Still at it…

September 26, 2018

Editing is not easy. I’ve never really looked forward to the task, no matter how large or small, but it’s something I do. Necessity is one of those annoying things in life, after all. But I don’t have to like it, and I don’t have to cruise through it.

So I’ve been trudging my way through The Third Tower, editing like a madman. Most chapters are no longer than five pages (double-spaced, natch), and you’d think I would get through one in no time at all.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong!

My first draft was sloppy, to say the least. While I’m happy and occasionally impressed with my writing abilities as I read through it, there are a lot of things that need tweaking. Excess words, oddly phrased sentences, and just plain grammatically incorrect bits and pieces.

But then there’s the rewriting. Cutting words like crazy (hey, I’ve killed many darlings in this, and haven’t batted an eyelash at it!), adding new sentences, extra description and stage directions, the like. But man oh man, is it frustrating when I spend more time re-reading the same paragraph that is clearly a little off, but I can’t quite figure out what the specific issue is.

I guess patience is a virtue? I can take a little bit longer to have a better written piece in the end, with less work and time spent from an outside editor. Of course, I’ll need to be able to pay for one…

Stories are still getting sent out. I’m not neglecting everything, but naturally not writing anything new. For once, I don’t feel an urge to stop editing so I can work on a new story, but it also worries me. Am I out of ideas? Or is my brain finally allowing myself to focus…

Whatever the case, I hope to be done soon. Here it is, September 26, so I’ll say it now: The Third Tower will be fully drafted a second time by October 1.

If not, well, just wait longer, I guess…

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So long to yet another one…

September 1, 2018

Well shit. Another one bites the dust. Space and Time Magazine, a science-fiction/fantasy/horror literary magazine, one of the best for over 50 years, has ceased publication. You can read the whole post here. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This is huge news to authors such as myself, but also to dozens (hopefully hundreds?) of readers looking for their next favorite short story.

I admit, I wasn’t totally familiar with the publication until just a few years ago. It wasn’t readily available like the “Big 3” on newsstands everywhere, but I did see it here and there, not to mention all the various namedrops throughout the industry.

What I’ve read, I liked. For a long time, it wasn’t open to public submissions, so I felt like an eager young scout, waiting for them to open the drawbridge and let me in. Last year or so, they finally did, allowing unsolicited submissions from everyone.

I never got accepted, and now I never will. It stings, in a way, knowing that as an author, I won’t be in their pages, but also as a reader, that I can’t enjoy it anymore. There’s still a few issues coming out, but once they’ve used up what they have, they’re done.

Naturally, it’s low readership, risings costs, and lack of time. I can understand, because every time I attempt to do any kind of publication (usually an anthology), I run into all of those problems as well. It takes money to make money, and it takes people to make a publication.  Do they say that? I’ll say that. There, I said it.

A part of me wants to be mad at people, myself included, for not supporting publications more. We are the ones responsible, after all, for the life or death of these things. But we can’t sit here and play the blame game. We move on, and figure out ways to keep this from happening again.

So all day yesterday after I read this news, I kept thinking about publishing short fiction. While there are still people out there who read it (myself included), there’s a lot more who write it (myself again). It feels like the audience is shrinking, while the production line is growing. Full-length books are the hotness right now, and it’s hard enough getting one of those guys out there.

I keep wondering, should I bother with short stories anymore? Maybe just post them here, for free, and worry more about long fiction? I’m still not making any progress on The Third Tower’s editing, but man oh man do I need to. Who knows? Maybe that will skyrocket to the top, and people will love it?

The other night I wrote a post about lack of motivation. Maybe I’ll get around to posting it, maybe not (I just never had a chance to unfortunately), but the point is, I’ve been exhausted and frustrated and have no energy to focus on potentially “making it.” However, reading about Space and Time, I feel strangely motivated to get my show back on the road, and get it all done so I can start working on the next one.

So anyway, support small press publications. Buy an issue, write a review, or recommend something to your friends! We all sit here and mewl about bad things happening, but never seem to do anything about it until it’s too late. Perhaps I’ll start doing a regular recommendation in all of my posts…

Get out there. Read! Support!! Enjoy!!!

Weekend Musings

August 11, 2018

Well, it’s Saturday. The weekend. Whoo hoo, and shit, right? Time for some margaritas and sleeping in. Or, in the case of an author, time to really put the nose to the grindstone and write, write, write!!!

Yeah, sure.

So here I am, stuck at work, because my job sucks. I work in an office, Monday through Friday, 7:30 to 4:00. I have to work every other Saturday, 8:00 to Noon. Since I do about four hours of actual work throughout the week, it leaves me plenty of time to “work on writing” and other activities. Mostly checking Facebook, sifting through ebay, and staring at the wall.

See, I’ve hit a slump lately. Aside from spending the last two weeks sick as hell and feeling beyond miserable—seriously, I haven’t wanted to do anything but curl up under a blanket and stare out the window—I’ve just felt…despair. Not at life in general (I always do that no matter what), but at my writing.

As I’ve said, on July 1st I started my big edit of The Third Tower. I did, too! I trudged through the first twenty chapters of the book, and felt very satisfied when I finished them. But I didn’t want to go any further, and haven’t wanted to, either. I keep wanting to write or edit other stories, but if I have an idea, I don’t want to start it, and I don’t want to clear the time to edit.

The problem? I often give my wife stories and chapters to have her check them out. She’s a voracious reader—seriously, she logs about 100 books a year, if not more. She knows the written word. She doesn’t read like an editor or another writer, but someone who loves stories. So I gave her the first two chapters to read, and see if she had any thoughts on them.

I got a shrug.

I haven’t tried to get her to elaborate, but I feel like that shrug told me it was just…meh. Not bad, but not great. Not the type of opening chapters that will make her want to come back for more, to keep reading until 3 am, and to eagerly await the next book in the inevitable trilogy.

So why should I continue? Why bother? Will someone else like the book, or will everyone give me the shrug? Is this yet another work of mine that I spent more than enough blood, sweat and (yes) tears on, that will ultimately end up in the “who gives a shit” bin?

Are my ideas really that bad?

So I’m in a bit of a slump. I want to finish it, but I don’t want to waste the time. I want to write other stories, but if no one’s going to read them, why bother? I have lots more to edit, but if no editors want them, why not do something else?

I’ll be over this soon. Probably once I sit down and start working on something. But that niggling little voice in the back of my mind keeps asking me the same thing, over and over: Is it really worth it?

I have been giving serious consideration to publishing something, and not just my own stuff. I really want to do a sword and sorcery anthology, and a science fiction antho as well. First, I need someone to fund the whole thing. Anyone got $5000 laying around with nothing to spend it on? Thanks, I’ll take it!

More positively, I’m eagerly anticipating my story “Sunday Evening” for publication in Broadswords and Blasters. It won’t be out for a few more months, but seriously, check that publication out! They are awesome, and have some great stories. No joke, I’ve been a longtime reader and fan before they even accepted my story. Please, support the arts!

I’m Still Here

August 1, 2018

I’ve been conspicuously absent for some time. Or haven’t you noticed?

I assure you, I’m okay. Fighting illness (just a cold, albeit one lasting several days longer than I’m used to…), but okay. I’ve been meaning to stop in and say hi, catch you all up, and do the usual, but just…haven’t.

So here it is, August 1st, and I’ve gone more than two whole months without blogging! Lazy! Apathetic! Callous! Shallow! Well, maybe not ALL that, but yeah, lazy at least.

I vowed back in June that no matter what I was working on, no matter what I had to do, I would begin editing The Third Tower as of July 1st. I held true to my promise! I started right away, and got into it when I had the chance.

And boy, has it been a go.

I’m literally one-third of the way through it, and it’s been a month! How?! It’s just so…tiring. I don’t know, I’m bumping into several issues, but I’m still working on it. I guess I just have to power through it. And I will, of course, but sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to do it, no matter how much you want to.

I have story ideas, and I’m eager to get working on two different novels. I’m looking into several different contests, and of course Star Wars Destiny has a new set and lots of tournaments right now. Oh, and I’ve been sick as hell (that really feels like it’s been going on for way too long).

I think I’ll go get a flat white tonight. Maybe I’ll vacuum my car. Maybe I’ll take a walk, go pet some dogs in the neighborhood.

Case in point: I’m alive. I’m here. And I’m working on it.

All of it.

Pulp, Extra Thick

May 26, 2018

Once again, the email chime on my phone went off today. Let’s be honest, I don’t get a lot of email aside from the typical mailing lists I’m on. So when I hear that chime in the middle of the day, I get excited. Even when I see the return address of a publication and my cynicism takes over and I’m fairly certain that it’ll be a big fat no, I’m still excited.

That happened today. And it was from a publication!

Broadswords and Blasters. A magazine I’ve enjoyed since the beginning. A magazine I’d love to be published in. They’ve rejected multiple stories of mine. The most recent I sent just on a whim, not really expecting anything big. Boy, was I wrong.

They said yes! I’m happy, I’m excited, I’m still a little incredulous. I’ve been working my ass off on stories all week long—editing, fine-toothing, and sending them out. A lot of my hobbies and fun activities, like painting for instance, I’ve put aside. I’m going nuts loving this, having a great time getting these finalized and ready for publication, all building up to two major undertakings to begin this summer—editing The Third Tower, and something…else. (Gee, I wonder what?)

But it’s all been worth it. Broadswords and Blasters. Check it out. You won’t regret it. And when my story, “Sunday Evening” is a part of it, you’ll be even happier.

I know I am.

(To be honest, I wrote this earlier in the week, but I don’t think specific dates and times matter. I’m super excited!)

((Also–went and saw Solo: A Star Wars Story last night. Great movie! And there was a jaw-dropping cameo near the end, like holy shit! Truly was awesome, and I strongly recommend you check it out.)

Proud to be proud?

May 19, 2018

An old friend of mine has recently self-published a book, magazine, supplement thing. It’s designed for a role-playing game, Dungeon Crawl Classics. You should check it out if you’re into rpg’s and weird stuff. It’s a pretty good looking pub.

Old fashioned role playing goodness!

I truly mean it when I hope he has better luck with self-publishing than I did—looks like he’s going into a second printing, so that’s good! I’ve posted stories for free, a novel which is going to be free very soon, and haven’t had many hits. I mean, selling a book for $1.99? Way too expensive! The short stories available for free? Not faring much better either.

Self-publishing is a very risky market these days. At one point in time, it would have been a potential for big money, and newfound popularity. There of course is the tale of the author who self-published on Amazon and sold 250,000 copies of her book. And who can forget Andy Weir with The Martian, a free download that found a publisher, made a fortune, and became one of the most popular movies of our time?

When all of it comes together, I see it as a matter of pride. My friend’s brother commented on Facebook that he’s proud of him for his accomplishment. Trust me, even self-publishing all the way to the end is an accomplishment. Especially when you’re the only one doing literally all of the work! I’m proud too, and he should be as well.

Pride is one of those tricky subjects, especially on the internet. I’ve seen people snap at straight people, white people, and basically anyone who has never had major issues in their life who claim to be proud by one of those things. It’s understandable—gays, for instance, have been held down and treated like shit for a long, long time, and unfortunately still are. Be proud of coming out, of not taking the shit that people feel the need to give you! Why should a straight person be proud? They’ve never dealt with it.

And so on and so forth.

But finishing a big project, going from start to finish, and even having a bit of success? That’s something to be proud of. When publishers, agents, and even the people who would buy something say no, over and over again, you held your head up and kept on with it. So what if you have to do it yourself? You did it, and no one can take that away from you.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of that. And it’s good to be proud of someone else for doing that. Think how many people would have given up, or actually did give up? How many people get halfway through something and find something better to do? I know I’m guilty as hell of that!

And you know what else? It’s an awesome shot in the arm to know that someone is proud of you. It lets you know that you can keep going, and that there are indeed people who care, and want to see you succeed. It’s something I wish I’ve had.

My parents never told me they were proud. Any time I talked about writing, they laughed, put me down, or asked when I’m getting published so they could have money. Thanks a lot! No one in my family ever cared, and God forbid my friends ever let me know they gave a shit. All the people I gave a free copy of In the Pale Moonlight to never read it, or at least never let me know they did. I was hoping for some reviews, but I guess they forgot about that part.

It takes a lot away. I often write on this blog, and spend a lot more time thinking about it, but I wonder why I do this. If no one cares, the people I want to care and the people I need to care, why bother?

Because I love it. And I’m going to keep doing it, whether anyone cares or not. But, it’d be nice to have someone care. I guess I’ll just have to keep plowing through and see what happens.

I could sit here and moan and groan all day, but it’s beautiful out, and I’ve got a park to go to with a book in my hand.

(Totally unrelated side note, but the Royal Wedding was earlier today. I’m happy to see how awesome it was, and how happy it’s making people. Just one of those great things that makes me smile in spite of all the horrible shit going on in the world today. Slainte to you both!)

Yesterday I had a really cool announcement on my Facebook page. I had 50 likes! This was a big deal to me, since almost all the likes/followers there are my friends. Some are others who have worked with in writing, actually read my stuff, or found me some other way.

You’re probably thinking that 50 likes is no big deal. Sure, to some people. But I was elated. That’s a magic number!

I wrote a little status update and everything. And within a few hours, I was back to 49.

Seriously? Did my new like decide they didn’t want to be associated with me? Did someone else make that choice? Or did some wiseass think, hey this’ll be funny! Let’s ruin his happiness!

Whatever the case, it was nice for a moment. It was nice to feel like somebody, and it was nice to know that there’s people out there.

I like knowing that.

I’m no Monster

April 28, 2018

Yesterday at work, I saw a rat. A real, live, living breathing rat. Keep in mind this is a rare thing for me. Growing up and living most of my life in the suburbs and clean, well-kempt apartments, I’m not accustomed to seeing these things outside of the zoo or on cartoons. Toledo isn’t a trash dump, so we don’t have a bunch of them running around like so many other big cities.

Instead of the revulsion and contempt I typically feel for vermin, I learned something about myself that I’d always suspected.

Let me start at the start…

I work in an office, yes, but there’s a warehouse as well. My office is small and tucked away in the back corner of the building. To get to the bigger, cleaner, more luxuriant office, you have to cross through the warehouse. Freezing in winter and humid as all get-out in summer, it’s filthy, dirty, dark, and the type of place you would expect to find all sorts of critters. Some of the spiders I’ve seen in there, whoo boy…

So last autumn, one of my coworkers mentions something about a rat. A rat the size of a puppy, like a big monster. Other eyewitness accounts agree, so I’m scared shitless of some massive monster jumping out at me, biting me, spreading the bubonic plague, and running off to gleefully find its next victim.

I’ve never seen it. I’m not sad about this.

Anyway, yesterday, I’m walking to my office. I heard something scratching, something rustling. There is a mini dumpster in the warehouse for all of our myriad waste products. It sits right next to a storage area for cabinets that haven’t gone out to their respective customers yet. I figured it was a driver pulling a load to take to his next location, so I kept my talking to myself at a minimum.

Then I realized I was alone. Who was making the noise?!

I tiptoed around the dumpster. Surely, it was a rat. Not just any rat, though. THE rat. Rattus Maximus. A fully-evolved Pokémon ready to hypnotize me and feast on my delicious innards. Holy fuck what is it?!?!?!

Ever the brave little pirate, I leaned forward to look into the dumpster (it’s about 4 feet tall). Amidst boxes and papers, I saw it…

The most adorable little rat ever.

Okay, it wasn’t little. Pretty big, actually. Not the mammoth, though. Unless my coworkers are the biggest bunch of pansies I’ve ever met, there is no possible way that is THE rat.

Its little rat face was so cute. It had a long tail, little ears, whiskers, a twitchy nose…and it just wanted out of its prison. I just wanted to reach in, grab it, and snuggle with it all day.

Then I realized it’ll definitely bite me. It’s got to be crawling with disease and germs. It’s not a pet, it’s a fucking rat!

Still, I could set it free. But how?

I headed back to the office, scared that not only would one of the sadistic warehouse workers try their hardest to kill it, they wouldn’t care about it. The poor little rat was going to die!

Other coworkers told me it would be fine. “Trust me” they’d say, “we get tons of rats in here. They’ll find a way.” Thanks, Professor Malcom, life always does find a way, right?

I realized that they’d dump that trash into the big dumpster outside, where the poor guy could either get free very easily, or certainly find a good meal. I felt better when I remembered that.

So I’m not the vermin hating asshole I once thought. I have sympathy for cute little animal friends…how could I ever wish anything bad for them? They’re just trying to survive, to live, to get married and have babies and live with a white picket fence, just like all the other rats out there.

And plus, it’s a warehouse. What do you freakin’ expect?!

But I still stand firm on my anti-ant and bee stance. Hate those fuckers.

All Good Things…

April 25, 2018

I’ve been updating my Goodreads page like crazy lately. Not sure why, but I feel like reaching deep into my brain to remember every book I’ve ever read, just so I can catalogue it. I guess that’s what we do, make lists and go back and read them. Because why not?

Today, I wrote a few, including one for the novelization of All Good Things, which I’m sure you know, was the series finale for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know this review won’t ring true with many people, and I’m sure most won’t even give a shit. I just really wanted to repost it here, because I enjoyed the story within.

So…enjoy!

As I write this, Easter was just three weeks ago. For some reason, this particular Easter, a particular memory of another particular Easter sprang to mind. I don’t know why, but I had a good laugh with my dear old mom about it.
So. It’s Saturday night, April 15th, 1995. Easter Eve. My parents and I went out for the evening, like we so often did. I was a freshman in high school, not wanting to be out with Mom and Dad, but I knew that not only would we go to dinner at a restaurant (probably Applebee’s or some other sports bar/family type place that had popped up all of a sudden in Toledo all over the place at the time), we would go shopping afterward. I always had a book or CD to buy (remember CD’s?!), so for a 14 year old kid who couldn’t drive and lived in a tiny suburb where the best I could hope for was the grocery store (long before the days of “grocery stores” having billions of items other than just food), I eagerly tagged along.
Anyway, we went to Target after eating, just perusing the aisles. Under the impression that my mom had already finished her Easter shopping (more than just candy, she love to get all sorts of crap for us and everyone else in the extended family), I figured we were just doing whatever we could.
In the book section, I found the novelization of the movie Stargate, and the novelization of All Good Things, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s series finale that had aired almost a year prior. I was big into licesened properties, namely Star Trek, but also into movie novelizations for some reason. I really don’t know why, but that was my jam at the time.
So I’m carrying these two books with me, and my parents find me. Mom asks what I’ve got, so I show her the books. She took them and put them in her cart, and I just didn’t think about it. By the time we left, she had paid for them.
I didn’t complain, because hey, free books. Not thinking, I didn’t ask for the books when we got home. Chances are, I had been in the middle of another book at the time, and didn’t feel the need to horde these on my already overstuffed bookcase.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, our parents woke us up to find our Easter baskets. You read that right–my at 14, my brother at 16, and my sister home from college at 19, were woken up early on a Sunday morning to find hidden Easter baskets. Adorable.
Oh yeah, the book itself.
I liked it. There was a lot more in the story than they could show on the television episode. I loved how characters that were somewhat prominent on the series but hadn’t been seen for a while appeared, some getting a send-off, others just kind of…there.
To be honest, All Good Things wasn’t the finale it could have been, and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that we knew Star Trek Generations was coming out six months after the episode. It wasn’t like the last time we’d ever see these characters, although it did have a good, heartwarming feeling to it.
That said, the book to me was a bit of a tease, even though I had already seen the show and the movie. I read it expecting a big, hearty GOODBYE, LOYAL FANS! from all the characters, especially those tertiary characters like Dr. Pulaski, Wesley Crusher, and several others, but instead, it ended just like the show, fully prepared to usher us into Generations, and the next couple of movies.
Regardless, I enjoyed this. Maybe it was the memory of how I came to own the book, or maybe it was the nice, warm spring of 1995, a perfect end to a terrible freshmen year of high school, or maybe even something else I can’t seem to recall at this moment.
TL;DR:
Good book. Great series. Happy Easter.

Help Me Help You

April 21, 2018

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed a sheer lack of respect, or even consideration, for other people. I know that can be a pretty broad statement, but several things have really stuck with me and it’s bugging me beyond belief.

At work (yes, I still have a day job unfortunately…) on Wednesday, we had a customer appreciation day. It was busy, and a lot of our regular customers were there. While they were slappin’ high fives and hugging the other employees, they barely brushed my hand instead of shaking it, didn’t look me in the eye, and walked on by. These are the people that ask for specific employees on the phone just to ask if something is in stock, as if I’m so stupid I can’t do it myself.

Did I do something to piss them off? Do they just not adapt to change? I mean, I’ve been there for two years!

So yesterday I took one of these guys’ order. He was patient while I was checking the computer for a specific item that we never sell. I found it, printed out his claim slip, and he made some comment about how I don’t cut him a deal like everyone else. Look, prices are prices, so sorry I don’t break the rules and take money off for a customer we only see once a week, if that.

What do these people expect? I know it’s a competitive market out there, but seriously…I didn’t personally decide to screw you over.

Last night, I’m at a fast food place. The employees clearly don’t want to be there doing their jobs. So a lot of customers were receiving food made incorrectly, waiting way too long, and not even getting the right things they ordered. When someone finally asked to talk to the manager, they had to wait for the lady to come out of her office, grumbling about it, and deal with the problem that never should have happened.

7 PM on a Friday is a busy time at any restaurant. They signed up for this job, and sure, people are allowed to have a bad day. But how hard is it, really? Just to listen, take an order, read it back, and give someone their receipt—none of these things happened!

This week, I won a few ebay auctions. All from the same seller, so I paid right away and eagerly awaited my shipment. It arrived today! I still don’t have positive feedback—why? Oh, that’s right, they’re waiting for my feedback to determine what they say about me. Not how it works, folks, but what do you care? Well guess what else—one of the items is wrong!

I am totally forgiving on this. Of all the auctions that person was running, every item was in the same packaging, and from the same product line (miniatures, of course). But still, were they in that much of a hurry that they couldn’t read a few simple words on the package?

I emailed, and hopefully will get a response today. Not to be cynical, but I highly doubt it. (I also requested positive feedback, so we’ll see how that goes.)

Why do I make mention of this? Well, I’m just sick of people not fulfilling their end of the bargain. I’m sick of people acting like no one else matters but them. What ever happened to working together? What about banding together in face of all the horrible things going on in the world today?

Yep, I’m going to relate this to the struggle of a writer. Behold.

Back in November, I submitted a story to a fairly large publication. They pay well, and have a large readership. More than that, their website is phenomenal. I mean really, how many online magazines have shitty websites? It really detracts from the experience.

But I digress. On January 28th, I received an email from them. My story is being held for the next round of scrutinizing! That’s awesome—it might get published in that magazine! Happy me.

The big thing to remember with this was that it might take up to three months to hear back. 90 days. That would be on or around April 28th, would it not? Sorry, I suck at math, but let’s go with that. And isn’t April 28th a week from today?

I still haven’t heard from them. I honestly don’t think I will.

Their submission guidelines basically say not to contact them unless they have said to do so. If they’re not interested, and they don’t say this directly, but pretty much, they won’t get back to you.

There are a metric ton of publications like this. I’m not kidding—ask any writer.

Rude. Irritating. And a definitely lack of respect for their writers. Look, you made us wait all this time, and you’re not going to give us the common decency to let us know you don’t want our stories? Fine, we’ll just let other people know how you treat hard working writers, and that it might not be worth their time an effort to submit to you.

Petty? Sure. Immature? Of course. But at least I’m helping others. And it’s more than I can say for a lot of these publications. Because I care about more than just myself—I care about helping others, and making sure they know what they’re getting into.

Because if not for others to help, how would we get along in this world? Not very well, and that’s what frightens me the most.