Tag Archives: inspiration

War Journal 75: The Shift in Gears, The Seriously Funny

It was a good while back, around the time I started this blog, that I decided it made better sense to build a name in this industry writing short stories before I started writing books.  That way I could hit the publishers and be like “Hey, James Beamon here… you know me, the guy with the fan base a legion strong… the dude who hasn’t quit because the world’s decried he’s too legit.  Attached is my debut novel.  Since your submission guidelines said nothing about simultaneous subs, I’ve also sent it to three other fairly large publishing houses.  I look forward to hearing back from you.  Sincerely Yours (for a price), James”

I mean, it makes sense right?  The thing is writers don’t actually listen to business sense so much as the story that’s beating in their writerly hearts.  And so while I was working to get into the biz one short at a time, the big story… the novel story that’s currently spanning trilogy lengths was beating in the heart.  So I’d take time out of the story game to write the novel, going back and forth and back again.  I finished the first novel without making too much of a splash in short stories.  Same went for the second novel.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve acquired a healthy number of people who dig what I write along the way, love you folks and your awesome sense of taste and style.  I’ve gotten to SFWA recognized pro status, a mountain of an endeavor, at least I think so.  But the novel writing was definitely messing with the volume of stories and hence my takeover of the game via shorts.

Flashback to August of 2015.  I had gotten zero short story sales for the year, I mean zero with the hollow circle, one less than the loneliest number.  We were getting into the “-ember” part of the year, you know, the ass end.  And the last sale I had was back in August of 2014.  So the business sense kicked in, along with a healthy dose of fear that this would be the year of the goose egg.  I basically mothballed third novel and got a LOT more shorts written out.  And many of them sold, Daily Science Fiction, F&SF, Apex, Sci Phi Journal, and more.  At the end of 2015 and going into 2016 I got 11 short stories accepted, published or both depending on the speed of the venue.  I made the Nebula Awards Recommended Reading List… twice.

It’s April 2017 and the smoke’s cleared after my writing/submitting blitz on the marketplace.  More to the point, I feel really good about where my stories landed, the viewership I attracted, and my visibility.  And while I don’t think I’m in any position to send that ultra-brazen letter to the publishers I posted above, I do think that I couldn’t ask for a better year in terms of how I hustled.

Since I’m not about going through 2017 with more of the same, I figured it was time to do the full switch of gears.  It’s novel finishing time.  I still have some stories out there, waging war with the world’s slushpiles, but I’m not looking to write write write more stories this year.  I plan to finish the third novel, put some honey glaze on the whole trilogy, and send it out to you guys for your consumption.  Granted, I may pen one short or two if the distracting pull is strong enough, but I’m fairly focused, like a laser pointer with only one bad battery.

The last part of this post involves my serious pursuit of the nonserious.  April is Unidentified Funny Objects month.  This year we’re on the sixth volume and I’ve been an Associate Editor ever since the first one.  If you’re a writer then we need your funny.  I’d love to read what you’ve done… as long as it’s funny.  So if you wrote something that makes you laugh and/or makes others laugh and everyone laughing is laughing for the right reasons, send it to us.  Guidelines are here.

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Intelligence Report: Becoming Hero

How would you fine folks out there like a story where a comic book hero, whose life is constantly besieged with enemies, lost loves, and insurmountable odds on a near-weekly basis, finally gets tired of it and decides to kill the person who’s always stacking the deck against him, namely his writer?  If you raised an eyebrow or leaned a little closer, welcome to Jen Finelli’s Becoming Hero.

becoming-hero

If there’s any one I can call my protégé in this business, it’s Jen.  She’s been listening to my good but weird (or is it weird but good?) writerly advice for a few years now, soaking in the big points and tailoring the finer points to match her own witty and irreverent voice.  You can see a great example of that in Brain Worms and White Whales, which is free to listen to and read over at Escape Pod.

Jen wants to bring to life this very meta story of a comic book hero getting revenge for all the torturous machinations we writers cook up, and when I say to life I mean full on color life.  She wants to hire graphic artists and a voice actor to provide some high quality audio and kickass visual aesthetics on the ebooks, audiobooks and physical print copies.  That costs a bit of coin and there’s a reason why the words “starving” and “artist” go together like chocolate and peanut butter.  That’s where you guys come in.

I invite you to go over to Jen’s Indiegogo page for Becoming Hero.  It’s very hard to not get excited by the premise and all the cool rewards she’s got in store for backers.  Plus there are contests and games, no matter your backing pledge amount, coupled with a real and altruistic sense of community and plain giving back.  At the time of this post, she’s about $1200 short of reaching that dream goal of fully funded.  So head on over there and check out the project!

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War Journal 68: Leapolution II

I looked this good 4 years ago... the hell have I been eating?

I looked this good 4 years ago… the hell have I been eating?

Leap Day!  Some of you, two handfuls in fact, remember the last time I posted on Leap Day.  It only comes once every four years, so that first time I wanted to catch my blog in its infancy and see how it grew the next time Leap Day rolled around.

For the many more that are new, here were the stats back then:

I was in Afghanistan.  That kinda sucked.

I had 2 out of 3 pro sales to make SFWA qualifications.  I would later learn that one of those sales didn’t count.  At the time, that sucked even worse than Afghanistan.

I had 16 subscribers.  16!

I had a fierce thirst for more.

Now, four years later, and the only thing that’s still constant is the thirst!  Current subscriber count is 169, which is awesome.  I’m SFWA recognized.  I’ve sold 12 stories at pro pay to places such as Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, AE: The Canadian SF Review (making me an international player!) and the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology.  Speaking of, I also became an associate editor, directly affecting the landscape of speculative fiction comedy.  And it kinda rocks reading the work of other writers in the trenches, trying to get their funny on while battling the slush.

Who knows where we’ll be the next Leap Day.  Maybe 1699 followers and a book deal?  Your man can hope.

In the meanwhile, thanks for hanging out with a brother.  It’d be a lot lonelier in the trenches without you.

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War Journal 66: The Fallow Year

Mmm... tastes like the only thing to eat around here!

Mmm… tastes like the only thing to eat around here!

I think the revelation struck me a couple of blog posts ago, when I advertised free swag.  A fellow writer in the trenches said “Thanks… hope your writing’s going well.”  It was then I realized I haven’t had diddly published this year in terms of new stories.   The only thing I had put out to the reading public is  a need to hope I’m still writing.  Damn…

I checked my Duotrope and found an interesting pattern.

Counting back from 2011 when I got my first pro sale, I got accepted for publication 5 times that year, 4 of them at semi-pro zines.
2012 it was 8, 4 at pro sites. 2013 it was 5, all of them pro. 2014 it was 5, 4 pro 1 reprint.

Ready for this year’s stats?  In 2015 I’ve gotten 3 acceptances, all pro.  2 in September, 1 in October, none of them have appeared in print yet.

There’s a couple reasons for the low numbers.  One is the word “NO”.  My spring and summer were full of ’em… Duotrope clocked me at 59 times rejected.  Another reason is I’ve been fairly non-prolific, writing a handful of stories and wrestling with just how the final novel plays out (good news, I’ve gotten all the kinks unkinked, so expect a wrap up soon).  I think all of this translated into the blog.  It transformed along with my numbers, changing from a place where I kept sane in Iraq/Afghanistan to a place where I mostly posted recent publications which were coming frequently to what it is now, a quiet place with updates few and far between.  The “no news is no news” approach to building a fanbase, I guess.

Goes to show you just how much this blog is a living, breathing entity.  Right now it’s taking deep, labored breaths!

At first I was really bummed about the numbers accepted, the low turnout.  But I looked at the stories I’ve written, the quality of work I’ve produced this year.  One made finalist at Writers of the Future.  Another put me on a first name basis with C.C. Finlay over at F&SF.  Then there was one which earned me a personal rejection with Tor.com, who expressed a fervent (their word!) wish for me to send more.  To Boldly Go has currently earned 17 votes (almost all of them 5 star!) and made my friend and fellow writer Anatoly Belilovsky seethe with pride and good natured envy.

And a bigger revelation took place, one where I realized I’ve grown this year.  I’m not just writing the same stories.  I haven’t been content to churn out content.  I’ve been seeking new approaches to storytelling, new methodologies.  Some don’t work as well as the traditional methods, some are well received even if there may not be a place on a site’s roster.  Some are still out there at war with the slush, their success stories yet to be told.  Mostly, I’m proud of these works and happy of how I have evolved to be able to write them.

Simply put, I don’t suck as much as I used to.  I think everyone can call that a win.

So I’ve made peace with the low numbers of acceptances.  I understand it’s ok to have a fallow year, low on harvest.  Planting the same kind of seeds ruin the soil.  Some years it’s better to grow your techniques, expand the area in which you can plant.  In the long run, it’ll make for an even bigger harvest later.

Happy Thanksgiving people.

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