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!

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!)

If I Could Be Serious…

February 17, 2018

Things I’ve Learned While Painting

Part II: No Joking Matter

I don’t want to pick on Games Workshop, but since that was the miniatures company that I spent most of my time following, it might seem like it. I’m not attacking them, in fact what I’m about to talk about has been addressed by them many times. There are other companies that have done this as well, too, so there’s that.

The overall theme, feeling, and design of Warhammer 40K used to be fairly tongue in cheek. It was a serious game, no doubt, but there was still a lot of goofy stuff. Squats, for instance, were humans who colonized a low gravity world and turned into “space dwarfs” and worked as miners (hmm, sound familiar?) and their main mode of battle transportation was with motorcycles. It had the possibility to be really badass, but ended up looking rather silly.

Chaos had Noise Marines (still does, actually). They played electric guitars that fired sonic blasts at the enemy. Now they’re just some type of gun. Orks were kooky and big ol’ dummies. The list goes on.

And that’s just the storyline stuff.

While a lot of effort went into the sculpting of the miniatures, there was a more cartoony aspect to them. Compare something from 20 years ago to now. It’s sharper, more defined and detailed (hey, like my last post said!), and just a lot more serious. Other companies did this too; look up galleries online of old fantasy miniatures and you’ll see quality and craftsmanship that pales in comparison to what’s out there now.

I feel proud to paint and put together miniatures that were well thought out and crafted. I know that when I give it my best and put 100% into it, they’re getting the return investment they put into it as well (not to mention the money I paid…). Seeing something that is super duper sculpted with a shitty, breezy paint job, it just feels…wrong somehow.

And hey, that’s how it is with writing. I’ve always taken it seriously, but I put more time into it now. I take the outline, writing, editing and even submission process very seriously. Compared to how I did it ten years ago, I feel like a true professional (despite not getting professional pay rates!).

I might write something for fun here and there, but I’m not joking around with stories either. I want this to be something that in five, ten, or whatever years I’ll be proud to pull out and say “I wrote this.” Not something that’s laughable and cute for the time I wrote it in.

It’s not rocket science. Take things a little more seriously, put a little bit more effort into it, and you’ll see better results. Not only from yourself, but others as well. The difference between five minutes can lead to a lifetime of good results, and that’s what I’m happy to have learned, even from painting a little plastic figurine.

The Finest of Details

February 13, 2018

Things I’ve Learned Painting Miniatures

Part I: Details Keep Getting Finer

Way back in 1996 when I started painting, I was 16 and timid. Having very little artistic ability, I couldn’t imagine myself painting miniatures on a regular basis, let alone doing them well. Still, I persisted, and flourished into the mediocre painter I am today. I think I was smart by choosing minis that appeared to be quick, simple paint jobs.

All my friends decided to get into Warhammer 40K. I had always liked the look and feel of it, and was definitely interested in tabletop wargaming. Still, I picked what looked to be the easiest army to paint—the Tyranids. To be honest, I slopped through that army, but yeah, they were much less detailed than all the others.

Throughout the years, as Games Workshop released new editions of 40K, they would redo a lot of the miniatures as well. While older models are always welcome on the battlefield, players are encouraged to give them more and more money keep up with the most recent releases and constantly evolve their battle forces. In addition to a constantly growing price tag, something else changes: the quality of sculpting.

Compare any miniature from 1994 with something that came out last week. You’ll see a major change in the level of quality and detail. Some of the microscopic angles and lines that are included now would cause a massive table flip 20+ years ago, but it’s commonplace now.

I’ve noticed that painting has become a larger hobby on its own. I mean, it always was, but given the growth of the internet, there are tons of “how to paint X” videos, in addition to galleries and bragging posts all over the place. One thing I see is that a lot of people log their hours working on something, and very rarely do you see “badly” painted minis. Let’s be honest, sometimes you see absolute shit on the battlefield and display cases.

This has given rise to commissioned painting, or simply unpainted armies. Two friends at the game store a few weeks ago, for instance, had their 40K armies out, having fun, but were literally basecoated. No detail, no highlighting, nothing. Both admitted they had no time and no talent to do it, but they were in fact on waiting lists for local pro painters to do their figures for them.

As for myself, I’m spending a lot more time on each figure in my Shadespire army. While I want it to look good, I keep noticing little, fine details that can only be done in a certain way. I hate having sloppy miniatures (I’m not 16 anymore, guys!), and I take pride in my work.

I keep finding all these parallels to writing with this. “Rules” and “standards” in literature are always growing and changing. You look at a published novel from 100 years ago, and you’ll see a sloppier, totally different style of writing as compared to something that just came out. While a lot of today’s novels still tell instead of showing, use lots of passive voice, and use highly unrealistic dialog, it’s a completely different way of writing than it used to be.

Fine detail might not be everyone’s forte, but the quality not only of writing and storytelling has grown, so has the control over this quality (editing, beta readers, etc.). Yes, I know there are a lot of books with major plot holes and unrealistic plot points, but the point is, it’s a lot different.

Not to say that writing from 100 years ago (or 50 years, 20 years, even 10 years ago…) is bad or sloppy. They had their place, and did what they set out to achieve. As Citadel and Games Workshop tighten their storylines and universes, moving from a tongue-in-cheek semi-RPG to a grimdark, uber-serious galaxy of constant war, the figures they create reflect that. Naturally, other companies follow suit and up the ante on the caliber of sculpt with their miniatures.

I’ll keep focusing on the fine details and do no less than by best. With painting my figures, and writing my stories.

 

If you’ve been following this blog with any sort of alacrity, you’ll know that around December of 2016 I dove headfirst into a new collectible card and dice game called Star Wars Destiny. It’s a lot of fun. Expensive (and I’m still suffering…), but fun. Infuriating, but fun.

Anyway, since I’m spending a bit of time at game stores now, I’ve reimmersed myself back into the gaming world. Ever since I was 13, I was big into gaming, and as a result, became a huge nerd because of it. Well, not just that, but it had a big hand in it. Back then, and for a long time, gaming stores were not in abundance, and gaming was not cool. Nowadays, board games and pretty much any type of game are massively popular. Barnes & Noble has a bunch, toy stores and toy departments are getting more than your typical Milton Bradley/Pressman kiddie/family/party games, and Kickstarter is flooded with new games all the time.

It’s also rekindling my interest in a lot of games I’ve fought long and hard to be out of.

Mainly, Warhammer. Games Workshop is a fantastic company, don’t get me wrong. They produce some of the best miniatures and paints known to man. Citadel Miniatures and Paints are expensive as hell, but so impressive in sculpt, scope, popularity, and awesomeness, I can’t complain.

Back in 1996, a bunch of friends and I got into Warhammer 40,000 big time. 40K is still one of the most popular games on the planet, and has become so much more visible than 22 years ago when we were delving into it. Regardless of all that, it got me and a bunch of pals into painting minis like it was nobody’s business.

Back then, we tried our best to make them look good, but we weren’t experts. Getting them painted and ready for the battlefield was our main priority, and if you go back and look at those figures, it shows. All of mine are gone, however, victims of one of my many phases of The Purge, a daunting task at getting rid of most, if not all, of my collectibles and random junk I had laying around.

Still, painting minis was a big hobby for me. Over the years, I’d buy and paint miniatures just for fun. Not just Citadel, but other brands like Reaper and Ral Partha as well. When I started working full-time back in 2009 (yes, I had somehow managed to survive until I was 29 years old at 25 hours a week. My debts and lack of a savings account now show for that, let me tell you!), I quit. Not that I wanted to, per se, but not having any time to paint in addition to working, spending time with your significant other, and making sure that life doesn’t run you over with a truck are not all things that can be juggled easily.

A few months ago, I was struggling with writing and many other things. My wife suggested I start painting again, just to kind of give myself a break. Not that I’m taking a break from writing, but it’s always good to give yourself some space when you’re getting too close.

So I pulled out the paints and got moving. It’s been fun. Back in October, Games Workshop put out a new skirmish game, Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire. My friend Tony is into it so he’s told me a bit about it. It looked interesting and after reading the rules, I figured I’d give it a try. In December, I bought myself a warband (group of miniatures ranging from 3-6) of Orruks (formerly known as Orcs), and let them sit for a few weeks.

Recently, I’ve painted two of the four. I have a lot of thoughts about painting, especially after being out of the game for so long. This will be a long series of blogs, so stay tuned if you’re interested. There’s a lot of neat stuff here, not all involving painting or gaming. Life lessons of all varieties are abundant, and I’ll show you why in future installments.

And don’t worry, I’ll still talk about writing. In fact, I’ve got a story I’m in the middle of right now, and if things go right, it’ll be finished within a few hours…

Anniversary of Awesomeness

February 3, 2018

Things are looking up!

Behold, my typical negativity is gone. I mean, sure, I’ve still got my hang ups, but I’m pretty happy right now. In spite of financial difficulties and the fact that no matter how much I work out I’m not losing any weight, things are going well.

Cloaked Press is releasing an anthology called “Spring Into Sci-Fi” in a short while. My story, “The Man Without a Planet” will be in it. I’m super excited, and you should be too! It’s an actual paper book, with real ink and everything! Be sure to pick one up when it’s available.

I’ve been writing and editing like crazy. I have a stack of stories I’m very happy with, and working hard to get them out there. Some are going over very well with critique groups. Others are finding their place. I think if it’s longer than 2,000 words, people don’t want to take the time to read, review, critique and comment on it. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, just that it’s harder to find reader for something that’s 3,500 words than 1,500.

Stories are out in the wilds! Some are even on shortlists, and I’m holding my breath. I know I shouldn’t, but after all the time I’ve spent on these, why not hope for something positive? I don’t want to say I deserve it, but would it be too much to say it’s my time for something good?

Journaling the hell out of a new novel. Still waiting to edit The Third Tower, but I’m getting other ideas out there. I even jotted down a quick idea for a short, sweet, classic sword & sorcery novel. Maybe they’ll bring back the cheap spinner paperbacks with ridiculous cover art? What’s so bad about a short novel about a bunch of muscle-bound psychos killing each other?

And hey, look at that: today’s my 5 year anniversary with this blog! Thanks for following all these years, and thanks for your support!

Not in writing news, but I had a sinus infection for over a month. It’s gone! Finally. Seriously, feels great.

I started a new Clay and Styg story the other day. Should be done soon! Hopefully things will continue on this good path. As always, stay awesome!

There’s something horrifying about not having anything to do.

After finishing The Third Tower, and any novel for that matter, I give myself two weeks. I can do whatever I want—write, don’t write, come up with ideas, edit, whatever. I don’t want to feel tons of pressure after finishing a huge undertaking, especially when it’s, as of now, a “hobby.”

(If you’re wondering, I have three other novels I’ve written. One I tried hopelessly in vain to have any kind of reaction towards, and two that didn’t quite cut the mustard.)

My day job is entering the slow time of the year, so I have a lot of 8 hours days where I sit around and do nothing. Perfect time for writing/editing/etc., right? Nope. It’s hard to stay motivated when you sit around and do nothing all day. I open an MS Word document, tap out a few sentences, and put it aside, promising myself to do more later that day, later that night, the next day, the weekend, or basically any other time than when I should be doing it.

So yesterday, I started a story. Something I’ve had an idea swimming around in my head for a few weeks. I got about three paragraphs into it and…got mad.

Not mad at the story, just mad. Thing around the house, things at work, things within my family, personal things that have nothing to do with writing this story. But somehow, those thoughts came to mind and I couldn’t continue writing, so I put it aside.

And here I am on Sunday, writing about how I can’t write.

Maybe I’m feeling that slump of no contact from editors. Not only did I send out 10 short story submissions (with no responses yet), I’ve had multiple queries, asking editors what’s the status on my story sent out half a year ago, with no response.

Is there some behind the scenes “let’s screw over this Myke Edwards guy, because fuck him” conspiracy going on? Are they just lazy? Did I do something wrong and they just tossed out my submission without bothering to let me know?

Why keep writing if no one cares? If people won’t even post my story on an unpaying blog that posts free stories for people to write, why bother? I mean, seriously, that means I literally can’t even give it away for free.

Maybe I’ll finish the story. Maybe today, even. Maybe I’ll edit The Third Tower and attempt to get it published. Maybe I’ll realize that someone, somewhere, gives a shit.

And that is what is horrifying to me. Not knowing whether or not I should keep going, keep working hard at punching a brick wall because maybe, just maybe, despite my broken and bleeding knuckles and overly-exhausted nature, it will fall down and I can get by.

Maybe.