Category Archives: Writing

Entries where I talk about my writing: stories, novels, general creativity.

April 2021 Goals

My God, it’s April already! Oh my God it’s 2021! How do these things happen?

I know, it’s all about time. Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. Etc.

I didn’t meet all of my March goals. In review, I did launch Daikaijuzine 5 on March 21 the way I intended, so yay for that! I’ve also been meeting my school goals, so I win there as well.

Let’s talk about writing, though.

I did not complete the outline revision of And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but I made significant progress. So finishing that outline and beginning the rewrite is one goal for April.

I did not revise either “Sauromancy” or “The BIM” the way I had hoped I would, but I did revise “Mrs” and submitted that. No response from the market yet. Here’s hoping they like it.

I’ve also been submitting twice per week, every Monday and Thursday. So yay me for that! I intend to keep on doing that.

For more immediate goals, I intend to write and submit  short story to Grist Magazine’s “Imagine 2200” writing contest. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on April 12, so this will be tight, given that I have no idea what I’m going to write.

I think that’s it for my April goals. This coming Sunday is Easter, of course, which will be the perfect day to write about my religious beliefs, so look for that if that’s your sort of thing. Be well, and shoot for your goals!

 

What Dreams Etc., Tempus Fugit, and so on

Misdemeanor the kitten
Ignore the kitten. The kitten is meaningless. Like most dream imagery is.

Whew. I had a doozy of a dream last night.

I won’t go into too many of the details because dreams are mostly boring except to the dreamer. In summary: my bicycle was stolen (by the employees of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland), along with my credit and bank card. When I got to the bank to replace my card, I discovered that it had been turned into a paycheck cashing store, and had a wait time of eight hours. They were more than willing to let me in and give me expedited service because it was just a bank card I was replacing, but instead they kept me at the desk asking meaningless questions for hours upon end, and when I finally realized they were meaningless, they kicked me out.

Well, whenever I think about time passing, David Bowie’s song “Time Will Crawl” gets into my head, so here it is:

Oh, David Bowie. Too pure for this world.

I don’t really buy into dream analysis or interpretation too much; I believe dreams are mostly best interpreted in a gestaltish sort of way, taking into account everything that the dreamer thinks and believes and knows. “What did the red table in my dream mean?” “Well, what do tables mean to you?” I don’t know, this may be oversimplistic, but it’s a useful way of thinking about my own dreams.

So last night’s dream, what with the troublesome bank manager and the thieving Disneyland employees, was, I think, about wasting time, and that’s something that’s been on my mind a bit lately. In my last post, I wrote a wee bit about my angst surrounding starting library school at age 52 and about the length of time it will take me to get my degree.

Here, I’ll just talk about angst surrounding my writing, because I don’t talk about that nearly enough.

Cover of The Heroine's Journey by Gail Carriger
The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture

I’ve been reading The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger. It’s a fantastic book, a nice rebuttal of the tired Hero’s Journey that so dominates and pervades most writing. I highly recommend this book, especially to my writer friends.

Unfortunately, this book also has me thinking about writing. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, of course; it just makes me think of all the novels I’ve written, and the ones I’m writing, and the ones I want to write. The Heroine’s Journey is a perfect model, for example, for The Outer Darkness trilogy that I want to write someday, a space opera with heavily religious overtones (based on a role-playing game that I created with some friends back in the late 90s). It’s also a great framework for The X of Doom, my pirate trilogy. Unfortunately, it’s not as good a match to my work in progress, And the Devil Will Drag You Under. And that’s the problem.

Sigh.

I’ve written a number of novels. Here’s a partial list:

  1. Unfallen. A reporter uncovers mysterious goings-on in San Francisco and explores a vast supernatural conspiracy. Based loosely on a World of Darkness RPG I ran.
  2. The Outer Darkness. Wherein a woman whose husband is killed in a mining accident on the planet Anchorage gets involved in an interplanetary war. This has little to do with the above-mentioned trilogy.
  3. The Toymaker. A toymaker in 1850s San Francisco who turns out to be a powerful mage hooks up with a young widow from Boston, and they form a conspiracy to protect a group of supernatural people from being hunted.
  4. The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. Once upon a time called Fred Again. Madmen and elder gods vie for control of the Earth in a funny sort of way.
  5. Code Monkey! A Love Story with Occasional Monsters. The subtitle says it all.
  6. Love in the Time of Cthulhu. I only vaguely remember this one. Something to do with two people falling in love in a world which has been taken over by Cthulhu and other cosmic horrors, I think.
  7. Padma. A medical resident comes to terms with death.
Me, getting caught looking at a new project by my work in progress

So why weren’t any of these published? They never made it beyond barf draft, sadly, with the exceptions of nos. 4 and 6. Those two (and parts of 5) got to my critique group. I’d get to the point where it’s time to start revising and then I get caught up in a new project. It’s  tragic, I tell you. And very frustrating.

And the worst part is knowing that if I’d gotten my act together in 2001, when I decided to take writing seriously and wrote Unfallen, I could have finished all of these projects and more and gotten something published.

The biggest danger is that I will give up on my current work-in-progress for either The X of Doom or The Outer Darkness, and abandon And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I definitely don’t want that to happen. I want to be able finish a novel and say that it’s written enough, to the point where I at least do not fear shaming my ancestors when submitting it in queries to agents. None of the novels I’ve listed above are at that point. They are all regretful.

Ah well. What could have been is not necessarily what would have been, as they say. Still, if anyone has any tips for sticking to one thing and not getting distracted, I’d love to hear them.

March 2021 Goals

Well, my good friend T. M. Baumgartner (whose fiction you should definitely check out) has put up some March 2021 goals, so you know what? I’m going to do that too. Maybe make it a thing: a monthly goal post to keep myself honest.

I’m pretty busy (even without the kitten pics), so I guess I have goals in three main arenas:

  • Daikaijuzine: Publish the new release on the 21st. That means making sure all the contracts are in place and the authors are happy with the layouts of their stories and poems and what-not. After that, take a breather before reopening submissions sometime in April.
  • School: Weekly blog posts on my research topic for the month (information-seeking behaviors of cryptozoologists), plus a couple of small papers. Research! Writing! Fun!
  • Writing:
    • Finish up revising the outline for And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I’m using the Save the Cat Writes a Novel method to do so. It’s worked out pretty well so far.
    • Revise two short stories for submission.
    • Keep submitting 2-3 stories per week.
    • Finish reading and critiquing Top Secret Novel for writers’ group meeting on Thursday the 11th.

I also picked up a book called The Craft of Science Writing, so I’m going to be reading that, because the dream lives on.

That’s all I got for now. If my readers are especially nice to me, I might send out a newsletter as well.

Speaking of Kaiju

Tonight we watched Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which I’d been wanting to watch since it first came out in 2019. We’d seen the other movies in the rebooted Godzilla franchise: Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island, so it was inevitable that we’d see this one. Now we’re all ready to watch Kong Vs. Godzilla when that one comes out next month.

I had listened to an episode of the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast this morning which talked about kaiju movies, and which suggested that, just as the original Gojira was an allegory for the US bombing of Japan in the Second World War, these modern films can be seen as an allegory for climate change. I think this is pretty clear. Or, rather, it’s sledged into us with a sledgehammer. It’s an important message.

On the whole, I liked the movie. I think Jennifer has been less impressed with them than I have.

Speaking of kaiju, I went into the office earlier this evening to hang with the kittens and get pictures. I didn’t get very many. In fact, I only got one that I liked. It’s this one:

This is Misdemeanor poking her head into the tower track toy that they like. Sometimes they will put their whole body in, with just their butt and tail sticking out, and I really wanted that picture but alas the kittens weren’t cooperating. It’s an okay picture. Slightly blurry. The lighting in the office is difficult to work with, but I applied the native “enhance” filter that made it all look slightly less yellow. Enh. Let me know what you think.


In other news, I’ve submitted twenty-five stories this year so far. I’ve gotten eleven rejections so far: nine form rejections, and two personal. A personal rejection is nice, because it generally means it’s made it past the slush team into the hands of an editor. Still, I have fourteen outstanding. I’m aiming for one hundred rejections this year.

Okay, that’s oversimplifying things. Obviously, I want to sell stories so I can make some money off this fiction writing thing. But I got a wee bit of flack on social media; one correspondent commented that if they got that many rejections they would stop and assess their entire writing process, because it meant they were doing something wrong. I disagree with that assessment; there are a lot of stories out there, a lot of writers, and not that many well-paying markets.

Besides, I took 2020 off completely from submitting anything, reassessing my entire fiction output, and that did me no good at all. Well, I did submit one story to a writing contest, but got a standard “didn’t even make it to the next round” letter.

Shooting for 100 rejections doesn’t mean I really want to damage my ego anymore than it already is. It really means 100+ submissions, assuming that at least one of those submissions ends in a sale.

Here’s hoping.


Daily kitten pics for Thingadailies!

Let’s talk about pirates!

This will be a relatively short post, since I’m writing it during my work break.

My work-in-progress for Camp NaNoWriMo July 2020 is The X of Doom, which is a novel about pirates. I can’t decide what sort of novel it should be, though, so I’m asking you, my faithful readers.

Should the X of Doom be...

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Here’s a True Fact about pirates that I’ve learned. Did you know that pirates never actually said “ARRRR”? It’s true! The pirate alphabet went directly from Q to S, and did not include the letter R. True, this sometimes led to some linguistic confusion, but these things happen.

Pandemic Blurbs

I’ve been working at home for nigh on to three months now, and I know I’m blessed to be able to do so. And so today while I take my afternoon break and listen to Queen’s Greatest Hits (which I love because it reminds me of college and also that I have to call my friend John this weekend), I’m going to spin up this blog post and let the world in on what I think of the pandemic and what I’m writing.

There’s a meme that conservatives have been sharing on Twitter which says something like, “Remember that experts built the Titanic, while an amateur built the Ark,” and relates this to the current COVID-19 pandemic which has been kicking the planet’s butt for three months now and probably won’t go away for quite some time. Why should we listen to epidemiologists and virologists and other so-called “experts” when, uh… we have gut feelings or something? This mistrust of expertise and higher thinking has been a part of American politics for centuries, odd for a country founded by a bunch of revolutionary philosophers. But it’s what we’ve got, and now we have a Presidency that’s devoted to the cause of rooting out expertise wherever it can be found.

This irritates me.

No, scratch that. It fills me with a sense of impotent rage that this sense of “my feelings are more qualified than your facts” is so prevalent in modern America. It really is a failure of the American experiment.

*Takes a deep breath*

I can’t really go into much more about that because I took my blood pressure earlier today and it already is too high. So I’m going to finish this blog post up with a list of my current writing projects. So here it is, with various projects listed in order of when I plan to get to them and finish them (though some will be concurrent with others):

  • Finish up rough draft of And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I plan to finish this up by the end of June, then I’ll let it sit for a little while before revising and submitting to my writers’ group.
  • Revise The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. I gave this to my group a few months ago and got some really great feedback that I have yet to incorporate. I hope to start doing that this weekend, and finish this by the end of June as well. Maybe I’ll start shopping it around. Who knows?
  • Start outlining and writing my pirate trilogy. This consists of The X of Doom, The Lord of Nightmares, and The King of Oblivion. This probably won’t start happening until July. But in the meantime I’ve built a pirate-theme playlist on Amazon Music and have been listening to that a lot for inspiration. I’m also looking for good pirate movies to watch (Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies are fun, as is Swashbuckler, from 1976) and good pirate novels to read. On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers is a great one. I want to find more.

Those are all novels. I also have short stories to revise:

  • “The BIM”
  • “A Pine Romance”
  • “Sauromancy”
  • “Just Like This”

These are all stories that just need revising, though “The BIM” has been undergoing some intense structural revisions and so far has ballooned from 5,000 to 8,000 words, and probably more will be added as I work on it. I don’t have deadlines in mind for any of these. I’m taking the year off from short story submissions, mostly because I feel like I’ve run out of story/market match-ups. I need to get some new ones written and revised before I can start submitting again. I do have three outstanding submissions that I should probably query on since they’ve been at markets for over six months. So… we’ll see what happens.

That’s all I’ve got for now. My break’s just about over, as is the Queen album, so it’s time to say so long. Be well, and be safe. And be smart, for crying out loud. WEAR YOUR MASK!

2019 and 2020: Years in Writing

Yesterday I started taking Prednisone for this damn upper respiratory infection which is exacerbating my asthma, and that, combined with the short story rejection I received yesterday (for a submission that I thought was a sure hit), can only mean one thing:

PITY PARTY!

Yes, I went onto Twitter and whined about my lack of writing success, about how I started seriously wanting to become an established writer back in 2001 and having failed at that since then. Eighteen years seems like it should have been plenty of time, but I still have only a handful of publications in my portfolio, none of them pro-level. I’m definitely not making money, but that’s not what I am really concerned about; what I really want is for people to read and enjoy my fiction, and that’s not happening (that’s my huge ego talking, I suppose).

Oh well.

A recap:

In 2019 I wrote a lot. I wrote a couple of short stories, some flash fiction pieces, and finished up two novels, both of which went over well with my crit group. I submitted a lot of stories to magazines, but got no bites. I feel like 2018, with an honorable mention for “Burying Uncle Albert” at the Writers of the Future contest, was a better year for me.

A plan:

For 2020, I plan to…

  • Focus on my strengths as a writer. I think I write good comedic contemporary fantasy, so I’m going to build on that;
  • Work on my weaknesses. Specifically, I need to work on…
    • Creating emotional attachments between my characters and the readers; and,
    • Endings.
  • Revise The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster based on feedback that I’ve received;
  • Work on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, the NaNoWriMo novel I worked on in 2017 before I abandoned it;
  • Self-publish Tales from Patwin County, a collection of short stories that take place in, uh, Patwin County (where The Winds of Patwin County is set); and
  • Write a comedic classical fantasy short story of about 9,000 to 10,000 words.

There’s probably more, but that is all I want to put down for now.

This coming year is going to be interesting, to say the least, because library school starts on January 23, and I’ll be continuing my full-time job, AND I’ll be working on Daikaijuzine. I’m not feeling optimistic about my chances of making any money on my writing in 2020, but, you know, stranger things have happened.

For now, Happy New Year! If you’re a writer, keep writing. If you’re a reader, continue reading.

And since today was my birthday, and tomorrow is New Year’s Day, I’ll post again REAL SOON.

2018: A Year in Writing

Writers of the Future Contest Honorable Mention

Received for my short story “Burying Uncle Albert”.

So here’s what I did in 2018 with regards to writing.

I finished the first draft of Padma, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2016, and submitted it to my critique group. I won’t hear back from them about it until later this month, and I expect their comments will be pretty brutal. That’s okay. I can take it.

I didn’t write very many short stories. In fact, I really only wrote one, “Sauromancy”, and it’s still in rough draft mode.

I started (re-started?) to rewrite The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, a novel which began life as Fred Again, which I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2005. I revisit this one every couple of years because I think there’s a solid story there, if only I can get it dug out of the marble in which it resides.

I submitted thirty-eight short stories, and received rejections on thirty-seven of them. Ten of those rejections were personal, and a couple of those were of the “Not quite, but please send us more” variety, which is always pleasant.

I also submitted my short story “Burying Uncle Albert” to the Writers of the Future contest. It received honorable mention, which is actually quite better than I was expecting. If you want to read that story, let me know; I’ve squirreled it away in a tiny little corner of my website, hidden behind a password.

I only sort of participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2018, choosing to revise Padma instead of writing something new. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for sixteen years, and I have something like twelve completed rough drafts out of it. I think maybe five of them are worth pursuing. But as long as I committed to writing something new each November, I wasn’t going to finish any of them. So I feel like I’ve gotten everything out of NaNoWriMo that I’m going to get that’s of value to my creative career. I still like hanging out with other writers, though. That’s always fun.

Moving forward, I want to:

  • Finish revising The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.
  • Finish up several short stories, including “The BEM”, “A Pine Romance”, “Sauromancy”, “Anamet”, and “Magnificent”.
  • Write a rough draft of my historical science fiction novel Shine.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Back I go now into the word mines.

Haven’t done one of these for awhile

It’s a writing update! Yay!

I must admit that one of the first thoughts I had when I was laid off was not, “How are we going to make ends meet?” but, “Oooh, lots of time to write now!”

But the reality is that hunting for work has taken up more time than I intended or expected, whether it’s wandering around the job hunting websites, updating resumes on these sites, responding to emails, sending out emails, making and receiving phone calls, and, of course, going to interviews. Although I schedule time in the afternoons to get some writing done, it just usually doesn’t happen.

The words are still getting out, though.

It’s November, which, of course, means it’s National Novel Writing Month. I decided to be a “rebel” this years; in other words, instead of writing an original 50,000 word novel this month, I’m instead revising Padma, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2016. I’m finding it’s difficult to do so, though. While I’m comfortable with the mythological and cosmological elements I’ve included, there’s a lot of medical information — specifically, hospital procedures and what it’s like to be a medical student — that I don’t know anything about. So I need to do more research than I had originally done. Fortunately I have some resources — and people I know who either work or have worked in hospitals — who can give me some tips and pointers.

I am stalled on a couple of short stories I’d hoped to get written. “Sauromancy” needs to be revised. And I need to finish “Mossroot”. I’m particularly annoyed by “Mossroot” since I’d hoped to finish that one before November so I could submit it to the Unlocking the Magic anthology. Alas, I did not. I think it’s a good idea, though, so I’m going to keep working on it.

Oh! And The Solitude of the Tentacles Space Monster continues apace. Though I’m getting fewer words in on that than I’d like, it’s still happening. I hope to have a draft done by January.

My really spiffy news is that my short story “Burying Uncle Albert” received Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest. Yay! I’m aware of the controversies surrounding that particular contest, but I still think this is cool. This honor is for the Fourth Quarter contest, so it won’t actually show up on the website until January, I think, but still. Neat-o.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I probably won’t post again until after Thanksgiving, so I hope you have a splendid holiday!

More adventures in spam

About a week ago, I received an email in my spam folder that had the subject line “rscrawford: XXXXXXXXXXXX” where that long line of Xs was the deprecated password of a website I rarely visit and which I knew had been compromised at one point. The email was wordy and poorly written, but the gist of it was something along the lines of, “I know what you did and I recorded it and I’ll send it out to every person in your contacts list unless you pay me $7,000 in BitCoin currency,” along with a link were I could send that currency.

This amused me, since, really, I have nothing to hide. I thought about writing back with a message to that effect — “Go on, do your worst!” — but I know it’s never a good idea to engage with these kinds of people. I mean, I know President Trump is doing his best to end unfair and unjust discrimination against the idiotic criminal class, but, still.

Meanwhile, I’ve had bronchitis for something like two weeks now. The breathing is better now, though the cough remains. The Prednisone remains fun stuff to take. When I get sick for this long, I tend to get emotional. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa runs away and Homer holds her saxophone? Yeah, that one did me in.

And yesterday while working I had Young Frankenstein playing in the background. And when it came to the scene where the creature, having just performed “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, panicked at the sight of a flame and was dragged away by the police… Yeah, I started crying at that as well.

A co-worker of mine tells me that their reaction to Prednisone is exactly the opposite of mine: for them, the drug causes euphoria, energy, and hyperactivity. This is unfair. I’m going to file a complaint somewhere.

We’re still fostering kittens. After Delilah and Fern were adopted, the fostering agency sent us eight (8) to foster. That was about a month ago, I guess, and now we’re down to one. Mouse is a feisty orange and white kitten, lots of love and lots of energy and personality. I was sure she’d be adopted her first week at placement, but that didn’t happen.

The writing is continuing. I’ve finished the Evil Barf Draft of my fantasy story involving fossil hunters in America’s Gilded Age of the late 19th century. I am going to be pushing it to get The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster and Padma done by their due dates, but that’s okay. Last minute panic is a great motivator.

I’m also drafting a contemporary (well, set in the 1930s) fantasy involving jazz music and baseball, and I’m in the early stages of putting together a “noblebright” (as opposed to “grimdark”) fantasy story for an anthology that I’d love to be published in. All that, on top of my goal of keeping six active submissions going all at the same time, is keeping me mighty busy. Good for me.

What’s on your plate or your mind?