Menial labor

The contract has been signed so I am happy to announce that my short story “MyWorks and Despair” has been accepted to appear in Executive Dread, coming later this year from Jolly Horror Press.

With the possible exception of trust fund babies and the offspring of famous people, almost every writer has a personal backstory involving a series of day jobs which pay the bills while writing happens after hours. Sometimes these day jobs can be perfectly fulfilling in and of themselves, and even tap into the creativity that fuels us, but just as often they are tedious grinds which only serve to stave off destitution and ruin. I’ve had both!

The story I’ve contributed to this anthology involves an alleged time-saving device which is more likely to become the bane of someone’s existence, and is heavily autobiographical, I’m not going to deny it. I’m sure lots of my fellow authors can say the same about their tales, so I’m really looking forward to getting my galley proof and commiserating. Details to follow soon when you can order your own copy!

Back in the drabble saddle

Once more into the breach! I have had another 100-word horror story selected to appear in Trembling With Fear at the Horror Tree. “On the Road Again” is completely free to read, as are the other shorts by talented authors in this week’s edition, and it’s all right here!

Flashing back

Yesterday I received word that my short horror story “Parker Third West” was accepted for the anthology Generation X-ed, due out at the beginning of next year. Since I am a proud Gen X kid, it felt like a no-brainer to attempt to get into this collection, and thus I did that thing I sometimes do where I cast about for an idea and generated something new out of the aether, writing for the specific submission call and firing it off right at the deadline. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn’t, as I’ve noted multiple times in the past. Luckily this time it did, as my sharply specific memories of college in the early 1990s really resonated with the editor.

And I know, I know! In the post immediately before this one I was saying how great it was to write an unapologetically modern horror story, yet here I am going right back to the well of cheap and easy nostalgia. But I regret nothing. This, too, was a fun story to write and I hope it will entertain you as well. More to come in January!

Like a valentine to a ghost

Fornever After, a collection of sixteen horror-infused tragic love tales from Jolly Horror Press, is now available!

Among the contents is my own story “In a Better Place” which considers what may happen when the modern electronic communications we rely on in day-to-day life become reminders of those who have gone to their death, or possibly conduits to whatever lies beyond. I tend to write a lot of stories that are either set in secondary worlds outright, or that take place in the past, within my own lifetime yet still seemingly in an impossibly distant yesteryear. It was fun to play around in the here and now of 5G networks and chicken sandwich wars, for once.

Get your copy of Fornever After today!

SIX

Because a blog is a medium in which a person may talk to themself in any manner they choose, which may or may not be interesting for third parties to read, it is perhaps unsurprising that it falls to me to wish myself a happy sixth anniversary of having launched this site.

Green birthday cupcake photo by RuthBlack on Envato Elements

I put together and published this blog back in mid-2015 because it seemed like the right time to do so, as my efforts to publish my original fiction were gathering speed, but at the time I didn’t pay any particular attention to the date. June 16th is of course famously Bloomsday, the singular date on which James Joyce’s epic Ulysses unfolds. 6/16 also evokes Marvel Comics, as those stories take place in a universe which is one facet among infinite multiverses, with the main continuity designated “Earth-616” in a throwaway line that stuck.

Dense, stylistically experimental allusions on the one hand, brightly colored pulp on the other. I try to land somewhere in the middle with my own stories, to varying degrees of success. If you’ve enjoyed any of those efforts, thanks for being with me on the journey of the past six years. If you’re new to my blog, welcome! Here are some of my favorite posts where I write about writing (as opposed to writing about pieces I’ve already written):

One Reason Why I Write

I Do Believe in -Isms (aka my personal definition of superheroes)

Specificity

Talking ABout Genre

To Make the Familiar Strange, and the Strange Familiar

Horrifying Confessions

Raw output

Around the middle of this past week I hit a big round number: just over 50,000 words of new fiction written since January 1. I consider it a good year if I manage to write 100,000 words overall, so getting halfway there before the end of May felt pretty good.

This prompted me to look back at a few other things through the numerical lens. I posted a couple of months ago about selling a story which should be published this summer, and work on that story definitely made up some of the 50K I’ve logged this year. I produced another short piece this year which didn’t require a sale per se, because it was something I volunteered to write for a special memorial tribute volume which should also be out this summer (and which I will post about in more detail when it is released). So far, those two stories are the only ones I know for sure will see print in 2021.

That wouldn’t really be my worst year ever, in terms of additions to my publishing history. I only published two new stories total in 2019, as well, the same number I notched back in 2014.  Obviously most years I manage more, with a good calendar seeing eight to ten releases, but to be fair, some of those higher-end years are padded a bit by including reprints and/or stories published through non-paying venues where acceptance is almost a guarantee.

I mention that caveat because I’m hopeful that I will have my first solo collection of short fiction published before the end of this year.  Does that count as having eighteen stories published all at once, or no, since most of them are reprints?  Three of them are never-before-seen, at least.  I know there’s no official judge or scorekeeper I need to contend with, but I get preoccupied over questions like this all the same.

In any case, other than the two stories I’ve placed for 2021, where did the rest of my words go?  Some went into a couple of different novels I’m working on, some into various as-yet unfinished short stories, and the rest into three different short stories which are now more or less complete.  One thing which I really need to bear down on is revising those three stories (plus another one which I wrote last year).  I’ve been in a commendable groove of churning out first drafts over the past several months, going back to about mid-September of 2020.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about owning the label of ‘writer’ it’s that, yes, you need to write as much as you can, as close to every single day as possible.  You need to give multiple ideas a chance, and it’s all right to set one project aside to work on another if that’s where your thoughts want to flow.  Maybe the new idea will sputter out and you’ll go back to the old one; maybe you’ll complete the new idea fast and then go back to the old one; maybe you’ll never finish either and move on to a third thing instead, but the important thing is to keep the tap open.  The worst first draft is better than the best piece that’s all up in your head unwritten, and every other platitude along those lines.

But!  If there’s two things I’ve learned, the second one is that you do need to do the follow-up work on all those better-than-nothing drafts eventually.  Getting the whole entire first draft down on paper (virtual or otherwise) is an accomplishment but it won’t magically turn into something publishable on its own.  Reading it, workshopping it, revising it, polishing it, all of those things require effort, too, and time which sadly eats away at the clock when you’re also trying to find time to crank out more first drafts.  Then, once you’ve reworked it into something that can show its face to the world with minimal shame, you have to do more work, researching markets and writing cover letters and sending submissions. 

So I’m writing this post mostly to myself, as an encouragement and a reminder.  It’s great that I’ve been drafting stories consistently through 2021 so far and I need to keep that up.  But I also need to split my attention between getting to 100,000 new words written and also spiffing up the output.  I will report on my progress on both of those fronts by year’s end!

Totem and Archetype

I have written once or twice before about my short story Red in Tooth and Claw.    This month is the three year anniversary of its release, and I just wanted to throw the spotlight on it once again.

Although I am grateful to Phrenic Press for publishing the e-story, I do wish that they had gone in a different direction with the cover.  Red in Tooth and Claw is a superhero story, a clash of elementals in which the ice-and-wind-controlling Snow Wolf battles a gargantuan lava monster emerging from a Hawaiian volcano.  I had numerous discussions with the publisher about how to convey the kind of story it was via the cover, and I suggested comic book fonts for the title, tropical tiki bar elements for the imagery, and so on.  If you follow the link on the title to Amazon, you will see that the final cover looks like a classic fantasy novel complete with dragon and mountain, a full moon and red ocean.  I really love classic fantasy, but the cover gives no indication of the superhero story within, suggesting something entirely different.

Speaking of imagery, there’s a current trend of authors using the HeroForge site to create renderings of their characters.  Here is my attempt at bringing Snow Wolf to visual life.

snowwolf

In the time since the publication of Red in Tooth and Claw I’ve thought a lot about Snow Wolf and the larger story that he fits into, and at the beginning of this year I started drafting a novel-length version of his adventures.  Hopefully someday this project will see the light of day!  I will update you all on my progress hereabouts.

In the meantime, feel free to head over to Amazon and get a copy of Red in Tooth and Claw to see where it all begins.  It’s only 99 cents, and if you belong to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free!

Well that was fast

I just signed the contract, so now am happy to announce that I found a home for my short story “In a Better Place”. It will be published this summer in an anthology called Fornever After, a collection of tales of tragic love and horror.

As I alluded to in the previous post, “In a Better Place” was a story occupying some of my brainspace for years, never quite coming together after numerous stabs at it, and only recently emerging as a finished story. I had expressed hope that I would sell it more quickly than I wrote it, and as luck would have it I managed to place it straightaway. I feel very fortunate that an open anthology call on the very theme that the story was always meant to address happened to be out there at this exact moment. Very right place, right time, lucky me.

Incidentally, it was particularly gratifying to receive the acceptance for “In a Better Place” because it’s been a little while since I sold a story outright. I had eight stories published in 2020, but three of those were drabbles at Trembling With Fear, which is a non-paying venue. One was self-published on this very blog. One was written especially for the Lycan Valley Halloween Special, a volunteer effort I was happy to participate in because I love Halloween and I love Lycan Valley, but again, non-paying. And the other three were in royalty-sharing anthologies, which … I have nothing against, I got started in back in the day and have contributed to many times over the years and no doubt will again in the future. But, whether factually or just in my mind, it seems that getting paid up front for a story is a higher bar to clear. And it had been a couple years, at least, since I had submitted to an open call with a pre-publication pay rate and been notified in return that the editor liked my story enough to buy it. I’ve missed that validation.

More to come this summer when the anthology becomes available to buy!

Long term effects

Yesterday I finally finished the first draft of a short story that I’ve been working on a for a while, which came as a tremendous relief. It still needs some reworking and final polish, but having a completed version to tinker with feels like a major accomplishment. This particular story, entitled “In a Better Place”, is one that I have had rattling around in my head for a while and yet was extremely difficult for me to pin down and get written. I can illustrate this with a couple of quantitative points:

1. Because I use Google Drive, I have access to data about almost all of my various pieces of ficition, finished and unfinished. That includes the date that I created the file where I first started writing “In a Better Place”, the same file I would open as I tried to add to it, revise it, rework it, and so on. This file was created on April 3, 2014, in other words just shy of seven years ago. I think that might be a new personal superlative for me. Usually selling a story takes as long or longer than writing it, but I hope in this case I can make an exception.

2. Often I don’t start writing a story until I can think of a good beginning, an opening and a way into the narrative. I rarely have false starts, and a much more common problem for me is starting strong, then going astray somewhere in the middle, then having to back up slightly, undoing some of the work, and pushing on again after course corrections have been made. But “In a Better Place” suffered from numerous false starts, which probably goes some way toward explaining why it took so long to finally write. I started the entire thing over from scratch more than once, and I did this by simply going to the top of the document file, hitting Enter a dozen or so times to push down what I had already written, then returning to the top and starting fresh. I didn’t want to delete the bad starts, just in case there was anything salvageable in any of them, though as it turned out there wasn’t much. When the first draft was finally done, I excised all of those previous attempts and saved them off in a separate file for posterity. The first draft of “In a Better Place” came to about 5100 words. The abandoned fragments combined for a total of about 4000 words.

As crazy as all of the above may seem, one of my writing goals for this year is to do all of the above several times over. Because the truth is that “In a Better Place” is not the only story that’s been rattling around in my brain and partially written in an aging Google Docs file for many and many a moon. I’d really like to cross the finish line on as many of them as possible. Updates to come!