A few of them exist here in draft form, and I’m keeping others under wraps for now. But the fact is I’ve written six short stories mixing old folk tales and myths with relatively modern genres. While I dive headlong into to the rewrite of the novel currently entitled Citizen in the Wilds, I want to keep these yarns on the backburner, because I think there’s potential here to entertain and maybe inspire.
But I have no idea how good it is or how soon I can present it… or even what to call it!
Maybe I should hunt down an agent. I’ve been considering that possibility, as it may help relieve some of the pressure of hunting down everything that needs to be done in order to bring this thing to life, rather than having it lay around my metaphorical table like so many dead components. But how does one go about pitching an anthology? Is it as simple as saying “Hi, I wrote story X, Y, and Z and want to put them together, it’ll soar like an eagle in outer space and you totally wanna tap this”?
I’d like to hire an editor. Some of these stories are months or even years old. I’m certain they need work. I’m perfectly willing to put two in the chest and one in the face of any turns or beats that don’t work – I just need to know where to aim. Hopefully I can make arrangements for that after getting my feet under me again thanks to the new dayjob.
By the same token, I’m going to need a cover artist. If this anthology does make it to Kindles and Nooks and whatnot, there’s no way I’m letting it leave my sight when even the potential exists for it to look like it was put together by a scrub. It’s another step between the raw form of the stories and the finished anthology I’d be willing to pay for.
Finally, the whole thing needs a name. It’s something I’ve been thinking about, because how does one sum up the conceptualization of a Japanese mythic figure in a period horror piece, a Norse myth in the Old West, a Chinese celestial tale cast as a modern romance, a Grimm fairy tale dressed as superheroics, a Native American creation story in the dark streets of cyberpunk and a Greek myth played out through science fiction?
I’m still trying to figure it out. Ideas are welcome, as are volunteers to take a stab at the aforementioned aspects I can’t handle myself.
So last week’s ICFN was delayed. It’s still on hold. I’m waiting to hear back from third parties that were interested in conveying it to a different format. Awaiting correspondence always makes days or weekends feel longer, from responses to job postings to queries about Magic trades.
But while I was waiting I took a look at the various projects I’ve lined up for myself.
There are three things that go against me when I try to sit down and get my writing pants on: I’m always thinking of new ideas, I’m not terribly organized and I’m easily distracted. All it takes is a cat darting across the floor, a ringing phone or a stray thought on something awesome unrelated to the project at hand to force me to refocus my efforts. I do turn off HootSuite and other things when I’m actually writing, but that only addresses the distraction problem.
You can take a look at my desk, my kitchen sink or either basement I have stuff in (here in Lansdale or at the ancestral place in Allentown) as silent testament to my lack of organization and pack-rat nature. This also ties in to my ideas. New ones creep into my brain all the time. An action sequence, a bit of dialog, a new character in an old setting… this stuff floats in and out from time to time. It takes conscious effort to nail it all down. And once I do, I need to get it into some sort of organized sequence.
Obviously I want to finish things I’ve started before I begin anything new, so let’s get some priorities straight here. This is pertaining mostly to my own publishable (eventually) writing, not other projects I’ve taken on (the Vietnam manuscript) and the weekday drivel in this blog.
I feel I should finish Red Hood first. It’s the shortest piece, and with it my collection of mixed-myth stories reaches a total of five. Akuma (Japanese oni in a period slasher story), The Jovian Flight (Greek myth IN SPACE!), The Drifter’s Hand (Norse myth in the Old West) and Miss Weaver’s Lo Mein (Chinese myth as a modern romance) round out the rest. That may be enough for an anthology, but I’m uncertain. I may want to do a sixth story.
The rewrite of Citizen in the Wilds must come next. I’ve started outlining the new opening, and will track the appearances and growth of characters to ensure they’re consistent and sympathetic, two problems pointed out by at least one review on Book Country. The problem with the way it opened before was I was cramming too much exposition into the first few pages and not giving the characters enough time to develop and establish connections with each other and the reader – in other words, I opened too late. So I’m starting a bit earlier. Giving these people more breathing room. You know, before I kill most of them.
I have an idea for a Magic: the Gathering piece but as it may be nothing more than fan fiction and Wizards has better things to do than entertain the notions of a relatively unknown hack like myself (as opposed to known hacks like Robert Wintermute), I’ll try not to devote too much time to it.
Once I finish up with the other stuff I’ll go back to Cold Iron. I plan on taking this lean, mean and well-intentioned supernatural noir thing I threw together during my commutes of the last few months and putting it through the prescribed Wendig cycle of editing my shit. The Wendig cycle, by the way, has little to do with Wagner’s cycle. More whiskey and profanity, less large sopranos and Norse symbolism.
Meantime, the blog will keep the writing-wheels greased. More Westeros fiction for the Honor & Blood crowd. More flash fiction challenges. Reviews of movies, games and books. Ruminations on trying not to suck as a writer.
And Guild Wars 2 stuff, because that MMO looks pretty damn awesome, not to mention damn pretty.
Stay tuned. I may be down, but I ain’t licked yet.
The goal since I was about 10 has been, to put it simply, getting published.
Back in 80s, when this goal took shape fully in my embryonic little mind, getting published meant traditional print. Robert Heinlein, Tom Clancy, Stephen King, Clive Cussler and Diane Duane got themselves ink in hardcover and paperback books. The Internet was an infant. Reading fiction on a handheld device smaller than one’s Trapper Keeper sounded like something out of Star Trek.
Here we are, in 2011. We’re still waiting for our jetpacks, but electronic word delivery is thriving while many traditional publication schemes are dying on the vine.
It’s still out there, to be sure. I’ll be shelling out for the next Song of Ice and Fire and Dresden Files books. But I’ve gotten caught up (mostly) with Chicago’s professional wizard thanks to the gift of books through the Kindle. And publishers like up-and-comer Angry Robot are on dual tracks of traditional dead tree formats and the shiny hotness of e-publishing.
I think it’s past time I shook myself free of the big-hair coke-sniffing Reaganite idea of only ever making it as an author if I get a book on the shelves in a Barnes & Noble. Sure, Starbucks is going to keep its live-in partner alive for a while but most traditional bookstores are really feeling the pinch. The Internet, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere.
Neither are authors like Chuck Wendig.
Yeah, he gave me another kick in the ass this morning. I’ve been wondering how exactly I’m going to juggle writing one novel and rewriting another and still have a shot of getting fiction into the hands of readers before I get much older. And then Chuck’s post underscored something that’s been staring me in the face: I’m sitting on a bunch of it.
What’s to say I can’t write one novel, rewrite another AND put together a short story anthology?
I know a few of these stories are available to you currently for free through the link above. Others have appeared before (or have been promised to – I’m looking at you, Polymancer). But the free fiction’s pretty raw. Like a bunch of carrots in the store, you need to wash them off and maybe take a peeler to them before they’re at their best.
In other words, I need an editor.
I’m also going to need a cover artist. Maybe a photographer, maybe a more traditional pen-and-tablet artist, but somebody with visual arts skills far exceeding my capacity to doodle is going to have to help me out. I’m not about to wrap up a couple stories in twine, dump them on Amazon and say “Here you go, suckers, buy buy buy!” I’d like to think I’m a bit more professional than that.
I have no idea how I’m going to pay these intrepid and conjectural helpers, but hopefully something can be worked out. If you’re reading this and want to help, let me know.
Finally, in this anthology-to-be is going to be one story never before seen. Partially because it’s going to be another of those odd hybrids of disparate genres, and partially because I haven’t written it yet. It’s my hope that this, coupled with revised & edited versions of previous tales bundled into an easy-to-read one-stop shop will give folks enough incentive to pick it up.
And in doing so, they might become interested enough in my voice, style or sheer insanity to want to read more, which is where the novels and future shorts will come in.
One can only hope.
ABW, BTFO, etc.
Yesterday I talked about not being afraid of starting over. Today, I think it’s appropriate to discuss something one should be afraid of when it comes to writing, or performing in general. It’s the root of that thing they call ‘stage fright,’ at least in my experience.
You should be afraid of your audience.
Specifically, you should be afraid of screwing up and letting them down.
I’m not one to spread fear haplessly. I’m not a member of the Tea Party (colloquially known as a ‘teabagger’). However, it’s something I experience personally that I’m sharing as what might actually be a good thing. It takes me some time to write something, even a blog post sometimes, because I know other people are going to read it.
So I do my utmost to, as they say, bring my A game.
I do my editing and revising, for the most part, behind closed doors. I’ve experimented with sharing some of my in-progress work, and while I appreciate all of the feedback I’ve gotten and it’s helped me shape where some of my work has proceeded, I’ve also felt a touch of remorse for making people suffer through embryonic writing. It tends to be half-formed, missing things, rushed in places and laboriously long in others. In short – it sucks.
An awesome product might emerge from those early drafts, but I fear showing them to anyone. Hell, sometimes I fear showing a final draft to people, even if it strikes me as the best work I’ve ever done and composed entirely of awesome. I feel this way because, as a writer of fiction aimed at entertaining people, I don’t want to deliver a product that’s only partially good, or simply good enough to not suck.
I don’t submit works to magazines that are “warm-ups” or “experiments” that will lead to other works. I have no intention of querying with a partial manuscript or a finished one that still needs polish. Agents, editors, publishers, consumers, friends, family – they all deserve my very best. Even Blizzard won’t be getting anything less than the best Starcraft story I can offer, because on top of wanting to win, I want to demonstrate my skills, and if I send in something that isn’t my best, I’m doing a gross disservice both to myself and to their source material.
It’s not easy. You have to push yourself to do better, constantly. You have to remind yourself that lots of other people are trying to break into the same arena you are, and the only way your work will emerge above theirs is if it’s better presented, or better written in my case. Otherwise, there’s no point in putting pen to paper at all. If you want people other than yourself to write or see or experience something you’re creating, help them get their money’s worth. Write the best words possible. Don’t stop taking photos until it’s just right. Don’t be sloppy in how you assemble the elements. Do it right, and do it better than anybody else.
Henry Rollins summed it up in his usual inimitable way:
“Either have your phasers set on kill, or motherfucker, don’t show up.“
A lot of my anxiety from pushing forward with a series of Lighthouse stories comes from the fact that there’s paranormal stuff out the wazoo out there. I mean, there’s a part of me that’s interested in getting a slice of that action, because apparently people suck it right up (insert vampire joke here), but I also know that a lot of the ground has been pretty trod. It’s a part of the speculative fiction market littered with Robert Pattinson posters from J-14 or whatever magazine caters to his fangirls this week, and love notes to Anna Paquin from her fangirls.
Then I remember something I thought was said by Marc Schuster, but consulting my notes I see it was spoken by Larry Kane, legendary Philadelphia newscaster and himself an aspiring novelist:
“Don’t believe that just because something has been written about that you can’t write about it.” (“They didn’t necessarily do a good job,” he added a few sentences later.)
So yeah, plenty of stories out there involving vampires and werewolves and wizards and angels and demons and stuff. Some of them even involve paranormal investigators, like the B.P.R.D. or Fringe division. Okay, Fringe division is more about pseudo-science so close to the supernatural it might as well be the supernatural, but I’m going full supernatural instead of the Fringe route. I can’t compete with Walter.
Seriously. Nothing I do will be this cool.
But I’m trying to go at it from a new angle. I have some history and mechanics laid down. So I need to work on setting and characters, find ways to distinguish why they’re different and why readers should care. I need to engineer the ways in which readers will be captivated by these folks, be they humans or otherwise, and might even fall in love. This will involve collecting my disparate attempts at putting this together and, well, putting it together.
I’m still in the brainstorming stages. Please forgive my ramblings.