Friday, September 17, 2010


Reinvention is over.

Kind of.

My official site, Defiled Curator, has gone live, and all blog posts from here on out will be contained there. Past content will remain here, with some posts exported to the new page.

It's a bit disheveled at the moment, as pages and content are still being shuffled about, but things should smooth over within a few days as I get the hang of Wordpress publishing.

Hope to see you there.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 13, 2010

Testing, Testing

I just picked up this handy dandy blogging app for my iPad called BlogPress. So far I've synched up my four different blogs, and now I'm about to test this baby.

Overheard conversation from Professional Writing (where I am hiding in the back of the room) - "I just want to shoot those Jersey Shore douchebags in the face with a potato gun." For once, that wasn't a professor quote (as opposed to all of the fun things I've already quoted for Facebook).

I am in love with this class.

Edit: He just called us a bunch of fuckers. I have found Nirvana in the middle of rural Pennsylvania.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oooh, a Revelation

Over the past few months, while working on my novel manuscript and slogging my way (slowly as it may be) through my review copy pile, I've come to a very strange conclusion about myself, writing, and what I enjoy most about being a tiny cog in the publishing machine.

I enjoy my position as a reviewer/interviewer far more than I do as an author.

Most days, when I work on the novel, I'm forced to admit to myself that I do not know how to write a book at all. I've cut the story up into chapters and then into scenes and plugged them into Scrivener for easy labeling, tracking and editing. Some days, when I go through each individual section, I shake my head and wonder why I'm doing this at all. Other days, I come across something I've written and think to myself, "Damn, that's actually pretty good," but those are few and far between. I think one of my biggest issues is that I work predominantly in a vacuum. I don't reach out for beta readers the way I used to, and the people closest to me that read what I've written don't usually have the expertise to offer much beyond a congratulation before asking me when the book will be out. Because of this, I have no way of gauging the novel's worth or worthlessness, and combining this with my newness to long fiction results in a lot of anxiety.

As a reviewer, though, I get to shine a critical eye on other people's works, something that comes far more naturally to me. Sometimes my inability to shut off my critic/editor/whatever becomes annoying or painful, depending on how far into overdrive it goes. Most of the time, though, it leads me to push myself beyond what I believe my brain is capable of understanding. Lately, as I've read, I've found myself taking in more, expanding my vocabulary, absorbing concepts that normally would have been beyond my comprehension. I am growing, and eventually I may be able to take a look at myself and feel something akin to pride.

One of the greatest things a reviewer can ever experience is author praise and camaraderie. It's a feedback loop of great rewards. How many of us, during our school years, were forced to read biographies of long-dead authors tucked haphazardly into the margins of our textbooks and noticed that, with great frequency, writers and other academics wrote letters back and forth to one another, personal missives full of mundane details that somehow managed over time to transmute themselves into something special?

I was always rather spellbound by those. X author wrote to Y author, and Y author wrote back, every line bottled up and saved for posterity. Those communiques always seemed as authentic, if not more so, than the published works of the artists involved. It was like having a front-row seat to the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the curtain pulled back and the little man at the controls was revealed. I loved it.

I have experienced that now, in small doses. Once in a while an author will email me to let me know they've read my review of their work, or they've read my review of someone else's and they want me to look over theirs, and it feels surreal. Being told by the source of a work you've enjoyed greatly that yes, you got the point is a sensation akin to finding out that you aced that final exam you were so sure you failed spectacularly. I still have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that people intentionally seek me out for my opinion, but it keeps happening and it feels amazing every time. It's validation; it's proof that I'm growing; it's a reason to keep doing what I do.

It's a feeling just as exhilarating, if not more so, than seeing my own byline in print.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

For the Love or: Give Me Your Work for Free, Clueless Newbie

Something has been bothering me for a while now, and I think it’s time to get it off my chest. I know that this isn’t going to win me any new buddies in small press (I’ll probably upset at least one or two people, perhaps to the point of hate mail, but whatever), but it really, really needs to be said. The longer we go without anyone pointing out the gigantic elephant in the room, the worse off all of us will be.

What the hell is going on with these “for the love” anthologies?

I recently stumbled across submission guidelines for an anthology (and publisher) that shall remain nameless, and I was blown away by the implied arrogance in the listing. Are we going to pay you? No. Are we going to give you a contributor’s copy? No. It’s flash fiction; what were you expecting, money for your work?

They actually said that. You can't expect us to pay you because it's only flash fiction. Give it to us for free in exchange for having your name in our precious Table of Contents.

Fuck you. No, seriously. Fuck you.

I’ve been in several anthologies, with more slated for publication in the coming months. Each and every one of them paid a penny a word or more, plus a contributor’s copy. Seeing as how my short work tends to hover around the two-thousand word mark, that’s twenty bucks a sale plus a copy.

That’s beer money.

I don’t really care about the checks; they’re token payments. They’re a safeguard against crap writing. If an editor is willing to pay money for the work they publish, there’s a better chance for me that my Table of Contents neighbors are going to be worth their salt. One of the things I love about anthologies is that it’s somewhat of a shared experience. I enjoy seeing my name appear alongside people I either know personally (and whose work I enjoy) or have the utmost professional respect for. Taking cash out of the editor/writer/publication equation all but guarantees stories that normally wouldn’t make the cut (because nobody is willing to pay for them) are included because everyone who refuses to give their work away for free declines to submit.

I’m not going to submit to those places, and neither should anyone else who has any confidence in their abilities.

What really irritates me to no end about the “for the love” attitude is that my time isn’t worth compensation. Writing a competent story takes more than a few minutes; it can be downright difficult. I have, at times, agonized for weeks over whether or not a scene works or if certain words or phrases need to be replaced. When I’ve finally completed a story, when it’s passed multiple rounds of my own paranoid scrutiny, why would I just fling it out into the ether for free?

What this editor (and several others, as I’ve encountered this sentiment in multiple places) is saying is, “Your work isn’t worth paying for. I’m not going to give you a damn thing but, because you’re so desperate for people to see you as a ‘published author,’ you’re going to give me the fruit of your labors without any compensation whatsoever, and I’m going to profit off it.” They won’t come out and say that directly, though, as they’re too busy trying to look like a legitimate publisher in order to reel in new writers who are naive enough or inexperienced enough (usually both) to fall for it.

Hell, these worthless excuses for publishers are probably banking on selling extra copies to the very ‘authors’ they’ve ripped off. They need at least one copy laying around to impress Grandma and Pap-Pap with, right?

I’m not at all against anthologies that donate their proceeds to worthwhile charities. In fact, I’m all for it and am more than willing to waive my token fee if it means someone in the world (who isn’t a greedy editor) is going to benefit from it. Nor am I opposed to donating fiction, especially flash fiction, to nonpaying horror websites. I’ve given fiction to 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Flashes in the Dark, The New Flesh, MicroHorror and others. I routinely post my microfiction exercises over at Ficly under a Creative Commons license, and I’m fine with that.

You know why that doesn’t bother me? Nobody’s making money off my back and then flipping me off afterwards, expecting me to pay to see my own work in print. Seriously. That’s absolutely crazy, and seeing as how many fly-by-night nonpaying (and poorly edited, might I add) books show up in my Facebook feed or mentioned on forums I frequent it’s not going to end anytime soon. It won’t end until people value their own work enough to refuse to give it away to someone more than willing to hoard the profits for themselves.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Well, Now.

Tuesday night, after one hell of a rough shift at work, I came home to find an email waiting for me. It was from the publisher I’d submitted Teahouse to.

In the Teahouse will be published by Library of the Living Dead Press.

Yeah, I about had a heart attack. There are roughly a thousand things I could say right now but none of them seem to make any sense at the moment. I’ll just stick with this short notification for the blog and perhaps expand on things a bit once things feel a bit more real. Suffice it to say, though, that I’m back in the research loop, digging up little things here and there to add a bit more spit and polish to the final draft.

In the meantime, school will be letting out in about two weeks, at which point I’ll be dedicating my entire summer to writing or writing-related projects. I’ve got edits and additions to make for Teahouse, the back half of Ghostbox to finally write, edits to work on for Kody Boye’s Amorous Things and my chapter contributions to Collaboration With the Dead to scribble out. All this and I’ve begun research on novel number three, which is as of yet unnamed and deals with ghosts in Vietnam.

This summer is going to rock.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Let the Nervousness Commence, Part Deux

Remember the post I made a few months ago about submitting Teahouse?

Something happened with the communication between myself and the publisher, and the manuscript was never read. No big deal, really. He got back to my “Hey, have you gotten around to reading my submission?” email within a day and I resent the file.

Now I have to sit and agonize all over again, though.

I don’t get this way with short stories. I write them, read them over, revise and send them out, often forgetting about them after I’ve recorded them over on Duotrope. If they’re accepted, great. If they’re not, they go out again. I can do this over and over and over and never feel even the slightest pang of anxiety. I know my stuff when it comes to short fiction, and for the most part I’m unshakably confident about my abilities.

With novels? Forget it. I’m riddled with self-doubt and nervousness from the moment I write the first sentence to the time I feel I’m finally ready to send it out into the world. I have zero confidence overall with a novel, even if there are paragraphs here and there (sometimes even whole chapters, believe it or not) that I feel are completely solid.

I can write short stories just fine.
I can whip out flash like nobody’s business.
I can edit the hell out of anything you put in front of me.
I can read, formulate an opinion for and review other writers’ novels with absolutely no trouble.
I can conduct interviews with authors, editors and publishers without a single issue or dull moment.

I cannot write novels without reducing myself to a twitching, nervous wreck.

I used to think that I only needed a bit more experience in writing long fiction before the feeling would fade away, but it hasn’t diminished much at all. Between Teahouse, Rain and now Ghostbox, I still feel like I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. As a reviewer, I’m handed books all the time. As I read them (and the ones I read simply for pleasure), I notice how each author handles scope, pacing, subplots and all the other things that go into long-form fiction. None of them in any way resemble what I end up throwing down on paper. Compared to most other writers, my own novel-writing efforts feel very sparse, like short stories that have dragged on too long. My own work feels like it lacks the layers characteristic to novels. They feel like they’re nothing but details dictated to the reader in a dull monotone broadcast by a broken, rusting piece of antique machinery.

I do go back to my older work, long after it’s been finished, and reread with a fresh eye. Occasionally I find myself even enjoying it from a detached standpoint, but I always wind up asking myself, “Is this really the way it should have been?” I often find myself wanting to write it differently but completely unable to do so.

I think one of my biggest problems, at least with Teahouse, is that it takes place (in part, at least) at the junction between two cultures, and I’m terrified I’m going to be incorrect with some facts or that my intent is going to be misconstrued. I remember during the beta reader phase when one critiquer told me that involving Japanese characters made me look like an anime fanatic. I wanted to slam my face off my desk. They also, I believe, told me I’d ripped key plot points off a well-known Japanese film, which it only had the most passing of similarities to. A common event (and I mean common - this is the kind of thing that you read about in papers or see on the news frequently) occurs in both stories. Oh, I was furious. I almost changed the entire backstory. That’s how paranoid I became. It’s a good thing I decided against it, but still, what if this happens all over again if/when the book is published? Is it good enough to withstand that kind of nonsense? I don’t know.

I’ve been driving my author buddies, and even some of my non-writer confidantes, nuts with this lately. They shush me and tell me I’m crazy, or that my long fiction is just fine, but I still feel like scrapping it and starting all over most of the time. Every time I update Rain I want to just tank it and forget the project was ever conceived. A little voice inside me constantly pipes up and lets me know it’s probably better to just conclude the story at its logical end and be done with it sans drama, so my little Facebook novel still exists.

I don’t know. I doubt this feeling will ever go away, no matter how many times I finish a novel manuscript. I suppose it’s just one of those weird personality defects that you can never rid yourself of. I will forever be the paranoid novel-writer, no matter how much my skills improve.

I suppose there are worse things I could be, like the horrible writer who doesn’t realize they’re horrible. I think that would be more humiliating in the long run.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some Updates on the Writerly Front

A lot has been going on behind the scenes lately, though I haven’t had much time to update any of the blogs. Being a college student is both amazing and horribly time-consuming, and this semester’s been one of the hardest of my life so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep my head above water for the next month until classes are over, but at least one course is beating me into the ground and another’s been threatening to do so for a while. Only the final grades will tell, I suppose.

I’m still around, still writing here and there and reading when I can. I am woefully behind on other writers’ review copies. My most sincere apologies to anyone offended by my tardiness. Only a few more weeks and I will be tearing through copies from dawn until dusk until I get caught up.

Jason S. Hornsby, author of Every Sigh, the End, recently contacted me with an advance copy of his new novel, Eleven Twenty-Three. I’d been waiting to read this, so being offered a review copy ahead of time was a huge, huge treat for me. I tore through it and, honestly, I think I enjoyed this one even more. The review went up a few days ago, and if all goes well (and I hope it does), I may be on the cover as a blurb. I’ve never been approached for a blurb before, let alone by someone whose work I’ve already enjoyed, so needless to say if this goes through I’ll be incredibly stoked.

Derek Goodman’s new short story collection, Machina, featured a blurb for his novel The Apocalypse Shift written by yours truly. It’s credited to, the site I wrote the review for, but knowing my opinion meant enough to transition into an official recommendation warms my little heart.

I managed to snag an eleventh hour position on the roster of a collaborative project. It’s a novel detailing the zombie apocalypse, and I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to participate. Some of the other writers are editors of mine, so I’ll be in great company. I’m writing chapters #6 and #25. More details as they emerge.

My buddy (and spiritual baby brother - really, he’s just that awesome) Kody Boye’s asked me to edit his short story collection Amorous Things. This is my first big editing job, and I’m excited as all get out. He’s got a bit of work left to do before he turns it over, so I should be taking up the mantle of editor just as the semester lets out. I am so excited to be a part of this. Kody’s a great guy and an awesome writer, and being asked to edit for him is a great honor. He recently turned eighteen and I had tons of fun sending him presents and dirty cards full of penis-shaped confetti. When he shows up at the Horror Realm convention this year, Pittsburgh’s going to become exponentially cooler, at least for a few days.

My own novels in progress, Rain and Ghostbox, have been put on hold so I can focus on schoolwork. I’ve outlined the next six or seven chapters of Ghostbox, though, and I’m incredibly eager to find the time to write it all out. Seriously, this story is going to rock. I’m still in love with it after all these months, which is rare, considering how I’m the first in line to bash my own ideas. I can’t wait to finish this and start polishing the hell out of it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Once I’m done I’m going to have to find a way to top myself, which isn’t going to be easy. As far as Rain goes, I’m still on the fence with that one. I have days where I think there’s something fun and salvageable in it somewhere, and I have days when I want to tank every chapter. They alternate, and so I can never truly decide how I feel about it. I know I probably won’t ever try this little experiment again, though. Once is enough.

I’ve been addicted to electronic cigarettes since Eric bought me a set for Christmas. I’ve since moved on to something way bigger and more powerful, and I’m fully immersed in the world of custom e-juices and mods. Smoking was never this much fun, and it never tasted like chocolate and coconuts.

I bought an iPad by convincing myself I needed it to “work.” I haven’t found the time to read review copies on the go or do much word processing beyond taking notes in class yet, but hoo boy is playing mahjongg solitaire and checking my email fun as hell now.

I need to go do that now. If I don’t check my email every half hour on my iPad, I start twitching. It’s about time to refresh.