Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Now Playing: SKYFALL by Adele

It's been a monumental week for my writing career.

When I was in high school, just starting to take my writing career seriously, I took a book called "On Writing" by Stephen King to heart. In it, he says that he took his rejection letters and pinned them to his wall to be remembered, a kind of inspiration. Who better to mimic than the best?

With this latest rejection from Clarkesworld, my 8-penny became overwhelmed. There was no more space along its shaft for a single sheet of paper. I took it down and borrowed the largest nail my dad could find--a 16-penny nail--and, one by one, spiked the old rejections onto the new nail.

There were one hundred and seventy-three, in all. The oldest, dated January  27, 2006, was from (who else) John Joseph Adams, back when he was still an editor at Fantasy and Science Fiction. One of the next, from agent Dan Lazar, bore a hand-written note in scrawling, blue ink:

"Devin--Many thanks for sending this my way. It seems quite polished, but I'm afraid it's just not striking magic with me. Good luck with it when contacting other agents. Best, Dan Lazar."

That little note, about my first novel "The Wand Holders," meant a lot to my sixteen-year-old self. I was sad it was rejected, but I knew it sounded like a novel a fourteen-year-old kid had written. Still, I had tried, and someone somewhere who knew about such things had read it and responded to me. The system, the process, worked.

I also found some rejections for stories that were later published. Even, I found a rejection from Ray Gun Revival for "In the Lion's Den," which years later I revised and sent back to them, and it was accepted as "The Lion's Den."

There were many from agents rejecting query letters, many from small venue magazines with words of encouragement, and many from pro magazines with form letters. They all affected me in some way, and keeping them on the wall reminds me that what I'm doing, writing, is something important. It's not trivial, or a game or dare or a drunken idea. It's writing, damn it. It's what I do.

This week, I received my first professional acceptance letter. It's for a story called "Skipping Stones," and it will be published in Daily Science Fiction.

Hopefully, if I put in a lot of hard work and get a little luck, it won't be another 173 rejections until  my next pro acceptance.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Now Playing: ON TO THE NEXT ONE by Escape the Fate
Just Read: FRAGILE THINGS by Neil Gaiman--A great collection of shorts from a great writer. Set my mind thinking. And it was a great boost for story ideas (see Short Story Challenge).
Reading Now: THE WISE MAN'S FEAR by Patrick Rothfuss

It's a beautiful day to live in Chapel Hill.

It's December first and sixty-four degrees and sunny outside. Tomorrow's high is 68, and it should reach into the 70s early next week.

I went for a jog this morning through woods, along trails, beside streams, wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Fallen leaves crunched under my worn Brooks, and overhead the sky was a cloudless Carolina blue.

I think I might sit on my balcony and read with my feet propped up. This time of day, the sun shines down on it in just the right way to keep me warm without cooking me.

I might even take a nap there.

Can you tell this weather is delighting me? I live in such a great place! Good thing all Tar Heels carry a bit of Chapel Hill with them every where they go, for the rest of their lives, until they're Tar Heel dead.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Short Story Challenge

Now Playing: THIS IS WAR by Thirty Seconds to Mars
Just Read: THE LOST WORLD by Arthur Conan Doyle--Great fun! I think I liked this tale of lost lands even more than JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, and Doyle's a fantastic writer all around.
Now Reading: THE WISEMAN'S FEAR  by Patrick Fothfuss

I have a confession to make, dear friends. I'm behind on my write1sub1 challenge. 

The deal is, you (meaning me) are supposed to write one story per week for one year. It's week 46, and I looked back through my log and can only account for 41 stories. 

Something must be done about this! I dedicated myself to this challenge, and I will be damned if I hit week 52 with anything less than 52 completed drafts of stories! 

So here's what I thought of. I read a lot of short stories--I subscribe to F&SF magazine, I have a copy of the complete Sherlock Holmes, and I follow lots of writers and magazines online. Short story collections take up a lot of space on my bookshelf. So my own little challenge to myself until the end of 2012 is to jot down an idea for a new short story of my own for every short story I read. 

I already have five ideas, enough to get me caught up. And I won't stop reading because I can't come up with anything good--I expect to end up with a handful of stupid ideas I'll never pursue, but a few are guaranteed to be winners, right?

It's a sprint to the finish like for write1sub1 2012! 

Monday, October 29, 2012


Now Playing: LANDSLIDE by Senses Fail
Just Read: THE MANY ASPECTS OF MOBILE HOME LIVING by Martin Clark--A fun read. I was three-fourths of the way through and still didn't know what was going to happen, and didn't find out for sure until the last page. But I knew! I swear I did!
Reading Now: THE LOST WORLD by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Articulation: The action of putting into words an idea or feeling of a specified type. 

Lately I've really been into how good writers can say exactly what they mean, how they use the perfect words in a situation. I'm not talking about analogies, where you're reading about a situation and the writer compares it to something so you, the reader, can more easily relate.

I'm talking more basic. Vocabulary and syntax. I've been reading stories lately by Ken Liu and Margaret Maron and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (big spread there), and all three are very good about articulating their thoughts. It's a gift, I think, but mostly it's hard work--you know those writers have put in a lot of practice to get so articulate.

(By the way, I think British authors might be a little better at this--Doyle, Gaiman, Rowling, they're all great at saying precisely what they mean, and nothing else. Just an observation.)

We've all tried to tell someone something that happened and hit a brick wall: "I can't describe it. You just had to be there!" Well, as writers, you pretty much have to be able to describe it, and your job is to make sure the reader IS there, to transport him away for a moment. What I've noticed, the writers who are really good at it can make the reader anticipate the sentence, so that once I start the phrase I'm expecting, I speed to the end of it and think, "Yes, exactly, I know exactly what you're talking about."

This is my goal.

 I believe articulation is one of the most important skills as a writer. It helps you be clear, concise, and say exactly what you mean in as few words as possible. It translates well into real life, too--all this election hype as made me appreciate politicians' ability to orate. With a little more practice at the keyboard, I'll never be tongue-tied again!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fairly Good Times

Now Playing: INSIDE THE FIRE by Disturbed

It's that time again: the height of fall. Beautiful weather, changing leaves, pumpkins and corn mazes and front porch swings occupied by zombies or mummies or giant spiders . . . oh, and the North Carolina State Fair!

I went on Friday evening with my girlfriend, and as soon as we had our ticket she made a bee-line for the fried pickles. Man, were they good! Fresh and hot, dipped in a little ranch . . . mmm! We really set the bar high right away with our fair food.

We saw 500-lb pumpkins and gallons of honey and watermelons the size of large lambs, which we also saw, in competition, being led around the ring with enough pomp and circumstance to remind you of the poshest Medieval royal court.

Every few minutes, we heard the roaring of some of loudest engines to ever be built that weren't meant for space travel--souped-up tractor drag racing! Each roar lasted, oh, ten seconds or so, but the plume of black, roiling, oily smoke that rose lingered over the vendors and carnies for several minutes. We got a good view of them from the window of the the hobbies and crafts building, and then again while sipping piping hot apple cider and looking through the glass at curing tobacco.

It was way better than "fairly" good--I just made that the title of this post because I love puns. We left with full bellies and the smell of autumn stuck in our noses and lot of affection for each other.

But you have to admit . . . there's something sinister about the fair, something slightly unsettling about how fast the rides are set up, how the carnies advertise deals and prizes and try to guess you age or weight with uncanny accuracy. There are clowns and freak animals and people made to look deformed for your enjoyment. Is there someone, or something, behind it all? Something wicked coming this way?

There's a story there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Flip Sides of the Coin

From the Speakers: WASTING AWAY by Tonight Alive
Just Read: HOCUS POCUS by Kurt Vonnegut--Fantastic! Loved the voice, and it was really hilarious the whole time. A few times I cracked up alone in my living room, haha! Shout out to Blaise for the recommendation.

Spent the past two weeks or so poring over a novelette I wrote almost a year ago. I mentioned it in a previous blog post--I had a few friends give me their opinion on it, then set to work editing it, mainly to cut it down. It was 18,600 words when they read it, and I wanted to get it below 17,000 for submission to a contest.

Talk about hard work! I think Michael Crichton said that stories aren't written--they're rewritten. How true!

After a once over, it was pretty straightforward to cut out about 800-1000 words. That left 600 to go before it met the submission requirements. Those 600 words took me SIX HOURS to find early one morning last week!

It's a stronger story for it, though.

But as far as my W1S1 requirements, it didn't count because all I did was edit it. So I had to hurry and put together a flash that I thought I would submit to DSF . . . but then I got a note from them saying the story they were already reviewing had passed the first round of slush piles! So that was a big lift after so much work, feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere. Just going to have to find another venue for this new one, I guess.

And, FINALLY, that novelette is submitted. Keep your fingers crossed for me--I'll need every bit of luck I can get.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Week 11's Story Published!

From the Speakers: ANOTHER SONG ABOUT THE WEEKEND by A Day to Remember

My story from week 11 this year, "Over the Fence," found a home at Fear and Trembling back in March, and came out in print this past weekend. You can read it for free by clicking the title.

I'd love to know what you think of it. Leave me a comment, either here or over at the mag.

Some brief background on the story: if you've read my blog or know me, you know I love baseball and played it all through my childhood. My dad suggested I write more stories about baseball, and this was what manifested. Not sure it's what he had in mind, exactly, but hey, I appreciate his inspiration nonetheless.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Little Kicks

From the Speakers: WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH by A Loss For Words
Just Read: THE APOCALYPSE WATCH by Robert Ludlum--A bit goofy at points. Still fun action, but I prefer his more serious books.
Just Read: THE HAMMER OF GOD  by Arthur C. Clarke--An interesting take on one possible future. It was kind of all over the place at first, but once I got used to it, it was easy to follow. Pretty cool book.

Editing an 18,600-word story this afternoon after writing a flash piece this morning. It's a day of opposites, I guess.

Trying to cut this monster down to 17,000 words for a specific submission. Might have a bit of a hard time doing it, since the people who read it and gave me feedback wanted more--more description, more tension, etc. Goes against the rule Final Draft = First Draft - 10%. Oh well.

The story's about a wandering warrior on a quest. When I started, that was pretty much all I had. This idea blossomed that I would write a series of novellas and compile them all into a novel, kind of like "THE GUNSLINGER" by Stephen King. (You should read that, and the rest of the series, if you haven't already.) I had put it on the back-burner, but then the other day I was running and had mad ideas for the next few novellas, so here I am getting back down to business.

Every now and then, your subconscious gives you a little kick in the rear end. I appreciate it for that. Helps me get a lot more done.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bright Future

From the Speakers: WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE by Dionne Warwick

My favorite Stephen King book is actually his nonfiction piece "On Writing." It was the first of his I ever read--I might have been fourteen, but I knew I was a writer--and it's been a road map for me throughout my early career.

In it, he describes the phenomenon of receiving rejections as part of a writer's course, and often they come in  progressive, sequential steps: First, a form rejection. A certain amount of time goes by, and you get better, and the rejections change form. They become "good but not great" comments, occasionally suggesting that you try them again in the future. Next, you get "this is good, but not for us" letters. And finally, after poking your head into some smaller magazines (and continuing to get better), you might get some professional acceptances.

Well, looking back on my career and this year so far, I can see the steps. I did a project in high school that involved collecting my rejection letters and writing journal entries on them, and man were those stories bad! Well, not BAD, but they read like a fourteen-year-old wrote them and submitted them to Fantasy and Science Fiction. It makes me laugh now a bit, with pride, perhaps a bit like a father thinking back to his toddler trying to field a ground ball ten, fifteen years ago.

Those were the form rejections. Then I got better and submitted to smaller venues, and got some "good but not great" rejections. This was the norm for years, and maybe the W1S1 challenge has me getting better at short stories faster. I got a few acceptances (14 to be exact) at some small venues, but I kept submitting to the pros, and I can clearly see a step up in the rejections.

I've gotten "this is good but not for us" rejection letters from Leading Edge (about the story from my last blog post, which also receiving a personal note from F&SF), Penumbra Magazine (twice), Allegory, and Flash Fiction Online.

Next step in the sequence is acceptance!

PS--I had to blog about this to put the positive spin on getting two crushing rejections this week. It's been a disappointing two weeks! All part of the journey, right? Years from now, I'll look back like a dad remembering his clumsy toddler, and I'll laugh.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


From the Speakers: TALK OF THE TOWN by Jack Johnson
Just Read: PIRATE LATITUDES by Michael Crichton--Pretty fun adventure story, but I didn't like the twist at the end. I won't give it away, but that character was one of my favorites!
Just Read: A CLASH OF KINGS by George R.R. Martin--Really incredible. These stories are so intricate and awesome in their cultures and conspiracies . . . not to mention all the badass stuff you know is coming just around the corner. Time to watch Game of Thrones Season 2!

Some rejections mean just a little bit more than others.

Got one when I got back from the beach on Saturday--rude welcome home from vacation, I know. Worst way to return to the real world.

The thing is, most rejections give me the same feeling: a mild bummed out disappointment that I get over quickly and replace with the excitement of searching for new, more appropriate magazines for that story.

But I sent this story to Leading Edge magazine in MARCH OF 2011!! They always take a long time to reply because they give you feedback when they reject you, but SIXTEEN MONTHS?! They've taken a long time before (their website says expect 4-6 months), and when I didn't hear back for so long, I figured, "Well, they must be taking so long because they like it and are preparing it for publication."


Pretty much everything the four pages of critique said was positive. One reader went so far as to thank me for letting him or her read it and say it was "definitely publishable." So I mean all in all it was a positive rejection . . . but after so long, and hoping fervently to get into this magazine, it really brought me down. That publication would have been a huge boost! Instead, the opposite.

Oh well. Maybe now that I've vented, the excitement of submission will return, I can tweak it, and find a potential home for it.

But gah!



Monday, July 9, 2012

Fuel for the Journey

From the Speakers: LOVE THE WAY YOU LIE by A Skylit Drive
Just Read: ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman--Really great. I'm growing to love Gaiman's voice and stories. I liked the Island magic feel, and I think I might try to incorporate that into a coming week's story . . .
Reading Now: PIRATE LATITUDES by Michael Crichton
Reading Now: A CLASH OF KINGS by George R.R. Martin

You know why I love reading? Not only is it entertaining, an escape from mundane everyday life, and a great way to get some sun by the pool, but as a writer, it's great fuel for future stories.

Stephen King's number one rule is to read a lot and write a lot. The two are synergistic, I'm discovering more and more. It's stunning to me how writers can experience writer's block if they follow this rule. Every story I've read this year, it seems, has planted the seed for my own story.

Maybe being a part of Write1Sub1 plays a role in this, since I'm forced to dig up deeper and deeper fossils of stories to keep the challenge going, but I swear it seems the more I read the more convinced I am that I'm going to write stories for the rest of my life.

Here's a few examples. I spent a week reading some of Poe's most popular stories, and wrote a story in their vein that's now made it to the final considerations at Penumbra magazine. I'm reading PIRATE LATITUDES by Michael Crichton, and this week's story is going to take place on an English galleon. And the more GAME OF THRONES I read (and watch), the more encouraged I am to write stories set in fantasy worlds . . . and submit them to F&SF or Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

The journey continues, halfway through the W1S1 year, being fueled along the way by greater and greater stories. Hopefully my own works in progress are likewise improving. Only time (and acceptances) will tell.

To everyone who's been reading my stuff so far along the way: my greatest and most heartfelt thanks! Hope to see you (and your friends?) the rest of the way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Big Apple

From the Speakers: I STAND ALONE by Godsmack
Just Read: THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST by Stieg Larsson--I think I liked the first one the best, but this one was good. All the revenge involved was VERY satisfying, though.
Reading Now: A CLASH OF KINGS by George R.R. Martin

I spent a good amount of June on vacation in New York. My girlfriend's family lives on Long Island so we spent some time there, and then took the train into the city for the weekend. I had been there once before in high school with a group, but this was the first time I really got to walk around and do what I wanted to do.

And boy, did we do a lot! The first day we hopped on a ferry tour that took us down the Hudson and around the tip of Manhattan, up the East River under the beautiful bridges (pictures, pictures, pictures!), then down south again to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Our tour guide pointed out all kinds of cool things, such as where various actors' penthouses are and where the Titanic was supposed to dock, had it sailed through an iceberg-free sea.

We met up with some friends and ate in Hell's kitchen and checked out some awesome bars and a cool park called the Highline. The next day we spent hours in the Museum of Natural History and still only saw about 1/4 of the stuff there. My inner science fiction and fantasy fan had a great time in the planetarium and dinosaur/evolution sections, though!

And the last day we jumped onto a hop-on/hop-off tour bus and gallivanted all over Lower Manhattan. We saw the 9/11 Memorial (humbling) and the new World Trade Center (awe-inspiring), walked through Chinatown (busy!) and ate pizza in Little Italy (delicious). It was the day of the Puerto Rican parade, so we crossed over 5th avenue (dense) and made our way to Time Square (fun).

We also ran all over every square inch of Long Island, from Queens to Montauk, from Jones Beach to the Long Island Sound. It's a beautiful place, but I'm a southern boy, and I know my girlfriend took me there in the summer so I wouldn't see the feet of snow they get every winter. I wouldn't mind living in NYC for a bit, but I don't think it's a permanent place for me.

Needless to say, not a lot of writing got done that week--500 words. But one of the coolest things I saw was a gigantic poster of Patricia Cornwell and her newest book hanging down a building's face in Times Square. I had to do a double-take. An author and her book? In Times Square?

Oh yeah. That's going to be me one day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

You're in Action

From the Speakers: SAIL by Awolnation
Just Read: THIRD GIRL by Agatha Christie--Awesome! I've been really into detective stories lately, and this one was great. And I saw the end coming! Honest! I did!

You know I really don't like second person very much.

The fine people over at Liquid Imagination published my story DYING AGAIN this week. It's a flash fiction story written in second person about a man at the end of his umpteenth life, remembering back on them all. It's the . . . third second-person flash fiction story I've published. The other two are TEN STORIES UP, TEN YEARS LATER and A SHORT WALK IN THESE HERE WOODS (which was published in print only in Barbaric Yawp).

I took an intermediate level fiction writing class in college, and this girl wrote a story in second person, and man I feel a bit bad but I hated it. I kind of hope she's not reading this (but if you are, leave a comment! You know who you are haha). I thought that it got a bit tiring reading second person for so many pages; it was trying to be too dramatic when it should have just told a story. I got the vibe that the second person aspect was sort of the point of the story rather than the story itself.

My professor didn't agree in the least.

And THEN, a semester or two later, we had this contest called the Mini-Max, for creative writing students to submit flash fiction. I sat down trying to write something for it. Nothing really came. Pondered, pondered, nothing . . . . I started typing aimlessly, no story in mind, just knowing that I wanted it to be in the horror genre. The result turned out to be a second person flash story: A SHORT WALK IN THESE HERE WOODS.

It was the first second person piece I'd ever tried. It didn't change my opinion of second person, but I did enjoy the story. It was short enough that I got through it without getting annoyed.

And the kicker is it placed fourth in the contest! I got to read it in front of a small crowd and got a book of flash fiction as a prize (and an all-important credit--my story placed in a college contest!). It was, as I mentioned, later published.

This brief bit of success led me to try my hand at some other second person flashes, particularly when it's Sunday night and my W1S1 for that week doesn't exist. And now I've published three of them.

Maybe I have something going here?

But just because I seem to be kind of good at it doesn't mean I have to like it. Not saying I won't write another if one occurs to me, but three flash pieces almost adds up to a short story, and that's too much second person, after all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fool's Gold

From the Speakers: HURRICANE by Something Corporate
Just Read: CITY OF GLASS by Cassandra Clare--Again, a great story by Clare. Enjoyed the intricate plot, the back story, how everything came together . . . much more than I enjoyed the writing in general. Still, overall a fun and entertaining series.
Reading Now: A CLASH OF KINGS by George R.R. Martin

You ever get a really exciting idea for a story, dedicate a few hours of your day to penning it, and wind up with something that's just . . . mediocre?

That's the theme of this week's piece of work. I starting full speed ahead but lost steam almost at once. I don't know if the concept--a generally over-medicated society, with the focus on one guy and his best friend and their ensuing troubles--was simply too grand for me, or if it just sounded better in my head but had too many flaws to really come to fruition, but it just is NOT as good on paper as it was in the planning stages.

I'm disappointed. I started out thinking, "Yeah, this is a good idea, and it will be a cool backdrop for a character-driven story that coveted, professional magazines will enjoy." Now, rereading it, I'm thinking, "This is okay. Competent, at least. It could be great in the right hands, but in mine, eh . . . ."

It's like finding fool's gold.

I'm hoping a few hours' worth of revisions tomorrow will improve it. Such work often does.

In other news, the Poe story I wrote last week got passed up through the editorial boards at Penumbra Magazine. That means I'll be one of the final stories considered for publication, and at a professional rate, no less! Fingers crossed, everyone, fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

And this week, Poe!

From the Speakers: BEFORE I FORGET by Slipknot
Just Read: THE TALISMAN by Stephen King and Peter Straub--Absolutely awesome! Exquisite writing, fantastic evil villains, and an all around awesome story. Loved the journey.
Reading Now: CITY OF GLASS by Cassandra Clare

Been reading a lot of Edgar Allen Poe this week, and my Write1Sub1 project reflects it. It's just a creepy story about a creepy guy in a creepy jail. But after having so much Poe this week, it was impossible not to incorporate it into my story.

I've done this kind of thing before, write a story similar to an author/style/story I've been into recently. When I read short stories by Stephen King, my characters end up in twisted situations and plots that all come together somehow in the end. When I read Chuck Palahniuk, my voice becomes faster and more stylish, and each story has unique quips. And so on.

Do you writers do that? Adopt a favorite author's style, or even decorate a story you read with unique tweaks and call it your own? I wonder if all artists do this to some extent. I feel like they must; new rock and roll bands always mention earlier bands in their genre as inspiration. Perhaps painting and drawing and singing are all the same.

But this week I did it on purpose. Penumbra magazine's monthly call for stories is in the theme of Poe, and in order to get in the zone for it, I've been rereading stories like THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, and THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Hopefully my creation, in a similar vein, will be equally enjoyable and of comparable quality.

PS: This week's amusingly incorrect prepositional phrase/figure of speech: "We thew everything under the book at her." Nope. No you did not.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Story Sale to Liquid Imagination!

From the Speakers: BATMAN BEGINS SCORE by Hans Zimmer
Just Read: CITY OF ASHES by Cassandra Clare--Similar to the first book, the tone of the writing put me off in places, but overall it was a great plot. Not annoyed to stop reading her stuff so I guess she's doing something right!
Reading Now: CITY OF GLASS by Cassandra Clare

Week 9's story sold yesterday to Liquid Imagination! It's a flash fiction story about a man at the end of his life, and the strange things he remembers as his dying thoughts.

I work in a place where sick people sometimes come to die, and that can be a difficult thing to be around. Once in a while, I wonder how my coworkers, who don't have writing as a cathartic element, cope with being around so much death. I suppose you can become numb to anything. I'm not numb yet though, not even close, and most of me hopes never to be.

So what I do is write. And when my patient got to a point where there was little more we could do for him, I sat down with a pen and wrote this story in a flurry of ink and emotion. Twenty minutes later, I felt better; I had turned distress into something positive, something productive. That story meant something, you know? Not all do, but this one did.

And now, thanks to the fine people over at Liquid Imagination, you'll be able to read it soon! I'll post the link as soon as it's available.

Also, many thanks to my Write1Sub1 buddies like Milo James Fowler, who posted about this and other magazines that I previously didn't know existed. So far the 2012 count is 16 stories written, 10 rejections, 2 acceptances, many still out there waiting to hear back. I hope to keep the good news rolling in.

Fingers crossed, people, fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My (Least) Favorite Things

From the Speakers: INTO THE MOUTH OF HELL WE MARCH by Trivium

To satiate your undeniable curiosity, here are some lists of things that I love and hate, writing and otherwise:

Things I Love:
1) Stories about people who were once great at something, and now must be again after much time away.
2) Reading, drinking a beer, and watching a baseball game on TV all at the same time.
3) Listening to music really loud while driving with the window down on a hot, sunny, summer day.
4) Having the vaguest idea for a story, sitting down, and pounding out the whole thing in one heated, 3000-word, inspired, creative play session.
5) Fairy Tales (usually that I knew as a kid) that are really based on dark stories.

Things I Hate:
1) Writing and editing a story with a magazine in mind, only to find that the story turned out to be longer than that magazine's word count limit.
2) Walking past a switch and flicking it on, but missing and having to stop you're walk mid-stride to reach back and get it.
3) Having a detailed idea for a story, and no energy to put it down on paper.
4) Reading a book with a great plot and story and characters, but terrible writing, so that you can't take the idea and do it right.
5) Coming up with a good idea for a story, running to tell your friend/brother/parent, and having them say, "Oh, yeah, that sounds a lot like (Insert story you've never heard of here)."

How about you?

PS--My newest publication can be read here: Ten Stories Up, Ten Years Later

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Story Published!

From the Speakers: CAN'T BE SAVED by Senses Fail
Just Read: CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare--Really enjoyed the plot, the story. The writing, though, was redundant at points, and even seemed a bit juvenile here and there. Didn't stop me from starting the sequel, though.
Reading Now: CITY OF ASHES by Cassandra Clare

My story "Ten Stories Up, Ten Years Later" came out in Misfit Magazine! Click on the link to check it out, and leave a comment if you feel so inclined. Always appreciated.

The story's about a car wreck. The county I'm from is notorious for having teenagers killed in car wrecks, and I don't know why. I have a few theories--more winding, country roads, for one, and a general boredom settled over the teenage population that makes everyone want to speed for fun--but whatever the reason, it sucks. There were like ten kids at my high school killed in wrecks when I was there. I'm lucky to have made it out unscathed.

Anyway, thinking about that got me writing this story. A bit of catharsis, yeah, a bit of taking some bad feelings and putting them down on paper so they don't stay up there infect anything. Just one more thing that makes writing great.

But hopefully, you, my Generous Reader, won't let that tidbit bring you down, and you'll be able to enjoy the story as an isolated slice of entertainment. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Week 11 is Number 1

From the Speakers: NJ LEGION ICED TEA by A Day to Remember

It's official--my first Write1Sub1 story of 2012 was accepted last week, Week 11!

It took 11 weeks of writing a story per week, 5 rejections, still waiting to hear back from 7 magazines, but I did it. The story is called "Over the Fence," and it will come out in May or June in Residential Aliens.

I started writing a story about baseball--I played every spring since I was five years old until I graduated high school, so this time of year always brings back memories of being on the field (see "Spring Cleaning" post). But somehow I ended up submitting it to a horror magazine. Go figure.

Can't keep the fantasy out of a fantasy author's stories, you know?

Anyway, the editor of Fear and Trembling magazine enjoyed the story and wants to publish it, but she said it might be a better fit in her sister magazine, Residential Aliens. Haven't heard the release date yet, but when I do, you'll be the first to know.

Also, some other good news: I've previously published two stories in Fear and Trembling (a few years back), and since then the magazine's undergone lots of changes, including management. But the new editor, the one who just accepted "Over the Fence," said she still has all the archived stories and will get them online one day. That means you'll be able to read more of my published fiction for free!

Stay tuned! Lots of exciting things going on these days. Keep your fingers crossed, and maybe Week 11 will only be the first of many, many acceptances this year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Cleaning

From the Speakers: GONE by Jack Johnson
Just Read: THEODORE BOONE, KID LAWYER by John Grisham--A very fun read. At times it was a thinly disguised manual about how courts work (directed toward kids), but I didn't mind. I certainly learned a thing or two!
Reading Now: CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare

Spring is here--in NC it's like 80 degrees, sunny, and the air smells like a coming summer of fun and endless possibilities. Time to change up the music station on Pandora to something springy, check out a book I can read in the sun, and open the window and let the breeze blow in while I write. Who knows, maybe it'll carry a few ideas with it.

I played baseball all my life, every spring from ages 5 to 17. There's something about these evenings, this time of year--I don't know if it's the temperature, the pressure, the position of the stars in the sky--that makes me long for those days, being out on the field, smell of fresh cut grass hovering just above the ground, mixing with sweat and leather from your glove and dirt from the side of your leg where you slid into second.

I'm 22 now, and can no longer play baseball every spring, but there's nothing I love more than revisiting the field for a catch with old teammates, or taking some cuts and laughing whenever I swing and miss, or bragging when I send one into right-center. I miss those days.

It's the paramount nostalgic feeling, writing a story about baseball. The images come back so vividly and strongly that it almost hurts. I have 13 years' worth of characters on my teams to draw from, so any story is just barely fiction. But as much as it makes me long for those days, it's a pleasure every time I write a baseball story. I wouldn't be surprised if I write one every spring for the rest of my life.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Lover's Dream

From the Speakers: BROKEN by Seether
Just Read: ONE DAY by David Nicholls--Great writing, and admirably witty, but REALLY? Did it HAVE to end that way? Gah . . . .
Reading Now: THEODORE BOONE, KID LAWYER by John Grisham

A couple times a year, I travel up to Baltimore for a martial arts seminar with some friends from school. We always make a good time of it, and one of the hot spots we love to hit is the beautiful Barnes and Noble that's taken over the old power plant down on the Inner Harbor. It's a wonderful, sprawling two-story brick building, with all the newest hardcovers and best-sellers, a great view of the water from the upstairs Starbucks, a hypnotic transparent escalator, and the best part: tables and tables of SALES!

Being a self-proclaimed book lover, I made a bee-line for the sales tables, pausing only to read the entire display copy of GO THE F**K TO SLEEP, which I highly recommend (I had tears of laughter leaking from my eyeballs). I had recently seen the newest Sherlock Holmes movie, so when I spied a hardcover copy of the entire collected stories of the great detective for $7.00, I jumped at the deal.

I mean, it was a bit like offering a dime bag to a pothead for $2.50. What was I supposed to say? No?

It gets better. As I had allocated $20 to this venture (I already had zero space on my shelf for new books), I went on to find the story of King Arthur and his Knights--legend and lore that I love--for $10.00. It was one of those hardcover copies with the golden pages and the fancy, unique-to-B&N covers. Always fun.

I can feel your jealousy right now as clearly as Palpatine felt Luke's anger.

And I had a friend of mine, who's big into King Arthur and taking an Arthurian Lore class, skim through the book and tell me it looks legit. I'm stoked to dive in.

The Sherlock Holmes stories ought to be good inspiration during Write1Sub1. I mean, talk about a deep well of imagination--how could Sir Doyle keep coming up with such amazing stories with twists and originality? Hopefully, by the time I retire as a writer (dare I hope for sooner?), I'll have the answer for you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Make-Up Week

From the Speakers: CATATONIC by Hans Zimmer

Confession to make: Last week, I ran out of time to finish that week's story.

I am ashamed.

Just ran out of time with working nights during the week, and over the weekend I was on a trip to Baltimore--which helped my writing career a bit but didn't leave much time for actually penning new stuff. So, first Write1Sub1 fail of 2012.

But, all is not lost. I have a plan to make up for it. I've already written a story this week, and it's only Tuesday. I've got time tomorrow and Friday, I can pump out another one this week, and maybe my log will be . . . a bit garbled, let's say. It'll still be 52 stories in 52 weeks, right?

Come on, come on. Cut me some slack!

I'll get it done. Hope you are too.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday Sprints

From the Speakers: BLOOD ON THE GROUND by Incubus

One of the busier weeks in 2012 was this past week, and I found myself with five hours left in my day to complete a story if I wanted to keep up with the challenge. I had a handful of ideas floating around, but none that I felt like hastily putting down on the page, so I started writing some dialogue and ended up with a 1500 word story about two guys in the ruin of a castle searching for buried treasure.

Where the heck did that come from?

It's encouraging to know there are story seeds planted deep down in my brain that only need the light of a deadline and the water of no time to grow into something respectable.

Thank you, Write1Sub1, for expanding my garden.

Fortunately, this week is considerably less action-packed, meaning I can grab one of those already-formed ideas and pull it out of the ether to mold into a hefty short story. But anyway, less time talking, more time working. Hope my fellow Write1Sub1ers out there are typing away furiously! Can't wait to read our successful projects!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Write1Sub1 Update

From the Speakers: YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE by 311

All right, it's week 6? Is that right? Man, I hope so.

So far, the stories I've written per week in 2012 . . .

Week 1: "Last Wishes" -- 6700 words
Week 2: "The Sound of Keys Turning" -- 5200 words
Week 3: "The Smell of Smoke" -- 1000 words
Week 4: "Such Agonies" -- 2200 words
Week 5: "Happy Trails" -- 2600 words

 . . . for a total of 17700 words (thanks calculator) written in 5 weeks.


To my friends and to the awesome Write1Sub1 community: Thanks for the support! We've got a long way to go until January 1, 2013, but we'll get there together!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Helping Hand

From the Speakers: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY by Queen
Just Read: THE WOLF TREE by John Claude Bemis--Definitely a fun steampunk novel. Sped through it during a long car ride; a very fun adventure.
Just Read: CORALINE by Neil Gaiman--Super creepy, in a great way. Loved it!
Reading Now: ONE DAY by David Nicholls

Sometimes it's annoying when magazines have themed issues. What I mean is, their January issue is only considering stories starring female protagonists with chips on their shoulders, or only stories about soccer. That kind of thing. Never once have I been searching for new magazines, seen one of these, and thought, "I have just the perfect story!" Though, often I've thought, "I have one that, if you really stretched your mind, suspended your disbelief, maybe did some LSD first, might fit your criteria."

Three weeks in, it's hard to imagine a time during my Write1Sub1 challenge where I won't have an idea for a story before it's due. But 52 stories is quite a few, and I dare say my well might not be as deep as I think.

So that said, my opinion of themed magazines has changed somewhat. Suddenly it's nice when Penumbra magazine or On the Premises gives me some direction. In fact, I believe I may try to submit to each month's themed issue--one week's story will be written for these requests. Even if they reject a story I wrote for them, I can still send it to any other magazine I think might be a good fit.

Gotta do what you gotta do to make it through this marathon challenge! Plug in the computer charger,  bring on the hard rock, and pour me a glass of Dr. Pepper. There's writing to do, and I aim to create.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hard Work

From the Speakers: FORTUNE FADED by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Just Read: AIRMAN by Eoin Colfer--Great read! Exactly the kind of adventure story I want to write. A bit like The Count of Monte Cristo meets YA steampunk. Read it and tell me if you agree.
Reading Now: THE WOLF TREE by John Claude Bemis

Tell you what I've discovered thus far in my 2012 challenge: one week is a stunningly short amount of time to write and polish a story for submission.

Write1Sub1 is a curious title for this challenge. I'm starting to think Invent1Plan1Write1Toilover1Question1Edit1Ballup1Toss1Retrieve1Salvage1TryAgain1Sub1 would be a more appropriate title.

I knew writing one story per week would be tough and time-consuming, but I haven't quite figured out how to manage my time to get it done just right. Just "write," if you will. That pun really seems to be the key though. Just sitting down and writing, unexpected stuff comes out. I think Mark Twain said something about the best way to finish a project is to start it, or something like that.

Considering how busy I seem to find myself (I have no idea why, I really don't DO much), I should probably stop playing Words with Friends on Facebook and start using time more wisely. Still trying to work out when's the best time to write and squeeze in a blog post, but that's the fun of it.

And so far I'm loving every frantic minute of it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Week One is Done

From the Speakers: BEST OF ME by Starting Line

Week one is done and I'm feeling good as a writer in 2012. I've been fortunate enough to have several days off in a row, so writing has consumed my focus. So far, my new 2012 Write1Sub1 log includes:

-one publication (The Lion's Den)
-two submissions
-two rejections
-one new completed story (6700 words)
-one query letter submission
-one query letter rejection (although, perhaps the nicest rejection letter I've ever received)
-am I missing anything? Oh yeah. 51 more weeks of exciting writing ahead of me!

Needless to say, it's been a busy week. I'm just hoping I can build up a bit of momentum to carry me through packed work weeks and distractions. I've got enough story ideas floating around in my head to last me about 8 weeks. But I won't let lack of ideas turn into lack of writing--that's what this challenge is about, after all: gluing your butt to the chair with your computer or a pen and paper and seeing what comes out. Lots of people say that's how they produce their best work.

I'm so excited!! This year is going to be so much fun.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ringing in the New Year!

From the Speakers: BABY PLEASE COME HOME by Michael Buble

This bodes well for 2012!

On the first day of the new year, my story "The Lion's Den" was published in Ray Gun Revival, a great magazine for science fiction. If you're a constant reader of mine, you might recognize the magazine--it's where my last story "Good Business, With Guns" appeared.

I'm so excited to have "The Lion's Den" in RGR. The story gave me a lot of trouble during its construction. I knew I had something solid--a good story--but somewhere in the translation from idea to paper reality, it got lost. I couldn't bring myself to give up on it, though. It kept pulling itself out of temporary retirement (rather like Brett Favre). Literally years passed between the first and final drafts, with more than a little help from friends, countless editing sessions, and some enlightening advice from the Overlords at RGR. At last, though, all that work payed off.

Needless to say, if this is any indication as to the success 2012 has in store, I'm STOKED! Guess this doesn't count for Write1Sub1 Reloaded, but it's still a nice little boost into the challenge.

Here's the link to "The Lion's Den," which can also be found by clicking the link in the left-hand column:

If you feel so inclined, I'd love to read your comments on the story and see what you thought. And as always, thanks for reading!

Happy 2012!