Tag Archives: inspiration

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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War Journal 65: Return of the Light Crusader

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m some sort of perpetually running engine.  Get up in the morning and exercise, go to work and work, come home and eat dinner, do some home improvement projects on days off, rinse, repeat.  Here and there I’ll find time to squeeze out a short story and I’ve actually managed to write like four stories since I last blogged.  One got picked up by Baen for an upcoming anthology, the other three I’m peddling.  I’ve been trying to get back to finish the novel, wrap up the trilogy, you know?  It’s been a crawl and will continue to be so until I get some of my home improvement projects done.

I was starting to get tunnel vision, a very “veteran in the trenches” type feel, where you’re doing the writing almost on autopilot.  The why’s don’t matter.  The where do they go once I finish don’t matter.  Plot, character and satisfying reading experience are the only things that matter.  Will the story even sell?  You know what, doesn’t matter.

Today I opened my inbox to find someone had commented on one of my older posts, dated November 25, 2013.  The post was about my story “Light Crusader’s Dark Dessert” debuting on Intergalactic Medicine Show.  I’m going to reprint the comment here in it’s entirety and add a link to the sampler described below:

This short story was featured in the Not-A-Hugo-Sampler Sampler Issue this year, and I read through all of the short stories (minus the audio one). I thoroughly enjoyed your short story, as did my husband after I insisted he read it. I would have to say it was my favorite of the collection. The way you mixed very different genres together was masterfully done. Most attempts to do this would come off as very jarring, but you blended them together into a very cohesive story. The “Moses” analogies were hilarious, and the interlude with Terra was beautiful. Jake and Alex were both well-developed, with your supporting cast as 3D as any reader could desire. My husband especially would like to know if you’ve written anything more in this setting, or with Jake Tamerlane (is that a reference to Poe? To the Persian king?). It appears that most of your work is short fiction – I know we, at least, would be interested in purchasing any novels you were to write in this world.

I don’t get praise often, much less praise like this.  It reminded me why I’m in the trenches… why I write.  A story I wrote two years ago found its way to a reader through the sampler issue and impressed her enough to highly recommend it to someone else, who in turn also enjoyed it.  Oftentimes I forget I’m not just doing it because I like my own stories… even though I swear sometimes it feels that way.  Every now and again you guys like my stories too, and you find a way to tell me so.

Awesome.

Original artwork for Light Crusdader

Original artwork for Light Crusdader

For those of you who have yet to check out “Light Crusader’s Dark Dessert”, go to Intergalactic  Medicine Show and pick up the sampler issue.  It’s FREE!  For those of you who have read the story and wonder some of the same things these readers wonder, I actually do plan to revisit this setting and Jake Tamerlane (a reference to the Persian-Mongol conqueror).  There are so many more flavors of the Apocalypse that he’s aching to have a go at.  It’ll be a novel I’m sure.  While I can’t say for sure if it’ll be my next novel, it definitely inspires me that someone’s looking for it on the horizon.

We’ll see…

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