The FSFW 2010 Anthology is out, available to buy at places like Amazon, and somebody at work has already downloaded the kindle! First of all, when I heard about the anthology proposal, I knew I wanted to submit something, but I also knew there was only so much room in it for all the talent in Fresno Science Fiction (&Fantasy) Writer’s Group. In contributing to critiquing it, I read some fantastic writing. My own short story, The Alley, went through at least 9 drafts before final approval.
The other day I went up to Fresno for a book signing at Heroes Comics. It was before Christmas, and it was nice to actually spend time with my peers in the writer’s group. We sold a few copies of the book I had not yet seen in physical form until that day. No longer on a computer screen, when held that hardcover in my hand, the idea of being published became very, very real. Naturally I chose the signed copies for the ones I ordered for myself. All but one went as gifts to my closest friends, and so far the feedback even from those who don’t read sci fi, fantasy, or horror is positive.
The title of the 2010 Anthology is I Dreamed A Crooked Dream, and the cover art is also original. This is a fantastic piece of work, and though I may demonstrate some bias toward the anthology because I’m in it, I don’t claim I have the best one in there. I’ll keep that to myself, which one that is, anyway, because all of them are well-written, interesting tales that fit into a framing story that ties it all together.
I’ve already started on a piece for the 2011 FSFW Anthology, and I’ll cram time in to write between my busy days at Bloomingdale’s and my long commute from Long Beach every day. It’s a fantasy piece, and very interesting to me since it is also set during a very interesting time in history.
More to follow!
Maybe if I wrote something once in a while, I’d get more than spam for levitra or other drugs for comments!
I have another job now, one much more interesting and exciting, though no less challenging for my brain. This one is more traditional retail, like what I did for Mervyn’s, and one I’m able to wrap my head around, rather than making coffee for a certain coffee giant (!) The new store I work at has a huge Cosmetics department I’m the new Operations Assistant of. I do get to use my writing abilities there in organizing events, signage, and other marketing actions. Plus, I get to wear suits, and run into a celebrity here and there.
Somehow I managed to find time to finalize my edit on a short story I submitted to the anthology my writer’s group is organizing to publish. Pressed for time, I managed to do what I think is good work. I’m really excited about the prospect of seeing my words in a fully realized, book-bound work. Several people at work I mentioned the anthology to are interested, so maybe I can create a few Fresno Science Fiction Writers Group fans here in LA.
I’ve been dragging my feet on sending out more query letters. The ones I’ve sent out didn’t get door-slamming rejections, which is encouraging. Mall Planet is just not for them. But editing a new query letter, tweaking the pitch to a new agent seems to be something I keep putting off while I focus on work, trying to remember how to work with spreadsheets, forecasting, and ensuring we don’t run out of key items.
So hop to it, you say! I know, I know. Get off your butt and send them out. Mall Planet can’t wait until the real 55th Century rolls around. I’ll do it, just not during my daily drive up and down the 405!
I was kind of on a downer when I wrote my last post, and ironicaly enough, I’ve actually done more writing than usual! The dearth of feedback I was making observations on is still a reality, but rather than setting Mall Planet aside, I’ve taken the feedback I have and looked for similar examples of places in Mall Planet where advice on identified issues might apply to as of yet unread material. I still need feedback, clearly, but if I can’t get enough as things are, then I need to seek it out. I’m not sure what that means yet, but it likely involves me doing something I mentioned previously as being a daunting prospect: finding other writers to peer review my work. To be truthful, I don’t even know where to start, but at least I can admit to myself that if I don’t, then I have no right to complain about it.
I’ve reduced the amount of POV (point-of-view) switches in my chapters, something that I feel tightens the read. I’ve cut out sections where I’m largely just repeating a concept. In one of the later chapters, a character is explaining why they’ve just made a major loyalty switch, and I cut out a whole page. Even though I thought the dialog was interesting, even informative in offering some more conworlding, taking a critical eye to it revealed to me that the reader doesn’t need to have information on top of information. Especially when the tension is already ramped up pretty high by a plot racing toward a (hopefully) spectacular conclusion.
I got some advice recently on sending out query letters to literary agents. It’s a good idea, even if I have no idea how to do that. Who to send those letters to, what to say…. Here’s where getting off my butt and doing some reseach comes back into play. No one’s going to seek me out and beg me to do this stuff. Either I’ll do it on my own initiative, or it’s… that’s right, back to the dusty bookshelf!
While I had a short period of crazy work schedule, I backed off from doing any writing on Mall Planet. I took a step back from all the write-ups I did with my writer’s group, with the exception of the anthology pieces. I know I missed reading and reviewing more than half of the submitted material to FSFW (Fresno Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers). Only the former had a deadline to meet, and I met it. As I stated earlier, doing any writing sort of dropped off the radar, with the exception of the piece of my own I submitted for the aforementioned anthology. That was The Alley, now up to version 8, ready for next level reviews. The time crunch was difficult; what with my new job, and new home 200 miles away from Fresno and my friends and fellow writers, I feel I kept up with keeping up pretty well. I even managed to do full write ups on a couple of my peers on the side, as some of us do to gain additional feedback. A couple of said peers even volunteered to read all of Mall Planet.
That was an exciting prospect, considering that if a chapter of Mall Planet is given a write up by the group about every 4 – 6 weeks, they’ll be done with it sometime next year, or longer. Unfortunately, life got in the way. My beta readers had things happen: work schedule changes, babies, health issues. Intellectually, I understand this, given I went through a similar reduction in ability to read my peer’s material when I got that new job. Emotionally, something I probably should not consider when analyzing the situation, I feel differently. The apparent lack of interest in reading more than the dribs and drabs of Mall Planet on a per chapter basis has me speculating on parallel paths. One, the story is not that compelling, and two, my writing isn’t that compelling.
Regarding possibility one, I know in some cases my peers are more inclined to read fantasy over sci fi. I get that. I’m the reverse. My book collection is overwhelmingly sci fi, with my fantasy collection centered around a few writers that meet my criteria for possibility one: Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, Tolkien…. I understand that, since I share some of it. Sometimes I even dread some of the fantasy I must review for meetings, since it’s usually not my cup of tea. But I read it anyway, and often am surprised that the story is more compelling than I estimated, or sometimes even the word crafting is pleasantly adept. So I get that these peers didn’t volunteer to become a beta reader for Mall Planet, because the genre itself is not their cup of tea. I get that they sometimes might feel a read through a chapter of Mall Planet is something to get through, with occasional pleasant surprises manifesting in the story or wordcrafting.
I wonder why the more sci-fi oriented haven’t wanted more. I had a couple of beta readers for Mall Planet, but just a few chapters in, they dropped off. Ostensibly, I get that life got in the way: the issues I mentioned above. However, their beta reading didn’t cease for everybody else. Thus, I can only surmise that it was my story that lost thier interest, either through a less-than-compelling story or my writing was full of so many issues they couldn’t suspend their disbelief in story surpassing wordcraftery.
Sounds like an emotional response, doesn’t it? Of course, I am emotionally invested in my story, in my writing in general. But I feel I can be detached about it. Certainly, I can take criticism. Feedback on Mall Planet has not been consistently glowing; rather, I have heard critiques that suggested significant changes to improve serious issues. Most of the time, I readily recognize the feedback as being right on the money. The subsequent changes to later drafts nearly always show improvement, with subsequent feedback reflecting that. My peers have real talent in spotting opportunities to improve my writing. If one of my parallel theories on a dearth of interest in maintaining interest in reading more of Mall Planet sooner rather than later is correct, I’d like to know. Maybe Mall Planet just isn’t that good, and I should move on. Or maybe Mall Planet, if it represents the best my writing can be, should be the example that I should learn from to forever leave writing a hobby, rather than an artistic prospect.
I wish I knew. Ultimately, I’m still back taking a look at the story every day. I’ve learned enough from previous feedback to look for my known issues on my own. Much of the time, I can spot my own tendency to alliteration, or holes in the plot. Grammar I still leave to others who are more skilled at it, but even there I’ve learned to be more conservative in my use of commas- something overused in place of breath marks, if someone is reading it aloud.
I know I should seek out other feedback. There’s got to be writers groups around my new home down here in LA. Here’s where emotions come back into play. Opening up to FSFW was an ordeal as it was. Melodrama aside, even meeting everybody was terrifying. It took me a couple of weeks to work up the nerve to attend a meeting, and then to submit. Repeating the process here in LA scares me even more. But if my need for beta readers is great enough, I’ll overcome it. Maybe then I’ll find out if theory one or two, or a combination of both, are correct. If so, in any combination, I’ll file Mall Planet away with You Too Can Look As Pretty As Us, my non-sci fi story, in a book case, to gather dust.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and that’s mostly because of how my new job is going. That is to say, not well. It’s a great company, and I’ve met some cool, capable people who’ve really helped me in learning all the dozens & dozens of coffee drinks and whatnot. To be a store manager for this organization, naturally you have to know how to make the drinks, run the cafe counter, or drive-thru, so can train and teach your own potential new hires. This is the foundation you must build before doing inventory and ordering supplies, payroll, creating schedules, and performing research to build your business. In nearly 8 weeks I’ve managed to learn how to make most of the drinks, although I’m still the slowest of the bunch where I’m at. Speed comes with time, and I am getting better at that.
But I’ve never felt more stupid in my life! I’ve taken notes as I’ve watched several example of computer-based tasks, such as editing schedules, or processing tils, and I just don’t seem to retain it! I don’t understand why I’m suddenly so… limited in processing and retaining new knowledge. I have a MBA! I managed 3 departments at my former job while going to school full time for my Masters! And, finally getting to writing, the ostensible purpose for this blog, I’ve done only 2 pages of it since starting mew job. I can still tell you abundant details about the universe of Mall Planet, but I can’t retain what I’ve learned from one week to the next at work. Has my brain suddenly gone dyslexic? I know I get flustered by lots of simultaneous activity, but at my old job I could juggle all those things competently, if not fully effectively. Did that year I was unemployed lower my IQ? Do really have to start at the ground level, as at my old job, despite my MBA and new student loan debt? Will I ever get back to writing again?
I am miserable! It’s largely work-based, as I wrote above. I’ve my new apartment, and it’s great finally living so close to J- over 5 of our 8 years together were long distance. I’ve had some great times here, like the other night at the Galaxy Theater the other night seeing the B-52’s. And it’s not always bad at work. Some shifts, the people I’m with just seem to exude an encouragement that I manage to reciprocate, like last night, closing the store. Other shifts I dread because I find myself unable to find a menu item on the register touch-screen, and my desperate call for help is met with a totally understandable sigh- why doesn’t Earl know this after 8 weeks? Better still, after dozens and dozens of shifts? I shouldn’t need to be babysat or hand held through this- I’m a manager!
I now its different work from the pure retail I performed at my old job. My Home, Kid’s and Men’s departments are a whole different animal than coffee, cold beverages and hot sandwiches. But is it so different, really, that I lose the ability to learn? That my brain is so overwhelmed with learning this new job that I give up a new story idea after 2 pages? Really? What’s wrong with me? Any ideas? Please, my friends, if you think of something that might help, reply! There only one suggestion off the table. I can’t move back to Fresno. This new location is not the problem, just one aspect of it, and after having been unemployed for over a year, I truly frightened at the prospect of being out of work again. I need to make it work, and even my increasingly less patient trainers have the opinion that I can do this, but some block is handicapping me. What is this block, and what can I do to blow it up?
Since my new bedroom, that I use as an office, is soooo small, I decided to put my massive old school desktop computer in storage, and just use my nifty little laptop to use the Internet, since we have some high speed wireless thing going on here. There’s just one catch, and it relates to my previous post about technology in a way. The desktop used Microsoft Word 2003, and this laptop uses 2007. Now, I know I used to be better versed in ‘07, since one of the PC’s at my old Mervyn’s job used it, and I even worked with Vista on the others…. But a year of unemployment later, the only system I used was my home desktop with the dinosaur-like, you guessed it, Word 2003! You know how if you don’t use it, you lose it?
The icons are in different places! They do different things! My clumsy, mitt-like hands don’t manipulate the tiny buttons on the laptop very well. And my mouse, my cool laser mouse! Now I have to swirl my fingers on a itty bitty pad like I’m swiping a dab of frosting on a cake! Don’t get me wrong; I love my laptop, and I’m very grateful Jason gave it to me. It was fun taking it to Starbuck’s and writing beside so many other laptop users, instead of digging out a yellow office legal pad and a medium point blue pen. Especiallyhere in LA, or Long Beach, rather. It makes me feel just so sophisticated!
It’s just so unfamiliar, and when I’m writing, I want all tools to be a constant. That way the writing flows out of my imagination with minimal interference. I suppose practise makes perfect. Maybe as long as I have uncorrupted copies of Mall Planet saved, I can experiment with another. But what if I come up with a cool idea only in the experimental copy? Some of my best ideas come at inopportune moments, like the eliptical at Centerpoint Gym, where I would have to climb off the damn thing to grab a pen & paper from my gym bag, or the cycle, where I would awkardly reach down while pedaling to grab said pen & paper….
“Work it out,” as Jason would say. He’s been saying that for 8 years, and the tone has become ever more accompanied with a sigh as I express frustrations like this to him. He’s been living here in the big city for 10 years (maybe longer, I’m not sure when he left Fresno for good). He doesn’t write fiction like me and he doesn’t read much of it either. When I persuaded him to read my other novel, You Too Can Look As Pretty As Us, (available to read for free on MySpace blogs), he got 50 pages into before he finaly complained he just doesn’t like to read. He’s quite adept using his laptop, easily finding multiple versions of music videos by Lady Gaga and Britney (horrors!) He figured out how to make his laptop do what he needed it to do, in his case watch banal pop stars.
I’ll work it out. Of course, I’ll continue to rely on my writer friends in FSFW for honest feedback on my writing. That’s a constant I’m familiar with, and am grateful for.
Since I’ve been writing Mall Planet, I’ve become more familiar with computers, printers, and flash drives. Because I can put things together, like setting up a PC, connecting the printer, getting on the Internet, I’ve assembled a basic knowledge of using techology. Many people can’t even do that, so frequently I was the go-to-guy at work if someone bought a wireless mouse, or needed to put together a word document. Sometimes even I think I’m adept at this… until something goes wrong, and then I feel like a dinosaur.
Take my printer, for example. The damn thing has lost its own driver so many times I think it has Tech-Alzheimers. I’ve had to reload the driver CD-Rom at least twice a week for two years. The help button is no help, since I’ve followed all suggestions to no avail. The printer just whimsically decides to work again, and I get comfortable assuming it’ll stay fine. So today it does it again. I wanted to print copies of the works-in-review for my writer’s group, the very talented members of FSFW- Fresno Science Fiction and Fantasy. And, oh yes, the copy of the formal job offer I just got- (yay, I’m no longer unemployed.) But the printer first put itself offline, and when I put it online, the document appears in the queue with an error message.
I almost chucked the thing out the window, but I do want to get the deposit back on my old apartment. The evil HP printer/scanner will stay undamaged, and dormant, until it decides to work again all on its own. It’s not as if I can’t do the reading without it, or review and edit drafts of my peer’s work. Or my own. That’s right, Mall Planet is still being reviewed both at some meetings and by a select interested few on the side. So no hard copy for now….
In conclusion, I’m a big old tech fraud. Okay, I can create documents, spreadsheets, set up a wireless mouse… but face me with an unknown technological mishap, and I’m just as much in the dark about options as an illiterate. Here I am, writing a science fiction novel, and I know about as much about the triumvarate of the computer/printer/flash drive as Brion, the central character in Mall Planet who is from a low-tech agricultural world. Must be my Fresno showing….