Big Publishing Milestone

The House on Concordia DriveMy urban fantasy novel The Red Eye and its prequel novelette The House on Concordia Drive (both 2014, Alliteration Ink) mark the publication of my 49th and 50th pieces of writing.

I didn’t actually realize I hit the big five-oh until I started working on some bio/promo things for querying something else. Suddenly I saw that my list had grown, and I decided to add number bullets.

The Red EyeThere it was. 49. 50. FIFTY.

For someone who used to write nonsensical (yet somehow endless) Dickensian soap operas every summer growing up, for someone who’s never quite felt “good enough” as any sort of artist (see my failed attempts as musician and painter), this is kind of huge. So even though I demur a bit and really don’t always feel like the most confident writer, I have to kind of say, “Good for me” for once.

I’ve had help. Every English teacher, from high school, college, and my M.A. program, and my colleagues in several arenas of my life certainly inspired this love of words and forcing them together into sentences and stories. I’ve had more specific help from the members of my writing group, my M.F.A. program classmates and mentors, spouse, and various helpful editors and publishers, some of whom even helped in their rejections.

Every day, I encounter something that makes me a better writer, whether it’s formal notes and edits on a story or something I read in which the author makes a particularly deft turn of phrase (or a not-so-deft one, one I then take pains not to emulate). I’ve learned from others’ success and failures, learned from others’ reactions and support and very occasionally the lack thereof, truth be told. But it’s both the acceptances and the rejections that make a piece of writing better, and I think sometimes in life it’s acceptances and rejections on a larger scale that make us better people, stronger people, more resilient people.

I was excited to figure out that I’d hit 50. A few years ago, I had a goal of trying to get 35 before I turned 36 (which I did do, but just barely). Once I stopped counting, something interesting happened. With this arbitrary goal gone, I just kept going, without real target in mind other than to keep writing and then sending things out. Once I stopped counting, I racked up more credits than when I was counting. Kind of funny how that works, huh?

The love of the craft is the goal, of course. That’s the real lesson. If I were only in this game for any reason other than the need to write stories, no matter the outcome, I would have either never started in the first place or kind of petered out after meeting that magic number. Instead, I just kept chugging away. The placement of a piece now is secondary to the thrill of really, finally getting a story into tip-top shape. Getting a full-length novel into truly tip-top shape is also paramount, which explains why The Red Eye was first due last fall but delayed a bit—I wanted it to be as perfect as I could make it more than I wanted to actually hold the thing in my hands.

When you do something for the love of it, some of the other stuff will come, too. Maybe not the way you think, the amount you think, the timing you think, but something will, and it’ll often be all the lovelier because you didn’t crave it quite so desperately but instead cherished it enough to wait until it was really meant to be.

Not gonna lie, though. Now I’m wondering if I can’t hit 60 in the not-too-distant future.

Publication News for January

My first full-length novel, The Red Eye, will be released soon from Alliteration Ink. Exact dates and details TBD, but I’m really pleased with the process, the book, the cover art, and the entire experience.

Over the past few months, I’ve been posting a lot of reflections on several pieces of horror literature. Those were part of a course I was taking in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. I’m delighted to say that my final project for that course—a horror story featuring an off-the-beaten-path monster—was recently accepted for publication in Mocha Memoir Press’ The Grotesquerie, an anthology of female horror writers. I’m very excited and especially grateful to all those who read drafts and gave me great advice on how to make it the best story it could be.

I have another release coming up this year so far, a vampire story with a twist entitled “Method Writing,” which will appear in Static Movement’s anthology Night Hunters. Fellow writers will perhaps enjoy that one. I’m also working on a prequel to The Red Eye, and again I have to give kudos to my SHU classmates and mentors for helping whip that piece into shape.

I don’t have anything else out at markets at the present time, but I’ve lately been thinking about whether one of my unpublished novels is actually urban fantasy or if it’s secretly paranormal romance. That may change what markets I pursue. I never thought of myself as a romance writer. Then again, I never thought of myself as a horror writer, and yet I’ve published over a dozen horror stories and a novella. In fact, I’ve had more horror accepted than any other genre I write, and the genre I think of as my primary (science fiction) has been my least-published to date. Much of my work straddles the line between horror and fantasy, but I’ve never actively tried to market something as primarily romance. In many ways, genres are getting fuzzier, more specialized, and less meaningful. A good story is a good story, and that’s always what I aim to write, including those elements that I feel make sense for the plot and characters. If those elements are comedic, horrific, fantastical, or romantic, then so be it. Publishers obviously think more in terms of what their readers are drawn to, of course, and therein lies the trouble with more experimental, cross-genre work.

Celebrating 60 Posts!

This is the sixtieth post I’ve made to this blog since I started it back in November of 2011, just after We Shadows Have Offended was first published. Since then, I’ve done series on National Novel Writing Month, writing and yoga, steampunk, and general writing advice. I’ve had six new short stories published (with another in press), I released three chapbook collections of short stories (some new, some old), and I secured a publisher for my first full-length novel, The Red Eye. I also began pursuing my MFA at Seton Hill University, through which I’ve met some amazing writers among both the students and faculty.

But 2011 isn’t when I became a writer, of course. At the signing/reading events for SIDEKICKS!, that was a common question: When do you begin writing? I struggled with my response. I began writing with the goal of pursuing publication as long ago as 1998 or so, and I started getting far more serious about that in 2002, the first time I did NaNoWriMo. But I’ve always written stories, going back to elementary school when I wasted stacks of paper printing out lavish epics which I would occasionally also illustrate. (I sincerely hope these never leave the confines of my parents’ garage.) I’ve also always been a reader, curled up on my butterfly-festooned bedspread devouring things ordered from the newsprint sheets of Scholastic Books. In high school, my stack of schoolbooks always had a novel teetering on top, and I’d sneak chapters of The Stand in between Crime and Punishment and Great Expectations during study hall.

To my students, I’m Methuselah, but for an author I’m still young. The career of a writer can be blessedly long and often blossoms—if it is to blossom at all—in one’s thirties. You’re no longer so young as to have nothing to say, but you still have enough optimism that you’re willing to try something so ridiculous and financially unrewarding.

Perhaps this is also why the protagonist of The Red Eye is in his mid-thirties. At the time I started that book, I was weary of YA coming-of-age stories and wanted to see what would happen when someone discovers his “chosen one” status during that oh-so-fun decade when you’re just as likely to have pimples as wrinkles. I made my protagonist a dreaded “man-child,” irresponsible and hard-drinking, but I also gave him a failed marriage, a professional full-time job, and a grown-up love story, because that’s the kind of POV I wanted to see and could relate to. I can certainly understand and appreciate the struggles of twentysomethings from observing them at work, but I’m delighted to be done with high school and wasn’t interested in revisiting it in my fiction.

Then again, maybe I’m particularly well-suited to consider writing “new adult,” that liminal stage of moving from one’s early- to mid-twenties, when you are indeed on the precipice of change but you may have already gotten a mortgage, as I see these folks every day, trying to balance school and work and sometimes even families. I’m excited to see where that genre goes in the next few years, just as I’m excited to embark on this next phase of my writing career.
Here’s to sixty more blog posts and a whole lot more fun stuff to write about.

Writing and publishing news

Just a few odds and ends of news for those of you who may not follow me on Twitter or Facebook. My urban fantasy novel The Red Eye will be published later this year by Alliteration Ink. More details on that soon. Alliteration Ink is an ENnie Award-nominated publisher of fiction and non-fiction. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a copy of Sidekicks!, the anthology they released earlier this year; my short story “Doomed” is in it, as well as a bunch of other amazing stuff you should be reading.

The Red Eye was a labor of love for me, and I’m super stoked that it’ll be my first full-length novel to see print. More to come as we get closer to release.

My short story “Method Writing” will be showing up in the new Static Movement anthology Night Hunters, publication date TBD. My short story “The Found Girl” appeared in Wordhaus on July 24.

Working on reviving the Dayton-based literary reading event, possibly at a new venue. Stay tuned for news!

In other project news, I’m working away at The Curiosity Killers (SF), The Wraithmaker (UF), and other super cool books. My short story collection Grinning Cracks is still available, so get your meaty little hands on it!

Steampunk October: The Curiosity Killers

Here we come to the end of the October celebration of steampunk. I still have more researching and work to do to get deeper into the genre, both as a writer and a fan, but it’s a work of my own that inspired this month’s entries. In the spring of 2011, I began work on what I thought would be a one-off short story entitled “The Curiosity Killers.” I hadn’t intended for it to be steampunk, I hadn’t intended for it to turn into a series or a novel, and I didn’t even really have plans beyond submitting it to a contest. Nineteen months later, I’ve created an entire futuristic, neo-Victorian  society with time travel capabilities. This landscape is not precisely post-apocalyptic: the action is set in an America that is now two distinct nations, both of which have re-steeped themselves in technology, fashion, and manner of speech more akin to 1900 than 2100. In Avon, Vermont, a small town in the New British Empire, a young man named Ben Jonson opens a travel agency. What the public doesn’t know is that his clients don’t travel in space but in time.

If you like history, typewriters, the Wright Brothers, Ripperology, descriptions of sumptuous buildings with grand fireplaces, comedy, romance, and unsolved mysteries, you might enjoy this series. Thus far, it consists of two completed stories (“The Curiosity Killers” and “Xenos”) which are included in my upcoming short story collection Grinning Cracks. A third story, “The Wright Machine,” is in the works, and ultimately I hope to turn this into a composite novel (a novel comprised of linked but mostly freestanding short stories). Fans of things like Alias, Fringe, and Doctor Who might find my worldbuilding interesting, but ultimately it’s the characters that I hope make this a work worth caring about.

For me, science fiction needs as healthy a dose of the fiction part as the science part in order to be compelling, and good fiction is static and bland if it doesn’t include engaging characters. Furthermore, time travel with a steampunk aesthetic is perhaps the most fascinating variant of this new genre, and by setting The Curiosity Killers predominantly in the near future, the baggage of accurate Victorian-era research is eliminated. This is a reimagined landscape where clockwork automatons sit alongside the remains of iPads, where mad scientists inhabit velvet-draped townhouses and political machinations have become complex and unfamiliar. And yet what permeates this world is the title quality: curiosity. Without it, humanity is doomed to fail to move forward in scientific inquiry, thereby rendering life without purpose.

For a taste of the first story, you can find it in the spring 2012 issue of the Wordriver Literary Review (http://wordriverreview.unlv.edu/). Look for Grinning Cracks coming later this fall from Dioscuri Books.

Side Notes: Projects in Progress

I’m doing research on my steampunk blog series, but in the meantime I thought it important to give a brief update on projects I have in progress. Other than the reprint of my novella, it looks to the outsider that I have nothing new going on, when in fact I do! Here’s some exciting things on the horizon for the rest of 2012 and into 2013:

  • I have three totally brand new stories coming out before the end of the year, one of which made its debut at the latest edition of Ghostlight Lit. They’re all horror tales, and yet they’re all very different. Think of this as my triptych of  vampire, werewolf, and ghost stories. Exciting stuff, if I do say so myself!
  • Two of my novels (both NaNoWriMo novel projects, I hasten to point out!) are currently under consideration with publishers. Can’t predict what will happen, but there it is. Both urban fantasy, both incredibly funny, very Whedon/Butcher-esque stuff.
  • My short story collection Grinning Cracks should still be out by the end of the year if I can find even one free hour to finish proofing final galleys.
  • I’m about thirty hours from finishing the editing process on Virginia Bower’s novel The World’s Your Jail. Once I can talk about this in more detail, you’ll understand how deeply personal a project this is. I really want to do it justice, but I also have only a few hours a week to put into it. I’d hoped this would come out by the end of 2012, but now I’m thinking the beginning of 2013 is more likely. Finishing the work on this is why I’m not doing NNWM myself this year.
  • I have a piece in a women’s fiction holiday anthology. More news on that as it happens, but this is the “literary fiction” side of the fence, all dramatic and realistic and whatnot. I know you guys are really here for the dragons and stuff, but this one is really cool, I promise!

So there you have it. Irons are in the fire! Perhaps this entire entry is just to reassure myself whenever it seems like nothing is going on, it actually is.

News and updates

It’s been a busy time lately. On July 1, I hosted another edition of Ghostlight LIT, featuring 8 Dayton, Ohio-based authors and poets in a relaxed coffeehouse setting. Like our April version of this event, this one was well-attended and a big hit. The next outing for this series will be in October and will feature a Halloween/horror theme.

My short story “Found Girl” will be appearing in a women’s fiction holiday anthology from Twenty or Less Press. More information that when I have it!

I’m writing up a storm lately, with many stories and novels in various stages of completion. I’m also very close to the release of my first full-length short story collection, Grinning Cracks. Unlike my chapbooks, this collection will be available in both print and ebook editions, for both Kindle and Nook. Look for more information on that soon!

I’m still working on editing Virginia Bower’s novel The World’s Your Jail, hopefully still coming out sometime in 2012 from Dioscuri Books, but I’ve lately had some very serious computer issues that may delay this slightly. The good news is I’m probably going to get a big system upgrade and learn the importance of making many, many backups in multiple places. The bad news is this may all take a while to get up and running, so bear with me. Let’s all take a moment of silence for my MacBook Pro, which the folks at my local repair shop kindly determined was “vintage.”