Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Recent Sales: Deep Cuts and Kwik Krimes

With contracts signed and such, I have two new sales to report, both to anthologies.

My horror story "Awaiting the Captain's Ghost" will be appearing in the Deep Cuts anthology. I'm excited about this for any number of reasons. First off, I really like how this story turned out and I'm glad others will have the chance to read it. Secondly, this is a print (and ebook) anthology, so I'll be able to add to my little shelf of print publications. Third, without getting into anything that might be vaguely spoilerish, this story is part of a thematically-linked set of stories I've been working on in the past year. It's the first of those to have sold. Finally, it's a pro-rate sale, which is always really cool.

The other sale is a reprint sale. "Present Company", which ran earlier this year at Every Day Fiction, will be appearing in an anthology of flash fiction mysteries. The collection, titled Kwik Krimes, is being edited by noted mystery editor Otto Penzler. Again, this was exciting for me for a whole bunch of reasons. I've read many a Penzler-edited or published book and having him choose one of my stories for selection in this anthology was a major thrill. I've also always been a real fan of collections of short-short/flash stories like Microcosmic Tales and 100 Hair-Raising Little Horror Stories (to name two which are sitting right here on my bookshelf). Appearing in a similar volume will be really neat. I say "similar volume", but I believe this will be eBook only. Still, having the chance to be part of this anthology really made me happy.

October hasn't been the most productive month for me in terms of word-count, but it's been a good month overall between what I have gotten done writing-wise, these two sales, and the great reaction I received to the stories of mine which were published early in the month. If every writing month was as good as this one, I would have no complaints at all.

Monday, October 29, 2012

October Goal Wrap-Up and November Goals Defined

Each month I go through a goal setting and measuring process. Today I'm looking back at how I did in October and looking forward to November.

First,the October results:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Barring something unusual happening in the next few days, done.
2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - Done. And it's already been rejected from its first market, too. Yay?
3) Revise and submit one pending story each week. - Two and a half for four. I'm tempted to call it three for four, but the third story didn't get out the door all the way yet. A fellow writer agreed to give it one final look-over before I submit it for the first time and what I got accomplished last weekend was "just" getting it to that stage. However -- and perhaps her opinion on the story will lead me to rethink this opinion -- I feel very good about the changes I made and suspect it will only need minor further tweaks.
4) Submit a story for the Codex Halloween contest. - Done.
5) On 10/31 have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready to post on a day when I'm not otherwise able to post something "new." - Didn't happen. I'm semi-abandoning this goal in general for the moment. As part of my early-2013 goal to reformulate my blog strategy, I'll probably revisit how I go about stockpiling blog post "inventory" for busy times.
6) Read thirty short stories. - Nope. #storyeachnight totally fell off my radar around mid-month and I also got pulled into reading a novel.

Another decent but not outstanding month. Still, put enough decent months together in a row and you'll have quite a lot accomplished.

Now for my November goals:

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - Standing goal.
2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - Another standing goal as part of my Write 1/Sub 1 monthly commitment.
3) Revise and submit one story from my backlog. - I'm going to chip away at that backlog until it's all gone, one way or another!
4) Finish a draft of my story for the Codex Novella contest. - The goal is to write 20,000 or more words. If I do so successfully, it will be the second-longest piece of fiction I've written. I wish I had a better sense of whether the idea I have for my story will carry the weight of that many words but based on similar stories from within the genre, I think there's a decent chance it will. Either way, I hope to have fun with it.
5) Enjoy myself at PhilCon. - One of my goals for this year was to go to one or more genre conventions. I went to Pulpfest back in August and then attended Context in September. Next month will be my final 2012 convention - PhilCon in Philadelphia. I'm very excited about the trip and the opportunity to meet some more of the writer friends I've made online.

I hope that October has been a good month for my fellow writers and that November will be excellent as well!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Links: October 28, 2012 Edition

A surprising warm spell passed through here earlier this week but is well and truly gone now. There are hints that snow might show its face in the upcoming few days. I think it's safe to say that we're now well in the grip of Autumn here in Ohio with Winter not too far behind.

Monday will be my last blog post for October, so it will include my wrap-up of results on my October goals as well as a look-ahead to November. Thursday will most likely bring the second of my 2013 goal planning posts.

Below are this week's writing-related links as well as links to my own blog posts from this week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How Do Writers Measure Success?

I've had what feels like an insanely successful year in a lot of ways. I've sold more than 20 stories this year, I've gotten very nice feedback on some of the stories which have been published, I've made it 2/3 of the way to full SFWA membership, etc.

However, there are still lots and lots (and lots) of milestones which I haven't even come particularly close to reaching. So, looked at against the backdrop of those other milestones, it would be easy for me to say (were I so inclined) "Well, I really haven't accomplished much yet." And, looking at it purely objectively, there's truth to that. If I stopped writing today and published nothing besides what's already in the pipeline then twenty years from now I'd almost certainly have left functionally no mark on the word of speculative fiction literature.

So how do I look at this? Have I had wild success or am I still down on the lower rungs?

Monday, October 22, 2012

2013 Goal #1: Reformulate My Blog Strategy

I believe in goals. In fact, I think that's probably the overarching theme of everything I've written about on this blog over the past 14 months. Even more so than writing every day since that, itself, is an ongoing goal of mine renewed every morning.

I wrote recently about how my 2012 goals ended up not looking a whole lot like where I'm ending up and why I'm basically okay with that. I realize there's a chance that might happen again in 2013. After all, I'm still very much in a neophyte stage of working toward being a professional (in at least some senses of the term) writer. Just like I discovered this year that some of the things I had believed to be true in late 2011 weren't necessarily so, I suspect there's a fair chance I'll see that again in 2013. If I'm still singing the same "Gosh, I don't really know what I want to do writing-wise yet" song and dance in five years or so, consider yourself to have permission to tell me to focus.

I'm going to be working out my 2013 goals publicly here on my blog over the next couple of months. Note that all of these posts will be considered "First Draft" goals, subject to being modified, enhanced, shrunk, contorted, folded, spindled, mutilated, or even out-and-out obliterated at my own future whim.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Links: October 21st, 2012 Edition

Are we really two-thirds of the way through October? Apparently we must be, but how that happened, I certainly couldn't tell you!

If you're gearing up for NaNoWriMo, you might like to look through my posts related to that topic before the first of the month rolls around. I don't plan to do NaNo this year, though I am planning on tackling a novella-length project during the month of November if all goes well.

Below are this week's writing-related links as well as links to my own blog posts from this week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Five Writing Prompts to Die For: Guest Post by Kathryn Jones

We're down to two weeks until All Hallows' Eve and All Saints' Day, so with thoughts of the turning of the year and spirits and such on peoples' minds, it seems an apt time for a list of writing prompts tuned to the season.

Kathryn Jones, author of the new mystery "Scrambled" is here to provide us just such a list. Thanks, Kathryn!

Five Writing Prompts to Die For
Kathryn Jones

If you're feeling near death when it comes to starting that new writing project, never fear, a writing prompt might just be your answer to new life--maybe even the next best-selling novel.

And why not?

Many writing prompts have delivered a short story, a novel, even some poetry. And I love that I can move through what moments before seemed like a fortress.

In line with Halloween, you'll want to try the following five writing prompts--whether you're writing a mystery, a horror novel or the next romance. Here they are in no particular order.
  1. Grab a flashlight and take a short walk around your neighborhood. You don't need to walk alone, but make sure your buddy is the type that can enjoy his/her surroundings silently. Then, when you return home, record your feelings. This exercise is great when you also are focused on remembering the five senses: sight, touch, sound, smell and taste.
  2. Make a visit to a cemetery and record some of the names you see on the tombstones. Based on what is written on the gravestone, create a character. Not everything on the tombstone is birth and death related. Maybe you see that someone was "a little angel" and that triggers a particular character trait. Maybe just the name of the person on the gravestone is enough. 
  3. Dress up in Halloween attire and go out to eat. The dress up prompt works best when you don't hit the restaurant on Halloween but a night leading up to it. All those who join you must dress up, too. Observe how you are treated. Take special notice of stares and laughter. Take notes of what you hear and feel.
  4. Choose your favorite Halloween story and randomly point to various words. Once you've gathered 10, begin a new story using those words.
  5. Travel back in time. Recall a time when you were fearful and write about it. The experience could be anything--from someone following you in their car, to a death of a loved one. Just let fear be your guide.
As a writer, writers' block can be moved quickly and easily with writing prompts. Hopefully, the ones above have assisted you in getting out of the grave.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 2012 Mid-Month Goal Check

As I typically do around the middle of each month, I'm devoting today's blog post to a status check on my writing goals for this month. Here's how things are coming along.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - This is coming along just fine.

2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - I've started a new story but have a fair amount more work to get done on it for it to be submission-ready.

3) Revise and submit one pending story each week. - One for two. The first weekend was mostly devoted to getting the story for the Codex Halloween contest completed but I got a story revised and out the door this past weekend. I want to make a concerted effort at meeting this goal the other two weekends.

4) Submit a story for the Codex Halloween contest. - Done. Yay!

5) On 10/31 have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready to post on a day when I'm not otherwise able to post something "new." - No progress on this. It's a low-priority goal, but still I should be trying to move forward on it all the same.

6) Read thirty short stories. - I'm on target for this goal.

So, in brief, I'd say that I feel good about how the month is going so far but there's also a lot of work yet to be done. I'm going to go get to some of that work right now!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Links: October 14, 2012 Edition

A calmer week on the writing front. I had one piece of good news that isn't public yet but I hope to be able to announce it before the end of the month.

Tomorrow I'll look at how I'm doing in terms of making progress toward my October goals. For now, though, on to this week's links!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Favorite Authorial Decision

Since today is the release day for "Scraps" on the web and since it contains one of my personal favorite writing "choices" I thought I would blog about that today. Since the discussion could be vaguely spoiler-y, I'll put it all below the jump.

"Scraps" Available on DSF Website

My story "Scraps" which was emailed to Daily Science Fiction subscribers last week is now available to be read for free on their website. If you're not used to reading stories on that site, please note that to see the whole story, you'll have to click the "Display Entire Story" button. There's also a "show author story comments" if you want to read my notes relating to this story.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Will My Writing Goals Look Like for 2013?

I nudged past 100,000 words of fiction written for 2012 a few days ago which is both really, really cool and also got me to thinking about what my goals will look like for next year.

Writing-wise, I'm in a very different place now than I was a year ago. This time last year I was only a couple of months into my return to writing. I was having fun, at least most of the time. I really didn't have any specific plan of attack, which makes sense given that I spontaneously started writing again, rather than having done so by design.

My goals for the year 2012 were shaped very much by what I did in those last few months of 2011. Two of my goals were based around NaNoWriMo (revising last year's novel and writing one this year) and a third was based on a word-count goal which I've since learned would be really hard to maintain while writing mostly short stories. (I'd aimed for 250,000 words. Realistically, I'll probably end at about half of that.)

I don't necessarily see myself putting more energy into novels in the near future. I'm much more comfortable with the short story form than I am with the novel form and short stories are what I've put my energy into developing a certain level of competence with over the past fourteen or so months. But not pursuing novels both opens up some opportunities (I can play around with a lot more story ideas per year.) and also closes some off. (It's next to impossible to make anything even close to "a living" with short fiction.)

I've thought a lot about that trade-off this year and, for now at least, it's one I'm comfortable making. If I thought that switching to novels would make it likely that I could write full-time, that would be one thing. But the level of success that would require is significant enough that I'm not interested in chasing that dream right now.

Before too long I'll start working on defining my goals for 2013. When I do, I'll think back on this past year and look to write the goals in such a way that they keep me on the path I've been on this year, working at writing short fiction regularly and trying to do what I can to improve my writing. It may not be a path to fame and fortune, but it's one I've enjoyed all the same.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Links: October 7, 2012 Edition

Well, I said it would be a busy week, and indeed it was.

It's also been a very good week. I met one of my goals for the month by getting a story into the Codex Halloween contest before the deadline. I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't make time to do a second draft; I think the story has some major flaws as-is. But I wanted to be a part of the contest and I did achieve that.

I also had four stories release this week. I'm particularly pleased by the reactions to "Scraps" (at Daily Science Fiction, will be on the web next week) and "ReFormed" (at Buzzy Mag). I feel like those are among two of my best stories so far and the reaction to them has been in line with those feelings. I was a bit worried that they would show up and vanish without a trace. I'm very pleased that this didn't happen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Story Publication: "ReFormed" at Buzzy Mag

"Marshall churned away on an elliptical machine at his gym. His attention wandered from the news during a commercial and he noticed a woman running on a treadmill across the room. He only saw her in profile, but she looked like Carol. Not Carol right before she died, lying in a hospital bed. Carol when they first met, several years ago. Carol when she said 'Yes' to his proposal and accepted the ring he offered."
- From "ReFormed"
My science fiction story about a man who finds a woman who has the same face as his dead fiancee is live today on Buzzy Mag. "ReFormed" is one of my favorites of my stories.

I need to give special thanks here to Brenda Stokes Barron. She read several versions of this story and kept encouraging me to make it a fuller story as I took it through revisions. I'm sure it's a much better story than it would have been without her help.

This is, as far as I know, the last story I'll have published for a little while. I'm sure you'll all be glad for the break. :)

If you read this story, I hope that you enjoy it!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Story Publication: "Other Kinds" in Issue #3 of Nine

The third issue of new speculative fiction electronic magazine Nine is online now. My story "Other Kinds" appears in this issue. I've mentioned before that I like crime and mystery fiction and this story is a blend of a crime story with a dark fantasy.

I have both of the first two issues of Nine and have enjoyed the stories I've read from them. The issue is $5; if you happen to read this issue, I hope that you enjoy "Other Kinds."

Being Smart About My Writing Goals

If you follow my blog posts about my goals, you might have noticed that September was not my best month. I met some of my goals but whiffed badly on some others.

While I'm somewhat disappointed with my September results, I don't necessarily mind the idea that I'm not always going to hit 100% of my goals. I want to have goals that are aggressive enough that I'm accomplishing a lot rather than "just" meeting goals.

"Scraps" Emailed By Daily Science Fiction Today

My short story "Scraps" is the emailed story today from Daily Science Fiction. If you don't get those emails, you'll be able to read the story next Thursday on their website. I'll provide a link then.

If you do get the emails, please note that a sentence fragment slipped into the emailed version of the story right at the beginning. Please disregard that. The editors have said that the version which goes on the web will have this error corrected.

I hope that you enjoy the story if you read it, or that you've already enjoyed it if you're coming here after having read it.

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Goals

September was not my best month for meeting my writing goals. One nice thing about having monthly goals, though, is that every month is a chance to start anew.

With that in mind, here are my goals for the month of October.

1) Keep my Daily Writing Chain going. - It's now 13 months long and growing. Even on days when things have been rough for one reason or another, I've kept it going. I feel good about that, but it's also an ongoing thing. So, as always, it's my top goal for the month.

2) Write and submit one brand-new story. - This is my regular month Write 1/Sub 1 goal. Though I didn't have it listed as a specific goal for September, I did accomplish it with my submission to Malfeasance Occasional.

3) Revise and submit one pending story each week. - For these purposes I'm viewing weeks as being Monday to Sunday, so my goal will be to get a story out the door no later than this coming Sunday and then to do the same thing each week. If I meet this goal fully, I'll get four stories out the door from my "backlog." Last month I had aimed to revise six stories and got exactly zero done. I think that goal felt "too big" especially once I got behind on things. This new goal gives me a chance to succeed (or fail) every week, which I think should help me avoid another goose egg at the very least.

4) Submit a story for the Codex Halloween contest. - This, combined with goal #3, means that I need to get a fair amount of writing time in this week since the Halloween contest closes Sunday morning.

5) On 10/31 have two non-time-sensitive blog posts written and ready to post on a day when I'm not otherwise able to post something "new." - I'd had this goal on my lists earlier this year and was doing okay with it for a while. However, I've gotten out of the habit. Since keeping to my regular blogging schedule is something I value, I want to get back to having a bit of a reserve.

6) Read thirty short stories. - Whether I do that specifically by keeping up with #storyeachnight (essentially) every night or otherwise. Reading regularly is helpful to my development as a writer, and as such it makes sense to list it explicitly as a goal.

"Out with the Crowd" Live at Interstellar Fiction

My baseball science fiction short story "Out with the Crowd" is live today at Interstellar Fiction. It's a very timely publication, with the Major League Baseball playoffs starting later this week.

I don't tend to write a lot of "hard" science fiction, but that's an apt descriptor for this story. Its basis is the very real biomechanical principles which state that pitchers are bumping right up against the limits of what the human arm can do in terms of speed on their pitches. While average speed has increased over time and there is some dispute about the reliability of various types of speed guns for measuring the speed of pitches, there has simply not been a dramatic increase in the top speed pitchers have reached in the past 50 years. (One list of "fastest pitches" is at this link.)

The reason that this record isn't constantly falling as other sports-related records (such as the sprint times in track and field, marathon times, swimming times, etc.) is because the human arm just can't throw a baseball any harder than it already is. As the article notes:
"Shoulder rotation in baseball pitching is the fastest motion of any joint in any athlete," Fleisig says; moving faster than hip joints in sprinters or shoulders in elite tennis players.
My story starts from that science and wonders what would happen if something gave batters -- who are currently limited by their ability to process information about the incoming pitch and react to it -- an insurmountable edge against pitchers.

I hope you enjoy reading this story.

Kazka Press October Issue Live

The October, 2012 Issue of Kazka Press is live. This issue includes the six flash fiction stories on the theme of "Love Beyond Death" which I selected for them as Guest Editor. There's also a longer story by Ada Hoffman titled "Sage and Coco." There are PDF and EPUB versions of the issue, if you prefer to read that way.

The six stories I chose were:
I hope that you enjoy reading these stories.