I little while back-- okay, so more than a little while ago-- Luke Everest asked me to do a guest blog. It's terrible because I got all "Yeahguestblog!" and then "OhnowhatamIgonnawrite!" But it's here if you want to read it. I kind of prefer that you didn't. Anyway, Luke then wrote a guest post for my blog which I summarily forgot about. To be fair, I was continent swapping. Anyway, see Luke's contribution below. He does a much better job than I did.
ps, He's from across the pond so you'll have to endure un-American spelling habits.
pps. It's good for you.
The Light at the End of the Myth
This post is inspired by some discussions I've been trying to avoid over on LinkedIn.
I'll be honest: my blog is every inch as much an attempt to keep my head screwed on as it is an attempt to help aspirant writers. I am an aspirant writer. Sure, I've got representation, I've worked with some pretty impressive people and I'm published. But I'm not finished yet, because I'm not dead yet.
When aspirant authors approach this task, it's monumental. And success is a fog horn in the middle of an ocean: it only leads you farther. Art doesn't have limitations.
On a related note, self-control is not in my experience the creative person's most common strength. We're dreamers.
Dreams get skewed.
In the LinkedIn conversation I'm trying (and sometimes failing) to avoid, there's this person who keeps telling aspirants that it's a Myth (yes, she actually capitalises "myth") that quality fiction can find an audience.
Her answers are: e-books; money.
What? E-books + a large educated population = more readers than ever in history and fewer overheads for publishing companies. I don't have to be a sociologist (and I am one) to know that what we call Modernity were incredibly ruthless, industrious times. Money does not weigh more heavily on the arts now than it did fifty years ago for any innate cultural reason. It might, slightly, because we're in a recession, but that's a very different story.
This woman isn't stupid. She's angry, and she's a dreamer. She's invented her own malaise: that the world has stifled her.
Fear leads to self denial (which leads to anger, Yoda--don't skip relevant details). Now, if you subtract self denial from the lady's malaise, what do you get? Admission of fear. She's afraid of this world's vastness. Seeking through it seems impossible, so she's invented reasons why she's better than it, and thus shouldn't need to try.
She is arguing that agents and publishers no longer help an author with their manuscripts.
Not so. Mine does.
She's saying there are many great books out there waiting to be found.
Do you think Graham Greene could write The Heart of the Matter, send it to Random House, and get it rejected? If your answer is, "Maybe", then well done. Manuscripts get rejected all the time and they always have.
The frightened lady is correct about two things:
First, the arts industry is very tough to enter. There's a great deal of competition. In short, it's daunting for a reason.
Second, it's all outside of everyone's control. That's true of all industries. They can be played, even manipulated, not controlled.
Where she goes wrong is in her attitude, and I'm using her as an example not to be cruel, but to warn artists against forging her kind of emotional armour. If Graham Greene were to get his manuscript rejected, there are two things he could do.
First, try to improve his work.
Second, submit it somewhere else.
I'd imagine a writer of his quality would attempt both.
This is how I roll... with data storage.
I posted a poem a few days back. I realized after I posted it that it's meaning might be... well, I've just returned to the United States and some people (I'm not saying that's you) might think the poem was about something specific. This blog is pretty random but I can't say regular readers ought to know that because sometimes what I write is also very specific. However, for the sake of prosperity, the poem titled life was just something I found stored somewhere. I decided to publish it because I liked it and also because I didn't feel like hunting up the file I store poems in, assuming that file hasn't been lost along the way, and (to make this sentence excruciatingly long) if I don't put stuff together then stuff gets lost and never found, unless I store online, like in a blog. But sometimes I use email as storage and emailing myself copies of my work, does double duty as storage and what is known as a poor man's copy write.
That reminds me, I have two things I need to post but I forgot about. The first is guest blog-post and the second is the answer to a question.
So there you have it. To my utter surprise, nothing catastrophic has happened since I moved to the United States (except printer woes, but more on that another day unless I forget) and I store data here and there and can never find it when I want but I usually stumble upon it when I'm looking for something else.
What about you?
Things have a way of working out
I don't let go easily. I'll worry at a thing like a dog after bone that's still got some meat on it. This trait probably has more than a little impact on the insomnia. But I'm try to make a like a leaf and float.
I needed to a place to live. I could live alone but I don't want to do that because writing is such a solitary pursuit. Anyway, on a whim I responded to a Craigslist add, you know the free housing for sex deal.
Yeah, that never happened. (But this post would be so much more interesting if it had.) What did happen is this: I'm exchanging rent and utilities for some child care. I'll be watching two boys ages 9 and 11 for about ten hours a week on the nights they're visiting their day but he has to work. The boys are great and since I don't have rent or utilities, I'm going to give myself a little time off to write. Not a lot. A few months. I don' t need a year to accomplish what I want to accomplish.
I have five novels now? Or is it six? Well, at any rate, I need to get these completed stories submission ready. It's easy to submit while working and with six works in circulation, I ought to get an agent or something, eventually.
Oh, and I just got news that I sold Just Like Wal-Mart. This is one my favoritest stories and I'm glad to say it has found a home with Cover of Darkness. It'll appear in the September 2013 issue. I can't think of a better way to end 2012.
No headlines here, just Christmas and Beer
Info on the contest is here. A little more info about how I'll choose the stories is at the beginning of this post.
You've probably noticed a lack of commentary on the shooting in Connecticut or headlines in general. It's not that I'm immune to these things, it's that...
Well, it's like this. Tragedy gets turned into entertainment. It just does. I refuse to participate in that, in any shape or form. It's that simple. On the other hand, I'm quite fond of holidays and gifts. Mail me beer please. Seriously. Don't worry about my address. Just drop in the mail and it will find me.
And Merry Christmas from a horror writer =)
She who happens to all of us.
And sometimes we can happen to her.
But sometimes we can't.
Info on the contest is here. A little more info about how I'll choose the stories is at the beginning of this post.
Cars I have known
Info on the contest is here. A little more info about how I'll choose the stories is at the beginning of this post. Blogging got comense in
I'm hunting for a car and this has gotten me thinking about the cars I have known.
The car I never drove
When I turned fifteen my grandmother took me to a car dealership. The sales guy to the 1500 dollars I had saved working two summers scrapping gum off of school desks -- turning poor kids into janitors for the summer starting at age 14 was special program thought up by I don't know who. Well it taught me a valuble lesson: janitor was not the right job for me. Anyway, I was fifteen, soon to be sixteen and I needed to get x number of hours supervised driving which I could not do because everybody seemed to think I was incapable-- well everybody seemed to think I was generally incapable of a lot, but that's an other story. Anyway, the only way I could learn was if I had my own car to wreck. I don't remember the make of it but I do remember never driving it. If I'd known what a flood damaged vehicle was, then I'd have know that's what I'd been sold. I didn't know and so I sunk another three thousand dollars trying to repair it. In the interim I got a job and rode my bike to work.
The car I abused
This car got a name. Piece of Shit. She was a Chevy Celebrity with 167,000 miles and blue where there wasn't rust. There was more rust than paint. I paid $500.00 for her, which foster father (this was a different home than before) called $500.00 dollars too much. I happened to agree but she ran. And she ran. And she ran. That year I graduated high school a year early and headed off to Missouri in pursuit of higher education and the scholarship money that I would never see. I arrived on a campus full of 18 year-old in shiny, just off the lot graduation presents. Because I had followed the financial aide to a private school, Piece of Shit really looked like a piece of shit among it's glossier counterparts. Driving down I had passed much nicer vehicles broken down on the road, but on campus I felt ashamed of Piece of Shit and I hid her in the back. I abused her in every way a care could be abused. I never had her oil changed and when she started blowing oil, I didn't always pour more oil. Some times I ran the engine until I heard her knock. She dragged her muffler around for a couple months until it finally fell off. I never put on new brakes and she got used tired. It wasn't being cheap and I really wasn't that poor. I just avoid things that I think will be unpleasant. I figured a trip to the mechanic would be unpleasant.
Finally, I did take her in because the water I had been poring into the radiator stopped leaking, and just poured right back out. By that time reverse didn't always work. The mechanic opened the hood and stood shrouded in billows of smoke.
"My God," the mechanic exclaimed. "Why's it still running?"
He then gave me a list of everything it needed and told me to scrap it. I had come to love that car, so I put an add in the paper listing everything that was wrong with STILL RUNS in all caps. A guy who knew a bit about cars gave me $200.00 bucks for her on the hope and prayer she'd last until he got his tax return back. I wouldn't be surprised if she was still on the road somewhere smoking along.
I wanted a truck and when I said goodbye to Piece of Shit, I got an S-10 that was a real hunk of junk. There's no story here. It was just a bad truck, I drove it a couple of months and took a lot less than I paid to be free of her. Okay, well there is a little story. When you test drive a vehicle and dies during the test drive, don't believe a word the guy tells you. Just don't buy it.
Well, this is getting kind of long and I've owned quite a few second hand vehicles. I almost bought a car at a lot today, even financing something new and cheap, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. One reason is I got burned big time on my first car by dealer. But you know, I also got this away of thinking about cars. A new car is nice but it comes with these three or four hundred dollar car payments. When you spend so much money on a new car, and you've attached it to your hip via a monthly car payment, you're stuck. So people keeping sinking money into them even when they aren't any good to begin with.
A used car at the right price is disposable. You do a little to keep it going, but never a lot, get a new one when the old one don't work so good. Rinse and repeat.
Info on the contest is here. In case you are wondering as of today, December 18th 2012, there are about 12 entries. I'd say send me more, but this number is very manageable. To avoid skewing the results I've decided not to read any of the stories until the submission period is closed. At that point, I'll review each story and give it points based on things such as story arch, pacing, character, and the X factor. The X factor, of course, is something I really enjoyed or think my fellow writers have done especially well. Contest talk over. Bogging to commence.
The Cold Sore:
I woke up with a cold sore on Monday morning. I felt it growing on my face and because I'm extremely susceptible to these buggers, I raced to the bathroom and began the process of keeping it dry and keeping it from spreading. I haven't had a cold sore like this since I moved to Korea. I suspect that this is because in the winter the climate is so dry you can feel lungs drying with each intake of breath.
The Goodbye Party
Before I got the cold sore, I had to leave Korea and before I could leave Korea I had to say goodbye. I've always left a place easily but this was harder than I thought. My boss took us all out to dinner. It was a hello/ goodbye party. Hello to the new guy, goodbye to me. We had Korean barbeque. It was not cheap Samgupsal, but thick, meaty cuts of pork and fat. Thinking about it makes my mouth water, but somehow I didn't eat much. I meant to but it was really my party and because the new guy had a thousand days with this people and I had but a few hours, I reigned. It is custom in Korea to pour drinks for other people and I started pouring early. It is also custom that when you poor a drink, they return the favor. So I poured my boss several, and then went around the table. There were only 9 people at this party but Soju is strong. I drank a little beer and a lot of Soju, and was drunk like a proper Korean by the time my boss gave me two lovely scarves from Daks. I never shop at Daks but I know these were expensive. Then I shared some ramyeon (Korean style Ramen noodles) with my boss and because I was drunk, I unabashedly told everyone how much I love them. This is the blessing of alcohol. Sure, it can make you do stupid stuff like undressing on the bar and getting arrested (I plead the fifth on all the above.) But there is also a beauty to a group friends who are, by the virtue of alcohol, unafraid to tell each other things that were never said during the work hours. What surprised me was not that I adored these people, but that all of them have adored me. I knew my boss was hurting because we are friends as well as, but I did not realize how much my coworkers were hurting. The new guy was speechless and a little overwhelmed.
Between the cold sore and the goodbye party, I had to fly 24 hours. There is an energy you put out into the world and when you are open, people approach you. So it was that I met a friend for two of my three flights and by my third flight, I could barely keep my eyes open. Also, by my third flight from Vancouver to Atlanta, I was in cultural shock. I didn't experience this so much on my trip in May, but it hit me like a brick in the Vancouver airport.
I resurrected an old account on OK Cupid because you know you're supposed to be able to make friends as well as meet potential dates. I'm in the market for both, but mostly, I'd like to meet a friend or twenty. I'm lonely and sad and missing the people from my old life a lot. That old life was just two days ago, but it feels so distant and out of my reach. But if I don't find my way soon, I'll be taking another job abroad before I've settled here. Anyway, in Busan, there is Korea Bridge. In Atlanta there seems to be Craigslist and Ok Cupid. Anyway, I chose the latter because the former seems even more ridiculous. Though to be fair, as I type this, it all seems ridiculous. I'm also going to a writing group tonight, and that's probably more promising than the first two sites.
I also went to the Lenox Mall and thoroughly confused the barista. I probably left her wondering what planet I've been on. I wanted to shout "Planet South Korea!" But apologized and slunk away to nurse my pride. All this is adding to my cultural shock.
So that's how my week is going. How's yours?
I was wrong, Terry Pratchett Doesn't Suck
The M.R. Jordan Winter Writing Contest and Critique is here.
During my first year in Korea a friend of mine gave me a book by Terry Pratchett to read. The book was entertaining but I remember telling her that I didn't think Terry Pratchett was a very good writer. Often when we look back on ourselves we see a child that thought he or she knew a lot more than they did. So it has come to pass that I was wrong. Dead wrong. At the time I was still clutching at the writer's rule book with the same enthusiasm as a religion bound bible thumper. I thought the closer to the line a writer wrote, the better they were. (Well fledgling writers are required to say and do and think lots of stupid things. It's a rite of passage.)
There were holes in my picture. The rules gave me something fill up the holes, but whatever rules your critique group gives a writer, remember that these are not mandates. They are merely a place to start. The collective skills of story telling, which describes what you are trying to far better than writing, are vast. Everybody needs a place to start. But there is a wall you will hit again and again. It is yourself. You will get in the way of yourself a 1000 times and 10,000 times.
And that brings me to the biggest obstacle you will ever face. Pride.
As simple of as "I was wrong" is to say, few people who can set aside their ego (as defined by Freud) and admit they were wrong. If you're a writer you'll spend years chasing your own tail. If your a customer service rep, you'll spend a lot of time arguing with customers... the list of examples is long.
So Terry Pratchett I was wrong. You're effing awesome! As my regular readers know, I reserve cursing for my young adults books. (This picture was intentionally skewed.)
My Terry Pratchett story is Nation. If you have not read this book, you should. The audio version is really great too. These days I aspire to write something as awesome.
Some Things Never Change
If you've landed on my site looking for the writing contest, it' s here.
My friend is going through a tough time at work. She keeps butting heads with a co-worker. Being a foreigner in Korea you a pseudo celebrity, especially in somewhat rural areas. If you walk down a street where foriegners are rare, you will be ogled the same way George Clooney would be stared at if he stepped into the local Wal-Mart.
My friend, who is like me in many ways, has not let that go to her head. Her co-worker on the other hand, has lost her head. Since most of the work in Korea is contract based, most people in her position stay a year or two, take the experience and translate it into a better job back home. But the global recession has resulted in a number of tenured people. My friend's co-worker decided to stay in Korea for life about seven years ago. As the most senior western employee, and lets keep in my that Korea is a society where the older you are the more respected you are, my friend's co-worker has enjoyed a certain relationship with other foreigners. Along came my friend who is not fresh off the airplane, who is not a spring chicken, and who is quite capable. The coworker has gone out of her way to make my friend's life miserable and the situation has resulted in a hostile work environment. I advised my friend to walk away. She's got a great resume and if she starts looking now, can easily find a new position when her contract ends but she won't.
I recently wrote a post about staying too long. It's funny that my friend is facing the exact same problem albeit for different reasons. I think it's human nature to cling to things that don't work. I think it comes down to being simultaneously adaptable and un-adaptable. We can adapt to our situation, regardless how horrible it is. (Read about Collen Stan for one of many examples.) But we do not step easily into the unknown.
I wrote about this in my short story Some Things Never Change. I will always count this as one of my greatest writing achievements. Jim Gable, the main character, does not change. He is given chance after chance to make a change. At the climax of the story he comes to a crossroad where the simple of act of getting rid of his phone might change his life. But he not only chooses to keep the phone, but to upgrade it at the price of an organ or two. This is how people really are. Given the choice between a salad and a hamburger, most people will choose the hamburger. It's very difficult write a story where the character doesn't change, but instead commits whole heartedly to more of the same.
This isn't advice about breaking writing rules. Follow the rules or don't and everything in between. What you should do is write about the hardest things to say. If you can put words to the impossible, somebody, somewhere will thank you. Now, I'm off to McDonalds, never mind the salad I have in the refrigerator.
I want to write something funny for this post but I got nothing even though I just wrote something very funny. It started at the restaurant. While I waited for my salad, I had the Super Secret Project on my brain. I was not going to write tonight. I've had about two hours sleep, which these days is a lot, so I was just going to have a dinner and head home. But as I waited for the side salad and then later for my steak, I saw my way through murky waters.
I've been working on the Super Secrete Project for years because humor is hard to write. The jokes aren't at my beck and call, so when I get a notion, I have to see it through, migraine or not. Tonight, solving problem X transitioned to writing scene Y. I laughed and wrote and got a lot of funny looks from people in he restaurant. Because the restaurant closed, I moved to a coffee shop. I had to write it down NOW so I spent four bucks on a coup of tea. All the while my head has been pounding, pounding, pounding.
Anyway, I had planned to do a writing contest this December but with the move back to the states imminent, I forgot.
Here are the rules
Any Genre. 3500 words or fewer. I'll pick three stories to put on my blog but there is only one cash prize of $50.00. I'll pay second and third place winners a token flat rate of $5.00 for first world rights, non-exclusive. Send your story in standard manuscript format in .doc or .docx to firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, I'm not a business. My blog is not a magazine. However, I do get a couple hundred visitors a month so the exposure is pretty good. Also, the contest is free. Submissions close on January 5th. You got one month to submit.
While a few typos won't hurt you, spelling and grammar will count in my final decision. If you dash of a story and don't edit it, I will be able to tell and unless it's all-caps-AMAZING you won't win. Anyone who wants a critique the first page of the story, may ask for one but you're agreeing to let me publish the first page ( approximately 250 words) on my blog along with my critique. Other writers can leave comments as well.
If you don't specifically request a critique, you won't get one. I'd never publishing anything of another writer's without expressed permission. I just thought some critique might be fun. If I get a lot of requests for critiques, I'll select stories at random. If I don't get any requests there won't be any critiques. I'm good either way.
*** Reprints: If you published the story on your blog, I don't really consider that published unless you've got like 10,000 reprints. But if you sold the story to