writing process

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Practical Issues: Research

Published August 16, 2017 by admin

Every so often (but not so that it’s high and mighty or obnoxious) I want to do a practical issues post on writing stuff. The thing is, I fully get that I’m not Stephen King (boy would that be the weirdest Freaky Friday ever) or a huge bestseller or whatevs. However, I find that I end up contributing to the same conversations about writing on social media a lot, and in panels I find that there area always similar basic issues. And sometimes I’m just going to cover stuff that annoys me (not today, though, we’ll start out gentle).

As The Maternal One says, It’s not that I know everything, it’s that I’ve just fallen in more ditches.

So today I’d like to talk a little bit about…research. Partly because I’m neck deep in it, partly because it seems to intimidate a lot of people. People seem to either assume they know what they need to know or they go hog wild and intimidate themselves out of starting a project in the first place. So first up is to find a happy medium. You should also get some sort of an idea about what you need to know to make your story or book at least seem realisitic. Sometimes it helps to know the rules to break the rules (or in this case know the area/time period/whatever to play around in them or to cheat a little bit). I was on a panel once about using real places as settings and while it may not always be in your best interest to call out a place of business or a city down to its flatware patterns, if you’re writing about Chicago it should feel like Chicago. If you’re writing about a small town and have never experienced one, it’s better to find a way to get some knowledge in ya or risk being called out. To make things easier, it does help to have a rough outline in your head about what to research, or else you’ll be overwhelmed pretty quick.

Example: My horror e-book Mooner doesn’t overtly give a year and a time period, though I had it in my head that it was somewhere around the 1870’s and probably Wisonsin or Michigan. Although I had some disappointed Canadians call me out for that once, so it can be wherever people want it to be  where there are lumberjacks.

Speaking of lumberjacks, I knew that I was going to have to explore their world – but I chose to do it in a really limited environment. The historical fiction of other authors had inspired me, so I latched onto this idea of a saloon. At first I had just a very loose encounter in my head, but with some quick interneting of historical sites, I was able to get an idea of the dress, the lifestyle, the habits, the pure danger of choosing that type of life, and the speech. Which led me to online dictionaries because boy howdy, do lumberjacks have their own language and I do tend to get heart palpitations with interesting dialects.

That basic info, though, really gave me permission to play with the characters – to the point of adding in an extra bit at the end that hadn’t even occurred to me until I was fleshing things out.

Not that research is limited to historical stuff, mind. In the Red involved a lot of researching medical conditions (and some one-on-one conversations when I could get them), and as many rock urban legends and touring rock musician anecdotes that I could find (the latter is also a weird hobby of mine, so that wasn’t too much of a stretch). You would think that Olde School would just involve me making up stuff, but there was again a ton of research into fairy tales, politics, emminent domain, and dialects. If anything, making up your own world takes way more work than filling in the blanks in the real one. Currently I’m binging on a lot of history and pop culture from the mid/late 50’s through not quite today, because I’m a glutton for punishment who never learns her lessons. And a lot of rocker/groupie culture because apparently I have to entertain myself while inflicting self-torture.

So where do you do all this research, I hear you ask. Might I suggest…

  1. The Internet – the obvious choice. Google and Wikipedia do wonders. However, some stuff has to be taken with a grain of salt. Historical and school project sites are great for basic rundowns of time periods or issues.

2. The Library – it still exists, I swear, and there are handy librarians who can help you out (I’ve yet to totally freak out a librarian with an odd request, and that’s saying something). Not only do you have books, but they probably have resources on local events and history and things you might not have considered. Also, stealthy trick I’ve learned – never underestimate a kid or teen biography or nonfiction book. It’ll give you all the basics and get to the point much faster than trying to flip through a stack of big books. This is especially good if you need general information or have a basic idea of what you want to do but need filler or a guiding hand.

3. People – I know it can be weird and uncomfortable, but never underestimate good first-hand experience. It’s pretty common for me to ask if anyone knows about certain stuff on my media. You can also try calling places (be respectful), and make sure to be up front with people about what you need and what you’re using it for. I find that people generally are cool with being helpful, but don’t waste their time, either. Come prepared and be upfront. It also helps to have friends with varying experiences or who are willing to shove their other friends at you. I’ve got people I regularly text for local government type advice, I have a poli sci person, I’ve harrassed probably every musician and performer I’ve worked with, and even the stuff I’m generally pretty sure on I’ll check with people. If you need to know law for your lawyer pirate adventure story, see who you know first, then put out feelers for people who might be willing to talk to you. Usually there’s someone curious enough to give you a few minutes.

4. Documentaries, nonfiction shows – Plunk yourself down in front of some PBS. See what Netflix has to say about certain subjects. Of course,there may be some bias depending on the docu, but you are going to find different angles on subjects that you might not have expected.

5. Pay attention – No, seriously, all the time. It’s the same thing for the whole ‘where do you get your ideas’ question. If you don’t pay attention, really dig deep and become aware of your surroundings, your emotions, and those around you, you’re missing a huge resource. This kind of plays into the sense memory thing, but your perceptions and experiences are important, as well.

6. Go places and do stuff – I don’t expect you to fly across the world every time you have an exotic setting, but if you need a small town environment and haven’t been in one for a while, go road trip. Really get yourself in that environment (but do it safely. With all of this, safety first, please). Same if you haven’t been in, say, a DMV for a long time but want to set a scene in one. Go hang out, see what there is to see. This is also the cheap excuse I use for taking random classes or going out and about and doing different things – I need it for research.

Two final thoughts:

  • As important as research is, you’re not going to nail everything. You’re just not. You want the details to work with your plot, so at times you may have to fudge things a little bit. You may get called out for it, you may not. The real art of it is making everything seem real instead of just a fill in the blank exercise to show that you learned stuff.
  • Keep an open mind when you research. Know what you need it for, but don’t be absolutely married to your outline. I’ve found details that made me change course because they gave me ideas that were just too good to not use. Always keep an open mind.

Now, there is also the whole genre writing caveat, I suppose. How do you write what you know when you can’t know them? How do you write stuff you can’t research whole sale?

Lucky you, I did a guest post for mythic scribes about just that.

What are your favorite methods for research? Do you find one thing works better over others for you? Does research push you out of your comfort zone or do you love it?

 

 

The Medical Mystery Tour (writing from sense memory)

Published August 11, 2017 by admin

One of the things that I really want to do here on out is to explore not just where I get my ideas, but how I incorporate them into writing. In a lot of ways, I think all my acting classes have really helped me here, especially with getting under the skin of a character.

For those who haven’t heard the term sense memory, the short version is in acting, basically you’re using one of your senses to recall an emotional memory from a specific time to help flesh out the character you’re playing. For instance, I once played Anna in The King and I. During the letter scene where she learns the king is dying, I focused on the memory on the last letter that I’d received from my grandmother before she died from cancer – that I accidentally threw away, thinking it was a different letter. That feeling of loss, as well as focusing on the color and feel of the stationary, the memory of her writing, really helped with the mindset the director wanted from the scene. While they may not call it this, a lot of writers use this trick, as well. Granted, I would add the caveat that you want to make it work for you – you don’t have to go full blown method to make your writing believable, and anything that’s putting you through the wringer isn’t necessarily something that you should pursue just to say you’re adding to your craft. For me, personally, though (especially since it means I’m putting my degree to use), recalling specific bits of memories has helped me when I might be facing writer’s block on a particular situation or character. So off and on I’ll

So off and on I’ll proably touch on some of my own personal experiences and how I’ve used them. For instance, this thing right here. It’s a beaut that will leave you traumatized, but shows just how much mileage you can get from even awful times.

Some years back I was recovering from the flu and noticed that even months after, I still felt draggy. Not bad, just overly tired. I still did what I had to do, because that’s just how I live my life. At any rate, I had started back at seasonal main dayjob I had at the time, just gotten a promotion, and was dealing with some big transitions and a lot of work due to a lack of crew. I was preparing to see friends at Famous Monsters at the end of July, I think, and suddenly out of nowhere I started getting intense headaches. No prob, go to the doctor, sinus infection, get antibiotics, go on my way, just as I had times before because my allergies and sinuses like to work together to remind me who’s in charge from time to time.

Except this time, I didn’t go on my merry way. I reacted to the antibiotic, got a different one, okay, great, life goes on…except it didn’t. The pain pulsed out from the side of my nose and face to the back of my neck and down my back and sometimes the top of my head. It was like all my muscles were tightening and kept being tightened by some Inquisition-level torture device. While I was still exhausted and sinusy. I have no idea how I survived that convention other than one of my best friends kept an eye on me to keep me alive, except for the time I left a film screening early and nearly collapsed in a hall, which I never did tell her or others when asked how I was feeling, so people are just going to love me for this. Seriously, learn from my idiocy. At any rate, by time I got back from that adventure, I was subjected to lots of tests and lots of raised eyebrows. As in: Are you sure it’s not in your imagination? Have you thought about a neurologist? It may just be phantom pains, see if it goes away.

It took everything in me not to reply with how I was pretty sure I was in agony and couldn’t I just wait and see if they went away, instead? (Did I mention I’m not the biggest fan of doctors?)

By the time they decided it could be allergies and put me through that test and an attempt at weekly drops so hilarious it bordered on the sitcomy, I was also buzzing under my skin and it felt like an ice pick had been driven into the side of my nose all the time.  Diet changes, life changes, an extremely understanding boss, some fairly understanding side gigs, ten different doctors, loads of different prescriptions and otc meds, an offhanded comment that I should prepare that it could be cancer (right before Christmas and a month before I went to a new ENT), and finally maternal intervention so I didn’t lose my mind, took up my time. I’ve never been so wound up, so at the mercy of my body and everything I was putting into it in my life. I get why people lose hope because of a medical condition, because I was going nowhere fast, and in agony. My gp finally put me on the correct dose to kill the infection, and the ENT finally adjusted my allergy meds to reduce inflammation. And that’s when we found out what was really going on.

I’ll warn you, I won’t get detailed gory but you may want to scroll by the next paragraph if you’re squeamish.

So, I’d had jaw surgery when I was 16 or 17, and I’d even done a presentation on it in college, complete with illustrations of a line of screws that had been put in to hold my bones together until they healed. Apparently, though, that wasn’t quite right because I had some big honking brackets under my face, and by the way, they were coming lose and cutting through my nasal cavities. We won’t discuss how we found that out for certain, other than to say that if you’ve never felt anything rattle under your face, you’re missing out. So, that was fun. Add in a lot of phone calls to find a doctor who could deal with this, and like nearly a year after the initial exhaustion, I was getting de-borg-ed. It was a long, extended foray into pain, exhaustion, paranoia, the health care system, amazingly sensitive and insensitive reactions of others, and feeling utterly helpless. I still tense up every time I have a cold simply because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

However, the experience dropped a huge amount of sense memory in my lap (not to mention a great name for the experience, the better to keep myself from crying at those memories). Not just the obvious physical feelings, either, but the exhaustion and long-term helplessness, of just wanting things to go right for a change, was directly funneled into Paddlelump in Olde School. Poor guy goes through one thing after another after another without relief, while facing the subtle and unsubtle judgment of others. That was definitely something I could relate to.

The physical feeling of different meds interacting added with not sleeping very much at one point contributed a lot to Jermiah in In the Red. While I haven’t lived the rock star lifestyle, I definitely know the feeling of not feeling in your own skin, of being there but not being in your body or in control, of everything running away with you, or opening your mouth and some other thing coming out that just isn’t you. And you’d be amazed the feelings of worthlessness you feel when you’re seeing yet another professional and can’t get across what’s going on because you just don’t know and you’re at the end of the rope, and they ask if you’re sure that’s what you’re actually feeling. So it definitely fit for a guy who sees demonic hallucinations and feels the effect of magical memorabilia at one point.

At one point there was also an incredible feeling of release and submission, if that’s the right word for it (I’d been doing a lot of meditating to try to not lose my mind and really got into Wayne Dyer around that time), a sensation of being on my knees and having to trust that things could work out, which also feeds into Jeremiah’s resolution, and in a lot of ways, to Paddlelump’s as well. Both characters have to be broken before they can move on. That feeling of being out of control feeds into a lot of the kind of thing I write, so I’ve gotten a ton of mileage out of the experience. It’s even fueled my short fiction, because I really didn’t have a choice but to keep moving forward and to go through it, and many of my characters have that journey to take, specifically those like Hunter Mann in The Ruins of St. Louis, an anthology story I did years ago.

I don’t feel the need to focus myself and try to bring everything into uber clear focus, because it still causes a pretty big knee jerk, but it definitely has given me a lot to work with.

And one of these days it will definitely provide a direct horror story inspired by the subject matter, but I may need a paper bag to breathe into to do it.

***

In the Red isn’t in print at the moment (actually working on that, tbh), but you can get more information and some fun tidbits about Olde School here

 

 

A Book Report on Peter Rabbit

Published October 7, 2016 by admin

I know, I know, it’s been forever.

I feel like I’ve needed time away to realign and figure out what works for me. Some days it feels like my whole life is about learning how to balance. I still have a huge to do list and a lot of things to get to, but the great news is I’m starting to write again.

Who knows if it’s any good, but they’re words and they’re mine, so that’s something.

The past year, whether it’s been blog posts or stories or longer works, I always feel like my timing is off, or if I just wait and get rested or eat something first, or tick off fifty things on the list so I’m really ready to concentrate, then I can write. Maybe. Of course you know how that goes.

Back in the bronze age of my childhood, I was obsessed with the Peanuts comic strip and characters. In the course of my life if I haven’t read every single strip, I’ve probably come close. Seriously, I’m a walking Wiki for Peanuts, it’s a little terrifying. What started out as a way to get close to my parents (they read the strip all the time) turned into a love of Snoopy and his antics and grew into an appreciation for the more intellectual humor as I grew older and understood all the nuances. Plus, it was an easy way for the folks to bribe me into doing my homework (our libraries had a ton of Peanuts collections at the time). This was back in the day when you didn’t need a holiday to have an animated special on network television, and Snoopy and the gang popped up pretty often (plus every Saturday on their own TV show).

Most people who know of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown know it as a stage musical. It’s not particularly hard to put on, so most groups do it (I helped do costumes for it in college, never knowing that everything I was learning about costumes and the Peanuts brand would help me out later on in life, ever proving that my goal list was written by my six-year-old self). It was also an animated special back in the day, which was my very first encounter with it. We taped it from TV so I could watch it all the time and annoy the adults by singing it any time I wasn’t in front of the television for like six months. At least. Random phrases still pop into my head and if you drop a line in front of me I can’t guarantee that I won’t go full on Snoopy on you. It happens.

There’s a song in the show called ‘Book Report,’ and I remember being impressed with it and being really irritated by it as a kid. It’s a cool concept and a great set-up. Admittedly the vocals can be a little grating in the animated version, but it was more that I was one of those people that was intent on being the best student ever and NONE of the characters were taking their assignment seriously! Lucy’s just hitting the word count, Schroeder isn’t even talking about the same book, Linus is going above and beyond, but he was too smart for me to relate to. Plus I viewed him as younger than me, so what did he know? And the song just always makes me feel sorry for Charlie Brown. Poor Charlie, the procrastinator, the worrier, the one who feels that if he can just get rested or start a little later because he works better under pressure or have a snack first, it’ll be okay. It made me so frustrated because if he’d just GET STARTED he’d see that he could do the report and it wouldn’t be so bad! Even his last line would just make me so irritated because he could’ve been done already!

Here, just see for yourself

Yeah, you know where I’m going with this. Just put a striped shirt on me, because that’s where I’ve been the past year or so. I’ve had to grit my teeth and be a little bit more Lucy, maybe curb my Linus researching tendencies a smidge, and stop thinking of every other thing I could be writing while trying to write something else, like Schroeder. Argh, it’s worse than I thought, the whole Peanuts gang resemble my bad habits when I really want to be Snoopy off having adventures and not even having to do menial stuff. Except that I love writing, and writing is my excuse to have adventures.

But I’ve especially had to step away from my inner Charlie Brown and Just. Start. Writing.

Sometimes that’s what it takes, for better or worse. Just start and see what you end up with and worry what becomes of it later. Not the easiest thing for me, but I’m getting there.

Or, if you rather:

A book report on Peter Rabbit…

 

 

 

 

Southern Haunts 3: An interview with Alexander S. Brown

Published May 8, 2016 by admin

SouthernHaunts3TourBadge

It’s blog tour time! Today I have an interview with not only a fantastic editor and author, but one of my favorite people and podcasting co-host. But first, ze book.

SouthernHaunts3Cover_1200X800

Amazon           B&N

Genres/Subgenres: Horror, Short Story, Paranormal, Occult, Folklore/Southern Regional

Deep within the South, read about the magickal folk who haunt the woods, the cemeteries, and the cities. Within this grim anthology, eighteen authors will spellbind you with tales of hoodoo, voodoo, and witchcraft.

From this cauldron mix, readers will explore the many dangers lurking upon the Natchez Trace and in the Mississippi Delta. They will encounter a bewitched doll named Robert from the Florida Keys, and a cursed trunk that is better left closed. In the backstreets of New Orleans, they will become acquainted with scorned persons who will stop at nothing to exact their revenge.

These hair raising tales and more await you in Southern Haunts 3: Magick Beneath the Moonlight. Read if you dare.

Authors:

Alexander S. Brown

Angela Lucius

  1. H. David Blalock

C G Bush

Della West

Diane Ward

Elizabeth Allen

Greg McWhorter

John Hesselberg

Jonnie Sorrow

Kalila Smith

Linda DeLeon

Louise Myers

Melissa Robinson

Melodie Romeo

J L Mulvihill

Robert McGough

Tom Lucas

***

SJ: Tell us about SH3.  What makes it unique compared to 1&2?

ASB: Actually, each vol. of Southern Haunts is unique, as the subjects vary with each book.  Vol 1. Spirits that Walk Among Us, focused on ghosts.  Vol 2. Devils in the Darkness, featured on demonic entities.  Vol 3. Magick Beneath the Moonlight, regards witchcraft and cursed objects.

SJ: Why witches?  What attracts you to the theme?

ASB: I have always been attracted to the occult.  I find the whole subject fascinating and since Spirits that Walk Among Us was published, it was only a matter of time before we released an anthology about magickal persons.  But for this to happen, I had to wait.

For vol. 3 to be about witches, there is a great significance to the vol. number and the subject matter.  In the occult, there is the belief that what one puts out into the world comes back to them in triple abundance.  Also, in paganism, the maiden, the mother and the crone are recognized and honored as a trinity. These reasons are specifically why this vol. could be none other than occult related.

SJ: What makes for a good southern horror story?

ASB: Multiple elements can make a good southern horror story, such as elaborating about the habitat, cultural development, history, verbiage, and so forth.  But personally for me, what makes a southern horror story great, is the way that it is told.

Many times during childhood, I had found myself at family gatherings and I would overhear elderly relatives speak of infamous legends from the region.  The richness of their slang and phrases, made their ghost stories all the more horrifying, because it seemed more personal.  It seemed like the story tellers weren’t utilizing proper words and phrases to identify something infamous, they were using an age old southern dialect that seemed even more tangible.

SJ: Why do you think readers gravitate to themed horror like this, especially in short form?

ASB: I think the majority of readers are under attack from having a short attention span.  Because of life being so hectic, short stories can allow readers to enjoy complete stories in minimal time.  With the subjects being themed, it lets the reader know immediately what they are in store for.  This can result in a quicker purchase.  For example: Southern Haunts 3 is about witches, the title and cover image are self-explanatory.  If the reader loves witches, they are more likely to purchase.  If that reader is not a fan of magickal themed stories, then perhaps Southern Haunts vol. 1 or 2 is more their preference.

SJ: What are the benefits of anthologies?  Any downside?

The biggest benefit for an anthology is that it presents readers with a diversity of authors who they may not have read before.  This works well for the author because it can help them gain new fans.

The downside to anthologies is that no one really makes money, as book royalties are normally split between 15 to 20 creators.

SJ: Was it different wearing the editor hat compared to being an author?

ASB: It was quite different.  After finishing Southern Haunts vol. 1, I had a new respect for editors.  To me, writing is simple and relaxing, editing is time consuming and feels like work.  Although I prefer writing more than editing, editing the Southern Haunts series has improved my writing skills.

SJ:What is the best thing about putting a book like this together?  The most difficult?

ASB: The best thing about constructing an anthology is seeing likeminded authors come together and submit their creativity.  It is a good feeling to know that other names in the profession want to work with you and contribute stories that might have been stuck in their head for quite some time.

The downside is when I have to reject stories.  I can understand how an author might think that it’s so easy for an editor to dismiss a story, and this isn’t the case.  For me, sending a rejection email, hurts me just as much as it does the author.

SJ: Any advice to authors who are interested in submitting to anthologies?

ASB: First, research the publisher before you submit.

SJ: Second, follow the guidelines.  Sometimes guidelines are overly specific with their requirements, even down to spacing, font, and letter size.  Obey all of these rules.  A lot of times, editors will use these demands as ways to see if the author payed attention, or cares about their work.

SJ: What’s next for Southern Haunts? For you as an author?

ASB: For Southern Haunts vol. 4, we are anticipating creature stories.  We haven’t decided on a title yet, but it will follow the theme of its predecessors, but with monsters.

I have a few books that are in the works.  One of which is in the final edit stage, and is being published by Pro Se Press, this will be a collection of Halloween stories called The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out.  I have one story left to write before Traumatized pt 2 is complete, and The Looking Glass Creatures is currently undergoing a massive edit.

AlexanderSBrown

Alexander S. Brown is a Mississippi author who was published in 2008 with his first book Traumatized. Reviews for this short story collection were so favorable that it has been released as a special edition by Pro Se Press. Brown is currently one of the co-editors/coordinators with the Southern Haunts Anthologies published by Seventh Star Press. His horror novel Syrenthia Falls is represented by Dark Oak Press.

He is also the author of multiple young adult steampunk stories found in the Dreams of Steam Anthologies, Capes and Clockwork Anthologies, and the anthology Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. His more extreme works can be found in the anthologies Luna’s Children published by Dark Oak Press and State of Horror: Louisiana Vol 1 published by Charon Coin Press.

Visit Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com to download his monthly short stories known as Single Shots. These are represented by Pro Se Press and they are known as stories that will be featured in the upcoming book The Night the Jack O’Lantern Went Out.

 

Getting Started: Anthologies

Published April 15, 2016 by admin

This goes hand in hand with yesterday’s post, which is why I’m yammering about it here. So you want to get started writing stories, but you just have no idea what to write? You’re overwhelmed looking at magazine listings but don’t have a novel in you yet?

May I make a suggestion? Anthologies.

About half of you just knee-jerked and threw holy water at me and the other half of you fist-pumped in the air. I get it. It’s divisive territory. Here’s the thing: you probably aren’t going to make a ton of money off the antho market.

The thing is, though, is that you will reach different types of readers. Exposure isn’t a dirty word, especially if you’re making some money off it here and there. And if you’re a brand new author and need some credits, this is a great way to learn to write for a market.

Everything is an anthology these days. Seriously. I’ve seen anthologies for genres (horror, sword and sorcery, sci-fi), I’ve seen them for themes (gaming, vampires, halloween, faeries), I’ve seen them for what would happen if you went on a honey moon with a paranormal creature or had a paranormal creature as a teacher. The territory is endless. They also usually feature small word counts (anywhere from 3k to 10k, depending), and force you to be specific. They’ll also get you used to working with an editor and all the other little ins and outs of the publishing world.

I love and hate the small word counts and rigid themes, personally, but that’s my problem. I love a challenge but I don’t always like to be made to behave. Story of my life.

These tend to be more specific than a magazine market, they get you out of your comfort zone and may get you breaking bad habits or doing things that you wouldn’t naturally include in your usual bag o’ tricks. Sometimes you’ll luck into a higher paying one on a listing. As you do more and get more published, you’ll slowly get invites to these things, which is nice (though my editors may think otherwise).

I’ve had some of my more intriguing ideas come from anthology submissions, and it’s nice to be put through my paces on occasion. Plus, this seems to be where a lot of people get to know my work. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve read me in something then started getting into my standalone work. You just never know.

 

On Markets and Getting Started

Published April 13, 2016 by admin

One of the things I get asked about as a writer is where to submit when you’re ready. My first response is to write out a pile of stuff before you start submitting, because it’s way easier to get a rhythm going that way and rejection doesn’t suck as bad when you’ve got a lot of other things to think about.

The thing is, you have options. I get the worry about wanting to pick the right place and wanting to pick a legit place. Any place that requires you to pay, no. You also need to really review any sort of contract your given in terms of what rights you’re giving – be wary of perpetual rights because you will never get those suckers back. Be leery of giving up any sort of tax info until it’s obviously needed.

In terms of for the love/exposure markets – everyone has a different view of them and you have to decide if that’s for you. I’ve done a few to get a few credits to my name, I’m not really into that sort of thing anymore. The problem is these days not a whole lot of people want to reprint things unless you’re a big name, so you have to decide what a non-pay market is worth to you.

So, where do you even look to submit to stuff?

Writer’s Market is the basic thing that everyone turns to. They put out a new book every year and they do a site with a fee, as well. I’ve used them, I’ve had a little luck with them but not a huge amount. If you write very specific genre work, this can be a frustrating lead unless you’re looking for an agent. It’s not good or bad, but it also depends on who’s listing with them that year.

Ralan – This is one of the best websites I’ve ever found for genre-specific submissions. It breaks things down in terms of pro, semi-pro, pay, for the love, anthology, and book markets. It does a fairly good job of keeping things up to date and has links to all listings. Also free to use.

Duotrope – A site that charges a small fee, it’s also pretty good for genre-specific work. I used it before it went pay with mixed results, but it’s a great way to keep an eye on all the markets out there. I also like how they do their listings, as well.

With anything, read each listing. Read each site on the listing. If they offer a free or reduced sample copy or online examples of what they’re for, look at it. Look them up on writer’s beware or preditors and editors. Follow your gut if it doesn’t seem to be for you. Ask those around you if they’ve heard of them, submitted with them, etc. What people seem to forget is authors talk to each other, online and in person. I have healthy relationships with truck-loads of people and I definitely have asked their opinions on different places and vice versa. If you go to conventions, definitely pitch to publishers there (or at least talk to them), but also talk to any authors there with them and any authors there not with them. Talk to people. Talk some more. Don’t be afraid to get the skivvy.

This is also where writing groups are nice. If you have a group, a mentor, or are in writing groups on social media, ask around about places. I think sometimes we get so desperate to submit our stuff to places, we forget that we also have to keep some sort of control. You don’t want your dogs to destroy other people’s lawns, but you also don’t want other people stealing them when you think they’re just going out to do their business, either.

Or something.

There are also a lot of market listing groups on Facebook, and I’m sure there are other places on various social media sites, as well. Twitter is becoming known for agent submissions, and there’s always something new out there.

There are always places to submit your fiction to, so no worries.

It is, however, up to you to decide if every place is worth your time and will be good to you as an author, be it a magazine, e-zine, publisher, agent, whatever. This is why you read about contracts, rights, typical processes, and all the rest, and then decide what your threshold is. Take a deep breath and do your homework. I know, there’s unfun stuff in the creative world too, believe me I know, but you’ll be better off knowing what you’re looking for.

Other than that, pay attention to what submission guidelines are, whether it’s the format they want things submitted in or the type of story they’re looking for. And, as always…

Just keep writing.

 

 

 

Permission Granted

Published April 6, 2016 by admin

I want to get back to talking about writing and creation specifics off and on. I get that I may not have as much credentials as Stephen King or JK Rowling, but at the same time, sometimes I think it helps to hear what people are dealing with and their take on different parts of the process. Like anything else, I hope you know that your journey is just that: Yours. It is specific to you and things will change as the world and businesses in them change. There’s no way to draw a direct map from A to B, no elusive magic that will suddenly zap you in the butt if you want it bad enough or happen onto the right place at the right time. It’s work and a little luck and paying attention.

Beyond that, though, I think there is an ingredient that we don’t talk enough about.

Ten million years ago, I was writing original fiction in secret while still keeping an eye on fanfic lists. This will probably forever be a guilty pleasure of mine off and on, but at the time it was a way to have friends with similar interests when being a girl with geek interests wasn’t a great thing. It still isn’t looked at as a great thing to be, but that’s another post, entirely.

A long-time friend was a sounding board to a lot of off the wall ideas I was flinging at her, a lot of which involved a lot of intricate mythos and legends that I’d either need to warp or reinvent or whatever. These days, that’s my life, but back then? It felt like I was staring up at a million foot cliff with no rope. She was able to help me fill in a lot of the blanks with obscure Celtic legends, but suggested I hit up a friend of hers who was doing some amazeballs work at the time. Not only was he behind some of fandom’s up and coming events, but he was working at a graphic novel company, as well. I knew better than to outright hit anyone up for an opportunity, and this was long before I even had enough of a concept to pitch anything or would dare to do that anyway. These days, that’s a lunch conversation. I emailed him explaining how I got his address,  our mutual friend, and the big fat impossible wall I was facing.

I don’t have the email anymore, but the sentiment still very much rings true. His reply was incredibly nice and he said it sounded like an intriguing idea, an intriguing world, and he agreed I still had some work to go.

I don’t know what I had been asking for or what I was expecting, but the womp-womp sound effect would perfectly describe my mood upon reading that.

He went on, though. He said something like I obviously knew where I wanted things to go and had a huge drive to do it, and it actually seemed to him that the problem was that I hadn’t given myself permission to do that…just do it. He went onto say something that I’ll never forget: that if I couldn’t give myself that permission, he would give it to me, right here, right now. I had his permission to go work on this project or whatever else I wanted to write.

Huh.

That still can be a hang-up of mine. I put the cart twenty miles before where the horse is stabled, I’m worried about things that don’t need to be addressed immediately. Now I recognize it, because it definitely gets in the way of what I want to be doing at any given time. Then, his reply was a distinct revelation, and it’s one I go back to in my mind when I get ideas but immediate jump the gun and start getting anxious about everything except actually just getting started.

A lot of people I talk to talk of someday: someday they’ll write the book or make that outfit or take that class. Or, a lot of people use the c-word. ‘Oh, I can’t do that, I’m no good at this, I don’t know how…’

I hate that mindset. I  hate it about myself and I hate that the world in general cultivates it. That is one of my biggest pet peeves and if I ever meet you at a convention and you say something akin to that and I vault a table to yell at you, I’m sorry. I do it out of love, I swear. Here’s the thing:

1. You are alive, right?

2. Then there is time because you aren’t dead.

3. Learn. or try. or do. If it makes you happy, do it.

4. Didn’t work and you still want to? Repeat.

That’s all it is, folks. Seriously, whether you’re wanting to do something for a hobby or a profession, there you go. I think we scare ourselves into thinking we can’t write a book unless it’s a best seller. We can’t make an outfit unless it’s on a runway. We can’t act unless Joss Whedon is going to be directing us or Oscars are involved.

If you want to do something, please take away the end result and just do it. Give yourself that permission. It may lead to nothing it may lead to material results it may lead to soul results. But if you feel like you have that hot fire under foot feeling and are staring up at the wall and freaking out, then ask yourself what you need, why are you freaking out? Do you not know something and are scared to go look for those elements? Are you just feeling intimidated? Are you afraid of what people say? Are you scared of putting in that work and having nothing come of it?

Now, more than ever, it’s easy to find information and missing pieces of puzzles. It is very easy to feel intimidated, but think of what you’re starving your soul out of by not at least trying. People say a lot of things and they usually don’t remember them a month down the road. I’ve had a lot of projects happen that came into nothing. You’ll live, trust me. Beyond that, though, I still care about them, and as long as I care, they can always be reborn, transformed, or reused. There’s life after death for ideas, I swear.

And if you’re just flat-out in denial of your gifts or scared, I am telling you it’s going to be okay. Okay comes in many forms. It will be fine. Please, please, give yourself permission to do that thing that you really, really want to try.

And if you can’t do that? Then I’ll do it for you. I give you permission to go create. Go write. Go make something. Go paint. Do it for you, do it because you have to, do it to see what other people say, do it for whatever reason, but do it. Slam out those words and ideas, sing that song, put your spark into the mass bonfire and watch it catch and sparkle.

It will be okay.

Permission granted.