‘Tis the Season

December 4, 2018

Contests! Anthologies! Publications, open back up for business!

Tis the season, indeed. I love when I have more markets available to submit stories to, especially all at once. It gives me a nice, warm feeling of accomplishment when I send off a whole bunch of stories to a whole bunch of places.

Sadly, most—if not all—of them come back as rejections. It’s okay, because I know that it probably wasn’t  the right fit. Maybe they don’t like my style. Maybe they checked out this blog and disagreed with me. Maybe I’m just overthinking everything.

Whatever the case, I’m glad to see that business is booming. It also means that a lot of end of year collections, and the latest quarterlies have a new issue available! I love to read small press publications, and delight in reading the short stories and (sometimes) poems that are in them.

Nothing against poetry or poets! I wrote more than my fair share in high school and college, but boy did I ever get burned out on it. Every now and again I’ll come across a poem, however, that blows my mind. I love it, especially in a horror magazine!

Just scrolling through Facebook today, I noticed so many calls for submissions and reminders that things are open. Nothing resets the juicy encouragement factor of a writer than the promise of something you’ve wanted for so long actually, possibly, maybe really happening! My wife and I don’t have plans for tonight (other than washing that disgusting mountain of dishes in our sink, please kill me!), but we might just happen to head to our friendly local coffee shop and enjoy a nice latte while I work on many things at once.

It makes me think that I have too many things going on in my life outside of work and marriage. Star Wars Destiny, Warhammer Underworlds, hitting the gym to attempt to stay fit and healthy, and trying to keep my house from crumbling apart. I prioritize writing, definitely, but sometimes, I can’t manage to get more than a few minutes daily to write or edit (or think about it, or talk about it, or dream about it…).

Good news, though! The latest issue of Broadswords and Blasters, of which yours truly has a story in, will be published next month! We’ve been waiting a while for it, but it’s finally here! Check it out now:

Broadswords and Blasters–New Issue Coming Soon!

Anyway, just wanted to get something down. I’m excited and needed to talk about it! Hopefully all of you little sexies are doing well also!

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Walk That Artsy Walk

December 3, 2018

Saturday night, my wife and I went to my old high school to see my nephew in a performance of Legally Blonde, Jr: The Musical! As someone who not only supports the arts, but his family as well, I was excited to see him in the musical. It was his first performance like that, and as a kid who hasn’t been big into choir or plays, he actually had a decent part with a short singing piece as well. That’s great, because I know a lot of kids in that situation who would just end up in chorus.

It sparked a lot of thoughts and feelings seeing him, though. Nothing negative against my nephew, please keep in mind. He actually did good! I’m not just saying that as his childless uncle, but as someone who was in choir and musicals himself. Also, compared to a lot of those other kids…yeah, he was awesome.

So anyway, I keep thinking about when I was his age (12), and how little confidence I had in myself. I never really thought about it at the time, but there were so many factors that led to it. My parents, of course, constantly putting me down, immediately laughing when I said I wanted to sing a solo, instilling fear into me when I mentioned getting in front of a crowd and making me belive that everyone was going to laugh at miniscule things. After all, they sure loved commenting on every minor thing whenever someone spoke in church or at a performance. So perfect, my parents were!

Yeah, right. No one is perfect, but when you’re attacked on all sides and can’t get out of your head that you’ll never be good enough, in addition to the fact that your choir directors and play directors have their little pets that they give all the good parts to, it makes you feel like theater and singing isn’t your strong point.

Hey, maybe I wasn’t a great singer. I mean, I never really did get good parts, and I had one solo my entire time in high school—at graduation, and that was because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. But it wasn’t just that, it was lack of encouragement.

That’s the other thing that’s been weighing heavily on me. I like acting in plays, but none of the directors, my parents, siblings, friends, NO ONE ever mentioned acting classes. No one mentioned auditioning for local playshops, or anything like that. They didn’t even advertise those local productions at our school!

How was I supposed to know about it? Because I wasn’t “in” with anyone.

My last few years of high school, I got big into playing bass guitar. I wanted to be in a band, but I also wanted to be a studio musician, I wanted to play on a cruise ship, I just wanted…something.

I asked my choir director, even the guy I was taking private lessons from, and neither gave me encouragement. Neither said anything about what I should learn, how I should set priorities for myself, none said to practice for at least an hour every day, even if it’s just scales…nothing.

Sure, I could have done this on my own. But if no one else cares, why should I? That was how I felt, directionless and hopeless.

So I got over it. I moved on. (Yes, I know I’m writing about it but I truly am over it. I’ll always hold onto those memories and do everything I can to move past it and be better than I once was, but they’re not going anywhere.) Should I have continued with playing bass? Taking voice lessons? Auditioning for plays despite knowing I’d never get a good part outside of chorus? If someone had just said, very calmly and not accusatorily, “If you start small, like in the chorus or with one or two lines, you’ll eventually build your way up to something bigger. Don’t expect the best parts right away, even if other kids get those. Some people have that natural thing about them, while others have to work for it. Put in your time, and it’ll be even more rewarding,” then maybe I would have continued. No one ever did that. Sure, I should have known, but without encouragement, why would I want to continue. Don’t miss the opportunity to encourage others who show some spark of an interest in something.

I always hear people say to support the arts, support your local scene, support this and that and everything else and all that happy horseshit. But you know what? I don’t see them actually doing it. Sure, it’s easy to go on Facebook or Twitter and talk a big game, but when it’s time to put your money where your mouth it, can you do it? Have you bought a small press publication? Did you go see your friend’s band? Sit through the entirety of your nephew’s terrible junior high musical?

Support your children, siblings, nieces and nephews, parents, cousins, friends, neighbors, anyone. If someone shows interest in something, encourage them to pursue it, don’t be an asshole like some peoples’ fathers and laugh at them or criticize them mercilessly to the point where they feel like garbage. Help them understand that practice makes perfect, and that some things are worth spending a little extra time on. If they seem clueless about how to proceed with something, give them advice, point them in the right direction, or just sit and listen to them express their interest. Every little bit helps, even if you don’t care. People didn’t listen to you? Well, two wrongs don’t make a right, so don’t stifle someone’s creativity just because you never had that chance.

If you’re not careful, that chance for someone else might end with you.

Finished 2.0

November 11, 2018

(Note: I wrote this Thursday, and today is Sunday. I never had a chance to get this posted and finalized, so my apologies on the lateness. Also, it just goes to show how crappy I am with deadlines. I really need to work on that, and maybe consider another blog about it!)

Last night, it happened. After four months of procrastinating and yammering on and on about it, I finally sat down and finished my major edit, my second draft if you will, of The Third Tower. I only had two chapters remaining, yet for some reason, I wouldn’t do it.

A big part of it was due to time. I know, I know, a real writer prioritizes writing above all. Unfortunately, life happens and it’s not necessarily possible to sit down and focus. But this isn’t the time to split hairs and point fingers—it’s done!

It’s funny because a week prior–Halloween, in fact–I had this feeling of dread. Not that the Devil was going to come and kill me or whatever it is they think happens unless I give small children crappy candy, but for this novel. I had a very small number of chapters left to edit, and felt that I had to get them done without question. I hurried over to Biggby and goofed off for a while (actually paying bills) before I finally buckled down and did all of two chapters.

But I did them! And I felt great. I also felt like shit because I had hoped to get everything done, not just two. Still, it was an effort, and every little bit helped. If I had stayed at home and gave kids candy, none of that would be done. So, to all the neighborhood kids (and the kids from other crappy neighborhoods that don’t give out anything other than grief), I apologize that you were cheated of one single Twizzler or Jolly Rancher. I genuinely hope that your holiday and subsequently your life haven’t been ruined all thanks to me. Just know that I had important business to attend to, and I can gleefully write this blog knowing that my major task is completed.

Now, I have time to do all sorts of other stuff I’ve wanted to do. Not outside of writing; I’ve been doing all that all along (like the newest expansion for Star Wars Destiny: Across the Galaxy–a great set of cards!). No, I mean writing-wise. I’ve got story ideas. I have my next novel to work on. There’s even a webcomic I’m dabbling with. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get into assignment writing?

Years and years of repressed and ignored feelings have been surfacing, though. I’m not sure why, but all of a sudden, these past few months, I feel like everything is imploding on me. Fortunately, I’m able to see signs and I know to get the help I need. Not everyone has a support system, unfortunately, and not everyone is able to see that something is wrong—they just accept it for what is, and live with it until the worst happens.

I’m actually happy I’ve noticed this. I feel like writing, like I have so much to say—not just on the topic of my own mental health, but just in general. I don’t feel like a simple idea is a bad one. I don’t feel like I’m wasting time by writing basic stuff, stories and shorts that don’t accomplish much of anything. Somehow, making an appointment with a therapist has liberated me, and I don’t want to allow myself to be constrained by what I think or assume might be a dumb idea.

As many times as I say I’m excited for the future, nothing much comes of it. This time, I’m not sure anything different will happen. What I do know, however, is that I won’t be so depressed and negative about it anymore. Like I said earlier, life happens, and in some odd way, I’m okay with that.

Now, in addition to working on all of these new stories and edits, I’ve got to find a professional editor. Anyone know someone good, but inexpensive?

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…

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.