Thursday, February 28, 2013

Accepted into a Big Pulp anthology!

In the first bit of publishing, as opposed to self-publishing (including the "Project Mayhem" anthology) to come around this blog since its inception, I've gotten a short story accepted into a Big Pulp.  Pretty happy about that.

Although now that I think about it I've also got one in Martin Ingham's forthcoming Temporal Element anthology, and that's pretty cool, too.  Ingham was the host of last summer's Shootout, one of the infamous writing exercises that caused me some misery in 2012.  The Shootout's winner in fact was the first story accepted into Temporal Element.  After swallowing my pride, I decided to write another story for him, and then rewrote it, and had it accepted.  I've done an interview for him as part of the run-up to publication, and will let you know when that appears.  The other thing I owe Ingham is the inspiration to do "Project Mayhem" in the first place.  His Curse of Selwood was scheduled to be the next book published by the company that would have released my own Yoshimi (as a reminder, I'll be releasing that myself in the coming months through installments), and when that company fell apart, he decided to set up his own label, and that's where Element where come from.  I took his idea as a sign that maybe I ought to look into that sort of thing myself, although my efforts are far less official (he has a website for Martinus, I have a link here for the Mouldwarp Press Presents series, which includes details on the next anthology, "Song Remains the Same").

Big Pulp is pretty big, though.  I have no personal connection to these guys, so that's one of the reasons why I'm proud to have been accepted into the forthcoming Kennedy Curse anthology.  I was born almost twenty years after JFK's assassination, but for some reason he's always loomed as a pretty major figure in my life.  Fun fact!  My mother once made a robe for him.  No kidding!  The anthology covers the whole family, which has had a series of tragedies affect it over the years.  My entry, "The Cuban Exile Crisis," will also be the first official publication (i.e. by someone other than me) of the Space Corps saga, so that's another reason I'm excited and proud to have accomplished this.  I'm getting paid for this one, a free's like someone thinks I'm a real boy!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Am I a Hobby Writer?

I have to wonder, am I a hobby writer?

Recently I went into a funk after failing to secure successful bids in a couple writing contests, one for Top Cow comics and another for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel, where I didn't make it past the first round.  I've been trying to break into comics for years, and Modern Ark, the novel I submitted to Amazon's contest, has been the source of my most sustained effort to be accepted by actual publishers.  Admittedly, it's an incredibly tricky book, a literary jumble really, something I was incredibly proud to write but probably looks at the very least convoluted to anyone looking for something with obviously broad appeal.

The other reason the funk happened is that I haven't written a word of my WIP since last year, and for a number of reasons, including the fact that financially I've been on a slippery slope since Borders closed in the fall of 2011, and I've been feeling panicky for months now, trying to secure a better employment position and failing miserably.  That's pretty much the mode I've been in since Borders, actually, so there are bound to be moments where it feels overwhelming.

A lot of the writing I've done has been where I've been in a more secure situation.  The lone exception was just after Borders closed, when I was completely unemployed for four months, and I wrote Yoshimi Trilogy.  It's much more difficult, apparently, to write with what for all intents and purposes is a part-time job.  Throughout 2013 so far I've been getting very few hours, which at least in theory would have been fantastic as far as using the time to finish the first draft of the WIP, but I ended up spending a lot of time job-hunting, and blogging.  I love blogging, otherwise I wouldn't do it, but there are times that I wonder if it gets in my way.

That and doubts.  I know I've stumbled into a community with a whole Insecure Writers thing every month, and I've never taken part in it.  Sometimes it just seems as if the whole community spends all its time supporting each other, not really reading each other so much as, well, supporting each other, and it can get a little annoying.  But I get my doubts, and the recent failures gave me pause.  A great big pause, because I don't like failure any more than the next guy, and sometimes it seems as if failure is all I ever really experience, and I wonder, what's the point?  I've now written a number of manuscripts, and last year the one book I had a contract with a publisher to have released by someone other than me ended up losing its home.  Earlier this month I salvaged some of my self-esteem with the Project Mayhem anthology, and...I'm not sure, but I guess I'll just have to accept it as a personal accomplishment, because I just don't have the ability to see it go much further than that.  I thought maybe the contributors would have been a little more excited about it, or have more or better connections than I do, or maybe they were all thinking the same about me.  Well, unfortunately that simply isn't the case.

And so it makes me go back to something I said in a book review I did earlier this year for someone in my blogging circle.  I called them a hobby writer.  I'm not sure, but I think they might have taken offense to that.  So what exactly is a hobby writer?

As opposed to writers who feel it in their bones, hobby writers write because they feel like it, because they always thought it was a really good idea.  They have ideas, but they don't have inspiration.  What I mean is they can come up with ideas.  Any writer needs ideas, and obviously every writer works with ideas, the whole point of being a writer is that you feel compelled to write about your ideas.  A hobby writer stops at that level.  They don't particularly know or care to develop their own specific voice.  They believe that their ideas are enough.  It's not really about the words that shape the ideas, it's just a compulsion to write.  They add to the catalog of stories but they don't necessarily add to the canon of books.  Their work is disposable, essentially, something that will entertain people who exist at the time the writer is living, releasing their material, but will be forgotten utterly and completely in the years to come.

This is not about popularity.  Popularity is a shifting phenomenon.  Something that's wildly popular one day can and will be completely forgotten the next.  Transcendent writing of any nature whether in books or songs or movies, endures, can and will be rediscovered and recognized for what it is, not the work of the writer but a story that seems to exist on its own merit.  I tend to think true writers can work in this mode on a consistent basis.  Hobby writers, then, are the ones who don't.  They are and always will be sustained on a basis of being known as someone who writes.  The others are known because of the stories they've written.

As a blogger, as someone who actively blogs about writing, I wonder if I'm a hobby writer.  Do I in fact write stories that exist to say that I'm a writer or do the stories exist that reveal me as a writer?  More and more I've been thinking of self-publishing as a way to conclude this once and for all.  In the days and weeks and months to follow, I think I'll be self-publishing a lot more material.  I'll start with Yoshimi Trilogy.  I've been telling you a lot about the Space Corps saga, and that of course is the subject of the WIP I hope to finish as a draft relatively soon (I've only had a third to go since December), but Yoshimi Trilogy represents a different kind of iconic story for me, something uncomplicated, which I can release as a series.

Yes, it seemed that as soon as I released Project Mayhem I dropped off the face of the earth, certainly here on this particular blog, and now I'll be spending time here talking about a different project, then another, then another...To me, it's weird, but then I haven't spent a lot of time talking about myself as a writer, really only when I was doing NaNoWriMo circa 2004-2006.  Hopefully when I'm finished, and maybe this will take all of 2013 and maybe longer, I'll have an answer to my question and maybe put it all behind me.  We'll see.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Seventy-One and Counting" from Project Mayhem

As those who read this blog may know by now, my first anthology as a solo editor, Mouldwarp Press Presents #1 "Project Mayhem" was released last week.  I mentioned that my own contribution, "Seventy-One and Counting," and I figured I'd share it with you (one out of fifteen micro fiction stories shouldn't spoil too much):

From the files of Nigel Wolfe:
The crew of the Laramee had been subsisting on tasteless rations and equally uninspiring fish on the small rocky island off the coast of Maine for weeks.  Some of them were convinced that it had been months.  They’d had no contact with the outside world in that time.  The Calamity was still going on around them, but it no longer felt real.  The only thing that was real to them now was basic survival instinct, a weird perversion of what the rest of humanity was feeling.
     J came to them as if by some miracle.  Her small craft hovered into the same sand that had been cooking the heels of their feet.  Today we know J as the founder of our covert operations, but at that time she was just another member of the resistance against the Danab invasion.
     She took a measured path to the crew’s rescue.  If they were brought back too quickly, it would be a greater shock than anything they had so far endured.  There were six of them, six survivors, and not one of them knew that in the time they had been away, humanity’s fortunes had drastically improved, the intervention of the greater galactic community finally come.
     Yet J’s plan crumbled the moment she could no longer hide her own illness from them.  The crew recognized it and took her into their own.  She thought she’d failed them, but they proved her wrong.
     The crew brought J home.
So, not too long.  It's part of my Space Corps saga, as I said before.  I've been writing a lot of short stories based on it in recent days, most recently a submission to Big Pulp, and for some reason I keep revisiting the same time period, which hasn't until now actually been featured other than in my own personal timelines, the big conflict known as the first Danab War, when humans not only enter the intergalactic community for the first time thanks to an apocalyptic invasion, but meet the foes featured prominently in Seven Thunders (my WIP) and a few other books in the developing saga.

"Seventy-One and Counting," including the title, is exactly 250 words, meaning that you shouldn't expect any story to take longer to read than that in Project Mayhem.  It's a short anthology filled with extremely short stories, but with some really good writing.  Feel free to avail yourself of the pertinent link of your choosing on the right to get yourself a copy.  The paperback's really cheap, because it's such a small book, and the ebook is the minimum that Kindle allowed me to price it.  I'll be having a number of free promotional days in the months to come, but don't wait around for them!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Project Mayhem roll-out continues!

Mouldwarp Press Presents #1: Project Mayhem is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.  I couldn't be more proud about the anthology.  When the Dead Letter Quarterly debacle unraveled in 2007/2008, I was pretty humiliated personally.  I was one of three editors in the start-up literary journal, and took great pride in providing feedback to everyone who submitted to us, whether or not we accepted them into the subsequently nonexistent first issue.  Years later, I had another look at the stories I personally edited, and now am almost glad that the venture fizzled, because I was no longer happy with my efforts in that regard, so it was a personal redemption to get that part right with Project Mayhem, especially since I had eleven other contributors to account for, regardless of how long the stories were.  In the end I ended up retyping each of the stories, just to make sure I was perfectly happy with the end results.  It was another triumph just to get the thing released, closing the loop of a disappointment that I felt not only for myself but for everyone who'd been accepted into DLQ.

Aside from PT Dilloway and Christy Wiabel (a member in good standing of the WriteClubCo that I've previously written about), I didn't know any of the contributors to Project Mayhem prior to last December, when the submission period originally opened.  Dana Jerman contributed the most stories, three in all, and prior to her I hadn't even considered that anyone would do that.  Dave Elsensohn gave me two as well as the cracked concrete photo (the crack is visible behind the yellow box with the title in it, and is the most obvious indication of where the title "Project Mayhem" came from, other than a response to the WRiTE CLUB exercise last summer) that's the background image on the cover.  Every one of the writers in the anthology has earned my everlasting gratitude.

And for anyone who doesn't know where "Project Mayhem" actually comes from, it's Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, which was later adapted into a David Fincher movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.  It's what Pitt (who's really Norton) is up to besides the eponymous club, urban anarchy that probably wouldn't have been possible after 9/11 as a pop culture event.

I'm not really up to describing the origins and background to anyone else's story (although if they want to share, feel free to, assuming any of you follow this blog), but "Seventy-One and Counting" works two ways.  Personally, it's a tribute to my mother, who turned 71 yesterday, an achievement considering she's been battling advanced-stage cancer for two years now, as well as a piece of Space Corps history.  Space Corps, you'll remember, is my science fiction saga, the subject of my current WIP, Seven Thunders, and what I've dedicated 2013 to advancing as a reality in my fiction writing activities.

The story is based on a crucial period of Space Corps lore, although one that heretofore had not really been visible in my stories, and is notably absent from any of the seven other books that will follow Seven Thunders.  It's the story of the first Danab War, the version of the classic alien invasion story that's most relevant to the Space Corps saga, how humanity first battled the Danab, a prequel of sorts to the conflict at the center of Seven Thunders.  It also features the first print reference to the Space Corps covert division, which plays a huge role in A Tremor of Bones, which is the fourth book in the cycle.

Anyway, I don't want to make it sound like my contribution is the only one of note.  Project Mayhem is a small (42 pages in print) anthology packed with big goodness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Project Mayhem

Project Mayhem is now available from CreateSpace (with expanded availability to be rolled out in coming days from Amazon and Kindle ebook format)!

This is something I'm incredibly proud about.  I've been involved in literary journals in the past, one that I worked on in college and another that aborted before its first issue was released five years ago, but this is the first time that I've been solely responsible for such a project.  "Project Mayhem" is the first in a series of literary anthologies that will carry the umbrella title Mouldwarp Press Presents, made possible by the free publishing services under the Amazon family, which I've now used for a few of my own titles.  I earned a Bachelor's Degree in English a decade ago, but I haven't been able to use it in any professional capacity.  This is a first step, taking control of an entire publishing venture with all my accumulated skills and experience.

Part of what that means is that I'm interested in asserting my ongoing perspective on the art of writing, something that became more of a priority following several experiences last year when I participated in exercises under other emerging creators.  Storytelling is a curious ambition in today's age.  It's become one of the vanguards of the social movement.  Anyone who wants to participate can, with very little regulation.  This can sometimes mean that quality means less than quantity.  While "Project Mayhem" features micro fiction, that's not exactly what I mean.  In the forward to the anthology, I reference writers being needy, and what I mean by that is writers writing simply for the sake of writing, which leads to a lot of stories that don't feature a lot of finely honed craft behind them.  I'm not talking about editing, but rather writers who dive into writing without giving much thought to the form, and readers who are totally forgiving, because it's not the form or the craft that they're supporting but the writer.

The whole point of "Project Mayhem" and its micro fiction format was my theory that with a limited word count (an average of 250 per story), the writer would be forced to examine their approach far more than their peers typically do as they look for length rather than quality in the resulting work.  They look at the words, yes, but also the arc, which are both far easier to control when you're working with a limited word count.  It's the first step to getting writers to concentrate in general far more than can sometimes happen.  When I published Monorama last year, it was the culmination of a period where I wrote dozens of short stories like what's featured in "Project Mayhem," slightly longer but in the same spirit, just getting to the essence rather than concentrating on length.  I think it made me a better writer.  It certainly made me a different writer, one who was more comfortable pursuing his own instincts, his own voice, rather than following expected rules.

Because there are no rules in fiction.  Anyone who tells you there are is only repeating what someone else told them.  Hearsay doesn't equal fact.  And in fiction, especially in fiction, if you aren't following your own muse, then you aren't really writing your own stories.  You're doing a version of someone else's, which in a sense is fine.  If it's the story that's similar to what someone else has done, then you're following a fine tradition (and priming yourself for "Song Remains the Same," the second Mouldwarp Press Presents anthology).  But if it's the writing, then what've you really got?  If you can't find your own voice, then you're sabotaging the story, and without the story, fiction is pretty much worthless.

Fiction can interpret storytelling in so many ways.  Too many writers don't really consider the possibilities.  "Project Mayhem" ended up drawing a lot of unique perspectives, which I was incredibly gratified to compile into the resulting anthology.  You can worry about the state of storytelling like me, or simply enjoy the stories in this collection.  Either way, I hope I've made a worthwhile contribution, and would again like to thank
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...