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What the hell did I just do?

I have no idea what I’m doing. I am attempting to do two things. One, learn how to use and write in Scrivener. I’ve heard so many great things about it. It sounds wonderful. It’s probably really easy to use. But, I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to anything more complicated than your basic email. Okay, I’m a little better than that, but, geez, it’s painful. It takes me forever to get a handle on something. So, this is me entering in what I’ve got written so far for the second Stevenson book, and kind of/sort of using the synopsis cards and comments and whatnot, so I can look at and really verify the rest of my outline works. This I usually do with a pencil and paper, which works fine. But a pencil and paper doesn’t, in the end, give you a supposedly easily-compiled MS to simply turn into whatever e-publishing file you need for whatever platform you want. That was the real selling point for me. Using Scrivener, right now, is less about the writing and more about the end result once it’s ready to go out into the world. I guess I’m hoping it’ll be good for the writing, too. If I can figure out how it works, as I work it. (Yes, I went through the tutorial. My brain, though, is like a sieve.)

The second thing I’m trying to do is set things up in order to build an email list of potential readers, so I can, well, let them know I have stuff for them to read. I just spent a half-hour trying to figure out MailChimp and how to get that going on my WordPress site. I have failed. And I am not a fraction of an inch closer to having any idea as to how to do anything in terms of that particular goal. *sigh* These are the days I really wish I could conceptualize this kind of stuff, you know, easily, in my head, like some folks seem to be able to do. For me, it’s a huge effort that requires going over and over and over something until it eventually clicks in some small way, and then following that way, painstakingly slowly, until I get to the end. It’s like reading instructions in another language I have just a rudimentary understanding of. If you want an idea as to how hard it was for me to earn that goddamn MFA, just imagine what I just described spread over six years, 24-7. No wonder my thyroid exploded.

I’ll get it, though. Goddamn it.

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This was an actual break in writing.

I should probably not swear in blog titles, right? That’s a “don’t” in blogging, I think. Well…whatever…

About three months ago, just after my little episode, I wrote a 66k-page novel in just under 2 1/2 weeks. Despite being manic, pharmaceutically fucked up, and emotionally-driven to do it, the revision process (or, the editing-in-order-to-do-a-proper-revision process) revealed that it’s actually pretty decent. But I still need to actually do the revision. At this point, facing it seems too difficult, considering the conditions under which it was written. I just need some time away from it, but hopefully not too long. It’s practically finished. I know what the cover will look like. If I sucked it up and worked hard, I could put it out next month.

But I’m not going to do that. It’s just too hard, even if the story itself is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written.

But I do have a MS that is all ready to go. Here is something I’ve learned about myself: I really have no patience, and by that, I mean, I have no patience with the publishing submission process–certainly in terms of novels. Short stories–I would just sort of send it off and forget about it until the rejection/acceptance email. Not usually something I get bunched up about. Though, short stories aren’t really my thing, I realize. This I’ve learned. I write long. It takes a real effort on my part to keep short stories, well, short, and frankly, that cramps my style. Fucks up the flow. It just isn’t where I’m going when I sit down to write, and the end result, to me, always feels stilted. Sitting down and trying to tell the story I want to tell in the way I need to tell it, while trying to keep it 3k words or fewer–you know, if I ever want to see it published, which is sort of the end goal, really–it’s a pain in the ass. So…novels. Maybe novellas, I haven’t really tried that yet.

That’s not to say I write long novels. I don’t. As far as novels go, they’re fairly short, falling between 60k-70k words. That seems to be my sweet spot. And no, they’re not the 100k+ monstrosities some folks like to churn out, but despite my tendency to go on, I do also know when to edit myself. So, mine lean short. But they’re still work. They’re still often difficult to get out. I outline like a crazy person, so I cut down as much “writer’s block” as possible, but still. It’s work.

So, when an agent sits on it for 6+ months, or a press for even longer, with no word…I mean, what the fuck, folks? I know you’re busy and all. I do. But the MS I have right now, that’s all finished and ready to be read–I finished it more than three years ago. And I understand and am fine with rejection. But…tell me, right?

I’ve considered resubmitting it elsewhere. But I kind of know how these things work. We all do. It enters the slushpile and it sits there. And sits there. And sits there. And that’s sort of wasting my time. And here’s the thing, and this is going to sound egotistical, but since ego has been in such short supply for me these days, I’m just going to let it rip. The book is good. I read through it and even I–who is the very last person to give myself any credit for just about anything–even I have to say, hey, it’s good. It’s a good book. I did a damn good job with it. So, I’m not waiting for some gatekeeper to give their blessings. Especially with the industry as it is nowadays anyway.

There’s the self-publishing stigma, but really, who gives a shit? How can I possibly give a shit? Will published authors look down on me? Sure, but, you know what? I’m an editor. I’ve read some of their submitted, unpublished work, and guess what: A lot of it is crap. Not all, but a lot. There, I said it. And there are Stoker award winners I’ve started and just couldn’t get past the first fifteen pages because, Holy Christ, where was the editor? Who on earth accepted this for publication? (And yeah, it kind of makes me wonder what the fuck goes on there over at the Stokers). So, do I really need to be worried about what published authors will think of my self-published book? I’m leaning heavily toward “no.” All I guess I could say to them is, “read it.” Yeah, I’m actually that confident with this one.  “Read it and then come back and tell me it’s crap.” This one, at least. We’ll see what happens after it, but this one is good. It’s better than good.

And, I’m pushing 42 years old–I don’t really feel like waiting to find just the right publisher who thinks it fits their general marketing strategy, which, let’s face it, is never much to begin with. Again, I know. I edit. I publish. I do have a pretty fair idea how micro-small-to-medium presses function. And the way I see it, the only thing I have to gain with a publisher is “cred.” The rest of the work is up to me. I know what it takes to publish a book. I have enough experience in both traditional publishing and print-on-demand to not fuck this up too badly. So, basically, I can do what a publisher would do for me, work wise. Otherwise, the work is the same. If I published with someone else, I’d still be doing the bulk of the promotion and whatnot, if not all of it. I’m not bagging on presses…this is what it is when you either don’t have the budget, or you don’t know how to use your budget. Shit happens. Things are what they are. But I just don’t have the patience for the time it takes to deal with all that shit when the reward is so minuscule. The fact is that I could likely do just as well self-publishing, or better. Yes, it’s work, but it’s nothing I don’t do already anyway, so, again, it comes down to respectability and pub street cred.

So…fuck it. I’m no longer tying myself to this dying industry just because I’m a-scared of what anyone thinks–writers, editors, publishers, reviewers, etc. The times, they are a-changing, some douchebag once said. Other than myself. So, watch this space.

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Here’s me in a sweet-ass Rush shirt being all like, “Fuck it.”

The novel in question is the Robert Louis Stevenson werewolf piece I blogged about here forever ago. Yes, it’s a historical mystery horror novel. Tough to categorize, but still not unusual. I’ll eventually get around to revising the one I crapped out a few months ago. That is a somewhat bizarro adventure/love story involving meth labs, dildos, and extreme social anxiety. And the WIP, thus far, seems to be indescribable (I need to work on that). But it’s about a group of people set in the factual town of my upbringing, Fairchance, Pa. The main throughline character is a black albino former mortician named Ludlow. There’s death and ghosts. There’s child molestation and burning buildings. There’s religious fanaticism and explosions. I’ve been working on it on and off since about 2008, but I’m coming up on finishing it, finally. Then revision, but that generally goes pretty quickly. I think it’s more literary in terms of the writing and maybe the subject matter, but, again, I’m shit with that sort of thing. I appreciate labels and genres–they’re obviously helpful. But I kind of write what I write and unless I make a real effort to fit a certain genre, it can really be anything. I gave an large chunk of it to a writer whom I respect greatly and he liked it a lot, so, I’m pretty confident about this one, too. But, in time. It’ll get done.

I’m looking to get these three books out before the end of the year. Maybe more. I do have some fairly lengthy outlines sitting around and being tinkered with. We’ll see. So, here we go…

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In addition to the 13,600 words I already have written, I now have eight pages of handwritten notes to bring my story to probably a little past the halfway point. This part is based on Stevenson’s The Amateur Emigrant and Across the Plains, through which I’ve read and marked up considerably. Now that I’m plotted up to that point, I’m sitting down with two books: Silverado Squatters (with which the story will end), and Alexandra LePierre’s A Romance of Destiny: Fanny Stevenson (which is a terrible title). The Fanny bio should balance out what I’ve read about her in various RLS bios, as her character, good or bad, is famously (in some circles) debated. Ha…I realize I’ve given myself three days to do this. But Squatters is fairly short, and I only need to read the Fanny bio up until the point that she marries Stevenson and they go off on their honeymoon. I probably won’t make it, but that’s okay. I have more than enough to start writing on October 1st.

Here’s my plan. I’m writing at least 2,500-3,000 words every day of the month of October (except my birthday, the 18th, and Halloween). I have enough notes and enough plotted out to keep me well busy at least until my birthday, so when I’m not writing, I can finish up this reading and making the notes for plotting forward. By the time I take a day’s break and turn 40 (really? Really.), I’ll be set to finish up writing the final 3rd of the book. I expect to have a first draft (75,000-85,000 words, 20,000 words longer than the first novel) by the day before Halloween (celebration/party time).

I think maybe it sounds like a lot, or pretty ambitious, but remember I already have the thing started. Plus, there’s actually a lot of built-in wriggle room in terms of word count every day. Technically, with what I already have, if I wrote 3,000 words for 29 days, I’d end up with 100,600 words. And I don’t even want it that long. So, yes, wiggle room. Though, with the notes I’m making, I might very well write 3,000 every day. Maybe more, depending on the day and how I’m feeling. I’ve got my notes so that, at any given point, there’s room for change–freedom to be spontaneously creative–but basically there’s really no way I can get stuck.

I realized the other day that November is NaNoWriMo, and I’m a month early. I’ve always meant to do one, to officially complete it and blah, blah, blah. But oh well…I’m ready to get going on this. I’m not waiting a whole other month just to take part in what I should be doing a few times a year. Am I right, writers? 😉

So, yes. We’re just about ready to get going on this again. October, look out. Age 40, look out. 2014, I’m not leaving you until I have another novel fairly well written. At least a second draft. Then I’ll be looking for beta readers in 2015. Any takers? =)

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BeastGevaudan1For this was the land of the ever-memorable Beast, the Napoleon Bonaparte of wolves. What a career was his! He lived ten months at free quarters in Gévaudan and Vivarais; he ate women and children and “shepherdesses celebrated for their beauty”; he pursued armed horsemen; he has been seen at broad noonday chasing a post-chaise and outrider along the king’s high-road, and chaise and outrider fleeing before him at the gallop. He was placarded like a political offender, and ten thousand francs were offered for his head. And yet, when he was shot and sent to Versailles, behold! a common wolf, and even small for that.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

I just finished yet another revision of this story, the title of which has been changed a hundred times and, at this point, stands at The Wolves of Gévaudan (still not satisfactory). Although I am leaving for a week-long mindfulness retreat at the Blue Cliff Monastery from September 10th-18th, I still have a few days to work on the second Stevenson novel I’ve got in my head. It’s sort of in my head.

While Wolves is basically set against the template of RLS’s Travels with a Donkey Through the Cévennes, this second story will follow Louis to America–this time I’m using The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains, and The Silverado Squatters. Right now, I’m just figuring out the timeline, which characters I want to use and how I want to use them. In this book, we will actually meet Fanny Osbourne, so I’m thinking a little extra reading is in order. I think my favorite part of writing something like this is all the research/reading associated with it.

So, last time we had werewolves (and you really can’t go wrong with werewolves). This time, I think I’m going to be exploring a variety of geography-dependent folklore. Who’s with me?

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Well, we’ve moved into the new house, and so far, it’s been great. There’s still a ton to do, but now that we’re here and don’t have to drive three hours every day, it makes it a lot easier to keep up with, oh, I dunno, the rest of my life.

Update-wise, I suppose the biggest update is that I’m no longer with Nightscape Press. We gave it about six months or so and concluded that our approaches/style/technique–whatever you want to call it–just wasn’t meshing. Which was entirely a possibility. If you’ve never really worked together in that capacity, you don’t know until you do it, and really, I think we’re all glad we discovered and acknowledged it sooner rather than later. Something like that can stretch out and then grind ugly until everything just shits the bed. This way, everyone’s still friends and no one’s feelings got hurt. I sincerely wish Nightscape all the best, and you can bet you’ll still see me posting about their new releases and such here.

Despumation, my metal fiction journal, has been going great. Now that things have settled down a bit and time has opened up, I’m getting back to reading submissions and doing what I need to do there. That’s really going to pick up in the next couple of weeks. I’m expecting to get some author interviews up on the site, so definitely look for links to those here when that happens.

HoWCrownToday, actually, I managed to finish a couple of big projects. First, I finished a first pass of Mara Valderran’s Heirs of War: Crown of Thorns. I edited Mara’s first in this series, Heirs of War. She’s been lovely to work with–the ideal editor’s writer. She doesn’t take edits personally and understands that I’m not trying to pick on her–we’re all here for the same thing: to make this book the best book it can be. And I think the reason she doesn’t take it personally is, frankly, because she’s knows who’s really in charge. It’s her. I think some writers forget that sometimes. I’m not her publisher; I’m her editor. She can tell me to hit the road whenever she wants. The other thing, too, is that…Mara’s a pro. If she’s got a weakness, she faces it head on and works to strengthen it. And her strengths, she works to make stronger. If you’re not doing that as a writer, you may as well pack it in. So, I’m glad, today, to have gotten to a point where this book is one step closer to getting into the hands of the readers Mara attracted with her first book (Mara is a marketing machine). You can expect to see this available October 13.

LNWYWSThe second project I finished today was an illustration that will accompany a piece in Michelle Kilmer’s upcoming collection of short stories, flash fiction, and poems, Last Night While You Were Sleeping (Michelle gives it a mention here, among other things–go look at what she’s got going on). Look at that cover–isn’t it lovely? I love it. She’s got a good eye, and I’m excited to see/read this when it comes out on October 31st in paperback.

I’m most excited, though, about returning to my own writing. I’ve got a few plans for the first Stevenson novel that I can’t really go into right now, but once that ball is rolling, I’m so very ready to get back to writing the second Stevenson novel. *taps head* Most of it’s up here. Most of it. Well, some of it, but most of the general idea–where it’s going. Up in the ol’ noggin’. And now I’ve got a little time to get back to the 13,600 words that have been sitting lonely, waiting, waiting…I’m coming, Louis. I’m coming. Keep yer ‘stache on.

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Yea, yes, I know–how am I supposed to build a effective author platform if I never update my blog? I know. I won’t. And so, yes, I must update this more often. But I’ve had a good excuse, at least. I have been stupid busy. Agh, I know, aren’t we all? We are all so very, very busy. Okay. Okay! I suck. That is my excuse. I suck. But I have been busy. Really.

Well, I’ll start with my biggest and most exciting news.

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After much thought and negotiations, I have joined Robert Shane Wilson and Jennifer Wilson as a partner/editor over at Nightscape Press, for whom I had been doing some editing work. This is an exciting opportunity and I’m very much looking forward to working with them and helping make NSP the best little genre press out there. And, let’s face it, they’re already pretty great. They got two nominations and one win for a Stoker in Best First Novel last year, and this year they’ve (we’ve?) got another nomination in the same category. Stephen Graham Jones’s “Interstate Love Affair” (from NSP’s Three Miles Past) won This Is Horror’s 2013 Short Fiction of the Year last month. Must be doing something right.

So, that’s big news.

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I’m also pulling things together for the first issue of Despumation, which is shaping up nicely. As of today, I have a bunch of submissions to read through. I am expecting to have enough stories accepted to be able to roll them over into the second issue, which is nice. I’m still working on some interior artwork, and the photo I’ve got from Rachael Deacon is going to make a sweet cover, which I will preview at some point. We’re shooting for a May 30th launch date. (And hey, if you dig metal and you write, then we’re open for the upcoming issues–send that shit in).

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I’m expecting the Winter volume of the Monsters and Monstrous journal, which contains an excerpt from my Stevenson/Werewolf novel, to be out any day now. They sent me a pdf not so very long ago and it’s looking rather good. But the excitement doesn’t end there. I just got news yesterday that the conference associated with this journal, aptly named the 12th Global Conference: Monsters and the Monstrous, accepted my paper proposal! It went a little something like this:

“Mutual Monsterization and the Meaning of Monstrosity in Metal Music”

When metal music became self-aware, there existed a mutually beneficial popular-monsterization/self-monsterization relationship between the mainstream and the music: society demonized bands to maintain the status quo and bands demonized themselves to boost their popularity among those outside the status quo, sometimes as a step toward eventual integration into the mainstream. In addition, there is another, more ethereal form of self-monsterization among metal bands that derives from what could be described as the band’s initial biosphere—a combination of the music, attitude, intention, and environmental background of the band as an amalgamated functioning entity. It is this more “spiritual monstrosity” that connects fans to the music.

In the case of extreme metal, all popular- and self-monsterization is based on the bands’ musical instrumentation, vocals, lyrics, and appearance. Little-to-no attention is paid by the entertainment industry to that difficult-to-define “spiritual monstrosity.” Ultimately, in terms of financial “success” (which primarily denotes a band’s apex), the only way for an extreme metal band to “make it” is to allow itself to be scrubbed of the monstrous identity it self-generated and allow itself to be re-shaped through the PR mechanisms of their record companies in terms of what mainstream culture considers a “safe,” popular monstrosity: edgy enough to satisfy the teens who listen to it, but socially harmless enough so that authority figures don’t feel too threatened. This process seems, in all cases, to kill that core, inherent monstrosity that defines extreme metal at its elemental base, causing friction between hardcore fans and fans whose attraction to the band is based more on trendy aesthetics than the essence of that “spiritual monstrosity.” I intend to explore the struggle between these forms of monsterization in extreme metal and how they define or destroy “true” metal.

Aaaand, now I have to write it. So, there’s that and then I’m off to Oxford for it toward the end of July. It’s been a while since I’ve given an academic paper. I will try not to be too pedestrian (or throw up on myself).

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As for writing, I am slowly working on a Free Snake Poem for the soon-to-be award-winning FREE SNAKE POEMS ABOUT SNAKES event, which I regretfully cannot attend, but hope to have my free snake poem read in my absence. If you live in Pittsburgh, or near it, I strongly suggest you attend this destined-to-become-a cult event.

Otherwise, I’m working on the second Stevenson adventure novel, working toward something memoir-ish, and working on getting as many novel rejections as possible before someone finally accepts the first RLS novel. Not to mention accumulating rejections for short stories (Who’s with me? *high five!*). I have no complaints, really.

Add to this our house-hunting, the eventual pack-and-move, and then getting this place on the market ASAP. We’ve got a trip to Florida this month (oooo, in just a couple weeks, actually) and then a Danube cruise toward the end of April (both are family-visiting/spending-time-with trips). Then the Oxford trip in July (but that’s bidness). Yeah, busy. Productive, but busy. I need to update this blog more often. We’ll see about that…

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We’re about to wrap up October here in a little bit, and that means Evil Girlfriend Media‘s anthology Roms, Bombs, and Zoms will be launching. November 1st, kiddies. Think about getting your hands on it so you can read my story, The Second Battle of Gettysburg.

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Also happy to announce that Global Interdisciplinary Research Studies‘ journal, Monsters and the Monstrous, has accepted an excerpt of my novel, (tentatively titled) Of Wolves and Donkeys: RLS’s Untold Journey Through the Cevennes. From their home page:

Monsters and the Monstrous is a biannual peer reviewed global journal that serves to explore the broad concept of “The Monster” and “The Monstrous” from a multifaceted inter-disciplinary perspective. The journal publishes work that seeks to investigate and assess the enduring influence and imagery of monsters and the monstrous on human culture throughout history. In particular, the journal will have a dual focus with the intention of examining specific ‘monsters’ as well as evaluating the role, function and consequences of persons, actions or events identified as ‘monstrous’. The history and contemporary cultural influences of monsters and monstrous metaphors will also be examined.

This is very cool for a number of reasons. The first is the obvious–publishing is always a treat. But I have a special place in my heart for the M & M journal, as it is the journal that stems from the interdisciplinary conference by the same name. As a sophomore during my undergrad, I actually gave a paper at their 6th Global Conference at Oxford, under my maiden name, Meadows. That feels like an awfully long time ago, so it’s pretty neat to have a piece get into the journal all these years later. If you’d like a few samples from the novel, head on over to my Goodreads author page; I’ve got a few excerpts up.

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In terms of Despumation Press, I’ve decided (because it’s still early enough to do so) to change from book publishing to journal publishing. Although I’ve got experience with both (or maybe because I do), a literary journal is really what I need to be doing. Maybe somewhere down the line I’ll expand into books, but I’m happy and excited to put out what I hope will be a quarterly journal. I’m expecting pieces from a handful of authors whose work I’ve always admired and I expect the first issue to be rather nifty. That’s right…nifty. It’s a perfectly metal term. Okay, it’s not, but…whatever. \m/\m/ If you’re a writer and you’re reading this, please swing on by our submissions page and see if it’s something you’d like to try. In the meantime, I’m anticipating a series of ecstatic story/essay acceptance announcements in the coming weeks and months.

Otherwise, I’ve recently finished a marathon manuscript editing phase (not my work, the work of others), then took a break to take care of some things here at home that required a little time and effort (hey, I even had a birthday–hello, 39!), but today is a Me Day. I have pumpkins to carve (it’s not too late!) and some Halloweeny activities to indulge in this evening. Tomorrow, it’s back to work–on my own manuscript. And then, I don’t know, I’m toying around with maybe taking on NaNoWriMo this year. I kind of forgot about it, but I might have something rolling around up in the ol’ noggin’ that I can vomit out over the course of the next month. We’ll see…how about you? NaNoWriMo for you?

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