Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing Career: Check, One, Two, Three, Check

Hello? Is this thing on?

<searing feedback screech>

Ah. There we go.

So, it's been awhile for this blog. A whole year in fact, until a few weeks ago when I made a post about how the little story that could ("The Two Out of Three Rule") finally, in fact, did. (Get published, that is.)

And I followed that up with another post about another publication, "The Farmgirl and the Kitsune," which was released shortly after that.

So I thought I'd take a little time to check in and update just how things are going overall with my writing hobby/slowly-morphing-into-a-career (or-at-least-side-income).

Because there has been movement on that front. A nice amount of movement, at least when I think of the doldrums that occurred during my decade in Chicago.

A large part of that, I think, is due to my move to Seattle.

Shortly after relocating here, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Seattle is... well if not the Mecca for science fiction writers, then a thriving epicenter, a community of speculative fiction writers I could only have dreamed about while living in Chicago. Don't get me wrong; I like the Windy City, but Seattle mops the floor with Chicago when it comes to sf/f writing opportunities. (Not that Chicago is totally bereft, however! I still remember being briefly introduced to Audrey Niffennegger at a GBF party.)

In quantifiable terms, since my move to Seattle in the last three years, I've:

-joined two writing critique groups

-made two pro short story sales

-made two semi-pro short story sales

-finished the first draft of a book

-also finished the second, third, fourth, and fifth drafts of that same book

-submitted my book to agents for the first time

-joined Codex

-become an affiliate member of SFWA (the Science Fiction Writers of America)

The funny thing is, Chicago-me would have been ecstatic with these accomplishments; wouldn't have believed they were possible, in fact. Yet one of the side effects of having numerous Seattle acquaintances with successful writing careers is realizing just how far I still have to go. I'm not at all disheartened by this, but it helps to keep things in perspective.

As professional writers go, I'm still in the pupal stage of development: almost, but not quite ready to break out of my cocoon.

(Which, when I emerge, will make me either a beautiful butterfly or some sort of hybrid monster from a Japanese film? I'm not quite sure how the metaphor works at that point.)

In truth, I sort of like that I know there's still a long ways to go. Now that I'm moving forward, I'm actually excited to see what's waiting around the next bend in the road.

And, so far, the journey has been incredibly fulfilling.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"The Farmgirl and the Kitsune" now available at Abyss & Apex

Happy to announce that my story "The Farmgirl and the Kitsune" is now live at the Hugo-nominated Abyss & Apex magazine.

Having just missed getting published there with a previous submission, Abyss & Apex was the first place I sent "The Farmgirl and the Kitsune" after I finished edits on the story--and thus it's the only story I have that's batting a perfect 100.

I did a fair amount research for the piece, including rereading my old manga and some collections of Japanese folklore. Other influences include "The Magic Listening Cap," "Ooka and the Honest Thief," (both of which can be found in the Junior Great Books program) and Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: The Dream Hunters.

I think I did a decent job with tone. According to the magazine's Japanese culture consultant, my piece was "either a very, very good translation or a very authentic Japanese-style folktale." Nice to see my effort paid off! 

As mentioned in the author section after the story, "The Farmgirl and the Kitsune" is actually a subplot taken from my first novel Granters, which I'm currently in the process of shopping around to agents. The story is a slightly longer in the book, with a small interstitial cut to show how the titular kitsune obtained some advice in solving her ward's problematic wish. 

I sincerely hope that people will be able to read Granters in its full capacity some day and have high hopes that this will be the case. In the meantime, check out "The Farmgirl and the Kitsune" on Abyss & Apex. Check out the other stories and poems in this issue as well! They're all fantastic, and it's a fine publication.

And thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A story in perseverance AND some disclaimers!

I wrote the first draft of "The Two Out of Three Rule" back in 2007. Back then, it was titled "Poison," which may be have been because I wrote the whole thing while listening to Alice Cooper's excellent rock ballad "Poison" on a continuous loop.

For the past nine years, I submitted the story to fifty different markets before it was finally accepted for publication. (I know this, because I just looked up the story's submission record on Duotrope.) One of the magazines kept the story for a whole damn year before rejecting it. (That magazine no longer exist--which allows me a slight sense of schadenfreude.)

Many would say it was a little foolhardy to keep submitting a story after it's been rejected a dozen or so times from the current pro markets. At the time, back in 2007, my excuse was that I didn't know what I was doing. I had no idea of the difference between a pro, semi-pro, and token payment market. I just wanted to get published.

Also, I received numerous encouraging, personal rejections for "The Two Out of Three Rule." The story made it out the slush pile several times, only to get rejected in the final cut. So I kept submitting. And submitting. And submitting. And I got more personal rejections. And impersonal rejections. Even a few mean rejections.

Finally, I sent the story to my friend and fellow STEW critique-mate Yang-yang Wang, who gave me some helpful advice on changing some of the minor casting.

Right after I implemented those changes, I submitted "The Two Out of Three Rule" to Flame Tree Publishing's Murder Mayhem anthology.

A few months later, it got accepted.

It was my second pro-rate sale. It was my first sale to a SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) "qualifying" market.

My reaction upon having the story get accepted was... hmmm, is ecstatic is too weak of a word? I may have run around my friend Matt's condo screaming with my hands in the air. (I know, I'm supposed to affect the attitude of a cool, seasoned pro and not admit to feeling giddy--but there you go; it felt awesome.)

Part of the reason I kept submitting the story was that even with mean rejections, I was getting personal responses... I had a male submission editor tell me that my story was anti-women. I had a female submission editor tell me that this story painted men in too negative of a light.

So, along the idea that I apparently hated everyone equally, I knew there was something there. The story had some power in it to provoke an emotional response.

I think all of the stories in the Murder Mayhem anthology may provoke an emotional response. There's some tremendously written dark stuff in there. Some by classic authors such as Conan Doyle, Poe, and Kipling, and some by up-and-comers like myself. (I plan on posting a full review sometime in the next week.)

But for now, I'd like to give my first ever disclaimers for my published fiction. Briefly, the story is about a relationship that is too good to be true. It's also in an anthology titled Murder Mayhem. The book is NOT for the faint of heart.

Also, when I found out that "The Two Out of Three Rule" was accepted for publication, I realized some folks infer some sort of, err, biographical element to the story.

So let me be clear. My story, "The Two Out of Three Rule" is absolutely not based on anyone I have ever dated. There's no winking to that statement, no subtle, "but you can read between the lines and know who I'm talking about, hey?"<nudge, nudge> I'm a pretty happy guy and holding grudges is the opposite of happiness. I've had relationships fail, but I regard all of them, even the hilariously mismatched ones, with fondness, especially as I've gotten older. Anyway, as I said, I wrote the story back in 2007, and at that point I'd been single for about two years.

The central premise (which I won't spoil here) came to me out of the blue. My reaction at the time was, "This is a really interesting metaphor for a toxic relationship. I need to write the story and find out what happens!"

So hopefully, you'll want to read the story and find out what happens as well. Because sometimes love goes bad, doesn't it? Even in a healthy relationship, both people absorb something of the other--even if it's habits, hobbies, or turns of phrase. And in unhealthy relationships, well, sometimes that becomes much worse...