Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Your Mark

Now Playing: STAR WARS THEME by John Williams

The time has come to say goodbye to the West Coast. 

I've been out here since September, and made more friends and more memories than I can fit into a simple blog post. More than a few might well end up as characters and stories one day. Have a beer out with me one night, and perhaps I'll share some. 

I'm really looking forward to being home for a while, and to starting my next three-month adventure stint in Washington, D.C. 

 I wonder what new stories the nation's capitol will present? Only time will tell. 

I'm starting the cross-country drive in the next few minutes. A middle of the night departure to avoid LA and Vegas traffic (if I'm lucky), stop tonight in Boulder, CO, then on to St. Louis day 2, and home in Raleigh, NC Saturday night. I feel like a main character setting off on a quest.

A wise hobbit once said: It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and you never know where you might be swept off to.

Let's find out, shall we?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Story Published!

Now Playing: SEVEN NATION ARMY by the White Stripes
Just Read: THE GOOD NURSE by Charles Graeber--Frightening in how easy it was for someone to commit something so heinous in a place of trust. Great book, but lots of heebie jeebies. Made me feel insane myself a few times.
Reading Now: FOOL by Christopher Moore

My story "Dancing in the Black Blizzard" was published this morning!

I'm very excited to see this story in print . . . finally! Like I mentioned in my last blog post, this story is one of my old favorites, and it's been through a lot of revisions and rejections (even some personalized ones) before the final draft found a home at a great new magazine: Perihelion Science Fiction.

The word "perihelion" describes a place in a planet's orbit where it is closest to the sun. Appearing its pages makes me feel like that--warm and prosperous. It's an addictive feeling, having a good story published in a good magazine, and it makes me really want to continue having stories accepted the rest of this W1S1 challenge. I have some good drafts out there that need to be revised, and hopefully, with some perseverance, they'll find homes like "Dancing in the Black Blizzard" did.

Take a moment to savor this . . . now, back to work!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Story Acceptance to Perihelion SF!

Now Playing: NCAA MARCH MADNESS, DUH!
Just Read: A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R.R. Martin--So, so good. Sometimes exhilarating, sometimes devastating, it's everything I want an epic fantasy to be. A real role model for a writer like me.
Reading Now: THE GOOD NURSE by Charles Graeber

My story "Dancing in the Black Blizzard" was accepted at Perihelion SF!

This is an old story of mine with countless rejections and rewrites in its history. It remains the only story ever to receive a personalized rejection from Fantasy and Science Fiction, and holds a special place for me as one of my all time favorites.

Couldn't be happier to receive that email today. I'm really looking forward to seeing my story in print! I haven't had a publication in about a year, so I'm hoping this will jump-start my creativity and drive a bit. I have lots of stories that need to make the rounds.

In other good news, I received an email from the Writers of the Future contest saying my story was on hold...not sure what the means, exactly, but it wasn't a rejection letter!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Simple Competence

Now Playing: IT NEVER ENDS by Bring Me The Horizon
Just Read: GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens--A good story, though there were parts I thought could be happier. I don't like rooting for the MC only to have him lose. Usually I don't like the old English classics, and there were definitely parts were the language bogged me down. Overall, enjoyable.
Reading Now: A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R.R. Martin

Got two rejections back this week from hopefuls. I send all my stories out with hope, but some of them I feel have a much better chance than others. I read the magazines I submit to, and when I write something I think fits along their vein, coupled with being a good story, I can't help but get my hopes high. 

Rejection is part of the writing career. I've always known this, and it's never yet held me down, nor will it. But getting these rejections is a cause for some introspection. What held those stories back? Why didn't they reach publication? Why might I get a note that says my story is good but not great? 

It's where I am on the ladder of a writer's progression. I am confident in labeling myself a competent amateur writer. I understand what makes a good story, and I can recognize when it's done well. It's executing it that still presents a monster challenge. 

My stories are still too simple. I get letters that describe them as predictable. Others, incomplete. Some I think are ambitious, and fall short of what I want them to be, because I don't have the skills yet to hammer them out. I am like a sketch artist who has a beautiful scene in front of him and when he looks down at his canvas sees only a pale ghost of the beauty he attempted to capture. 

The remedy? The only answer I can come up with is practice. Read a lot, write a lot. I don't have enough natural talent to do it any other way. I don't mind, necessarily. I don't mind paying my dues if it means that one day I will climb to the top. Delayed gratification might be the toughest part of this career. I mean, I have SO MANY stories in my writing folder, and none of them will see publication because they are merely competent. The kid who wrote them knew words and knew plots, but not to a degree to earn himself a place in a professional's table of contents. 

Being a writer is like being trapped at the bottom of a deep dry well. You have to produce all this junk, all these stories that will never see the light of day, pages and pages and chapters and whole novels, and eventually you have enough trash to stand on that you can climb out of the well. Only when you reach the top will your stuff be good enough to publish in a pro magazine. And the well is deep and dark and lonely. Only the toughest make it out. The others, well . . . they just sit and stare at the sky and wish and wonder. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Limb Less Traveled By

Now Playing: SKYRIM SOUNDTRACK by Jeremy Soule
Just Read: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon--A great read. A bit slow at parts, but definitely one of the best written books I've read in a while. His prose is masterful.
Reading Now: GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens

After a slow January (see previous post), February went off like a rocket. I got into my groove, got excited about something, and spit out thousands of words in a matter of hours.

One of my best and oldest friends in the world, Spencer, had this dream about a stranger in a hybrid land of old west and science fiction. He imagined this stranger being the main character in a television show, one done well like a Starz or HBO original series. Spencer is a great idea-man, and a great actor, but he came to me for thoughts on how to write it.

When he first told me the idea I knew it was a winner. It's original, complex, deep, and rated R. February's W1S1 piece was Episode I, and I'm incredibly excited about it. My kitchen table is overflowing with papers bearing jotted notes, character sketches, and episode plans. I am eagerly awaiting Spencer's thoughts on it, because I can't wait to dive into Episode II.

I didn't have the first clue about writing a screenplay when I started (and, let's be honest, I still don't, really). Apparently there's a very strict format, much like standard manuscript formatting in prose fiction. I had to research all those rules and configure Microsoft Word to work for me. Then I had to read a few examples, get a feel for it, and take off. I still don't know what we're ultimately going to do with it. It's called a "Spec Script" I believe, meaning we could submit it to someone like HBO on the speculation of them liking it and wanting to produce it. Way in the future, sure, but I want to know where, ultimately, we'll take this thing.

It's always been a dream of mine to have my novel turned into a movie, but this screenplay idea is really taking hold. And the best part is that it jump-started my creativity, and now I have a few other projects ready to be tackled while I wait to hear from Spencer. So wish us luck! And if you have some insight into screenplay submission, leave me a comment! It will be much appreciated.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ebbs and Flows

Now Playing: SKYFALL by Thomas Newman

Ebbs and flows--that's how art goes sometimes, no? Feast or famine. Drizzle or deluge. In October-November, I could barely keep up with myself. I had ideas that leaked out into completed stories even if I didn't feel like writing them. Now, I've got three or four good story ideas, and they don't want to leave my brain in search of a new home on paper.

It's been a busy January--moving to Southern California, starting a new job, getting used to a new area, making new friends and keeping up with old ones. And in times like these the first thing that suffers is my writing. The thing is, it's always something you can come back to or do later or do tomorrow. When you're a young writer, without an agent or deadline, you are the only thing that keeps you writing.

My muse is in the mirror. I write for myself, because I love it and because it's cathartic and because I wouldn't be me without it. I'm in the ebb stage now, the famine, the drizzle. Not writer's block--that's something else entirely--just writer's neglect. It's not okay, not a great way to start off the new year or my 2014 W1S1 challenge.

Listening to the Skyfall soundtrack right now, all I can think of is the new M asking, "Now then, Devin. Are you ready to get back to work?" and my response, "With pleasure, M. With pleasure."

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year: Carte Blanche

Now Playing: ANOTHER SONG ABOUT THE WEEKEND by A Day to Remember
Just Read: BLOOD OF THE FOLD by Terry Goodkind--A solid read, nothing too complicated. This isn't my favorite fantasy epic series but I don't want to stop reading it yet either.
Reading Now: THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I'm looking forward to a great 2014!

I had goals and big dreams for this past year, and they're resurfacing now in the first week of the new year. I wanted to write a new novel, edit an old manuscript, and stay true to my Write1Sub1 commitment of writing one story per month. Each of these goals were (pretty much) accomplished. I did a drawn-out edit of an old novel that cut out several thousand words, wrote in general longer stories than 2012 each month, and won NaNoWriMo to end up with a new 50,000+ word manuscript.

My goals for 2014 are similar--patch up this newest novel and make it presentable, send out some query letters with blessings, and my main goal, to submit more vigilantly than I did in 2013 and give my stories more chances to be published.

The new year is a time to be optimistic. In hindsight, some 2013 goals and dreams fell short--I wanted to publish more stories than I did. But ultimately I don't have control over that--it's up to the slush readers and magazine editors. All I can do is write the greatest story I possibly can, and trust that one day, maybe soon, I will be rewarded for it.

Here's to 2014! Cheers, friends.