Category Archives: author

A funny story.

So, a few years ago I moved to a new town. Sometime in the first week or so that I was there I found a nice little bookstore/coffee house with good lighting and relatively cheap drinks where I could sit for hours working on my stories.

Eventually I met the owner, a nice guy.  We got to talking and I found out that he also ran a small press.  I told him that I was a writer and had submitted a lot of books to small presses over the years, but I never had much luck with it.  I told him my theory that there was very little carry over between the skills associated with writing a book, and the skills associated with writing query letters and synopses and everything associated with getting a book published.

From there we got onto the subject of bad query letters.

One of the ones that came to mind for him actually hadn’t started out that bad.  The story seemed like it could be interesting, but after the first paragraph or so it had kind of meandered off point and the writer had kind of started complaining about his life and how hard it was to get any response from anybody.

The letter sounded vaguely familiar.

Several years later, while visiting home, I was digging through some of my old files and low and behold, I came across an old submission letter I’d written to a small press in that particular town… that’s right, I wrote a letter so bad that years later and hundreds of miles away, I got to hear somebody complaining about it.

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Sleep Schedule

I have to say, I’ve hated every job I ever had.  Even the ones that I liked.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a somewhat eclectic resume including such jobs as an animal caretaker, typist, farmer, and usher.  Some of my jobs just sucked.  Bad pay, annoying work, rude coworkers, bad boss, some of my past jobs have had absolutely nothing redeeming about them whatsoever. But I’ve had a few that were pretty good, objectively speaking.  My last job was working for people that liked me, with people who respected me, doing something I was pretty good at.

Most days I still hoped for some accident that would lay me up for a couple of months just so I wouldn’t have to be at work.

It wasn’t that I’m lazy… I mean, I am lazy, but that wasn’t what this was about.  I’ve known for most of my life that I wanted to be a writer, so every job I’ve had that wasn’t directly related to that felt like a waste of time.

But one thing I will say about all those jobs, they kept me on a schedule.

It’s 8:50 in the morning, and I haven’t gone to bed yet.  When I don’t have something specific forcing me to keep to a normal sleep schedule, my mornings and evenings just kind of… slide.  They slip a few minutes here, a half an hour there.  Suddenly I find myself waking up in the middle of the afternoon and working on my writing until the sun comes up.

Now, give me a couple years and I (hopefully) won’t be complaining about that.  Working at night is fantastic.  Something about being up when everyone else is out just makes you feel… creative as hell.

But I’m not to the point that I can do that yet.  I may not have a job, but I still have responsibilities, I have phones to answer, I have things to do.  I take care of some odd jobs for friends and family, and they don’t much care for me trying to take care of that in the middle of the night.

So now I’ve got to choose, I can try to force myself to go to sleep earlier and earlier, or try to stay awake later and later.  You’d think that schedules would slide back into place as easily as they slide out of it. You’d be wrong.  Sleep is a fickle mistress, and there’s nothing she likes more than to tease you to death.

Alright, I’m going to stay up one more hour, just one more.

If I had any caffeine in the house it wouldn’t be nearly so hard to pull off, but I just ran out and I don’t want to drive to the store when I’m this tired.

Training your muse

One of the interesting bits of trying to become a professional writer seems to be figuring out how to train my muse.

I remember, when I was much younger, back when I knew that I wanted to be a writer, but had my entire lifetime to figure out what that actually meant, I would go days, weeks, sometimes even months, without getting any real writing done.  Sometimes I tried to force myself because I knew how much pleasure it gave me to sit down and watch the words roll out onto the page, but if the muse wasn’t whispering into my ear, nothing happened.

At a certain point, however, I realized that if I wanted to write professionally, I needed to be able write regularly as well.  Figuring out how to pull that off was a long, hard process.  And I mean long and hard.  Like that was of my major focuses for over a decade.

It can be done, as it turns out, you can teach yourself to write every day, although I have to admit that there are some days when I have to carve the words onto the page with a poorly balanced chisel and a two ton mallet, and other days when I seem to be able to splash chapters into place without breaking a sweat.

But as I try to make this transition, from amateur to pro, I find myself butting heads with the muse over something else altogether.

Content.

When I was a kid I had a bitch of a time actually finishing a story.  Oh, I had ideas.  I had oodles and oodles of idea.  I had ideas about aliens and machines and magicians and spaceships and other dimensions and superheroes and… well, for the sake of brevity I suppose we can stop there.

I had ideas a-plenty, so when I sat down in front of the computer, and when the muse was willing to lend me her time, I just let her pick the topic.  And off we would go!  A whirlwind adventure describing some alien planet or the strange laws that would exist a hundred years in the future.  Eventually I would find myself in front of a wall that I couldn’t see an easy way around, so I’d save the document and start a new one.  Round and round and round we went.  There were times, growing up, when I had a hundred plus stories started, and not one of them finished.  And that was fine, because what was I going to do with them if I finished them anyways?

Now, unfortunately, I have people who are waiting for things.

Ideally, it won’t be long until those people are my adoring public.  Or maybe my friendly public.  Or mildly interested public. But for now, it’s my beta readers, editors, an the people who want to work on projects with me.

Unfortunately my muse is loathe to give up her ability to channel surf in my brain.  Yes, I need to get a copy of book two to my editor, yes I have a friend in hawaii who wants to see the first couple pages of that project we’ve been talking about.  Yes, I have a lot on my plate.  But she just had an idea for that superhero story we’d been playing around with a few years back.  Let’s focus on THAT!

Well, what’s a boy to do, except lock the door, drink a bunch of caffeine, and start trying to train his muse all over again.  Stupid muse.  God I love her.

Those little gems

One of my favorite feelings, as a writer, is when I’m reading something I wrote a while back and I come across a section that I don’t remember, but love.  I’m working on book two of the corpse-eater saga, which I wrote a month or two back, and then set down for a bit.  I’m actually kind of stoked to find large swaths of text that I think are pretty danged okay.

I’m not saying that it’s the best writing I’ve ever read, but there are bits here and there that I just don’t remember writing, or thinking, and which do their job perfectly.

Sometimes it’s just a little bit of narration that uses an unusual, but appropriate analogy.  Sometimes it’s a section of dialogue that seems to fit the characters just perfectly.

I know that, as a writer, I still have work to do.  I need to try to improve my writing each and every time.  I need to learn to be open to new things.  I need to read more and write harder.  But it’s nice to see that the work I’ve done has led me somewhere.  I’ve made progress.  I am better today than I was yesterday, and I hope to be better tomorrow than I am today.

Just wanted to share that.