Fiesta Bowl, Baby! Go Ducks!

Sheesh...got the football juices flowing. Just a week until the Ducks are on the big stage!


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, wherever you are! If you have an hour to devote to a sad, but extremely effective piece of multimodal storytelling, I highly recommend Snow Fall. John Branch's writing is excellent, the ancillaries are fascinating, and this is the future of storytelling. I was riveted to the piece yesterday, and it's stuck with me throughout the day as I think about the many blessings for our family.

I hope the holidays are treating you well, and that you are safe and spending time with the ones you love...


The Call of Golden Gate

Publishing can be a frustrating business, and this story has endured an arduous journey to the digital page. It was originally accepted for a defunct anthology that was proposed by a well-regarded specialty publisher. Stories are orphaned all the time, and sometimes they never find a good home.

That wasn’t the case here, thankfully, and I am proud to have the story now presented in one of the finest speculative magazines on the Internet. BuzzyMag is publishing some fine fiction, and I’m honored to contribute to their magazine.

Writing this story was an emotional experience I had to do a lot of research to get the tone of the piece right, and I invested a lot of energy in the protagonist. I feel for Dick Allen—I really do. I hope you do too, or the story won’t quite “work” as I’d hoped.

I’ve heard writers say in interviews that they can’t choose a favorite story—that, like parents talking about their children, they like them all equally. I can understand the sentiment, but I don’t share it. I like this story a lot.

I think it’s the best short story that I’ve ever written...


Seven Truths on the Art of Writing: Read Widely

Inspiration strikes, on occassion, in the oddest of circumstances. I was on the golf course last week, pretty much by myself, when I came across a perfect Bridgestone golf ball. Those balls aren't cheap, mind you. I picked it up and looked around. Nobody was eyeing it. Nobody wanted to claim it. I turned it around in the palm of my hand--not a scuff or a scratch or a dented dimple in sight.

I left it out there.

And I just don't do that. I pick up every golf ball that is legally and ethically retrievable. Even the nasties go into a sack of shags I keep in the garage for practicing with at the park. 

But given the bizarre set of circumstances (the ball was sitting on the collar of the green; I mean, that thing was on a silver platter!), I left it.


I scared myself. I thought of an explanation for why it might be there, and I left it. Stupid? Hell yes it was. But I got a great story idea out of it, and that's the lesson there. Inspiration comes when it comes, and that's what makes life so great. That variability is why each day is a treat.

But what about when you're actively searching for something? Well, the advice that is ubiquitous in writing circles is that a writer needs to read to write. Alas, I'll tell you nothing different here. I read every day and find it as necessary as getting some physical exercise, so it's not an issue for me.

But it always strikes me as strange when students complain about the reading load in the first week of a new literature section.

Yes...you read that correctly. They complain about the reading load in a college literature course. A course they signed up for, presumably, after reading the course description. A course they paid tuition for. A course they purchased books for.

What in the...?

Sorry for the digression.  One shouldn't just read in his or her genre, in my view. That's important for a number of reasons, but so is incorporating variety. I try to build in some nonfiction (usually history and true adventure) in my personal TBR pile. This past year, I read a lot of scholarship. I read thrillers and mysteries. I read gonzo regional literature by folks like Dorsey and Hiaasen. I read tons of cookbooks (and I even make some decent meals!).

But all of that reading coalesces into something akin to the creative rains that stock a writer's personal well. You're not dipping from the work of others by visiting that well (at least no more than they were when they were doing the work on their end, at least). No, you're just satiating the storytelling impulse. Your own tale will be unique, but if the well is dry, than I doubt it's all that interesting... 


The Walking Dead

I've enjoyed the third season of The Walking  Dead more than either of its forbears. The pacing has been good, the conflict has been intense (wow..."The Killer Within" was one of the toughest single episodes of television that I've ever looked at), and the focus on the living--on Rick's continued transformation and the developments in Woodbury--have all been excellent.

The inevitable mid-season break comes at an interesting time. A new group of survivors has appeared in the prison. This is good, as the core group from Season 1 has been thinned considerably and the show needs an infusion of new characters. 

Rick remains an interesting case study in character--complex and hard to read. I can't understand how he refuses to embraces Carl. I mean, he leaves last week for Woodbury, knowing full well he might not come back, and the best he can give his son is a few words about looking after the others? I know he's trying to do right by his boy by hardening him to the world, but sheesh...he's still your family, Rick! Give him a hug, for heaven's sake!

While I haven't always enjoyed the casting choices on the show, I love the dynamic playing out in Woodbury between Daryl and Merle and The Governor. It's going to be a long wait until February, but it's likely going to be well worth it. This show is trending up...


Duotrope Deserves Our Support...

In less than twenty-four hours, I've referenced Duotrope twice. I referred a promising student writer to the site, and I used a search result to illustrate a point in an academic essay. Does the site have value?

Absolutely. 100%

Is a charge of $50.00 per year a fare rate?

I think so, but mileage will certainly vary on this topic. The Missouri Review, a decent publication that thinks more of itself than seems healthy, is skeptical. I give Michael Nye credit, as he has the stones to question the direction of the index at the same time that he uses the phrase "fee-based system," unabashedly,  in the title of his post.

This is the same magazine that charges $3.00 for an online submission. Make of that what you will...

Duotrope is important to me. I will pony up in 2013. I kept my submissions with them years ago (I'm a registered user), but I've been hardcopy for at least three years. I don't report to them. But I log in at least once a week. When I'm writing short fiction, I use them often.

They return productive results, and they've been uniformly excellent. They capture huge swaths of data, they collect gigantic numbers of markets, and they are the industry standard when it comes to market listings. 

I'm surprised they haven't gone to Shark Tank

Not because what they do is hard, but because what they do is boring...and tedious...and meticulous. Duotrope casts a wide net.

This isn't a commercial, but I hope they make this a going concern. There are other sites. I love ralan.com. He does a phenomenal job.

But Duotrope is doing what it has to do. I give them a lot of credit, and I'll support the effort...


Immersion Therapy...

I'm writing a long(ish) essay on the impacts technology has had on the American horror narrative, tracing movements in the field (in broad sketches, of course) from roughly 1690 to present. It's been a rewarding experience, and an eye-opener in terms of actually seeing the technogenesis that N. Katherine Hayles writes about in How We Think at work. Machine reading and hyper-reading have had material impacts on how we digest and tell stories, and horror tales fall in right in line with some of the theories she explains in her text.

Just in terms of a roll call, I'm touching on:

  • Cotton Mather, the Salem Witch Trials, and execution sermons;
  • Slave narratives and ghost stories of the American South;
  • Windigo narratives of the Upper Plains;
  • Poe and Lovecraft and the long reach of the weird tale;
  • Pocket Books, Dell Books, and the role of the pulps in creating subgenres (the various "punks," if you're at all curious);
  • Stephen King's UR, The Plant, and Little Green God of Agony;
  • Closer reads of Barron's "Frontier Death Song," Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," Yu's "Standard Loneliness Package" and Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown";
  • Discussion of digital publishing and the shifting marketplace for fiction in general;
  • The Moonlit Road, project Gutenberg, and The American Memory Project.
Whew. It's been an exhilarating trip down the rabbit hole. I have a meeting down in Orlando on Monday to discuss an independent study track, and I was wondering if anyone could suggest a title or two that falls into the "dark sci-fi of the twentieth century" category. If anyone has a suggestion (and I've received some good ones after reaching out to friends in the spec. fic. community), I'd love to hear it...

Speaking of speculative fiction, I am chewing through the absolutely indispensable tome The Weird. The VanderMeers really have created a definitive treasury of surreal, absurd, haunting, whimsical, wonderful fiction. I'm stunned by the creativity and diversity on display here, and the uniform quality. I haven't read a story that didn't stand out from its peers in some way; I haven't read a story yet that I didn't enjoy. I'm about fifteen stories in, and Michel Bernanos's "The Other Side of the Mountain" (1967) is my favorite thus far. Two things are abundantly clear to me:
  • This book belongs in every speculative-fiction writer's home library;
  • Gio Clairval is a master translator.
In ten days, I'll have a chance to get back to my first fiction in a long while. With all of this inspiration building up inside me (sheesh, I've read some great stuff lately!), it'll be nice to see that cursor from a different perspective, blinking like a lighthouse at the edge of the sea of pretend...

You Know When It's Good

If you spend any real time at the word processor, you understand that sometimes the writing flows and you just know in your heart and in you...