Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The submissions maze...

Submitting short stories for publication is a good deal more difficult than most people would think... This is primarily because of the tremendous amount of record keeping involved that an author must do to ensure that he/she doesn't make a simultanious submission of a story.

Now, I've talked to enough writers to know that many of them consider the "NO SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS" warning that many publishers and editors include in their guidelines to be complete bullshit. From what I've heard, it's primarily there to keep writers from realizing how much market power their stories actually have.

When you think about it, it makes a certain amount of sense... the last thing that a magazine would want is to get into a bidding war over whatever brilliant piece of prose you've just written. It takes time, money, and negotiating skills. While as a writer this is the best case scenario, I can see how it would be the worst case for the editors.

So, I dutifully hew to the "sole submission" rule, and have over the years, filled spreadsheets and notebooks with dates of submission, contact information, and an endless array of editors comments and insights. It has in fact, effected what I produce to a huge extent, as I deliberately try not to make my pieces too timely or political... Some magazines literally take MONTHS to get back to you before you can send your prose to the next one, and by the time one has been accepted, it could be as much as two years out of date.

Plus that, I suppose that the argument could be made that all truly good speculative fiction should be timeless. I mean, have the works of Jules Verne become any less brilliant now that submarines and space travel are now commonplace? Will the current crop of aliens that writers have dreamed up be rendered foolish looking when we finally meet the real E.T.'s? These are the things I think about a lot when I write, and why my brand of sci-fi tends to so easily veer toward fantasy.

On the bright side, the rewards are worth the effort of patience. Even with my self-published stuff, knowing that others enjoy my stories is a great feeling. Achieving this on a national scale is an even better one. The most important thing is that you don't give up.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Writer/Dad's Morning...

6:30am- Woken up to the sound of the radio announcer telling me that it's freezing outside.
6:45am- Drag butt out of bed, Do "Sniff test" on clean clothes, only to realize that the boy's dog has peed on them.
7:00am- Wake up Kid 1 and Kid 2, put puppy in bathroom lined with puppy pads. Accept that the puppy will shred said pads and then proceed to poo and pee all over the bathroom.
7:10am- Wake up Kid 1 and Kid 2 again, as they have helpfully fallen back to sleep.
7:15am- Wrestle Kid 2 into clothes, wake up Kid 1 again.
7:20am- Curse loudly as I realize that the dog peed in Kid 1's bed. Kid 1 laughs, and tells me I shouldn't curse. Pull sheets off bed and dump them in the hallway.
7:30am- Wake up kid 2 again, and drag them downstairs while the dog pounds on the bathroom door wanting to be let out. Look in to make sure the dog has food and water, only to have the dog escape and pee on kid 2 out of excitement.
7:35am-Make breakfast for kids while changing kid 2's clothes. Hastily butter toast, and give to kids with juice boxes.
7:40am- Run through morning checklist... vitamins for kids, coats, hats, bookbags, glasses, shoes.
7:45am- Run through writing checklist... laptop, charger, notebook, headphones, ipod, money for iced mochas.
7:46am- Realize kid 2 is covered in butter, crumbs and apple juice. Rethink "toast and juice" breakfast policy. Frantically change kid 2 for third time.
7:50am- Leave house. Kid 1 not done with toast and juice, and takes it with him. Chase kids around parking lot and into car.
7:53am-Warm up car, consider moving closer to equator. Realize I forgot all my writing stuff. Run back upstairs to grab it.
7:54am- Get back into car, Kid 2 covered in crumbs again, Kid 1 laughing about "food fight" they have had in the 28 seconds I was gone.
8:00am- Arrive at school, clean crumbs off of kid2 with baby wipes, strain back as kid 2 practices passive resistance in protest of school. Glare at kid 1 when he asks "Why are you whispering to yourself about boarding schools?"
8:03am- Drag kid 2 into school building and hand him off to teacher. See kid 1 is still outside in 20 degree weather poking an anthill with a stick.
8:04am- Drag kid 1 into school, while answering questions about ant exoskeletons and magnifying glasses.
8:06am- Return to car. Breathe.
8:10am- Get to coffee shop, realize that I forgot to charge iPod. Order iced mocha. Show Barrista how the coffee shop is listed in the acknowledgments of my new novel. Bask in mock adoration.
8:15am- Begin checking Facebook and E-mail, respond appropriately.
9:00am- Compose witty status update. Order second iced mocha.
9:15am- Decide to write blog entry.
9:20am- Realize that exactly .02% of my day thus far has involved writing. Open Microsoft word.
9:21 am- Check Facebook again, just in case someone has commented on my status update.
9:30am- Wonder how other writers "do it".
9:45am- Finish blog entry. Try to find muse at the bottom of my iced mocha and work on draft of second novel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The writers rant...

Each year, I participate in NaNoWriMo... it's helped me so far to crank out about a book a year, and I'm really pleased with myself for having done it every year since I discovered it. The thing is, that 50,000 words in 30 days can really make a guy loopy.

Right now, I'm working on finishing this years NaNo novel, a sequel to my first book, Dimensional Games. (Now available on Amazon, for the Kindle, and the Nook sorry for the shameless plug, but Iced Mochas don't pay for themselves) As part of my process, I usually go back and read a few random chapters to help me recapture the tone of the book. Well, I was doing that today and came across the following rant masquerading as "Chapter 24":

Okay reader, why don’t you come over here for a moment… we need to have a little chat.I’ve been sitting here for what feels like hours, pouring my heart out onto the page, only to feel like I’m writing absoulute crap. Is it crap? It very well may be, but it’s my crap.

I know that I have asked you to make a few incredible leaps of faith with me in these pages thus far… I’ve got dimension hopping, dimension bleeding, dimensional inertia, and half a dozen other half-assed, not entirely fleshed out concepts that I’m hoping that you will swallow, hook line and sinker based soley on my say so.

Well, I’ll tell ya reader, it ain’t easy. I just realized that I actually wrote that a giant ship of vampires is barreling down on our heroes, sprung from no where but my imagination, and have introduced more than a few plot twists to your devouring eyes in the past thousand words or so, and quite frankly it’s too much for even me.

This, dear reader is what you call the “despair” part of writing a novel. Sure, to you it seems a well thought out construct of plot and character melting together into a nice, gooey, easy to swallow chutney for your reading pleasure.

What I want to take the time to say now is that it’s not. I have no idea where the Giovannica storyline is going right now… I feel like I have way too many characters for you to keep up with, (much less care about), and quite frankly, the fact that my main character has thus far been a bit of a whiney bitch about his “relationship” with his love intrest is pissing me right off. My Protagonist isn’t your typical james bondian hero… he was written expressly with the average joe in mind, and isn’t really prone to whisking anyone away for a romantic cruise.

Yeah, all of that was a plot device, but I figure I can fix all that in the rewrite. Ray Bradbury once said that there is no such thing as a successful writer… what you see is lots of successful re-writers. That’s all well and good, but this November as I write this novel, I feel like the entire world is collapsing around me. The electric bill is due, the kids just got a goddamn puppy that everyone seems to be asking me to take care of (WHEN I HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE) and I have yet to make dime one from my writing efforts, despite the fact that I sit here in my booth at the coffee shop day after day with an iced mocha in front of me and my Ipod rocking its way into my brain, trying valiantly to entertain you, The frickin reader.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time out to read these words, which realistically I will probably delete long before this book makes it to it’s final draft, but If I have to listen to the two teenagers in the booth behind me argue for one more fucking second about whether “I’m too sexy” by right said fred is inappropriate wedding music I’M GONNA LOSE MY SHIT!

Let me let you in on a little secret I try not to share with anyone… all of us writers are borderline insane. In a very real way, we pay attention to the voices in our heads that we jokingly refer to as our ‘Muse’. Well, right now, my muse is grumpy as hell. He hasn’t gotten laid in at least a week or so because of a damn puppy that whines when it’s left alone, and therefore MUST sleep in bed with him and his wife, and to top things off, she just started her period.

Yeah, that’s where my muse is right now. I’ve considered just killing off all the main characters, torching the dimension they live in, and making the Werewolf stay on the papers till she’s freaking housebroken.

None of which you would find the slightest bit entertaining…. And rightfully so. You paid for this book, and deserve to be entertained. If you’re reading this in a library, go to hell.

Well… I think I’m done with my rant and pity party…let’s get back to it, shall we? I’m dying to see where I’m going with all of this.. maybe we’ll get lucky and those statues from chapter twenty will show up again and do something funny.

Like I said, loopy. I'm tempted to leave it in there, but I'll probably just edit it out... People may not like a whiny bitch hero, but they like whiny bitch writers even less.

Wading in the stream of conciousness

I neglect this blog. There, I said it.

Every year or so, I sit down and try to revitalize it, making lots of promises of new content, only to wind up focusing my efforts elsewhere... well, Here I am once again making such promises. But, to be fair, at least one of those other efforts has paid off, as I now have an actual book that i've written and published. It took me about a year to write it, and clean it up to the point where I'm happy with it, but now it's good to go.

For more details on the book, go to www.bigkahunah.com. I hope to have a far more extensive website for it up soon, when my schedule permits a few days for website development.

So, what does this mean for my blog? It means I need to get cracking on it again. I know that it's lost its relevance in the Facebook age, where my cute kid and slice of life escapades can be boiled down to easy 430 character blips in the consciousness of the internet. For a blog like this to garner serious readership, it needs to be relevant, updated a few times a week, and provide interesting content.

And I really am a stickler about having ORIGINAL, interesting content.... I don't just want to be one of those bloggers that just regurgitates what he finds while web surfing. I have been thinking for a while that this blog needs a change of focus, but have been steadily arguing with myself about what that focus should be. I had been kind of using it as my personal journal, but as my life moved more and more onto facebook, I find that function to be less and less useful. Basically, if I want to bitch about something, I now do it on facebook instead of on here.

Therefore, I need to be able to write on here about stuff that I'm kinda good at... Writing, Storytelling, and occasionally parenting. I'll start writing from this point on about whatever project I'm working on, just to have it down somewhere, and whatever problems or doubts I'm having with it. I will endeavor to do this in a funny helpful way as well, hopefully a few times a week. Hopefully, someone out there in the blogosphere will hear the shout of the insect among all the ants at the picnic.