Tag Archives: life

The Impact of Your Work

This humble post is about a story and a song, neither of them mine.

Let’s start with the story. Back in 2009, when I began my first foray into real writing and couldn’t get published to save self-esteem, I’d do market research at all the top magazines. Not only did I want to know what kind of stories they were looking for, I wanted to see what successful writers put in their stories, maybe get a glimpse at their secret sauce. Eventually I ran across Sock Heroes over at Strange Horizons. The first paragraph is a mere two words and from reading those words I was instantly hooked. Unlike some characters who come with built in empathy–the plucky orphan, the hooker with a heart of gold, the starry eyed youth–the protagonist was one I couldn’t care less about BEFORE I read those two words. And just like that, I cared. The author M. Thomas skillfully built on that empathy and by the time I was done I was simply amazed. I realized in no uncertain terms you could write about ANYTHING and it will make for an awesome story, if done right.

Her story spoke to me, and I wanted more from her.  Strange Horizons hosted another story called Beguiling Mona. I don’t have to sell you on how good it was; anyone familiar with my work can see how this story inspired me. Even hungrier now, and pretty much a fan at this point, I looked for more of her stuff.

And that’s where it all went dry. She had written from 2002 and stopped at 2006. By the time I had discovered her, a great many of the magazines and sites she had been published in were defunct.  Googling M. Thomas is probably the worst Google search I’ve ever had to conduct. Thomas can be a first name, a middle name and a last name and M. is just M. I literally could put M. Thomas with the name of the story with the name of the publication it was in into Google and have to damn near scroll to the bottom of the page to find a hint at the right person and oftentimes that was the SFF database ISFDB and not her actual work.

I’ve never figured out what happened to M. Thomas. I don’t know if she just gave up on writing, if life got in the way, or if she’s no longer with us.  I’d like to tell her that I learned much from her examples, especially with character development. Perhaps I’ll share those lessons with my fellow aspiring writers out there in a Creative Combat Arms section sometime in the future. Mostly, I’d like to thank her for enriching my life with her stories.

Her website never worked. It was ironically called www.found-things.com.

Let’s move on to the song. Much more recently, a couple months back, I stumbled across “The Last Laugh” on Netflix. Starring Richard Dreyfuss and Chevy Chase, it’s about an old comedian and his even older manager who decide to do one last comedy tour. So Chevy’s on a date with Andie MacDowell and they stop at a singer performing at a street corner. The song took over, this was at 53 minutes in, and it was bigger than the movie.

I’m ok with folk music and really not much for country… I think I can count on one hand the number of country songs I like and I’d still have enough fingers left to gouge some eyes in a bar fight. This song sat squarely  in the middle of those two genres and it absolutely spoke to my soul.

I tried to Shazam it and it failed. I ran it back, played it again and Shazam failed again. And again. I waited for the end of the movie, got her name, Jessie Payo, from the credits, did some Googling and still couldn’t find her.  And when I say Googling, I mean her name + fractions of song lyrics, maybe add the movie when that didn’t work, maybe change the lyrics to something else in case I misheard it with all that movie dialogue going on around it. Still nothing. In this day and age it’s like she wasn’t trying to be found or something!

Today I woke up, watched a show and afterwards decided I wanted to hear the song again. It still moved me and I realized why. It’s like a flash fiction story. The song encapsulates this brief span of time after you’ve gotten to know someone enough to be comfortable and trusting but before you and that other person are in a relationship and building it.  It’s not about love but rather the journey of discovery towards something that could be love, something neither of you’ll know until you go on the journey. For me, it brings me square back to over twenty years ago, to warm Louisville summer nights and two people who both knew whatever the hell they were doing made no sense but still took that journey together. So when I hear this song, it’s like my wife’s singing it to me.  And I recall a time that was pure magic and become joyful we decided to take that journey that didn’t make any damn sense together.

I decided to try to find Jessie Payo and her song again. And I found both. This is Jessie Payo’s website and this is her song Dance Real Close as I heard it on the movie. When you go to the comments section of the song’s page, you’ll see troves of folks pouring in, saying the movie brought them there and they searched and searched and searched and they were so glad to finally find it.

It’s amazing, the impact your work has had or will have on people. Scores of die-hards may find you and tell you or you may never know the extent.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a household name. It only matters that you put your skill of craft and passion into it.  That piece of your soul will speak to others in a language all its own and enrich them for having discovered it.

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Confession of an Indie Novelist

Cry Time is over!

I’m going to close out this year with a confession. There was a part of me that wanted to be done with writing. It’s so much work, you know? And not just the writing, the selling, that’s the herculean experience. And it was something I wasn’t doing, selling, not in record numbers or even moderate numbers. My novel was kinda just adrift.

I was running into a wall, problems of white noise and market saturation. Indie writers are legion. There are no barriers to entry. Plus, we’ve all heard the success stories, how nowadays the indies are forging ahead of the Big Name Publishers, getting huge fanbases and reaping fortune and glory. We all want that… if you don’t want that, you’re dreaming wrong.  Envision, a million indie writers trying to move five million books, attemping to wedge into a spot reserved for a handful.

I knew this going in. I was hoping to cut through a lot of the white noise by telling potential readers, “I’ve been published in F&SF, and Apex, and Daily Science Fiction, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show (making it a point to name drop Orson to catch some clout), and Lightspeed and Escape Pod and I made the Nebula Recommended Reading List and and and.” This was my way of saying, “I know a book from an indie writer is a crapshoot, it could be garbage so hot it melts your ereader or a brave bold crazy wonderful adventure… you should try me out because I’m vetted. I bring a resume of quality storytelling. Won’t you be my reader?”

Few cared. Even reviewers, which was my other ticket to express laning through the white noise. It’s one thing for me to tell you that my book is fun, savvy, quirky, edge of your seat action, and quite another for someone else to say “Holy smokes this rocked… buy it!” Turns out there’s only a very small dollop of reviewers who accept indie books for review. Nowadays most reviewers strictly go through NetGalley, which is quite expensive for a writer to use, I’m talking $400 for the basic option, $600 for NetGalley to place you in the newsletter… you know, showing folks you’re actually there on the site instead of you hoping that your fingers crossed is its own special brand of attractive magic.

Some of the indie reviewers were cool, most were supremely overbooked to the point of being temporarily closed to subs… I believe one guy had a backlog of 180+ books, I still put mine in the queue and don’t really expect to hear back until this time next year. And there were a few others that just didn’t wanna rock with me, take that book elsewhere, my resume be damned… they had permanently stopped reviewing indies because the aforementioned crapshoot wasn’t worth their time.

So I was running into a vicious loop of new readers not wanting to check me out because I had few reviews and reviewers not wanting to read the book because I was indie. It didn’t help that Beamon is a name that sounds like I should be catching footballs or running track, not writing fantasy and science fiction. I love my name, it’s mine, but it’s not writerly until I make it writerly. I look at this as a temporary strike, it only counts against me in the now but well, now is the time it counts. It felt as if very little, if any, of all the accomplishments I had made from the short story trade had converted into usable currency in this space. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some stalwart, Day One fans (thanks to you all!) precisely because of the short stories, but there are soooo many more days after day one and I started feeling them as sales clicked down to 0. My novel languished and for a brief time I just checked out… played some Bloodborne, watched some YouTube, didn’t check the bestsellers ranks or think about it.

And like any real writer, the ones forged of broken glass and duct tape, I came back. I wrote a couple of short stories that are making their way in the slush right as we speak, wrote a few chapters of the third book, got back down to the business. A writer has to write and no amount of commercial success or lack thereof is gonna keep a writer from doing it. Not until all their stories have been told. And mine are still there jockeying for position to be the next one out of my head, onto the page and into the world.

I had forgotten. I was calling myself a writer in the trenches but in the short story markets it felt like I had climbed out, that I was standing over the maze and catching all day sunshine. Sure, I’d still get rejections, but I was on a first name basis with many of the editors of the top magazines. Many of them I had been featured in, or been published multiple times. I felt accomplished, which is a great feeling but an impossible feeling to someone who’s claiming to be your brother in arms slugging it out in these slushpiles to achieve a slight modicum of recognition in print. It was no longer a slugfest for me, where I wrestled with self-doubt and self-rejection wondering what was wrong with my stories or if it was something else entirely.

Going into the novel world felt like starting over, going back into the trenches, back before that first ever SFWA recognized pro sale. Season’s Greetings that was a hard era! Yes, I used Season’s Greetings as an expletive. And here I am, ready to take this hill like I took the ones before this one, bigger hill or not. Overnight success probably doesn’t suit me anyway, it doesn’t have the visceral imagery of bloody knuckles clutching my final manuscript. Overnight success doesn’t make a rocking bio and I definitely want the rocking bio. And I guess to all the writers out there who are fledgling or still feel fledging, this blog is still a relevant voice when hearing the motivational words of authorities , the big names who have been big names forever, feels like getting advice from mom and dad about a world that’s constantly changing. Bloody and battered, I’m still here for you.

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Pendulum Heroes

Hey folks,

While it may seem on the surface that I’m doing my usual incommunicado thing, there’s been a lot of stuff going on in the background.  I finalized my stories for the upcoming issues of Apex and Lightspeed magazines (I’m the FEATURED writer for Lightspeed!), got interviewed by a class of tenth grade students (which I thought was very fun… they asked some great questions),  seriously leveled up my formatting (more on that later), and oh, what else… I finally made my novel into a real physical thing!

Pendulum Heroes is set up for preorder on the majority of ebook retailers.  Check out the Amazon page, which seems to glow to me.  This is for the e-book only… I’m still finalizing the print edition, trivial details such as the ISBN placement and such and as soon as that’s done it’ll appear on the page as an option.

But who wants to wait for all that finalization before I tell you guys that it LIVES!  It’s physically in the world.  Look!

I tried to get as far away as I could from standard covers and the usual format.  I’ve written a lot of stories getting here and I’m especially proud of Pendulum Heroes.  I wanted the physical book to be something I could proudly display on a coffee table and the only way to do that right was making sure most of you could also proudly display it on a coffee table.  To ensure that happened, I teamed up with Micaela Dawn, an artist I believe will be world famous some day.

The inside’s beautiful too.  When I say I leveled up my formatting, I spent an untold age learning things about Microsoft Word most mortals don’t.  I learned about gutter margins, mirror mode, page breaks, section breaks – continuous and new, drop caps, headings, and man a lot.  This may sound weird, but it got fun, y’all… it’s about as close to playing a game with Word as you can get.  Most of the stuff you won’t notice… which is the whole point.  It’s been perfectly formatted so the words disappear so you can enjoy the reading experience.

Pendulum Heroes is set to go live June 10th.  But I couldn’t wait til then to tell y’all and show you the book!  While I highly encourage copping a print edition for the feel of it and for any unadorned coffee tables you know of, the e-book’s also beautifully inlaid with custom stylized touches.  Besides, it’s Friday, some of y’all just got paid and I’d be remiss if I let that money burn a hole in your pocket.  So hit up Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo (they have a preview!), or Apple, preorder the digital version now, forget that you ordered it and then get hit with a pleasant surprise when your device loads it up for you on the 10th.

Don’t tell me I’m the only one who does stuff like that.

If this was your coffee table, you’d already be home by now.

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A Villain and His Options

Sometimes a baddie gotta mull shit over…

In my tradition of not making New Year’s resolutions, I’ve decided to be as I ever was and not blog in a very timely fashion.  In the latest installment of “Where’s Beamon?” I was nearing the end of book 3, which of course ran into my real world needs of trying to prepare for a VMware exam.  And while both of those things were and are happening, a villain dropped.

I’m speaking of “A Villain Considers His Options,” which subscribers to Daily Science Fiction should have already seen in their inboxes a couple weeks ago.  This is the start of a series featuring the villain I call Dastard Fantastic.  The second one “A Villain Turns Mad” will also appear at DSF sometime in the near future.  And for those who have subscribed to my newsletter, you folks will be the only ones who get the third and (currently) final installment of the series, “A Villain’s Patented Approach.”

That’s how a villain would do it, by holding this delicious carrot over the heads of you folks who’ve yet to sign up.  It’s not too late, just sayin…

Of course, that’s sometime in the nearish future.  Meanwhile, you folks can enjoy “A Villain Considers His Options” today.  Of funny note with this story is the bio.  DSF used to ask me for a bio but this time they didn’t.  I figured they were just gonna use my last one until I saw it and they were pretty much like “this is his 5th time, y’all already know who this dude is.”  Apparently, I’ve hit vet status with DSF!  What’s funnier is that this was actually my 6th time at DSF, which is apparently only something I’m keeping track of.  Well, me and DSF’s own search database when you type in Beamon, but, you know, it’s a new year.

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