Friday, May 29, 2009

Let the Summer begin

Yesterday was my daughter last day of kindergarten so today starts the first day of summer for us. It is supposed to be hot (86 degrees F) so I don't know what we are going to do. Probably play outside, sweat a lot, and come back inside. I might be able to talk them into wanting to go fishing, although there is the chance of thunderstorms this afternoon.

This will also be the first test of my summer writing schedule. I don't even know if I can call it a schedule at this point. It will probably be random stolen moments where I happen to be close to the computer and the house is fairly quiet (I can't write while there are any distractions around).

I am finding it incredulous that Monday is the first day of June and my youngest sister's birthday. Talk about making me feel old. We used to go to movies together and people thought I was her dad. She is only 3 years younger than me. There is a reason one of my nicknames in college was 'the old man.' A rather high hairline will do that to a guy.

Anyway, that was a little off the point, but I think I was trying to say that the end of month report will be coming out that day. It is looking like a very short report at this point, unless I get a slew of responses from editors, which isn't likely.

Hope everyone has a good weekend and enjoy the rest of your Friday as well. I might go try to drown a worm now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paper Vs. Computer

I have seen this topic quite a bit lately and I thought I would throw my plug nickel at it. After all where is the industry going? What is the ultimate goal of the writer? How do editors, writers and readers see the end product differently?

As far as the first question goes, there is no doubt that the entire industry is floating, on a speed boat with the throttle stuck in high gear, toward the electronic mediums. You can look at the newspaper and magazine industry for this. Time magazine gets ten times as many readers online than they do in their print journal (and the material isn't the same). More people read the Drudge Report than the New York Times, even if they just skim the headlines. So what does this mean to the industry. Will paper be a thing of the past in ten years. Probably not, but it might be harder to find a paper copy of your favorite book in a used book store.

I have worked in print magazine in the past and I can tell you that getting the layout just right for the printer is a pain, big pain. I don't don't have any experience with the electronic layouts, other than this blog, so I asked someone who has experience with both. Jason Sizemore of Apex Publications has had a successful Pro-market magazine and a successful Pro-Market e-zine. I asked him which took longer to produce, the print issue or the e-zine, or if it was a wash. He responded with "(It)Takes me way, way less time to prepare a digital issue of Apex Magazine as opposed to when it was in print.” This got me thinking of the magazine from the editors POV. If you are giving the authors the same money, and reaching more people, it takes you far less time which in Jason's case gives him more time to focus on the Book part of his business, why wouldn't you go to an online format. Sure I miss the paper editions, but printers cost money, a lot of money so from the editors point of view I can see the online edition being advantageous.

From the writers point of view I would like to think we have two goals in mind, get paid for our work and have as many people as possible read that work. It isn't like in the 1950's where every household in America subscribed to the Saturday Evening Post and Every teenager had a subscription to the pulp magazine of the day (and every Uncle had a subscription to Playboy). Now people aren't relegated to two or three channels on television and the radio. We don't sit around on Sunday afternoon and sing along to Cousin Bob playing the piano. Times have changed and while people still read, and some of us read a lot, most don't read as much as they did 25-50 years ago (although most read more than they did 200 years ago when your choice was The Bible or The King James Version of The Bible.

We want to get paid so we submit to the pro markets. Fewer and Far between. A lot of very good, and well known, writers are competing for those few slots. These are the writers that actually make a living with their craft. Most people don't make it to the pro-markets and those that do usually don't make it into one, maybe two a year. This isn't enough to make a living from either, not like it used to be. I am reminded that Robert Bloch could sell an 8,000 word story to Weird Tales for a penny a word and live for a month on the procedes. Try and do that now. For most of us that would only pay for our internet and a couple of Happy Meals at McDonald's.

We also want people to read what we do get published. The internet has made this amazingly easy. Just post a link and most people can read 90% of the online content. Sometimes you might have to pay a token amount to the magazine to read the latest online issue but his is a far cry from the cost of the paper issue. Still, I prefer to have my hands on a paper copy. One of my favorite magazines in the 90's, before the internet truly had a foothold in every day life (and my modem speed was an amazing 14.4 bps) my favorite magazine was a small horror mag called Haunts. It was well done in a digest sized format and glossy covers. I still have a couple of copies (possibly the only ones in existance) but I still have them; the magazine hasn't been published in 12 years. In twelve years most of the online magazines we submit to will be gone and replaced with newer, shiner, faster versions that push the same types of stories that we are selling or trying to sell to them now. The stories we had published on the old versions, no doubt will be gone with a couple of months or maybe a couple of years if we are lucky of the magazines downfall.

I am still trying to gauge the readers desire to read online versus paper. There are a lot of variables. I prefer to read in bed or in a favorite chair, in the car, under a tree. This doesn't make for electronic reading the best option. New e-readers are trying to bridge this gap but for most people the price of the readers are prohibitive so until they start to lower the price (and lower the price of the download prices, which in many cases are just as much or more than a paperback copy) they are going to have are going to have a rough start with the general public, especially in this economy. Still, most people, it seems don't mind reading, at least in short bursts, on a computer screen so as we become more used to this it will become less of an issue. I really think that if the cost of the e-readers gets cut in half (does anyone remember the first DVD players. I bought my first one for $250 dollars. The last one I bought cost $80) more people will be likely to buy them and the stigma that has become associated with online publishing will start to diminish.

I could go on but this post has gone on long enough. I guess, that I would still rather see my work in print and I applaud the magazines that give the reader the choice (it seems that the very small press magazine is ahead of their bigger print brethren on this issue). Overall, I would just like to be paid a fair price for my work and see as many people as possible enjoy it, however that may be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maybe this summer won't be so bad

I managed to get some work done yesterday, writing work. After I signed off the blog and put the internet away (it wasn't that hard. I know- I'm shocked as well.) I managed to get out a quick 1000 words before I went upstairs to wake the boy at 9:30 in the morning. I would have let him sleep later, but I wanted to do that one last thing before his sister is home for the summer and I would have to deal with both of them. Besides, I used to take her places all the time when she was that age.

I am thinking that the same philosophy might apply all Summer. I used to do that all the time. Get all of my writing done in the morning before I lost the morning nap and had to switch to the afternoon nap. I think I might be losing the afternoon nap her shortly. Man, I hope not but I have to prepare for the eventuality.

I am still psyched that some good (okay, maybe not good but productive, we can call it productive) writing time ensued in this short window of opportunity.

As far as the rest of the week goes I think tomorrows post will concern itself with my take on paper versus online debate. I am still thinking of my arguments are still forming so I won't take it on today. Have a good day and write well my friends.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Live to write, not so much this weekend though

I think I managed to spend about an hour in front of the computer this weekend, maybe a little more, but it was mostly to catch up on blogs and the news and had nothing to do with writing. I managed to get a ton of things done around the house (I almost said 'stuff' there, but then I thought of Aaron and didn't want to turn him off from reading this immediately). Besides, do you really need an excuse to use a chainsaw? I don't know if this week will be any better. I might try to get a couple of hundred words down before the boy wakes up. If he gets up early enough I might head to the Durham Museum in Omaha because they have an awesome train exhibit, complete with real trains.

The rest of the week is choppy, especially with Thursday being the last day of school for my six year old. I think she has a t-ball game that day as well.

I haven't heard from an editor in weeks now, despite having 11 stories out in submission land and 5 of them have been out for longer than 100 days. One just hit the 500 day mark. When combined with my recent idleness at the keyboard this could be a long summer. Especially since my next story to be published isn't scheduled until August. *sigh* Anyway, these books aren't going to write themselves, not without my help anyway, so I will see you later. Have a good one.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Deus ex Machina lite

Lets face it. Its Saturday, a long weekend and I don't want to think a lot.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Author Interview, Ransom Noble

Ransom Noble, a person I actually knew in my high school days, recently had her first book come out from 4VR Publishing called The Art of Science. This is the second stop on her blog tour, the rest of which are

May 20 – Vivian Zabel at Brain Cells and Bubble Wrap

May 21 – Jamie Eyberg at A Continuity of Parks

May 22 – Shanachie at Ramblings of a Confusted Writer’s Mind and Quill, Parchment, and Ink – Writings and Ramblings

May 23 – Karen at Sharing with Writers and Readers

May 24 – Nancy Famolari at Nancy Famolari’s Place

May 25 – Crystalee Calderwood at Crystalee Calderwood, Writer and Poet

Ransom will be giving away one copy to a lucky winner drawn randomly from comments, so be sure to leave an email address for contact information.

I have decided to ask her some questions about the process she went through in writing this delightful book about a girl struggling to do what she loves and what is expected from her mother and her peers.

J: First off, congratulations on your first book. You don't have an agent, how did you get this publishing contract?

R: Thanks! I am active in a writing community, and the publisher is also a member. She mentioned running a contest for children's books. I'd written this book and not done anything with it
, so she encouraged me to send it in. Eventually I did. I heard back about a month later that I'd won- not just with the editors but also the reader's test. I was amazed, but extremely happy.

J: A lot of writers dive right into a story, others make careful notes on every detail on their characters and the plot. What kind of writer are you?

R: I've done both. This one was plotted, but I've also done it on the fly. I think I do better on a middle of the road approach. The last story I tried to write with careful notes on every detail took a sharp turn away from my plan in the middle and became a better story because of it. I try to stay open to those things as I write.

J: I get confused with the classifications of YA books, middle grade and young adult. After I read the book I thought it might be classified either way. Would you consider this to be a middle grade book or young adult book and do you plan on writing others for this market or do you plan on branching into different reading groups? I only ask this because your other published story, 'Qui's Contract' in the Ruins Metropolis Anthology (published by Hadley Rille books) was more adult fare.

R: I think the lines can sometimes be blurred between middle grade and young adult. I am sure there are guidelines out there, but it might come down to the heaviness of the topics involved in the book, the age of the characters, and the narrator's voice. You might be right on this one; it could fall in the gray area between the two classifications. I do plan to write more young adult, but I also enjoy
writing for older audiences. I don't like saying I'm only going to write one thing - either in classification or genre. Might be harder for marketing, but we all have to follow our muses, right?

J: How much has your background in engineering helped you in your writing? Conversely, how much has your writing helped you with your engineering endeavors?

R: My writing has always kept me in touch with my imagination. Using that in engineering made my designs and ideas on how to fix or improve existing products and processes unique. It often required lengthy explanations or leading questions to get people to see what I had in mind. On the other hand, engineering can be both a help and hindrance to writing. Science fiction is one of my favorites, but now and again what's actually possible stops me from finding a fictional solution. It also helps by making me get the details of the story correct - I can be very analytical in the editing process.

J: How has your writing changed since you signed that publishing contract?

R: If you mean, has the publishing contract changed my writing, I don't think so? I think life changes writing. All of us write what we know, and every day we learn something new that we can bring to our stories.
Tomorrow will bring something else, and I look forward to it.

Ransom, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and good luck with your next book.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If I kill off the weeds i just have a patch of dirt for a yard

The title of this post has nothing to do with anything, although it is true.

Today will be an interesting day. I have stories to read, pages to fill and a child to bathe. Not all at the same time, the pages would get soggy and I would probably short out my computer. I also have a lunch with another local writer and her boyfriend. Should be interesting, especially if my boy doesn't want to cooperate. She writes YA and is a reporter for the local paper. I know somewhere in this little town of ours is a Harlequin romance writer as well. I don't know who she is but she writes under a pseudonym that I am unsure of. I am a little rusty on my Harlequin's.

Yesterday, in a sleepy stupor I managed to get no writing done. I did read a bit, which was nice and started to watch the history channel program I had taped from Sunday night 'How Bruce Lee Changed the World.' Very interesting so far, I would recommend it.

Have plenty to do today, so I am going to do them now and if you are interested in queries go to Carrie's page. She has played with one of Mercedes' query letters and it is a good time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Accomplished weekend

It was a remarkably accomplished weekend. Lots of things were done around the house, good food was eaten, a shopping trip was incorporated into a birthday party outing and my daughter's t-ball game (kind of like baseball only no one pitches the ball. It sits on a T instead.) It was a busy weekend to be sure.

I did manage to get some thinking in. Some plot holes were filled in, mentally anyway. I will look forward to getting them on paper eventually. Maybe even today.

I was planning on doing a bunch of reading this weekend, but that plan fell through. I might try to fix that this morning while the boy eats his pop tart and watches his favorite cartoons.

Lots of good stories have come out in the last week: Jameson gave us 'Nuts' on 52 Stitches, Aaron had a story (and an interview) come out on EDF, Danielle had a story come out in Anthology form here, and I want to thank everyone for the kind comments you left about my own story Wine For Two.

Hope everyone had a good weekend and if you were not feeling the greatest (as apparently many of you were) I hope you are feeling better.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Read this and tell me what it says

My apologies to A. Mannette Ansay for stealing her short story collection for the title of my post today. My story Wine For Two is up on Ruthless Peoples Magazine today, issue three. Go ahead an download it and tell me what you think, unless it isn't very nice and then just keep your opinion to yourself (just kidding, I want to know how to make the next one better.) You might note that they actually listed it as a romance. I had to laugh. Something I never thought I would have listed behind my name, and with good reason.

Also you should read Aaron Polson's short on EDF today.

Yesterday I took a day off, I didn't want to write I wanted to drive. Somewhere I have never been. This is hard for me to do in a very limited amount of time as I have taken almost every highway, biway and gravel road south of interstate 80 in Iowa and a good chunk of them north of it. Lucky for me I have never been to Northwest Iowa so in a couple of hours I was out of familier territory and into new scenery. It was beautiful, flowing glacial hills and flat plains that seemed to stretch forever. I showed my son some turtles in a farm pond and just enjoyed the time out. I considered it a re-charging time for my creative batteries. I was also looking for new landscapes and settings to showcase in my fiction.

I had better get going, it is raining today so I know I will be able to spend a good chunk of time in front of a keyboard when the boy goes down for a nap.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My take on the Ghost story

Lately I seem to have written my fair share of ghost stories. They aren't always meant to be scary. I don't think they need to be. Most of the ghosts in Dicken's A Christmas Carol weren't scary (with the possible exception of the ghost of Christmas future) and I think we could look to our Hollywood brethren and say quite a few of the specters on film are quite gentle (Can we look to Bruce Willis's portrayal in The Sixth Sense?)

That being said, I think that ghosts can be looked at in two ways, memories and ideas.

The ghost of memory is the one that we see most often, it is the spirit of grandpa Gino who throws the dinner plates across the room when the pasta isn't cooked properly. Most of Algeron Blackwood's stories are based on the ghost of memory.

The ghost of idea is a much harder one to nail down. It may have no reason to be there. It may have a fleeting association. It may only appear in the dream, locked away in our subconscious waiting for us to banish it and hoping it never does. This is the ghost that I would like to write about someday. The one that is much more psychological than metaphysical. I would like to think that The Shining is a good example of this story. We don't know the backstory, it just is, and it catches us at our most vulnerable.

What do you think? Are there other types of ghost stories that I don't know about?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Time to get serious

I have been in a writing funk for the last week, looking for anything and everything I can to do something other than write. Needless to say I have only gotten a couple of thousand words out of my head last week. Much fewer than I needed to do. It probably would have been fine if they had all been on the same piece, but they floated around three or four pieces and not a single one is probably worth keeping and my weeks work will most likely be relegated to the recycle bin of my computer in the near future.

Speaking of recycle bin, I took a tip from BT and cleaned up my flash drive files where I keep all of my stories (once they are accepted they get put to disk and stuffed in a filing cabinet). I had a whole slough of stories (I think we can call them that, maybe just a collection of semi-coherent words is a better description) that were just sitting around doing nothing. They are now gone and my flash drive looks a lot nicer for it. I actually know what I have now. Some of them were just a couple of notes or a simple scene that I couldn't remember going anywhere. That actually felt good to get done.

This week the plan is simple, write as much as I can and piss around as little as possible. It will be hard with such things as Twitter and Facebook and addictive little games like Pandemic II (Thank you Barry) but I think I can do it.

While I am at it I want to Congratulate one of the newest members of my wall of blogs I follow, Samantha Sterner- AKA Horror Girl, for her microfiction story which will be part of Weird Tales video series. Fantastic news!

Friday, May 8, 2009

End of a long journey

The Glass Jar has been picked up for publication in the October issue of Fissure magazine. I wouldn't have written about this, but this story started 12 years ago. I was still in college for God's sake. It has undergone more revisions than anything else I have ever written and even underwent more revisions while it was under consideration from this editor (bless her soul). I believe this story is the first rejection I ever received, a personalized rejection from Gordon Van Gelder (which still sits in a file in my cabinet) at F&SF. Still I knew it would find a home and it has. I look forward to seeing how it is presented and even more thankful that this story's journey is at an end.

Now to the business at hand. I think I have a good start on a 16-20,000 word MG story as I plug away on another MG adventure which is looking to be about 28,000 words long. nothing like spreading yourself thin. My short story front is thin right now. I have a couple of ghost stories sloshing around my skull, aging like a fine whiskey. I hope they don't turn rancid on me before I tap my brain and release them into my electronic shotglass.

Hope everyone has a good day, it is Friday after all. Pour yourself a cold one and belly up to the keyboard and have some fun today.

Oh, and before I forget, I will be posting this next week as well, Ruthless Peoples Magazine comes out with issue number 3 next week (the 14th to be exact) and my story "Wine for Two" is featured. I hope everyone downloads it and lets me know what they think. It is a little different than my usual. Don't worry, I will remind everyone when it comes out.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Sometimes you find a book that you know has been around for quite a while (in this case over 25 years) and finally get around to reading it. I don't know why I put it off for so long really. It is quite remarkable.

Different Seasons by Stephen King. For those of you who haven't read it, go pick it up. I found my copy at a second-hand book store for $2.00 in paperback and the binding wasn't even broken yet. It contains the ideas behind such movies as 'The Shawshank Redemption' 'Stand By Me,' and 'Apt Pupil.' While I haven't seen the last movie I understand that my brother really enjoyed it.

What the book entails is a series of 4 novellas. King explained in the back of the book that he wrote each of these as his winding down from each of his first four major books and stuffed them into a drawer because no one would ever want to publish a novella. That wisdom still holds true today. I can say that I am glad that he, along with his agent (and due to a little bit of prodding on Mr. King's part) bypassed conventional publishing wisdom and released them. Even though they aren't horror stories so much as dark tales (His agent was leery that no one would want to read anything other than creature fiction from his client at the time). They are clunky at times and good reads all around. They show a writer who was unafraid of language and less afraid of writing something outside of his publishing comfort zone.

Well worth my hard earned money and even more worth the time to read.

As I write this a huge machine is tiling the field behind my house, laying a thick black drainage line into the wet soil. I would post pictures but I don't care to go outside and get wet. It looks like a military machine thought up in WWII and the tile line looks like a thick snake that ropes around the field. *Quick, in a thousand words or less come up with a story about this :) *

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Short day

Today is going to be abbreviated for me. I won't be able to get much, if anything done, on my current projects. To that I am taking a page from Brian Keene's playbook and have started working more than one project in the same sitting. I can see where he is coming from. I have a problem where the first couple of pages of an ongoing manuscript go great and then it seems like a lot of time is spent looking at the curtain in front of me. Using Keene's method (and I will admit is not for everyone. I don't even know if it is for me.) I can juggle two projects at the same time, when one slows to a crawl I switch gears and get a couple of hundred words down on the other project.

So far it works pretty well. Something tells me I am going to have a problem later on with characters that weren't written in to one story popping in for a visit. I didn't say it was a perfect idea.

Today, instead of writing, and if it doesn't rain, I will be spending my time planting flowers, cleaning the garage and maybe hanging more drywall. On the top of my list is tightening a water line under my dishwasher without snapping it and making a bigger mess. I thought I would have taken care of that earlier but I grabbed a handful of wrenches and none of them were the proper size. If this is any indication of how the rest of my day will go I am going back to bed.

Have a happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Summer is already protesting my writing

Summer isn't even here yet and it is already starting a protest over my writing schedule. Yesterday, we got a nice chunk of stuff done around the house: Finished hanging drywall on the ceiling, mowed the acreage, weeded flowers, rebuilt retaining wall, changed oil in mowers, cleaned house. The problem is many of those chores have to be done every week! Granted I shouldn't have to do many of them again this year (Ceiling done, wall, oil in mowers until the end of season) but I still have to paint the house, clean the garage, finish the spare bedroom sheetrock, ect. Something tells me this isn't going to be a productive summer so please excuse me if I am spending less time on my internet endeavors like Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot. It isn't you It is me, really.

Now I am off to reformat a story to send to Weird Tales. (Thanks Cate)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Four down, eight to go

Well the Month of April was officially the slowest month I have had since March, 2008. Here are the stats:

Acceptences: 2 (Yippee! I tied a previous record for acceptances in a month)
Play Date in Sand for issue #5
Winter Solstice in M-Brane SF for issue #8
Rejections: 4 (one for a story that was later accepted.)
Short stories written: 0 (although I did start one)
Books written: 0 (although I have worked diligently on one all month)
agents queried: 0 (Lets face it, none of my books are ready for that just yet)
Books read: 3 (better than my usual average of 2)

All in all, a pretty slow month, although I can't complain about the acceptances. Looking forward to see what May brings.