Category Archives: Writing

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

Almost missed November

Apparently, it’s been November for awhile as well.

Not that much to report, though, except that in the middle of this month I reached my goal of one hundred manuscript submissions for the year. That’s more than I’ve done any year ever! My previous record was sixty-nine submissions in the year 2017. Here are my stats for the year:

Submissions: 100

Acceptances: 1

Withdrawals: 2

Form rejections: 74

Personal rejections: 10

Outstanding submissions: 13

One story I withdrew from a market because it had apparently died but no one knew. No confirmation from the market that I had withdrawn it, but that’s irrelevant. I withdrew another story because I had a crisis of confidence and wanted to rework it. I did, submitted it to another market, and it was promptly rejected.

I had one story accepted, but until the contracts are signed by both parties, I can’t reveal the details. That’s annoying, but standard practice.

To be honest I was hoping for more acceptances, especially to pro markets, but I guess my skill isn’t there yet. Or those markets are not ready for me yet. Who knows.

Anyway, now that I’ve reached one hundred submissions, what’s next? I’m going to take a break from submitting until 2022 and work on some new stories. I have a couple that I’m revising, and a solid idea for a third.

But what of National Novel Writing Month? I hear you cry.

Well, I sort of participated this year. For a bit. I worked on The Afghan Code, but got (at this point) no farther than 3,471 words. Which is a bummer, but it is what it is. Work, school, and life got in the way. I’ll continue to work on this one, though, because it’s a fun story and I hope to share it with all of you when it’s done. And after that (or while I’m working on it) I plan to dive back into And the Devil Will Drag You Under.

I’m also going to try to commit to Holidailies, a month of daily blogging starting December 1. Why don’t you sign up for it as well? Ought to be fun.

That’s it for now. Be excellent to each other. And party on!

Here it is… October… Again…

National Novel Writing Month 2021 LogoAs my professor this semester put it, “How did it get to be October? And can you believe the semester is already half over?” I’m having a hard time believing it myself, even given the Halloween decorations that are springing up around the neighborhood. I will try to get some pictures of some of the more elaborate displays, such as the River Styx setup in the yard of a house around the corner from us.

Meanwhile, let’s look at how I did in September writing-wise…

I ended up putting And the Devil Will Drag You Under aside, with a restart date of December 6. I did this because I was having troubles with the characterizations and the plot, but mostly the characterizations because of couple of them are decidedly problematic, falling into harmful tropes that I need to figure out how to avoid. I’m giving myself space to think about this some. I have some ideas already, which I’m happy about. But since I’m not under any contractual obligations with this novel, I can set it aside for a bit and work on something else.

And work on something else I did. I am currently revising “Zombie Processes” (it’s a slow, meandering process), and outlining my next novel, The X of Doom. It’s the pirate novel I’ve been working on, on and off, for a few years now. I’m happy about the concepts, but the outline is not quite coming together. I have time to work on it though, so I’m not feeling all that rushed.

And I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time in a few years! (Strangely, I had a dream the other night about participating, in which I was the Municipal Liaison for Sacramento again, and we held our kickoff meeting in a grocery store.)

Strange dreams aside, I’m going to be writing a novel tentatively titled The Afghan Code, about a group of “murder grannies” (old women who murder — it’s a thing!) involved in a centuries-old global conspiracy. I don’t know what the nature of the conspiracy is, or who it involves, but I’m looking forward to finding out. It’s inspired by The Da Vinci Code, of course, but it will be better. My wife also provided the initial germ of the idea, and will be consulting on this novel since it will involve lots of knitting. However, it was writer Mur Lafferty who found the idea delightful enough to task me to write it.

A prototype of the novel’s prologue can be found here.

That’s all for now. Enjoy this month-long celebration of all things macabre and morbid, but stay safe and healthy as you do so. And some day I will have something more interesting to post here on my blog.

September Goals and an Update

Trinity College Library, Dublin
Future workplace, maybe?

Well, September is here, the year is 2/3 through, so here are my publication stats for the year so far:

Submissions: 77

Acceptances: 1

Withdrawals: 1

Rejections: 63

Pending: 12

So… I know that there are writers who have been much more prolific than I have this past year (I know one person who has logged over 300 submissions so far this year). Some writers have a 100% acceptance rate (one submission; one publication). Me, I’m nowhere near that. As for that one acceptance, I’ll make sure I post details about it here when the contract is finalized.

Most of the rejections I’ve received over the past year have been form rejection letters. I’m okay with that.  In fact, there’s a part of me that prefers form rejection letters over personal letters. With form rejections, you can take a quick look at the story, make any adjustments you may think are necessary, and move on (albeit with some existential dread). With personal rejections, you spend more time fretting over the story, trying to suss out the editor’s intent and wondering if the changes they suggest (if any — some personal rejections are very vague) will really improve the story overall or not. There’s more stress. And as an editor myself (have you visited Daikaijuzine lately?), I have to say that sending out form rejections is a lot easier on me.

Some personal rejections, of course, are delightful and inspiring. C. C. Finlay, former editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, gave me a fantastic review of one of my stories, and I rewrote that story in light of his criticisms, and it’s gone on to be one of my favorites. On the other hand, one personal rejection I got from a magazine many years ago was so disheartening I gave up writing for six months.

Don’t do that to yourself.

Anyway.

I did not meet many of my August goals. I had planned to write something like 30,000 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but instead wrote less than 3,000 total. I did complete revisions on my urban fantasy novella, and gave it to a friend for one last look before starting to send that one around to various markets. I also began revisions on my zombie love story, a short story I wrote some time ago, but which I revised and got good feedback on at the Cascade Writers Workshop.

So, my goals for September are:

  1. Write 7,500 words on Devil (that’s just 250 words per day);
  2. Finish revisions of zombie story; and
  3. Start a new science fiction short story.

IN OTHER NEWS…

School started up again a couple of weeks ago, and this semester I am taking Reference and Information Services, which is all about… well… reference and information services. Last week we focused on synchronous reference services, such as in person or on phone reference calls. Our class project will be pretty intense; I plan on doing a LibGuide for a certain topic. I’m not sure which one, though I’ve narrowed it down to three: the Republic of Pirates ca. 1790; Neanderthal culture; or childhood asthma. I’ve done research in all of those topics, though I have direct experience with the third only.

I haven’t changed my long-term ideal goals for librarianship; I still want to be a librarian and writer for a natural history museum. My dream job is doing that at the California Academy of Sciences, but I also recognize the unlikelihood of that ever happening. Maybe I’ll be a librarian at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland?

August also saw my father-in-law’s burial. He had actually passed away in June 2020, compounding an already awful year, but because of the pandemic, it was not possible to inter his cremains until over a year later. I don’t have a lot to say on this topic; my father-in-law was a kind and intelligent man who delighted in his family and in humor.

It did get me thinking about my own time here on Earth, and while I’ve spent too much time in my life thinking about that, I did decide that one song I’d like played at my funeral (which I honestly hope is a celebration and a joyful YAY FOR HIM HE LIVED! sort of affair instead of something sad and depressing) is “Turn the World Around” (alternatively called “Earth Song”) by Harry Belafonte. I’ve thoughtfully included a video below, where Harry Belafonte sings the song along with the Muppets. The song was performed at Jim Henson’s memorial, and I’ve always considered him a sort of spiritual mentor.

On that cheerful note, I will leave you for now. Have a lovely day.

(And now I have an earworm, and I hope you do too.)

On the Origin of Ideas

As a writer, one gets asked a lot of questions. What do you write? Have I read anything of yours? How much do you get paid? Will you write this novel that I have a tremendous idea for? How many homes do you have? and so on. Most writers often get asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” and that’s one that I’ve missed. No one has asked me that one. I like to think it’s because they know I have a degree in Philosophy and am liable to start pontificating on the whole notion of ideas and utter something like, “Where does anyone get anything, really?” Some writers have different answers to the question. One science fiction writer — I believe it was Harlan Ellison, but I’m not sure and I’m too lazy to look it up right now — famously responded that he got all his ideas from an idea factory in Schenectady, New York.

Since I don’t have a subscription to the Schenectady Idea Factory Box, I rely on other sources. What those sources are… well, actually I have no idea. But last night while I was sleeping, I had a doozy.

Imagine this: a science fiction epic which is a retelling of Les Misérables in space! That’s basically the dream I had last night. It started (in my dream) as an idea for a role-playing game, but, in the dream, morphed into a novel and then a movie starring Peter Capaldi. It seemed perfect in my dream.

And it sounds perfect now that I am mostly fully awake.

Will I write my epic Les Misérables in Space novel? Probably not. There are too many other projects demanding my attention. Or maybe I’ll retool my “epic space opera with horror overtones” or my “secret big project involving World War One”. Or maybe not. Who knows?

Maybe I’ll combine them all into one!

I wonder if Victor Hugo ever had to deal with thoughts like these?

Fellow writers: where do you get your ideas?

Tomorrow is August 1! And things are weird!

Why is my computer smoking?

Well, I did not achieve all of my July goals. Which is a shame, because I was really busy anyway. I had planned to write 31,000 words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under, but insead I fell about 6,000 words short of that goal. Which is okay! It just means that I may not hit my word count goal of 60,000 by August 12, the date of my next critique group meeting (WFN, for those in the know). And that means I may have to reschedule things a bit. Which, again, is okay. Besides, when you’re writing a novel, it’s kind of hard to keep track of who’s doing what when, and who knows what when, so I’d have to do a revision pass before giving it to WFN anyway. And again: okay.

I also did not finish up revising “Witness to the Scrouge” or “Sauromancy”. I did attend the Cascade Writers Workshop and got some incredible feedback on “Zombie Processes”, and soon™ I will get to revising that one as well. Lots of irons in the fire, plenty of pie on my plate, and so on.

August 16, school starts up again! Fall semester! Woo! I’m taking, of course, one class, Reference and Information Services, which focuses on how to conduct reference interviews with patrons and so on. I’m not entirely sure yet. I’m looking forward to it. And, of course, to becoming a rich and powerful librarian who travels the world hunting for rare and magical artifacts, rescuing them from the hands of evildoers, and storing them safely in the archives or returning them to their proper owners. I hope that I can start that process soon. But first, Reference and Information Services.

In other news, I started up a Patreon page. Why? Because when I do become a famous writer/librarian, you’ll want to be able to say, “I knew him when”. Whatever. If you want to sign up, the link is to the right.

That’s all for now. I hope to post more than once a month in the future. Still, though, I suppose once a month is better than never, right?

Okay, things may not be as weird as the title of this post advertised.

July Goals (and a mid-year wrap-up)

Gozilla Vs. Kong picture
You go first! No, you! No, you! I insist!

I chose this image of Godzilla and Kong duking it out because it reminds me of how multiple projects demand a writer’s attention. More on that later.

June Update: I did not accomplish everything I set out to do in June, but I came pretty close. I meant to work on And the Devil Will Drag You Under every day, but, of course, sometimes life gets in the way. I meant to fully revise “The BIM” (now “Witness to the Scourge”). I also meant to fully revise “Sauromancy”. Instead, though, I partially revised “Witness to the Scourge”, and I revised “Zombie Processes” and submitted it to a writer’s conference I’m attending in a couple of weeks. I did get quite a bit done, though, so I’m calling June a win.

Mid-year submissions wrap-up: I’ve been submitting short stories to various short fiction markets pretty regularly this past year. Every Monday and Thursday, in fact. I may have missed the odd day here and there, but I’ve always made up for it the following day. So, at this point, I’ve submitted 61 stories. The result? 40 form rejections, 6 personal rejections, 1 withdrawal, 0 acceptances, and 14 pending rejections  submissions. If I can keep this up all year, I’ll have over 100 submissions for the year. I’m hoping to get at least one acceptance over that time.

July goals: I signed up not for Camp NaNoWriMo, but for Dream Foundry’s “Summer Stretch”. I suppose I should sign up for Camp as well, but, well… I didn’t. At any rate, I do have a goal of adding at least 31,000 words to And the Devil Will Drag You Under in July, which will bring the grand total up to 60,000+ words. That means writing at least 1,000 words per day. That’s accomplishable.

The problem of multiple projects: I have several projects that I really want to work on. I’m committed to finishing Devil, but I was reminded recently of a novel I wanted to work on at one point, The Book of Jonah, a genre-centered retelling of the Biblical text of that name. A fun fact: I once stated (on LiveJournal, of all places!) that I considered Jonah to be the funniest book in the Bible. And Guy Consolmagno, the head of the Vatican Observatory, agreed with me! I was so thrilled! I had met him at WorldCon previously, and chatted with him (ever so briefly) about religion and science. Then I read his book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial, and when I met him again I mentioned it. And he said, “Oh yes, you’re the one who thought Jonah was funny.” I pretty much melted into a pile of goo right then and there.

Anyway, there’s that project. And my pirate novel, of course, which looks like it wants to be a trilogy. And my horror-themed space opera fantasy trilogy, too.

THEY ALL WANT TO BE WRITTEN. All of them are fighting, Godzilla-vs-Kong-like, for my attention. And the main point I want to tell them is that I need to finish my Devil novel first. Because that’s been my problem all along; I don’t tend to finish what I start writing. So I’m committed to And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I’m gonna finish that.

Of course, one unsung voice in the writer’s head at this point usually says something like, “Yeah, but what if the project I’m working on sucks? What if the next one would be good?” And that, sadly, is a very loud voice in my head. I should learn to ignore it. To a greater extent at least.

In other news: I am writing this on my new laptop! It runs Windows 10. Normally, I would have simply slapped Linux onto this computer and left Windows behind, but in this case, I wasn’t sure if Linux would be compatible with all the laptop’s features that I was interested in: the fingerprint authentication, the touch screen, and so on. But the Kubuntu install disk offered no option for dual-booting. So I went ahead and installed Kubuntu 21.04 in a virtual machine (Virtualbox, for those interested) in Windows. It’s a poor man’s Linux box, I suppose. But why? Because all my writing over the past many years has been done on a Linux computer, and my version of Scrivener is a Linux port, and so on. Besides, I really like Linux.

I’m just a nerd.

Anyway, that’s my update. I hope you’re having a good day. And my reward to you for reading this far is this: a picture of Godzilla stomping through a peaceful Thomas Kinkaide village:

Godzilla vs. Thomas Kinkaide
RAWR!!

June 2021 Goals

Life! Life! Give my creation life!

I’m including this photograph of Gene Wilder from Young Frankenstein because I know how he feels: Excited! Pumped! Full of possibility! Except I think this particular image is from after his creation did not come to life, in which case he feels bitter disappointment. And that’s how I kind of feel right now as well. I did not quite meet my writing goals from last month, so I’m a wee bit disappointed in myself.

I had set myself a goal of working regularly on my novel And the Devil Will Drag You Under, which Facebook tells me (via posts I’d made about it showing up in my Memories) I’ve been working on for more than a year. I’d hoped to make significant progress by now, but I fear that I have not. I readjusted my completion goal so that instead of June 10, I now aim to complete the rewrite by August 12. I have all of June to work on it, and I’m planning on using Camp NaNoWriMo in July to push through it.

I also had hoped revise a short story or two, namely “The B.I.M.” and “Sauromancy”, as well as draft a new story, tentatively called “Metolius Descending”. None of that happened. I did, however, do some revisions on a story called “Zombie Processes”, which I wrote a few years ago. After the revisions I did (basically a complete rewrite), I think it has great potential.

School, at least, is over for the summer, so I will have more time to write. I didn’t do as well in my final class as I’d hoped; my final research paper on the information-seeking behaviors of cryptozoologists did not receive very high marks. At least I got a B+ in the class, though. With SJSU’s MLIS program, a B- or less means you have to repeat the class, and if you don’t do any better the second time around, you’re subject to academic probation. None of that nonsense for me! I do wish I’d picked a different information community than cryptozoologists, however. This one was… problematic.

So, that’s me in a nutshell for now. I hope to write at least one more blog post this month, so that’s a goal. So is working regularly on the novel, and revising “The B.I.M.” We’ll see what happens.

How are you?

May 2021 Goals

Why an armillary? Why not? I just think it’s a cool picture.

Well, I did not end up submitting anything to the “Imagine 2200” contest from Grist magazine. The main reason for that is simply that I didn’t have a story ready in time. Solarpunk is a genre that I’m interested in, but I know very little about, and I certainly don’t know enough about it to write in that genre. The same goes for hopepunk. Both of these, I think, are genres that we need right now, and they’re better, in my mind, than the grimdark despairpunk that dominate science fiction and fantasy right now. I’m going to think more about this and see what I come up with. I’ll let you know.

I met my other goals, though. I got about halfway through the outline revision of And the Devil Will Drag You Under before deciding to just write it. I’m going to continue outlining as I go, which is what I normally do, but I’ll be using Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel method, which I’ve found really useful and inspiring so far.

I also continued my submission process, two per week, every Monday and Thursday. I think I may have missed a Thursday when my depression hit hard, but I made up for it the next day. Go me. This is an ongoing goal. Every Monday and Thursday, the submission of a story to a market.

I started writing a new short story, specifically for the Cascade Writers’ Conference in July that I’m participating in, thanks to a friend of mine who donated her spot to me. The story is woefully incomplete at this time but is due June 4. Either I finish the story or I don’t. I just want to have a sample of my current writing ability to submit, not a story that I wrote five or ten years ago. This story is science fiction, takes place in the far future, and so on. That’s all I will say about it. So that’s one goal: finish this short story.

I was going to revise my short story “Sauromancy” but did not get around to that. So boo on that. Upcoming, though, for May, I plan on revising both “Sauromancy” and “The B.I.M.” I didn’t get to them in April primarily most of my free time was taken up with school, but school will be over on May 9, so I’ll have more free time. Yay!

So that’s it for writing goals.

How are you?

 

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.