Tag Archives: short stories

Scrappy Doo.

Yesterday, I was 3800 words in to the short story I started Labor Day weekend, around halfway through and had notes for the rest of it, when I realized I was doing it wrong.  The plot was fine, the main character was all right, but the scenes were all wrong, and I had her interacting with the wrong people.  Looking at it, I could tell that I couldn’t fix it by revising; I had to scrap the whole thing. I doubt there are two words together in the first draft that I can really use.

So I junked it. I moved the original draft into the “Research” folder in the Scrivener project for the story and started a new draft from scratch. I got more than 1,000 words written today, and probably would have made more progress if I hadn’t started to come down with a godawful headache; luckily, it receded somewhat and I was functional for at least part of the evening.  I’m going to try to finish the whole story in a week, the right way this time. We’ll see.

Spring Sunday Stats #9: Five Weeks To Go.

I realize it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, but I’m insanely busy at work, the last days of school have lept us hopping, and I’m staring at 40 like a deer in the frakking headlights.  In five weeks, I turn 40, and I’m trying to figure out whether I qualify for Social Security yet.

Meanwhile, did I mention that my dad is finally retiring at the end of the month?  He’s 72, and has worked 6 days a week since roughly the Kennedy administration.  You can bet I don’t complain about my hours too much when I’m talking to him.

I’m going to have to keep this short — the kids just got back from playing with the neighbors (from what I can tell, the younger boy from across the street hit Junior in the ass with a whiffle bat, which pissed him off, so he and Unfocused Girl took their sidewalk chalk and came home).  Next up, stats and the usual whining.

On Writing: Project Hometown now stands at 8,640 words, which means I’ve written 4,218 words in it since my last post.  I also submitted the revised and greatly reduced “Jimmies” (now down to around 3400 words from 5200) to a semi-pro online market.  The editor is posting some of her comments on slush submissions on Twitter, which is simultaneously fascinating and unnerving.

I have to admit that the outline I did for Project Hometown over the winter has been an enormous help, and is largely responsible for me being able to make any progress at all.  I want to recommend the Snowflake Method again to anyone who is interested in putting together a detailed story outline and character information before starting a new project.  After writing Meet the Larssons with nothing more than a few pages of notes I threw together just before I started and having so much trouble with the first draft and then the revisions, I’m very happy with the results from outlining first.  The extra work up front is really paying off for me now.

On Running: Pretty good day today.  The weather was ugly – gray, cool, drizzly – but not actually that bad for a long run.  I did 10 miles in 1:27:08, which is better than I’ve done through most of the spring, although not as good as last week.  I had two mid-week runs (one intervals, one not) on the treadmill at the gym over lunch, for a total of 18.86 miles for the week.  Not perfect — I’m shooting for 20+ per week — but considering what the last few weeks have been like, perfectly acceptable.

Last week my Sunday time for 10 miles was even better:  1:24:06, on a beautiful, sunny day, warm but not too warm.  I’m working on improving my stretching and easing back on the painkillers, which seems to be working.  The ITB pain in my hips that was bothering me all through March, April, and most of May hasn’t come back except for the occasional twinge, which is good.  My hamstrings are still incredibly tight, but I’m working on them.

Junior’s looking for me, so it’s time to go.

Spring Sunday Stats #8: Staring Over the Edge at 40.

It’s Memorial Day, in memory of the soldiers, sailors, marines, and others who have died for our country, including the 4300 Americans who have died in Iraq.

My father came in from NYC on Thursday and stayed until lunchtime today, his longest visit since I moved to Chicago for college in 1987.  We had a great time; the highlight of the weekend was the long afternoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  He’s retiring at the end of June, and I hope that this is just the first of many longer trips.

I had a very frustrating week (starting with the Sunday/Monday Frequest Flyer Fail), but seriously, what else is new?  The work piled on, and I seemed utterly unable to get anything actually accomplished, just felt like I was on a treadmill from hell.  Thankfully, it was a short week.  I worked at home on Friday, and managed to get a few open loops closed out before the weekend.  This post is late enough, so let’s go straight to the stats.

On Writing: Between work and my father’s visit, I wrote next to nothing, just 150 words in Project Hometown on the train home from work on Thursday.  I did write my piece of a viral story yesterday, maybe 200 words, which was fun.  I’m not sure if today counts as part of the past week, but since it’s a holiday, I’ll claim it; I wrote 362 words in Project Hometown this afternoon.  The total is now 4,422 words.  I think that’s far enough along to post a meter.

I’ve been sitting on “Jimmies,” and need to get it out.  I also had an idea for a new short story last week — a time travel story I like much better than the last time travel idea I had — and may take a shot at that sometime soon as well.

On Running: 20.5 miles for the week, best in months.  I dealt with my frustration by running early Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, even though I was exhausted.  Not long runs, just 3.75 miles each, but that got me 11.25 miles during the week, plus 9.25 miles on Sunday at a respectable 1:19:32, or 8:35 min/mile.  A great long run, much better than the last few weeks.

This weekend, I registered for the Men’s Health Urbanathlon in Chicago this October, a 10.5 mile race with a handful of obstacles thrown in to make it interesting (climbing over a wall, running up and down the stairs at Soldier Field, scrambling over parked taxis, etc.).  This is the third year the race has been held in Chicago; I’ve registered each time, but both of the last two years have had to blow it off for work.

This year I was confronted with something new:  For the first time, when confronted with the question “Age on race day” I had to answer “40.”  In seven weeks, I’ll be in a whole new age group.    So long, 35-39!  Luckily, Mike is doing the Urbanathlon too, so if I collapse on the course someone will notice and call the Siren.

I also signed up for the World Wide Half Marathon, part of the World Wide Festival of Races, also in October.  This is a virtual race series — everyone runs on the same weekend, but separately – which started with the Half Marathon in 2006 as an idea spread through the Phedippidations podcast.  It’s a lot of fun.

What I haven’t done yet is register for one of the nearby half marathons in June. Gotta get off my ass and deal with that.

That’s enough of this. I’m going to watch Lego Cake or Death again.  We’ve watched it about 10 times this weekend with the kids.

A Viral Tale of Revenge! Or Whatever.

Freshhell tagged me for a viral story, and I’m going to tag some of you. Before we get to my contribution, I’ve cut an pasted the rules and the story so far, with links to the participating authors.

The Rules:

Here’s what I would like to do. I want to create a story that branches out in a variety of different, unexpected ways. I don’t know how realistic it is, but that’s what I’m aiming for. Hopefully, at least one thread of the story can make a decent number of hops before it dies out.

If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it’s okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that’s five interesting threads the story spins off into.

Not a requirement, but something your readers would appreciate: to help people trace your own particular thread of the narrative, it will be helpful if you include links to the chapters preceding yours.”

The Story:

The ground crunched beneath my feet. Besides my noisy footsteps, I heard only the sound of the gentle crackling fire behind me. Its faint orange light lazily revealed my immediate surroundings. Beyond the glow, there was total blackness. I whistled. I took the small rock I had been carrying and whipped it away from me, expecting a thud, crack or plop — but a soft yelp of a cry answered. (Splotchy)

“Crap! I forgot all about Monster,” I realized. “I must be drunker than I thought,” I spoke aloud to no one in particular, though an owl answered my drunken slur. Ever since my neighbors have been giving me grief for the way Monster chases their cats and poops in their lawn, I haven’t felt comfortable staying in my house. I’m pretty sure my landlady is thinking about evicting me, so I’ve decided to lay low for a while.

To the surprise of no one… (Freida Bee)

The night turned darker. A storm blew in. It was, in fact, a dark and stormy night. Too drunk to worry about Monster’s rock-inflicted head wound, I stumbled back to the campfire, where I found the ghosts of John Fante and Charles Bukowski roasting hot dogs, drinking whiskey and singing sad songs about women. The ghost of Fante whispered in my ear, tales of love and loss, and I found myself walking slowly down the trail to the river, where I suddenly found myself…(Lass)

Falling down an embankment. Instead of rolling into the river, I landed on what felt like a raft. I crawled around it, the storm pelting down on me, adhering my thin clothes to my body like a second, very wet, skin, and discovered that it was indeed a raft. I could feel the huge humps of the logs (smooth and barkless, unlike Monster, the cur!) that had been lashed together with a waxy hemp. A pretty decent job, from the looks of it. Not that I could see anything; the storm had rendered the night blacker than the farthest corner of a monster-filled closet. If I could find where it was tethered to the shore, I could cut it loose, leave this place and all these drunken hallucinations for good. Hell, I could even…..(FreshHell)

My bit:

… wreak my terrible vengeance on the people who had forced me into hiding in this crummy town, so small it didn’t merit a point on the map, so pointless that it didn’t even have a name.  The farmers who fought the surrounding land for a living just called it Town; the townies didn’t call it anything except “this shithole” or, if they were ambitious or lucky enough to leave, “that shithole.”

I had come to this shithole after running out on an arrest warrant back home in River.  I brought Monster, even though being so … distinctive, he made it harder to hide; I couldn’t just leave him behind.  The crooked judge who signed the warrant, the weaselly sheriff who swore out the complaint against me, and most particularly old man Berringer; I’ll get them all.

My plan unfolded before me, surprisingly simple.  With this raft, I would simply float down the filthy, slow-moving river to Springfield.  The backyards of both the judge and Berringer each extended down to the river; taking care of them would be easy.  The sheriff would be harder; even if he weren’t on duty, his home was on the other end of town.

No matter.  I’ll figure it out when the time comes.  They’ll pay for framing me for…

Tagged: GypsyScarlett, Ralfast, Chad, Jenifer, Amy.  No obligation on your part, except that if you don’t participate I’m told that bad luck will befall me within seven days.

Can’t believe I left off J.C.  Montgomery and G.L. Drummond, so I’m tagging them now.

Writing and Getting Paid For It.

I’ve gotten very little done on any of my personal projects in recent weeks.  Really, since the AWP Conference in February, I don’t think I’ve gotten any further in the Manuscript Slog through Meet the Larssons.  I did outline more in Project Hometown — I now have a spreadsheet with the first 25 scenes laid out, which covers all of Act One, for those of you who believe in the three act novel structure — but haven’t touched it in a couple of weeks.

The primary reason for all this is that I’m working my ass off at the day job, which, as I’ve said before, is often a night and weekend job, too.  Ordinarily when I’m this busy, it’s because of one big project; this time, it’s because a number of projects have heated up at once.  I’m doing fine, but it has required a little more proactive time-management than I’ve needed the last couple of months.

So I’m doing plenty of writing.  I knocked out six pages of scintillating prose in less than two hours this morning, and I am 100% certain that my payment will be made by direct deposit on schedule.  I also talked through edits on a 40-page piece with a co-author, and made significant headway on the first draft of a more substantial work.  On the downside, it was all non-fiction (yes, I’m sure), and all of it is client work.  All of it will be paid for, it will all have my name on it (albeit at the end instead of the beginning), and at least some of it has the potential to end up with a slightly larger audience than the typical readership of this blog, so I don’t mean to complain.  I’m just offering it as an excuse, even though I suspect I’m the only one who thinks I need one. In any case, if I haven’t been commenting on your blog lately or you’ve been wondering where I’ve been or why my page and word-count meters in the sidebar haven’t budged in weeks, that’s why.

I’ve got a meeting of my novelists’ support discussion group on Sunday.  They already think I’m the least serious writer in the room (there’s a reason for that; but since I’m the only male in the group, I think they keep me around just to add a different perspective).  I hope I can spend enough time this weekend reviewing what I have done so that I sound like I at least have a WIP when we meet.

What else since the last time?  I think the only other writing-related news is that “Jimmies” got rejected again.  This time, though, the rejection was personal, with significant, easy-to-understand comments about the story and why the editor didn’t buy it (including that the editor thought it read like a YA story, which the ezine doesn’t publish).  Once I get through this patch at work, I’m going to reread the story with the rejection letter in mind.  I’ll try to edit with the comments in mind, and then I’m going to look for a YA short story market.  It’s worth a shot.

There’s still time to send me cookies (homemade chocolate chip or oatmeal scotchies are the best) or single malt scotch (I’m partial to The Macallan 12 y.o.) before I give out my allotted eight Proximidade Awards, although you should remember that the award is for those who do not seek self-aggrandizement, so be tactful.

Itchy Fingers and Rejection.

I came out of the AWP conference pretty jazzed about Meet the Larssons and Project Hometown.  I jotted down half a dozen good ideas to incorporate into the revision of MTL, and at least that many ideas for Hometown.  Since the end of the conference, however, I haven’t done anything on either project.

Some of that was because I wanted to spend some time with the Siren and the kids, and some of was about being a little burned out after three days thinking about almost nothing but writing.  But some of it, I have to admit, was about screwing around on Twitter and Facebook and other places on the internet (or, as our kids call it, “teh stoopid internet,” because it conks out so often).  Tonight it was a combination of screwing around with a new toy and doing real bill-paying work.

But tomorrow, as we all know, is another day.  After the kids go to bed, I plan to get at least an hour in on Meet the Larssons.  As for Project Hometown, I think I’m ready to start the scene-by-scene spreadsheet in the Snowflake Method of outlining. I’ll try to get going on that over the weekend.

During the conference, I met people who had been working on their novels for years, so I don’t think I’m going to beat myself up too much for taking a few extra days off.  But my fingers are starting to itch from lack of output, and tweets, status updates, and blog posts aren’t going to cut it much longer.

I received another couple of rejection slips recently, by the way, for TTB and “Mr. President.”  “Jimmies” is now the only story I have out there.  I think both of those stories need to be trunked for a while, to give them (or me) time to get some distance.  I also want to consider getting back to “Jamie’s Story,” which I stopped working on last month and has lingered, unfinished, more or less in the gloom ever since.  What can I say?  It’s a tough business.

Winter Sunday Stats #7: Watching the Ads, Having an Argentine Malbec.

… because I’m an effete liberal snob.  Actually, I’ve enjoyed the game a lot more in the last couple of years since we got the HDTV; I do love the Super Bowl ads, though.  I’m very curious to see how they change this year, considering our current high-speed train trip to economic armageddon. If I had to pick a team, I’d root for the Steelers.  First, all of America is Pittsburgh now, given the economy.

Second, I’m not going to cheer for any team that never plays home games in the snow.

On to the stats:

On Writing: Not much accomplished this week, due to massive amounts of work for my day (and night) job.  I got a few pages further on the revisions of Meet the Larssons, up to page 208.  “Jimmies” was rejected not once but twice — one market had it for six weeks, the second for less than 24 hours (love the markets with the fast turnaround) — and is now back out on submission again.  I try not to get too wrapped up in the short story submissions; it’s a cold cruel world out there, and editors of even small webzines receive far more manuscripts than they could ever accept, no matter how good they are.  Still, I’m particularly fond of “Jimmies,” and I think it’s the best short story I’ve written so far.  More than anything else, I feel like it deserves a home.  I suppose I could just post it here, but that will be my last resort.

I also made the mistake of typing out a 1200-word summary of a post-apocolyptic science fiction novel.  I’ve put a lot of effort into outlining Project Hometown, and expect that to be my next novel when I get further on the revisions to MTL, but this other one — I’ll call it Project Werewolf, even though it isn’t about werewolves — looks like fun.  It’s the shiny new object.  Pretty.

On Running: Today it was warm enough to run outside, which was wonderful (even though my winter running gear doesn’t fit quite as well as it did this time last year).  I took it slowly because of the ice that was still on the ground, but still managed 7.12 miles in 64 minutes (8:59 m/m) — not what I’d like to do, not even what I’ve been doing on the treadmill lately, but reasonable for my first run outside in over a month, especially considering the ice, stoplights, etc.  My mileage for last week was just over 20 miles, which is where I want it to be regularly, at least until half-marathon season.  Two of my mid-week runs were in San Diego along the harbor, which beats staring out the window on the treadmill hands down.  All in all, a pretty good running week.

On the iPod: I’m still working my way through Scott Sigler‘s Ancestor — just two episodes left.  I picked up Infected at the bookstore this week, figuring Scott’s given me enough free entertainment.  I haven’t listened to much in the way of other podcasts this week while I’m listening to the audiobook.  I have noticed that I haven’t received a new episode of Escape Pod in my iTunes feed since January 9.  Usually the editor/host, Steve Eley, puts out a new episode every week, and based on the download numbers in his last metacast, EP has the second or third largest circulation of any science fiction magazine (including print).  There’s no information on the website about a hiatus, and several of the pages are disabled, including the forums. Steve took a hiatus last fall, and gave advance notice in the feed.  Since there wasn’t any mention in the last episode and there’s nothing on the site, I assume this wasn’t planned, and I hope he’s all right.

Final Note: Just saw the commercial for the new Star Trek prequel.  My shouted “Yes!” startled the children.