I have a longish story that is better than a year away from being published. When the check for this one comes (if it comes, which will be another post altogether), I've been considering using the proceeds to pay ten writers $50 each for stories. I might solicit two or three and then open a call for submissions in a short window for the others. I'd pay for some cover art and set the anthology up myself. It's not much money, but whatever it amounts to, it would probably just be scattered on the wind.
I'm under no illusions that it would be a profitable venture. But I think I'd like to try it, all the same. If these were funds coming out of our savings account, that's one thing. But proceeds from a short-story sale are all together different...
I bring this up because I haven't been writing or submitting short fiction. I have a little folder on my hard drive where I lock up these misfit children. Although my file is called "retirees," so it's actually a bunch of obnoxious elderly folks, hitting each other with their walkers and fondling one another with wrinkled tentacles.
I wonder what life is like in that file?
I digress. These stories, maybe one day, will be infused with life. More than likely they won't.
There are thousands of journals, anthologies, magazines and digests on Duotrope. They need content. So why don't I keep making the rounds with these stories?
Many just aren't that good.
I think, at some point, every writer has to look at the less-than-successful work (which, in his or her eyes, once gleamed like a new bike on Christmas day) more objectively as practice. When that happens, it's time to expand your inventory.
Read the magazines upon whose covers you would like to see your name. Explore creative angles on universal themes. Grow the inventory, and try the markets you admire again.
Because the alternative is probably not optimal. It's nice to have a long list of credits, but quality should be the endgame. It's like that theme song to Cheers, right? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name (or will, if you are writing the kinds of things you also admire).
Writer and editor Rajan Khanna offers a useful insight into the editorial process here.
An excerpt: As far as the reading slush part goes, it can be trying of course. I think sometimes the hardest to take are the stories that have such promise, but don’t manage to deliver on that. Or those that start out with an interesting premise and then go in the direction of well-worn cliche.
I keep a file on my desktop of story ideas I'd like to explore, but I'm committed to working on the novel at this point. I'm tempted to blast older submissions out into the world, just because it's a little odd not having irons in the fire, but I think it's going to get crowded in that old folks home on my hard drive. The plan will be to complete the novel prior to Halloween, then grow the inventory again later in the year.
In the last week, the water heater threw up the white flag, I lost some of my data on my computer and my wife's Volkswagon went into the shop. Add that to teaching a full load, taking Lyla to swimming lessons, trying to remain reasonably healthy through exercise and working on the house in 100-degree temperatures...
The blogging, needless to say, has been a little lower on the list.
This has been the busiest summer of my professional life. From committee work at the college (I had a hand in hiring seven new employees this summer) to teaching seven courses and trying to help Jeanne out around the house and with Lyla, I've never felt so stretched. I've put much of that on myself, and Jeanne and I are proud of what we've accomplished since 2005. Every year, we've both worked as much as we could (I taught fifty-five workload units this year; my contract calls for thirty) to make extra money. Jeanne's always worked in the summer, and I've taught at night and online.
I think, moving into next year, I'll be scaling back a bit. I need to focus on making the doctoral program in American Studies at the University of Florida the center of my agenda for 2011/12. I need to maintain my time with Jeanne and Lyla, and with any future blessings that might come into our life. And I need to shift some of my attention back to creative works: be they scholarship or fiction.
Like I said, the extra work has paid off. We paid down a lot of debt and we worked hard to improve our quality of life. This spring we painted the house, put in a new back lawn and replaced the dishwasher.
But the time has come to focus on other things, and not on staying late at work and clocking overtime.
Now that I have my computing access back up to speed and one of my summer classes is drawing to a close, I even hope to write a little fiction later in the week.
If you've dropped by and found the website in stasis--my bad. Do come back in the future. For the last few months, I've had some great ideas for blog posts, but no real time to get to them. I'll try to amend that in the near future...
Critics have lavished praise on this series, and rightfully so. From casting to pacing (it's pretty neat to watch the series wane from the pilot to the later episodes; clearly, it struck a chord), this series is wholly captivating.
Bryan Cranston is simply sublime as Walter White.
He is a very under-utilized actor. His W. White is a high school chemistry teacher with a death sentence.
He has lung cancer, a son with a disability, and another child on the way.
He has months; maybe, he has years. But he is resolute in his attempt to raise money for his family.
He'll cook meth.
The casting is spot on. Aaron Paul plays Jesse Pinkman, his high school hook-up that sells the drugs. Jesse is the connection. Unfortunately, the connection is also a loose end.
This is an artistically impressive show. The series is shot well (lots of interesting perspective shots), and it's also interesting in terms of narrative. The pilot starts off with an inferno--the worst situation ever--and then it backtracks and connects the dots.
It's a non-linear plot that is well played by the cast and superbly framed by a series of directors.
It's funny. I watch Entourage and I'm bored after two episodes. How much of that can you take?
I watch two episodes of Breaking Bad, and I can't wait to hit the well again...
Linda turns the big six-four today. Love her stuff.
I also love the homage videos on youtube. You can't beat the velvet painting of the half-naked couple, hugging, with leaping dolphins in the corner in the video above. It's at 1:33!
You just can't beat it (I'm daring you to try...).
While I never did secure the patent on those little beauties, my love for the good stuff hasn't dissipated over the years. When most opt for popcorn at the cinema, I'm reaching for the nachos. I remember covering the Greater Oregon League as a sportswriter for the Gresham Outlook. Jeanne and I almost always split an order while she kept stats and I started writing the story.
And the last four years, I've shopped at Costco and always seen that Que Bueno in the industrial foods aisle. You know the aisle I'm talking about--it's loaded with vats of mayonnaise and barrels of vinegar.
And wondrous cans of gooey goodness.
If your Costco is like mine, and you stick to the perimeter to avoid the crowds like I do, you know where the Que Bueno is. It's not in the center of the aisle, but it's not at the end, either. I can always see it when I pass, but it's a ways down there. It takes a commitment to go get this cistern of yellow gold.
I always pass, but every time I can feel the Que Bueno watching me, that little smile on its can. C'mon! that smile says...C'mon and have some nachos! All the nachos you could ever want, right in the comfort and privacy of your own home!
I had my moment of weakness this afternoon, and that big daddy you see above is now in the back of my refrigerator. No, I'm not coaching a kids' soccer team, or volunteering at the local little league. I'm not selling nachos so the kids can take a trip to Washington, D.C.
I bought the can, and I can already see the error of my ways. It's a lot of cheese, folks. It's a damned lot of cheese.
Still, I have until next May. Progress reports as news warrants...