Posts Tagged The Face of the Serpent

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I’m going to actually link to my resolutions post from 366 days ago, just to keep myself honest.  And I’m going to be honest with some responses to it.

Resolution 1: Finish the first draft of Capsule.  This did not happen.  Largely because I hit a point where I realized the book I was writing was not the right book to write.  It needed to be divided into two books, because I was telling two completely different and unrelated stories.  I’ll come back to both of these books one day, but probably not until 2013 in all honesty, certainly no earlier than October 2012.  But I learned a lot from walking away, such as recognizing when something isn’t working and why it isn’t working.  I also stepped away to work on a novel that has a lot of promise, so again I can only beat myself up so much.

Resolution 2: Three short stories out at all times.  This was a lofty goal for someone who went into the year with a limited number of stories ready to go out.  And then came the fantastic problem of having two taken off the market by sales!  Yay!  I tried to keep the stories that were ready for publication circulating, but probably could have done more.  Some of them, like Sleep, are just hard to find markets for.  I do have two out with long-response publications right now (Vampires of Mars and Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 3: Write from-scratch stories for six anthologies.  I did five.  One sold (Home Again), one wasn’t sent due to quality problems (Back Half), two were rejected (Vampire of Mars and Beyond Light), one is still out for consideration (Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 4: Fortnightcaps.  This was a fun project for a few months, and I had intended to keep it going through the year.  What stopped me?  Discovering other flash fiction contests, and realizing that I was burning story rights without anything to show in return in terms of readership.  So anyone who was paying attention might have noticed they stopped in September, but since I never had a single person ask me “hey, what happened to those Fortnightcaps,” I suspect no one was really paying attention.  This showed in the readership dips on those days.  I’m not blogging solely for readership numbers, but it is nice to not send stories out into the void where no one is reading them when I could make something more out of them.

So it was a mixed bag, but even in my failures I feel like I learned a lot about writing in general, and specifically how I write, in this past year.  I wouldn’t trade a single bit of the experience.

Last night at CVS we sat down and talked about resolutions going forward.  I wrote down five at Day‘s insistence, but it was secretly just three.  We followed the SMART acronym used by most corporations in determining yearly objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  For example, writing 10 novels is specific and measurable, but isn’t attainable or realistic.  So from that perspective, my resolutions break down to the following categories:

Completion.  Complete Nickajack to a condition where it can be queried, then query it.  There are a lot of steps involved in this (such as, ya know, finishing it), and “Query Nickajack” really is my overarching resolution for 2012.  Each month’s State of the Writer for 2012 will start with those words and my progress towards that goal so I don’t lose sight of it.

Research.  I’ve made a specific goal of reading three non-fiction books about pre-to-post Civil War era, and two fiction books with as similar a setting as possible.  Which is tough.  Southeastern US Steampunk is not a common market segment.  One of the fiction books will likely be How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.  It’s not Steampunk, but it is Alternate History, and I’ve always preferred Steampunk that falls under Alternate History more than Fantasy.  Recommendations are welcome!

Man Up.  I need to get over my crippling con introversion, the one that border lines on social anxiety.  To make this goal measurable, I’ve taken it upon myself to find 6 people to provide prompts for the 2012 Flashathon.  With the event being expanded to 18 hours, that means I’m on the hook for a third of them.  This is, by far, the hardest of the resolutions I’ve set.  Which says a lot about me that I consider talking to six people, just six, at a convention as more of a challenge than finishing a fucking novel.

And with that, this blog will likely be dark until the New Year.  Everyone enjoy the festivities.  I’d caution to not do anything I wouldn’t, but that would make for a boring weekend, so go out there and do at least one thing I wouldn’t but is still legal.  It’ll be more fun that way.

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State of the Writer: July 2011

I’m going to come right out and say it: the state of the writer is good.

On a writing front, I’ve got three stories out the door to anthologies and contests that had deadlines at the end of June, and plan two more submissions this coming week.  That will mark the first time I’ve ever had five stories out for consideration at once.  Hell, this marks the first time I’ve had three stories out for consideration at once.  Out the door already are Face of the Serpent, Beyond Light, and Vampires of Mars, and getting ready to head out the door are Sleep and Home Again.  I have high hopes that one of those will land in its current market, with a potential ceiling of three of them landing.

Yup, I’m getting all excited and optimistic, but I already wrote that post.

July is going to see a change of direction.  I’ve been working on short stories for awhile, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  But I’ve left Capsule languishing for far too long now, and it’s time to get back into it.  Especially since I’m already starting to world build my next novel, and I don’t want Capsule to get steamrolled and forgotten.  I like the story too much to let that happen.  So it’s going to be back to work on that, trying to keep a strong pace going.  Really, I’d love to have the first draft finished by no later than the end of August, and then it’ll be a process of figuring out what to do next.  That might be turning right around and editing Capsule, that might mean making another go at Conqueror Worm, or it might mean starting Nickajack.  Really, that’s going to be more a subject for September’s State of the Writer.  I hope.

It’s an exciting point in my push to be something more than just an amateur writer.  First short story is still due out soon-ish (though I’m honestly thinking July is unlikely, even if the anthology hasn’t officially said so), and so much more hopefully on the horizon.

State of the Writer’s Blog: June was a great month for readership.  I didn’t quite hit the record views of May, but I didn’t miss by much.  This was aided by the last day of June being the best single day for viewership since the relaunch of this blog back in December.  So yay!  Google Analytics also tells me that I collected my first views from six states this month: Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio, and South Carolina.  That leaves 13 states that have never visited my blog: Alaska, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine.  I’m hoping to hit all 50 states before too much longer, so look for me to start pandering!  Woo!  Do you Dakotans know just how sexy and intelligent you are?

But seriously, I’m going to try to set my two July Fortnightcaps in states that have yet to show up, just to see if I can’t push viewership.

Update: Hello, Omaha!  That’s another state down.

State of the Writer’s Beer: We have now drunk 4 of the 24 bottles of Mustache Cat, and it’s getting better with each bottle.  A few more weeks, and I’ll be glad to share some.  The bitterness that it had when brand new is mellowing out nicely, and there’s a very strong strawberry aroma and aftertaste.  This weekend it’s going to be bottling time for Lazarus Ale, which I’m going to try and have the self discipline to not crack a bottle of until August.  Next batch is still being planned, but I may take a week or three just to give us time to catch up on the drinking process, because this is becoming a lot of beer.

So.  We’ve passed the solstice, the days are getting shorter but no cooler, what better time of year to avoid the outside, and instead write?

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The Barrel of a Shogun

For those of you who don’t know the story, “barrel of a shogun” was perhaps my single most infamous typos.  In part because it was so persistent.  It survived not just edits of the story that spawned it, but even the transition from a short story to a short teleplay.  The word was meant to be shotgun, but because I am my own worst editor, and Word never thought to mark it with one of the red squiggly lines I overuse as a crutch, it just kept thriving.

I tell that story not to provide a cautionary tale about editing, or warning about reliance on spell checkers that can’t necessarily understand context, but more as a distraction to myself as I realize what phase my writing career is about to enter.  It did so gradually, without me being aware of it, which is probably how it’s supposed to happen.  I realized this weekend that I already have two stories out for consideration, two in progress that will go out between now and July 15, and another story that just got rejected and will likely head back out again soon.

Depending on response times for the three stories for anthologies with June 30th deadlines, I may soon have five stories simultaneously out for consideration.  And all in the month when my first short story publication is supposed to drop.

Madness.  Absolute madness.  And yet, it’s a point where I needed to get to, that point where I get over the jitters of submitting and have a solid stable of stories ready to venture forth into the world.  Most of them even have secondary or tertiary destinations if they miss their primary targets.  But I will say with confidence: one of the five will hit.  I’ve been told for years that as an author one shouldn’t set goals that are outside of one’s influence.  Which is to say never set “publication” as a goal.  But I’m feeling just that good about where I am now that I see limbs and I want to walk out on them.  So that’s my limb.  One story.  20% success rate.  If it was a major league hitter he’d be sent down to the minors, but for a starting out writer it’s probably hoping for far too much.

But if it weren’t for optimism, I wouldn’t be sending out stories at all.

So out on the branch I go.  Just watch out for me, cause if I miss and go zero for five, this branch is just high enough for a noose.

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The Week That Is

Just some updates. First, got a rejection from Mammoth Book on Vampires of Mars. Cry cry, depressed, move on. The story is already back out the door and winging its way towards Writers of the Future. This is a story I really believe in, so I’m going to keep it in heavy circulation with its next several stops already well planned out. This is actually going to be a good week for me submission-wise as I send two stories out the door. Other one is for an anthology with a July 1 deadline, but the story is ready and I don’t want it hanging over my head. Especially since there’s another July 1 anthology I’m going out for that I’ve only got a few hundred words written towards. Eep.

Continuing to be told July on the publication of Steam Works, so I’m still hoping that anthology actually does happen.

The bigger news is about Rust. Several months ago I put Rust out for the Kindle and on Smashwords, largely to explore the process and see how it works for a series of posts over on Unleaded. I left it out there because, what the hell, why not? Well, I recently got my first review on Amazon. Two stars. Ouch. And that started the wheels in motion for eventually pulling it back offline. This isn’t a petulant “someone didn’t like my book so I’m taking my ball and going home” move, but rather one that I’ve always sort of planned. The review drove home that Rust isn’t necessarily the best public face for myself. It was a Nanowrimo project with a plot that’s disjointed at times, a bizarre conclusion, and probably less editing than I would have really liked to do. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t throw out a completely unedited Nano project, I gave it several passes. But in part that’s the problem: I gave it several passes. And I’m really not the world’s best editor.

So Rust will probably come down before the publication of Steam Works.  It won’t be today, but it’ll probably be in the next month or so, and likely without notice.  Anyone who still wants a copy is still free to grab one, just remember to keep your expectations low.  I know, that’s the hard sell right there, isn’t it?

I’m likely talking to some new readers.  At least I hope I am.  I’ve been participating in 5 Minute Fiction the last two weeks (if you’re reading this on the morning it was posted, it’s not too late to vote for my story to help me move from a distant last to merely a distant 4th place) and have seen the readership of my blog spike both Tuesdays and stay higher-than-usual in between.  It’s been a hell of a lot of fun doing these pieces the last two weeks, and plan to keep going and evangelize it to other writers as I can.  It’s all the fun of Nanowrimo with just 1/10800th the time commitment!

Finally, I’ve been talked into Balticon, though will likely only be attending one day of the event.  It’s going to be my first attempt at attending a con semi-professionally.  Yes, I’m going to actually meet people and not shyly wander around and not ask questions in panels.  Fortunately I’ll be guided by much more extroverted friends towards the right people to meet and talk to.

So there’s the week that is for me.  It’s Wednesday, which means I’ll also be posting over on Unleaded today, just as soon as I figure out what I’m going to talk about.  No.  Seriously.  I haven’t a clue right now.

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State of the Writer: May 2011

Hey, look at that.  It’s a new month, so it’s another chance for me to unbutton a shirt button to allow for optimal naval gazing.  April was an oddly productive month for me, which is largely to say that I was productive in odd directions.  The primary project of the month has been working on updates for my Lucha Libre story, something that’s turned into a pure joy to write and work on in a way few other stories have.  Almost a shame it’s so short, but there’s really nothing else I can do with it.  Going into May, that story is still going to get much of my focus because even though it’s not due until July 1, I’ve got a personal deadline of May 12 set.

In other projects, Future Lovecraft has just opened up, and yes, that’s the story I was talking about in my previous post.  I have a concept that I like, I just can’t quite crack the blank page to really get a start that I like.  Perhaps because I’ve got a few other stories running around my brain that are insisting on being told one-by-one.  These are the Steam Worlds.  These are the stories that came from my curiosity with the way that the Victorians imagined the earth and the cosmos working.  One already existed, then four more titles came about in the course of about an hour.  By the end, these stories will head to Mars, Venus, Phaeton, the Moon, and even inner Earth.  Right now they exist in the following formats:

  • Mars: Submitted to an anthology, still waiting to hear back (anxious, anxious)
  • Venus: Plot noodled.  I’m loving the plot I’m coming up with, which will include elements of Chernobyl, UrbEx, and 1940s air pollution disasters.  And robots.
  • Phaeton: Title with a vague X meets Y notion.  Least developed of the five.
  • The Moon: Change of title, change of focus, and suddenly there’s a story to be told here.
  • Inner Earth: This one depresses me a little.  Possibly the most ambitious theme and concept of the set.

I don’t know what will ultimately end up happening to them.  Mars, being in current circulation, could really help the others get told and sold.  Perhaps one day when several are sold and some rights revert they might merge together and be my first short story collection.  For now, I’ll search for homes where I can find them without worrying about continuity between them.  They don’t share characters, and don’t really share a timeline, they just exist in similar worlds.

Been reading too much Save the Cat.  Has me wanting to write another screenplay.  A proper one.  Maybe one that I could put up on Amazon Studio.  More on that if it actually starts happening.  Also been thinking about a certain xenophobe and his Serbian mentor.

State of the writer’s beer: Mustache Cat fermentation has slowed.  Bottling could happen this weekend, is more likely to happen next weekend.  Might be able to crack a bottle in time for June.  Looking at my options for batch two, considering a Ginger/Lemon/Honey Ale offered by Austin Homebrew.

It’s going to be a three Fortnightcap month.  First one will be up tomorrow, probably in the form of a new article.

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State of the Writer: April 2011

Another month has come and gone, so as I am want to do, a little bit of navel gazing.  I’m oddly happy with March, I feel it’s been one of my better writing months in a long time.  And I credit that to one thing: Short Stories.  I never used to be a fan of writing short stories, though can’t really say why.  I think it went back to my first real writing project being a novel and feeling like the longer form was somehow a more worthy endeavor.  In the end, though, the short story has given me a chance to explore thoughts quickly, make every word count, and in the end I think I’ve really grown as a writer.

Now the next trick is to keep it up.

I got one short story out the door this month, Vampire of Mars.  I’m happier with it than I have been any other story in awhile.  It might not find a home the first place I sent it to, but it’s going to go into heavy circulation until someone picks it up.  And it’s the first story I’ve written where I can say with real confidence: someone will pick it up.

April will mean a return to my Luchador story, and potentially some work on an idea germinating about a marshy Venus, in keeping with my Unleaded post this week.

Just because it’s been a good month doesn’t mean it’s any time for me to rest.  Always onwards.  Always forward.

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State of the Writer: March

Time again for my monthly look at where I stand, and where I’m going.  Really, this is a bit of recap since I already made a post declaring March as short story editing month.  February saw no news on submitted stories, nor any new stories submitted.  March should see two going out, one that needs and edit, and one that I’m frantically trying to finish for an April 1 deadline but haven’t yet finished the first draft.

Calendars can be scary things.

February was one of my more productive months in far too long.  I’ve always been a momentum writer and I lost a lot of that momentum for most of 2010.  I think this blog is helping me stage the comeback, because even though readership is light according to Google Analytics, it still forces me to look in a mirror occasionally and say “what are you doing if you want to keep calling yourself a writer?”

I was looking for a good anthology to be my next challenge, and can’t seem to find one that really calls to me.  Okay, that’s a lie, I found one that interested me, but I can’t get behind “exposure is your payment” type things.  Sorry, exposure doesn’t get me closer to SFWA membership.  And really, exposure-as-payment deals typically don’t have all that much of the former and thus lack even more in the latter.  So that’ll probably be even more incentive for March to be an editing month.

And who knows, maybe if I get both stories where I like them, even doing some Capsule work.

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Planning March

Without really thinking about what I’ve been doing, I suddenly find myself with either two or three short stories, each written for a specific anthology, and each with a deadline fast approaching.  I always like writing the best when it comes effortlessly, and so getting my head above water and finding out just how far I’ve swum is undeniably exhilarating.  But now comes the inescapable reality, the rip tide ready to pull me out to sea of an overextended metaphor that I shall now stop.

It’s getting damn close to editing time.

And editing time is going to be called “March”.

Right now my top priority is, and has to be, Vampires of Mars.  I can’t overlook the chance for my first pro-rate sale, especially a story that I’ve gotten very excited about now that I finally have a plot.  Of course, my first draft I lost that plot and ended up with 1600 words of ending that I’m going to have to do the old crumple-crumple-toss with, but I’ve got a full week before editing month begins to work out the last bits of the first draft.

Next on the docket is The Luchador, which got some very positive reactions from my favorite group of beta readers over at the Cat Vacuuming Society.  And they all wanted two things: a better title and more.  So in a way I’m glad this has the farthest deadline, since I probably need to increase its lenghth by 50-100%.  Fortunately I have a lot of headroom between myself and the anthology length limit.  It also has a new working title: The Face of the Serpent.  That’s not final.  I should probably get the word fire in there somewhere.  The Face of the Fire Serpent?  The title is a work in progress.

Then there’s a wild card called Back Half.  I stepped away from the story for two reasons, some exasperation with the anthology and some exasperation with the story.  It was hard for me to write, I was never as certain of the plot as I wanted to be, and I didn’t really like the way I brought it all to a close.  However, a rather gracious reply by the editors of the anthology to my less than glowing post about walking away has me potentially considering a revisit.  However, I’m considering it the lowest of the three priorities, even though it has the second nearest deadline.  If I can get the other two stories to a point that I like them and still have time to clean up Back Half before April 7, I’ll give it a go.  Otherwise it’s going to stay where it is, in my own private production hell.

All in all, it’s a great place to be.  Especially given my New Years Resolution of writing six anthology-specific stories.  Three are in rough draft, and it’s only February.  Writing is awesome.

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