The holidays swept through like a storm, and still the grinding continues (not sure if I ever want it to end). The thought of constructing a yearly works post did cross my mind, and I might get to it if I’m lucky enough to breeze through all this work by the end of March. You see, school started today, and my reading list–along with the good ‘ole 75 pages of creative work–is daunting. I’ll be working on a final lecture about the decline of 3rd person omniscient narration and how it can work in modern fiction if done right. Readers don’t trust the voice of an all-knowing intelligence that doesn’t show up on stage. So instead of staying comfortable with genre stuff, I’ll be delving into old literary stuff like The Scarlet Letter and The Brothers Karamazov to excavate some gems.
Atreyu’s non-stop scratching, from some kind of allergy, has stopped. Yeyoo! He got a couple bones in the mail and is doing just fine. Although the rain is a welcome gift around this time of year, I’m hating it because Cymphonee is back on the road.
Residency was great and I’m looking forward to the next one. Went over dialogue tags and it seems my creative juices got lost somewhere around the Hemingway era. Learning modern craft is a breath of fresh air, and work-shopping did wonders for what I’m working on now and what I had in the trunk. I pulled a couple of them out, rewrote them, and the sales prospects are looking good. It’s amazing what a little polishing can do. Should have 2-3 pieces coming out this month, but I’m not sure where edits are right now so don’t hold your breath.
Been really excited about Matt Wallace’s new vlog (from the Angry Writer channel). If any of you get a chance check it out. It’s pouring out now, so until next time, or next story, stay dry and keep the numbers running.
Spare Parts is now up on Star Ship Sofa. My thanks to Tony C. Smith, Jeremy Szal, and Ant Bacon for a great job narrating. Plug your earphones in and enjoy.
Podcasts are important to me. They’re one of many reasons I have the courage to write. When I was starting out I had no idea how to begin. This was years ago. I was a lab technician in a research facility, working alone with little to no communication with another human being. I thought I’d roundup some of the podcasts that have helped me through the years. Some are strictly about craft, some are short story podcasts, some have absolutely nothing to do with writing, but they planted seeds that later grew into stories.
- I Should Be Writing: This one has to go at the top of my list (and order has no bearing on importance, but this one does). ISBW is the first podcast I found about writing fiction, particularly genre fiction. Mur Lafferty has been producing this gem of a podcast for thirteen years and is still going strong. She interviews writers, agents, editors, and talks about the struggles and triumphs writers go through. If you have no support system, or if you struggle with doubt and craft issues, listen to this podcast now. If you have questions, shoot an email to Mur and she’ll answer to the best of her ability. She also does an annual NaNoWriMo series during the month of November for those of you participating. Put this one at the top of your list and check out Mur’s work.
- Ditch Diggers: Yes, I’m biased when it comes to writing advice. Ditch Diggers is another podcast produced/hosted by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace. While ISBW is more geared at issues and topics in craft, Ditch Diggers tackles the business side of writing. It’s the John Wick version of ISBW, no punches pulled, no soft soaping. It was nominated for the Hugo after only one year (I won’t ramble about how it was robbed) and is one of the only podcasts out there that deals with the nuts and bolts of publishing, getting paid, and marketing your work.
- ARCHIVOS: Formerly know as The Round Table podcast, host David Robison interviews authors about everything under the sun (and I’ve never heard a guy sound so happy and excited about the work he does), followed by brainstorming episodes where a panel of personalities help a guest author (you can give it a try, too) work out the kinks in their manuscripts.
- Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: Produced by editor John Joseph Adams and hosted by David Barr Kirtley, Geek’s Guide has panel discussions and personal interviews (Neil Gaiman, George Martin, etc.) about everything from short stories, to novels, to television shows and popular culture. Kirtley is great, one of the most well-informed hosts I’ve ever heard, and a major genre fan.
- Get To Work Hurley: Author Kameron Hurley’s monthly podcast about writing, fans, and the daily grind. Kameron offers interviews and discussions about subjects ranging from metal health and self-care, to owning pets and the business side of publishing. This is another great podcast if you feel like you’re the only one struggling with your work (support is important, folks).
- Odyssey Writing Workshop: Normally this workshop will cost you a couple grand to attend (if you make the cut), but director Jeanne Cavelos offers these 10-15 minute lectures from some of the giants in the world of fiction. They don’t come out on a regular basis, but when they do they’re really helpful.
- Speculate!: Run by speculative fiction writers Gregory A. Wilson and Bradley P. Beaulieu, Speculate! includes reviews, author interviews, technique and craft, and artist interviews. It’s kind of the ‘jack of all trades’ podcast for both readers and writers.
- Story Grid: This one’s about building a story from the ground up. The Story Grid method is used in each episode to cover things like what characters to include, the hero’s journey, motivations, plotting, genre, etc. Most of the work is done using Silence of the Lambs as a template. I listen to this one when I’m cleaning the apartment or washing dishes. It’s a systematic approach to story building, something I lack in my own work sometimes.
- The Grim Tidings Podcast: This is one of my personal favorites, and has some of the best author interviews in the genre. Rob Matheny and Philip Overby are super chill fans and hosts who mostly talk about all things GrimDark. Always funny, always personal, they have awesome giveaways, the writer’s pit, D&D character generation, holiday specials, heavy metal, childhood musings, and some of the biggest names in fantasy fiction today.
- Once and Future Podcast: Author-host Anton Strout does a version of fiction Vice News with this one. His interviews are top-notch, more friendly conversations than formal events. He covers everything about fiction news, games, comics, science, and popular culture. It’s been running for a while now, and I just recently found it. The episodes are pretty long so make sure you have the time for this one.
- Writing Excuses: Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart, is the motto of this short, informative podcast from Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Tayler. They talk craft in bite-sized pieces for the writer on the go. The insight gleaned from this podcast is well worth fifteen minutes of your time.
- The Stephen King Cast: Constant Reader dives into everything Stephen King. It’s a detailed look into all his work, and this guy really knows his stuff. You’d think after covering all King’s work he’d have nothing left to talk about, but he just keeps on trucking. It’s one fan’s ode to an author who changed his life.
There are tons more that I just don’t have the time to cover. But these are my favorites. To go into detail about all the story casts out there would take me days. So here are my go to’s for every genre.
- Anything by Escape Artists (anything). That includes PodCastle, EscapePod, PseudoPod, and Cast of Wonders.
- 600 second saga: Super fast micro fiction.
- Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
- Anything by District of Wonders: StarShipSofa, Tales To Terrify, and Far Fetched Fables.
- Strange Horizons.
- The Dark.
- The Manor House Podcast.
- The No Sleep Podcast.
Again, just my personal favorites. And when awards time comes around, don’t forget to vote for podcasts. The people behind the scenes put a lot of hard work in to bring you all this free content. You can donate as little as one dollar a month to almost any of the titles above. Let me know about your own favorites, I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep grinding. Keep listening.
Finally got my registration done for the MFA program I’m jumping into. Locked and loaded. Starts October 2. Stoked, excited, fearful. Finally some smoking barrels. I’ll be working under Stephen Graham Jones for fiction and will attempt some screenwriting for my cross genre elective. This is a reinvention of epic proportions, and I’m not looking back. I’m on page 620 of GRRM’s A Storm of Swords (thanks mom) and have to choose five books a quarter to read and analyze (scatter-brained, so don’t look for transitions or segues). This list keeps changing. I am a huge fan of the grimdark sub-genre (whatever that means) and am tempted to fill those slots with steel, blood, and moral ambiguity, but there’s so much more I enjoy reading.
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is in my top slot. I grabbed it as an Audible trial pick (then cancelled) but can’t really feel the weight of it without a physical copy in my hands. I’ll go all day with audio short fiction, but novel length is a drag no matter who’s narrating. Something by Corey, Fletcher, Okorafor, and Jemisin, perhaps. That leaves out horror, but my dark ways will more than make up for it.
Zero submissions this month. Two publications coming up. Speaking of audio fiction, my short story “Spare Parts” was purchased as a reprint from StarShipSofa and should be coming out any day now (my, how the wheels turn). Their 500th episode is a piece by Harlan Ellison that you probably shouldn’t miss. Doo-doo-bee (a.k.a. our puppy) is going through it lately. Skin scrapes and steroids and runny-runs has me on edge, but puppies are resilient, I keep telling myself.
Disappointed by some pro-rate publications lately. Publicly scoffing at slush pile entries is not cool. Send a form rejection and keep it pushing. Next month marks two years with Grimdark Magazine and I’ve learned a lifetime worth. I’ll get on blogging about the value of reading slush for a strong market one of these days. Deathnote came out on NetFlix this month (or last) and I can’t help but cringe every time a live-action version of a manga series is botched beyond recognition. Stick to the hard-copies (an omnibus of the entire series was just released, pick that up for sure). Huge book haul from my favorite thrift store last weekend. Among them is a Glen Cook novel said to be one of the cornerstones of grimdark fantasy. I’ll hit the lines after Storm of Swords is done.
July was a whirlwind. It’s not over yet, but it’s left its mark. Atreyu is a little giant now. In a month or so he can finally go outside. August brings thirty years of life for my Cymphonee, five completely in love, one single day to celebrate the rest of my life. And I’ve only grown to love her more. Cheers, my honey bee!
I made a big move this month, one which slipped through my grasp in the past. But now, I’ve captured it. In nine days I completed my application to a graduate program in creative writing, specifically for genre fiction. Fevre dreams of rejection plagued me: writing sample’s not long enough, too dark, too inexperienced, no background, no future…But alas, I was accepted. Residency begins late September. Victory. My gratitude and thanks go out to Adrian Collins of Grimdark Magazine, P. Alexander of Cirsova, and more than 200 rejections last year that really thickened my skin. Dragon fire, folks.
Outlook Springs picked up my story “Ethereal Things” for their next issue, and Star Ship Sofa will be featuring “Spare Parts” in an upcoming episode. Vastly different tales from the same twisted mind. Started the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb and it’s looking good so far. I’m a sucker for fantasy with dogs. The Broken Empire trilogy arrived in my mailbox last week and I’ll start on that as soon as I finish the new GOT episode tonight. Red Sister is loaded on my Audible, as well. The reviews are insanely good. Lots to read, lots to write…lots to be thankful for.
Been in the swamps of editing/rewriting/biggest pain-in-the-ass part of writing lately. Getting time away (lots of time) from my work, then rereading with a critical eye, has been the biggest lesson this last couple months. Honestly, most of the stuff I sell is first draft quality and can be polished and reworked into more cohesive, flowing pieces. It’s a lot of work to put your best foot forward. Finishing and submitting is easy, but reworking it into something explosive and clear to any reader is the real work. A story is made in editing, plain and simple.
Cymphonee and I have a new addition to the family. We’ve been working hard to keep him in line and the crate training is going pretty well. Not sure he likes the crate as a sleeping area (mostly, he thinks it’s a kind of punishment after sleeping on the bed with us), but he’ll adapt. Atreyu is a boxador from the pound and we love him to death (when he’s not gnawing on anything in sight).
“Three times a Ronin Shouts” is available for pre-order on amazon as of now. I believe the actual release date is July 21, but you can get it now for a buck. Bards and Sages publishing did a pretty good job for this 8k word stand alone, and I hope you’ll all enjoy. Two sales in the ether right now, prospects looking good for a print and a new audio release. Finished “Gwendy’s Button Box” and I’ll have some comments or a quick review up soon.
Cymphonee recovered the old hard drive; that means 25k in the novel saved and six WIP’s recovered. Not to mention all our old photos and videos. Yeehaw! Bards and Sages Publishing picked up “Three Times a Ronin Shouts” and that should be coming out as a stand alone in July I believe. Still watching for negotiations at Manor House for September release of “What’s Done in the Dark,” and have been obsessively playing the Gwent Beta!
More to come.
April was the heaviest reading load I’ve carried so far this year. Got through Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining and am half way done with Night Shift. Picked up Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption again and have been diving back into the basics of craft. The ideas aren’t hard these days, there are plenty of them. It’s the structure and voice I’m struggling with, until a bullfrog whispered in my ear yesterday–yes, a bullfrog. Lets call him Jeremiah, and he’s volunteered to narrate a new piece I’m working on. Saves me a lot of work. If you’re working on a story and a character’s voice just pops out and speaks to you, listen, record, and keep your third eye open.
Got a new flash piece in Speculative 66 (Loverboy Android) coming out tomorrow I believe. Just like “Stay of Execution,” this one began as a 250 word account of a girl desperate for the love of a machine. Again, it was an idea piece and those can be chopped down to the bare essentials sometimes. If you can take an entire novel and chop it down to 66 words you’ve got a pitch that can save you a lot of work when it comes down to summarizing each chapter in a paragraph (this will happen somewhere down the line, best to start now). “Out Here” has made the rounds and returned with a pile of great feedback, yet no takers. Some pieces, the ones you feel you really need to tell, aren’t worth letting go of, and I drew the line with “Out Here.” Set a bar for yourself that you won’t compromise. If I don’t get at least 3 cents a word, it goes in the trunk until a new market pops up.
I hear Cirsova is in the midst of recording an audio-book version of issue #5 and I hope it’s well-received. Grimdark Magazine has some huge projects in the making, along with a new website that looks amazing. Watched episode 1 of American Gods and was blown away by the production value and how they really stuck to the format of the novel. Got through 10 episodes of Vikings season 4 (the rest will have to wait until my amazon account releases them for free) and couldn’t believe the great Ragnar met his end in a pit of snakes. Took a break from Mass Effect Andromeda (a bit disappointing) and am letting the X-Box cool down until another Dark Souls installment becomes available (I doubt it).
Keep reading, and writing, and listen to your inner bullfrog.
Review of Cirsova issue #5 from the folks at Tangent.
…a great article by one of my favorite short form writers T.R. Napper.