Friday, April 30, 2010

Beat to a Pulp says no

Well, Beat to a Pulp said "Thanks, but no thanks" to my story Getting Even. It was by far the most encouraging rejection I have received so far. Here's what the editor said.

I really appreciate you submitting to BTAP and I certainly hope you do again. GETTING EVEN contains terrific writing and an interesting world that you have created. Unfortunately, the ending just didn't do it for me. I don't usually get this specific in rejection letters but I wanted you to know I liked many elements of this tale. Once again, please feel free to submit to BTAP (especially sci-fi) again in the future.

So, he really liked the writing. That was great to hear. Makes me think that I can do this. There is still work to do. I know I struggle with endings. It was something I was aware of before getting this rejection. This reinforces the point.

It was also nice to hear that the world was interesting. This takes place in a world that is fully formed in my head, but I don't know that I am doing it justice when I put it on paper. Looks like i may be on the right track.

Overall this is the second, and maybe third, personal rejection I have received. It's something that I was under the impression was rare. Maybe it is and I am just getting lucky. Doesn't matter, I'll take it. The personal feedback is making me better.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A sample book cover

The compressor on our air conditioner broke some time between the last person moving out and us moving in. We had no idea until we tried to run the A/C last week. Gina knew it was broken a few days before I did. I took a little more convincing. But I came around and we had someone come out last week to check it out. That's when we get the news about the compressor. The guys were out today to fix it. I took the morning off work so I could be there when they got there. Instead of writing or taking care of some things around the house, I decided to play with Photoshop and some free stock photography I found online.

I see writers all the time on message boards and other places get worried about things that they shouldn't worry about until much farther into the publishing process. They worry about what their pen name should be. They worry about how they are going to get someone to publish all three of the books in their series when they haven't finished the first chapter of the first book yet. I am by no means an expert, but I always tell them to just write. Don't worry about all that other stuff until it's time to worry about. Just write. Today I didn't listen to my own advice. I goofed around and made a book cover. Let me know what you think. Would you buy this book? Is it professional looking? At least a little bit?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another submission

I sent a story I call Getting Even to Beat to a Pulp today. A very early version of the beginning of this story is here. It started as a writing prompt from my writers' group.

Not sure when they will respond with a yes or now, but I'll let you know when they do.

REMINDER: Voting for Chad Rohrbacher's Free Gishler contest is going on. Not saying you have to vote for me, but if you like my story best I could use the support. Links to all the entries are at Chad's site.

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Free Gischler story

Here is my entry in Chad Rohrbacher's Free Gischler challenge. Wish me luck.
UPDATE: Didn't read the rules close enough and didn't realize that this was done by public vote. If you like my story vote for it here.

Eliminating the Competition

The red lights that ringed the top of the Cherry Bomb Ballroom made the whole place glow red like some movie version of Hell. A circular bar was sunken three steps down in the middle of the floor and the young girls slinging drinks to the college-age crowd wore next to nothing. Up those three steps, wrapping around the walls, were a series of booths made of dark leather.

From there is where Tommy Island Nation watched it all. He sat in the darkened corner with a doctor’s bag by his side. He drank something caramel colored in a short glass and kept one eye on the brunette behind the bar and another on the door.

The brunette was flirting with some kid in a backwards ball cap and worn jeans. He kept making jokes and she kept touching his arm. She’d walk away and get someone a drink, but return quickly and smile at her new friend.

The crowd was coming through the front door in waves, being let in by a guy in a black suit controlling the velvet rope out front. It took fifteen minutes before he arrived, Knockout Nicky Dolan. A behemoth of a man standing over six feet tall with tree trunk arms and fists the size of hams, Dolan wasn’t alone. He came in with two other men. Tommy Island Nation just smiled and shook his head. If there was anyone in the world who didn’t need body guards it was Nicky Dolan. He could lay a man out across the canvas with just one punch, and he had on at least three occasions.

“You really think anyone is going to mess with you?” Tommy asked, extending his hand to Nicky as he approached the booth.

The two men shouted a few minutes of small talk over the thumping music before Tommy turned the discussion more serious.

“Have you liked it?” he asked Nicky. “Being the champion?”

Nicky smiled and said that of course he did.

“Well, I hope so ‘cause your time is up.” Tommy pulled the leather doctor’s bag from his side and slid it next to Nicky. The leather creaked as Nicky opened the bag and the dim lights made it hard to count the cash inside.

Tommy watched the brunette as she hoisted herself up onto the bar to whisper something in the boy’s ear. The boy laughed and she dropped back to the floor. The brunette was wearing a tank top and black shorts that barely covered her backside. She had her hair in a ponytail and cherry lipstick. She was pretty, but what Tommy liked was her smile. They had spoken a few times before and she smiled as he made up stories about his life. She told him her name was Cara. He’d said he was Thomas, but that she could call him Tommy.

“You’re gonna go down in the fifth,” he said to Nicky. “There will be a flurry of rights and lefts about halfway through the round. Take ‘em, fall to the canvas and stay there. You do that and there’s another bag of cash coming your way.”

Nicky protested for a moment. “I can take him.” “Let me go for just a little longer.” “No one will believe I’d lose to this guy.” “You can’t ask me to do this.”

Tommy slid his empty glass to the middle of the table and a waitress quickly brought a refill. “Buster Douglas.”

“What?” Nicky said.

“James ‘Buster’ Douglas. Ever since he beat Tyson anyone will believe any result. He made everything possible.”

“But I’m good. People love me.”

“You think Tyson wasn’t good? You think people didn’t love him?”


“Stop it. Your times up. Besides, you’re getting paid well. There’s tens of thousands in that bag and there is more to come. You knew when we made our original promise to make you the king that someday we’d come back and tell you it’s time to step down. Today’s that day.”

Nicky sat still for a few moments then handed the bag to one of the men he came in with. The lackey cradled the bag in his arm like it was a football.

Tommy looked over at Nicky. The champ was staring at the table, turning a sugar packet over and over in his hands.

“Buck up, big guy,” Tommy said. “You had a good run. Two years as champ is good. You did TV. You did magazines. It was great for you. You made your money. Now you’re setup for life after the ring. That’s just coming faster than you’d expected.”
Nicky didn’t say anything, just continued to play with the packet. Then he shook his head.

“No.” He tried to pull the bag from his friend’s arms. “I don’t want it. I can beat this guy.”

Tommy stopped him. “No doubt about it you can. You aren’t the fighter that we first got into bed with. You’re better than I ever expected you’d be. You’ve got real talent now. But we run this racket and you don’t take the bag and agree to throw the fight, you’ll be dead before morning. There are guys all over this place who are only here to make sure you agree.” Tommy pointed to an older gentleman sitting across the Cherry Bomb with a girl young enough to be his daughter. He pointed to a pair of guys sitting by the door and one down at the bar.

“Take a couple of minutes. Take as long as you need. Just know that this isn’t some deal you can accept or decline. We aren’t proposing some idea to you. We’re telling you how it’s gonna be.“

Tommy sipped his drink and watched the brunette. She had smiled like that a few weeks earlier when the Cherry Bomb wasn’t as crowded. It was a weeknight. Cara wiped the bar free of streaks and Tommy made up a story about his childhood. She stopped cleaning when Tommy got to the part about running away and stealing a car. That part was actually true. He had run from home at twelve and stolen a car a few miles out of town. He was picked up by the police before getting to the highway; however, he hadn’t told Cara that part. He’d used to grand theft auto as a launching point for a series of fantastical stories, each much more unbelievable than the next. By the time he was done making up stories to get him to the present day, Cara had moved out from behind the bar and was sitting on a stool across from Tommy. She was leaning forward listening to him, asking him questions. When the lights came up at closing time she leaned in and gave Tommy a kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks, doll, for the company. Made the night go faster. Come see me again the next time you’re here.”

She had come from behind the bar again this evening and was sitting on the stool across from the boy. They talked and she smiled. Tommy watched her write something on a sheet of paper and slip it to the boy. She made her hand into a phone, held it up to her ear and mouthed “call me.”

Nicky’s friends had each stood up and Nicky was about to join them when Tommy stopped him.

“How about winning one more fight, champ? This one's for me, it’s personal,” he said and pointed to the brunette at the bar and her new friend. “Think you can fix a problem for me, make someone go away? ‘Cause I don’t need the competition.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Challenge update

I wrote with sleepy eyes last night but was able to get the top of my piece for Chad Rohrbacher's challenge put together. I am going crime and not superhero. The superhero piece wants to be written, and I am sure it will be one day, just not today.

I set the challenge piece in a place I have thought about a lot in the past. It's called the Cherry Bomb Ballroom. I've had that name with me for what feels like forever and I know it's made a few appearances in a couple of pieces that I started but never finished. I tend to do that. I keep names and settings with me until they find the right home. I think this one has found it. I like it here and I like the way I have described it so far. The main character is also one that I have written before. He's making another appearance, this time in a story that will be finished. I think I may dedicate a whole post to revisiting settings and characters one day.

I didn't really know where this was going when I began it. Just had a situation in mind, but the ending found me quick once I got going. By the third paragraph actually. I like it. The words are coming in stops and starts right now, but I am sure they will start flowing once I sit down and give them my full attention.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A little research help

Working on the end of a story and I am looking for a little help with a detail. If you were to place a bottle of vodka on a table for someone, let's say at a bar, would you chill it? Like in a bucket of ice? Not being a big drinker I don't know how the waitstaff would handle that. Any help is appreciated.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chad Rohrbacher's challenge

Writer Chad Rohrbacher has posted a challenge at his site. Write an original flash fiction story that is a crime or superhero piece, no more than 1,500 words. Post it on your blog and send the link to Chad. He'll post a poll once all the entries are up. Winner gets stuff.

I've signed up but haven't decided whether or not I am going crime or superhero. I do have a superhero story in my head. Maybe banging it out in a flash version will get me jump started on writing the longer version. It's been there for a long time -- we're talking years -- and I know the characters are ready to get out in the real world and stretch their legs. I am a big guy so the inside of my head is plenty roomy, but I know things must be getting cramped.

Deadline for signing up for the challenge is at 5 p.m. today, April 19. If you are interested leave a comment and get to writing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

DFW Writers' Conference: Lessons learned

It's been a week since the DFW Writers' Conference ended, and since I haven't shared anything about it yet, thought I would now. I've been thinking about what many of the speakers said and here are two things that stuck out for me. There are other things to share, for sure, but I will just give you these two for now.

The first is from author A. Lee Martinez. His may have been my favorite session of the conference. He was funny and everything was very relaxed. Lots of questions were asked and he let the whole thing kind of go where ever it wanted to.

The sessions technical title was Kicking Your Plot Dependency and his overall message was eye-opening for me and I know many others. His message was this: Worry more about creating memorable moments than a wonderful plot. His reasoning is that we remember moments, not plots. We remember scenes, lines of dialogue, moments between characters, not story arcs. Not plots.

If you want to be a memorable writer that people enjoy reading, give them memorable scenes. You put enough of those together and you'll have a memorable book that people will want to read.

The second thing that I learned came after listening to many of the speakers speak. Most of them allowed for questions at the end of their sessions. Almost always someone asked about finding an agent. Nearly every writer who spoke said the same thing. It was some variation of "Well, don't use me as an example because I didn't get my agent the traditional way." Most of them found an agent because they know someone who knew that agent. Either they knew a current client. Or they were just friends with someone who knew the agent. Hearing the stories kind of drove the point home that to be a successful writer you have to be just as lucky as you do good. I knew luck was a big part of the writing thing, but hearing so many successful authors say it in person confirms what I had heard.

Like I said, there are other things I learned and I'll share those as I go through my notes. Just didn't want to wait more than a week before saying something about the conference.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finding the end

It's always fun, at least to me, when I find the end of a story. I've covered this before, but when I start writing a story I usually know it's beginning, maybe a bit of its middle, and then the end. And the end is usually a general ending, nothing specific. It's not until I get into the story that I figure out the specifics. I may be in the middle of writing the story and figure out that where I thought the end was going to be isn't actually the end at all. That happened this morning as I worked on the story I mentioned in yesterday's post. The ending that I had in mind wasn't actually the end of the story at all. The end is actually a twist that makes so much sense it should have been obvious to me. I even set it up in one of the early paragraphs.

Finding endings is one of my favorite things about writing. Especially when I like the ending. And this one I like.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hidden gems

After the writers conference this weekend I went back to my file of stories I've started then abandoned. Lots of junk in there, too, but I did find a couple of things I liked. One I liked a lot, actually, and I think it's got some potential to be finished quickly. Kind of excited about that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another story to submit

I've mentioned the story that I wrote in response to our writers' group writing prompt. Wow, that's a lot of forms of the word 'write.' It's a bit gritty, a bit crime-y, and I like it.

Well, come to find out today reading Paul Brazill's blog, Beat to a Pulp is open for submissions. I think it may be pretty perfect for them. It's got a bit of a sci-fi element at its heart and they are cool with that. So once the Mrs. reads it and gives me her thoughts I think I'll be sending it their way.

Hello, again. What a weekend.

So I am back at the day job after quite a busy weekend. I attended the DFW Writers Conference this weekend. It was my first and I am still thinking over a longer post on that. I will tell you now that I had a great time. My only regret is that I didn't meet more people. I talked with other writers while waiting for sessions to start and at lunch, but didn't leave with any names or email addresses. I did learn a lot though and know it will make my writing better.

On Saturday after the conference I met Gina at a birthday party for a friend of hers. It was a lot of fun. It included a conga line.

More conferencing Sunday then the Bon Jovi concert that night. It was great. I didn't know every song they sang but the show was still great. Really great. And the songs I did know were fantastic.

We didn't get home until midnight last night and had to be up for work early so I think Gina and I are both feeling sleep deprived. But it was worth it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another milestone

That rather unremarkable post about continuing my Playing House story was the 200th post on this blog. Pretty crazy to me that I've had that much to say in a little over a year. I've enjoyed writing it. Hope you've enjoyed reading it, and I hope you'll stick around for however many more posts are to come.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Playing House, continued

Three people have asked where is the rest of my story Playing House, including my wife. I guess it lent itself to follow ups. Well, one is in the works. I started it tonight. I am about 300 words in. I like the setup so far. It seems dark and I am trying to add a bit of humor. Trying to work on setting a scene better. I'll let you know how it progresses.

And, to be clear, it doesn't pick up right where the other left off. It does continue the story, but not picking up in the same place.

Welcome back, baseball. You've been missed.

There are many things I do that drive Gina crazy. One is watching the MLB Network almost all the time. If there is nothing else on TV I will flip channels to MLB Network. I watch it in the morning when getting ready for work. I turn the TV in the living room to it. Then I move to the bedroom to get ready and turn the TV in there to it. Then when Gina gets home in the afternoon all of the TVs in the house are on baseball.

But starting today I can get my baseball fix by watching in person. It's opening day and Gina and I will be at the ballpark watching the Rangers take on the Blue Jays. If I am remembering correctly, this is our fourth opening day together. I had never been to the opener until I met her. I am lucky. As much as I love baseball, Gina loves it just as much, if not more. She wrote about it on her blog here. (And while you are there check out the pictures of her cakes and encourage her to post some of the recent pics of the cupcakes she's been making. My girl's got skills, ya'll!)

So, welcome back, baseball. At least in our house you've been missed.

Writers conference advice

I am heading to my first writers conference this weekend.

The organizers sent out the schedule of sessions last week and there quite a bit being offered that I am interested in. Lots of how-to sessions that would improve my writing and lots of sessions on getting published and marketing yourself. I am thinking that I'll stick to the how-to sessions since that's where I think I'll get the greatest benefit.

I'm excited about the conference, but also nervous. I tend to be the quiet one in large groups. I'm fine once I get warmed up, but I am a bit of a wallflower to start. I'm not sure what to expect when it comes to the networking aspect of this thing. I'd love to go there and meet other writers who I could work with and become better. I'd like to meet people who could help my career.

Anyone who has ever been to a writers conference before have any advice? What do I need to do to make sure I get the most out of this experience?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Since it's Good Friday

Seeing as how it's Good Friday for us Christians, I thought I'd point you over to Thrillers, Killer and Chillers. You'll see why if you click here.

Sue Harding does a great telling of what is, for Christians, a great story.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Writing prompt, an update

I mentioned a couple of posts down that I wrote a short response to my writers' group prompt. It clocked in at just under 300 words. Since then I have added to it. It comes in at closer to 2000 words now and I am still not sure it's finished.

UPDATED UPDATE: I wrapped the second draft of the story this morning at just over 2,000 words. It's set -- surprisingly, to me -- in a world that I have been playing with in my head for a while. Didn't expect that, but just went with the story as it came to me. It's a sci-fi-esque story with a crime bent. I kind of feel like that's my niche. It's where I am the most comfortable writing. It's the kind of stuff I enjoy reading, so that makes some sense. I've set two other stories in this world. One has been rejected the couple of times I've sent it out. The other is a longer piece I am working on. They all take place at three different time periods in this world. One of the features of this world is the government collapses. That has just happened in the longer piece. It's about 20 years later in this writing prompt that I just finished. And it's well after that in the flash piece that keeps getting rejected. So I am kind of feeling my way around it for now, hoping that I can do more with it in the future.