Sunday, September 9, 2018

Another Short Story Published!

It took most of the year to get something published, but I just got the message that my short story "The Saboteur" was accepted into Thurston Howl's "Wolf Warriors V" anthology!

"The Saboteur" is a different kind of story for me. It's a straight historical fiction story set in France during WWI. It's what I like to call a "slacker tragedy" inasmuch as the protagonist is a lovable but hapless character in over his head and routinely knocked about by authority and by fate.

 It's also a spin-off of my novel "The Linen Butterfly" though the exact nature of the spin-off I won't spoil.

This means I can keep my streak of getting at least one work published per year. In fact the only year since 2010 I didn't publish anything at all was 2012 (but that was a bad year).

Monday, May 28, 2018

Will We Eat Children Next?

I don't post my political speculations here often because they're most likely too wild for you guys, but recent developments have been beyond sickening. And the more I think about the implications, the more disgusted I get.

As many of you know upwards of 1500 children detained by ICE have gone missing, many of them sold to sex traffickers.

I recently had a horrifying thought: What if the rest were sold for their meat?

Normally I would think such a concern was batshit, but as bad as things are, I fear there is no such thing as too low. After all, if you'd sell a child to a pimp, you'd sell them to a butcher, right? Maybe it's time we start examining the supply chains of the food we're eating for evidence of cannibalism. Just in case.

But this is an extreme statement, isn't it? A hot take? A provocative statement that doesn't stand to reason? Even the Nazis didn't sell people for meat! They did awful things but they didn't do that! But you know what? I'm pretty sure the Nazis didn't sell children to sex traffickers either. Maybe they did but it's not something I'm aware of. So we can establish that this government is possessed of a depravity beyond that of the Third Reich. There is no bottom any more; they'll do anything for a buck.

And guess what? SESTA has made it easier for those human traffickers to hide! The bill that was supposed to prevent human trafficking has, in fact, forced the industry into the underworld where it already had a sizable presence. You can still buy slaves on the Dark Web.

So not only did they sell children to traffickers, they also passed bills to make it easier for the crooks to get away with it. And lest we forget, SESTA had resounding bipartisan support. Perhaps one or two out-of-touch idiots voted for it thinking it was an altruistic measure but how many of them voted for it knowing FULL WELL it would benefit the child sex trade? To quote Cicero, Cui Bono? Who benefits?

Again, I say, why wouldn't they stoop lower? Why wouldn't they try to trick us into cannibalism? Can you look at the stark facts of this situation and tell me with a straight face we're not well on our way toward eating children?

Friday, May 25, 2018

2018 Coyotl Awards

I'm excited to announce that the anthology Arcana has won a Coyotl award!

My short story "St. John's Bridge" was featured in this anthology.

Congratulations to Madison Scott-Clary and to everyone else who pulled this anthology together!

Interested? Buy a copy here:

Monday, May 21, 2018

An Announcement About The Linen Butterfly

So I found out today about an SF series that actually has a lot in common with "The Linen Butterfly." I was over with my friend, Madison Scott-Clary (a talented writer and the editor of the anthology "Arcana," which features one of my short stories) and she mentioned it. It's called "Otherland" by Tad Williams. It was similar enough when I read the synopsis I got kinda nervous.

In particular I was struck by the WWI imagery. I had included that in "The Linen Butterfly" for my own reasons and had no idea someone had already done a very similar story that had WWI scenes. Though in the case of "The Linen Butterfly" it serves a different role in the plot. The biggest difference I can see is that "The Linen Butterfly" doesn't involve moving between worlds quite as much. The characters aren't seeking something from outside their virtual world either (at least not initially). They're very much caught up in it.

I also doubt that Williams incorporated imagery from Sethian gnosticism. But I could be wrong as at this time I've only read a synopsis.

So I will concede that "The Linen Butterfly" is very similar. So similar that if I had known about the existence of "Otherland" I would have written it quite a bit differently. But I have honed the story so much that if I were to change it now, I'd have to rewrite from scratch. I've already done this once and I don't fancy having to do it again.

I will release "The Linen Butterfly." But I will also include some ackowledgment of Williams' work as someone who had me beat by quite a few years.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Evocative Writing

One of the great challenges for a writer is to write pieces that are evocative without being cumbersome or overly purple.  It takes a great deal of practice to produce that perfectly balanced prose.

But one of the easiest tricks to pull when you want a particular scene to stand out is to be a little inconsistent. Give your readers a break in the pattern.

I've included the following passage from my upcoming novel "The Linen Butterfly" for reference.

A shell hit nearby, close enough that it would have killed him if he'd been out in the open. 
For a few terrifying seconds Mitch lost all sense of time and direction. His bones rang like church bells. He cowered before malevolent giants, breathing in the dust and smoke and cordite and dirt and atomized blood. The stag felt something give. Nothing mattered. All was lost. Panic. Panic and desperate thoughts of wasted days, no sensation save an all-consuming heaviness. His limbs turned to lead, his thoughts turned to death, surrendered, sweating blood and swearing silent oaths.
All at once Pte. Dunning caught his second wind. There was a lull in the fire. He charged forward. His comrades were still strung along, some of them already descending on the German line and fighting it out hand-to-hand, but most being held back by small arms fire.

You notice that the style of the first and last paragraph are pretty plain and objective. But the middle paragraph breaks with objectivity after the first sentence.

What follows here is a breakdown of how I used another technique to make the passage stand out: imagery.

His bones rang like church bells.
A simple simile transitions smoothly from the objective to the subjective. The church bell imagery interjected suddenly into what was previously a calculated description of a battlefield is a subtle shock.

He cowered before malevolent giants...
Here the simile gives way to pure metaphor. And just as in a church one might feel an immense presence, here Pte. Dunning feels the presence of something malevolent that makes him feel small and weak and completely catches him off guard.

...breathing in the dust and smoke and cordite and dirt and atomized blood.
In this second half of the sentence we round out the religious imagery by using a "litany" of sorts. The subtle act of breaking the convention of using the conjunction "and" only once per clause creates a cadence like one sees in liturgy. The fumes over the battlefield also become a sort of foul incense here.

The stag felt something give. Nothing mattered. All was lost.
The first of these three sentences brings us back to a plainer, more objective tone for just a moment but it quickly falls apart in the next two sentences. The plain-spokenness is still there and the sentences are technically complete, but the thought is broken into short bursts of despair.

Panic. Panic and desperate thoughts of wasted days, no sensation save an all-consuming heaviness.
The sentences here become fragments. First comes a short, one-word fragment that finishes the descent seen in the previous three sentences.  In the second fragment, the thought from the first fragment is reiterated, but also elaborated on in a return to something subjective but relatable.

His limbs turned to lead, his thoughts turned to death...
Not much here except subtle wordplay on the word "turned." For the most part it's pretty pedestrian.

...surrendered, sweating blood and swearing silent oaths.
Here we have a return to the religious imagery. The idea of surrender is played with a bit; surrender to ecstasy is often seen as a good thing, as a calming break from the rational ego, but surrender to abject terror means the forcible destruction of the rational mind. But sweating blood invokes both the Garden of Gethsemane but also a phenomenon called hematohidrosis, which can occur in highly stressful situations such as a battlefield. And in this Gethsemane of a shell hole, Pte. Dunning is "swearing silent oaths," the double meaning of which should be self-explanatory.

I must emphasize two things here:
1. I'm not sure my decisions actually work as well as I think they do and I'm well aware that this could just be me being a pompous hack, and:
2. If you write a whole book this way, it'll exhaust you and the reader. Don't be afraid of brevity, especially in your exposition.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Doubt And The Writer

My lingering doubts about my writing:
1. That my stylistic refinements aren't as refined as I think they are.
2. That my stories are boring to everyone except me.
3. That my ideas lack imagination and originality.
4. That my delivery is too pedestrian.

Sticking your neck out as an author while you still have these kinds of doubts is stressful, and finding out you were right about any of them can be crushing. But the only way to get anywhere is to take the chance.

The sad truth of the matter is there's someone, somewhere, sitting on a better story than mine and they're not getting it out there (or not even writing it in the first place) because they have no confidence. So I have to suck it in and take the niche they didn't fill. At least, that's the writer's gambit: that the audacity to be heard is an undervalued asset that will pay off one day. I imagine everyone who wants to work in this field as a real profession thinks along these lines at some point in their development.

But self-doubt and impostor syndrome are brutal and they don't let you go easily. Putting your work out there when you're a sensitive person is tough going. You have to be resilient and learn to only listen to the criticism that helps you improve. Any criticism that doesn't help you improve is just going to stress you out. It's not worth it. Move along and remind yourself you can't please everyone no matter how good you are.

But- and this is a big caution- there is a lot to learn from criticism and even harsh criticism can be worth its weight in gold. The best writers are sadder but wiser. Don't dismiss criticism right away as useless. Sit on it. Think about it. Ask yourself if it can be applied. Sometimes it'll take years for it to click and when it does it's like a light bulb clicking on.

You'll always be your own harshest critic though. I know I'm my own. I still look at my own work and wonder why I can't write something like some of the other writers I know. You know, the good ones.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Current Project Status

The Linen Butterfly-Novel - Completed Penultimate stylistic revision (submitting today)

The Saboteur- Short Story- Submitted March 26- Pending

Closing Time- Short Story- Submitted April 30- Pending