The Path is Long, The Hill is Steep

A while ago I made a rash declaration, and today I actually made good on it, on a day behind the projected schedule.  The first eight pages of what I’m currently calling Impossible Bodies are done, the effort to write a novel has left the dock, and while there’s a slim risk it may sink it isn’t going to stop.

I’ll reiterate what that previous entry said about this enterprise’s relation to NaNoWriMo–  I’m starting now, but I have no illusions about finishing at month’s end.  This will be, at best, a six month voyage, and I anticipate having to pick up more lime juice before the first draft is over.  Today’s initial efforts yielded eight longhand pages, with roughly 18% having lines drawn through it a moment after it landed on the paper.  If I have seventy days like this, I’ll be close to the modern novel length (unlike NaNoWriMo’s traditional goal which would be about 200 printed pages).

None of this, I hope, is going to have much effect on events here.  Tiny objects will appear now and again to amuse.  I may even howl entertainingly about obstacles encountered in the novel or other attempts to be a fully-functional author.  But I thought that I should probably let everyone here know that I was actually making good on that earlier threat.  The world needs more detective novels with non-traditional supernatural stuff in them, right?

Of course it does.

(Nearly) First Published Work!

I’m very very very proud to announce that I have a story appearing on Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures.  I’m so proud, in fact, that I’ve de-linked the same story from this site for the moment, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to go over there.

I’m proud of this because it’s my first story to be published.  More or less.  During a recent spate of auto-Googling– because, occasionally, one does like to see how much attention the internet is paying– I found a couple of references to an article which was printed in Dragon, the monthly organ of, at the time, TSR Gaming (long since taken up by Wizards of the Coast).  This was not a huge surprise, since it was a high-circulation magazine, even before the dawn of the Nerd Age we currently live in.

More surprising was to find my name popping up on the Internet Science Fiction Database.  I entirely remember the story– the surprise is that anyone else took any notice of it.  It appeared in the ‘zine emitted irregularly and briefly by Regina Speculative Fiction Society, and when I use the contraction, I am speaking of the old version; a physical object, composed of pieces of paper passed through a photocopier and hand-collated (as photocopiers of the day had trouble with that sort of thing) before being stapled together and handed to subscribers.  It was not quite first-generation, as the editors had access to computer printing and so didn’t have to tape together bits of type-written material.  But there was tape involved in the paste-up.

It is a non-professional credit, to be sure, since The Spintrian barely managed to mail out any copies with the available budget.  While this more recent presentation of my work is not by the technical definition applied by the Horror Writers Association or the SWFA appearing in a professional market either, it is actually bringing in some payment.  Semi-pro, we might say.  A step on the path to greater things.

Apart from shouting “Hey, everyone!  LOOKIT WHAT I DONE!” I’m making this post to underline something we all occasionally forget– what we did in the past can be very hard to bury.  Alas, the original file of the story is locked up in Applewriter II formated 5.25-inch floppy discs which I may or may not still have in the house, so I can’t offer a glimpse at that old work of mine.  This is probably a good thing.  I seem to remember using some phonetic dialogue, and we all know how embarrassing that sort of thing can be.

The Imbecile Confession

I am about to repost the majority of an entry from my other blog, because it mainly concerns the future of this one.  The direction of some references will be edited, to keep things from being too confusing:


 

[I]t all started last Sunday, when I went to a writing workshop under the direction of a Hugo-winning Canadian author.  The workshop had nothing at all to do with how to find a market for what one wrote; it was all about how to lay a solid foundation for a novel, based on notions the fellow had developed in the course of writing a lot of SF, but which apply to most genres as well.  Jolly useful information, too, but what developed out of it was what I can only think of as blindness resulting from a curse or a brain lesion fell away.  On Monday, I found I was able to uncover all sorts of paying markets for the sort of stuff that I write.

Had I looked previously?  Indeed so.  Not only that, but I had looked in basically the very same places I investigated on Monday on those previous attempts.  Having made this startling… I will say “discovery” because it was new to me, even though already well inhabited and supporting thriving cultures, I decided to get properly serious about making some submissions to places that offer money for stories.

Money for stories.  Fancy that!  Exactly what I have been trying to discover the alchemical principles for!

There is a substantial element of regret in this discovery, as over on the fiction site I have been rendering some of what I think of as pretty good stories unappealing, because most markets want stuff that hasn’t appeared anywhere previously.  I knew I was doing this, too, but in my earlier innocence, I saw no real alternatives by way of becoming known at all as a writer of fictions.  Had the blindness lifted six months earlier, I would have a lot more shot in my locker.

The way in which I intend to address this startling discovery of the obvious is probably self-destructive too, although hopefully only in the short term.  I’m going to carry on [at the older blog] much as I have done, intermittently becoming the sort of specialized interesting I once was while mainly just letting the world know that I’m plugging away and still rotating my pens.  Over [here], I’m going to stop being quite so profligate with my new material, which is where the self-destructive comes in– little flash fictions, such as [the] one I did up today, will appear in what I intend to be a pretty regular way (long intervals, though) while longer stories will get driven around the markets in search of a paying audience.  Once they have found a paying audience, and served their time of exclusivity, I will then post them on the fiction side of my online world; I will then be able to include an annotation along the lines of “Originally presented in the Fall 2016 edition of A Rather Splendid Periodical that Pays Good Rates to Authors”, which will be ego-boosting for me and hopefully drive some more eyes in their direction(s) so they may continue to pay the creative types.

Once I’ve got as many stories with of those annotations as not, I may begin to feel less like a great blundering infant.  I hope so.  These diapers look ridiculous.


 

I realize that this follows pretty briskly on the heels of an earlier announcement regarding the pace of presentations and its reduction.  However, the whole reason for my running this element of my online presence out was to try and supplement the meagre income that my day job provides, and while I’m not without hope in that direction, I have to say that thus far my family is not growing fat on the proceeds of the writing.  I love my readers, but my power to reach enough of them to make an observable income is limited; I have to turn to these suddenly revealed (such a baffling lapse!) markets in hope of being able to provide my son with some shirts that fit.

I will mention that the next story due here, the hinted-at flash fiction, will appear a week hence, because I am sticking to my policy of giving patrons a week’s preview of new stuff.  I’m going to have to examine the whole structure of my presence at Patreon, and pretty damn quick, too; I don’t want to make promises that my change of focus renders impossible to fulfill.

A Day I’m Not Fond Of.

I am, excepting the Bill Murray film, not a fan of Groundhog day. This is a state which stretches back to childhood, when I first realized the stupid joke upon which it is founded and realized that it was propounded by people who come from a latitude where astronomical spring and the local effects of that season actually line up. Winter, in the gross local-effect sense, can start in my little patch of the world as early as the first week of October.  It can last long enough to see the high school seniors struggling to their grad proms through drifts of snow only slightly reduced by the Sun’s power.  All hearing about the power of a rodent to see its shadow or not does is make me want to start punching people.

I was, in fact, unbecomingly pleased to hear that one of the Canadian incarnations of the prognosticating beast had died. One should not, except in the case of specific Hitlers, take joy from the death of a fellow being. Such is the state this day puts me in.

Having said all that– I’m using today to announce something that also displeases me.  I figure that I can’t taint this date in my own mind any more than years of gritted teeth have already managed.  There’s an apology involved, too.

When I began this little effort of mine last fall (and it was, uncharacteristically, autumnal here, but I digress), I had some misgivings about my ability to keep up with an unstated pace of a couple of new stories each month.  These misgivings have borne their unwelcome fruit, for my shot-locker is not bare but it doesn’t have much ammunition left in it.  Having caught the attention of some followers over the past few months, I find I now have to admit that I can’t maintain the pace.

In a desperate bid to garner sympathy, let me explain my writing process.  The first draft is done long-hand; some people will cry out at as being a slow way of doing things, but I find an advantage to it.  I’m not tempted to fiddle away with edits when I should be letting the creative centres of the brain run freely with their tongues lolling.  Also, in this initial phase of the activity, the actual words are coming no faster than the pen can race; images, perhaps, appear more briskly, but not the words to convey them.

Second draft is the point at which things pass through a keyboard.  Since I am at this stage editing and re-working some of the more convoluted stuff the “who’s this ‘syntax’ fellow?” creative centres uttered forth, this is not brisk typing.  A particular brisk patch recently works out to about 20 words per minute.  That’s not a complaint, mind you– I can transcribe faster, but when actually processing the material, I’m quite pleased with that sort of productivity.

Third draft, which is usually what you see in the stories here, waits until a couple of patient readers look through the second, pronounce certain elements of it still gibberish, and point out that I completely forgot a verb somewhere.  This is useful stuff, and I’d hate to do without, but it’s also the work of volunteers, who act only when other demands on their time allow.

Speaking of demands on time– there’s plenty clinging to me, too.  Thanks to job, and a son who really wants his dad to share in all his joys (mainly Thomas and Friends, but with occasional excursions into more sophisticated diversions, plus sleds, swimming, and/or bicycles), I can count on as much as an hour each day to perform the writing task.  Keeping in mind that, as Douglas Adams noted, “as much as” includes the amount none at all, I get absolutely giddy when I can get a moderate-length story shoved through first and second draft in the space of two weeks.  Third draft doesn’t take much work… once the notes come back.

Even leaving aside stories that curdle in the initial draft (usually a result of point-of-view error, but in some cases a more fatal deformity), to get things polished enough that I dare let them see the light of public scrutiny takes not less than three weeks.  Without a substantial change in the household finances letting me set the day job aside, or some kind of compassion blow-out which will allow me to ignore my family completely, that’s not going to change.

I’m not… wait, that’s insufficiently emphatic.  I’ll go again.

I’m not shutting down the operation here.  I’m just letting you know, you who have taken a moment to poke the “follow” button, that there will be a little less action here.  The occasional flash story will still appear, too– those things don’t take more than a week from mere notion to gem of deathless prose (hah!).  I’d rather reduce frequency than polish, and I’m hoping the various readers of my stuff are similarly inclined.

Quivering, he steps into the light.

This exercise should not be as intimidating as I’m letting it be.  I have, after all, been keeping a blog long enough to run out of original thoughts.

Wait.  That may not be the right tone.  Pressing onward!

This is a somewhat different prospect than my long-standing effort to increase the amount of stream-of-consciousness nonsense cluttering up the servers of the world.  This is an effort to present myself as an author, someone who doesn’t just tip words out of his head, but who puts some time and effort into lining up what pitches out of that hole in his head, arranging it into pleasing, amusing, and even possibly-effective shapes.

Since the aforementioned running-out, I’ve been keeping the followers of my thoughts on the strange and arresting world of fountain pens and other outdated concepts up to date on my efforts to create short stories.  I have also, a couple of times, mentioned submitting these stories to publishers.  Thus far, no success, and I am informed that a part of my failure to impress is that I don’t already have a presence as an author in the world.  There is that blog, which is as fine an un-revised heap of mis-spelled words and poorly-braced sentences as one could hope to find.  It’s not, for want of a better word, polished.  There’s also the informational website I keep and intermittently add to, but that’s non-fiction (mostly).

A very little of my writing, the fun, carefully-handled fictional stuff I actually dignify with that term, has shown up on that earlier blog, placed as an penance offering to the followers there (I am mindful of your patience, folks).  That same material is, initially, what will show up here.  This is by way of priming the pump– once I have this thing’s engine running smoothly, the original material will start to flow.  Expect fresh things to appear by the end of this week, in fact.

Before presenting any of that writing, I’ll add an admission familiar to followers of my other blog: I am terrible at self-promotion.  The quivering mentioned above is not just from the prospect of dragging my tender tales out into the searing light of public scrutiny, but at the audacity of hoping people might actually pay to look at them.  Not just “some people”, the nebulous personification of editors and a greater reading public, but actual, discrete people– I’ve gone and set myself up on Patreon, hoping that some small bonuses for becoming a patron will move folks who enjoy the kind of writing I do to encourage me to keep at it.  If you’re that kind of people, pop on down that link.  The very least you will get out of it is an expression of gratitude.

Enough of that, though.  You’re not here for this, you’re here for stories.  The current story is “The Notes of Erich Zann,” which I chose as the inaugural entry here for a couple of reasons.  First, it is very nearly a fan-fiction, to the point that I wouldn’t think of submitting it to any publisher who wasn’t specifically calling for works picking up where something H.P. Lovecraft had done left off.  Second, it’s relatively big, and if I’m not putting something brand new out to test this new forum of mine, I should at least offer something meaty.

You will also find a few things in The Back Files, a few previously submitted or presented objects to keep it from being a yawning void while this enterprise if getting up to steam.  Because I do want to get off to a bang, “The Notes of Erich Zann” will be rotating into The Back Files in about a week, and a story never publicly presented before will take over the place of prominence.

I hope you’re as excited as I am, if not quite as nervous.