Sunday, January 27, 2008

I have not been kidnapped

If you've noticed I've not been online of much lately, it's because what started as problems with my Net provider has turned into major computer problems. So, it might be a while before I'm back online regularly. Not sure how long yet.

As is, I can only get online at work when I have the time.

No. 4 - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

edited by Robert L. Mack

Started: January 27
Finished: February 14

Notes: I expected this to be a modern novelization of the Johnny Depp movie, but was pleasantly surprised to find out this is actually a reprinting of the original "penny dreadful" tales from a British magazine in the mid-19th century. The same original publisher was also known for printing the "Varney the Vampire" story (a pre-cursor to Dracula by 50 years), so I'm expecting some good, bloody reading from this one.

Mini review: A pretty fun read, especially if you like 19th-century versions of horror. This one isn't really gothic, but more "penny dreadful," a bit more outrageous. The only problem was this one meandered around a bit in the middle, going off on tangents with side characters and the like. But it starts well and ends with a fine shock.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

No. 3 - The Hitler Salute

by Tilman Allert

translated from German by Jefferson Chase

Started: January 24
Finished:January 26

Notes: I'm in the mood for some historical non-fiction and this fitted the bill. As the cover says, this is about the German salute used from 1933 to 1945. It was originally a greeting, like shaking hands, but eventually became mandatory.

Mini review: An interesting, not too scholarly, look at how the "Heil Hitler" salute became popular so quickly in early Nazi Germany. Also looks a little at the continuing legacy of the salute. An easy, breezy read. Worth taking a look at.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thoughts that keep me up all night

I can't just have the usual worries, fears, whatever, that keep people up all night, keeps them from sleeping even when they only had three hours the night before, then worked and have to work again today.

Nope. Not me. The war. The economy. Injustice. Murders. Etc., etc. Nah, none of that keeps me up.

I have to come up with my own stuff, because apparently the real world just isn't frightening enough for me.

So, I'm in bed, trying to sleep, and an image comes into my head of a monster. I won't go into a lot of details because I might eventually use this (not that I'm afraid someone will steal my ideas, just that I like some of the ideas to be a surprise). Then I think about where the monster came from, how it got to where it is and what its purpose is ... why does it exist?

Can't stop there. Not just with one monster. My monster has buddies. Lots of buddies.

I lay in bed for almost three hours, thinking all these thoughts. I pull ideas from Lovecraft, King's "The Stand," Romero's zombie movies, Godzilla, The Lord of the Rings, other places and even some of my own writing. Then I mix it all together and see how it works. In modern America. NOT some fantasy land.

And after three hours of sleeplessness, without even trying, I realize I worked out most of the plot of a 500,000 word mega novel. Or maybe a series of shorter novels. Though I like the idea of the big novel better.

I've worked out all the major bad guys. I've worked out most of the good guys, the protagonists (yep, in a work this big there's going to be more than one). I've got a beginning, lots of middle, and something of an ending.

I have to curse myself. Oh, no. I just cooooouldn't go to sleep. I didn't have enough ideas in my head already. I just needed yet one more project to roll around in my brain, nagging at me to get to working on it.

Shit. And I wanted my next novel to be something simple and small.

No, I'm not planning to start working on this monster story. But now it's in my head. One of the reasons I'm writing about it here is because I don't want to forget it (which wasn't likely to happen anyway with a project this big).

I just have to wait and see how long, and how much, this story is going to nag at me. If it keeps it up like this, it's going to be a loooooong year.

Apex can use a little help

Apex Digest magazine and books could use a little help. Nope, they're not directly asking for money. They're asking for reviews of their products.

If you like horror and science fiction, and especially if you like the two mixed together, you need to check out some of the quality writing and publishing coming from Apex. Give their products a shot, and then go review about it at Amazon.

Come on. You'd just end up blowing the money on some magazine that isn't any fun to read anyway, right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

When rejections strike

I've received three short story rejections in the last couple of days.

The first one bit a little hard. The editor was friendly, but his words still stung a bit. He said the story read as if it weren't finished, as if it needed another strong editing. What made this sting so much was it was an older story, one I've had for at least 5 or 6 years and it's already been edited probably a dozen times or so. Ouch!

But then there were the other two rejections I received today.

The first told me I was a good writer, but there was a particular fault with the story they didn't find acceptable, so they were passing. That's cool. No big deal. I understand. Without going into detail, I disagree about this "fault," but hey, to each their own. I'll try submitting elsewhere for now and hit this market up again sooner or later.

Then there was the last rejection I received. It started with, "You are a damn fine writer."

Okay, hold the brakes. I have never, ever, had an editor say that to me. That was great to hear. But still, they rejected the story because they felt it was a bit too dark for their publication. Again, that's cool. No big deal. I'll try again.

So, three different stories with three different rejections from three different publications. And I loved every word I received from those editors, even the not-so-great stuff. I always love receiving feedback from editors, even if I don't always agree with what they say because they can give me a new viewpoint about something I've written.

Yes, I'm crazy.

Places I won't submit stories to

Okay, just letting folks here know about a little rule I have.

Here it is: I will not submit stories to a publication for which I read stories.

There. It's said. It's simple. It's not been an issue, but I wanted to say it.

There have been once or twice where I've submitted to an anthology or two related to a publication I've read for, but the first submission was actually made before I was reading for the publication and the second submission was to a side project not directly tied in with the publication.

There. I'm cleaning the air, for myself if no one else. I think it keeps things smoother, cleaner and safer that way for all parties involved.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Do I worry about short story submissions?

The answer: Usually not.

There are some exceptions. When there is a story of mine I really like, and I've submitted it to a publication I really like, then yeah, I ponder it a bit. Yes, I'd like to see my story in that publication.

But if my story isn't accepted, I don't fret over it.


Because I usually already have another market in mind. Sometimes it's even a better market, meaning a market I'm really more interested in. Then you might ask: Well, why didn't you submit it to your so-called better market in the first place? There are lots of reasons. Sometimes it's just because a particular market isn't taking submissions at a certain time, or their reading period is over for the timebeing. Also, sometimes I'm not sure if a story is right for a certain market, but I think it would work fine for a different market. It all gets floated around a bit.

Sometimes I hold off sending a story to a publication because I already have something submitted to them. Even if they don't have a rule against more than one submission from a given writer at a given time, I've never submitted more than one story at a time to a publication. I'm just funny about that. If an editor specifically asked me to send them several stories, then I would. But otherwise, nope.

I think one of the keys to keeping your sanity as a writer is to not worry too much about your submissions once they've been submitted. Just keep another market in mind in case the story doesn't go over with the editor.

Otherwise, you could worry yourself nervous about every story you send it. And that's not good. If nothing else, it hurts your health. And worse, it could negatively affect your writing that next story.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Discovering flash fiction

I've been experimenting with what is, to me, a new form of fiction. I'm talking about flash fiction, those short little stories usually a thousand words or less.

I'd never really considered writing in this style of fiction, but when the publisher Every Day Fiction came along, it got my mental juices working. So, about four months ago I took my first stab at flash. It's kind of a literary piece, but I'm not sure it works, though I do like the piece. But that's up to the various publishers I send the piece to.

Then, a few months back, I wrote a couple of short zombie pieces, which are now making the submission rounds. These pieces aren't quite flash, but they're still short at 1,500 words or less. These two stories were other experiments of mine in short fiction.

Recently I've written two John Dee shorts. One comes in right at a thousand words, and I just subbed it tonight. The other piece is at 1,350 words, and that's after having about 200 words cut from it; I'm not sure I can cut that piece much more (maybe another 50 words) without ruining the story, but I might take another crack at it soon.

And there's another short John Dee piece in the works. I haven't started writing this one yet, but I've got it plotted out and I believe it will come in at under a thousand words.

So, I've created a trilogy of flash horror fiction. I'll have three John Dee short shorts, each which happens within a few months of one another in the late 1980s. The stories each have somewhat similar events, but are not directly related except through John. Dee, as he does from time to time, sets himself up on a little ... I suppose "mission" would be the right word ... and each of these stories shows John on his "mission." People live, people die, but John goes on. It's the way of his world.

A quirk of querying agents

I've learned something while querying literary agents about my novel, "City of Rogues." Agents generally respond to queries within just a few days, or they never respond at all. In my experience, there's not a lot of middle ground there.

Which, actually, is nice. That means, if I haven't heard from an agent in a couple of weeks, I'm probably not going to hear from them. Of course, I'm sure there are exceptions. Maybe an agent is gone on vacation for longer than two weeks, or maybe they're just backed up in their e-mail correspondences (which I'm thinking isn't a good thing for an agent, unless maybe they put off all their queries for a while ... which is possible).

But, I actually like this. It beats waiting for months, sometimes even years, to hear back from a publisher.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Alien thought processes

When writing speculative fiction, I've found sometimes I have to think in ways not natural to me. Generally when writing human characters, there's little problem; I'm human, so even if a way of thinking is foreign to me I can ponder it (maybe even study it online somehow).

However, sometimes I'm writing about someone who is different enough from the average human that I have to stretch my imagination a bit more than normal to get the feel for the character. I'm not talking sci-fi aliens here, because I rarely use them, and I'm not talking about your typical fantasy humanoids or demi-humans like elves and orcs and such, because I rarely use them either.

I'm talking about beings who appear and seem to be normal humans, but who are not. I'm most specifically talking about my John Dee character, who I'm finding intersting in a lot of different ways (and here I go again talking about my current favorite character while trying not to give away too much information about him).

Because of the speculative aspects of John's existence, he doesn't think like a normal person. He can't, even if he wanted to. His experience has been so much beyond what a normal human experiences that his thoughts would boggle the minds of most. However, John has a certain hangup, that won't allow him to progress beyond a certain emotional and/or spiritual point. Therein lies his true problem, his true tragedy; despite his dearth of experience, he can't make a little emotional adjustment that would end his own self torture.

Actually, if John existed in a more typical fantasy world, with a certain level of magic or speculative elements, he probably would be better off emotionally. But he doesn't live in that world. He lives in our world, and the speculative is hard to reach, and in a lot of ways frustrating for him.

I've said more than enough. I'm yacking just to work out my own thoughts on this. But, as John might say, "The rest of you are allowed to be amused.

"Or not."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Another book review is up

My full review for Larry Ketchersid's "Dusk Before the Dawn" is now up at Apex Online.


Quick writing update

One new story submitted this week, and an older story sent out also. Fifteen stories out making the rounds. Also queried an agent about the "City of Rogues" novel.

Also finished writing two new John Dee stories this week, though they still need editing.

See, I've been keeping busy. I'm really just writing this post to remind myself that I've been getting some work done. Feels like I've been languishing of late.

And that's not counting the Flashing Swords slush I've been reading and the two books I'm trying to wade through.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

No. 2 - Inferno

edited by Ellen Datlow
Started: January 5
Finished: January 23

Notes: This one will be for an Apex Onlinereview. Datlow is a well known anthology editor, though I've not readany of her other collections. I figure it's about time. One of thethings that drew me to reading this anthology was that it does not havea theme, which I found interesting, a way to experience Datlow'sinterests and style as an editor without being tied down to aparticular idea.

Mini review: Most of these tales are quite literary, centering upon relationships ... sometimes family relationships, sometimes friendships, etc. Fans of gore will not find a lot to like here, but for those who like to read about disturbing links between people, this one could be right up your alley. Honestly, it wasn't quite my thing, but the writing was good.

New free online magazine

Received my first pdf of Noctem Aeternus a day or so ago. I've not read the whole thing yet, but so far I'm pretty impressed.

The layout is pretty good, and the artwork is fantastic. There's a story by Ramsey Campbell and even an interview with Rob Zombie.

If you like horror, and other forms of darker speculative fiction, this one is worth checking out.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Springsteen lyrics

I'm not the biggest Bruce Springsteen fan in the world, but I like some of his stuff and I really think his early lyrics are some of the strongest blue collar music writing ever laid out. So, here goes ...

Thunder Road
The screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays.
Roy Orbison's singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
I just can't face myself alone again.

Don't run back inside, darlin'
you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking
That maybe we ain't that young anymore.
Show a little faith,
there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty,.
but hey you're alright.
Oh and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets.
Well now I'm no hero
That's understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl
Is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow back your hair.
Well the night's busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere.
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh oh come take my hand
Riding out tonight to case the promised land.
Oh oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road
oh Thunder Road.

Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it's late we can make it if we run.

Poor man wanna be rich,
rich man wanna be king
And a king ain't satisfied
till he rules everything.
I wanna go out tonight,
I wanna find out what I got.

The River
But I remember us riding in my brother's car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir.
At night on them banks I'd lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take.

Now those memories come back to haunt me.
They haunt me like a curse.
Is a dream a lie if it don't come true?
Or is it something worse?

Atlantic City
Well now everything dies baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.
Put your makeup on
fix your hair up pretty,
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.

Well I got a job and tried to put my money away
But I got debts that no honest man can pay.
So I drew what I had from the Central Trust
And I bought us two tickets on that Coast City bus.

Born in the U.S.A.
Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground.
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Food, food, food

As some know, I have health problems, mostly concerning an enlarged heart and high blood pressure. I’m a big guy, always have been to some extent or another and my weight has fluctuated up and down all my life. Thankfully, I’ve lost almost 90 pounds in the last year, but I’ve still a way to go.

One of things I found out recently is that I can’t cheat on my diet. Most people, those just trying to drop a few pounds or even 20 or 30 pounds, can cheat a little from time to time. I can’t. At all. At least not for a very long time. I discovered this the hard way over the holidays when I didn’t stuff myself, but I did have my fair share of the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls,etc. One day of bad eating for me means at least a week of not being able to breath and hardly being able to walk; it also means fluid building up in my body to the point some joints swell and my chest hurts. Even just one bad meal, or a candy bar, will just about incapacitate me for a day or two. I can’t drink soft drinks, not even the diet kind, but that’s no big loss to me.

But there are some foods I miss. And that’s really what this post is about, just to torture myself.

So, here are some of my favorite foods that I miss:

TheWhopper. Yes, from Burger King. I don’t generally like fast food, but the Whopper is my favorite fast food burger. I like the flame broiled char. For me, it’s perfect with cheese, lettuce, ketchup and mayo.

Milk.I love milk, specifically skim milk. I would give up beer before I’d give up milk. Oh, wait a minute, I did. I can have a little milk each week, but even skim milk has sodium in it, so I have to watch my intake. And I’m supposed to watch my fluids anyway.

Cheese.Keeping with the dairy theme, I love cheese. Any kind of cheese. Even that nasty, smelly stuff no one likes. Add a piece of fine bread, usually French or Italian or maybe sourdough, and I’m in heaven. Some of my favorites are Swiss, blue and the saltier Italian (parmesano reggiano being the most common). With very rare exceptions (there are a few low sodium types and brands), I can no longer have cheese. Which sucks.

Country ham. If you don’t live in Kentucky, you don’t know what country ham is. You might think you do, but you don’t. You might go to your local store and ask for country ham and they’ll give it to you, but it’s still not country ham. I’ve lived in three other states and traveled to more than half the other states, and in every single one of them the stuff called country ham is not “real” country ham. “Real” country ham has been salt cured and hung up in a smokehouse or a basement or someplace else dark and cool. That garbage called country ham in other places is usually just the same old plain or sweet ham you can get from a can. Don’t argue with me on this one. I will never believe otherwise.

Beer cheese. This is another one I’ve only seen in Kentucky. It’s a spicey cheese spread made with beer. Goes great with chips of any sort. Comes in a variety of spiciness usually.

Steak. Rare. Medium. Burnt. I don’t care. As long as it’s a dead cow, I love it. I don’t need a lot of extra sauce or anything. I don’t care what kind of steak or how it’s made, just as long as it’s dead.

There are plenty of other foods I like (good Mexican, mmmm), but these are just a few of my favs. Now go away and let me sulk while I eat my salad.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Working on goals for 2008

I don't really believe in New Years' resolutions, but of course I've been thinking about my writing for 2008. What do I want to do this year?

At this point I'm not setting any hard and fast goals, but here are a few ideas I have in mind:

  1. Completely finish my trilogy. It'll be three years in March I've been working on this thing, and I've been slacking at it the last few months because of moving again and sickness and frankly, because I've been having some fun writing short stories. The first draft of all three books is written. I just need to finish another readthrough on the second book and the first edit of the third book (which is mostly done other than a couple of chapters I added, and maybe another scene or two I'm thinking about adding).
  2. Write a novel? A single one? I'm not sure about this one. I've several ideas, but once I'm done with the trilogy, I'm thinking about taking a bit of break from writing novels, just for a few months or so.
  3. More short stories. I hadn't written hardly any short stories in so long that it was nice to get back to it. I'm revved up about my John Dee character especially, and I've several stories now with him ... one is already subbed, another is about ready and a third needs editing.

So, I'm kind of in limbo. I'm taking my time to see where I want to go and what I want to do. This might not be real productive, but I'm having fun with my writing at the moment, and that's important too.