Sunday, April 24, 2011

Stretching yourself

From a writing standpoint today, I did very little.

Yet, from a writing standpoint today, I also did a lot.

I woke up this morning at 7 a.m., no small feat for a man who didn't get home from work until 11:30 p.m. and couldn't fall asleep until about 2:30 a.m.

Why was I so eager to get up?

The Midwest Writers Workshop held a mini-conference today in Brownsburg. It featured a few other writers and about 60 attendees, providing a great atmosphere to spend a few hours eating donuts and talking about writing.

The great thing about these events is getting the chance to mingle with other writers. Apparently, we have all kinds of writing groups around Central Indiana, including one in Avon. I met a couple of people from that group and am looking forward to attending some of their meetings. Writing may be a solo endeavor, but as I mentioned in this post, it also shares some similarities with baseball in that you need teammates to back you up. They can include beta readers or critique partners.

While I blog often about my work, sharing it isn't necessarily in my comfort zone. A lot of writers are like me; we fear a gigantic conspiracy in which someone steals our idea, writes it more profoundly, and then laughs all the way to the Kindle Store. It took me more than a year to expand my Elite Beta Reader Corps beyond my wife (the Elite Beta Readers are much like Army Rangers or Deep-Cover CIA Agents; you won't see me revealing their IDs publicly). Just a few weeks after that breakthrough, I'm now exploring writing groups and other avenues for collaborative work.

This is stretching myself.

This is not playing it safe...and as Cathy Shouse of MWW said today while quoting Elliott Smith, "Playing it safe is the most popular way to fail."

I don't want to I'm going outside my comfort zone to share my work, make friends, and learn more about the craft I love so much.

I'm stretching myself.

There are several ways to stretch yourself in the writing world. One way is to share your work, exposing it to ridicule and critique. Not everyone is going to love every word you write. It's best to learn that now and develop the thick skin you're going to need to survive in the publishing world. It's better to learn how to respond to that criticism (PRO TIP: Improve your writing!) than learning that harsh lesson in a devastating and very public manner, like this unfortunate writer from a few weeks ago (PRO TIP #2: Going off on reviewers is not a good idea).

Another way to stretch yourself is to write something outside your comfort zone. I'm primarily a sci-fi/fantasy guy. I like space operas, superheroes, laser guns, spaceships, alien invasions, time travel, alternate realities, etc. I'm not a vampire guy; not a werewolf guy. I haven't written poetry, non-fiction, horror, paranormal romance, literary fiction, historical fiction, romance, mysteries, mainstream thrillers, legal get the point. I write what I enjoy reading, which for the most part includes sci-fi and fantasy. Even within that narrower category, there are sub-genres I've yet to touch. I'm not big into high or epic fantasy and never made it through the entire Lord of the Rings series.

Yet, there are opportunities within these other genres to play with and explore; other avenues in order for me to stretch myself.

I blogged a while back at how I'm not much of a horror writer. The genre doesn't "mesh" with me for some reason; I don't watch slasher flicks and I don't read horror novels or stories. Yet, I've written a couple of things that fall into that category. A short story of mine, "Vengeance" is due in an upcoming anthology. While it's not going to frighten anyone, it falls more in the supernatural/horror arena than my previous stories. Zombie fiction is also big and I made my first foray into that with a story about a zombie that's been trained to sniff out explosives. That story was also accepted.

What I'm saying here is that it IS important to stretch yourself. For example, Dianne Drake, a successful romance writer, said today that she's starting to hear editors asking for superhero fiction. She even gave me the name of a publisher who was looking for that particular genre. But there was a catch with that: Dianne writes romance novels and the publisher specializes in romance...a genre I'm not sure I can tackle. I'd have to take my beloved superhero conventions and mesh them into the framework of a romance novel.

Can I do that? Am I capable of writing a superhero romance novel? What genre does that fall in? Is that a new thing? I honestly have no idea.

But it got me thinking: how would I go about writing a love story involving superheroes? Sure, there are plenty of examples in comics and movies, but romance novels, at least in my perception, beg for a little less action in the middle of the city and a little more action in...well, you know where that's going. The characters would have to resonate more, relationships would need to be more fully formed, and the superhero hijinks, while front and center, would still take a backseat to that central romantic relationship.

Yet, the idea intrigued me.

I am a fairly big advocate of "write what you know" (and if you don't know it, set the book in the future and make crap up so you LOOK like you're writing what you know), so I would have to stretch myself by reading a few romance novels and getting a feel for them.

After that, onto poetry...

And legal thrillers...

And paranormal romance...

Maybe I'll just combine those into an epic poem about a romance involving a superhero and a vampire lawyer.

Then again...that's probably stretching a little too much.

What about you? How do you stretch yourself?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Word Count update

I hit "Average Night" on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum, finishing with more than 2,300 words.

My current work in progress is at 19,000 words. I'm shooting for about 80,000 words for this one, which means I'm about 23% "finished."

I put quotation marks around finished because we all know that percentage is bupkis.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Five Reminders for Submitting Your Shory

I sent out a story tonight to an anthology open for submissions. I had beta readers go through it, read it several times myself, and felt it was ready to go.

And then it came time to send it.

I sat in front of my email program, story attached, submission email address typed in, and short, concise, polite cover letter all ready to go. Yet, my courage wavered. My mouse hovered over the "send" button. Trickles of sweat lined my brow.

And so the mouse hovered...

You'd think this wouldn't be a problem; after all, I've submitted nearly 40 different stories in the last year. I'm an "old pro" at this submission stuff.

But in the back of my mind, I think again: Did I miss something in the submission guidelines? Is "Courier New" okay as a font? Should I make it "Times New Roman?" Did they want it single-spaced or double-spaced? Header or no header?

...and Rorschach said, "What are you waiting for? Do it!"

All of these questions, of course, came despite having READ THE BLASTED SUBMISSION GUIDELINES AT LEAST FOUR TIMES. This particularly anthology was not rewriting the process of submitting a short story. Double-spaced. Courier, fine. Times New Roman, fine. Use William Shunn's manuscript guidelines. Underline instead of italics (an older practice, but some places still abide by it).

I did all that. I knew I did all that.

Yet, it was still hard to pull the trigger.

I think blowing up Alderaan is easier than sending out a submission.

I'm sending my story off to someone who may or may not like it. They may hit me with an immediate rejection letter that says, "Give up, (insert author name). Your (insert story title) stinks. You, (insert author name), stink. Please stop writing because the only thing that sucks more powerfully than your writing is a Dyson."

Sometimes they just send you a picture of a Dyson and hope you get the message.

They may love the story and send a letter that says, "You are a genius (insert author name). We loved (insert story title). We love you, (insert author name). Here's $500,000."

I will get neither of those letters. The rejection letters I've received are succinct and professional. One or two offered good feedback ("We liked your story...we just liked some of the others more"). The acceptances have held to that same trend with maybe a little more personalization ("Your story had an interesting perspective that helped it stand out among the others").

Yet, as the mouse arrow hovers near the "send" button, I'm opening a new Firefox tab to check the submission guidelines again. It's torture...I imagine it's like sending your kid to his or her first day of kindergarten. I can see the doe eyes and the lovingly-packed G.I. Joe backpack slung over their shoulder as I back away. You see, my kids will have Flint G.I. Joe backpacks, even if I have to make them myself.

Duke got captured by Cobra in like every episode. But Flint = WIN.

It's the big sendoff.

I've done it almost 40 times now with short stories. More than a dozen with book queries. Each time, I still feel a little bit of stress.

This is the part where I offer advice to keep you from becoming an absolute lunatic like me when submitting your work. God willing, I'll use it myself.

Know the guidelines. Please don't be like me. Don't read the guidelines 85 times. Read them two or three times and make sure your submission meets those standards. Unfortunately, there's no uniform format for submitting your work (that would be easy, you see). Therefore, pay attention to those guidelines. If you can follow the rules, you'll show you're a professional who pays attention. It won't guarantee an acceptance, but it will avoid an instant rejection (unless your submission is sooooooooo amazing that it jumps off the page and smacks the editor in the face).

Read the Market. Don't submit a superhero story to a romance market. Don't send normal crime fiction to a sci-fi publisher. If you're going to submit a short story or novel query, spend some time reading up on the market you're sending it to. Maybe the publication has a knack for quirky material that fits your style OR maybe the publication HATES quirky stuff. The only way to know is to take some time to read work that's already been accepted.

Manage Your Expectations. I haven't had anything published in a well-known market that would qualify me for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I would love to do that, yes, but those markets are highly competitive. Those publications receive top-tier stories...and even one of my best, most-immaculately polished pieces will garner the utmost scrutiny. A smaller publication, on the other hand, may receive fewer submissions. There's less "noise" to work around. That doesn't make getting published any easier--the standards are still high--but with less competition, your story stands a slightly better chance of rising to the top. Just have a good head on your shoulders regarding the place you're submitting to.

Put It to Bed. "Our average response time is 90 days." That means, in all likelihood, it will take at least three months for you to get a response. That email alert that just came across your phone two days after you sent your submission? It's not your acceptance note; it's a freaking offer from O'Charley's for their Bottomless Bowl Lunch. I'm an obsessive email checker, but if they tell me I won't hear from them until after their submission deadline, it does no good to stare at my email inbox.

This is neither an acceptance nor a rejection.

Get Over Yourself. If you're submitting to a larger publication, you're one of hundreds or thousands of submissions. To place your story, it's going to have to be terrific...and it's going to have to beat authors who may have more name recognition. The playing field is only level to a point. You're not that important; they'll get around to you when they get around to you. If you're submitting to a smaller publication, the editor is likely doing it on his or her spare time, writes, has a family, and holds a regular job. They'll get around to it, but they have other things to take care of. Let me put it this way: you sent ONE story. They have 500 to read and evaluate. Think about that.

One more thing: Keep writing! Keep sending! (Or is that two things?)

What about you? How do you keep from going spastic when releasing your work out "into the wild?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bounty Hunter Anthology now available!

The Bounty Hunter anthology from Static Movement is now available. It includes my short story, "No Errors in Programming." Chris Bartholomew edited this collection of bounty hunter-themed tales.

A quick summary: Robot bounty hunter Molitor (Mobile Operation Licensed for Infiltration, Termination, Observation, and Reconnaissance) never compromises in tracking down its quarry. But when the machine accepts a contract to terminate a member of a well-known royal family, certain parameters don't compute, forcing Molitor to recalculate the best course of action.

You can get it here or by clicking the cover image below.

Monday, April 18, 2011

He's on fire!

I have done it a few times, but today I hit the fabled heights of "Reggie at the Garden" on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. In just a few hours of writing today, I produced more than 5,400 words, bringing the word count on my new work in progress to 16,691 words. Considering I started it just last week, I'm really motoring along on this thing.

It will break my heart when I start revisions and realize the plot makes no sense!

Time for a Star Wars quote:

Han: You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.

Leia: That doesn't sound too hard.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Conquering Your Productivity El Guapos

"In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo!"

Such were the words of Steve Martin in the awesome (and underappreciated) flick "Three Amigos."

After sleeping in today and then flipping between the Pacers game and the Reds game, I started to think about my personal productivity El Guapos. I realize I can't write every single minute of every single day, but there are certain things that prevent me from getting as much done as I should.

You must find a way to defeat this man.

My primary El Guapo happens to be sports. There are many out there who care nothing for sweaty men and their (base, basket, and foot) balls, but I grew up in a household of die-hard sports fans. I root passionately for my teams, but my love for sports sometimes supercedes other, more productive ventures. You know...things like writing, revising, outlining, reading, etc.

If I kept a chart of my writing productivity during the college & NFL football season, it would basically flatline. Ditto the NCAA Tournament. In fact, I may be the only person in the world who would benefit positively from the NFL lockout. If they don't get the silly thing sorted out and miss significant time during the season, I earn a full Sunday to write. Isn't that ridiculous?

I love them, I need them...but they're a distraction.

I would count sports as a personal El Guapo.

I am not Captain Technology, but I do love my gadgets. Like many of you, I've spent too much time browsing Facebook, looking for iPhone apps, enjoying a DVD player with Netflix capabilities, getting on The Twitter (via Tweetdeck), or simply using the internet as an excuse not to write.

I'm blogging right now. I should probably work on a book or short story, yet I blog instead. It gives me an excuse to use Firefox, Blogger, and Corel PaintShop Photo Pro.

Does technology revolve around me or do I revolve around technology?

I would count technology as a personal El Guapo.

General fatigue ("I don't wanna write right now"); that's an El Guapo.

Movies and DVDs are an El Guapo.

But as sure as my name is Matt Adams, we can conquer our own personal El Guapo.

Defeating him isn't easy--this isn't "Amigos, Amigos, Amigos"--but it IS possible.

Recognize El Guapo. He's not hard to miss. He has a beard, likes cigars and tequila and guns, will probably try to steal the girl (or guy) you like, sometimes wears a sombrero, and really, really likes sweaters. In the desert.

I think the German pilot is jealous.

Set a time. This is a time-honored, very effective bit of strategery. Even if you miss your writing time once or twice a week, as long as you nail it 80% of the time, your productivity will stay high.

Get Away. Maybe the distractions around the home are too much. Make it simple: get away. Grab a notebook or your laptop and find a park, library, or other cozy place that allows you to focus. If it works, make that place your All-Time Writing Place.

Unplug. If the internet distracts you as much as it distracts me (Internet Movie Database, Netflix, Tweetdeck, Facebook,, Wikipedia, etc., etc., etc.), unplug it. In my case it's easy; my PC has a wireless dongle (in high school that would've been a funny word). If I realize I'm spending too much time browsing the web, I can simply unplug it and lock it away. Similarly, I usually put my phone on vibrate and stash it in another room.

Set limits. Going cold turkey on a personal El Guapo will kill you with real bullets. There's no way I'm giving up sports; it's simply not going to happen. My strategy is fairly simple: one game a day. This is a guideline...not a rule. After all, I follow IU, Notre Dame, and Purdue in college football. I'll watch just about any NFL game. Multiple March Madness games are meant to be shared and enjoyed. However, I try to limit it to my favorites. That means skipping the early game if the Colts play late and using that time to write.

Treat Yourself. If you've had a particularly productive span, take a day off. Watch a movie, catch a ballgame, go out to dinner...whatever makes you happy. Some will say you have to write, write, write, write, write every single day. And while we should write as much as we can as often as we can, sometimes our brains just need a break. I have a day job...and it includes vacation time because we're simply not meant to work ALL THE TIME. Even if writing is your job, you have to step away sometimes and treat yourself.

Make the Most of the Time You Have. You have 30 free minutes in which to do nothing. Do you: 1) Stream an episode of "The Larry Sanders Show" on Netflix, 2) Fire up "Batman: Brave and the Bold" on your DVR, 3) Play a Game of NBA Jam, or 4) Get behind the keyboard and start Microsoft Word (or any equivalent software used for writing)?

Yoda says: "Option #4 you should choose."

If you choose Option #4, you may only end up with just a few hundred words. But those "Larry Sanders" episodes can wait. If you use those bite-size bits of time effectively throughout the week, your overall word count shoots way up.

So what about you? What Personal El Guapo keeps you from being as productive as you should be?

Friday, April 15, 2011

A pitch contest...why not?

One of the biggest barriers I've had to overcome in my time as a writer is my stubborn tendency to keep everything to myself. My work is my work...sometimes I feel like I don't want to share it with anyone.

"So, how is anything ever going to get published, dear sir?" I ask myself.

Simple answer: it's not.

Writing is a solitary practice that's really a team sport. It's baseball...a game focused on individual match-ups that can't be won without teammates. So, hey, getting "out there" is a step. I've done a little bit of it and am becoming more active on boards and blogs and Twitter.

Tonight-slash-this morning, I'm entering a pitch contest on YAtopia.

Let 'er rip...with a little help from our friend Aroldis Chapman.

Now this is how you pitch a book!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sold-Out Conseco, baby!

I started a new novel earlier this week...and I can tell I'm excited about it. Four days of writing have produced more than 10,000 words! That's a tremendous amount of output. I have a very clear idea where this one is going and feel like I have a real sense of the characters I'm writing about. That's helped move things also means I've hit "Sold-Out Conseco" for the first time in a long time on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. It's on the low end, 3,500 words, but it's still pretty good!

I shouldn't say this because I know it will jinx me...but if I put my mind to it Saturday or Sunday, I may be able to hit the fabled, lofty heights of "Reggie at the Garden." I don't expect to keep up this torrid pace (if I do, I won't complain), but a few more days like today and this book will be finished in no time (I'm not crossing my fingers, however).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beta Readers Assemble!

For the first time ever, I'm proud to announce that I'm utilizing step three on the Peytonometer. In past submissions, I went straight from "Audibles" to "Going Deep." But this week I sent my first assignments to some people who have kindly agreed to critique my work. Let's hear it for the "Beta Reader Handoff!"

If you haven't noticed, I am half-crazy. Or possibly all-crazy (whichever you want to believe). I spent a little time over the weekend trying to figure out a way to thank my kind and benevolent beta readers (they are kind and benevolent until they actually send back their critiques, of course). My best idea: who doesn't love a t-shirt?

Then, I got even more ridiculous. In my book The Franchise, superpowers play a big role. Employees of OMNI Corporation have one of a range of abilities. Those who control fire are called "Crispers," those with power over ice & water, "Cubers," those with the power of flight, "Gliders," and so on. The OMNI uniforms are yellow; I thought it'd be fun to have an OMNI "uniform" t-shirt. The design is obviously very basic, but it was something to have fun with...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New novel begins!

Thanks to a little inspiration from a colleague of mine, I started work tonight on a new novel. I had about 1,500 words written, but this weekend I worked on refining my outline a bit and decided to commit a few more words to the page. This isn't one of my typical's rooted in actual reality; no spaceships, no superheroes, no aliens or anything like that.

It's a more traditional book that I'll share a little more about when I write more of it. I didn't have a huge writing window to work with tonight, but still ended up with about 2,000 words (another "Average Night" on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum). It feels strange going from short stories to writing a book again...books are such a grind compared to the "churn it out" nature of the short story format. I'm sure I'll still do some shorter pieces on occasion, but I'd like to get another book under my belt.

I'm aiming for 75,000 to 85,000 words for this one.

New story now in "Audibles" stage

Another Average Night on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. I busted out about 2,000 words this afternoon to wrap up a short story. It hit slightly under the target of 6,500 words. I don't get too concerned with word count goals; it just felt by the pacing of this story that it would end up in the 6,500 to 7,000 word range. Finishing under that isn't a bad thing at all.

I'm going right into revisions on this short story, because I noticed a few misspellings and structural things I wanted to change. After the initial revisions are complete, I'll put the story aside for a week and work on finalizing the piece. The story may end up in flux on the Peytonometer...while I'm entering the "Audibles" stage, I may also go to the "Beta Reader Handoff" phase simultaneously.

But the best part is that I had a decent idea for a story, outlined and conceptualized it, and completed the first draft fairly quickly. I haven't settled on a title yet.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another Average Night

Another productive night netted about 2,000 words, giving me an Average Night on the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum. I'm still working on the short story I referred to last night, which is about an immortal warrior who fights battles through several different time periods. I have a feeling Death will eventually catch up with him!

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Short Story Brings Back Reggie!

I started a new short story tonight...and am posting the first Reggie Miller Writing Continuum update in a while! I have 2,100 words...a very good "Average Night" by Reggie standards.

The short story is a tale about an immortal warrior who fights in different eras (Roman Empire, World War II, Gulf War, etc.). It's for an anthology looking for supernatural war stories. It's not exactly my bag, but I thought I had a decent concept and wanted to play with it. I think this will end up in the 6,500-7,000 word range.

And, heck...while I'm at it, let's bring out the Peytonometer:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Accepting my "Writing Time"

I've always struggled to have a set writing time. For whatever reason, the idea of sitting in front of my computer at the same time every single day feels like work. Writers who can bust out 2,000 words a day at the same time and the same place: I envy you. I congratulate you, because that doesn't seem to work for me.

Let me give you a little background here. I now work second shift (2pm-11pm) Monday through Friday. For six years, I worked a screwed up non-shift from 2am-11am Monday through Friday (I worked on a morning news show as a producer). To be honest, I didn't take writing as seriously as I should have; those are kind of "lost years" in a way. I didn't write any short stories. I really didn't develop my novels as much as I should have. I didn't attend a writing conference or submit much work. If I could talk to myself five years ago, I would have done things a lot differently.

But that's a topic for another blog post.

About a year and a half ago, I flipped my schedule completely at work. I thought this would work well; one of the hardest things about the overnight shift was the feeling of always being tired. It didn't matter if I got four hours of sleep or 12 hours of sleep; I always had the same, pale-faced, five-o'clock-shadow, circles-around-the-eyes look. I usually settled for four hours of me lots of time Xbox. Watch TV. Catch up on the Netflix queue. Only occasionally did I plot out a book or write. I never set a real sleep schedule, so I never set a real writing schedule. I still managed to produce four and a half novels, all underdeveloped, all in need of serious revisions. But I never set aside the time to work on them.

"One day," my deluded self told my deluded self, "we'll get around to it."

My deluded self was half right; I did eventually "get around to it" a few years later. It didn't help that I didn't realize I really wanted "to be a writer" until about a year and a half ago.

So, now that the background info is out of the way in a very lovely info dump, let me get to my point. I finally have an established writing time, and it's not one I'm exactly thrilled about. My writing prime time now runs from midnight to 3 or 4am. I had delusions that I would get home around midnight, go to bed, and get up in the morning to write before work. It would be a normal schedule.

But that didn't work for me. Instead, I found my mind was the most fertile after work, so I pound away at the keyboard, blog, and tweet into to the wee small hours of the morning. It frustrates me a little bit...this means I sleep in until about ten or so almost every day. However, I've come to accept this. If my imagination tells me I'm at my most creative between the hours of midnight and 4am, then I'll write, revise, outline, and blog between midnight and 4am.

What about you? What's your "writing time?"

A revision what?

It's been a big three weeks for my novel I, Crimsonstreak. The manuscript has received the kind of love and attention usually reserved for a big celebrity like Butler's Blue II.

An adorable Bulldog makes every post better.

For three weeks, I've pored over the manuscript at all hours of the day (mostly between midnight and 4am, sometimes actually in daylight on the weekend). I am happy to announce that I'm finally finished.

(Sound FX: Record Screeching)

Wait, I'm NOT finished. You see, I am a mediocre onscreen editor. I'm decent enough...there are several stories I've submitted that have been accepted thanks to my onscreen editorial prowess. However, I usually print out my stories and make ye olde (fashioned) editing marks. There's nothing better, in my opinion, than the symbol for "transpose," the slash for "lower case," and the triple underscore for "capitalize." It's a wondrous world; a language in and of itself.

So now, after "revising" the novel manuscript, it's time to revise the revision and improve upon what I improved. I assure you that my revisions most likely resulted in plot holes, inconsistencies, misspellings, run-on sentences, awkward word usage, and all that fun stuff.

So now, I get to go through this:

500 pages? No sweat!

And I have some good news! After devoting a good chunk of time for revisions, I finally have a great idea for a short story. Expect the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum to return shortly!

As a bonus gift, here's a sneak peek at the chapter structure for I, Crimsonstreak. This will likely change; I noticed while flipping through the manuscript that the early chapters are relatively short while later chapter breaks are spaced farther apart.

Chapter 1 - The Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane: Serving Evil Doers and Those in Need Since 1978

Chapter 2 - Have (Straight) Jacket, Will Travel

Chapter 3 - My Only Escape is Escaping

Chapter 4 - Look Out Chester, There's a New Cheetah in Town

Chapter 5 - Take Me Down to New Chaos City, Where the Grass is Green and the Butlers are British

Chapter 6 - Batman, Meet Robin...Please Don't End Up Like Jason Todd

Chapter 7 - Chaos Reigns & an Enforcer's Lament

Chapter 8 - A Celebrity at Central Processing

Chapter 9 - The Comet Accelerator (Yes, That's Really What He Calls It)

Chapter 10 - Chaopolis South: It's Like Chaopolis, Only Southier

Chapter 11 - Getting a Boost

Chapter 12 - Chaotic Family Reunion

Chapter 13 - Trapped Like a (Lab) Rat

Chapter 14 - Here We Go Again on Our Own

Chapter 15 - Will the Real Colonel Chaos Please Stand Up?

Chapter 16 - A Not-So-Little Caesar and an Epic Battle of Epicness

Chapter 17 - Rebuilding

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

This is in sort of a George W. Bush, aircraft carrier way, but my mission for I, Crimsonstreak is accomplished!

Today, I organized all the meta-fiction into appendices. I revised some of the text, but today was mostly about placement and putting all the parts together.

Here's a look at the different sections:

Appendix I: Chaos Family History. These are articles about the hero Crimsonstreak and his family. The material includes articles about the exploits of the hero's father, who was an infamous supervillain before reforming and marrying our hero's mother. This section includes newspaper articles, a birth announcement, and a lengthy article from Dawn Magazine, which is sort of the People or Us Weekly of my created world.

Appendix II: The New World Common Wealth Era. In the novel, Crimsonstreak's father takes control of the entire world and establishes a unified, global government called the New World Common Wealth. The articles in this section detail some of the events leading up to the creation of the NWCW.

Appendix III: History of the Crusading Comet. In the book, our hero Crimsonstreak teams up with a teenager and the boy's proper butler. This section details the history of the boy's family's legacy as the Crusading Comet, complete with newspaper articles, journal entries from the family butler Mortimer, and a Dawn Magazine profile about Mortimer's long-time service for one of the country's wealthiest families.

Appendix IV: Selected Writings of Christopher Fairborne, aka Crimsonstreak. These are newspaper articles the main character wrote while in high school and college. I cribbed them from some columns I wrote...modifying them slightly to make them more in tune with the character's personality. It's just a fun little background section to give insight into Crimsonstreak.

Appendix V: Dawn Magazine Profiles in Heroism. Dawn Magazine loves its superheroes! This section includes profiles of several heroes encountered throughout the book, including Crimsonstreak, his dad Colonel Chaos, his mother Miss Lightspeed, and the mysterious Crusading Comet.

Appendix VI: Secret Villain Dossiers from the Files of the Heroic Legion. The Heroic Legion was kind enough to provide a series of its non-classified villain dossiers. Some information is redacted, but the summaries provide a unique glimpse into the Legion's villain evaluation process and the villains themselves.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A New Look for the Header

I did make a slight tweak to the blog this weekend, designing a header to replace the generic white text at the top of the blog. I'm pleased with the result and decided to make a quick comparison.

The top graphic is how the blog has looked for the last few weeks; the bottom graphic shows the new blog header, which went into play Saturday.

You can click the image to enlarge.

Swing and a Miss!

I usually try to share good news with my readers, but not all the news is good, is it? My short story "To the Infinity Room!" did not make the cut for the anthology I sent it to. The editors said there were a lot of entries...which means form rejections...which means no feedback on the story.

It's a piece I'm quite fond of, but I admit it won't "click" with everyone. Any writer who thinks everyone will love ALL of their work is delusional (even if we all secretly think that way!).

The rejection means it's time to update the brand-new Votto Story Meter:

I, Crimsonstreak Revision Nearing Completion

Revisions for my book I, Crimsonstreak are nearing completion! I've made it through the story part of the book. While getting rid of some redundancies, choppiness, and the like, I also added about 10,000 words to the text. The main adventure, once a paltry 60,000 words, is now more than 70,000 words. Of course, I will now have to revise the revisions!

Before I get to that...and I will get to that...I have 24,982 words worth of meta-fiction to pour through. These are newspaper articles, character bios, journal entries, and other bits of info that help round out the Crimsonstreak universe. The main task will be to organize the text into topical (and sometimes chronological) appendices, followed by edits/rewrites and reformatting (the meta-fiction has wonky formatting...some of it's in newspaper format and will need to be double-spaced).

I feel like I haven't written anything in two weeks, but revisions are just as much a part of writing as anything else. Mostly, I miss the Reggie Miller Writing Continuum.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Attack of the 50FT Book Table of Contents

The all-powerful Table of Contents is now tentatively set for the Attack of the 50FT Book anthology from Library of the Living Dead Press. Editor Wayne Goodchild has kindly provided his TOC, which follows below. Edits are in the future for the authors; it's also possible the table of contents could shift slightly...though Wayne does not believe that will happen.

So, anyway, here's a look:

Fragment – Charles M. Saplak

Exploit All Monsters – Murray Leeder

Wizardrix Versus Sorcelator – Ben Godby

Award Season – Lorne Dixon

Chubby Cheeks – Suzanne Robb

Delbert the Destroyer – J.T.Riff

Renovations – John Michael Martin

Deus Ex Coccinelidae – Neil Morris

And Then There Were One – Steve Ruthenbeck

Hantu Bunuh – Klaus Mundt

Curse of the Earth Monster – Charles Day

Gus and Mariel – Matt Adams

Seven Wonders – Brandon Cracraft

Clean Up On Seventh Avenue – Bill Bibo Jr.

Wednesdays Are Triple Feature Day At The Odeon – Patrick Flanagan

All The Gods of Earth – Michael C. Lea

Congratulations to all the authors whose stories were picked for the anthology. When I learn more about the timetable for edits and publication, you'll hear it here!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Votto Story Meter

Another pointless meter! I'm introducing the Votto Story Meter (VSM), named in honor of NL MVP Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds. This will keep track of my short story "batting average" as I revise and submit stories. Looks pretty good, don't you think?

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Sparky Save the World" makes the cut!

Let's start off Friday (and the month of April!) with some good news!

I received a notice yesterday that my short story "Sparky Save the World" has been accepted for the Library of the Living Dead Press' "Live and Let Undead" anthology!

This story stretched me a little bit, because I'm not much of a horror writer. I've talk about this before. "Sparky Save the World" is a zombie story, a genre I've never attempted to write. When I think of zombie stories, I think of masses of slow-moving, dim-witted monsters whose single purpose in life is to eat "BRAAAAAAINS." But this anthology put a different spin on the genre: what would the world be like if we had to integrate the undead into real life?

My answer ended up being the former James Sparkowich, a border protection agent who was unfortunately turned into an UNDEAD (stupid government acronym for: UNnaturally DE-evolved Anthropological Degenerate). Nicknamed "Sparky," he works with his former partner Harris to protect our nation's borders. Sparky, you see, has been trained to detect hazardous materials, including the biological agent that turns people into UNDEADs. I was proud of the story because it isn't typically something I'd write; it got me out of my comfort zone of science fiction, superheroes, and high-concept fantasy stories.

Here's the logline:

Sparky Save the World (5,700 words). A border protection agent named Harris and his bomb-sniffing partner Sparky work to stop biological weapons and other dangers from reaching the nation's ports. Sparky is the nickname for Harris' partner, James Sparkowich, who was tragically transformed an unthinkable monster called an UNDEAD (UNnaturally DE-evolved Anthropological Degenerate). Trained to detect hazardous materials, Sparky proves his ultimate worth when confronted with a massive, potentially catastrophic shipment of weapons.

I'll have some edits to make, a contract to sign, and a few other details to work out. You won't be seeing "Sparky" anytime soon...I don't think the book will go to press until June. If I find out differently, you'll hear it here.

My Short Stories Page has been updated to include "Sparky Save the World." The story marks a milestone of's the tenth short story I've had published or accepted for publication.

In Peytonometer terms...we have a winner!