Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Sold Some Mother@#$#ing Fiction

One of my biggest goals in life has been to get some fiction published. As many writers quickly discover, non-fiction is what pays the bills. With a growing family, I've been highly dedicated to writing the non-fiction that buys shoes and calamari (seriously- I am all about calamari). But with a milestone birthday this year (no, I won't say which one) and still no fiction sold, I took it upon myself late last year to get into high gear with getting fiction out there.

I started submitting short stories to publishers in my late teens, and in those days you had to physically print the stuff out and mail it in. It was tough for me to afford as a student, and I didn't grab much interest from publishers. I gave up in pursuit of non-fiction, and I haven't submitted any fiction again until last last year. These days, it is so much easier with electronic submissions. I had two short stories that I shopped for months, and I kept getting rejections for them over and over again.

One of the stories I believed in with all of my heart. I just believed that it was worth my time and trouble and the dozens of rejections it was getting. I got comments from publishers that it was basically useless, and one publisher actually said "No one wants to read about vampires anymore." I got several rejections because my protagonist wasn't some kind of warrior woman. No, she was just a regular woman without any super powers or astonishing strength. Isn't there any room for that in fiction, I started to wonder? Do all female protagonists have to be warriors or superwomen? Really?

But I believed in that story because it was intricate and extremely detailed and full of truth. I believed in it because I felt it and because I saw something in it that was rich and full and engulfing. I submitted it to various publishers for 10 months and finally gave up. They weren't seeing what I saw. I wasn't going to submit it anymore.


Then, one day, after I had given up, a publisher sent me an email that made by throat catch. I was sitting down with my laptop when I saw what I thought was the third rejection I'd get that day. It wasn't. It was the most amazing email I've ever gotten. It was from a publisher who went on and on and on about how amazing the story was and how lucky they'd be if I sold it to them. I had to get up and walk around because I couldn't tell if I was breathing. Someone else saw what I saw, and they wanted to pay for it and put it in print.


Within a few days, the second story I wrote was accepted by another publisher. Then, two little flash stories that I had submitted were accepted by still another. All four acceptances happened within about a week.

One of the more interesting things was the reactions that people had when I told them the news. When I first start telling people that I had sold some fiction, the first question every single person asked was, "For how much?" I wasn't selling a lamp on eBay. Selling fiction isn't really about the amount you get. To put it in perspective, the other day I wrote an article about how to write fiction, and that sold for more than any one fiction story that I've sold so far. Non-fiction may pay the bills, but it's amazing to know that publishers believe in your fiction so much that they will pay for it and foot the bill for publishing it.

The other question I kept getting when I announced subsequent sales is whether it was the same publisher who was buying it all. I don't know that people understood how insulting that was. No, family and friends, there are multiple publishers willing to pay- not just one guy somewhere who wants to buy it all. WTF?

Being able to sell some fiction has given me a serious boost of confidence for the two novels that I've been working on. It's shown me that believing it a work is a real force, and that if you have a strong piece that you really believe in, it's possible to find a good home for it even when that home seems unlikely.  It's possible to find a publisher who sees it for exactly what it is.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hoping I'm Not a Crazy Person

Ok, so I have a serious issue with self-promotion. Like, a serious issue. The thought of it makes my skin crawl. However, increasingly, I am having to skip over jobs, potential agents and even potential publishing houses because they demand a Web presence. They want you to whore yourself out like you're wearing 8" heels. Get out in the streets, writers, and tell every passing car how good you are.

I can't do it. I can't even tell people in person that I would be good for their projects. I have had two new projects locally in the past month, and both times I just gave them a couple of sentences about my experience and let them make up their minds. I can't bring myself to do more than that to promote myself. Sooooo, rather than be stopped by the discomfort and nausea that comes from self-promotion, I'm going to start promoting someone else.

I chose a kick-ass pen name that totally sounds like a real person, and I started building a Web presence for her this week. She has a Twitter account now, and she actually has a decent number of followers already. I will next get her a Facebook page, and then I can start shouting into passing cars. By the time I'm finished with the two novels that I am almost finished with, I will be able to point out "my" Web presence and show that I will be able to market the material. I don't know how I will feel yet about actively promoting her and telling my followers to read my stuff and all of that, but I think I can do it if I pretend that I am promoting someone else entirely. I've never had a problem promoting others through PR writing, press conferences, etc., so it should be a lot easier and less nauseating.

I hope this means that I'm not a crazy person. It seems a little schizophrenic to do things this way, but I don't really see an alternative at the moment. Plus, it seems like it will be kind of fun. And if I am a little crazy? Eh. Everyone interesting is.

UPDATE: It just occurred to me that she should have a blog! What should she blog about? How awesome she is? How much fun is to buy books and short stories? I think she'll have seven dogs and enjoy hiking or some other outdoor crap.

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Year, New Sensation of Death

I had a pretty good handle on my New Year's resolutions. I always take them pretty seriously. I put a lot of thought into them, make lists and sometimes even get them laminated. Seriously. This year's resolutions, other than to stop eating stale Cadbury Eggs and such for breakfast, were to keep my income more even and to sell some fiction this year without fail. I can't count how many nonfiction pieces I've sold over the years, but I've never actually sold any fiction. I've been paid for editing fiction. I've been paid for writing about fiction. However, I have very rarely put fiction out there, and so I've never actually sold any. I think that by working on my fiction slowly but steadily instead of binge writing it, I can keep my pay-the-bills writing going well, keep my income more steady and still finish some fiction pieces.

Then, just a few days into the new year, I got sick. This wasn't the cough and/or throw up kind of ill- it was an unexpected reoccurrence of a life-threatening infection that I've had twice before. I spent almost a week in the hospital, and now I'm out with some gross tubes in my arms. It's almost like the fiction gods were telling me to stop planning crap and to give up because I'm obviously never going to get anything done. Well, I spit in the face of the fiction gods!

Plants Vs. Characters

When I realized I'd be in the hospital for a few days, I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to write a thing. For the first two days, I could barely lift my phone. However, I figured that if I couldn't write, and I had a few days to lay around and think, this would be a great time to just think about my characters. I could think about what they were doing, whether their dialogue was working, think about new adventures for them, etc. It would be a restful way to consider my work in-depth and to perhaps make some slow progress. The thing about that is that it's insane and wrong. After a day of IV drugs, the thing I was most thinking about was OMG, what if leaves could move around by themselves! That would be SO CREEPY!!!!11!

Inspiration Comes From Macabre Places

Ok, so no character development, no new characters, no in-depth inspection of major plot points. But what I did come out with was something unexpected. The point when I absolutely knew that the infection was back and it was what was causing my fever and chills was when I noticed that there was an ever-so-slight veil between me and the rest of the world. I'd noticed that the two other times this sickness came on, and I noticed it getting much worse as the illness progressed. I was a part of the world but not fully in it. I imagine that if I hadn't made it that first time (and it was actually kind of close), that sensation would have continued until I was simply no longer a part of the world. I think this will actually come in pretty handy when I eventually work on a novel I have planned that will feature an outbreak of a creepy, well-known disease as a major plot point. Thinking about that feeling of being removed and separated from the world is actually kind of inspiring. It gets me inside a character in a much more intimate way than before. Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere, so never stop looking for it no matter how unappealing or weird the situation may be.

Monday, September 9, 2013

DragonCon, DragonCon!

For the past few years I've been hitting DragonCon, a hard-to-describe con that is broken up into about 20 tracks that allow anyone who isn't boring to find stuff that fascinates them. The writer's track is full of panels that include writers, editors and agents. Some of the writers are pretty well known, others are low-level novelists who are still pretty interesting to hear from. I got to see Mercedes Lackey and other assorted writers who were fascinating to hear from and to grab little bits of advice from. Adding to the fun of DragonCon is that a large percentage of people dress up in costumes of every possible description from Spock to dinosaurs.

The Problem
Of course there was a problem. It's me. Usually when I go out of town, I worry about getting sick. Something about leaving town always makes me sick with sinus infections, colds and other assorted crap, but that wasn't even on the radar this year. I was just hoping that I'd be able to walk and stand well enough to get through the con. Waiting in line, walking from panel to panel and just standing around looking at costumes seemed like insurmountable obstacles after spending months unable to walk and then more than a month in physical therapy.
I told my physical therapist that I'd need to walk around for several hours a day, stand in line and make a long trek down an uneven street just to get my con badge and OH MY GOD I WILL HAVE TO WALK ALL DAY AND MY MUSCLES DON'T EVEN WORK!!1!!!1!! He thought it would be difficult, but he started me on various machines and recommended walking down the street every day to try to get used to it. I trained daily for more than a month and even went to the mall to ride the escalators to get ready for the multiple escalators at the con. The escalators are always crammed with people and if you can't jump off in time, OMG, the carnage!
So, I get there, trying not to limp and walking like a cartoon character, and was all set to take my walk down an uneven street in a crowd and then stand in line on an ankle that was still slightly broken. I told a friend that I had been training for this for a while and that I was confident that I could make it. She looked at me like, well, like I'd just said I'd been training for a month to walk down the street. The line was more than an hour, but all of that training helped me to do it. And all the vodka.

Mercedes Lackey Gives Me the Eye
Two Days
Once that obstacle was over, I had a lot of confidence that I could get through the con, listen to the writers I wanted to learn from and not look like too much of a freak doing so. I lurched around the con dressed like Edina Monsoon and saw amazing writers, a startlingly realistic Spock, two inexplicably naked women dressed in body paint, about 45 Khaleesis, some Tenenbaums(!), more superheroes than I ever care to see again, one of the Ghostbusters and a guy dressed like Sharknado.

I met Julian Sands and impulsively said, "I liked you! Like, a lot!" to the seventh Doctor as he rolled past me on a Hoveround.

Then I got sick.
I got two and a half good days in before I was hit by bronchitis and had to severely medicate myself in order to function. Then I got to hear "Why do you look sad?" every four minutes because apparently I looked as spacey as I felt. If you've ever had to suffer through bronchitis while being woken up all night by drunken roommates who thought they were whispering as they philosophized about life and then get told about all the fun you're missing downstairs, and who hasn't, you might understand why I was ready to leave when the day came. Usually I hate to leave and get back into the normal world where absolutely everyone is wearing clothes and no one is dressed up as anything, but this year I was pretty fine with it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Because I'm Brilliant

Ok, so perusing the job listings this morning, looking for boring projects that I could use to expand my client base, I found a small listing for an online publishing company looking for short vampire stories. Scary stories, it asked for- no romance or sparkling. Kick ass, said I. I think I will comply.

Aside from my obvious poetry skills, I like putting together short stories that would have a hard time finding a market. But as soon as I read the description of what they wanted, a vague outline of an idea began to form. In three hours, I had written the complete story and edited it, and I was ready to submit.

It's then I saw that the deadline was yesterday. I submitted it anyway with a plea for deadline leniency. Will they even read it? You have to wait six weeks before you can even ask them about it, and no simultaneous submissions are allowed. In six weeks, I'm relatively sure that I will have forgotten all about it, and I can't submit it anywhere else right now if I want to keep them as a potential market. They may just delete it outright because it's past the deadline. I may never know. Good times, writers. Good times.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Sleeper Must Awaken

So, I broke my ankle. I have no excuse for doing so. No one was negligent. No one left junk lying around for me to trip over. There wasn't even an incline to make walking difficult. I was walking along a gravel road staring at some bees and I fell over sideways. I literally just fell over like a dumbass.

It's been seven weeks now, and I just now feel like I'm waking up from it all. I wasn't able to walk at all until a few days ago, and even now my walking is pretty limited. I was high on pain pills for a few days after it happened. Ok, it was a few weeks. It was painful enough that I wasn't able to function well without them, but then you get the dizziness and weirdness that comes with them.

Writing has mostly been perfunctory SEO mill junk up until last week when I finally started to feel like myself again. There have been several times when I felt like I was asleep for long periods of time. Every time I've given birth it's been about two months until I felt like I was fully awake again. When I almost died from a staph infection two years ago, it was about the same amount of time. Writing during those asleep times is always in the back of my mind, but meaningful words are hard to get out.

Luckily, I've been doing content writing for so long that I have been able to do product descriptions and SEO stuff through mills pretty much the whole time, so we won't starve. People dump on the mills all the time, but I for one am glad they're always there. Sometimes, writing has to just be about money and making words appear in exchange for it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A New Year

I struggled at the beginning of this year to come up with resolutions that would be useful instead of damaging and reasonable instead of completely insane. I started looking over the past few years and trying to think about what would really be helpful. And in that looking, I discovered that every year seemed to have a distinct theme.

Some years were all about work. Expanding my writing business was really all that I cared about for the most part. Some years I struggled to find a balance between paying writing work and fun writing work. Some years I struggled with confidence. I stumbled a bit under the weight of everything I was doing. This year is about me getting my power back. Starting a couple of months ago, I really started to see how much power a handful of people had over me. I started seeing that to get my power back, I would really, really have to fight. I'd have to step outside my comfort zone and teach others how to treat me. I firmly believe that we train everyone around us how to treat us, and sometimes that training goes woefully wrong. Not having your own power can shake your writing confidence and give you less force to thrust at the page. It was simply time to get it back.

And so I took a stand. I stopped going to BS events that I didn't want to attend, and I stopped making excuses. "I don't want to go. That sounds stupid," is an acceptable way to turn down an invitation to something that shouldn't exist. And if there's something that you hate, that represents oppression and upset and everything unpleasant to you, giving it to the thrift store isn't enough. You should really just take a rubber mallet to it and smash the living hell out of it.

My only resolutions this year are to trust my own judgement and to finish the novel I've been working on for the past year. Those two things are really enough. I may query magazines, I may finish a couple of short stories and I may decide to start smoking cigars, but whatever I do this year will be on my terms.