Autumn Is Coming


Just got word from Mike Davis that my story "Cul Du-Sac Virus" is going to be included in his Autumn Cthulhu anthology. As an avowed lover of Autumn (there really is no better season) I'm both honored and excited to have one of my stories among the leaves.

 

 

 

 

Saturday
Mar162013

Are You One Of Me?

    Writers write, and writers write about writing. I'm not conceited enough to believe that I could tell you anything about the craft that someone else hasn't already said better. In every sense, I'm still at the beginning of my "career," hoping I'll succeed against mountains of evidence to the contrary.

    I could wallpaper my apartment with form rejections.

    If you're one of me, writing is a manic-depressive endeavor. There are periods of nervous joy--like when you receive word that one of your stories is being held, or when you're neck deep in a draft and everything just seems to click. But the majority of time is a literary slog, forcing yourself to the keyboard again and again while narratives unravel before your eyes and rejections hammer your ego to pulp. This is all done with the understanding that it may be years or even decades (if ever) before your story sees print. For me, the question is often not what to write, but how to keep writing.

    I have a lot to learn about the craft, but I like to think I have a handle on rejection. In the years I've spent collecting little slips of paper and terse form-emails, I've developed some techniques to inoculate myself against inevitable disappointment. These strategies have helped me to keep my fingers on the keys and my eyes on the monitor. If you're one of me, I hope they help you as well.

 1) Celebrate Failure: If you're one of me, you write not only for the joy of it, but also the rush of excitement (or relief) when an editor decides he or she likes a story enough to include it in their publication. Success is its own reward.

    But what about all the other times?

    I've found it's better to view rejections not as failures, but as evidence that I'm doing exactly what I should be. Every ten rejections, I give myself a little reward--a doughnut with breakfast, skipping a workout to watch TV or play video games, a beer with friends--whatever, you know what you like. Every hundredth rejection equates to larger reward--dinner at a nice restaurant, purchasing a book I've had my eye on, a lazy Sunday of Xbox--again, it's up to you. The trick is to incentivize yourself for continuing to write and submit--because that's the only thing you can control.

2) Turnaround is Key: If you're one of me, it's hard not to get angry and depressed when you get a story back, especially one that you think is perfect for the market you sent it to. You tried not to get your hopes up, but all the cool calculation in the world isn't going to trump that fluttery, expectant feeling you get whenever an editor holds your story a microsecond longer than the rest. You let yourself dream, you're a writer, you can't help it, and that makes the rejection all the worse. So what now?

    Don't sit on it. Getting your work back on the market takes a lot of the sting out of rejection. You didn't send the story out because you felt it wasn't ready for publication, right? In the absence of any editor critique, there's no need to second-guess yourself. By all means, read the thing over once or twice and tighten up the prose, but don't think for a moment just because your story didn't make the cut there's something wrong with it. Get it back out there! I promise you'll feel better.

 3) There's No Such Thing as Slumming: If you're one of me, you get rejected by pro markets constantly. Never underestimate the power of seeing your work in print. There's a pernicious assumption in the genre community that anything below semi-pro rates doesn't really count as publication. I prefer to take a broader view: if your work goes before an editor and he or she accepts it for print, it's a publication. It doesn't matter if you receive a "token" payment or even no payment, as long as you didn't pay for the privilege you should be proud of yourself. While your goal should always be the "pro" markets, a little encouragement goes a long way, and nothing is more encouraging seeing you own work in print.

 4) Be the Author: If you're one of me, you're shy about self-promotion and scared of coming off as pathetic or condescending with other authors. Go to conventions, attend panels and workshops, make friends, and get a taste of what it's like. I started visiting conventions long before I published my first story. I was worried that everyone would know I wasn't a real author, but no one ever asked me where I was published. Rather, the most common question was: "What do you write?"

   It's a rare author who doesn't like to talk about writing, especially with someone who's interested in their work. You'll also meet other up-and-comers (like yourself), and most likely make some good contacts in the process. If you're earnest and friendly, you can't go far wrong. I never feel so good about my prospects as a writer or more full of ideas then when I come back from a convention. If you're nervous, start small and work your way up to the bigger ones.

 5) Don't Compare: If you're one of me, you get a little green-eyed reading facebook updates from your friends and colleagues touting their newest publications. Just don't do it. There are always going to be more successful writers than you, and there are always going to be less successful ones.

    If you're one of me, you got into writing not only because you read something beautiful and thought: "Damn, I want to do this," but also because you read something horrible and thought: "Damn, I can do better than this." Art is subjective. The only person you should be comparing your work to is the only one that matters: your past self. Seriously, that guy/girl couldn't spin a metaphor to save his/her life. You're a way better writer than he/she was…and you always will be.   

6) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: If you're one of me, you may be tempted to focus on your own work to the exclusion of everything else. Don't just read fiction, buy it. Publishing is a zero-sum game, there are only a certain number of markets with a certain number of publications, but this number can grow, making more room for your work. If you're published, don't just promote yourself, toss everything into the mix. If you read a good story or novel, get the word out, loan it to your friends and family. At the very least you feel good about sharing something you love, and maybe, just maybe you'll make a fan for life.

 

    As John Scalzi puts it: "The hardest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair." It isn't always going to be easy, in fact, it's going to most likely be very hard…forever. These are the things that work for me, but I'm always looking for more insights. I'd very much like to hear what you do when plots slip through your fingers and rejections choke your hopes like a gutter full of wet leaves. Remember, you're not in this alone.

If you're one of me, I'm also one of you.        

 

Sunday
Dec022012

...And a Happy, Sepia-toned Holidays to You!

   Yes, it's cold outside (or at least it should be). Yes, it's dark when you go to work and when you come home. Yes, it makes you want to just curl up on the couch and watch entire seasons of Supernatural, Game of Thrones, or Breaking Bad until you feel you're about the most useless human being on the face of the earth...wow, that didn't quite end up like I expected it to. Sorry, you're not useless...I mean, you ended up here didn't you?

  What I meant to say was, you're going to be inside anyway, so at least try to enjoy it. And when you get so sick of your loved ones that you want to wrap your hands around their throats and squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze, why not escape into something other than the latest HBO mini-series? Wait, what am I saying, if you're reduced to reading this, you've probably watched just about all the television you can stomach.

   Well, here comes the pitch. There's a lot of free fiction out there, and some of it is very, very good. But if you're anything like me, it's not a lack of will that keeps you from reading, but a lack of time. Here's some ways to scratch your genre itch without spending too much time or money.

  • Daily Science Fiction: publishes a story every single damn day of the year, delivered right to your inbox. The topic run the gamut from traditional science fiction to outright fantasy and everything in between. In my experience, the stories tend to be character driven and relatively short (enough that you can devour one over breakfast, or lunch and still not be late for work). Also, it'll give you a good taste of a lot of flavors of genre fiction in small, easy to manage bites.
  • Escape, Castle, and Psuedo-pod: Who has time to read? Not you, that's for goddam sure. In fact, you probably stopped reading just--no time to explain, right? Here then, one small bite: Audio Fiction Download, for free. Listen to it at work, in the car, wherever the hell else you want. Again, for free.
  • Innsmouth Magazine and Lovecraft eZine: Both publish horror in the Lovecraftian vein (both Mythos and Weird Tales), and have (again, in my experience) a pretty damn good selection of stories for semi-pro zines. So, if you're the type of person who likes to draw the blinds closed and let the darkness press in from all around while you scare the shit out of yourself, well, you could do a lot worse than these two magazines. The Lovecraft eZine also does podcasts, so again, listen to the stories while you drive, or while you file, or while you update databases.

  So there you go. If that isn't enough to at least take the edge off...well, there's always another season of Trueblood or Law and Order:SVU, right?

Sunday
Sep302012

Waiting for October

            Context 25 was an absolute blast. I had the opportunity to sit on panels dealing with everything from Horror in non-traditional settings, to Historical Fantasy. My "Maps and Speculative Fiction" Seminar went over well (standing room only), and I got to meet a lot of really good people. In just a single day I debated the vagaries of High Fantasy magic systems with L.E. Modesitt Jr., tried to pin down the nature of Evil with Raven and Lain Bower,  talked publishing with Steven Saus, and waxed poetic about Njal's Saga with Steven Zimmer and Tim Esaias

It’s no secret Autumn has always been my favorite time of year, this year especially. By sheer chance, a couple of my stories are making their print debut in the near future.

"Twenty to Life in the Lonesome October," will appear in The Lovecraft eZine's Halloween issue. Written from the perspective of Frankenstien's Monster it follows his attempt to bring about the end of the world from behind bars in Newgate prison. Just judging from the table of contents alone, it looks like there are a lot of good stories in the mix. The issue's theme is Roger Zelazny's classic work A Night in the Lonesome October. If you haven't read it, I can't recommend it highly enough. But you don't have to take my word for it, ask Neil Gaiman, go ahead ask him.

"Dark Illusions," will appear in Stupefying Stories' October anthology. The story is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on vampires (as if there was any other way to write about them in the post-Twilight age). If you haven't heard of Stupefying Stories, you should give it a look. They e-publish (almost) monthly fiction anthologies, available for all manner of e-readers for less than three dollars. There's no better place for good, cheap fiction. 

Look for me next month as well in The Innsmouth Free Press, Mystic Signals, and maybe, just maybe War of the Words Press' Weird War. Ah, Autumn...

Sunday
Jul082012

...And So it Begins?

     The site is officially up and running, still bare-bones for now, but hopefully there will be a lot more to come.  If there's something you'd like to see, please feel free to contact me or comment below. Until then, I'm going to be e-puttering around, tweaking this and updating that, oh, and writing, always writing. 

     It's been a pretty busy month thus far. I just hit the halfway point in my, as of yet untitled, historical fantasy novel set in the late Edo period, and had two stories find homes--one with Chaosium's Mark of the Beast anthology, and the other with Mystic Signals Magazine.

     Weird War should also be out in print relatively soon. I've gotten a sneak peek at the cover and back jacket, and it looks great! Keep an eye out for it on Amazon some time in July or August...or September.

Page 1 ... 1 2 3 4 5