Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Most Important Job

My oldest is now in 4th grade at a Spanish language immersion charter school. Because they are learning both Spanish and English, the kids skills like spelling and grammar are a little behind kids in regular school until around 5th or 6th grade.

I just found an assignment she had completed in class when she was in 3rd grade. It was an essay about their fathers (that's me!)

I am going to retype it using her words, but with some corrected spelling to make it easier to read. Frankly, there are times when I doubt that I am being the father I want to be and that my kids deserve. Many of us who were born in the 60's had dad's that were hard assess. I had the kind of dad that other hard assed dad's were afraid of. He only ever told me he loved me once, when I was 24. There were never any hugs or positive reinforcement. Dumb ass was a common name, but there were a host of others. He did teach me some valuable lessons that have helped make me successful, but what I wanted most was to know he both loved and respected me. If he were still alive he'd probably call me a dumb ass and say that those are things I should just know.

I'm not looking for sympathy, just making a point about the kind of father I wanted to be and didn’t want to be. Enough of my rambling, without further delay, here's my daughter's essay:

These are some things why I Love my dad. My dad is very smart.

1. My dad is smart because or else he wouldn't be working any more.

2. He's full of ideas.

3. He's just full of inspiration.

My Dad is funny.

My dad is funny because one time at the table he said "Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?" and I said I don't know why. And he said, "Because they taste funny." And this other time he said to me "Hey Andrea, do you want to see a magic trick? And I said yes and he opened the dishwasher and put his dishes inside and he said "Ta da." Oh, and one more time my dad picked me up and put me on his shoulder like I was a dead person and said "wew wew wew."

Why my dad is Lovable.

He's Lovable because he likes to hug and kiss me XOXOXOXOXO. He's also like my own little chair or actually big chair because he's a grownup of course. My dad says I love to a lot to me.

The End.

Every parent makes mistakes, though rarely as many as the children think. It's easy to get focused on the frustrations of my day job, or my magazine or writing. Things don't always go the way we want and it's easy to question whether we are making a difference at all. I'm very fortunate because regardless of what happens at work, the magazine or with my own writing, I've already reached my most important goal. Both my daughters know how much I love them. Now, the trick is to remember that even though I say it a lot, I need to find different ways to tell them and show them, so they never have to wonder. In the end, it is the most important job I'll ever have.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Duotrope, I can quit anytime I want...

For those who don't know Duotrope, is a site designed for writers to find and research writing markets. They currently have 2,650 markets listed, many in genre fiction. For those that do know, you may also frequent . I love Ralan's site and got my first few acceptances from markets I had found on Ralan. While I do love Ralan's site, I am not addicted to it. Of course, I'm not addicted to Duotrope either (coughs and breaks eye contact), I can quit anytime I want. I just don't want to.

What attracts me to Duotrope all hours of the day and night is the data. First, they are set up as a search engine. I can keep my search general and get all 2,500 markets, or I can refine my search so it will display only the pro pay markets for horror that take short stories and are offered in print, accept electronic submissions, and I can choose not to show markets that are temporarily closed. Booya baby!! Today there are 10 such markets and I can sort them alphabetically, by pay, average response time, or % of acceptance.

Now this is enough for me to swear undying loyalty to Duotrope, but that's not all the site offers. Oh no, not by half. I love data. I love spreadsheets and for a few years I tracked my submissions on a spreadsheet. Then a friend (or enabler??) told me about a feature on Duotrope called submissions tracker. By creating a profile (it is free), you can add stories to your list as you write them, then you can track who you submit to. By selecting a response option of "Pending", you can let the site keep track of your submissions for you. But wait, that's not all! The site tracks this data on the markets own page, so we can all see how many people (not names, just numbers) are pending (aka, waiting for an acceptance or rejection) and the average number of days they are waiting.

Duotrope keeps the last twelve months of data on each of the markets pages. Necrotic Tissue has had 339 reports in the last twelve months with an average response time of 15.1 days (not too shabby). It shows two pending, which means that two writers haven't updated their pending to either an acceptance or rejection, because we responded to everyone that submitted for July by August 15th. When a writer changes their status from Pending to Rejection, they can pick one of eight other options which include form or personal rejection.

There is a page that summarizes what they call "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", where they list the best and worst for response times and acceptance rates. Possibly my favorite feature is the "What's New?" page. It shows the newest markets added, which have recently opened or closed and has a detailed list of everyone that has used submissions tracker to reflect a rejection or acceptance. I could go on and on, because there is more, but I think I've made my point. My point was that I am, despite my denial, addicted to Duotrope, but with good reason. As a publisher and as a writer, it is a fantastic resource. It's also a great resource for fans. If you love reading and want to find a new magazine or book publisher, Duotrope is the site for you. Each market page has a link to the actual website so you can check them out in detail.

I noticed that Dark Faith Anthology hasn't sent out a response lately, and that my submission was sent 86 days ago. In that time, I have realized that the submission I sent needs some work. I have a bad habit of getting psyched about a stories premise and sending it off before it is polished. By clicking on the market's link, I see that it closes on November 1st. I'm hoping to get my rejection before then (I am assuming it's a rejection at this point, but you never know), so I can squeak in a more polished and perhaps more appropriate story before the deadline.

My goal is to only pull up Duotrope once a day, since the data does not update in real time (yet). Odds are it will look the same no matter how many times I obsessively open it on the same day. I do have five stories currently out there, so there's a lot to check. Really, I might have missed something. Got to go, I have something I need to do.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bernard Cornwell is a Genius

There are many schools of thought pertaining to writing. I think this is so because there are in fact so many different kinds of people writing and not every piece of advice or technique works for everyone. A piece of writing advice I subscribe to and believe is broad enough to apply to most writers, is to read. A lot. Reading within the chosen genre is a good idea, especially for new writers, but reading outside the genre is perhaps more important as writers develop.

I didn't hear this advice until after I had started writing with a vengeance three years ago. Luckily, I have always had varied tastes in literature. I cut my teeth on the greats in Fantasy and SciFi and didn't discover Horror until my early teens. I was ignorant of the small press offerings for most of my adult life, so I felt trapped by what the bookstores had to offer. I had my favorite authors and certainly I experimented from time to time, but I found I could read faster than even a dozen authors could get out new books.

A friend of mine suggested I try something different. Historical fiction in the form of a series by Bernard Cornwell with a central character called Sharpe. Cornwell uses fictional characters to guide the reader through actual historical events of note, in this case the Napoleonic Wars. He later expanded the series to cover Wellington's earlier Indian Campaign. Richard Sharpe started off as an enlisted man and was given a battlefield promotion for saving Wellington's life.

But the Sharpe series was just my introduction to Cornwell. He has published 47 books since 1981 covering mostly English History (there is a Civil War mini series). The most recent book is Agincourt and I can't believe I didn't see it coming. You see, Mr. Cornwell loves archers as any Englishman should, and while I am not English, I also love Archers. The battle of Agincourt was made famous by Shakespeare's Henry the V. It was an impressive battle for many reason, and has always been a favorite of mine. Now for those of you who do not like reading Shakespeare (and you know who you are), you can follow the fictional archer Nicholas Hook from 1413 to 1415 and get a genuine feel for what it was to live, love and fight in England and France during that time period.

I've seen whole threads discussing how to write realistic battle scenes, especially as it relates to melee combat. I recommend people quit looking for answer of this type on forums and start reading more. Bernard Cornwell is a master, wether it is individual combat or a whole scale battle with swords or muskets.

Michael Knost put out a great book called Writers Workshop of Horror. It is filled with excellent advice from writers who are all great, but are recognized for certain things such as opening, character development etc. The book is an excellent writing reference for any level of writer. If you have issues with openings, read Elizabeth Massie's chapter, Creating Effective Beginnings. The unspoken message though is to also read some of Elizabeth's work and the other writers that have been recognized by fans, peers and even critics as being particularly proficient in a certain aspect of writing to get a real feel for how those aspects are done.

I recommend that once you feel comfortable with the horror genre, to expand into other genres. Wether you're a writer trying to improve or an avid reader, you won't be sorry if you pick up a copy of Agincourt. Did I mention he was a genius?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What the bloggidy blog am I doing?

Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and now this. This is of course a blog and I'm pretty sure blogs were around before the rest, but I never had cause to start. I always have things to say, but was pretty sure no one would care.

That hasn't changed much, but I would like to use this blog to discuss both my writing and my magazine Necrotic Tissue.

So this is my first official blog! Try to stay in your seats.

My very first published book is officially out. Feast is a novella (though technically is considered novel by the old standard of a writ en work over 40,000 words). What, me bitter? NANOWRIMO, or national novel writing month considers anything 50,000 and over a novel and the big boys in the publishing biz very by genre and publishing house. For horror, it is usually not a commercially viable novel unless it is at around 80,000 words.

Feast is about 45,000 words. Tim Deal from Shroud Publishing accepted it last year along with five other writers, all better known than I am. I'm proud to be among such writers as Rio Youers, Maurice Broaddus and D. Harlan Wilson.

It is for sale on Shrouds site:

And Please type my name into the search field on amazon. I did and it was a hallmark moment in my writing life.

I hope you give it a try and if you like it, please write a review on amazon. Also, let me know what you think of it here.

I'm sure I will fill this blog with sporadic and incomprehensible rants from time to time, so swing by if you have a moment.