Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Bit of Frustration

Before I start this mini rant, let me first thank the editors I’ve worked with this year. Library of the Living Dead’s Victorya, Tim Long and Mark Johnson have all been exceptional to work with, as have Jessy Marie Roberts of Pill Hill Press and Lori Titus of Flashes in the Dark. The editorial staff at 69 Flavors of Paranoia, MicroHorror and The New Flesh have also been great to work with, and despite the fact that their markets don’t pay (I still enjoy submitting to nonpaying sites once in a while, if only for fun and networking purposes) I’m glad to have found homes for some of my shorts with them.

That said, something has been bothering me for a while that I need to get off my chest.

I checked my Duotrope Submissions Tracker earlier today and found that not only are several of my submissions dating from August still waiting for responses, but that most of the markets I submitted to are either dead, unresponsive of have been pulled from the listings by their editors. Normally, this would not be a problem, except there’s one tiny detail here that everybody involved (with the exception of myself) seems to have overlooked.

I haven’t heard one word from any of them. Not one.

The details for each publication are a bit different. Some are completely dead, their websites having already reverted back to their hosting company. Some have put up notices that they are no longer taking submissions. Some are actively seeking submissions for their next issue. Still, not a one has gotten back to me. Seeing as I submit almost entirely electronically these days, how hard is it for an editor (especially one whose publication is no more and is, therefore, not engaged in any upcoming projects that may dominate their time) to respond with a one-line reply letting me know it’s time for me to shop my work around elsewhere? I’m not the type of writer who is bothered by form rejections (though I always appreciate any kind of personalized communication), so even an obviously mass-mailed notification would suffice.

I don’t care about receiving a “we’re not buying it” response. It doesn’t bother me at all. I just want to know if and when I should move on.

Non-communication is pretty much the only thing about the submissions process that upsets me. I understand rejections, long turnaround times, dropped projects and anything else that might come up between a writer and a publisher. Things happen. People have personal lives and full-time work that often gets in the way. It’s completely understandable, though unfortunate, if things should happen to go wrong or take longer than anticipated. I can deal with that, and I am very patient when necessary.

What I don’t understand or accept is the idea of leaving a writer entirely clueless with the intention of never contacting them at all. If your publication has gone under, let those hopeful contributors know. If you’re experiencing an exceptionally long delay, let them know. If you’re not using their manuscript and are still in business, for crying out loud, let them know. Being left in the dark when a publisher folds is annoying and frustrating, but not being given even so much as a form rejection by a publisher that’s still active is a full-on slap to the face.

Not contacting a submitter while staying in business and moving forward with publication as usual is tantamount to saying “You’re not even worth a few words from me,” and that kind of insult doesn’t go over on me very well. It’s unprofessional as all hell, for one, and it shows a lot of negative character on the part of the editor. Who in their right mind would want to work, even just for one story, with someone that rude?

Not me, for starters.

I suppose the lesson learned, if any, from these experiences is “Contributor beware.” From here on I’ll have to be much more diligent during the research phase of the submissions process, only contributing to publications I’m already familiar with or have heard positive word of mouth on from other writers. Having a network of friends in the business should help weed these publications out a bit better. I’ll continue to be thankful for all of the exceptional editors I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and do my best to avoid the unexceptional ones floating about out there.

"Beneath the Earth, the Pool" Appearing in Letters From the Dead

It looks as if my short story “Beneath the Earth, the Pool” will be in the upcoming anthology Letters from the Dead, published by Library of the Living Dead Press. It’s a short piece about the transcontinental friendship of two longtime pen pals (one American, one German) during the outbreak of an apocalyptic virus.

I’m very excited to be a part of this anthology. Like all other Library titles, this is going to be filled with a wide range of interesting shorts, this time tied together through the context of the Reaper Virus. It will be a lot of fun to read the rest of the stories and see how they all fit within the same universe.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Reanimated Marital Advice" appearing in The Moron's Guide to the Inevitable Zombocalypse

I received an email from Tim Long, editor of Library of the Living Dead’s The Moron’s Guide to the Inevitable Zombocalypse (and author of Among the Living and The Zombie-Wilson Diaries) last night. My short story “Reanimated Marital Advice,” will be included in the collection.

This is my second acceptance for a Library anthology (along with Baconology, edited by Victorya), and I’m very excited. Both this small press publisher and 2009 in general have been very kind to me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas is Coming Early!

I don’t think there’s going to be any fancy wrapping paper or shiny gold bows involved, but there may as well be.

I was lucky enough to see David Dunwoody read during a panel at Horror Realm this year, and I’ve been meaning to pick up his novel Empire for a while now. He’s recently been included in an aquatic-themed anthology called Dead Bait, which I’ve had on my Amazon wish list since a day or two after it came out. Seriously, anyone who knows about my obsession with fish and all things water could see me freaking out over this book from a mile away. Just the cover was enough to make me grin.

Look at this. Just look at it. Is that not the most awesome book a horror-writing fish lover could own?

I received an email today telling me I was a winner in his November mailing list raffle, which means I’m about to find signed copies of Necrotic Tissue (an awesome horror magazine that’s often mentioned over on The Funky Werepig, one of the most informative and hilarious podcasts I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to) and Dead Bait in my PO box.

It is kind of like Christmas, and just in time for semester break. I’m going to be tearing through books until the first day of Spring classes.

I really lucked out. Awesome, awesome stuff.

"Singles Line" Appearing in Flashes in the Dark

My short, 900-word flash piece “Singles Line” will be appearing on Flashes in the Dark. It goes live mid-December, and I hope I made it in time to participate in the “Worst of Love” competition, which was what I wrote it for. Life (and NaNo) got in the way most of the month, so it was cutting very close to the deadline when I submitted it.

David Mitchell’s first novel, the wonderfully odd Ghostwritten, has a chapter towards the end of the book that consists entirely in dialogue. It was a difficult book for me to read, and I put it down and picked it back up several times over the course of a few months, but once I got to that chapter I was hooked. It deals with a late-night radio shock-jock and a listener who calls in on the same night every year for a series of years, never giving away their identity but revealing much about the nature of the world.

When I read the chapter, I was struck by Mitchell’s technique. Up until that point, I don’t believe I’d read anything that was comprised entirely of dialogue before, and I was amazed at the amount of story that could be told just through the speech of a few people. I was determined to try it myself.

The first story I wrote employing this technique was The Anything Goes Call-In Show, which is still up over on Ficly, a neat little open source flash-writing site that I’ve mentioned on the blog before. One of the hardest things about using this technique is that you have to create a scenario in which it is plausible for the characters to only be talking, without any descriptors, and still get enough information across. For a horror writer, the easiest way is to put them on the phone or other mass-communication technology, and then throw in a nasty twist along the way.

I’m not going to talk about “Singles Line” much yet, because it’s available on the site yet, but suffice it to say that I loved writing it and look forward to seeing the reactions of readers. I hope they find it just as interesting and creepy as I did while writing it.

Gizmos and Gadgets

I am horrible with lists. HORRIBLE. I’m not even sure if that’s the right word to describe it, but I can’t think of anything stronger at the moment and I’m running on coffee vapors, staying up to finish the first draft of a paper on Poe, alcoholism and alternate theories of his death.

I found one thing today that I think may be able to save me from myself in regards to my absentmindedness, my need for better multitasking abilities and my general slovenliness. It’s called Anxiety, and it’s a tiny OS X Leopard widget that manages tasks. You can add multiple calendars (just a fancy way of saying “category”) to add extra layers of organization, which I desperately need, and assign levels of importance to each task. The widget exports to both Mail and iCal, which is nice, and keeps copies of completed tasks.

I’m liking it so far. Right now I’ve got calendars for School, Home, Writing (general things like blogging, interviews, reviews, etc) and Submissions, and each one is color coded and separated by a drop-down menu. Very nice. When exporting to iCal, it’s easy to add deadline dates as well, which helps me keep track of which things I need to get done first and which I can give my usual “Eh, I’ll do it later, right after I read these blogs and post on this forum” treatment.

The best part of all is that it’s free.

I’m always looking for new Mac apps to make my life better, and this one is a tiny little gem. Here’s hoping I stick with it and give it a real chance to increase my productivity.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Need a Beer

Made the official NaNo deadline of 50k today. Seems the Office of Letters and Light’s word count validator is twelve hundred words off of my OpenOffice program, meaning I had to fly through another section of the story before I could be declared a winner.

Anyway, the story’s about halfway done, and I’m not setting it down. I will be taking a few days to get caught up on book reviews, author interviews, the Flashes in the Dark entry I’ve been putting off and a few other things. I’m still debating on submitting to my campus literary journal.

It feels good to have gotten this much of the project done. I’d been holding back on it for months so that I could use it as my NaNo plot, and it turned out a bit better than I’d been planning.

Now, off to write another thousand or two words for Rain, which updates tonight. The typing never ends.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Contaminant" Appearing in 69 Flavors of Paranoia

My nautical zombie flash, “Contaminant,” has been accepted by 69 Flavors of Paranoia for their Vol. #3 lineup.

This was an interesting piece for me to write, and pretty much kick-started my interest in both water-themed and zombie shorts. I’m looking forward to being part of 69FoP again.

Daft Punk and Coffee By the Gallon

One more week, and it will all be over.

This has been both the most experimental and most stressful NaNo project I’ve taken on to date. Not only have I been writing with a full college course load to juggle, but I bit off more than I could chew with my term paper project and I’m starting the new Rain chapters while trying to get everything else done.

Suffice it to say that all novel-reading, reviewing and interviewing ended up on a short-term hiatus this month, though as December looms I think things will phase back in without any issues.

I’m pleasantly surprised, though, with how the novel has turned out so far. Not only have I been experimenting with perspective (a rotating third-person instead of my usual first), but this is the first novel I’ve worked on where the pacing hasn’t really been at a breakneck speed. Nothing needs to be squeezed into and resolved in fifty thousand words, and so I’ve been letting the story unspool at its own pace. This has proven to be both slightly worrisome (I occasionally wonder if perhaps I’m not letting the story drag on a bit too much) and somewhat liberating, though I still see myself entirely as a novice, learning as I go.

Hopefully there will be something workable in this draft when it’s all said and done. Some days, I look at the previous chapters I’ve printed out for quick reference (I need to invest in my own printer one of these days) and wonder what in God’s name I’m writing this for, and other days I sit down and rifle through the pages and I’m somewhat pleased with the turnout. I suppose I’m just one of those shifting, never satisfied types. Sometimes it’s almost passable, and a few chapters really stand out, and other times the whole thing is garbage and I really ought to stop embarrassing myself with this charade. I think these are common reactions to one’s own work, though, since I see other, more well-known writers say the same things sometimes. At least I’m in good company, I think.

Approximately twelve thousand more words until I can slow down and give each project equal weight. I have to say, I’m looking forward to that, even though I want to finish Ghostbox’s initial draft as soon as possible.

I suppose that’s what semester break is for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I got the go-ahead from Jacob Kier, owner of Permuted Press (and sponsor of this year’s Horror Realm flash contest) to reprint “Conference,“ my second-place winner. I’ve linked before to the video of the super-cool James Melzer (author of Escape and Invasion) reading it at the flash winners’ panel (I’m still laughing about making him drop the f-bomb on camera), but I held off on posting the text in case rights had been transferred or Permuted had plans to do anything with it. Seeing as I recently found that they’re not, and the rights are entirely mine, I said to myself Hey, Jessica, why not put it up on the blog? You haven’t posted any original fiction in a long time, and people are probably sick of reading your long-ass complaints about writing.

I was just asked today about whether or not Jonathan Coulton's song "Re: Your Brains" had any influence on the story, and the answer honestly is no. I hadn't been thinking about it at all at the time I wrote the story (I was actually pretty harried and hungover while banging it out that Saturday morning), but it's so appropriate I can't help but link it.

So, here’s the flash that won me copies of Derek Gunn’s The Estuary and Jason S. Hornsby’s Every Sigh, the End. Enjoy.


There were so few of us left at this point.

Christine and I stayed in the office, in the server room, while the rest of them had run off looking for shelter elsewhere.

We barricaded ourselves inside after checking to make sure our maintenance department had been on the ball with the whole backup generator issue. After the last hurricane blackout, corporate came down pretty hard on ineptitude involving mechanical subjects.

We broke and raided every vending machine, dragged every freezer chest up to the top floor. When we were convinced we'd be able to stay hidden for as long as possible, we shut ourselves up with nothing but cables and blinking boxes to keep us company. She had her laptop and I had mine.

We scanned the Internet, peeling the wrappers off HoHos and Twinkies. It didn't look like we would be able to leave the building for quite some time. Whole cities were crawling with the newly dead and the not-so-newly dead, and nobody knew quite what to make of it, aside from the fact that it was terrifying as all fuck.

I checked my company email. Nothing. I still had no word from anyone. I sighed. “What about you?”

Christine shook her head. “Nobody's responding. I know they took their laptops with them, but...”

I clicked on an application and the familiar, comforting Skype startup screen faded into view. “I'm going to try getting a hold of my family. God knows if they're all right. I left my cell back in my office. Stupid, stupid.”

“Good idea.”

I hovered over my friends list. Who should I try first? My mother? My sister? Who was more likely to be at their computer at this moment?

Before I could decide, a call came in. Amanda, the little window announced to me. Our receptionist, one of the group who'd made a run for a nearby medical center.

It was a video call.

I accepted it and the tiny window expanded.

Amanda's face was raw and bloody, a chunk torn out of her cheek running diagonally beneath her nose and across her mouth. Part of her lip was gone, and several teeth had been torn from their moorings. Her mouth looked partially chewed, and her hair had been torn out in chunks. Her eyes had a glazed look to them, as if there was nothing of value left behind them, as if she were entirely animatronic.

Her ruined lips moved, and her voice came out in a low, garbled moan. “Meeting. Five minutes. Mandatory. Come downstairs.”


Monday, November 9, 2009

Learning Experience, Take Three

I passed the fifteen thousand word mark a few minutes ago and realized that I haven’t even hit the second act yet. This manuscript is going to be a lot longer than fifty-thousand words, and I think I’ll be okay with that.

I’ve been feeling a bit of anxiety the past few days. I know that this project is going to go far beyond the end of November, and between that and the fact that I’m only plotting one or two chapters in advance I'm finding it a bit unnerving. My first attempt at a novel-length piece of fiction yielded a fifty-thousand word manuscript, but it was only halfway completed. After NaNo was over, I said I’d finish it, but I never did.

With the first attempt down, and with last year’s experience, I feel a bit more like I’m able to handle this. Even though I still feel exceptionally vulnerable as a writer, Ghostbox will be completed, warts and all. This baby’s going to be born even if it takes me months. I’m having a bit of fun trying out new things, and so far it’s been working rather well.

I’ve gotten the hang of the third-person narrative and switching focus back and forth between three characters. I’m slowly but surely letting myself relax and immerse myself in the characters’ viewpoints of the world without worrying that I’m adding too much material or holding back where I should be letting loose. It’s a nice feeling, being able to let a story unravel the way it needs to, without worrying about whether or not it’s making enough headway plot-wise. Still, there’s a tiny voice living in the back of my brain that’s a bit irritated that things didn’t leap out at the gate and take off running.

This isn’t that kind of story, though, and after the horrible anxiety I went through doing line edits of Teahouse, not knowing where to pad the story and what kind of additional material I needed, I think going this route and adding possibly too much in the first draft may be a good thing for me.

Each story I write I find myself falling head over heels for one character above all others, and it’s usually not the character with the most focus in the work. The first year it was Kitty, the blonde, Mexico-born succubus who played the role of the narrator’s best friend. Last year it was another blonde woman, the self-destructive, self-loathing alcoholic Lucy, the narrator’s closest friend from college. This year it’s Darren, the pot-smoking, computer-obsessed IT worker in love with UrbEx, Geocaching and dead malls. At least this year the character that’s stolen my heart is one of the mains, though the focus still revolves mostly around Sam, the poor security guard stuck in the mall as it puts up its last fight in the shadow of the wrecking ball.

Every long project I work on has its own playlist, and this year’s has been harder to come up with than most. I use this to set my mood while writing and to get in touch with aspects of the characters’ personalities as the story unfolds. This year, unfortunately, the playlist has been revolving almost entirely around Darren. Sam and her boss Morrow haven’t given me much to work with yet in terms of music. In fact, I’ve only nailed down five tracks so far.

Smooth Criminal - Alien Ant Farm

Dr. Greenthumb - Cypress HIll

Land of Confusion - Disturbed

Mindfields - The Prodigy

Here Come the Demons - Rehab

Most of these (in fact, all but one, and it’s the only Sam track I have so far) are either remakes of 80s/90s tunes or straight out of those decades themselves. The novel is set in the present day but most, if not all, of the characters have their own nostalgia attached to the setting, which saw its heyday in decades past. At least two of them spent their most formative years during the height of the mall rat years, bringing their own unique and sometimes conflicting perspectives into the story with them. Last year’s playlist was devoted to downbeat songs involving suicide and regret, and this year’s focuses mostly on wistful memories of the past. Interesting.

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaNoWriMo #3 and a Whole Lot of Firsts

Well, November is now upon me and I’m a whopping 5050 words into the project. I’m doing things a bit differently this year in terms of style and characterization, and with the other projects I’m working on I’m having a much different experience than I have in the past.

One of the biggest things I’ve done is ditch my typical first person narrative. I’ve been writing in that style for so long that I’ve really let any third person skills I once had atrophy. A few publishers I’ve submitted to recently have a preference for third, which forced me to go back to it for at least a few thousand words at a time, and because of that I started to realize just how much I was limiting myself as far as story scope is concerned. I like first person because it allows for a more personal style of narrative, almost like two people huddled together, one talking and one listening, across a dimly lit table from each other. It’s intimate, and it allows me to get into one person’s head so deeply it’s as if I’ve become the character for the duration of the story.

Unfortunately, it also seriously limits what I can do with the story. I’m stuck in the head of one person for the entire story, and anything that’s not spoken directly to them or happens outside of their scope of vision is off limits. Any extra information in the story has to be inserted in the form of dialogue, which can be a real pain.

This year I’m writing entirely in third person, somewhere between limited and omnicient, and it’s working very well so far. I say it’s not entirely omnicient because I don’t intend on getting into the thoughts and feelings of each character, but for the main cast it certainly works that way. Think Gibson’s Spook Country, where the chapters alternate between a set of main characters who eventually come together towards the end. That’s the kind of effect I’m going for.

I also have more male characters than ever before in this project, and some of them are very important to the plot. When writing first person, I almost always choose female narrators, mostly because they’re easy for me to identify with and they match my perspective somewhat. I do this also because I’m a bit concerned about not portraying male characters accurately, and I always worry that I’m doing wrong by them somehow. With the acceptance of my story “Porn and the First-Person Shooter,” which was written in third limited and featured a male main, I’ve started to relax somewhat, but there’s always that tiny part of me that’s waiting for someone to email me or run into me at a con and call me a misandrist bitch. Hey, it’s happened to male writers for decades.

I’ve also been a bit too busy and/or lazy to outline the key plot points in advance. So far all I have are notes for the first three chapters I scrawled on a bar napkin on Halloween evening. I have a notebook with character notes, some rough mall outlines (which stores were on what floor while the place was still in business) and minor plot ideas, but no outline. This worries me a bit because I did this the first year and wound up with the first half of something that was much larger (and more directionless) than I’d anticipated. Adding Rain to the mix, which also has no outline, is making me a bit nervous.

I’m doing well, though, all things considered. I’ve been at a hundred percent of my word goal each day, but I’m not racing ahead like my butt is on fire like I did last year. I guess, seeing as I’m a lot more busy this time around, I’m just not into the whole “throw yourself into your work and get it done as quickly as possible” thing this time.

I also don’t have a playlist yet. This is the first year that I haven’t worked alongside a soundtrack, and it feels a bit strange. I’ve been randomizing the songs on my iPod and listening to things from my misc. folder instead.

Chapter One is finished, and I’m making headway into Chapter Two. We’ll see how it goes from there, I guess.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Few Rejections and a Big Old Slab of Bacon

Fall must be a very busy time for editors. Of the ten or so submissions I’ve sent out in the last few months, a few have come back. I received rejections from Pill Hill Press (for their Bitter End nautical anthology) and Every Day Fiction (for a flash piece about a book burner). Pill Hill was a disappointment, as I’m a big fan of theirs (and have been accepted by them before), but you can’t always bat a thousand, even with familiar publishers. They’ve got another anthology, Love Kills, that I’m thinking of submitting to soon, so I may have another chance with them in the future.

Last night, while working on a few things in front of my laptop, my email application lit up. I’ve tried to unsubscribe myself from every irrelevant mailing list I receive so that I don’t have to wade through tons of junk just to get to important emails, though that’s only been marginally successful so far. I still find I have emails waiting for me, hoping they’ll be about a submission, only to find they’re advertisements or other stuff I could care less about.

I wasn’t expecting much, but when I checked my inbox I found it was from Victorya, editor of Library of Horror’s upcoming Baconology anthology. Yes, it’s a collection of horror stories involving bacon as a main element. It’s a real book, and it’s coming out.

And I’m going to be in it.

This is one of the submissions I’d been anxiously waiting on a response for. Up until last night, I’d never been in a Library publication and it was something I really wanted to get involved in. Now I have that opportunity, as my story, “Porn and the First-Person Shooter,” will be appearing in Baconology.

I’ve been jittery and excited since I read the email. Really, really looking forward to this. I can’t even imagine what the cover art is going to be.

So, for the year so far that makes two anthologies, at least two small press print publications, an internet serial novel, several appearances on fiction sites and two placements in flash contests. I still have a few submissions still floating around, for another two anthologies and a few more magazines.

I feel so lucky right now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Awesome Interview

I recently had the opportunity to interview Wayne Simmons, author of the amazing, punch-to-the-gut horror novel Drop Dead Gorgeous. You can read it here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Confession

Due to my twice-weekly Rain updates, my revision and submission of Teahouse and my full course load at school this semester, I have done little to no work on Ghostbox. There, I admit it.

I’d been planning, most of the summer, to outline the plot on notecards, keep a small notebook nearby for ideas and generally have my thoughts together by the time NaNo rolled around. Last year I worked off of the Ten Key Scenes notecard plotting plan (found in James Smith’s book The Writer’s Little Helper), and this year I’d been hoping to expand that setup to include non-critical scenes to set tone, establish character back story and slip in a little foreshadowing here and there.

I’ve done none of that.

With the exception of the notes I took on the day I went to photograph some dying malls in the area (which didn’t go as well as planned - I didn’t have a decent camera at the time and one of the malls turned out to be thriving), I haven’t done any plotting. I’ve got three or so characters, two settings and some general notes, but nothing I can start the story out with.

I’ve got four days to rectify this, on top of reading, doing classwork and posting reviews and interviews on the book blog.

My first year, I worked off of a very scant idea, and it worked somewhat well - until I got to the 50k word mark, NaNo ended, and I found myself with the first half of a very bizarre story. I never went back to finish it, and I’m hoping this year to be able to do a 75k - 100k full manuscript by the time I’m done, whether it’s in November or December. I need to be able to do this while also juggling an Internet serial novel, short fiction submissions and whatever else I need to compose for my grades.

I need to either cut back on sleep or find a better way to manage my time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Wish There Were More Hours in a Day

I sat down and compiled a list of writing-related tasks I need to get done ASAP and, when I was finished, I think my brain leaked out of my ear just a little bit.

Finish edits/insertion of new material for Teahouse, format and check for errors. Send off as soon as humanly possible.

Begin plotting out the rest of Rain.

Plot Ghostbox for November so the story isn’t all over the place and full of garbled nonsense.

Review John Dies at the End.

Review Drop Dead Gorgeous and post the interview with Wayne Simmons.

Start reading Among the Living and compile questions for Timothy Long interview.

Finish reading The Rage Plague and finalize DL Snell interview.

Read a friend’s film script that I’ve had for several months so far.

Write my entry for The Worst of Love flash contest.

I don’t even know how I’m going to manage getting all of this done, but I’m going to make a valiant attempt. I think I might have to cut back on sleep and invest in a caffeine I.V. drip.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Let the Nervousness Commence

The publisher I queried last month got back to me this morning.

They want to see Teahouse.

Now I just have to go over the whole thing to make sure it’s exactly what I want it to be, make some last minute alterations and possibly add some material. This is the first novel-length work I’ve ever completed, and no matter how much work I do to it it’s going to feel strange. I’ve got nothing else in my history to compare it to and, thusly, no benchmarks with which to gauge its quality.

I’m not going to go into details about the publisher or the response I got, but it was very positive and really made my morning. If things work out I’ll more than likely detail the whole thing here.

Crossing my fingers and launching OpenOffice as I write this. It’s going to be a long night.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Summer Chiller Prize!

For coming in third place, I received a ten dollar gift certificate to! Not too shabby, I must say. Had this been a typical sale and not a contest, I would have netted approximately ten cents a word, which is quite a bit for short fiction.

I spent a while pouring over my wish list, which is probably close to ten pages by now. In the end, I picked up a copy of In Ghostly Japan, a collection of classic Japanese folk tales compiled by Lafcadio Hearn. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while, but never got around to it.

Flashes in the Dark’s next contest, “The Worst of Love,” is taking submissions until November 30th. The guidelines are -

“What we’re looking for: Dark stories that tell us what happens when love goes awry. This could be romantic love, or love between family or friends. Throw in a paranormal twist to this premise, and we want to see your story!

Rules: The usual word count: 1,000 words. Reprints are acceptable as long as they fit the aforementioned theme. Be edgy, be original, and bring your “A” game.

Please, nothing bordering on fanfic. If your characters sound or act like Edward and Bella, Bill and Sookie, or Lestat, please edit your story before submitting. Not that we don’t love these characters, but we want the originality in your work to shine through.

Vampires, Werewolves, and all manner of creatures are welcome.

There will be PRIZES for three winners, which are to be announced later.

Please remember to put “THE WORST OF LOVE” contest clearly in your header or email.“

Yeah, I’ll definitely be entering this one as well.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Editor's Choice?!

I noticed today while updating Rain that its page on Textnovel now has an Editor’s Choice ribbon on display.

Very interesting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flashes in the Dark Summer Chiller Contest - I Came in Third Place!

And there’s prizes involved! I’m starting to like this flash competition thing.

Second place went to Graeme Reynolds’ By The Light of the Moon.

First prize went to the always awesome Angel Zapata with his story Surrogate Fruit.

I came in third with In the Shadow of Blossoms.

Honorable mentions went to Jody MacArthur for Creepy Crawly and Shane McKenzie for Heat.

Very cool stuff. I'm excited to see what the prizes are.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Reviews and Interviews!

Recently I got a chance to either meet in person with or post on several horror fiction boards alongside some very talented and seriously cool people. I managed to snag some books at Horror Realm a few weeks ago, and some of the authors were kind enough to agree to some Q&A afterwards.

Derek J. Goodman, author of The Apocalypse, is my first review/interview combo, and the whole thing went up on the book blog this morning. You can read it here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Angel Zapata, Private Eye

Angel sat in his office, the only illumination in the room coming from the green-shaded lamp sitting on his desk. It was dark outside, nearly midnight, and the rain was coming down in icy sheets that threatened to go on until morning. It had been raining for hours and was showing no signs of stopping or slowing down.

On nights like this, in the grimy old city, the only people who’d brave the cold and damp were the downtrodden, the hopeless, the victims. Only they, and perhaps the shifty-eyed dirtbags they needed protection from, would leave the comfort of their homes or offices to make their way through the darkened streets.

Angel sighed and reached into a desk drawer for a bottle of whiskey. It was going to be a slow night. He could tell. The world outside, save for the pattering of rain on the sidewalk, was eerily quiet.

Suddenly he heard footsteps outside his office door. They were soft and quick. A woman’s shoes, it seemed.

The door burst open and a dame walked in. Her hair was soaking wet, her makeup running, and she had a horrified look on her face. As she spotted him sitting at his desk, she walked across the room to stand in front of him. “You... You’re Angel Zapata, right?”

“That I am, madam.”

“I need your help. Please. There’s nobody else I can go to.”

“What do you need help with, lady? Husband straying? Been framed for something? Someone been viciously murdered?”

She shook her head. “No, nothing like that.”

“Well, what is it, then?”

“I need you to catch a thief.”

“What kind of thief are we talking about?”

“A plaigarist.”

“The worst kind. Damn dirty scumbags, all of them. You got a name for me?”

“Ridyard,” she said. “Richard Ridyard.”

“Give a bit of time, lady, and I’ll find the dirtball thief for you. Don’t you worry about anything.” As she thanked him and turned to leave, Angel Zapata, private detective, reached into his drawer for his gun and a cigar.

He reached again for the bottle, as well. It was going to be a long night.


That was actually a lot of fun to write. I should do old-timey detective stories more often!

Anyway, here’s what’s been going on recently. Apparently the horror community has a bit of an issue with plagiarism. It’s not so much a problem of people stealing off of each other but one man ripping off a ton of people and passing their work as his all over the small-press and horror e-zine community.

His byline is Richard Ridyard, though that very well may not be his legal name.

Angel Zapata is a real person, an awesome guy and a great writer. We’ve been published by a few small presses together, which is why this whole thing hit so close to home for me.

Angel realized a few days ago that one of his pieces had been ripped off (you can read details of the whole sordid affair here) and did what any enraged writer would do - He tracked the jackass’s shady dealings all over the Internet and exposed every one of them, contacting every editor, publisher and author involved that he could find. There are quite a few, unfortunately.

Would you believe this Ridyard character ripped off little-knowns and STEPHEN KING as well?

He pulled a fast one on a lot of publishers, including ones who’ve been kind enough to accept my work. He hit Flashes in the Dark, MicroHorror and quite a few others, all good people who provide outlets for new and under published writers. He tried (and occasionally succeeded) snowing other publishers I know from horror fiction message boards.

I’m probably the last horror writer to blog about this. Honestly, it feels like the rest of the Internet is way ahead of me on this, but I really felt the need to both do my part in spreading the word (to the few people who may not have caught wind of this yet) and to voice my opinion and frustrations.

Most of us make very little money doing what we do. We write for a variety of reasons, but mostly we write because it’s something we can’t ignore. It’s a passion, a driving force, an obsession. We do it often because to not write would make us feel miserable and incomplete. We don’t do it for wealth or fame, but because it’s in our blood and we can’t not do it.

Imagine the complete pain and anger you would feel if you were to discover someone took a piece of your work, stripped your name from it and claimed it as their own. Imagine if this person were so good at doing what they did that they managed to impress publishers with it. Imagine going to a website or print publication you respected and enjoyed reading and seeing your own work there with a different byline.

Just the thought of it makes me a little nauseous.

I’m glad this didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you, Angel, for shining your angry spotlight on this very disgusting act of theft. You’ve saved a lot of writers and publishers quite a bit of misery. It was a lot of work you went through to so thoroughly root out the thief, and we appreciate everything you’ve done for us.

You can read Angel’s follow-up here as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Know All There is To Know About the Waiting Game...

God, is it ever killing me.

According to Duotrope, I'm waiting on responses for eleven submissions. Of those, one is for a podcast, four are for print anthologies, one is a contest entry and the other five are for various online and print magazines. I'm also waiting to hear back about my novel query, which I expect will take quite some time.

I think the anthology submissions are killing me the most. I love the idea of being part of a print collection, one piece of a badass group. I can certainly handle rejection, but just the thought of being included in other print collections sends me running as soon as my computer makes its new message notification blip. I keep hoping for word to arrive, but it's mostly been junk mail and things that I could care less about, which somehow makes the waiting seem both longer and much worse than it normally would.

Today I did something I should have done a long time ago. I got rid of most of those mass mailings, unsubscribing as soon as they hit my inbox. I feel bad for all of the nonprofit organizations that send me messages, but seeing as how I'm unemployed and just scraping by it's not like they're going to be able to wring donations out of my sappy, bleeding heart at the moment. The rest of the mailings, for bookstores I don't normally buy from or clothing shops I rarely frequent, were never much more than a distraction anyway, and I don't need to be getting my hopes up over crap like that.

And now the waiting game goes on, only with fewer false alarms.

One good thing about this, though, is that I checked my overall performance on Duotrope while tallying up my submissions. I've got a higher than average acceptance rate going at the moment, almost at fifty percent. Not too shabby.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Twisted Legends Releasing Early!

Twisted Legends: Urbanized and Unauthorized, published by Pill Hill Press, is printing early. Originally slated to come out next year, it appears the anthology will be available both from the publisher and online book retailers towards the end of this month. My short story, "Forward Forward Forward," will be included along with thirty others. The lineup of authors is great and the scope of stories (all dealing with well-known urban legends) is vast. I'm fairly certain there's something in here for every horror fan.

I'm really impressed with the cover art, too.

National Novel Writing Month Looms Ahead Again

I'm not sure if I'm going to bother writing another anti-NaNo rebuttal this year. I did last year and the year before that and I think all of the things I felt I needed to say have already been said. Between now and the end of November there is always the chance that someone will say something to set me off, but for now I really have no intention of rehashing things that I've already commented upon.

That said, there is less than a month left until the thirty-day writing exercise begins anew. I managed to get some research done yesterday in the form of a photo-snapping project at a local dying mall. Originally I'd intended to visit two or more of them, but one of the others seems to now be in fine form and the last one is in the process of being demolished and rebuilt. Still, the photos from the site we managed to visit are rather interesting. Next step in the research phase will be combing through old news articles and scouring the Internet for shopping mall maps and schematics.

In addition to photos, I managed to sketch out a few rough character and setting bios yesterday, which caught me quite by surprise. I didn't expect these aspects of the story to gel the way they did. One moment I was walking down a nearly abandoned mall corridor and the next I was running into the still-open (yet extremely depressing) KMart frantic for a notebook. By the time the evening was over I'd filled five pages of notes on at least three characters and two settings. Not too shabby.

Tomorrow evening there will be the first pre-November meeting down in Oakland. I'm still not sure if I'm going to be able to make the drive down and back, but I'm dying to meet the other participants. Hopefully there will be some familiar faces in the crowd.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kody Boye's An Amorous Thing - Cover Artist Needed

I had the pleasure of meeting Kody Boye at this year's Horror Realm convention, and what an amazing guy he is. When I made my first few fiction sales at the age of eighteen, I thought I was some hot new thing, despite not making many connections and fizzling out in the few years afterwards. This guy is something completely different. He's only seventeen and the dude writes like a madman. I've never seen someone this young churn out as much as he has. He's a prolific whirlwind.

I'm glad I'm in his good graces now, because I'll probably be able to mooch off of him later when he's really famous.

His novel Sunrise is about to hit its second printing through The Library of the Living Dead Press, and his new love-themed short story collection, An Amorous Thing, will be out next year through Lame Goat Press. He's got a ton of free fiction floating around online as well, and I urge anyone with an interest in all things horror to check him out.

Right now, though, Kody's looking for a cover artist for Amorous Thing. I'm giving him some of my blog space to pimp out his search, because he's just that damn awesome.


An Amorous Thing--to be published by Lame Goat Press  in 2010--is a collection of dark fiction revolving around the theme of affection. Whether that be a killer's desire to slice your face open or a lover's will for you to be happy, all revolve around the twisted, oftentimes morbid theme of love. We do crazy things when we care about people--love them, hate them, kill them. Each act is done with love and with purpose.

So, to celebrate the release of this collection, I am holding a cover art contest. Simply enough, people will send covers (front covers for now, but if you get selected, we'll ask for a full front/back/spine) to the head of staff at Lame Goat. From there, he will forward them to me, and I, along with Chris, will review the submissions to see which piece of art would be best suited for the theme. Now, to view full, detailed specifications, you can head on over to his blog  and check out there, or just look below the majority of the post for the general guidelines.

What are the prizes if you happen to create the best and most striking cover?

From Lame Goat...


A signed copy of An Amorous Thing upon release

Due to the fact that Lame Goat is fairly new, they can't go a long way with contributions to the people who work with them. As of now, they can't pay for anthology submissions and they pay standard for stuff like this (i.e, my collection.) BUT, because I don't want people to go away empty-handed, and because I want to spur some more interest on, I am going to be collecting prizes and putting them into the pool.

So... the grand prize winner of the twenty-five dollars and a signed copy of the collection will also get these items from me:


Leprechaun - Back to Tha Hood

Night of 1000 Cats


One Door Away From Heaven - Dean Koontz, Hardcover (missing dust jacket)

Bitten - Kelly Armstrong, Paperback

Stolen - Kelly Armstrong, Paperback

Touch the Dark - Karen Chance, Paperback

Born in Death - Nora Roberts writing as J.D Rob, Paperback

The Green Mile - Stephen King, Paperback (slight wear)

Dark Hollow - John Connolly, Paperback (wear)

The Bone Collector - Jeffrey Deaver, Paperback (wear)

Fear not, my friends! This is only the beginning of the prize pool that I want to assemble for the lucky winner of the contest. I'm hoping to assemble some more stuff for you all--more books, movies, and, hopefully, some CDs, though I'd prefer to shy away from them if only because I don't know the music tastes of those I will be buying for. Obviously, the majority of this stuff is used, but does it matter? I know to some it may, but as I've shown, I'm not giving a product away without listing its condition.


Anyway, if you're interested in designing a cover and possibly winning the above, please check out Chris Jacobsmeyer's blog post about the contest. I will continue to update everyone on the status of the prize pool and everything else that is going on with this.

Thank you,

~ Kody


Lame Goat Press is seeking a cover artist for Kody Boye's upcoming collection: An Amorous Thing, to be published sometime in 2010. The chosen artist will receive $25 and a contributor's copy for his/her efforts, along with additional prizes provided by the author himself. Deadline to submit is November 15th, 2009.

Per Mr. Boye, this is what he'd like to see:

Cover with a skeleton in the ground, surrounded by various items that symbolize the various stories in the collection.

A white bell with gold/bronze accents, with a butterfly on the side of it

An origami swan

A diary

A fish skeleton or bowl

A dog tag, broken in half

A piece of lavender (flower or otherwise)

A stuffed giraffe

A paintbrush

Something symbolizing a cat

Mainly, though, I want something that stands out. The minor details might make the cover a little overloaded, so the skeleton in the ground would be a good idea. But, again, it's an idea--if you have a better one, I'd love to hear it. I think something in red would be nice though.

The theme of the anthology revolves around affection, whether it be through horrific or loving means. What this means to you will be what inspires your cover piece. A skeleton is not required, nor are any of the other optional pieces that could be added. We want to see what YOU, the artist, think of the prompt. We want to see YOUR unique version. The idea is provided for a basis of the author's original idea, but is open to interpretation in other ways.

Back-cover Synopsis:

People love.

It’s the way of the world. Hug your neighbor, kiss your lover, hold a hand or bear a child—every action comes with a consequence, and every consequence bears a reaction. In a world where people live, die, and give birth to the cycle of madness, affection is required to live a sane life.

Or so they say.

Take a trip to a cemetery, then fall in love with a bell; ride your bicycle down the street, then have your face cut open by a beautiful woman; fall in love with a monster and play the benevolent god to creatures that cannot understand you. These are amorous things, these acts of violence, and they wouldn’t be committed if they didn’t care about you.

Welcome to a world of madness.

Welcome to a world of affection—a world of amorous things.

Send all queries and subs to Christopher Jacobsmeyer at for consideration.


I am also looking for people interested in helping with general promotion. This would involve:

-- Allowing me to guest blog about one of the stories in your blog (writers/magazines only.) Nine more spots are needed.

-- People interested in reviewing/blurbing the collection (again, blurbing for writers/magazines only.)

-- People willing to promote the collection through links, banners, blog posts, etcetera.

-- Interviews/interviewers are especially needed.

If you are interested in helping, please send an email to

Contest Alley

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Strange...

For the longest time, I’ve held onto the strange belief that writers ahead (or above, take your pick) of me don’t have the problems that I do. I’ve always, for some odd reason, assumed that people with entire books to their names don’t worry about their work the way I do.

After meeting and/or listening to (or reading the posts online of) writers with books and publishing contracts, I’ve come to realize that writing neurosis is fairly universal. Everyone worries about their work, how it’s received, and what the critics say.

I guess most writers suffer from the same self-doubt and fear of rejection and/or criticism as I do, and that’s a comforting thought. We’re all in the same boat.

I’m not so different from anybody else, and that makes me feel so much better.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Can't Believe I Did It

I went ahead and queried a publisher for In the Teahouse.

Now comes the part where I scramble around nervously going over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, adding chapters, moving things around and generally agonizing over whether my work is honestly any good or not.

I’ve had conflicting emotions about this story since I first sent it off to beta readers. Some liked it, some didn’t and some never even got back to me. After a few comments I was forced to do some real soul-searching on the subject matter and a few of the characters and I came to the conclusion of “Hell with it, it’s my novel and I’m telling the story I want to tell.”

Now I’m to the point where I’m not sure if this is all I can do with it, but I’m not getting anywhere by letting it sit on my hard drive while I mope about it.

I don’t think I will be receiving a response for some time, seeing as the publisher is an indie horror press and is currently quite busy, so I now have this manuscript and its very final polishing to keep me busy.

I hope I don’t freak out and decide to tear it apart and rebuild it before then.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Horror Realm, or: I Came in Second!?

In case I haven’t mentioned it recently, I went to Horror Realm over the weekend. We’ve got a great zombie-themed convention going every fall here in Pittsburgh, and this is the first year it’s been held outside the Monroeville area. The whole thing went down at the Crown Plaza hotel beside the South Hills Village Mall and it was damn cool.

Two years ago, during the first convention (while it was still called ZombieFest), I wrote my first zombie-themed story after listening to Kim Paffenroth, Gary Braunbeck and Edward Holsclaw read their work at an author panel. As someone who, until then, focused mainly on vampire and ghost stories, I was struck by the sheer versatility of the zombie story. Before that point, I had a very narrow view of the subgenre, and seeing several very different (and altogether amazing) takes on it blew me away. That night, I wrote Wings, which will published in volume #69 of The Nocturnal Lyric a few months from now.

Last year the convention was held in the Monroeville Mall proper, with author tables set up amongst a lot of standard weekend foot traffic, and I didn’t get to sit in on any panels. I met Gary Braunbeck again and got him to sign my copy of October Dreams, one of the best Halloween-themed anthologies I’ve ever read. It’s one of my little treasures.

This year I got to sit in on two panels on Friday, and they were awesome. I was in the audience during readings by Jonathan Maberry, James Melzer, Rob Fox, Dave Dunwoody, Kim Paffenroth and Steven North. I got back to the con late on Saturday, unfortunately, and missed the panels for the day.

One of the reasons I was late is because I was stuck at Eric’s writing my entry for the Permuted Press Apocalyptic Flash Fiction contest. I got a bit drunk Friday night, woke up at seven Saturday morning, walked the Waterworks Mall and got breakfast to slough off the morning-after booze fog and came back to the house without an idea in my head. After a few minutes, I came up with the concept of beached orcas coming back from the dead and eating the people that were attempting to rescue (and then, when they failed, dispose of) them. It was an awesome story. I really, really love it. It’s called Blackfish, and I plan on submitting it somewhere soon.

However, despite its awesomeness, it didn’t seem to fit the guidelines of the contest. It takes place at the very cusp of a zombie outbreak, not afterward, and once I’d bounced the idea off Eric and got an “I like this a lot, but...” response I decided to go back to the drawing board. This time I wrote a story called Conference, about a woman barricaded in her office building.

Eric dropped me off at the con and took off for a friend of ours’ bachelor party and I wandered the hotel by myself for a while. When I turned my story in to the Permuted guys I was told that I was the twelfth entry so far. Seeing as how many excellent novelists and short story writers were in attendance, I didn’t think my chances were that great.

A friend of mine and a few other women she works with that I’ve met once or twice before showed up and we continued to wander a bit before heading over to the mall to search for Umbrella Corp. patches they need for a zombie home movie they’re making at work. Once that was over, they took off and, after running through the Dealer’s Room at the con and picking up a few more books, I decided to head home. I was tired and feeling a bit worn out and for some reason I seemed to have caught a bad case of the “shy and awkward” and was just wandering here and there not getting much accomplished.

Sunday came and went and I didn’t go back to the convention. It’s an hour’s drive and I had little money left to spend, was low on gas and I had a ton of stuff to do around the house. I debated driving down to make the last day’s author panels but by the time I had most of my work at home done I would have missed almost everything and it would only be an hour or so before the convention ended.

I wondered a few times Sunday and Monday about the outcome of the contest. I figured I’d hear about it over on the Permuted forums at some point this week, and to be honest I never really thought I’d had much of a shot at winning, seeing as who the other entrants more than likely were. Still, I was really curious about the stories and wanted to hear more about the whole thing, and so I kept my eyes peeled. In fact, I was thinking about it on the drive home from classes today while listening to The Funky Werepig’s post-Horror Realm podcast.

When I came home from my walk this evening, I had a message over on the forums from Jacob Kier, owner of Permuted.

I came in second, and my prize is a pick of two Permuted titles. These are some seriously slick books, trade paperbacks with amazing covers. I bought three titles over the weekend already, so I’m going to have a whole stack of Permuted books to tear through this Autumn season.

I came in second and I wasn’t there to acknowledge it because I’m a dork who had too much stuff to do at home to make the trip back down. I’d really love to smack myself right about now. In fact, I still may do it.

I was a bit shocked to find out that there was actually a panel for the contest winners. The judges were there to talk about the entries and James Melzer, author of The Zombie Chronicles (who also has a badass podcast called Unleashed that I like to listen to while I’m on the road and in the gym) read the three stories that placed and an honorable mention. He has an awesome radio voice and he did an excellent job with all of them. I was thrilled to hear him read my story to the audience.

If there’s a moral to this story, I suppose it would be “Don’t be a shy dork and don’t cut out early.” Next year I’m going to have to spring for a room at the hotel so that I don’t have any lame excuses.

Horror Realm Flash Fiction Contest from James Melzer on Vimeo.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"You May Have Already Won!" Appearing in 69 Flavors of Paranoia

“You May Have Already Won!” has been accepted by online horror publisher 69 Flavors of Paranoia. I got the email this morning when I woke up, and I’m really thrilled. This wasn’t an easy story to place, and I honestly thought it would be one for the “Maybe in a thousand years I’ll have a collection and I can shove it in there” file.

I’m really happy I was able to get it to an editor who liked it enough to put their name on it. Rycke, the editor who went over my piece, was kind enough to do a few edits that really brought it up a notch. I’m going over the proof in bits and pieces today, and the subtle edits are looking great.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oooh, I Got Some Shiny New Business Cards

The things that amuse and fulfill me. Seriously.

Even the smallest, most insignificant things make me happy.

I decided it would be prudent to open a Post Office box rather than list my home address on a card I intend to hand out to different people, so this afternoon was spent picking a Post Office, printing the forms, rifling through files for secondary identification papers and running back and forth to the local PO to turn in the forms and pick up my keys. I also dropped off the contracts for my anthology sale, which still feels rather nice.

Anyway, the legwork's all done and I'm now the owner of an empty box down at the local PO. There's a certain nostalgia and romance I always end up feeling when I walk into a Post Office, much like what I experience when I stay in hotels, so I'll be looking forward to more of that in the future.

The cards should be here in time for next weekend's Horror Realm convention, which is perfect. I should have planned this out long ago, but the idea of business cards as a necessity didn't strike me until very recently.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Anthology Sale!

I’ve been published both online and in small press magazines before, but never a book. Next year, that will have changed. My short story “Forward Forward Forward” is appearing in Pill Hill Press’s collection Twisted Legends: Urbanized and Unauthorized.

I can’t wait for my contributor copy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rain Goes Public

For a long time I shied away from writing long form fiction. When I say a long time, I mean a dozen years or more, off and on. I wrote short stories and submitted them to publishers, and once in a while I received acceptance and occasionally monetary compensation. To this day I still have manuscripts floating about, and when one comes back with a no it goes right back out again to someone else. It’s a revolving door of email attachments, hardcopy mailings, small press magazines and genre websites. It’s fun, and it makes me very happy to be able to participate, even when I’m being rejected.

Sometimes I think I take rejection a bit too much in stride, or that I may be harboring some sick, private enjoyment of it, but that’s not really a subject I want to discuss in this post. What I want to talk about is Rain.

I think I still have a bit of faith in traditional publishing. I have plans to query agents and attack the publishing houses. I still picture a hardback with my name on the spine just under an impressive publisher’s logo. Perhaps someday I may even have my name on an orange-gilded spine with a flightless bird beneath it. I don’t think so, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Nothing really is.

This isn't something I think would even catch the eye of an agent or editor for even a moment, but that doesn't mean it's something that doesn't deserve exposure.

What I’ve noticed in recent months and years is that it’s not entirely necessary to rely on agents and publishers, not if you’re writing for the craft and hell of it. If you’re writing to make yourself happy, to cut out the middleman, to reach out and be able not only to touch your readers but to clasp hands with them, you don’t need any of this. You just need to put your work out there and let the public decide on what merit it has and in what quantity.

I don’t think I ever would have decided to do this if I hadn’t seen so many others attempting it before, putting their own personal spin on it.

Cliff Burns got sick of traditional publishing, burned his bridges and forged his own way. He’s one hell of a spitfire and an excellent writer to boot. He’s released whole novels along with short story reprints on his site. If you don’t mind someone with extremely strong opinions on pretty much everything, or if that’s the kind of writing you long for, I urge you to check him out. Seriously, he’s great.

Dan Holloway, author of self-published novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall and founding member of the Year Zero Writers Collective, is currently releasing his The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes as an Internet novel. Chapters are released incrementally on Facebook. It’s an amazing story, layers and layers of narrative on top of each other, unfolding in front of readers with an ease and spot-on eye for pop culture that makes it seem as if it were actually happening, as if these characters actually had breath and life and were appearing on legitimate news sources. It feels real, and it’s fascinating, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to watch it unfold.

Everyone already knows about my love for Machine Man. I’m not wasting any more space or time explaining it or pimping it out. People are going to start thinking I’ve got a crush on Max Barry (Okay, so I do.) Read it. Read it now, and you can thank me later.

What about all those other people writing novels with their cellphones? Japan’s got tons of them, written by young people and retirees alike. They’re huge. They’ve gained their authors print deals and news coverage all the way across the world. Amazing.

These examples and many others have convinced me to put Rain out, to give it in its raw, experimental form and see what becomes of it. I almost feel like I’m putting it in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean in the middle of a tropical storm, unsure of what to expect in return, worried it might not even reach anybody. It’s a strange feeling.

Rain is, among a few other unpublished novel length pieces, a training wheels exercise. I don’t learn something and become comfortable with it until I’ve gone through the motions several times, breaking things down into components and memorizing their functions before connecting all the pieces. I don’t really know how to write a novel, even though I’ve read at least a dozen books on the subject. And I won’t, not until I’ve flailed about in the muck of my own first attempts and witnessed for myself their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and failures.

I decided to make Facebook Rain’s primary home because it will gain more exposure there, as I have a built-in network of like-minded people already in place. I’ll be blogging about the process offsite as well, here on Blogger.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh, Those Erotic Primates

Alcoholics. Drug addicts. Misogynists. Misandrists. Misanthropes. Sexual fetishists.

Writers have been subject to stereotypes for a long, long time, and with good reason. Within every caricature is a small grain of truth that applies to enough people in a group for the stereotype to catch hold and remain in the collective consciousness. Some of the most common (and, unfortunately, most accurate) conceptions about the so-called “creative types” are the notions of substance and spousal abuse, the tendency to drink to excess to awaken the muse and the unsociable nature that drives a person to abuse their loved ones.

There are a great many writers who defy stereotypes and refuse to be denigrated by drink or violence and cannot be classified by any method, and are possibly the actual majority of people in the field. However, it is much more entertaining to delve into the lives of people who, often tragically, fit the mold of the writer out of control.

How many writers’ love of drink and mistreatment of their wives (or, occasionally, husbands) have become almost as well-known as their bodies of work? Poe, Hemingway, Mailer, Capote, Carver, just to name a few off the top of my head, were legendary both in their prose and reputations as drinkers, brawlers, abusers or a combination of the three.

Now we can add William Golding to the list.

Booze? Check. Parental issues? Check. Bizarre outlook on human sexuality? Wow. Double, possibly triple, check.

Golding, who died sixteen years ago, kept journals and other papers over the years, including a memoir intended for his wife titled Men and Women Now, that shed some light on the author and his very personal life, including his early adulthood. In the memoir he attempts to unveil, and possibly explain, the ‘monstrous side’ of his character by detailing to his wife how he tried to rape a young girl while on holiday during his first year at Oxford.

He describes a fourteen-year-old girl as being “depraved by nature” and “already sexy as an ape.” What? Seriously? I can possibly understand “depraved by nature“ as a misogynist’s attempt to justify his arousal by and intention of assaulting a young girl, but the ape comment I just cannot wrap my brain around.

Could a Briton possibly enlighten me to this turn of phrase? Is this slang that didn’t make its way across the Atlantic, or was Golding more demented than even his memoirs are hinting at? I cannot think up a scenario where primates would arouse me, and I assume most people would come to the same conclusion. I really, really hope they do. I’m willing to brush it off as some sort of regional slang, seeing as we have tons of odd phrases here in the States that no doubt leave people elsewhere scratching their heads.

In addition to his bizarre sexual escapades, which include consensual sex with the same girl only two years later (including the line "Should I have all that rammed up my guts?,” which leads me to speculate that Golding was actually a character in someone else’s novel this whole time), Golding comes out and admits, going into great detail, that he pitted boys in his charge against each other while teaching at a public school.

I’ve heard of novelists doing extensive research, but I think that might take the cake for me. He actually created a similar Lord of the Flies scenario in a controlled setting before writing the novel. Holy shit.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this blog post, to be completely honest. How many times have we as a global community been subjected to posthumous information about a public figure that illustrates, in thick black lines no amount of correction fluid can hide, just how morally reprehensible they were in life?

Perhaps it is because I have such vivid memories of Golding and Lord of the Flies that I felt compelled to write about it. In other articles, such as this one from The Times of India, it is mentioned that Golding’s work was required reading for British schoolchildren. However, I’d like it to be noted that, in addition to being a textbook in his native country, Golding’s work (with an emphasis on Lord of the Flies) was and still is widely circulated in American public schools. I cannot vouch for all schools, or even any outside of my district, but when I was in school in the 1990s we alternated between studying British works and American ones. In ninth grade we focused mostly on Shakespeare, and in eleventh it was mostly 20th century novels. It was during this year that I read Golding, as well as Huxley and Orwell. I wrote my term paper on Orwell, something I remember to this day.

My teacher that year hated me. She seriously did, and I gave her more than a few reasons to feel that way. I never shut up. I never took anything seriously. I never stopped looking over at my best friend Jen and snickering or doodling during lectures. I was hyperactive to an almost insane degree, uncontrollably self-interested and intent on blocking out the rest of the world. I didn’t like school, didn’t like reading things that were forced upon me (though I read nonstop, starting in early childhood and continuing to this day), didn’t like studying subjects that seemed pointless to me, didn’t like a whole lot of other people.

I was not, in any possible way, an ideal student. Hell, I wasn’t even tolerable most of the time.

Something grabbed hold of me in Golding’s work, though. In between pushing up imaginary glasses and loudly mimicking Piggy’s voice and mannerisms (we were forced to watch the 1960 edition of the film during class), saying “MY SPECS!” and “MY AUNTIE OWNS A CANDY STORE” when my poor teacher only wanted to show the film and get on with it, I found a piece of work that was truly both chilling and enjoyable. I didn’t mind the worksheets and quizzes on character archetypes or Simon’s symbolism of Jesus Christ. In my own obnoxious way, I was paying attention, at least on some level. I came out of that class reviled by my teacher but passionately in love with dystopian novels, something I appreciate to this day.

I suppose that is why, when I read about Golding this morning, I felt compelled to say something on the subject. I was flooded with memories of sitting in that stupid chair, behind that stupid desk, back in 1995 and finding something I loved where I least expected it. In amongst the jokes and high school rivalries and the pranks I pulled on my friends, I fell in love with a novel, at least for a short while. I really ought to go back and reread it to see if it holds up to the test of time, though I have a sneaking suspicion that it does.

To find out the author of said novel was as dark, creepy and subversive as his classic antagonist is no big deal, really. Authors tend to have their demons. I think what really surprised me about all of this is that he would reveal, so many years after the fact, his depraved youthful exploits to his wife. I wonder if she ever read the memoir or the journals and if so what her response to them were. I’m hoping that may be touched upon when these papers are published.

In the meantime, I think I might nix the idea of transcribing my journals. I’ll keep them in my nearly illegible handwriting, thank you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Machine Man in Print - Confirmed!

Just received the good news today from Max Barry’s mailing list. Machine Man’s print edition is confirmed! It’s got kinks that need worked out, including a rewrite to smooth out the halting, pulled-out-of-nowhere feel of the daily chapters (which I like, by the way), but it’s coming.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? I raved about the crazy Internet serial a few months ago on my book review blog, New Reads and Old Standbys.

Do any of these keywords appeal to you?

Humor, satire, sarcasm, romance, love triangle, transhumanism, geeky, amputation, fetish, experiment, accident, prosthetics.

Do they? If so, check it out now. Give in and get your daily dose of Barry.

I’m going to keep bugging you until you do.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Rogue on The New Flesh

My flash fiction story, The Rogue, has been accepted and published on The New Flesh, a new horror flash ezine.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The 2010 Novel and Short Story Writer's Market is Out!

I love these books, though having to plunk down cash on a new edition (and tossing out the previous year’s, with all its highlighted listings and margin-scrawled notes) is a bit disheartening. I know the market, especially in the small press and online sectors, is unstable and outfits come and go like tumbleweed in a sandstorm sometimes, but damn do these books date themselves so quickly. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, really. That’s just the way small publishing is.

In addition to the market listings, Writer’s Digest includes in each volume a number of essays that change yearly on topics like new genres, blogging, critique groups and the like. Every year I say I’m going to read all of the articles alongside scouring the market listings, and every year I fail to do so.

Well, I’m saying it again this year. I’m reading those articles. In fact, I’ve read several of them already.

This year, Writer’s Digest has included a free subscription to their online publication, Writer's Market. It’s a genre-only subscription, rather than for the entire site, so certain things will be inaccessible depending on which Guide you’ve purchased. Upgrades are, of course, available.

Nice marketing tactic.

I suppose as punishment for getting this book for $20 instead of the MSRP of $30 (Amazon’s good for a few things, discounting preorders being one of them), the site will not accept my registration. I used to have a membership there, and when I slowed down on submissions to concentrate on novel drafting and then lost my job, I wound up being forced to cancel my monthly subscription. My email address is already in their database, and renewals are apparently not eligible for this “free” service.

Again, nice marketing tactic, WDB. They put out some great books on craft from time to time but, at the moment, I’m a little irritated.

I’m not letting this serial number go to waste. First email request gets it.

As for me, I’m going to stick to using Duotrope in tandem with the book I already own. I’m not ponying up any more cash when I’m so close to a cardboard box under a bridge. Maybe some other time.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I've been trying my hand at shorter works of fiction lately, and I have to say it seems to be rather catching.

Instead of working on material I can submit to publishers, I've become a bit addicted to Ficly, a little site for little stories.

Ficly reminds me quite a bit of open source software. In 1024 characters (roughly 190 - 200 words) or less, an author writes a piece of flash fiction and publishes it on the site. This story can be as rough or as polished as the author wants, as professional or draft-form, as highbrow or juvenile. There are no guidelines save for the arbitrary character limit and the use of non-proprietary characters (which is often broken). Readers can rate these stories on a scale from one to five or leave comments without rating it at all.

Here’s the interesting part. Other users can come along and write a prequel or sequel to any story on the site. One of my own stories, “The Anything-Goes Call In Show,” was recently continued by someone other than myself. It didn’t keep the dialogue-only style of the original, but it certainly was interesting. There’s something both surreal and highly entertaining about seeing someone else continue something you yourself started.

The only drawback to this site is that I feel compelled to do my best there, and a lot of work that I could have submitted to actual publications for real money (or real contributor’s copies) are now online and considered published and, thus, ineligible for submission. The above referenced story is something I’ve come to be incredibly proud of over the last few weeks, and there’s no way for me to find it a publisher now. It’s a small price to pay, though, for the fun and community that is Ficly.

I’m sure I can come up with other work to shop around, though the temptation of immediate readership and critique over on Ficly will always be there.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Prodigy's "The Way it Is"

Seeing as how I just wrote an essay on this very tune (or, at least, its origin) a few weeks ago, and am also a huge Prodigy fan, I figured this was worth passing along. I’m surprised it took so long for me to find this track on my iPod playlist.

No matter how many times I hear this song, no matter what twisted incarnation it’s in, I’m always taken straight back to my little girl days of glossy black records on my little red record player.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Writer and the Movie - A Love Story

One of the things I've noticed, after reading many different authors' memoirs on the craft of writing and the effects of childhood experiences, is that most, if not all, were influenced in one way or another by film.

When I say film, I'm not talking about the standard musicals, romances and Disney children's movies of the mid twentieth century. No, everyone saw those, and while they had their squeaky-clean moments of whimsical charm they did little to flesh out the imaginations of young, impressionable writers-to-be.

Every author, especially those easily classified into the speculative genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror and their derivative subcategories) seem in one way or another to have been captivated, usually at a very young age, by the grit, gore and sleaze of the “B movie,” the “exploitation flick,” the “grind house picture.”

Call them what you will, as they go by many names and often defy outright categorization, but these were the films that ran at cheap theaters, drive ins and screens dedicated to second runs and small-budget shockers. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, sums up the youthful obsession well when he says “Never mind sweet; never mind uplifting; never mind Snow White and the Seven Goddam Dwarfs. At thirteen I wanted monsters that ate whole cities, radioactive corpses that came out of the ocean and ate surfers, and girls in black bras who looked like trailer trash.”

Now, that's what I'm talking about.

By the time my own coming of age was taking place, most of the drive ins and all of the studio-specific theaters had faded into obscurity. I've often complained that perhaps, despite my fondness for all things new and battery-powered and cutting-edge, I was born a few decades late. I missed the rise of the horror film, in all of its shocking black and white glory, I missed the birth of Technicolor, the ritual of necking at the drive in, the heyday of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

What I did have, by the time I'd blossomed into a hardcore lover of all things gross, creepy and subversive, was the neighborhood video store.

Back in the days before DVD, before Netflix, before Redbox and Blockbuster and the concept of streaming video, there was the neighborhood video store. Every small town had one, and, for the lover of horror films at least, they were head and shoulders above the chain stores like Blockbuster and their clones.

The independently-owned stores were the best. They had at least one VHS copy of pretty much every vampire, ghost or monster movie that came out each year, plus (if you were lucky) older movies and skin flicks. During my teenage years, I would rent a movie at least once every two or three days, usually for ninety-nine cents and always something my parents would have preferred I didn't have any interest in. So long as you were careful not to try renting anything X or NC-17 rated, you could get away with going above your approved age group. I saw a lot of stuff I wasn't (at least in the eyes of the law) ready to see, several of which I still look back and remember fondly to this day.

I remember watching To Sleep With a Vampire, a romance/horror hybrid starring 80s straight-to-video heartthrob Scott Valentine and Charlie Spradling, about a suicidal stripper and a really hot vampire getting it on before one of them has to die. The sheer amount of bare flesh and cheesy, though not completely uninspiring, dialogue involved was mind bending.

I rented Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs enough times to memorize the entire script, and the number of f-bombs dropped would eventually find it banned from our house once my mother's patience for it wore thin. Along with the film itself, I fell madly in love with the music, and one day I walked out of our house and all the way across town to National Record Mart to buy the soundtrack. Once there, the sky opened up and dumped gallon upon gallon of cold rainwater onto the city, and I was forced to call the lone taxi service from a grocery store pay phone and schedule a ride home. Neither the stores themselves nor the taxi company exist anymore.

When I was seventeen and my brother only thirteen, I came home with a copy of Natural Born Killers secreted away in my backpack. He begged me to let him watch the movie with me, and seeing as our parents were gone for the evening I didn't mind breaking the rules a bit to accommodate him. I sat there with my mouth agape as a scene of oral sex atop a car turned into a murder, followed by more deaths than we could count, and the entire world went crazy for two homicidal redneck lovers. Again, I had to own the soundtrack. It was my first exposure to Leonard Cohen, and I still remember some of the lyrics to his song “The Future” - “Give me crack and anal sex/Take the only tree that's left/And stuff it up the hole/In your culture.”

I got quite the education from the video store. My brother probably did as well, just by associating with me. Most of the screwed up things that happened to him as a kid, as far as I can tell, originated with me. One of these days I may have to issue him an apology.

Sometimes my friends and I rented older movies. I remember seeing Blacula for the first time and, afterward, running the plot through in my mind as if written on paper and thinking “Hey, this actually kind of works.” We sometimes rented 70s and 80s splatter classics, and by the time I actually went out and purchased the damn thing I'd seen Halloween more times than I could count. I saw Halloween II, several of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, a handful of Friday the 13ths. I saw lesser-known movies I forget the names to, graduating to the VHS-only, blood-filled, low-budget junk food movies of the late 80s and early 90s.

I barely remember anything except Harvey Keitel’s exposed genitals from The Bad Lieutenant, a movie my friend Christine and I picked up and dragged over to our friend Kristie’s house one weekend.

My friend Chas and I saw all of the Leprechaun movies one summer, sitting in his basement. We also rented a movie about hookers and murder called Zipperface, probably that same year. I'm fairly certain, looking back on it now, that we were trying to root out and expose the worst films we could find, just for a laugh.

My friend Lydia and I, once we were legal adults, marched triumphantly into the video store and into the back corner, eyeballing the pornos with hysterical, lecherous eyes. It would take us years from that point to reach adulthood in any terms not federally mandated. We flipped each case over, read the synopsis, burst out with nervous laughter and moved on to the next one. At one point in our ritual, some poor guy a few years older than us edged into the section, probably wanting to get his dirty movie and get the hell out without much trouble. Being the jerk I was, and already a fan of irritating and making uncomfortable people I barely or don't even know, I slowly turned my head, raised an eyebrow and asked him, “You got any recommendations?” while sweeping my hand across the section.

It's always the same. I only act like a jackass when my girlfriends are around. Corner me alone and you get a stuttering, yellow-bellied wreck of a girl unable to even put together a witty reply. Lydia and I went back to my house that night with a completely unremarkable soft core video about poker players and roulette wheels, though we watched it from beginning to end without much use of the fast-forward button. That guy had some crappy taste in porn.

This went on even after I left my hometown for college. In my new town, there were two video stores to belong to, and I weaseled my way into both despite one of them being strictly for year-round residents. I believe I had to pay an extra twenty-five dollars for the membership, seeing as how so many university students took off with the tapes, never to return.

Somewhere along the line, I was reacquainted with Vincent Price, his amazing voice and inimitable sense of style and humor. To this day, The Abominable Doctor Phibes is one of my favorites of all time, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

My life has pretty much gone the same ever since, though the small video stores have faded from the landscape one after the other over the years. Now, instead of browsing shelf after shelf of empty cases with lurid cover art, I read synopses online and put them into a queue. I wait, sometimes for days, sometimes for months, depending on the film's position on the list, before I can sit down and enjoy it. It's not the same, and it never will be, but progression comes whether you want it or not, and all you can do is accept it and keep going.

I'll never ask for porno recommendations again, though. Once was enough.