Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Short Story: Double Feature!

So April looks to be a busy month with lots of publications coming out. For me, I've got two sci-fi stories. First up...

"Mapping in the Darkness" over at Perihelion, which you can read for free.

Mitch cranked the wheel of the SEV as he backed out of the ship’s cargo hold, and onto Plutonian soil. 
“Hey! Careful,” Jerome said from the lavatory.
“You knew I was going to do this, so why didn’t you hold it?”
“It’s not my fault I had a bean burrito.”
This is a dark comedy with one part Lovecraftian horror (if you're familiar with Lovecraft mythos, then you might recognize the aliens from "The Whisperer in the Darkness"), although not in the way Lovecraft would've had it, but frankly, I consider far better (as we all know, Lovecraft didn't write characters). I love, love, love dark comedy, and took a good deal of inspiration from Dan Meth's short cartoon Google Earth Guys. Unfortunately, this story was held back due to a lack of ending. I kinda knew that, yet you know how it is, if you don't have a real drive to solve a problem, the problem just slides on by. Obvious good news is that editor Sam Bellotto Jr. gave me that shove.  

Second up...

"Spirit Flare" in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume V. The anthology should be out by now, but guess there's some delay--but hey! there's always preorder! 

Yeah it's a YA story; not that I set out to write YA stories but this happens to be one. It's got Hopi Indians in space, which as you imagine is not often done, so much so that I actually got my first personal from Strange Horizons with this story.

I quite like learning about other cultures and their traditions, and one perspective in Hopi culture is that age is a determining factor of how good a person you are (i.e. the older you are, the more likely you are to be a morally good person). Which does make a bit of sense since stupid or bad people usually die young. But I do find the concept fascinating compared to modern day trends, where beauty is the height of purity. I would actually like to explore this theme more in-depth, beyond the confines of a YA story. 

And I have to share this because this illustration is amazing. I rarely get art done for my stories, so it's a real treat to see something inspired by my work, and it has such a great retro-style going for it.

Seriously, is this not cool?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Flash Fiction: Twisty (aka best story evar!)

How can you say this is bad? It's awesome!

What's that calender? You say it's April 1st? Well that can only mean one thing: best story evar! from Unlikely Acceptance. And by that, I mean terrible story.

The man leapt to his feet. “Ha! Vampire, you have met you match, for I am a--” He opened his jacket to reveal rows of wooden stakes. “Vampire hunter extraordinaire!”
“How unfortunate for you,” Freebie said, and pulled a raw steak from her boot. “I’m a vampire hunter hunter.”

So the title "Twisty" should be a dead giveaway that it's about twists--twists upon twists, so twisty that it twists the sense out of your twisted brain.

Why twists? Because nothing will kill a story faster than a poorly done twist. Unsurprisingly, this hasn't deterred writers from doing said poorly done twists. For example, just look at Dean Koontz's The Taking --I loved that book till the end, where a middle finger would've been a more suitable ending than the one readers got.

So yes, bad twists are bad and make for bad fiction. Also things like overdone cliches, lack of story coherency, not keeping track of character names, and unsatisfying endings will all be major ticks against your writing.

Let this be a public message for you wannabe writers out there (and maybe you pros, too). Don't write anything resembling this crap--unless you're me, then totally write this crap.   

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Short Story: Spring Cleaning

So here's a season appropriate story--not the intention, but pretty darn good timing on the publication, if I do say so myself (and I do).

"Spring Cleaning" took first place in On the Premises "21 and up" contest/issue 22, and they routinely run these contests (no fee), so check them out some time. Funny too, because this is only the second time I've entered one of their contests. Last time it was humor, and obviously our senses of humor didn't match up.

Oh, and one of the nicest things that any editor has ever said about one my stories:
Congratulations on writing the first­ place story! I loved this one and wasn’t surprised at all when the other judges did too. Of the ten finalists, yours was the only story not to receive a “no” vote by any judge. (Even our second and third place finishers had one detractor apiece.) 

If that ain't flattery, I don't know what is!

As for the story itself, the inspiration was something I stumbled on while researching about the leyak--the Indonesian version of the penanggalan, except it's a bit more of a shape-shifting sorcerer. (I swear, East Asia has the coolest creatures.) And I came across this tidbit from a brochure site of all places!

Nyepi. Once a year, at the spring equinox, every community holds a general cleaning-out of devils, driving them out of the village with magical curses and rioting by the entire population. This is followed by a day of absolute stillness, the suspension of all activity, from which the ceremony takes its name. Nyepi marks they New Year and the arrival of spring, the end of the troublesome rainy season, when even the earth is said to be sick and feverish (panas). It is believed that then the Lord of Hell, Yama, sweeps Hades of devils, which fall on Bali, making it imperative that the whole of the island be purified.

So I fell in love with the idea of a poor little demon who is, quite literally, swept out of Hell and has survive on Earth. "As expected, Earth was a terrible, terrible place. At least in Hell, he was dry and warm."

By the way, "Bantu" means "help" in Bahasa Indonesia. Also, shadow-puppetry or "shadow play"  is a pastime in Indonesia. See, I do my research. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Short Story Submission Calls

Because hey--everyone likes to know when a new market is open, right?

I found a couple of obscure ones that seem promising...

Words Without Masters


Pay: Flat fee of $200 (shorter stories of 2,500 words or less)

Guideline's blurb:
Sword & sorcery is an often misunderstood genre label that many mistakenly use as a synonym for fantasy in general. Like any genre, it is hard to nail down, being both specific and possessing astounding flexibility. Because we are just as interested in your definition of sword & sorcery as we are our own, we won’t try to define it here. Instead, you will find a few regularly updated lists of some of the personal preferences of our editor-in-chief. You are welcome, but not necessarily advised, to ignore them.

(Do check out their lists, as they're pretty insightful on what they do and do not want.)

Also very cool that we have another S&S market.

Aphrodite Terra


Pay: 3 cents/word

Guideline's blurb:
I’m looking for short stories of no more than 6000 words set on, or about missions to, Venus. I want literary. I want realism. I want facts that are right. If you think your story is a good fit for Analog, then I don’t want it. If you think you’d have trouble placing your story with a genre magazine, then I might well be interested in it. Try to avoid sf tropes – unless you’re going to deconstruct them, re-engineer them, or use them as very deliberate commentary. But, to be honest, I’m not looking for heartland science fiction. 

(Despite guidelines saying the deadline is Feb. 2014, if you check out this update, the deadline has been extended to end of May. Also hopefully more will consider this market as there is a possibility of the project being cancelled if not enough submit.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Some Perspective

This past weekend I was in San Antonio--very nice place, even if it rained for most of the trip. There's the Riverwalk, a man-made river that goes straight through the place, surrounded by shops and restaurants. One area, La Villita, is an art village with lots of neat stuff. Pottery, glasswork, paintings, weavings...you name it.

Beau and I visited this co-op gallery, which is a bunch of local artists showcasing their stuff at a single shop. Very nice stuff, and I was surprised to see original pieces of art going for 20 bucks. I've sold flash stories for more than that! But as you go through the gallery, you can see why: there's a HUGE column of stuff, and you're just going through the canvases as if they were no more than discarded magazines at a used book store. It kind of got depressing, because it wasn't that any of these pieces of art were bad, just too much competition...which got me thinking of writing and submitting.

You have to compete with hundreds of thousands of writers, and you may be a perfectly good writer, but there are only so many slots in a given magazine/anthology. So sometimes you have to sell a story at a lower value than what you would've liked.

I truly dislike selling a story below 1 cent/word, but sometimes it's the only way to sell the darn thing. Or sit on the story till something better paying comes up, but then it may never see the light of day.  

I know this isn't any revelation, and any old hand could tell you this, but sometimes you need the reminder. The notion of the starving artist is no joke.   

Saturday, March 1, 2014

W1S1 Feburary Update (2014 edition)

This post I think I'll use to discuss more than report, because, I believe, I have something like insight to how W1S1 blog is run, and I know at least one other member looks at my blog.

 As far as the stats go...

Stories written: There was writing done, but nothing finished.
Stories submitted: 32
Rewrite requests: 2
Stories accepted: 2
Stories rejected: 30

I was working on a story this month, a story that I thought was going to be short-ish, and wound up being much longer, with still a couple thousand words to go. I was side-tracked with some requests to revise, which I hopped on immediately. One of these revisions resulted in a sale to Perihelion--first time I've had a repeat sale to the same market. My other sale was to On The Premises, taking first place in their "21 and up" contest.

So about W1S1... I had hosted the month of Feburary, which was little more than copying & pasting the weekly check-in and putting up a mid-week post. Half-way through, I began neglecting the mid-week post because I saw no one really gave shit about those. I looked though the stats for the mid-week posts in the past, and found: 1) Vast majority of them have less than a hundred views each. This is a blog that has 456 followers, just to give you an idea. Also, compare this to the weekly check-in posts that easily break a hundred views, going upwards of 2-300+. 2) Only a handful of people respond to such posts. And even then, I found posts with NO responses.

Now there's probably a couple reasons for this. The mid-week post is, well, in the middle of the week, and people are probably more likely to check their blogfeed on the weekends. Another reason is that people have no interest in the mid-week posts, which seem to have a tendency to be informative, rather than self-indulgent. It seems followers are much more eager to chime-in on the weekly-in posts, quite literally, in hours, within the post's first appearance. If I did see a response to the mid-week post, it would take a day or so.

So one has to consider if the mid-week posts are even worth the effort. It takes me about an hour to compose one, maybe for others it's less. And frankly, I'd rather use that hour for something more productive, than a blog post that will be largely ignored.

It's also disheartening to see, as I long suspected, that there isn't much community amongst the blog members of W1S1. See, I came from the AW forum to W1S1, where there was a lot more "togetherness", you could say. People reported sales and rejections, we exchanged information on markets or editors, passed on our experiences... etc. It was nice. The blog version is simply report your stats, and maybe someone will come along to pat you on the head. And yes, I know there are limitations to the blog format, that the people who visit the blog aren't the same kind of people who visit forums. Different mentalities, structures, and such.

I would like more community, but I don't know how reasonable it is to ask that of a blog. I did think the blog hops were nice, but those obviously declined in popularity, and were discontinued. So what else can be done? 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

W1S1 January Update (2014 edition)

Toward the end of 2013, I did neglect this portion of the challenge. Didn't fail it or anything, just didn't feel the need to update. I'll try to do better.

 As far as the stats go...

Stories written: 2 (both flash pieces, one being more of a vignette tho)
Stories submitted: A whopping 36! (including resubs and sim-subs)
Stories accepted: 2
Stories rejected: 34

Yeah, heavy on the rejections, but I've gotten some very nice personals, which helps the medicine--err, rejections go down.

Now I've already mentioned one acceptance from Unlikely Story, but there was another...which I rejected. Interesting experience, really. It was a flash horror story accepted by a new market, and I was all gun-ho, because I like giving new markets a chance, until I saw the contract. What a mess. It was vague, unclear, had a horrible clause where the story could be edited to the publisher's sole satisfaction. What about the author? I asked if there could be some changes made to the contract, and was basically told that if I didn't like the contract, I should withdraw my story. Which I did. I don't like doing that, but I do expect editors/publishers to be able to compromise.

The takeaway lesson here folks is: READ THE CONTRACT.

Acceptances are nice and all, but be wary that there are publisher who can and will screw you over. And it is perfectly okay to ask for revisions to the contract if it is not to your liking.