Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Shameless Self-Promotion


I was sending out my old manuscript for The Sorcerer to another small press recently, and their submission guidelines said their authors should be prepared to promote their work nearly every day. Most small presses, and even many large presses, want their authors to do quite a bit of their own promotion. Perhaps it has always been this way, but I think most people in the writing and publishing industry would say authors are expected to do more of their own promotion that at any time in the past. And most of that promotion at this stage should be about my current projects.

Then just today, I was in my Horror Writers Association-Virginia chapter meeting when we got to the end of the meeting, the point where we all discuss our current projects, and I spouted off a few items I have out for consideration. When they moved on to another member, it occurred to me that I had an intriguing story about my current manuscript project, Blood of the Werewolf but forgot to mention it.

With that in mind, here is that (hopefully) intriguing story:

I am currently in the editing process of Blood of the Werewolf, when I reached a scene that needed a total revision. Why? Because one of the characters was supposed to leave town by train, but the story takes place in 1815 England. When I researched the history of train travel, I discovered this was about 15 years too early for regular train travel. While many of my horror writing cohorts are researching far more interesting things like types of poisons and how much bloodloss a human can endure, I spent my writing session researching the history of train travel and the history of slippers. Anyway, it is a pivotal scene that cannot be totally deleted, so I must revise it in a way that the character uses a different mode of transportation. The most obvious mode of transportation would be ship.

This opened up an interesting possibility for the story. I want both The Sorcerer and Blood of the Werewolf to take place within the same universe, and it would be even better if they had another direct connection. But up until now they did not have any connections other than parts of both stories take place in England in the 1810s. The Sorcerer actually concerns a man who owns a shipping company. So this character in Blood of the Werewolf will now travel via the Nichols Shipping Company because it is the name of the shipping company the character in The Sorcerer owns, giving the two novels the type of direct connection I was hoping to create for them.

Oh yes, the photo above is me promoting a public presentation at Monster Fest.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Conversations With Cal Panel

I appeared in a panel interview recently talking about a short story in a self published anthology (but not self-published by me). It contains stories from several writers besides myself. Check it out as we get into a variety of subjects such as writing, vampires, horror in general, even music.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Tales of Wonder and Dread Interview

 I did an interview about a short story I wrote for a self published anthology of vampire stories (although not self-published by me). In it I go over how the two most famous monsters of all time, the Frankenstein monster and Dracula, were actually born on the same dark and stormy night. Good stuff. Check it out.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Fiction Friday


The biggest question from people who want to write but often don't is how to find the time, and while I have posted about finding time before, this will be another post about how to carve out that time. In fact, that previous blog post about how to find time to write was my most popular blog post to date with almost twice as many hits as the next most popular post.

But that's not why I'm posting about how to find the time again. I posting about it because it is important to schedule yourself a time to write, and it should be as frequent as possible. Some writers say it is important, some might even say crucial, to write every day. There are times of the year when I am able to write every day, but that's just not possible all year round for me. And I sometimes get frustrated with myself if I cannot write every day when I set out with that sort of an aggressive schedule. This makes me feel like it is likely other writers who set out with that sort of aggressive writing schedule might also get frustrated with themselves if they don't end up following their own schedule and write every day.

Don't get me wrong, if you are able to write every day, more power to you. I wish I could write every day, and as stated earlier, there are times when I can and do. But there are other times when that is just not possible because life catches up to me in one way or another.

It kind of reminds me of the scene in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's (an adaptation of a Truman Capote novel of the same name, which I own and still have not read [I need to get on that]). Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) asks Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a writer, if he writes every day and he claims that he does. Then Hepburn asks why there is no ribbon in his typewriter. Hepburn's character later gifts Peppard's character a typewriter ribbon so he can in fact write every day.

The important thing is to make sure you schedule out some sort of time and make sure you write at least that much. For me, I carve out, at minimum, a few hours on Friday nights to write. I often write more than just that once a week, and I certainly try to, but I tell all family and friends that this block of time on Friday nights is my "Fiction Fridays" (not coincidentally the title of this blogpost).

So get out there and carve out your time to write, or join me in writing on my Fiction Fridays, or go watch the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, or go read the book (like I need to do). Or go do something, because it is Friday, and I'm still writing this blog instead of writing my fiction. 😁

Monday, January 24, 2022

2021 by the Numbers


The most important thing for any writer to do is to, not only keep writing, but to also keep submitting, keep putting his or her work out there. For those looking to be traditionally published, this means submitting to publications such as literary magazines and anthologies. And if you are submitting your work, it is important to keep track of where you are sending it to, how many works are accepted for publication, how many are rejected, and how many are left as dead letters. I keep track of this with a Microsoft Spreadsheet.

I try to keep as many items out there under consideration as possible at all times. When an item comes back with a rejection, I immediately start looking for the next publication to send it out to. Sometimes I consider giving it a revision before doing so, but sometimes I send it out again as is. It depends on if I received a form rejection, or a more personalized one with suggestions on how to make the piece better. It also depends on how many rejections the particular piece has already received.

I once read from one published author (I cannot remember who) that they try to submit up to 100 pieces for publication per year. I have found this does not seem to be possible for me, but I do try to send out as many as possible, and am able to submit between 35 and 50 pieces per year.

I often read from writers with less experience than me that they feel hurt when they receive rejections, particularly if they receive too many of them. The best advice I ever received was that writers should not count their rejections. Instead, they should only count how many pieces they send out in a given time, such as a given year. Therefore, I try to compete with myself, to send out as many as possible each year.

So without any further ado, here are my numbers for the past year, 2021: I sent out 29 short stories, 11 poems, and 4 novels for a total of 44 pieces sent out for consideration. This is the third most submissions I've made in any given year. Of those submitted this year, I sold three items, two poems, and one short story, for publication. The last item I sold was to the anthology, Alternative Deathiness (pictured above). It includes some notable authors, placing me in some good company, so I am honored to be a part of it. It contains my poem "Old Forgotten Grave" and can be found on Amazon here. 

So when writing and submitting, be sure to keep track of your works, even if for no other reason than to make sure you don't accidentally send the same work to the same publication twice. I certainly would have accidentally done this numerous times if I didn't have a Spreadsheet to keep track of these things. If you like, tell me about how many works you submit per year, or in the last year.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Synchronicity and Another Eulogy

Some time ago, I posted about the loss of my father. During the summer of 2018, after dad passed away, I read a book to help me get through the difficult time, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. In it, she discusses the year after she lost her husband, how it took about a year for her to fully realize she had truly lost a loved one. She describes scenes of continuing to expect to see him when waking up in the morning.

Didion is fantastic writer, known not only for her memoirs, but also (and perhaps even moreso) for her engaging essays. She was extremely talented at both fiction and non-fiction as well. I often use her essays in classes I teach.

Over this past Christmas, I unfortunately lost my mother. In a strange case of synchronicity, Didion passed away at the same time my mother went into her hospice care, which did not last long. I found this interesting timing, having read the above mentioned memoir after the loss of my father.

To further compound that synchronicity, I also had a horror poem about death titled "Old Forgotten Grave" published in an anthology titled Alternative Deathiness. The anthology contains numerous short stories and poems about death. I'm particularly proud of this piece and this publication, partially because it also contains a short story by a best selling author, Jim Wright. I wound up reading my short poem in it at mom's eulogy as requested by other family members, who seemed to find piece fitting for the occasion.

I'm not looking for any condolences for losing my mother (although if you did leave some, they would be greatly appreciated), but I thought this was an interesting time to point out how writers sometimes think or look at things. We look for and often find meaning in life's events. Surely, anyone else can do the same, but perhaps it is because writers make it a habit of doing such things that makes reading so important and enjoyable.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Collaborative writing


(My dog, Ahsoka, and cat, Serenity, collaboratively sleeping together)

There is something to be said in favor of collaboration when writing. On some level all writing needs to be collaborative. Now I'm not talking about so much collaboration that the story is no longer your own, but on the other end, there can be great advantages to letting others read your story and provide feedback.

Recently, I've managed to find a few beta readers for some of my short stories, and I received incredibly useful feedback. With the internet age, finding beta readers has become easier. Instead of going out and finding people in the real, live, three-dimensional world, one can post on a Facebook group, or other social media platform, that you have a short story you would like feedback on.

In many circles, you may have to pay an editor to do this, but there is a way around this. If you do not have the money to pay an editor, you can offer to read someone else's short story in exchange. The point is, it will cost you something. If you cannot afford to pay money, you will have to pay with time.

I also don't want to take anything away from paying a good editor. If you do have the money, chances are they may provide better feedback. But offering to read someone else's story can certainly be another viable option. Also, it allows you to read what other writers are working on and see how your own work matches up.

I recently had the opportunity to exchange short stories with a few other writers, and the feedback I received was excellent. It is certainly an experience I will try to replicate in the future. It was spot on in almost every case. Keep in mind, your stories are always your own, and you do not have to make changes that you feel will weaken your story. But in my case, the vast majority of suggestions were viable, and helped the stories overall. There were only a few suggestions I chose not to follow because I did not feel comfortable with them.

If you take any creative writing course that is worth anything, you will be asked to change stories and provide and receive feedback. This is almost always the most important part of the course. So if you cannot afford a creative writing course, this can also be an alternative to that as well. So go out and give and get feedback on your current works. It is invariably a key part of the writing process.