In which I make a fabulous return

So, it’s been almost a year since I last posted here, and I’m the kind of person that once I’m starting again, I want to start fresh… but in the interest of continuity, I’ve decided to eschew that behavior right now and start up this journal again for my writing diatribes. So here I am again! Miss me?

It is November 1st, and as most of you probably know, November is the month of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as those of us in the know like to say. I’ve competed in many other NaNos, as far back as I can remember, and I’ve never actually won. Every year, I’d say I’d like to change that. This year is no different. I’d like to win one!

Leading up to this NaNo, I toyed with two different stories, both with tentative titles. The first, Gautier, is one I’ve been marinating for a while. It’s a gay shapeshifting erotic story featuring — wait for it — UNICORNS! The second, Spellblade, is a more traditional fantasy epic, complete with a Trojanesque War and dueling wizards and quests to obtain legendary items. I like the idea of writing something like that, but it’s still pretty fresh in my mind and I didn’t get a chance to flesh the plot or the setting out as much as I’d have liked.. so I’ve settled on Gautier.

I wrote the prologue, set in present tense, and the first chapter, set in past tense, tonight. That got me to about 2,500 words already, which is well above my daily goal of 1,667 words. I usually start strong, though, and then peter out in a few days. A lot of my momentum tonight, I think, came from a brief divorce between me and my usual hobby, competitive online video games. Let me tell you, playing League of Legends is not good for my blood pressure or my sanity. So I uninstalled, then wrote the 2,500 words, then reinstalled for lack of anything better to do. At least I’m consistent in my inability to stick to my guns, right?

In related news, I’ve had a poem and a short story published since last we spoke. Both were accepted by Chelsea Street Editions for the anthologies. One is for modern gay poetry and one is for modern gay fiction, though I never remember which, and since I’m both modern and gay, I fit right in! I got paid nothing for the poem and only $35 for the short story, but I don’t mind; it’s two more credits to add to my writing resume! And that’s great!

In addition, I sent out Eternity in an Hour to Riptide Publishing’s open call for submissions. I’m not supposed to hear back for up to six months, though, and until then, Eternity is on a hold, since Riptide doesn’t accept simultaneous submissions. I find that whole standard baffling. Do people realize how hard it is to get published? Do they realize how long it takes to write a novel? Do they not understand how big of an inconvenience it is to have to sit on a manuscript for that long? I mean, I’m in the market for publication, not marriage. Do I really have to be monogamous?

But I digress. I’m hoping I hear from them sooner rather than later, and I’m hoping the news is good. As far as gay publishers go, Riptide sounds pretty fantastic, and they seem to care about their writers’ careers as well, which is nice. It’d be a great way, again, to get my foot in the door and, if Eternity is well-received, an automatic in for the sequels. That’d be great!

But it’s late, and my sleep schedule is absolutely destroyed because of an early morning meeting I had to attend last weekend. I do, however, need at least to attempt to sleep, so I must bid you adieu. I will, I hope, not be quite as absent as I’ve been the past year. I may not be able to quit video games cold turkey, but perhaps I can at least cut back?

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In which I redirect

So, in case you actually pay attention to this journal and care about my writing, you may want to start reading my “real people” journal, Mr. Right Angles. I post there pretty often, and I tend to write about writing pretty often, too. You’ll also have to put up with a lot of woe-is-me posts, but those have a certain trainwreck-can’t-look-away appeal that you may enjoy. Schadenfreude and all that…

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In which I want to play tennis without a net

Robert Frost once said that writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net. That quotation is so overused that half of me doubts he even said it, most of me believing that it’s been corrupted beyond belief. Either way, though, the simile applies.

And currently I’m finding I’d rather play without a net. I’d like to enter a contest, run by Wattpad, called the Attys. It’s a rather silly site, primarily made for amateur writers, but a very serious writer — Margaret Atwood — is judging it. The goal is to write ten poems and submit them by the end of October. Each poem has to be a different poetic form.

This is a lot more difficult than it sounds.

Most forms, I’m finding, are foreign in origin. Then the English poets phagocytosed them, and here they are… but the thing about that is foreign languages are much easier to rhyme than English… and some foreign languages — I’m looking at you, Japanese and Latin and Greek — don’t even write poetry like we do. They count syllables or run meter by weight. It makes one hell of a chore to work it in English.

So now I have to come up with ten poems, each a different form, that actually make sense within that form… and are good. I have a few already — I have a great sonnet and I’m thinking about claiming ‘free verse’ as a form for another one. (It’s listed on the wikipedia page that the Attys themselves link to, so suck it!) I’m pretty much at a loss for the rest, though.

I’d like to do some sort of sequence, so everything fits snugly together, but that’s looking unlikely. I don’t have much time, nor do I have much creativity at the moment. I’m stuck in a pre-writing whirlpool, and I’ve apparently forgotten how to swim (metaphorically speaking, of course, as I never knew how to swim literally).

I am hoping, though, this will change. I’m currently flipping through a bunch of different forms to see if any really light a fire under my ass, so to speak, and I’m trying to think what I’d like to write about. I should probably read more poetry, too, to get back into the poetical mood. Wish me luck!

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In which I finish a wiki page

It took me about four days, but I’ve finally finished the wiki page on Coquellian magic!

The rest of the wiki is virtually non-existent, because I’ve been migrating the old site ( to this newer, better designed one. I also figured, since so much has changed since I wrote that original wiki, that it was easier to start from scratch.

I’m not sure I was right.

But that’s irrelevant. I finished the Coquellian magic, so I can start thinking more about Offlandish twisting and Calerelacian stormcalling! That’s pretty exciting. I love creating this shit.

As I look over the page, I’m not sure I finished it after all. I didn’t give any examples of the types of things each of the six quell can do, nor did I talk about the ways that practitioners can combine their powers to create larger and more powerful quell-effects, including the fabricated quell-beasts that so decimated the islands during the War of the Wings.

I’m a failure!

Posted in Coquels, Palia, Technology | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

In which I post a sample

So, I just wrote a bit for the first time in quite a while. It’s the second scene from the prequel to my first novel, Eternity in an Hour. Let me know what you think. As I said, it’s been awhile since I wrote, and I’m feeling like I could use some feedback. (This is pretty much for you, Poppy, since I doubt any of my other friends will read this. Heh.)

Despite his exhaustion, Tristys couldn’t stay asleep. The day was too bright, a beam of sun alighting across his eyes. He shifted, wondered how his bed had become so uncomfortable, and remembered. His eyes shot open. The sky above him, through wooden bars and blurry. Tightness around his ankles, some sort of knotted cord that tightened if he struggled. He pushed himself up to a sitting position. The world spun. His hands were free, but his feet were anchored to the cage.

Wooden, made of thin poles knotted together, probably with the same cord that bound his feet. No roof. It was a flimsy construction, he could see that even through the drugs, but just crunching himself into a sitting position had taken all his energy. He doubted he’d be able to jerk enough to loose a single pole let alone down the entire cage.

He redirected his gaze. His vision took a moment to catch up; when it cleared, he saw others around him, mostly men and boys, very few older than he. Most were still asleep. A young boy, probably five or six years Tristys’s junior, and his even younger sister had their backs propped against the wall across from him. Their heads slumped together. Their eyes were open, but they saw nothing. Tristys tried to speak, but his tongue felt swollen and limp. He sputtered, but nothing but spit came out.

He was not okay. He heard his own thoughts, but they moved too quickly for him to grasp, like trying to catch fish as they careened over the Tysim Falls. He remembered little from the night before. The fire, the fear, the flight. The two moons in the sky, his friends, and then running, falling from some impact on his back. Now here he was, chained to a cage and drugged to near oblivion. He heard the word Spȧlorians repeated in his mind, but his mind couldn’t remember what that meant. He tried harder to recollect, squinted, failed. He flailed in defeat.

“That bad idea.” His brain registered the voice, the words. He shifted his eyes, and a second later his vision shifted to follow. Outside the bars, a thin, wiry man stood, hands behind his back. He had long, dark hair, thin and unwashed. A grin twisted his face, pulled his lips back to bare white teeth. Spȧlorian, Tristys’s brain said, and he was scared.

“You keep move, you get more sick in you.” The words were unclear, disjointed and disconnected. They didn’t go together, weren’t right. “More sick in you, no more life in you.” He brought his hands from behind his back, held up a finger and shook it. His tongue clicked. “I like toys of mine to be little strength,” he said, “not dead.” He bent down, stuck a hand through the bars, and grabbed Tristys’s hair. He pulled.

Tristys erupted in pain, shouted at him to stop, but words still wouldn’t form on his tongue. His body obliged, bent far more than it should, and Tristys felt something stab him near the eye, a small prick in his skin that burned brighter than the fire he’d left at home.

“Dead toys no scream,” he heard the man say again as his vision blurred to black, “and I lust the screams.” After that, there was nothing but silence.

Posted in Eternity series, Excerpts, Novellas | Tagged | 3 Comments

In which I ask you to help me pick a publisher for my first submission of ETERNITY

I realize I haven’t posted in quite a while, and I realize that things have changed since that last post. I think I last left you as I was in the middle of revising Eternity in an Hour, finishing up a short story called “Sun-flower,” and waiting for the anthology including “The Calm Tonight” to get published. Let me give you the quick updates, so we can get to the heart of the matter:

  1. I finished the Eternity revision awhile ago. Only one person has read it in its entirety — love you, Poppy! — and I’m still waiting on feedback from a few other beta-readers. I’m not sure if I need to do another revision or not, but I think I’m going to try sending it out to a few publishing houses to see what they say, if they say anything. (More on this later.)
  2. I tried to rewrite “Sun-flower” to be more in line with what its editor wanted, but sadly, I never finished. As usual, I’m too individual and too set in my ways to alter something I created as drastically as he required. The revision I started is interesting in its own right, but it’s not “Sun-flower.” Therefore, it’s not finished and probably never will be.
  3. The Touch of the Sea was published last month. It’s not a bestseller — surprise surprise! — but it’s garnered one or two good reviews, and it’s still so exciting to see my name in print. I’m pleasantly satisfied with it, though I still think that story could have been successful in a contest or a bigger publication or something. But hey, I’m published! That’s amazing in and of itself!

With that out of the way, let me give you another quick update about where I — and my writing — am at today:

  1. After finishing the Eternity revision, I froze. I tried to work on Fourteen Lines, to no avail. I’ve started work on The Rainbow Is Enough (née the Mrs. Dolores Higginbottom story) again, but it’s slow. Same with A Wink of Eternity (née Tristys’s prequel). So I’m pretty much at a stopping point at the moment. I’d like that to change. I feel so much better when I’m writing actively.
  2. I’m contemplating turning this blog into a Tumblr. Tumblr is a lot nicer, but I hate the lack of a community feel to that place. Interaction, other than reblogs and likes, is virtually impossible. But then again, interaction here on WordPress seems improbable, if not impossible, so… who knows. If only crossposting between Tumblr and WordPress weren’t a pain in the ass…

That’s enough of that. Now, on to the meat of this post! I’ve finished Eternity in an Hour, and I really want to submit it for publication somewhere. I’ve used the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market to select a few potential publishing houses, and now I need you to help me decide! Here’s another list, this time in alphabetical order:

  1. Arsenal Pulp – accepts simultaneous submissions
  2. Baen – prefers not to accept simultaneous submissions
  3. Blind Eye Books – does not accept simultaneous submissions
  4. Bold Strokes Books
  5. DAW – does not accept simultaneous submissions
  6. Torquere – does not accept simultaneous submissions

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t know where to send the manuscript! Two of those six publishers are pretty famous, and they’re not strictly GLBT. Three of the other four are GLBT. Two of those three, I’m afraid, may publish erotica… or books that are erotica but try not to be. I’m afraid that Eternity doesn’t have what it takes to get published by the big guns like DAW or Baen, but I don’t want it published by a pornoshop straight to ebook, either. It’s dilemmas like this that lead me to stagnating inactivity. Eff my life.

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In which I feel discouraged, conflicted, and other unpleasant things

So, I recently finished “Sunflower,” which is the short story I wrote for my editor’s YA anthology. A few of my friends have read it — Poppy, Barb, Kim, Roberta, Lauren, Logan, and John — and they’ve all enjoyed it. (Yes, I know they’re my friends and therefore not unbiased… but I like to think at least one of them would have admitted to some reservations if the story is that bad.) Last night, I sent the story to my editor and he called me today, on the phone, to talk about it.

He said that I have a good foundation here, but as it stands it is unacceptable for publication in the anthology. We talked about this for over a half hour, and I’m now going to give you a bulleted list of the points he made, condensed and reorganized by my memory-stricken brain. (This is supposing I can figure out how to do bullets in this new blogging program I’m using… )

Which I can’t do. So I’m going to forego bullets and just do this paragraph-style. How old-fashioned, I know!

Actually, first I’m going to give you a quick run-down of the story: Mark is a young boy, around fifteen, who is gay. He knows he’s gay and he is resigned to it, but he has not really accepted it. He has basically adopted the Catholic ideology, that being gay itself isn’t a sin but a gay person shouldn’t act on it. That is, Mark actively represses his gay desires, treating it like a disease whose symptoms he’ll need to treat for life. Mark meets Logan, an excellent swimmer, when his parents force him to take swimming lessons. Logan is hot, and he inadvertently helps Mark, first by driving him sexually crazy (unintentionally, through various touches during the swimming lessons) and then by telling him a story about a friend. This is early in their professional (i.e., student-teacher) relationship, and after this goes down, the rest of the summer is uneventful. When Logan leaves for school in the fall, Mark hugs him goodbye, finally feeling proud of his desire.

Now, the problems my editor had:

We first discussed the character of Mark. He said, “All I know about Mark is he’s gay, he’s religious, and he plays video games.” He wants more characterization. He kept asking what Mark does in his spare time, when he’s not reacting melodramatically to Logan’s physical body or touches. He asked if Mark has a friend, a confidante, with whom he could share scenes to show these day-by-day activities. I said that those things don’t really fit, since this story is about Mark’s inner turmoil over his sexuality. My editor said that young adults want slices of their lives, and this isn’t enough of a slice.

Next, we discussed the relationship between Mark and Logan. He said — again, his words — that the story as is gives the reader a severe case of blue balls, because I sexualize every touch in the first parts and then by the end of the summer, the touches are not sexual, almost innocent. Young adults who read this, according to my editor, will want Mark and Logan to get together, and they’ll be angry that they don’t. He also said that he can’t believe that a fifteen-year-old boy who spends an entire summer with a super-hot guy who’s totally okay with his sexuality would not hit on that super-hot guy. My editor said that I basically have to come to some sort of resolution with their relationship, because this story is as much about it as it is the character development of Mark.

I’m pretty sure those were the two major areas he didn’t like. As I said, our conversation spanned a half hour, and it bounced between this and that and those and these. It wasn’t this organized or pointed, and I obviously interjected my own thoughts as we went along. Towards the end, I think both he and I got frustrated with each other. I don’t want to be one of those people who can’t take advice, who have a smart-ass explanation for every speck of criticism… but I did. I mean, I see his points… but I don’t know if I want to give in to them.

Which brings me to my dilemma. My editor assured me that we could make “Sunflower” work, that we’d work on it together until it was suitable for his anthology. But I’m hesitant now, because I’m afraid he’s going to want so many changes that “Sunflower” will be entirely, irrevocably different. He suggested that, as it is now, “Sunflower” is not a YA story, and I’d probably agree. Now, I’m not sure I know how to write a YA story, to be honest. And this has to do with my theories of short stories, which I’ll now explain in a new paragraph!

Let me state the obvious: a short story is not a novel. A short story should have a single focus, one conflict, and everything that is irrelevant to that focus should be left out. In “Sunflower,” for instance, the issue is Mark’s acceptance of his physical desires. This is why the story jumps directly from the eye-opening conversation he has with Logan two days after they meet to the end of summer, when Logan leaves. Because the story isn’t about Mark’s relationship, sexual or not, with Logan; therefore, any details about it are irrelevant and therefore not included. Could I add in scenes between the two? Could I add in scenes with Logan and his friends or his parents? Of course. But do I really want to? I’m not sure.

Clarification: one focus does not mean one plot. A short story can have several plots, as long as they’re all connected to the same focus. So if I give Mark a girlfriend on the side, a beard that he uses to try and freeze his same-sex desires, then that would be a fine plot to complement the one about his educational relationship with Logan. Because both of those plots have the same focus. Should I include a plot about his best friend’s birthday party, where Logan gets drunk for the first time and eats some cake? Perhaps in a novel, but certainly not in a short story. A novel has room to meander, to develop character for character’s sake, but a short story… no, every word, every scene, every iota of a short story should be staring directly at that focus, refusing to let it out of its gaze.

I remember, when artists or authors would complain about moral dilemmas involved in selling out, I’d roll my eyes and say, “Shut up. Do you want the money or not? Obvious answer is obvious. Take the money now, write your high art later.” But now, faced with a dulled version of selling out, I’m beginning to understand how they feel. I have no real investment in this story. It’s something I wrote over the course of two days, specifically for this anthology, specifically to get $200 towards my new computer. And yet I find myself resisting the changes my editor wants me to execute. Words like ‘integrity’ and ‘obligation’ keep surfacing in my head no matter how many times I try to silence them. And this, really, is my dilemma: do I sell out?

I’m being a bit coy, because I’ve already emailed my editor again. I’ve decided on a compromise, basically. I’m willing to add more scenes to the story to make it closer to slice-of-life than it is. I’m willing to add in a confidante, another romantic interest for Mark, or something like that. But I’m not willing to alter the basic relationship between Mark and Logan. They are not lovers. They can’t be lovers. Mark can’t even make a move on Logan, because that’s not how Mark would act “in real life.” He’s an incredibly introverted, incredibly shy kid whose just recently learned to accept himself on all levels. He’s not going to be trying to jump in the pants of the first guy he talks to, even if he really, really, really wants to. (And he does: Logan is hot!) So yeah… will add stuff, but will keep the relationship the same.

Then in my email I apologized for being one of those people, and I told him if he doesn’t think this compromise will be enough to make “Sunflower” work, I’ll try to write another, more generic YA story for him. And I’ll try to get “Sunflower” a new home, published somewhere else that is more receptive to a literary take on the short story. I’m very afraid I’m stepping on toes: I don’t know how the editor-author relationship is supposed to go, if I’m supposed to take everything he says as divine commands or if I’m supposed to grovel at his feet for publishing me. But when I think of that — divine commands and groveling — those words like ‘obligation’ and ‘integrity’ start floating around again. I think I’d be doing a disservice — to him, to myself, to my dream of being a writer, to my writing — if I did that. Right?

Of course, this whole thing makes me question if I’m mean to be a writer… a published one, at least. The whole conversation made me feel so disheartened and discouraged, and it was about a story that I have no real attachment to. I can’t imagine turning in my novel, Eternity in an Hour, and being told that it’s “unacceptable” and needs fundamentally altered to work. I think I’d die. If my skin is that thin, if I’m that sensitive, should I even try this silly dream anymore? Or should I just draw the line at writing for my friends, who know and love my work regardless of its objective quality?

But then again, what the Hell is objective quality, anyway? Can a value judgment like that ever really be objective? It makes me think of Forster’s claim that the only real merit of “good” literature is whether or not we like it… and beauty, as we all know, is in the eye of the beholder. Or in this case the bereader.

I don’t know. I didn’t intend to write quite such a long post — I thought the email I sent to my editor was long, and it was only about a third this length! I guess I had a lot more to say than I thought I did. I’m curious to know what you think — about my specific predicament, about my theories on short stories, about the author-editor relationship, about anything. If you’d like to read “Sunflower,” that can also be arranged, provided I have a vague knowledge of who you are.

Posted in Problems, Publishing, Short Stories, The Craft | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments