Wednesday, October 28, 2015

100 words

Now Playing: SHOT IN THE DARK by A Day to Remember
Just Read: PARASITE by Mira Grant--Didn't realize this was going to be a zombie apocalypse book when I started it. Usually not a huge zombie person but I liked the twists in this story.
Reading Now: THE BAT by Jo Nesbo

I recently had four 100-word stories accepted at a magazine called SpeckLit. Woohoo! My second acceptance for this year. My averages seem to stay pretty steady at one story written per month, two acceptances per year.

SpeckLit only publishes stories that are exactly 100 words in length--kind of a challenge to get a complete story in such a small amount of words, but also a lot of fun. You can do a lot of random things that don't come as easily to longer stories, and play around with style and syntax and tone in new ways. I really enjoyed writing those "drabbles" as they're called over at SpeckLit.

The magazine does something pretty cool where they archive their work by author name. So, you can go to their website and look my name up on the right hand column and click to read all the stories of mine they've published. Or, simply click on the new link on my blog's left-hand side.

In other, life-altering, non-writing news: I GOT ACCEPTED INTO GRADUATE SCHOOL! I'm going to start the Nurse Anesthesia Program at Wake Forest School of Medicine starting in August. My fiance is in the program now, and from her I've learned just how little time is available to students once they start. But, they recommend keeping up one hobby that doesn't have anything to do with school. No surprises here: mine will be writing. That's why finding SpeckLit was so fortunate. Stories of 100 words can be tough but because of their brevity they don't take very long. I'm hoping I'll be able to manage my time well enough during school to maintain some kind of writing output, and now that I know I have 100-word stories as an outlet, I believe that to be an attainable goal.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Living the Dream

Just Read: CALICO JOE by John Grisham--A fun read. I love baseball, and he does a good job of portraying the magic baseball holds, especially over kids.
Reading Now: PARASITE by Mira Grant

It was a good September for me! I wrote two solid stories and began a third, which I'm planning on finishing for October's W1S1 requirement. I have some goals beyond that, but I'll get to them later. October is going to be a great month for me as well.

But not as great as it will be for my favorite author of 2014, Andy Weir. He wrote an awesome book called "The Martian" and I recommend it. It's a kind of Sci-Fi Robinson Crusoe story where an astronaut is stranded on Mars and has to use his limited resources and considerable wit to survive. It was his debut novel, and it just came out as a motion picture directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.

I mean . . . WOW!

Talk about living the dream! The guy's DEBUT NOVEL reaches these heights! If someone had asked me, "What is your writing dream?" my answer would pretty much be Andy Weir's life.

I've spent most of 2015 writing longer short stories to send to some pro magazines and the WotF Contest. I'm going to finish October's, then spend the rest of 2015 trying to finish a novel. I am embarrassingly far in it, but petered out when I wasn't sure how to finish it. I got distracted by other stories begging to be written. So now I'm going to revisit it and see if I can finally write "The End" behind it and be proud. Heck, maybe I'll even query it to an agent and try to get it published.

Perhaps it'll even get turned into a movie starring Matt Damon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Now Playing: JURASSIC PARK by John Williams

My birthday was this week! Happy Birthday to me! I'm twenty-six!

I had a great birthday, and two pieces of good news on the writing front made it even better. I had a story accepted at Every Day Fiction! It's called "Ink Night" and it's about a guy who decides to try a new kind of drug. Needless to say, his night doesn't go quite as planned.

Additionally, my story "The Lion's Den" was published in BEYOND: SPACE OPERA, a collection of swashbuckling tales edited by Milo James Fowler. I'm very excited to appear in the Table of Contents with some great writers whose work I've read over the years and with whom I've communicated through Write1Sub1.

Check out the site and read the stories--they're all great! Here's the link:

So yeah, it's been a pretty awesome week. I also started on a new story, my second for August, which is nice because July was such a sluggish month for my writing. I'm getting back in the groove of sitting down and pounding out a lot of words; this piece promises to be about 6000-7000 words, and I intend to submit it to the Writers of the Future Contest in September. I've been reading more stories from their anthologies and think this one will fit in nicely.

Let's hope the rest of the month goes just as well!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Now Playing: BLANK SPACE by I Prevail
Just Read: MR. MERCEDES by Stephen King--Very enjoyable! King is so good at characterization. I read this and couldn't help but take notes.
Reading Now: WHITEOUT by Ken Follett

Wow! Is July over already? This might seriously have been the fastest month of my life. I went to New York for a wedding, Myrtle Beach for a family reunion, moved 90 miles west, started a new job, helped my fiance prepare for school to start in two weeks, booked people for my own wedding, had an engagement party, took a graduate level statistics class . . . AH!

When in there was I supposed to write stories?

The thing is, the pros do it. That's the part that irks me, and I think a lot of other amateur writers too. You hear professional writers give advice to the younger generation, they say things like "If I waited until I had time to write I'd never write anything at all!" or "I write every day, including my birthday and Christmas." Well, I think that's awesome, and I strive to have that routine and count myself their peer one day.

It does come with certain social sacrifices, though. And as a 25-year-old dude with a lot of fun and amazing things going on, I'm not sure I want to give those things up yet. I know, I know--this is a dangerous way to think if I'm serious about being a writer, because while today it's a new job and moving apartments and putting furniture together, tomorrow it'll be going to kids' baseball games or walking the dog or whatever. There's ALWAYS something to do besides writing.

Balance is the elusive key, I've come to believe. I want to write. More than I want to be great at anything, I want to be great at writing. That takes dedication and time and work. But I'm not going to kill myself to get there. I'm going to keep working and trudging through the mud, but when life comes first it comes first, and I can't beat myself up about it. Because I was beating myself up--I was feeling guilty about how much writing I wasn't doing; for the first time in a long time I didn't reach my W1S1 goals this month. But that's okay. It's a new month now, with new things on the horizon. The storm has passed, and the writer can poke his head out of his den and sniff the clean air.

And speaking of new things coming, an end to my publication drought is upon me! On August 15, a story of mine will appear in BEYOND: SPACE OPERA, a collection of short stories about adventures in space. The collection is edited by Milo James Fowler and features several other great stories by wonderful authors. My story in it is called "The Lion's Den," originally published in Ray Gun Revival magazine, now closed. It'll be good to see my name in print again, and will probably light a fire under me. I look forward to that inspiration, and I'll post details on how to get your hands on it when the date draws nearer.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Late Night Antics

Now Playing: OUT OF TIME by A Day to Remember
Just Read: THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES by Tom Wolfe--Great writing and fun dialogue, though I gotta say I didn't really like any of the main characters. I guess that was kind of the point; they were all vain douche bags.
Reading Now: MR. MERCEDES by Stephen King

I really hope these apartment walls are thick.

It's the middle of the night, which frequently finds me at my writing desk. I have some goals for these two nights in between shifts at the hospital (too few to bother trying to flip back to a day schedule). Among these goals are finishing a series of 100-word stories I'd like to submit, and working hard on a flash piece for June.

Also, I recently discovered two magazines I haven't submitted to before and I'm looking forward to some quick rereading/polishing to get some stories to them. June is also a deadline month for WotF contest, and I think this quarter I will be redoing a former submission, because I think it's a good fit and recently got some good feedback from an editor for how to make it better. If I keep my fingers crossed, maybe it will fair better this go-around.

I have some high hopes for the second half of this month--I received some really encouraging rejections lately (I know that sounds strange but if you're a young amateur fiction writer you probably understand) and I'm hoping with a little tweaking I can get a few stories over the hump and into acceptance quality. It's been a long time since I've had a story published, a drought that might be the longest since I had my first story accepted at seventeen years old. That's gotta change.

Despite the drought, I really believe my writing is getting better. I'm hoping a lot of the drought can be attributed to submitting to professional magazines almost exclusively, which is a very high bar to jump over, considering all the established writers also submit there and are my competitors.

Writing is a grind, man. Grind, grind, grind. Please, be like most things and pay off in the end. Here's to a payday in the near future.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Relaxation vs. Guilt

Now Playing: LIGHT & SHADOW by Philip Wesley
Just Read: THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht--A cool magical realism book; I loved the parts the grandfather told. The present moment parts weren't as good but overall I enjoyed the story and writing.

I haven't been writing much at all these past two weeks. I mean hardly a word at all. But I feel like I have a pretty good reason: I WAS IN DISNEY WORLD!!

It really is the most magical place on Earth to me. The Disney stories were the ones I grew up on and fell in love with, the ones that made me seek adventures and use my imagination. In Epcot there's a fireworks show called Illuminations; the first time I saw it I was ten years old, and it heavily influenced me toward being a writer. A fireworks show! Who knew such a thing could have that kind of power.

It's not much different for me as a 25-year-old. Disney. Is. Awesome. Looking around at all the marvels and being a part of the magic just drops story ideas into my head like nothing else. And it makes me want to create.

Here's the problem: While I'm on vacation, I don't really do anything related to work. I mean, maybe I'll study by the pool. I'll read. But writing takes a lot of energy, and on vacation all my energy is geared toward the fun I'm having.

Now that vacation's over, two weeks have gone by and I haven't finished the story I started before I left, and tomorrow is May, so I'm behind on my April W1S1 goal. I hate being behind on my goals. HATE IT. Especially lately, because lately I've felt that I haven't been doing all I can to get my stories out there and published. I have a lot of good ideas and not a lot of great stories on paper. I need to change that. I NEED TO. It eats at me, but should I really feel bad for enjoying my vacation to the max? It's a battle: Relaxation vs. Guilt.

Ultimately I think relaxation wins, and here's why: The vacation was awesome and I had a great time and don't regret a bit of it. What irks me is the time I wasn't producing fiction. But that feeling also lights a fire under me, makes me wanna jump back into it full force and energized. So in that sense relaxing on vacation is potentially good for my productivity--if I harness this energy and turn it into some feverish working, ride the wave of hard work that follows vacation like a rubber band rebounding, then I can get some serious work done.

Moral of the story: I should go on more vacations.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Crunch Time

Now Playing: TOP OF THE WORLD by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman
Just Read: ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST by Ken Kesey--Very fun! I've been meaning to read this one for a while and it didn't disappoint. Great writing--awesome analogies--and great story.
Reading Now: THE TIGER'S WIFE by Tea Obreht

I think I have discovered that I work well with deadlines.

They are, of course, purely imaginary at this point in my career. My Write1Sub1 goals don't cost me anything if I don't meet them, but they're there to challenge me and keep my writing on track. Likewise, some magazines have their own deadlines: limited submission windows, or contests like Writers of the Future that starts over every three months. I've done well trying to position stories for submission within these windows.

Winning  the Writers of the Future Contest is a huge goal I've set for myself. I first started submitting in . . . 2007? . . . took some time off but have submitted every quarter regularly for the past three years. I received an honorable mention two quarters ago, but everything else has been a form rejection. However, I think my stories have gotten progressively better, and the contest itself has made my writing more disciplined.

Reading some of the winners' anthologies, I started to pick up that the contest tends to lean toward longer stories. Perhaps it's a mark of a new writer's control, like being able to keep a story together for a higher word count is tougher and therefore more worthy of winning. The problem with writing longer pieces is they take longer to perfect. So I've gotten into a habit of writing a longer piece for one month's W1S1 goal, then two shorter pieces for the next two months while I work on editing the longer piece for the WotF Contest. By the time the deadline comes around, it's usually ready.

This quarter ends on March 31st. I have a story edited and prepared . . . but is it perfect? That's what I'll be asking myself over the next few days as I try to nail it down and send it toward the higher ranks of submissions. It's crunch time! Let's win this thing.