through a story that really sounds fun (I'll share more as I progress, but kind of a what-if story around the proposed nuclear waste dump in Yucca Mountain just north of Vegas)...but, as I dig more into this story, it has to be a full length thing--at least 50-70k words. Which is daunting, as I'm yet to complete anything that long. Last night, in a diphenhydramine daze, I dreamt chunks of the storyline, which makes me even more excited to work on it. I don't want to blow this, so I'm going to take a few more days of outlining and character development before I start work.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Wandering through the desert

Three updates...

Update the First: One of the neat things about living in Vegas is the close proximity to Utah (as much as it sounds like the setup to a joke, I'm being sincere). Shortly after moving here four years ago, we discovered the Shakespeare Festival about 2.5 hours from here in Cedar City, and after our first season of watching plays there, we were hooked. I spent all day there Saturday, and saw a fine but slightly off-center version of Julius Caesar (set in modern day, but still spoken from the original text and language of Shakespeare), and a mind-blowing Victorian-era murder mystery called Gaslight which, for someone who spends a lot of time thinking about storytelling and dark fiction, was almost a religious experience. I knew I would have hours spent alone during the trip, so I picked up the audiobook for Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and am about six hours in. What a great story.

Update the Second: the first re-write of Clearing was ousted by GUD, who said it "wasn't what they were presently looking for"...not very specific, so it's off to Clarkesworld without any edits.

Update the Third: I'm kind of struggling with my next project. I have two of three stories in mind that don't completely excite me, and have started picking through the bones of projects never finished. I've commited to picking a project and pushing through by tomorrow night. Between Gaslight and Neverwhere, the juices are flowing today, and I don't think I'll have a problem settling on a project soon.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fiction Rule of Thumb


Side note: am I really that lonely that I need to post something every day? Jeez...I need friends in Las Vegas.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Wow...exceptionally productive Monday. I finished my re-write of Clearing from the weekend, re-read it about 73 thousand times, and sent it off to Greatest Uncommon Denominator. Although it's focused on the relationship between a scientist and his computer, it's not as geeky as it sounds. it's really kind of sad. In my mind, it feels much more literary, so I thought I'd try a slipstream magazine first. I really want this one to sell, and I suspect I'm willing to re-write it several more times to do so.

Also, I made some edits to the Hotel Guignol screenplay and sent it off: a seven-ish minute piece called Welcome Back, Mr. Callaghan. According to their website, they are getting about 300 screenplays a day, so my odds are pretty friggin' slim. But, was fun, and I learned a little about formatting a screenplay. I have to say, I enjoy writing literature more. Screenplay writing is cool because you really have to visualize it, but it's too...I dunno. Cut and dry. "Bob stands up and walks to the table. There is a crystal ashtray on it. Inside of the ashtray is a leprechaun. Bob: Hello, leprechaun." it puts kind of a weird filter on the creative process, I guess.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I got a rejection this AM from Wanderings for was another very verbose, very useful note from the editor. He said he thought it had some very good writing, but dragged at points and didn't come to the point fast enough. Singsong, which was rejected by Potter's Field 3, had similar points of criticism, so at least I'm consistent. However, I think Singsong was forced...I didn't really enjoy writing it. Another bad analogy: I felt like a comedian who comes up with a funny punchline and then throws some cheap window-dressing around it just to set it up. Clearing, I think, is a good story...I like it, and I think it's worth polishing. So, that's how I've spent my afternoon: stripping away unneeded details, and really trying hard to tell the story, not just leading the reader around aimlessly. I like my re-write, I'll take another look at it tomorrow, maybe look at markets tonight before bed.

This morning was spent in is a nifty sign I just finished to hang outside of my garage (hard to see, but that's a bite taken out of the corner):

Now I want to write a story called Free Kandy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

34 Days 'til My Head Bursts

I haven't written dick since I finished the first draft of the screenplay for Hotel Guignol...I have been doing a lot of thinking about my next project, which I count as writing. Sort of. "Literary Pre-Execution Brainstorming". See, that's the kind of sick shit that comes to front of mind when you work for a bank for ten years (something I've warned both of my kids against). I am of the opinion that managerial double-speak and mandatory corporate cheerleading sessions are far, far scarier than the most depraved, most secret horrors that King, Lovecraft, or Barker could come up with on their best day.

Also, I've been diverting my attention. My wife had trouble with her right arm a while back, so she switched to her left (non-dominant) for many tasks, including using her mouse. Within three or four months, she noticed she was able to sketch everyday objects freehand much, much better than she ever had, and she attributed that to using the other side of her brain more. In a different but somewhat related turn, I have noticed that, since immersing myself in creative writing earlier this year, I am more, well...creative. As a result of that, coupled with my sick love of all things creepy, I have officially gone batshit crazy on Halloween preparations. In the past two weeks, I have acquired a fog machine and built a custom fog chilller (to keep the fog low and heavy), built a blood fountain out of styrofoam skulls, and bought or made headstones, spiderwebs, skeletons, lighting, wall hangings, dried flowers, and signs. I'll put up pix after Halloween...should be...interesting. Yes, interesting. Not the word my wife uses, know.

I read a short but interesting article in the New York Times Friday...a writer (formerly for Redbook) talks about some of the basic tenets her friend and editor taught her over the years, and how it shaped her writing:

"She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader: good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later, I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own."

Seems like good, basic advice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Plan...

OK, so based on my feedback from Champagne Shivers (which was pretty basic stuff: grab attention earlier in the story, cut the non-important junk, etc), I'm making a change to my writing strategy: I need to read more. And not just read, but study. As I look back over the past year, it seems like I've done a lot of reading, but I realize that it's been mostly business-oriented publications and an Ayn Rand novel I've been stuck on for six or seven months (damn you interesting but extremely long lectures on objectivism!!! (shakes fist)). I'm putting Atlas Shrugged down as a challenge for another time, and have started reading/studying a collection of Asimov stories I've had for a while but haven't cracked. I'm devoting half of the time I've been using to write to learning how to write. Also, I need to sit on my stories longer; I think I've been submitting first-draft, B material as finished because I'm impatient.

Also, got a newsletter from the Clark County Library District last night: Neil Gaiman will be here in Vegas in November doing a lecture, reading, and book signing! Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

One Down

So, in an incredibly short turnaround (less than 48 hours), I heard back on Potter's could be expected with that short of a turnaround, they don't want it (crowd: aw-w-w-w....). So, there's my first turndown, which, of course, sucks-- but...I'm really, really happy with the response. I got some very specific and direct feedback from the editor on what I need to work on, and I am extremely grateful to Cathy Buburuz for taking the time, particularly at a point in my growth as a writer when I need it most.

I knocked out a quick-n-dirty screenplay for Hotel Guignol over the past two days. I've never done a screenplay before and had to keep bouncing between CeltX and some screenwriting websites to see how to do, yeah...that there tell's ya what kinda quality we put into our screenplays over here in Nevada. Nuthin' but the best. I just picked a couple of real-life actors in my mind and had them play out what would be a somewhat entertaining (at least to a simpleton like me) 10 minute Twilight Zone, and typed it up. I don't have real high hopes for this one, obviously, but I'll probably go ahead and submit it nonetheless (after some cleaning up, making it a bit more grabby, etc). It was a fun exercise.

I think some of the feedback I got from Cathy will apply to the screenplay, so I'll edit with that in mind...unfortunately, it also applies wholesale to the stories I already have out, which lowers my already-low odds with them. But, that's how it goes...I have no illusions about being Clive Barker, and certainly not on my, what, fourth story ever; but it doesn't damper my motivation to learn.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Next in the chute

First order of business: Catherine J Gardner was kind enough to give me a "I Love Your Blog" award! Which, per process, entails me now nominating seven blogs in turn (except Cate...against the rules) don't spend a lot of time reading blogs so this might be tough; but there are a few that I do like and read regularly, including a few that I've picked up since I started blogging on this site (including CJG's):

  1. Felicity Dowker, Jamie Eyberg, and Aaron Polson all have great blogs that I enjoy reading; it's very motivating to read other struggling authors' notes on writing and life. I'm sure I'll find more once I dig deeper into, it's a struggle to find the time right now, though.
  2. My wife Amy Brooks, a Government Relations professional and Econ grad student has a nifty blog called What I Read Today, featuring interesting things she reads throughout the week and some things of note from her schoolwork.
  3. Neil Gaiman has a swell, I want his life.
  4. As much as I fucking hate MySpace, I check up on Roman Dirge periodically.
  5. Everything else I just kind of read ad hoc looking for info or chasing something interesting down a rabbit hole...I'm not a regular anywhere, except Slashdot, but that strains the concept of "blog" a bit.
So, thanks again, Cate!

Secondly, I took another look at Singsong Friday night, and then again Saturday, and again today. Made some very minor tweaks, and it's off to the mercies of Potter's Field 3. I need to start working on something new in the next couple of days...hate losing momentum.

I've been sick all week, and the Nyquil just kicked in...time for bed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

After the break...

A little singsong with the dead. And-a one, and-a two...

Just finished the first draft of a piece called Singsong for Potter's Field 3. Ever chip away at a story you really liked, but feel like you just can't wait and have to rush in and get to that really cool ending part? Yeah...I need to let this one sit for a while (what was the phrase Stephen King used in "On Writing"; simmer? ferment? fester?) before I look at it again. Has potential, but, again, it feels like I spent a lot of time kissing and groping at the beginning, but was too anxious to drop trou and get to the end, and it seems a bit rushed. I'll take a look at it later this week.

Maybe I'll work on a short screenplay next...I love old, creepy hotel stories; something about taking people out of their element and putting them together (or alone) in a place where anything can happen that just begs for stories to be written. I think I even have a copy of CeltX installed on this PC.

In other news, we did some Halloween shopping Sunday...I got a bag full of latex scars and makeup and liquid latex and blood all manner of nasty shit. I didn't do anything last year, so this year I'm gonna make up for it and be a failed suicide.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Computer Story Has a Name...

Ran through a couple of iterations of the story I finished last night. After re-reading it, I only made minor changes to the story...last night I thought the continuity was out of wack, but on reviewing today, it worked (with some minor adjustments). I called it Clearing, and it is now sitting in the inbox for Wanderings Magazine. So, 1 sold, 2 pending.

I'll take another look at my slush pile tomorrow and decide if I want to start something anew or re-hash one of the 14 unfinished stories I've been dragging around since, oh, probably about 2000. No idea why it took me so long to finish one. Actually, I know exactly why: I never felt it was a 'good thing' to write short stories, but wasn't at a point in my development as a writer to finish a novel.

Not sure if I'm there yet, but I think I'll be walking down that path before the end of the year.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Computer Story Done

Just put the lid on my first draft of a short (3.2k) story about robots and dementia. Kind of a first, its the first time I've written a story and didn't have a title in mind. I still don't know what to call it...I kind of changed gears halfway through and may end up doing some major changes when I go back and read it this week. I started out more sci-fi/thriller, but as I explored the main character, he ended up being less of a neurotic prick, and kind of a sad guy, so i ran with that. It's another weird mix of speculative and more traditional lit fiction, not sure where to send it. Probably someone more interested in genre work...not sure if anyone else would want it.

Speaking of lit fiction...still have a story with Glimmer Train. I think I'm pretty well outgunned there...I have their current edition, and it seems to be lit professors and experienced authors. But, what the hell. Until I hear back from Glimmer Train, I'm 1 for 1.

Time for bed.

Friday, September 5, 2008


As much as I don't relish the thought of managing yet another website, I'm liking the ability to read other author's blogs easily and keep all of my links and posts somewhat aggregated instead of pouring over RSS feeds in'll try this out.

My plan is to x-post the more news-type posts related to my writing and authorishness to my vanity domain guess at the end of the day, I want that to by my professional brochure, and this to be my social workspace, and I'll try to keep my family domain mostly about, well, family stuff. We'll see how that for ...well, I still like the concept of a web serial and I have fun when I'm writing about Buckeye the dead antique collector, but I keep running out of spare time to visit them over there and write another episode. Maybe I'll give it another month of trying to make time, and if it doesn't work, I'll take it down and maybe make it into a short story.

I've found quite a few Blogger/Blogspot sites written by authors in much the same boat I am in (short story subs, working toward full-length novel/novellas, maybe trying to make a living at it eventually), and I have enjoyed reading their journals chronicling them going through much of the same things I am every day: measuring days in word-counts, keeping track of submissions, trying to balance a normal life around this obsessive hobby we share of making shit up and writing it down. Makes me feel like maybe I'm not as nuts as it sometimes seems.