Time to hang it up?

March 9, 2017

This is one of those days where I keep asking myself, “What’s the point?”

For a very long time, I’ve loved writing. When I was a sophomore in high school, I started writing my own stories. My junior year, I made the decision to pursue a creative writing degree. I never looked back.

But let’s face it, there isn’t exactly a huge job market for that. Maybe I could have gone into television or comic books, but they’re not exactly markets you walk into. I’ve struggled at getting anyone’s attention, but it’s been very few and far between.

I’m 36 years old. In June, I’ll be 37. I’ve been actively pursuing the elusive published story for more than half of my life. Not much has come of it.

Sure, I’ve had a few stories accepted. Some even made money. $36 here or there, nothing to write home about. But it was a start, and it was acknowledgement.

It’s been too long since my last one. I’ve sent out a steady stream of short stories, flooding the market with them all at once. I get some very polite, well-written rejection letters that prove the editors have actually read the story. I’ve gotten some (most, actually) that tell me they took one look at my name and tossed it out right away.

Just a few weeks ago, I self-published my first novel. It was exciting! I put a lot of effort into it, especially considering I was 100% responsible for all of it. I’ve advertised in many different ways, begged “friends” to read and review, and spent countless hours promoting it.

I have sold exactly 1 copy.

You didn’t read that wrong. One. Uno. Solo. Ein. A, an, un, une. Okay, you get the point.

Don’t think I’m doing this just to make money. But how frustrating is it to have all those years of schooling, all those late nights of sending stories out, writing, editing, frying my eyeballs from staring at the screen too long, everything I’ve done…and I have one sale to show for it.

No reviews, no sample copies downloaded for free, no clicks on the ads, no likes on Facebook, no anything.

So why? Why should I continue? Why should I finish the short story I’ve been writing these past few days? Why finish the book I’m 3/4ths of the way through writing? Why edit the stack of stories I’ve been hanging onto?

I used to say it was because I love it. But lately, I don’t think I do. Lately, I don’t know what to think, other than to just give it up.

This morning before leaving for work, I checked my email as I usually do. Surprisingly/not surprisingly, there was an email from a publication regarding a story I recently submitted. I was happy! Specifically because it only took them five days to respond—that’s impressive!

Well, it was a rejection. No biggie, I’m so used to it that I don’t even flinch when someone tells me no. I mean, it’s not me or my writing, right? It’s the fact that they just don’t need it right now. Right? Right?

Right.

Anyway, I’m not trying to have a pity party for my rejection. I’m more upset at whom the email was addressed to.

Michale.

Not Michael. Michale.

I know, I know, it’s an easy mistake, especially when you’re typing fast. The peon that had the luxury of reading my story (or in this case, the cover letter and tossing it into the reject pile based on the unfamiliarity of my name alone) probably had a virtual stack of fifty stories he couldn’t care less about and wanted to get these emails sent out asap, the quicker the better.

Juxtaposing two letters in a name is not difficult. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. Everyone has. But for some reason, I can’t get it out of my mind that this guy simply did not care.

And that’s the problem. If these publications/editors/first readers would actually take the time to do their job and read these stories, all the while ignoring the cover letter and the name and everything else that is not specifically the story they are deciding whether or not to publish, maybe some yutz could remember to try, at least try, to spell my name correctly in the rush to get to a story written by someone they actually know.

Accidents happen. People make mistakes. Know what else they do? Pass over quality for a friend.

Food for thought, editors.

Addendum – I received another rejection this afternoon, long after writing this. They spelled my name correctly. Thank you!

Unprofessionalism

November 20, 2016

Unprofessional. It’s a word no one likes to hear, especially when directed at themselves. Well, some people get a kick out of it, but that’s usually a false reaction, fake laughter used to cover up the pain of the reality that someone has just dumped on them worse than The Rock giving Mankind all those chairshots way back in ’99.

Ahem. Anyway.

No one likes to hear it, and no one wants to believe it’s true. But there are times when even the most depraved, the most “lower-rung” people need to shout it out, and let someone know. Or sometimes, let something know.

Like a publication, perhaps.

Don’t get me wrong, professionalism is rampant in the publishing industry. I would certainly hope that no publication would go to “print” if it wasn’t up to snuff, but the people behind it can sure have some unprofessional behaviors.

Some really shitty unprofessional behaviors.

I understand I’m at their mercy. I send them a story in the hopes that not only are they going to publish it and help boost my career by however much more it can with the people that read their magazine, but also in hopes that they’ll hand me money. I get it. I don’t have a lot of room to complain.

So why do I have to sit and wait with my mouth shut when they break their promises?

A very major, very well known science-fiction publication currently has a story of mine for consideration in an upcoming issue. One thing I love about them is they have a monitoring system, where I can see the progress on the story. Is it simply received? Is it under review? Has it been rejected? I can see with my own eyes the answer to that question! Holy fuck the future kicks ass!

They tell us writers to wait about two weeks before we get an answer. In worst case scenarios, it could take upwards of three months! I get it—a popular mag like that, especially one that pays as well as it does, and they’ll definitely have a massive slush pile to get through. Even with twenty first readers working around the clock, I can believe that they’ll have a lengthy wait.

Well, it’s been almost four months. Guess what the status on my story is?

Received.

Fucking received. They haven’t even opened it up and read it yet! And guess what? If I email them and follow the progress from that moment on, I guarantee that within 24 hours the progress will go from under review to rejected. Then they’ll send me a form letter without an apology, and move on.

Because fuck me, right?

Because I’m just a flyspeck in the grand scheme of science fiction, and they know it.

Because they’re unprofessional.

I’m tempted to email, and have been for some time. Oh no, I won’t be asking about the progress of my story. I’ll be telling them to just forget about it. I know and they know, before even reading the story, that their answer is going to be no.

Cynical? Damn straight. Honest and realistic? You better believe it. Irritated and frustrated? Of course I am.

Look, I get it. I’m no one. I’m not a well-known author that they’d be honored to publish. My story might be good, it might even be great. But I have to be realistic here. They haven’t bothered to look at it yet, so why would they give a flying rat’s ass about it now?

The same goes for a lot of publications, too. They hold on to your story forever, only to give you the most basic rejection letter. Reading some of the editor’s blogs from these magazines, however, I can only come to the conclusion that they’re more interested in people paying attention to them and the crazy, goofy, nerdy hobbies that they partake in than the magazine they’ve signed on to edit.

Unprofessional.

If I were editing a project, something I plan to do in the future, I wouldn’t make it about me. It’d be about the hard working authors who submit their stories to it. It’d be about the stories themselves, not the lines I’ve broken just to add my voice into the chorus of mewling people hoping to change something that isn’t even in need of fixing. It’d be about the entertainment that you, the reader, gets out of it.

Not me.

But hey, I can’t change that. I’ve recently decided that since the few publications available to me aren’t even acknowledging my existence, I’ve got to move on from short stories. I’ve got to move on to finishing the big works, and getting them out there.

I’ve got to make this matter, and say fuck you to the unprofessional assholes who’ve tried to keep me down.

Now, you’re probably wondering, what if one of those magazines does accept my story? What if they do eventually get back to me? What if something really bad happened, like a bad injury/illness/death? I’ll accept that, but you know what? I hope they understand they just need to maintain their promises. I’ve learned that there are some people just not worth your time when it comes to these things, and I really hope that list doesn’t keep growing.

“Why not just self-publish, Myke? Only you are in your own way in that case.”

I did. Don’t you remember? Surely you downloaded or purchased one of my stories, and then left a nice review for it, right? Sure you did.

Just get over it, right? Just deal with it. No one wants to hear my bitching. I get it, sure I do. But don’t make a promise and then expect everyone to bend over and back away.

It’s a strange life I’ve chosen. I’ve gotten used to the let-downs, but trust me, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And that is professional on my behalf.

The worst kind

September 16, 2016

I have a story up for critique on an online workshop. I love it, because some of my best stuff has come from the help and guidance I receive on there.

There’s one kind of critique I can’t stand, however, and guess what? I just got one of them.

To be honest, I didn’t want to finish reading the critique. Not because it was negative or made me doubt my abilities as a writer, but because it was, well…shitty.

Some people out there just don’t “get it” when it comes to fiction. I mean seriously, fiction means fake, right? So why do people look for “grounded in reality” stories and question even the most basic tropes of science fiction or fantasy? There’s an alien over there! Well that doesn’t make sense because we’ve never had any proof of that happening.

Sometimes it’s even worse. How many times can I explain that something is glowing orange, and the very last reference to it you question it? Or the fact that yes, character A is driving and character B is in the passenger seat. Why is that such a big deal? They’re just talking!

Gah…

I hate to vent like this, but geez…if you’re that clueless, should you be critiquing stories?

Probably not. But then again, I probably shouldn’t let it get to me like this.

I’m glad I’m not a heavy drinker, because this would probably cause me to guzzle half a bottle of the hard stuff…

Left ashore

May 28, 2016

Sometimes, you can’t win them all.

That’s a mantra I’m all too familiar with. Not only do I get rejections left and right (or not at all, as many publications apparently don’t bother responding to people…), it’s just something that happens in life. But this has to do with writing, and I truly feel like a gigantic loser.

I’ve talked about 7th Sea before, how it was my favorite RPG and still to this day gives me inspiration for stories and all that fun stuff. And hey, they’re coming out with a new version this year!

As part of the whole spectacular new release, they put out a call for writing samples from fans. We had two prompts and had to give it our best shot at writing them. Of course I did! Why wouldn’t I?

Well, I didn’t get in. Not even a consolation email, nothing.

I feel like I truly suck at writing. Given the current state of interest in my published stuff (like 9Tales that no one gives a shit about) and the lack of interest in my submissions, it might be time for me to pack it in.

All that stuff I was planning on self publishing this summer is probably not happening anymore. New stories, books, whatever I had in mind to write, not happening either.

This is what failure looks like, people. Go ahead and laugh. I suck.

And yes I’ll probably get over this, it just feels like a major slap in the face and I’m pissed about it.

Accepted!/Unacceptable

December 13, 2015

First, the good news.

I’m getting a story published! Yay!

This is good, because things were not looking up for me. A story I’d been sending out for quite some time is finally getting published next July. Bards & Sages Quarterly will be doing the honors, so send your accolades/undying love to them. They are smart enough to see the light of day!

There are a lot of other publications I haven’t heard back from, though. The silence has a habit of killing me from time to time. I can’t expect to hear back right away, but obviously, you ask a question, you want an answer, right?

Sometimes, I’m grateful for the silence. On the one hand, not hearing from a publication/editor means that they might very well be giving my story some serious deliberations. On the other hand, it might mean they are way too busy/overloaded/disinterested to get back with me. When the estimated time for them to get back with me comes up, I have to wonder what’s up.

So last week, I had this new blog all ready to go. It was a very angry, namedropping rant that called out one publication in particular. I won’t say the name, but it’s uncanny how irritating this situation was.

I waited forever, gave them an extra week, and still hadn’t heard back. I wrote an email, very polite, and questioned them. The next day, I received this response:

Dear Michael,

Thank you for submitting “Valley of Iricia” to [Title redacted]: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy for consideration. Unfortunately, it does not meet our needs at this time.

Sincerely,
[Name redacted]
Submissions Editor, [Title redacted]: A Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy

So…you made me wait all that time for this? No apology? No, please pardon our long wait, we appreciate your understanding in this matter?

Sheesh.

Still, they win. They’re the ones giving out the money, and one voice (mine, unheeded apparently) isn’t going to do anything. I mean, there’s the slim glimmer of hope that somehow this gets back to them (and many, many other publications), which will in turn let them realize that maybe they need to be a little more compassionate. After all, us writers jump through so many hoops, make sure that not only is our story perfectly presented, but our cover email, the subject line, our name address and phone number and astrological sign are included, all that good stuff.

And then they send a “fuck you, jokes on you for wasting your time” email.

Hrmmmm…

I know I’m overreacting to this. It’s just irritating, and I shouldn’t ever expect anything. There’s that small part of you that just thinks it would be nice.

Hopefully, the future holds some better outcomes. Stay positive, and be happy for what there is.

The Reason?

May 7, 2015

I don’t know if this will actually “get through” to people, because chances are, people aren’t going to be reading this in a year or two. But still, I want to put this up for posterity.

Lately, I’ve been having no luck getting stories accepted for publication. Editors are either giving me the typical form rejection emails (thank you, by the way!), or comments on what they didn’t like about my stories. I hate that, because they usually either contradict themselves (very funny! our readers would love this! Um, then why didn’t you accept it?), or they put some random statement that tells me they didn’t actually read the story.

Anyway, I just realized today, the closer we come to the annual awards being presented, the more difficult it is to get an acceptance. Especially this year, 2015. Why?

The Sad Puppies. I’m not going into a big thing about this, and Puppygate as they call it, but it’s fucked with everything. Everything in the sci-fi/fantasy/speculative writing community has been thrown for a loop because a group of people bumrushed the gates and made their demands known. Some publishers and editors are so mad at this that they’ve withdrawn their nominations simply out of protest.

I applaud them for doing that. But I just wish that this wasn’t so frustrating for them. Why? Because then they could actually give themselves twenty minutes to sit down and seriously read submissions they are receiving. This includes mine!

Please, editors, first readers, publishers, whoever…if you are reading this, ignore the drama. Focus on what’s truly important: entertainment.

I know, I know…not all of my stories are awesome. And not every publication is going to want it. But it seems to me that a lot of them are passing up some great writing (including other authors I know, not just me) because, well, their mind is somewhere else.

Hey, no offense. Am I wrong? Sure, probably. But let’s face it, all I see is constant talk about this Puppygate BS and as an author, I’d prefer to see constant talk about new, exciting authors. As a reader, I’d prefer to see constant talk about new, exciting authors.

Let’s put this behind us. Move on. Publish new writing. Fuck the awards.

UPDATE: I will say, thanks for the support and advice, people of internetland. Someone reposted this on their blog and commented that I should self-publish. While I am looking into that for book-length writings, like, well…books that I write, short stories are another beast altogether. It is definitely something to look into, and if this hibbity-jibbity crap with the awards ruckus gets too out of hand, I have a feeling a lot more authors than just myself will look into that.