Every Single One Of My Titles

Seriously Eclectic, Short Stories Edition

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Double vision!

 

 

The upside of having an eclectic vision, or, put another way, of being a scatterbrain: variety!  I love variety in just about everything.  Music, food, my reading, my writing.  The downside: lack of focus.  Focus has its advantages.  It’s easier to finish things when you’re focused.  Finishing stories can be a struggle for me.  I tend to get interested in something else and wander away.  If I didn’t make myself go back and finish, I could easily have a couple of hundred story fragments and nothing done.  As the hoary old chestnut goes, starting things is easy, but as time goes on… SQUIRREL!  Look at the squirrel over there!  Wait, there’s something shiny the other direction, wonder what it is… hey, I’m hungry, are you hungry?  Wonder what sort of snacks are available…

 

Today’s thoughts of the ups and downs of eclecticism came to me while updating my ‘stories to either resubmit to markets or self-publish if I’m tired of sending them back out’ stack.  Right now the stack stands at five; I don’t like it to get much larger than that.  Stories sitting around on my hard drive doing nothing are, well, doing nothing.  And that’s just not helpful.  They’re an eclectic lot.  Let’s take a look at what I have here, using 1-word shorthand for titles, since I haven’t sold or released any of them yet:

 

 

Kitty: Near-future. Speculative fiction, just barely.  If it wasn’t set in the near future, it would be a mainstream story and it reads like one.  A tale of a boy and his cat in an impoverished coastal North Carolina ravaged by severe sea-level rise and powerful climate-change-fueled storms.

 

 

Meow: Call this one contemporary fantasy.  A Cat of Power awakes after a long sleep frozen in Siberian permafrost and tries to make sense of what the world has become. Two cat stories in the lot is as close as I come to a theme in this list.  I do like a good cat story.  I blame the internet’s bad influence.

 

 

Dawn: Definitely science fiction, there are spaceships and everything.  The participants in a long-distance relationship meet via interstellar travel.  As usual in a long-distance relationship story, there’s something unsaid that must be confronted once they meet.

 

 

Pornodroid: Science fiction, again with spaceships and everything.  Not as sexy as it sounds.  A pop music star under a very onerous contract discovers that stardom ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and finds a high-tech way to attempt an escape.

 

 

Fire: A 100-word western involving a lost Spaniard, a nasty bearded brigand, and a campfire. 

 

 

 

Maybe it would be a little easier to attract readers if I stuck to one thing.  On the other hand, I can’t be the only one who enjoys variety.  And frankly, if I tried to compress myself into a branding-marketing straitjacket and keep everything focused, I have a feeling that the writing I produced would rapidly start to suck.  I’m happy being a bit scatterbrained.  My mind is a restless dog, sticking its nose into every corner and smelling after new and exciting smells.  If I tried to chain it down it would rapidly become unhappy and you’d get tired of hearing it bark all the time.

A Real-Life Serial: Self-Publishing Impatience

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This is what I published 2 years ago (plus a couple of days).  You can click through and read it, it’s a short-short and it’s free.  It was my 26th; my 1st was published in January 2012.

 

Looking back, it hasn’t been that long. A bit more than 2 1/2 years I’ve been self-publishing. A few thousand of my free titles have ‘sold’ in that time, and probably a tenth or twentieth as many paid copies have sold.

 

Not too shabby, my practical side says.  As long as I keep it up, keep writing and publishing, people will keep reading.  Eventually, I hope, many more people.  Persistence is the first thing pretty much anyone needs in getting their work out there, written or otherwise.

 

My impatient side, however, thinks that kind of thinking is for, appropriately for this post, dumbasses.

 

I don’t like waiting.  Does anyone like waiting?  I’m pretty sure nobody likes waiting.  Hey, I bought Product X yesterday, and the commercials clearly state that if you buy Product X all your dreams will come true in mere days, like a fairy tale.  I’m impatiently waiting for my instant gratification.

 

Hmm, that gives me an idea.

 

Read Dumbass, and all of your dreams will come true in mere days.  Promise.

Relax, Writer!

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Poor Bodhidharma is really getting a workout.

 

I have a certain amount of trouble relaxing. Burning some nice incense is one of many ways I attempt to deal with that; as you can see, my incense burning dish really gets a workout.

 

It’s more than a problem relaxing. It’s a manifestation of my inner perfectionist. I have seen other writers mention their own perfectionism, and it usually relates to editing and re-editing their written work into oblivion, and them being afraid to let it out into the world, terrified that there will be an error they’ve missed, or an imperfect expression.

 

That’s a concern that I share, though not strongly. Of course I worry that I’m sending a story out to an editor or into self-published distribution with a glaring mistake, a gaping plot hole, a patch of ludicrously overwrought prose, or something similarly embarrassing. But it’s not a huge worry for me. I can hit the ‘send’ or ‘publish’ button without losing sleep.

 

For me, it’s about feeling that I’m not doing enough. When I have a great writing week and produce a ton of good work, I end up thinking about how much more I could have produced if I had somehow made more time for writing. When I have a crappy week, I feel like I’m Atlas and I’ve just dropped the world on my toe, and it has promptly rolled away threatening to flatten a bus full of nuns or something. It’s just terrible.

 

And it’s counterproductive. My gawd, it’s counterproductive. I’ve lost sleep over the perception of lost writing production or lost brainstorming time (and therefore lost ideas), then spent the next day feeling crappy and sluggish because I haven’t had enough sleep, which means that I produce little or nothing that day, which means that I feel even worse about my now two-day-old string of lousy production, which means…

 

Vicious circle.

 

Worrying about how much more I could do leads to doing less. It’s really very simple.

 

It’s another thing altogether to remember this when I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough. But I keep reminding myself, and I get a little better –a little, tiny bit better– as time passes.

 

I figure by the time I’m 150 I should have this whole ‘relaxing properly’ thing down pat.

Six Word Story, After Editing

I wrote this six word story earlier today on Twitter, and I realized that I had made a mistake. A critical mistake.

 

I semicolon-ed where I should have comma-d.

 

It makes a difference. It makes a BIG difference.

 

Even when what you’re doing is only six(ish) words long, editing is very important.

 

So without further ado, the corrected story:

 

He broke rules constantly, even in this.

 

Positive Rejection

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Perhaps I’ve been fortunate in not — so far — having received a rude or discouraging rejection. I hear that some do.

 

The closest I’ve gotten was, upon my third or fourth (fifth?) rejection from a particular zine, one that added (paraphrased from memory) ‘this is a great example of what we’re looking for’ with a link to a story. Overall, that’s a pretty nice way to tell me that what I was sending them wasn’t really in the genre they want.

 

I recently got what I think is my most positive rejection to date. It combined the (again, paraphrased from memory) phrases, ‘enjoyed reading your story’, ‘think highly of your writing’, and ‘send more’.

 

My first, selfish thought was, ‘well, why didn’t you buy it, then?’

 

Sometimes, it pays to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about it a bit. So my second, less selfish, thought was to do just that.

 

So: most zines and journals and similar concerns publish a handful of stories in each issue, maybe half a dozen, or twice that, or half. Some publish monthly. More publish six or four or fewer times yearly. That means that most markets you can send your short story to publish fewer than a hundred stories yearly; most publish significantly fewer than that.

 

Each one of them, aside from the tiniest and most obscure, receives hundreds of submissions monthly.

 

Imagine an issue of the magazine you’ve submitted a story to as a branch. There is space for half a dozen birds on that branch.

 

Above the branch, your story is one among a flock numbering at least a couple of thousand. For the sake of this metaphor, the entire rest of the tree is studded with spikes for some reason. Can’t land there.

 

When your bird gets so close to landing on the one available branch that someone hollers “good job!” that’s a good sign. Even if you have to send your bird over to the next tree in search of a place to land.

Patreon Exclusive Short Story: Waiting For

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Thanks to supportive friends and family, I’ve reached (over) $20/month in patronage on Patreon. Every dollar makes it a little easier to remain a full-time writer — many thanks!

I promised that when I reached $20/month I would post a short story that would remain exclusive to Patreon for 90 days. I posted that story today. If you want to read it, you’ll have to head over and look: click here.

Because One Wasn’t Enough: A Second, Pathos-Filled, Robin Williams Post

Alright, the first post wasn’t enough.

The suicide of Robin Williams has deeply affected me. I’m sad. I’m really sad. I feel, genuinely, like a member of my family has died. Perhaps a beloved uncle or aunt, someone I thought of often, talked to often, cared about deeply. Tears come and go at irregular intervals.

I said in the last post, Robin Williams was of my father’s generation. One year younger. My father died in December 2002. He had a massive heart attack during a routine surgery; it was unexpected. He had just weathered a severe health crisis, and his surgery was just the cleanup. No problems were anticipated. But he had a heart attack on the table, they spent 45 minutes getting him back, and when they did he was hopelessly brain damaged, and we pulled the plug.

i pulled the plug. His wife of less than a year asked me what to do, to be sure she was doing the right thing. And I said “pull the plug. Let him go.” Goddamn, that decision haunts me. Because how could it not? You can never be sure. We pulled the plug and I held his hand while he died. I held his hand. He died. I watched him stop breathing and he died with his hand in mine and I swear there was a tear in his eye when I told him that we had to let him go and I don’t know if he understood, if he heard, or not. But I feel like he did and he didn’t want to go — because who does? I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die if I’m a hundred years old, goddammit, I don’t want to go. But I feel Robin’s decision too much. I know what it is to feel that it’s all too much. I almost drank myself to death at 25 and I knew what I was doing. I didn’t want to die and I tried to die. I held a knife to my wrist at 16 questioning and I decided to stay. I tasted the business end of a .357 pistol, drunk, in my 30s and again I decided to stay. I still own that pistol and I look at it: what the hell is wrong with you? I don’t know if I mean the gun or myself. I don’t understand why he killed himself. I understand why he killed himself.

Is it ever otherwise? I don’t know.

Robin Williams made a choice to die. He threw a belt over a door and hung himself. And he died. Too goddamn young, Why do we die at such a young age? I’m convinced that we humans are just beginning to figure things out somewhere between the ages of 50 and 100.  We die when we’re starting to get it. If we had another hundred years we’d really be cooking. There’s more than we know. We never know. We die too young.

I find myself crying at Robin Williams’ passing because he feels like someone I knew, though I never met him. He gave a damn, I think. Too few people do. He had a way of saying things directly, in a way that highlighted why they mattered. You know, without the bullshit.

Obligatory Robin Williams Post

Robin Williams was of my father’s generation, just one year younger. When I was a child, I watched him play ‘Mork’ on televison. I couldn’t tell you the plot of a single episode; I remember I enjoyed watching. Later, I watched Mr. Williams in a number of movies and generally enjoyed his performances. I enjoyed his standup.

With his death — his suicide — I’ve only just realized that he was something more than just another performer to me. He presented himself as a somewhat manic guy, a lover of life, someone whose enthusiasm reached into the bounds of the socially unacceptable. His enthusiasm was accepted because it was always part of a bit, a performance, as we in the public saw it.

But I think that was just his level of enthusiasm. An unacceptable lust for life and all of the unattainable variety, variety and experience beyond a single grasp, that life has to offer.

I have always, in my memory, been unacceptably enthusiastic. I have cloaked it in cynicism, in humor; I have excused it as an act. But it is not an act. I am enthusiastic beyond the bounds of social acceptability. He found a way to express that. I have couched it in writing and other things, but have never found what he did: a way to continually express that enthusiasm in a way that is acceptable to others. And still, he found it wanting.

In my experience, that kind of enthusiasm, hope, empathy, desire for life and all it has to offer comes with a downside: bitter disappointment. People disappoint. Society disappoints. In general, enthusiasm for all of the great potential for life and love is squashed in favor of a socially acceptable moderation.

I don’t like that at all. Now that he is dead, I realize a commonality. I don’t think he liked that aspect of social life either.

He expected, wanted, hoped, for more from life than, ultimately, it was able to give. That’s what I think. Maybe I’m wrong.

But maybe I’m right.

Angsty Emo Writer Blah Blah

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A few days of new words coming slowly and with great reluctance really grates on my nerves.

Successful writers will mostly tell you that success — having a goodly number of readers and selling material regularly — comes slowly. That sure seems to be how it’s going so far for me. The success stories that involve sudden viral surges of popularity, or look like they do because the years of lead-up aren’t visible to the casual observer, stick in my mind and whisper, if you were any good it would happen to you. You’d go viral. Much like me, those voices are bad at listening when told to shut up and how unreasonable they’re being.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky to squeak out a couple of hundred words daily. The high point was a 900 word flash one day. It’s writing. I wrote something. I didn’t totally give in to apathy and frustration. In addition, I managed some blog posts here as well. Those are writing. They count.

No, they don’t, the Angsty Voice whispers. There aren’t enough of them, and they are insufficiently awesome. Writing doesn’t count unless it’s totally awesome, unless *I* say it’s totally awesome.

Shut up, Angsty Voice. I’m trying to write over here.

Title Number Fifty-Five: The Moon Under the Stars

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So, yeah. As of now I have fifty-five short story and collection ebook titles out there for folks to read. This latest is a short tale of superheroes and fandom, and it’s a mere 99 cents. It’s available on Smashwords right now, and will appear with other ebook retailers shortly, most likely within two weeks.

 

Keep your eyes peeled: I still have plenty more stories to tell.

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