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End Point – Short Story September 2014

It’s the end of September and the last day of my personal challenge to finish four stories this month. Technically I did, although one story was a creative piece for class. I am also ¾ of the way from finishing one more story, but since I wanted to post today, as of now, it is not finished. Still the day is not over and I will probably knock it out tonight in between watching NCIS and Person of Interest.

You may have also noticed a more consistent posting schedule. I’ve decided to try to post every 5th day and see how well I stay consistent. So far, it is not too hard and more importantly, easy to remember. In the past, I honestly forgot about this blog and when I did remember to post months had gone by. Not good.

Speaking of not good, right now I am on a furlough from my job. It happened at the last-minute and caught me off guard. For the next two weeks, I’ll have no day job to work on. In a way it is an unexpected gift. What would you do, if someone said, “Here you go. Have a couple of weeks off to just live your life.” Me, I think I’ll work on more writing. For once, I’ll be able to see what a full-time devotion to writing will look like.

Still, I don’t want this to be permanent. I kinda need my day job for stuff like rent and food.

Finally, you may have noticed a few changes in some other pages on this blog. Earlier this month, I got my first acceptance letter. My story “The Blind Woman and Her Spiders” was accepted for publication in the anthology Magical: An Anthology of Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Other Fiction For Adults. I will now be a published writer by the end of the year.

I have a lot of thoughts (and emotions) about this moment in my writing career. Last winter, I got a really harsh rejection letter that bothered me for months. I think I will post in the future about that experience, but for now I want to focus on the enjoyment of having that moment when the conversation changes. Most writers know what I’m talking about. The conversation usually goes went like this:

Other person: So you are a writer? Can I read some of your work?

Me: Well, I’m not published yet.

Now the conversation goes like this:

Other person: So you are a writer? Can I read some of your work?

Me: Yes, I have a story out (insert name of publication here).

And that, folks, feels pretty damn good.

What’s Your Goal?

I’ve been thinking about goals. Maybe because I’m less than a year from graduating. I find myself googling various writers to see what comes next. I said to myself, a few times over the summer, that I won’t know what to do in a year. I’m so used to the routine of work, school, home. Again in less than a year, I’ll be back to pre-2011 me. A me that took vacations and traveled!

Oh, and I had disposable income!

Recently I found this article by Tobias Buckell. In it, he details the difference between goals and milestones. In a nutshell, goals are things you can control. Milestones just happen. I really love this way of thinking and it is helping me put things into perspective. I reread my goals for the year and I realize I am going about them in a wrong way.

My goal should not be to be published. Being published is a milestone. My goal should be to mail out the story twenty times (or more)before I give up and bury it in the trunk. I have no control over editors and what they will buy. But I do have control over my stories. So, I write the best story I can, polish it up, and send it out into the world. That’s what I always do and that’s what I will continue to do.

This can also apply to other things in life. Instead of a goal to lose 100lbs in a year, you could say the goal is to exercise 5 days a week. Who knows if you can even lose that kind of weight in a year. But if you make the commitment to eat your veggies, lay off the sugar, and move your body, you can see some changes. Forget the number, that is a milestone. Aim for the things you can control.

So next January, I’ll think long and hard about my goals. I’ll aim for things I can control. I’m already thinking of the One Year, One Hundred Rejections challenge that was popular a few years ago. Poets employed this method, but I wonder what that would be like for a writer of a longer form. At the very least, it will make me more productive and more aggressive with submissions.

Still writing my own September challenge, but we’ll see where the chips lay in a few days. Until then, think of your own goals and where you want to be. A friend said, “Everyone should have a goal in life.” It can be as simple or abstract as you like, but I think you should have something.

Books that Inspire Me #1

Slipstream Anthology

In the fall of 2004, I sat in a small annex room at George Mason University, waiting for a panel discussion on speculative writers who cross genres to begin. It was the only panel I made a point to see (although I did stick around for a couple other panels on science fiction writing). The panel consisted of John Kessel, Gregory Frost, and Michael Swanwick. Kim Stanley Robinson sat in the back, along with a smattering of college students and adults. I suppose it wasn’t a popular topic. This was years before The Road, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and dozens of other books and movies that infuse speculative elements became popular. Don’t get me wrong, scifi movies and books were still popular, but the idea that they could be more than a scifi book was not yet embraced. At least, it didn’t seem that way to me.

And that is why I was interested in this panel. It was sort of a moment happening when scifi authors were breaking out. The attitude seemed to be Yes this is a story about witches and warlocks, but look, I can make it about love, ambition, life, death, etc. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods arrived a few years earlier critical acclaim. Conjunctions 39: New Wave Fabulists also, got a nice mention and when I look through it now, I see quite a few writers who are still popular, such as Kelly Link, Nalo Hopkinson, and China Miéville. This panel address a growing wave that now looks so natural.

It was a good discussion and the big take away I got from it, was not that crossing genres was a new technique. That had been done for centuries. Instead it was that writers were doing this on purpose and people now noticed this phenomena. John Kessel also mentioned that he had put together an anthology that showcased many of these writers. A few months later, I bought it.

I have mentioned this book before. The stories contained are fantastic and sometimes I find myself rereading them and getting the same enjoyment. In March 3013 I reread “Bright Morning” and rediscovered a beautiful, inspiring story. This collection makes me want to right smart, ambitious stories. After reading, I want to push myself, because good stories aren’t just thought up in the air. They are crafted, carefully in my mind. (Other writers may create differently.) After so many years of writing, I realize that I’ll never run out of ideas, but an idea is not a story. This collection shows me how an idea can grow into a great story.

Also, I don’t think my reading habits have changed much. To this day, Amazon will still recommend this book when I log in.

Halfway Point — Short Story September 2014

Well, I’m half way through the month and my personal challenge (dubbed Short Story September). So far things are going really well. I finished two fiction pieces, and, for an added bonus, I also wrote an essay. Yes, I dipped my toe back into non-fiction. For those that haven’t read my bio page, I wrote an on-line column years ago. It was fun, but sucked a lot of time and I eventually quit to devote more time to my fiction writing. I don’t regret the move, but every now and then I want to venture back. I think that is why I started this blog.

So to recap, I finished three pieces so far this month. That makes my total for the year to 6. I’m behind my goal for writing a new piece every month (I should have nine by now.), but I think my work output is getting better. Considering that I still am in grad school, working full time, and writing a longer piece, I’m feeling pretty positive.

At the end of the month, I’ll tally all the stories and books I read for the year.

What I Got From the Bookstore – Summer 2014

Since we all agree that my goal not to buy books was a silly, dumb goal, I decided to share a few of the books it picked up this summer. Wit the exception of Long Hidden, I bought all of these at second-hand stores. That is my favorite place to go to look for books. Sure it would be easier to just order from Amazon, but the hunt is part of the fun. Plus, most used stores price all of their books the same. So my Neil Gaiman was only $2.

And I didn’t have to pay for shipping.

First up is Stardust, by Neil Gaiman. I have never read this one, so this was a nice find.

Books Summer 2014 006

Next is an anthology, The Norton Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery. This anthology has a selection of short stories from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I feel like this is a textbook I would’ve gotten in a class (if I had a science fiction class). Still it’s a nice shelf book that I can dip into every now and then.

Books Summer 2014 004

The next book As She Climbed Across the Table is from one of my favorite writers — Jonathan Lethem. I remember a friend mentioning this story to me years ago, but I never got around to reading it. So glad I finally found a copy. I’ve read many of his short stories, but I haven’t gotten to his novels. Looking forward to reading this one.

Books Summer 2014 002

This next one, I can’t read right away. Why? Because it is Book 2 of a trilogy. Still, I wanted to get something by David Anthony Durham, since I collect minority scifi. I might have to hit up Amazon for the first one.

Books Summer 2014 001

And finally, this last one, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, I had to order from Amazon. It was published earlier this year and when it popped up on my Amazon recommended list, I jumped on it. I remembered the call for submissions, but I didn’t have anything available to submit. I hope there are more in the future.

Books Summer 2014 003

So far this fall is looking quiet. Margaret Atwood has a new book coming out in a week or so. I will be getting that (of course), but nothing else is grabbing me. However, I glanced at Locus magazines forthcoming list and let’s just say February 2015 is very exciting.

Short Story September is going well. Writing like crazy. Also stay tuned because I have some very exciting news coming down the pike.

 

Short Story September Challenge 2014

I’m starting my own challenge this month. Since my goal for the year was to write a new story every month, I know I have fallen behind. So far this year, I have only written three new stories. I realize that I need to step up my game. Therefore for the month of September I will write a new story every week. I’m calling it – Short Story September. If can write more, I will, but I think one a week is a good goal. That will bring my total up to seven for the year.

I spent a good part of August working on my longer piece, which might be a novella. I’m still not done, but pretty far along. I think I will be done by the end of the year.

Still no word from any of the stories I have out at markets right now. A few said I should hear from them by the end of August, but I’m not really focused on getting responses back on time. I have sent them my best and all I can do it hope the various editors like the stories. Plus I’d rather hear a delayed “yes” than a quick “no.”

I am also about the start my last elective class for grad school. After this class, it’s thesis. In July I pulled my four best stories that will become my thesis. Two are in very good shape and might need only small edits. One is about 60% and I am working on right now. Another needs a major overhaul, but I won’t start that until October. It is a tough story, because it is not the typical type of story I tell. I really took a risk with this story, and so I want to take my time rewriting. A draft of my thesis is due the first week of class, so there is no grace period. You show up and work. No excuses.

In case you were wondering, yes I work on multiple projects at the same time. I usually have a couple longer pieces that I work on here and there, one active short story that I am starting, and one story I am revising, all going on at the same time. That doesn’t even count the work I have to do for class. From what I’ve read, some of my other friends are the same. They work on one thing for a majority of the time, but when they want a break they write something else. I guess I’ve never been a person who can focus on one thing for a long period of time.

In hindsight, this was a very productive summer. More so than last year. At some point I will post my total word count in new fiction for the year, but that won’t be until December.

Happy Fall Everyone!