Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Thoughts

From the Speakers: 3 LIBRAS by A Perfect Circle
Just Read: THE THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke--Didn't know where it was going when I started, but I liked how it suddenly turned speculative. Very entertaining.
Reading Now: THE WOLF TREE by John Claude Bemis

It's that time again: reflection on what writing accomplishments I've made this year, and contemplation of what my goals are for next year.

Looking back, I've written innumerable short stories, one novella, completed the final draft of one novel. I started this blog. I opened a twitter account to follow authors, agents, and publishers. I submitted a plethora of tales, got several encouraging rejection letters, had three accepted, two published. Oh, and I graduated college with a minor in creative writing. All in all I'd say 2011 was a success from a writing standpoint.

Now, the three accepted stories number provides a launching point for next year. To me, three isn't very high at all (although it's about a quarter of my total acceptances), though in my defense I was finishing up nursing school for half the year, and then looking for a job, and then starting a job. My main goal for 2012 is volume related. I have a handful of files in my "Completed Stories" folder, and by December 31, 2012, I want to have a barrel of stories, if not a whole cellar full. If I'm lucky, some of them might even be published.

One thing I'm going to do to help achieve this goal is accept the Write1Sub1 challenge. I heard about this a while ago and it sounded awesome, but I didn't really think I was in a stable enough place in my life to commit to a weekly challenge of that magnitude. Now, though, as Write1Sub1 is being reloaded, the time has come to jump in. Last year was a solid foundation, but next year I plan to really take myself seriously as a professional writer.

So let's do it! Let's grab our pencil and paper, boot up our computers, put some fresh ink in our printers, and get to work! Here we go! Write on!

. . . Starting next week. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From the Speakers: WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND by Dean Martin

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Technology: Love it or Hate it

From the Speakers: YOU by Candlebox

My laptop crashed.

As I searched online for the title of a movie I couldn't think of (turned out to be Valhalla Rising . . . don't recommend it), up popped the infamous blue screen of death, of doom, and of destruction. "The System Has Halted," it informed me. Yes. I inferred that much. Thank you.

I'm borrowing a computer now to blog (thanks Mom . . . ) and to write. I don't really like this computer though. I say that hesitantly, because sometimes I get the impression that it can hear me when I insult it and it starts to work more slowly, like this afternoon when Pandora radio was skipping and I yelled at it across the room, and BOOM! Google Chrome is not responding.

Sometimes I hate technology. Absolutely hate it.

On the interesting (but not necessarily bright) side, I've written my past two stories by hand as a side effect. They've turned out to be good; I really like the places I've gone with them, as well as the pace and structure that's more natural to pencil. One's about a science fiction refugee, the other about a dying old lady with a less than welcome visitor to her hospital room. In an earlier post, I touched on how my style comes out differently when I write in pencil, and it's gotten my mind thinking along different pathways.

Who knows--maybe even the bluest screens of death could be blessings in disguise?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Story Sale!

From the Speakers: SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN by Harry Connick Jr.

Ever wonder how people who get away with terrible crimes can live without guilt? Well, not all of them can.

That's an attempt at a teaser for my latest story sale--what do you think? Enticing? Would you read on?

"Ten Stories Up, Ten Years Later" originated as a submission for a flash fiction contest my senior year at UNC. It didn't place, so I started sending it around to magazines, and after some helpful feedback and revisions, it landed a home at Misfit Magazine! Here's the link: It's due to come out in the April 2012 issue.

(Head over there now and see a story by Milo James Fowler, who I appeared beside in Ray Gun Revival this summer, when "Good Business, with Guns" was published. Click the link to the left to read that one!)

What a great early Christmas present! And don't worry--I'll be sure to post several reminders in April, when it comes out. The best part is I still have a handful (or two) of stories floating around out there. If one gets accepted before Christmas, I just might have to bake twice as many cookies for Santa.

Woohoo! Nothing like a sale to get the writing juices flowing. Ready... set... WRITE!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Binge Writing

From the Speakers: SONG 3 by The Appleseed Cast

I've been on a short story binge lately, both reading and writing.All kinds of great places to find free, amazing fiction exist online, magazines like Clarkesworld, Ray Gun Revival, Light Speed--basically magazines I like to submit to--not to mention that a while ago I subscribed to Fantasy and Science Fiction and Asimov's, and midway through the year got hooked on a books series (okay, maybe more than one series), and so I've still got a lot of good short fiction sitting around my room.

Reading these stories makes me want to write short pieces of my own. The thing about writing novels is that the rate of ideas that pop into my head doesn't decrease, so I get this backlog waiting to be written. The hiatus I take from novel-writing, coupled with recent short story reading, results in what I refer to as a "binge-writing" phase.

This is where, in the course of a very short amount of time, I write as many short stories as I can, as fast as I can. What I end up with is between four and six short stories in a week. If your wondering if the quality is questionable, I'll tell you I'm usually surprised at how letting the idea incubate in my head makes it come out more fully formed. However, while binge writing, I never feel like slowing down to edit.

That comes later, after a very long and well-deserved sleep.

Often, the stories spring from a single question: Why would a man be trying to survive in the wild, and what's hunting him? Could a kid build a mechanical dog out of junkyard parts? What would the slave trade look like in science fiction? What would a group of uneducated sailors ask their friend to protect if they knew they sailed to their deaths?

To find out the answers to these questions, stay tuned for future story sales posts!

Anyway, I've been coming out of a binge phase, the result being four short stories that now desperately need my attention for the revision process. Soon, it will be time to get to work on that . . . .

There are worse habits to binge on, don't you agree?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rough Hands

From the Speakers: ROUGH HANDS by Alex is on Fire

Been writing my latest story by hand. It's rare for me to use a pencil and not the computer, for a few reasons. The computer is faster. I don't have to rewrite the draft once I finish it. Mostly, I feel "in the mood" when I'm at my desk, surrounded by what's familiar. My hand starts to cramp after a while.

But somehow, since it's such an infrequent practice for me, new things begin to happen when I write by hand. My entire voice is different. I really have no idea why. It's a more . . . poetic, loquacious, often dark voice that comes out when I write with pencil and paper. Also, the story tends to be shorter and more poignant.

I'm totally cool with this. So the other day, bored, watching some sports game I cared nothing about, I picked up a notebook and started asking my roommates for the opening line of a story. Now I have a dark, fun piece about a guy surviving in the woods, hiding out from an overbearing Polity, 1984 style.

No idea where this idea came from.

It's been fun. Wouldn't do it every time, but I've got this neat system figured out where I change things up with the process a bit and cause a change in my usual style. Being a writer is great--it's so flexible!

Now, to find a magazine that likes this story as much as I do!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

From the Speakers: MY LIFE by Billy Joel

Too full to blog. That's how you know it's been a great holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

5 stories, 1 week

From the Speakers: IN THE END by Linkin Park
Just Read: GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins--At times I thought the writing needed work, but over a fun adventure. I love Boots!
Just Read: THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick--I was skeptical about all the drawings to being with, but they're actually pretty awesome. Made it feel like you were speed-reading.
Reading Now: THE THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke

I've prided myself on my commitment to writing lately. Being a nurse, I have a varying work schedule, but it comes down to three days in the hospital each week. That leaves a large chunk of time each week to work on my craft.

This week, I've been especially busy. I've sent off five stories to various magazines, bringing my total number of stories floating around to nine. That's a lot of crossed fingers.

A few of the stories have been flash fiction--that's stories with fewer than 1000 words. It's a challenge to write these, but I think they're very fun, and have a lot of creative potential. Their brevity may contribute to how prolific I've been lately, but it's been a blast researching flash fiction markets, reading some great samples, and picking the right magazines for each story. It's like playing the right card in a tight game of rummy.

One thing I've noticed about writing, there's a definite positive feedback loop involved. The more I submit, the  more driven I am to write and submit even more. The more comments I get from magazines, the more I want to send them something else. Thank goodness for this.

Set the bar high last week. Gotta make sure I jump over it this week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Four Steps Forward, One Step Back

From the Speakers: TRUE LOVE WAY by Kings of Leon

The other day I sat down and, in about four hours, wrote four thousand words.

I had this magazine in mind, Penumbra Magazine, and they look for certain themes or stories about whatever subject to tie each issue together. I like this because it's a bit of a challenge, and it forces me to sit down and write with direction.

Well, the last call was for steampunk. So I spent the duration of a long car ride last week thinking about what my steampunk story would be about. Finally I came up with something I thought was good, and in four hours I had a complete four thousand-word story, hot off the presses.

But here's the thing: Penumbra Magazine has a word-count restriction of 500-3000 words, meaning I'd have to cut mine by a fourth to make it submission worthy. It took two days of hard work to finally get it down within the range. Why in the world was it so much harder to cut words out of the story than put them in? Why didn't I just leave all those words out to begin with and save myself the trouble? Deleting 1000 words was like taking a step backward after charging forward four steps.

But, as is usually the reward with nose-to-the-grindstone work, the story is better for it.

Once again, the . . . act? duty? joy? trails? . . . of writing reflect the struggles of real life. You'd think by now I'd stop being surprised.

Monday, November 7, 2011

183 Pages, One Day

From the Speakers: SWALLOWED  by Bush
Just Read: STARDUST by Neil Gaiman--Great book with a great voice! One of those books that boosts my own creativity.
Just Read: WIZARD'S FIRST RULE by Terry Goodkind--Big commitment, but certainly an enjoyable, well-crafted fantasy. Slow pace, high build, long journey. Great for when you're in the mood for an epic.
Reading Now: GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins

The other day, I decided I wasn't going to work on anything new. I'd spent the last week on new stuff, and writing query letters, so I'd been thinking about my novel for a while. I went through it to see if anything jumped out at me as in need of revision.


I'm not sure how many words that is, but it was a lot. I ended up cutting out a bunch, making certain verbs a lot stronger, and getting a better all-around feel for the novel. It was an awesome day. I'm not doing the NaNoWriMo challenge--although I would love to, one day, probably on my own . . . maybe next July--but I definitely did a lot of work on it this month. I'm giving a lot of thought to doing the Write1Sub1 commitment, though . . .

I felt like I'd run a marathon by the end. Well, let me clarify that--I felt like someone in shape enough to run a marathon and feel alive at the finish line. It was a feeling of immense accomplishment.

Only 190 pages left until the whole novel is edited. We'll see if I can get that done in one day . . . here we go!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bring It On

From the Speakers: TRAIN WRECK by Tipsy Bacchanals

Just worked all night, so short post:

After feeling a bit down and posting my last post, this was great to come across:

The things in that article are very true. I knew them all once, just needed to be reminded. I'm saving this link, so that in a few months, when I'm sinking toward posting about how terrible a career choice writing is, I'll have a line to pull myself out with.

Thanks. That's all for now--there're stories to be told.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From the Speakers: DIAMONDS AND COAL by Incubus

With four days off a week, I've been writing more regularly than I have for a while. It's been great--I spent September working on a novel, lost a bit of momentum, decided I wanted to take a break and picked up on some ideas I'd had for short stories. Wrote many new ones, edited a few old ones, got some positive feedback from magazines.

And all the while, this novel called "The Duelers" I've had finished now for a year has been waiting, incubating. (Do "incubate" and "incubus" come from the same root?) For a few weeks I sent out a new query letter every day. My days off consisted of vigorous agent research, critiquing my query letter to perfection for that particular agent, and casting it into the water with a prayer. No bites.

Each new agent I discover and query seems PERFECT. I mean, their submission guidelines practically describe my book. They all seem enthusiastic and like great people to work with. Perhaps if they seemed like jerks it'd be less heartbreaking to constantly get form rejections from them. But then, I probably wouldn't query them if that were the case.

I'm not saying I feel like giving up. I approach agents like I'm Jimmy V, but that doesn't mean it isn't discouraging. And I keep hearing that it doesn't reflect on my book or me or my writing--the agent might have a full plate or can't afford to rep my genre at the moment . . . and sure, that makes me feel a bit better, but it still leaves me in the same spot: agentless, with a polished manuscript getting dusty and more unread every day.

Anyway, enough venting. Enough feeling sorry for myself. I'll keep on keeping on, fighting the good fight, until I'm successful. I've wasted enough time complaining, time to get back to work. One day this lowly aspiring writer will be on the top, helping young writers who remind me of me long ago. Even diamonds start as coal.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

From the Speakers: THRILLER by Michael Jackson

I'm a big fan of the horror genre. There are lots of different ways to define horror: books that scare you, make you jumpy, make your imagination go haywire when everything is quiet, give you creeps, etc. Personally, I think the best written ones, the ones that take the most skill, are those that make you think long after you close the covers, books that make you wonder, "What if what happened to those characters happened to me?"

My definition of "horror" is loose. Scary moments can occur in any genre: science fiction, mystery, fantasy, contemporary. Horror is great because it's the thread that ties all genres together.

So, in honor of today's special occasion, the top 5 horror novels I've read:

5. BAND OF BROTHERS by Stephen Ambrose: What's scarier than jumping out of a plane onto a beach at night where Nazi's are trying like hell to kill you and all of your brothers in arms? It could be painfully over for you or your best friend at any moment. Ghosts and goblins are frightening, but if I had lived through what they did, I don't know that I'd ever be scared of anything again in my life.
4. HAUNTED by Chuck Palanuik: Delightfully disturbing the whole way--the actual story wasn't all that scary, but what the people did to each other was troubling to the extreme. The story's frequent nonchalance added a lot to the feeling it left you with. Great book.
3. A GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin: Also not particularly scary in itself, but there were parts that sent a chill up my spine. The nature of the Others is that they are unknown; people say we are scared of the dark because it's unknown, but the Others are like darkness with swords. Not to mention how the characters in this story do some things that exemplify the worst in people.
2. PET SEMETARY by Stephen King: Demented kids are always scary, but the "king" of horror did a wonder on me with the image of the main kid being hit by a truck. Yet, the truly scary part of this book was how the father reacted, how you watched him lose his mind in an effort to get his son back, and my question to myself: Would I have acted any differently?
1. CONGO by Michael Crichton: Perhaps it was because I was younger when I read this one, but CONGO stuck with me. I think it was the feeling of pure helplessness--what are you going to do protect yourself? Fight back? A joke. Run away? No chance. Something has decided that you will die, violently, and there is NOTHING you can do about it.

As you can see, few actual "horror" stories made my top 5 list. That's what I love about horror. Now, I'm about to go write a science fiction story . . . and scare your pants off!

If you have suggestions for scary books I should read, let me know! I definitely want to read the scariest books I can find.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Music Time (pun?)

From the Speakers: HIGHER by Creed

Music is a helluva drug.

People claim they can't workout without their headphones on full volume. Angsty teens close their bedroom doors, turn up their speakers, and listen to singers who can relate to them. It keeps you awake and can put you into a pleasant sleep. It can touch you like a physical thing, make you cry, make you angry, make your hairs stand on end, make you get up and shout.

It can take you higher. Creed would know.

Even Dumbledore says music is "a magic beyond all we do," and I'm inclined to agree.

When I was just starting to write seriously, like as an every day thing, I played the same CD. It was a mixtape of Atreyu songs that began with "The Interlude," which sounds wrong but, as it turned out, was very right. Listening to that amazing track always set the mood, always brought me back to where I left off in the story. Music was, and still is, the catalyst to get my creative juices flowing.

That's why, every day on my blog, I share what's coming from my speakers. I honestly think that some of the stories I've written would be drastically different if a different song had been playing when I wrote them.

Music can make anything you have to focus on easier. Give it a try. Imagine if soldiers listened to music before battle, what they would be capable of.

There's a story there somewhere . . . .

Thursday, October 27, 2011


From the Speakers: ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER by Jimi Hendrix

I think Earnest Hemingway was the one who said to writers, "Kill your darlings." I could be wrong about that credit, but regardless, the point is that writers shouldn't keep good work in their story just because it's good. It has to belong. In other words, if a particular analogy or sentence or whole scene is good on it's own, that's not enough to warrant a place in your story.

I'm pretty sure it was Stephen King who said the formula is: Final draft = First draft minus 10%. (If you couldn't tell, the part of my memory that records quotation credits is shaky at best.) This means that, during the revision process, you should always be taking things out of your story, not putting things in. I tend to be a putter-inner, by nature--there's always just a little bit more I want to say--but a few years of laborious training has (almost) broken me of these tendencies.

It was a big paradigm shift for me to start thinking of editing as "removal" rather than "improvement." But the two go hand in hand. Interestingly, when you look up synonyms to "editing" in Microsoft Word, you get these words: excision, removal, deletion, erasure, expurgation. Antonym? Insertion.

I bring this up because I spent a huge chunk of yesterday trying to weed out words to get a 4500 word story down to 4000 so I could submit to Ray Gun Revival--they read it, offered some ideas, and requested a resubmission. But they like their stories to remain under 4000, so I felt I should oblige. It was tough, but, like every time I've gone on a weeding mission (as I call these efforts), the finished story is much stronger, and you don't miss what's no longer there.

(On a side note, one of the best weeding missions I ever did was for a friend. She had an essay for some application that had to be 500 words, and it was over 1000. She'd already cut it down from 1200, but there wasn't a single word she could do without. When I was done with it, it was 483 words, and she couldn't find where I had removed anything. Booyah.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Season's Greetings

From the Speakers: FINE AGAIN by Seether
Just Read: BETTER by Atul Gawande--Great ideas about performance: diligence, doing right, and ingenuity. Translates nicely to writing, I'd say.
Reading Now: WIZARD'S FIRST RULE by Terry Goodkind

Writing, for me, has proven to be seasonal. In the summer, I'm much more inclined to write longer pieces. Winter brings about an urge to work on description; I tend to write lugubriously dense, slow-paced stories during the colder months.

But when the weather changes daily--either getting cooler and burning or rusting the leaves, or getting warmer and making everything outdoors bigger and fuller--I get into this mood where I have to write as much as I can on as many different stories as I can. More ideas occur to me during spring and autumn--I don't know why, but if I did you can guarantee I'd be milking those reasons year round.

It's kind of nice. It's well-known that autumn is a great season for literature, for sitting outside and watching the leaves change with a good book. Nature does great things for creative minds.

I've recently completed one of the longest short-stories I've ever written. It's 18,600 words, which I believe classifies it as a "novelette". It also classifies it as unsalable, but I'll ignore that little fact and enjoy the accomplishment of it. Now, bring on the autumn: long stories on the back burner while I churn out a high quantity of (hopefully high quality) short stories.

If that means lots of publications to follow soon, you'll be the first to know.

PS--If you were wondering, the water damage at my apartment is 100% cleared up. The poison ivy on my leg could learn a lesson.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Days Like Today

From the Speakers: TIMES LIKE THESE by Foo Fighters

Thank goodness for writing on days like today. . .

Water piped leaked. Guys came yesterday, said it was good to go. Squishy carpet between my toes. Someone else's vegetable soup rising up out of my sink. Gigantic fan blowing all night to dry the carpet. This morning, wet carpet.

Guys came back, one broke my bookshelf. Pages falling onto carpet dampened by I don't know what, but it's brownish. Said we were good to go. Sorry about the vegetable soup--someone's clogged garbage disposal upstairs. Now, two gigantic fans, and a warning that they must continue to blow all night. Squishier carpet between my toes. Standing water in the dishwasher. All around, the hanging scent of mildew moving in. Making itself comfortable.

Repaired the bookshelf, a bit more organized. Took six times as long as it should have. Wearing shoes now to avoid squishy carpet. Almost slipped because of wet shoes on kitchen tile. Carpet ripped up for fans to blow beneath. Can't close the door because of tented carpet. Keep tripping over tented carpet.

Cherry on top: poison ivy on my leg.

Time to get the hell out of reality for a bit and write a story.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tight Margins

From the Speakers: THE IMPERIAL MARCH by John Williams

Quick post today--gotta get back to work.

The crappy thing about stories is they can be so stubborn sometimes. I've hit on this before, but I've found that if I try to force a story into becoming something it isn't--if I try to make it shorter, for example, or longer, or more marketable in any of these ways that don't relate to quality--they simply refuse to budge. In my experience, stories are discovered, and as such, are things. You can not will things into different things, much as you try. Thus, a story that is long must be written as a long story--it is nothing else, and if you try to make it short, you will inevitably be disappointed.

This is the dilemma I've struggled with lately, as stories of fewer than 7500 words are preferred by most markets. But the one I've stumbled upon recently, the one I'm working on, is decidedly longer. At the moment, it is 14000, and I have an inkling that there are at least 2000 words left to be discovered.

I don't know what I'm going to do with it or where I'm going to submit after it's finished. But that's not going to come close to stopping me from finishing it. So, gotta run--this adventure is nearing its climax!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ordinary Things

From the Speakers: SATELLITE by P.O.D

A while ago I said I don't like to write about ordinary people doing ordinary things. Here's why.

First of all, I've always thought of writing as an escape from reality. I grew up in rural North Carolina--there wasn't much to do if you didn't have an imagination. As a middle schooler, just learning to ride the lawn mower on the weekends, I pushed the throttle to the max and pretended I was a pilot. One of my favorite stories came out of it.

So if I write about ordinary people doing ordinary things, where's the escape? Where's the imagination? In college, SO MANY of my peers and instructors wanted stories about normal people having relationships with other normal people. My feeling is that I see so much of this in real life, it would suffocate me if I transfered it over to my fiction. It was all so LITERARY. I wanted to slap them and say, "Who wants to read this? I can just sit on a bench in a crowded mall and see this story take place." Again, where's the imagination?

Not to say the people who write these stories are stupid. Frankly, it's probably harder to write these stories interestingly, and a lot more work, and a lot more editing. So many of these stories have been written that it's tough to make a new one good. In my opinion, these writers could put all that energy and work to better use by writing something with a bit more spice.

Thus, I write and read genres like fantasy and science fiction, westerns, and mysteries. I especially enjoy mixing these genres--my story Good Business, With Guns (see sidebar for link) is a western set in the future, on another planet--because I feel it's a great way to come up with something new and exciting.

So: ordinary people doing ordinary things? No thanks. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things? Absolutely, I'll try it out. Extraordinary people doing extraordinary things?

Now we're talking.

PS--Special thanks to my fellow writer Milo James Fowler, who gave me the tip about showing the books I'm reading over there on the left. Check out his stuff!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Looks

From the Speakers: ALICE'S THEME by Danny Elfman
Just Read: THE INNER CIRCLE by Brad Meltzer--A compelling thriller; always like a book with a little extra. This one provided history as well as character-driven tension.
Reading Now: WIZARD'S FIRST RULE by Terry Goodkind

Every now and then--with writing, as with life (as is so often the case)--a new perspective is needed. Pardon my passive voice in that last sentence, but sometimes passive voice is needed (like here) to convey the meaning perfectly. Active voice is the rule among writers, but that doesn't mean passive can't make a welcomed appearance.

Similarly, routine is the rule with writers who are serious about their craft. I heard once that John Grisham wakes up at 6am every morning and writes until lunch. I think Stephen King has a similar regiment, where he writes for four hours and reads for four hours daily. Doubtless, there are writers out there who refuse to sit down without sixteen ounces of ice-cold Dr. Pepper nearby, or maybe they won't put down a word until they perform their daily yoga routine. Whatever it is they do, it helps them get into the mood to sit down and continue working on whatever project they have in mind.

I have a routine, too. It usually involves exercise. But I'm spending this weekend at my parents' house, and I didn't bring my computer. I have theirs, though, and it's a nice one. So today, though nothing was familiar and the view was foreign, I sat down to write a story. I had one that has been elbowing its way to the forefront of my mind lately, and though I'd been ignoring it at my home, its strangeness seemed to fit perfectly with my new locale.

Lo and behold, good things happened.

Sometimes, a switch in perspective is all you need to break free of a rut. Stephen Covey is all about shifts in paradigms. (Google him if you don't know who I mean. Then read his book.)

Thank goodness that this world is big enough that, no matter how well traveled you think you are, there are always new things to make you--and your breath--stop.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

YA Giveaway

From the Speakers: HYMN TO THE FALLEN by John Williams

Finding an agent is probably the hardest, loneliest, and most discouraging of all writing processes.

You have an idea for a story. You sit down a write a story. It's okay. You go back and edit it. It's better. Your eyes hurt from looking at it. Characters you love start to become annoying with their presence. You edit it again. Spend more time with them. The story is great. The best you've ever written. Once again, you love these characters unconditionally. So much so, you must share this story, this novel, with others.

Not so fast!

An agent must send your manuscript out to the publishing companies. But before that, he or she has to agree to represent you. But before that, he or she must request to read your full manuscript. But before that, he or she must read your query letter and sample pages and be impressed enough not to reject you informally. But before that, you must write a query letter. But before that, you must research, heavily, which agent or agents you will submit to.

And you bear all of this alone.

Again, not so fast! Fortunately for us lonely writers, there are those out there who want to help. A few of them live over at YA Confidential ( They're having a giveaway, and those entering can win a critique of their query or sample pages by an agent. What value! I wish I had an agent as a family member or friend or neighbor who could take two seconds to read my query letter and tell me what they thought. It's difficult to know if you're doing well when you get a lot of rejections, but your query letter resembles those examples posted on the web. Does your letter suck? Or is it just that agents reject almost everybody? Probability isn't in your favor as a writer submitting. That's why a (YA? haha!) giveaway like this is so awesome because if you win, your chances of being the best submission possible increase dramatically.

So I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grammar Pet Peeves

From the Speakers: COME TOGETHER by The Beatles

Some friends of mine think I'm a grammar Nazi--I deny it. Speaking with correct grammar is hard, especially if you're surrounded by people who don't care whether you speak correctly or not. But, since I love my friends so much and would never want them to be embarrassed by using the wrong word in front of someone important to them, I often call them out.

Plus it's funny.

So here are my top three most amusing grammar mistakes that I hear all the time:

1. Lie vs. Lay
It was truly a curse when I learned the rule of when to use "lie" and when to use "lay." The short explanation is that you lay down SOMETHING. There has to be an object to lay down. So when someone says "I'm going to lay down for a while," I just want to ask. "Lay what down?"

And how can so many hit songs make it to the radio with this incorrect lyric in their refrains? Take the song CHASING CARS by Snow Patrol--"If I lay here, If I just lay here . . . " If you lay WHAT there!? Doesn't someone check these things? The craziest thing about that song is that he gets it right in the very next line! Or, how about THE LAZY SONG by Bruno Mars: "I just wanna lay in my bed . . . ." LAY WHAT IN YOUR BED!? DON'T LEAVE ME HANGING, BRUNO MARS!

2. Apostrophe + S
You should read a book called, EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES. There are some hilarious examples of apostrophe + s misused in there.

For some reason, I see this all the time on T-shirts. I have no idea why. But I was at the triangle heart walk this weekend, and one group's shirts (I'll leave them anonymous) said something along the lines of "All heart's are worth fighting for."

Admirable sentiments. But wrong. All hearts are worth fighting for. All "heart's" . . . makes no sense. Thanks for supporting, and for bringing laughter to we few who firmly grasp the rules of grammar.

I bought a T-shirt from my high school's marching band that says "All The World's A Stage--Inspired by the writing's of William Shakespeare." DOH! How are you going to misuse an apostrophe (it should be "writings") while paying homage to one of the greatest writers of all time? Lord.

3. Mixing and Matching Sayings
This has less to do with rules of grammar than the other two, but it's my favorite. People mix and match sayings and idioms all the time, and no one really notices because they're analogies, and most of the time we know what they're trying to say, so we hear it correctly.

Here's a good one: "Life threw me for a curve ball." No. It didn't. Perhaps it threw you a curve ball, or maybe it threw you for a loop, but I do not think it threw you for a curve ball. That'd be strange indeed.

Another one I heard: "Give me a bone, already!" Wait, what? How about I give you a break? Or, I'll throw you a bone, and chock this mistake up to you being so exasperated you can't even get your sayings right. Your erroneously implied innuendo is hilarious, though.

This one is infamous: "I could care less what you do!" So . . . you care what I do? Then why are you saying it like you don't? This phrase is notorious for stopping an argument in its tracks, because someone always says this in a heated moment, like an angry parent telling an unruly child to get out of the house or something, and the parent realizes he said that wrong, and the kid's like, "Wait, are you kicking me out or telling me you love me?" And the parent stammers and the kid's looking around . . . it's a disaster. Make this phrase negative: I couldn't care less.

One day I heard President Obama mix and match a saying and about died laughing. I wish I could remember that one--it was great.

Keep your ears out for these mistakes. There are thousands of them everyday, and you'll go crazy if you try to correct them all (and people around you will hate you), so just sit back and enjoy them. Sometimes you'll just recognize them and feel smarter than everyone else, but other times they will make you bust a gut.

I'm going to be really embarrassed if there's a grammatical error in this post.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Radio Star

From the Speakers: DROWNING YOU IN FEAR by Scary Kids Scaring Kids

Big news!!

A while back, I mentioned here on my blog that my story "Good Business, With Guns" was going to be featured on a science fiction radio program. Well . . . IT AIRED YESTERDAY!

It was so cool listening to some voice actor I've never met read and interpret my words over the radio, so awesome wondering how many people were tuning in from who knows where, getting to know me through my work and enjoying something I had created.

One thought that crossed my mind: the station is out of Maine, which is where Stephen King, one of my favorite authors, lives. Dare I believe it barely possible that he might have tuned in? That someone whose work I've read for years actually got to listen to some of mine? He probably didn't, of course, but it's still fun to imagine.

I know what you're thinking (or I hope I do)--you're thinking "Oh no! I missed the broadcast." Fear not. The podcast is available online. Here's the link: My story starts about 12 minutes and 13 seconds into the show, and lasts for about 12 minutes. Go listen and tell me what you think!

If you want to follow along with the reading, here's how it appears at Ray Gun Revival:


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Short Stuff


Don't tell the instructor, but since I have to sit through a lot of classes about stuff I already know lately, I've taken advantage of the time to do some writing. I have this little notebook that can fit about 150 words on a page. This past week, whenever things got dull in class, I've been seeing if I can fit a whole, complete story on a single page.

It's been really fun--writing these short-short stories, often called "flash fiction" because of how fast you can read them, is a lot different than writing a short story of 2500 words or more. Flash fiction usually wraps up in under 1000 words. The shorter, the tougher to write, and the wittier they have to be.

There are a lot of markets out there for flash fiction. I used to write more of it, like when I was in a creative writing class and the professor would give us a prompt and a few minutes to work on it. I'd always try to finish a story before she began her lesson. I even placed in a short-short fiction contest called the "Mini Max Competition" at UNC, which is a great competition in which a ton of talent reveals itself. The story which placed was later published in Barbaric Yawp Magazine.

So this past week I've taken a break from the longer pieces I have under construction and spent some time writing flash fiction. I've finished three. You can't do that with longer short stories--start with nothing on Monday and have three pieces ready to send to magazines for consideration on Friday.

Mixed feelings about it, though. Breaking from the longer pieces, including a novel I'm writing, means risking that it becomes slightly stagnant and harder to pick up where I left off. Which is why I try to institute a few rules when writing a novel, one of which is: When you stop writing for the day, know where you will go with it when you pick it up tomorrow. That way, I don't sit down because I'm supposed to and just twiddle my thumbs. Instead I think, "Oh yeah, gotta get to work because my character has this thing to do next." Thus, I can take a step away and write three flashes, without risk of writer's block taking over.

It's all about staying one step ahead.

As is so often the case, writing illuminates life lessons.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Old Acquaintances, New Friends

From the Speakers: LIKE A STONE by Audioslave

So recently I was looking back through stories that I had retired, meaning that I wrote them and thought they were pretty good, so I shopped them out to a few appropriate magazines. These stories were rejected a number of times, with no real improvement in feedback after some moderate revision. Once I couldn't think of any more magazines to try, I stopped bothering with each story and moved on to whatever was hot at the time.

Eventually I forgot about them. They retreated to a place in my mind like old acquaintances do, where you remember being fond of them, once upon a time, but time and distance has separated you. Indeed, the characters themselves, upon revisiting the story, greatly resemble real acquaintances; I reread a retired story and thought, "Oh, yeah I remember you. I remember that quirk you had, that thing you always did, that perspective you had."

Then something strange happened. I discovered something I never knew about one particular story, something that made me want to get to know it again. If it were a real person, I might say, "Wow! All this time we've known each other and I've never known that. We should catch up sometime!"

And that's exactly what happened. In this case, something I had taken for granted in the story suddenly seemed wrong. Specifically, in this story my main character finds himself locked inside a lion's cage, unable to free himself. In the retired version, the cage is empty except for him. But when I reread it, I suddenly thought, "Oh, the lion is actually supposed to be INSIDE the cage with him!" With this new idea in mind, I reworked the story and now it's something completely new to me and, I think, a lot better. An old acquaintance has become a new friend.

Now, we'll see if those magazines will react the same way I did. In general, I never submit the same story to a magazine that's already rejected it, but in this case it's so drastically different that it's more or less new. Just to be safe, maybe I'll change the title. :)

This has happened before, most noticeably with a story called "Tom the Sheller," originally entitled "Shell Me." The newer story was ASTRONOMICALLY better than the original, and it got published in Electric Spec magazine. Here's the link: To this day it is probably my favorite short story I've ever written. I hope you all enjoy it, too!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You Do What You Can

From the Speakers: BURIED MYSELF ALIVE by The Used

It sucks, but sometimes the day job gets in the way of your writing. This was something I was loathe to believe just a few short weeks ago when I was a student, and then later when I had the summer off, waiting to start my new career. One thing I always had a lot of was time, and one thing I had few of was obligations. All that free time was great for being productive on the page.

But now that I've started working, that routine I was used to is a thing of the past. Today, after work, I had about an hour and a half to get home and do whatever before going to the gym, after which I had to eat dinner and get my stuff together for work the next day.

I sat down at my computer and had to face reality. I didn't have the time I needed to get jazzed and write two thousand words on the next chapter of the novel I'm writing, or even to finish the half-completed short story that's been begging my for completion. Soon, I'll have to work twelve hour shifts, and my conclusion is that no (or very little) writing will get done those days. I wanted to forget about it then, maybe crawl in bed or nap or pick up a book and relax for a while when I had the chance.

But I'm sure very few great writers became great this way. They did what they could when they could. So that's what I did--I worked on two short-short pieces, one of which I wrote after performing the exercises discussed yesterday--and managed to submit one to a magazine I've been looking at for a while. Keep your fingers crossed--hopefully I'll have more links for you guys to check out before long. Until then, I'll keep doing what I can.

Hope you're doing the same in your lives, whatever that might be.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's in your Wallet?

From the Speakers: BROKEN by Stream of Passion
Just Read: REAL MONEY by Jim Cramer--Great book for young investors like myself!
Reading Now: THE INNER CIRCLE by Brad Meltzer

Time for more writing exercises.

I managed to write two short-shorts today using this exercise. It's great for getting to the heart of characters, and we all know character-based stories are the ones everybody loves. So here goes:

Find a few pictures of people (characters) you don't know--newspapers and magazines are great sources, but I'm sure Google Images would suffice--and study them one by one for a minute or so. After that minute, make a list of things they might carry in their wallet or purse. Get creative with it and make some leaps and assumptions about them. You'll be surprised by what you think up.

Here's mine. I know you can't see the pictures I'm looking at, but maybe if I've done a good enough job, you'll see the character I saw in my head.

Picture 1: In her purse, she carried a special theater ticket, a plane ticket to a conference, a pen light, neosporin, bandaids, spare earrings, drug company pens.
Picture 2: In his wallet, he had an AHA Basic Life Support card, gym card, library card, a many-folded piece of paper with a list of medications, an unsigned slip of paper with "Thank you" handwritten on it.
Picture 3: In her purse, she had an emergency makeup kit, five spare pens, a creased pocket notebook, a St. Jude prayer card, a miniature metal cross that's warped and has black marks on it.
Picture 4: In his wallet, he carried gift cards, coupons, a list of phone numbers for influential people, directions to a country club, an eighteen-hole score card three under par.
Picture 5: In her purse, she had a spare pair of glasses, a pack of Crest white strips, an empty cartridge of lipstick, pictures of her family, sticky notes, the soccer coaches' phone numbers, and lots of gum wrapper trash.

Okay, there are my people. Now I can throw them all into a situation and make a story out of it. Personally I'm most intrigued by the fourth guy because it seems like he tries to look rich for other people, and the first lady because she looks like she's got a unique job or hobby that would make great details for a character's back story.


Monday, September 12, 2011

New Jobs, Old Jobs

From the Speakers: ACHILLES LAST STAND by Led Zeppelin

Started a new job today. I'm a nurse at Duke Hospital during the day, writer by night now. Unless I work night shift. Then I'm a sleeper by day, nurse by night.

It's pretty cool starting a new career. I've been in healthcare now for a little over a year, but now it's the big time. Helping patients is almost always incredibly rewarding--if you have the calling for it--but there are other perks, too. What better way to come up with new characters than to work in a place where new people are constantly moving in and out and getting to know you in between? I'm sure the stories I'll hear from them can fill volumes.

I'm stoked about my new job, but what's REALLY cool is how awesome of a profession nursing is when you're a writer. There's all kinds of material, yeah, but the actual business of being a writer suits itself nicely. I'm thinking working three twelve hour shifts per week and writing the other four is going to work out nicely. I hate to admit this sometimes, but writing (mine, at least) seems to be easier when you're in a routine: wake up, eat, relax, exercise, shower, sit down and get to work at your desk that's nestled in the corner beneath your rejection letters and your writing words of wisdom. Somehow it primes the creative juices.

In other news, today marks three weeks since the publication of my latest short story, "Good Business, With Guns." If you haven't checked it out yet, here's the link: Tell me what you think!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Greater than Fiction

From the Speakers: BROKEN STATUES by We Came As Romans

I've been sick most of the weekend, so excuse the blogging absence. And I mean sick, too, as if I were Silly Sammy Slick sipping six sodas. But I'm back in action today, September 11, finishing this blog and moving on to some short stories that have been waiting patiently for me to get to them for some time.

It was truly moving to turn on the NFL this afternoon and see all the 9/11 tributes, the homages paid, the lives remembered, and the stories told. The stories are just overwhelming. They are more poignant, more personal, and more human than any I've ever read in fiction. If you met their equal within the pages of a book, please, tell me where I can find it.

It's well known that real life is often more unbelievable and amazing than the things people dream up and write about. Thus, the term "Stranger than Fiction" exists. But the 9/11 stories are Greater than Fiction. How can any writer of fiction hope to match that kind of magnitude? To strike that close to the heart? To have that kind of an impact? In my humble opinion, they can't. All we can do is strive for it, but personally I think that's the way it should be. In these arenas, if in few others, nonfiction reigns supreme. Maybe that's why stories like those about 9/11 and Pearl Harbor and Band of Brothers will forever bring tears to my eyes and raise the temperature of my blood.

There are so many stories, I thought I would pick one to share: if you are an American and do not know the name Welles Remy Crowther, you should. He set the bar.

As with all things, life goes on. I think it was MLK who said "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." A hard thing to strive for; a lot to ask. I admire those left behind on 9/11, who had to rebuild their lives and their hearts and try to find reason to live. But there's always a reason to live, a reason to hope. When you die, you're done, but while you're here, you have potential--to do good, to help people, to positively impact others. I hope I can positively impact others through my respective careers. Maybe I will be lucky enough to create a character like one of the many I've heard about today, and someone will read about him or her, and that someone will decide to live life in a better way.

We can only hope.

God Bless America.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


From the Speakers: WARNING by Incubus

When working on a longer piece of writing, like the novel I'm 30,000 words into, it helps me to put it down for a day or two and let it sit. The words come so hot most of the time that it's like I give them time to cool off before I go back and reread what I've written, so I don't burn myself.

This is the time to write a short story. As I've said before, it's inevitable that you think up a good idea for a short story while in the midst of a bigger project, sometimes more than one. Right now I have three, and it crowds the brain having them all in there waiting to come out.

Plus, there's a few stories I already wrote that need to be edited and shopped out to magazines.

Plus, there's a few stories that are currently being reviewed by magazines.

Sitting at my desk, staring at my computer and wondering what I want to work on today, there's a lot to choose from, and it all needs doing. Usually, writing is a break from life--a way to escape for a bit, which is why I rarely write stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things (more on that at a later date). But lately it seems juggling my writing duties is a good analogy to handling life. I'm starting a new job on Monday, have some work to do before I get there, plus staying true to a workout program, plus I just started coaching a sports club . . . I never thought I'd be this busy BEFORE starting work. Hopefully the skills I've been practicing--juggling my writing life--will translate nicely into the rest of my life.

That said, as busy and chaotic and cluttered and sometimes exasperatingly stressful as writing can be, it is still the ultimate escape. For a few hours a day I am in my own world (or worlds). It's art--man's greatest drug. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

Let's get to work.

PS--I added some links to my other stories off to the left. Check them out! I'd love to hear what you think of them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Stubborn Story

From the Speakers: EVERYTHING IS A MEMORY by Seneca
Just Read: SOVAY by Celia Rees--Really came to enjoy the characters and how well the period of this book was conveyed. Good read.

The best feeling in the world is when you're sitting on the couch, vegging out, nothing really going on, no brainwaves sailing through your head, not pondering anything, not worrying about anything . . . and suddenly, unbidden and out of the blue, comes this idea, fully-formed, dense with details, sprinting full-speed to take over all that previously unoccupied space in your mind. It is the spontaneous story, the one that practically writes itself, very little work required.

This is not what happened to me today.

I had everything right in my head--that is to say, I was spacing out, hoping a story might fly in there--but the only thing that came was this what-if question, the seed of a story but not really the story itself: You know how sometimes music can take over your mind, transport you, give you the chills, make you feel high almost? Well, what if you could listen to music like people do drugs? What are the limits?

I thought this was a very intriguing question, and a good springboard for a story. But . . . that was it. That was all I had. No characters, no setting, no motivation, nothing. But it was too interesting for me to ignore, so I sat down and tried. It's times like these you feel like you're not a writer but a miner, or maybe a paleontologist--you're covered in dirt, using every tool in the book, from jackhammer to toothbrush, to try to dig up this story, but it's just so deep and so fragile that unearthing it is mind-numbingly tedious. It's things like these I call the "stubborn story." You know it's there. You know it's good. And it knows you want to uncover it, but for some reason it refuses to let you. This is frustrating to the extreme.

I find that whenever this happens, other little bits of stories reveal themselves similarly, and then all at once I realize all these bits are part of the same story, and then . . .VIOLA! The story decides it's done teasing you, and appears fully formed.

So, until then, story. Until then.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Surfing the Airwaves

From the Speakers: KASHMIR by Led Zeppelin

Yesterday was a hectic day. I woke up, had a bowl of yogurt, watched Sportscenter and read (easy to do during sports), worked out, and showered. All the time I was thinking about the writing I was going to do that day, especially while exercising and showering--good times for your mind to wander. And I had this idea for a scene that comes later in a longer piece I'm working on, but it was so fresh and so "hot off the presses" that I didn't think I should wait--I sat down at my desk and wrote it practically before drying off.

Who said you had to write a story in order?

This frenzy--this need to get a scene down because you've glimpsed its perfection and are afraid you might forget it or let a great detail slip or confuse the wording later--it's happened to me a few times writing this longer piece. So now I've got all these stepping stone scenes set up, and every day when I sit down to write, I'm just filling in the space between them. Personally I love this because it keeps my momentum; I always know where I'm going when I put fingers to keyboard.

Again, staying ahead of writer's block.

Switching gears from stories in progress to stories published, it seems "Good Business, With Guns" is getting pretty good reviews over at, and better than good exposure. Another fiction hub picked it up: Websites like this are great for writers and readers because they put up all kinds of good fiction in one place, and since they say what magazines each story is published in, it's a great way to discover new places to submit manuscripts.

In addition, and totally unbelievably, a community-supported radio station called WRFR out of Maine contacted me about my story . . . AND THEY WANT TO READ IT ON THE RADIO! I don't know about you but I think that is amazing. The show is called Beam Me Up, and whenever the story airs, fear not--I will inform you here and tell you where to go to listen. As I understand it, if you miss it live you can hear it on a podcast online:

Lots of new developments in my writing world--I'm promoting published work, mailing queries for novels, and writing new stuff all in one day! Phew!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Around the Web

From the Speakers: CONSTELLATIONS by Jack Johnson

I tried to Google my blog today and found some interesting stuff. The link to this page didn't come up, but some other things about me and my writing did.

First, the guys from Ray Gun Revival apparently know how to divvy up their time, because in addition to running a full-time science fiction magazine and slogging through all the submissions for it, they also contribute to a blog called AuthorCulture, which had a link to my story under "Blogs we like". I thought that was pretty cool. Also, there's a site called SF Signal that frequently posts links to some of their favorite free fiction on the web, and "Good Business, With Guns" got a link!

I was really excited when RGR published my story, but I never expected it to get this much exposure. When they were considering it, RGR sent it back to me a few times for requested revisions, and in hindsight I'm really glad I worked hard on it to meet their suggestions--I don't want anything but my best writing to be spread out there on the internet for people to read. I want people to find stories with "by Devin Miller" beneath the title and know it's about to be an entertaining read. So the more exposure the better!

Plus, there's an added amazing bonus exposure coming, which you may know about if you read the comments beneath the story on RGR's page, but I'll save that post for tomorrow.

Spread the word about my blog! I'm a week in now--how am I doing? Remember, constructive criticism is a writer's best friend, even if it hurts.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Storm Surge

From the Speakers: MY FORK IN THE ROAD, YOUR KNIFE IN MY BACK by Atreyu

I really do love a good hurricane.

When Fran and Floyd passed over my house as a kid, school was canceled for a week and trees fell down all over the neighborhood. We had no power and a bath tub full of water so we could flush the toilet. Everyone pitched in with chainsaws, shears, and axes to clear the roads and take apart giant pines that had fallen on people's houses. We couldn't take a bath for days.

It was awesome. 

Hurricane Irene passing through today brought back these good times. I had candles and batteries and flashlights and radios and bottled water--I was prepared for days of power outages. The fact that a slight drizzle and a brisk breeze were the worst I got was almost disappointing. Yeah I know, careful what I wish for.

And, there's nothing like a hurricane to work indoors. I sat on the couch, turned on the storm news on mute, and wrote in a surge of inspiration. Making headway on a short story I've wanted to write for a while was the perfect way to spend a hurricane.

On another note, "Storm Surge" sounds like a good title for a story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Clownin' Around

From the Speakers: BEAT IT by Michael Jackson

Because I'm too lazy to do it otherwise, every so often I will dedicate a blog post to some writing exercise. I'll try to keep them short enough to be interesting and not overwhelming. All of it will be made up on the spot. Today's exercise is to come up with 5-10 good, engaging, intriguing opening sentences of short stories. My hope is that brainstorming here might produce some seeds that will grow into stories.

Let's "begin."

1. When she ordered the portabella pasta, he gave her a look.
2. I wondered why she was so standoffish, but being a detective, I noticed the paler skin around her ring finger.
3. At the time we assumed we'd be safe once we reached my house.
4. I let the cop pass by before pulling out into traffic; success was all about reducing risks.
5. "I would rather spend a winter naked in Antarctica," he said, "than spend one more minute listening to you."
6. My car smoking is really what began it all.
7. The ancient Romans took a lot of amazing things from the heart of Africa to display in their arenas, but there's one thing they left behind.
8. Life threw me a change-up.
9. When he threw up in her boots, I rolled my eyes and figured it was time to intervene.
10. He carried a long sword. A king's sword.

Okay. Now I ask myself (and you--let me know): Any of those any good? Any have the potential to blossom into a story? Which one catches my attention the strongest?

Since space in my head for new ideas is scare right now, I'll probably come back to these after I knock out the stories I have in mind. That's the beauty of these little exercises: completing them keeps me one step ahead of writer's block.

So that was fun. And speaking of fun, you should check out my friends Stitch and Spaz at They're doing some great things for people who need great things.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Important Roots

From the Speakers: ANA NG by They Might Be Giants
Just Read: THE PARSIFAL MOSAIC by Robert Ludlum--Everything you expect from a Ludlum book: exciting suspense, intrigue, and some badass secret agents!
Reading Now: SOVAY by Celia Rees

Spent the day with my brother's kids--it's good to go back to your strongest roots when you've been away for a long time. It's like coming ashore.

Hanging out with three kids on the last day of their summer didn't leave much time for writing. There's a lot going on in my head right now, story-wise. I have a much longer piece I'm working on regularly, and these ideas for short stories keep popping up before my eyes like weeds, but usually I ignore them to work on the longer piece. Before I knew it, though, my lawn got covered in dandelions. When I get to a good part--and when I KNOW what's going to happen next (an important caveat)--I'm going to break from the longer work and write them all and clear my head. The blank page is a lot like a Pensieve.

One thing about babysitting kids in your family: they can bring you back your writing roots, too. Tonight I read my niece one of my all time favorite books, ONE FISH TWO FISH RED FISH BLUE FISH. I swear Dr. Seuss was possessed of divine stuff. Stumbling through one rhyming, galloping, deceptively deep book of his (so much for adults in there), he somehow made me feel sad and mad and glad.

Why was I sad and mad and glad? I do not know.

Go ask your dad.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


From the Speakers: HIGH OF '75 by Relient K

Yesterday's big news carries over to today. My tenth story was accepted for publication at Ray Gun Revival Magazine. Here's the link:

Leave a comment! You can even rate it if you want. And you should read the rest of the mag too, it's all good stuff.

Moving into double-digits is eye-opening. I published my first story when I was 17, a senior in high school. It's called Dusk, inspired by a song I played by Steven Bryant:

That's an all-encompassing spread, as far as my writing goes. Seeing my tenth story in print does signify an ending in some ways, even though I'm really just beginning my career. I could be wrong about this, but I feel like when you hit ten published stories, you're more than just a guy who sits down and knocks out a story that's pretty good. It's like this--when you turn the key in your ignition and hear it rev and sputter for a few seconds before going quiet, that's a writer with some talent but not all the rest of the stuff if takes. He'll publish a story, maybe a few, and move on with his life as a gourmet chef . . . or whatever. But if you get ten under your belt, you can hear that ignition catch and come to life, and then you're off and rolling. There's no stopping now; hit the gas with as leaden a foot as your heart desires.

My life seems to be keeping this theme lately. Today was FDOC (First Day of Class) at UNC. I live in Chapel Hill; I room with two students; this is my first FDOC I'm not attending. As of last week, I'm not 21 anymore.

It's the end of something great. That stings. It's the beginning of something greater. That's awesome.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ups and Downs

From the Speakers: SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT by Nirvana

Beginning a writing career is a series of ups and downs. Today was an exaggerated example.

One of the best books on writing is the aptly titled "On Writing" by Stephen King, who's one of my all-time favorites. In it, he describes how he posted his rejection letters on a pin above his writing desk, as a reminder. Eventually, they got to be so numerous that he required a spike to keep them all there.

If this was good enough for one of the best writers, it was good enough for me. Today I added another rejection to my stack (nailed to a bulletin board on my wall)--Scholastic was considering a novel I wrote called "The Duelers" since March, and today they got back to me with a negative.

If it strikes you as odd to display my failures, consider this: the rejection letters are reminders that I'm shopping stories around. You can't make the team if you don't tryout. The letters mean you've taken that all-important step and been brave and put yourself out there. It's a good feeling, even if you don't get accepted--it starts the snowball rolling. And it means that someone in the publishing world is reading your story, maybe even remembering your name. I mean, someone at SCHOLASTIC was reading my book! I feel like that's a win.

Meanwhile, after checking my email I found a letter from the editors of one my favorite magazines, Ray Gun Revival, saying they wanted to publish my short story, "Good Business, With Guns." Whoa! Just the pick-me-up I was looking for! I'll post the link up here when it comes up.

Both those stories were out for months, and both came back today--one positive, one negative. But that's writing. Now that I think about it, I guess that's life.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Post!

Just Read: HAUNTED by Chuck Palahniuk--Great! Definitely one of my favorite short-story writers ever.
Reading Now: THE PARSIFAL MOSAIC by Robert Ludlum

Welcome to my blog! It's a brand new undertaking for me--an experiment of sorts--so we'll see how it goes. My plan is to post a few times a week and share my thoughts (mostly about writing) with the world--probably vent a little bit when needed--and see what the world thinks.

Being an amateur writer, I rely on feedback from all sources. I hope you will comment on my blog and let me know what you think--about the blog itself, my posts, and especially my fiction, which I will try to make available. Say what you want to see and I will see what I can say about it. So please comment! And, share with your friends.

Can't wait to see how this goes.

Haul in the ropes. Turn into the wind and hoist the main. Fly the colors! We're out to sea, destination unknown!