Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sale - Every Day Fiction

Just got word I’ve had another sale, this time for the story "Lessons Never Learned" to Every Day Fiction. EDF is a great market that is similar to Daily Science Fiction in that they publish first via email to subscribers and then archive on a website. I like this method very much, and I subscribe to both EDF and DSF. I enjoy the quick read of a flash fiction or short fiction piece each morning to start my day off. It’s fun, and a great way to get into the writing mind set early in the day.

There was one change the editors requested, and it made sense to me. I didn’t provide clues to identify the gender of the narrator until late in the story, and this was disquieting for many of the first readers at EDF. Once they pointed it out, making the change made perfect sense. This is one of those problems when you, as the author, proofread your own story. Since I, as the author, knew the narrator to be male, the confusion didn’t stand out to me. But as soon as someone mentioned it, the confusing stood out prominently. Correcting this little bit of confusion serves to illustrate the importance of the writer and editor working together to make a better story, so I thought I’d take time to mention it.

Also, speaking of "you;" this story is epistolary in nature, i.e. the male narrator is addressing his deceased wife. (The gender of the spouse was not revealed until late in the story as well. I’ve fixed this now in the second sentence.) I would have to say an epistolary story is about as close as I will ever come to writing in the second person. A true second person story, where the author addresses the reader as if the reader is doing the action of the story, always sort of puts me off, and seems a bit smug on the author’s part. Epistolary stories, i.e. those written as a letter, don’t bother me in that way, because in the case of these, the ‘you’ is just another character in the story, and not the reader. It is as if we are privy to someone’s private communiqué with another character. In my story there is no letter, but the first person narrator (and not the author) is definitely addressing his deceased wife, (and not the reader) so it is still epistolary in nature–sort of like a mental journal entry on the narrator’s part.

I mentioned this story in a previous entry on music and writing. It’s title comes from the Walt Wilkins song of the same name. I think I will go put the album on the iPod this morning as a way of celebrating, and to perhaps see if there are any other story prompts in there.


Thursday, May 26, 2011


One of the aspects of Odyssey that I’m really looking forward to learning is how to revise. Some writers write a very rough rough draft, and then chisel and cut away, or mold and build up their story into a more polished final form. I tend to write in a manner that is summed up in a Stephen King quote (which I am paraphrasing from memory, so I don’t know how accurate it is) that writing is like digging up an artifact, and it is pretty much in its final form at the first digging, and any amount of messing with it afterward risks its destruction.

This is not to say that I don’t think that many of my stories still need work, it is just that they often feel very finished to me when I first write them. I still edit for spelling, usage and clarity, but I don’t really find myself changing the overall story all that much. I hope to change this behavior (at least I think I do) because I think there is much to be gained in the rewriting process.

I’m thinking of such things today because I just did a major rewrite on a story that I’ll be submitting at Odyssey, and while I think the story is stronger than it was before I started, I know it could be better. The story in question is one called Night of the Green Devil, and first of all I am proud that I was able to cut over twelve hundred words from the story, and not really change the gist of it all that much. There’s a saying that you can always cut ten percent out of a story, and this is probably almost always true. In the case of Green Devil, I was able to do it by eliminating one of the story’s most troubling aspects: The fact that over one third of it was told as a first person flashback.

I had submitted this story several times, and it had of course been rejected. The last rejection had a comment that said the first person flashback was lengthy and awkward. I had to agree–I always had felt it was, but the problem was, I really needed to start the story in the present, and then fill in back story from sixty years earlier. As the back story was events that happened to one of the characters, I simply had him tell it to the other character.

Fixing this felt really good, as it not only eliminated all those extra words that were necessary to have the two characters talking to one another, but it gave the back story section a bit more immediacy. I simply did it by making a break at the proper point, writing a header entitled "Sixty Years Earlier," and then continuing the tale in the third person. (Third person to me feels more story-like and proper, though I have written several stories in first person) When I finished the back story, I simply jumped back into the present time action. It seemed to work.

The only drawback is that I didn’t change the back story a great deal--other than substituting "he" for "I" and "Their" for "our," and so on--so much of the back story section feels like telling instead of showing. I’ll probably get dinged for this at Odyssey, but that’s okay for now. I’m looking forward to the critiquing process help me make this one a better tale, and for the moment, it is just under the word limit for Odyssey, so I didn’t want to add too much to it.

On another revision note, I got anther request for a revision on a story from a submission. This time just a few changes, which I made and resubmitted. The story is called The Night Bigfoot Attacked Marshall Texas, June 15, 1977. It is based on my own childhood, and is one of my favorites of my stories, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ed Woodian Adventure

I was browsing the web the other day, looking at some writing sites, and I came across a page requesting submissions for a very unusual anthology. No doubt some of you have heard of the infamous Plan Nine From Outer Space, Ed Wood’s master opus that is considered by many to be the worst film ever made. Well, this anthology posits "what were the first eight plans?" And the ‘plan’ is to publish eight short stories that tell us just that.

Goodness, but I was drooling at the prospect of writing one of these stories. I grew up watching campy, grade-B, low budget sci fi movies on late night television, and even though I outgrew them, I still find their unintentional hilarity to be quite charming. I feel the same about Ed Wood’s movies.

Yes, they are bad. The acting is bad. The scripts are bad. The ‘special effects’ are bad. But behind all the badness there is an earnest zeal and love of film, particularly genre film, that shows through and gives Wood’s movies a little something extra. Wood wasn’t just out to make a buck. He considered himself an artist.

I can say this with authority today, as over the last couple of days I have watched almost every Ed Wood film in preparation for writing the story. (Most have fallen into public domain, and as such are available free on sites like YouTube) I watched Plan Nine, of course, and the infamous Glen or Glenda, Wood’s treatise on transvestitism (he was one himself); as well as Jail Bait (a gangster drama) Bride of the Monster (also known by it’s even more charming title, Bride of the Atom), Night of the Ghouls (the sequel to Bride), The Sinister Urge (a crime drama about the evils of pornography...ironic since wood fell into making soft core porn in his latter years) and a few documentaries and of course Tim Burton’s wonderful biopic, Ed Wood.

A mind warping experience? A bit. But also a gold mine of material to grind up, sift through and regurgitate into a story that I hope will feel like it was written by the great Edward D. Wood Jr. himself. With perhaps an homage or two to a few other particularly bad fifties movies.

There must be monsters, and space men, and ray guns, and cops and gangsters. These were all Ed Wood staples. Also prominent were pretty girls in danger, mad scientists, and dour military men. Wood also relied heavily on the use of stock footage in his films. Perhaps this will translate into some random exposition in the story. Oh, and we’ll have to throw in a transvestite or two. Eddie would have wanted it that way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Music and Writing

For the most part, when I write, I prefer silence. But on rare occasions, a song will strike me, and get stuck in my head, and furthermore inspire me to write. I’ll then find myself playing the song over and over while I craft a story, with the song playing both a direct and indirect role in where the story goes.

Sometimes it’s the words of the song that inspire the tale. This was the case with a story of mine called "Leaning to Read," inspired by the Josh Alan song of the same name. Of course the finished product came out dramatically different than the song–the two share nothing more than the inspiration of origin. The song is about a relationship gone bad, and the story about telepathy, and a relationship newly found.

Sometimes it’s the music of the song that inspires me. This was the case when I was once listening to a song called "Lessons Never Learned" by Walt Wilkins. The music was so beautiful and transporting that I found myself playing it over and over again. It was coming up on my writing time, so I brought the ipod out with me where I’d set up my laptop, and started the song. I wrote "Lessons Never Learned" at the top of the page, and kept playing the song over and over until I had a little gem of a three page piece of flash fiction. I like to think that the soul of that song somehow made it into the cadence and flow of the story I crafted.

Another couple other songs that I recall that made the ‘play over and over’ routine were "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos, and "Heroin," by Lou Reed. The first was for a particular scene in my novella "In Black Mourn I" that I was trying to conjure up some poignant emotional power, and the latter for the story "Beauty, Piquant," where the song’s frenzied madness cast its bent upon a scene of a sexual escapade gone wrong.

Since I’m talking about music and writing here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the music of Donal Hinely and Glasnots has also been quite inspirational over the years. Donal’s music, particularly during his Glasnots years, has a markedly medieval/renaissance flare to it, and it lends itself well to my fantasy stories. Donal’s songs "Firefly Summer Night," "Summer’s Boy," and "Mayfly Matinee" were quite inspirational as I wrote my story "Firefly Summer."

Another artist who’s songs are hauntingly inspirational are those of Nick Drake. Drake was a young British singer/songwriter who released three albums to minimal exposure in the early seventies, and then died of a drug overdose. His music languished in obscurity for almost three decades, until an ad exec used his song "Pink Moon" for a Volkswagon commercial. He rose to a new found posthumous popularity at this point, something for which I am glad, because otherwise I might never had heard of him. His song "Fly" inspired my flash fiction story "Way to Blue," which takes its title from another Drake song.

If you’re having trouble with your day’s writing, you could do worse than throw a song on whatever player you fancy and see where it takes you.