Putting Up or Shutting Up

Illustration of a scribe writing
Image via Wikipedia

All right, so my buddy Sherri challenged me – rightfully – to basically put up or shut up.

She’s not the only one.  My beloved wife said the same thing in a different way.  She wondered aloud how I could overcome my fear of rejection.

Annie said something similar when I struggled to get my kiriban prize started.  (Thank you, Annie, if I haven’t said so already.)

Sherri, though, was the first one who pointed out that I’m not afraid of rejection.  I’m not afraid of hearing harsh things about my work.  I’ve come to a place where I’m able to stand on my ability.  I’ve pulled enough books off the shelves at B&N or Borders and found them severely lacking.  I’ve seen enough crap in print to know, even if I’m rejected in the most cruel terms, I don’t have to believe it.  That’s only one person’s opinion, and not necessarily reflective of the masses.

So, my wife poses, if that’s not the reason you’re balking at submission – what IS the reason?

I don’t know.  I have no answer.  Part of me feels I don’t have anything to offer, for one.  I don’t have things written which fit the specs of “short story” for one thing.  Most of my “short” works end up blossoming into novellas.  I hate that, for the record, but it is what it is.  And while I have a few pieces I’m really proud of — “Remember Me”, for one, and “Getting Away from it All” – I don’t know where I can get them in print.  They’re long – almost 20K each, if I recall.

But is that a good excuse?  I have a couple at least that are under 6,000 words, and I have at least one under 4,000 words.  I don’t know how many places take ‘em that long, and I don’t know how many paying markets there are for my stuff, but … why aren’t I looking into it?

Hm.  That’s the question.

Well, I guess not having an excuse can’t be an excuse any more.  So, I put it to you: Is this an indication I need to take the next step?  Am I now ready to move to the next echelon and shoot for a small part of my dream?  (Just FYI, if I could sit around and write short stories all the time and make a living doing it, believe me I would; I enjoy writing them more than novel-length work.)

Sound off, y’all.  I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Updates on Life

Cover of "In Our Time"
Cover of In Our Time

I don’t have a topic about which to post today, so I thought I’d do a brief run-down on what’s happening with me at this point in my so-called life.

Let’s see.

First, the job front.  Nothing.  Well, not entirely nothing, I guess.  I had a spirit-lifting call from a recruiter today about a potential job.  A medical proofreader, whatever the dickens that is.  The good news is, I got the call.  The bad news is, it’s for a local (large) company here that doesn’t think highly of me.  They have their reasons; I don’t think they’re valid ones, but my opinion on that is a moot point.  Still, that’s better than no calls at all.  Which is what I’ve gotten so far.

I’m reading Ernest Hemingway‘s collection of short stories In Our Time.  Now, I’ve been told ol’ Ernie’s the father of modern American prose, and that he, in fact, changed literature forever with his short, tight sentences and clippy style.  He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Impressive.  Except … it’s not.  The stories aren’t … stories, exactly.  They’re vignettes.  Snapshots of his characters doing pretty mundane things.  Boring.  My beloved actually used the description “sucks” to describe them.  (I read her one aloud to get her input, because I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I thought Hemingway was … well, sucky.)  Now, to get a full flavor of Ernie’s work, I need to read something like The Old Man and the Sea, which I did read in high school back in the dark ages.  And I might want to take on A Farewell to Arms before I form an opinion.  Fact is, though, based on his short stories, I don’t want to even try something novel-length.  Time will show, I guess.

Let’s see — what else?  Oh, the NFL players lost at sea remain lost at sea.  Nick Schuyler was found clinging to the boat about 35 miles offshore of Tampa, but his three companions remain missing (as of Monday afternoon when I wrote this).  I wonder how much attention this would receive if they weren’t minor celebrities?  I hope it wouldn’t be any different.  And for the record, lost at sea’s a lousy, scary, lonely way to go.  I feel for them and their families.

Mm — not much else going on right now.  Anythng else I’ve got happening can probably be summed up in a Tweet on Twitter.  If you’re interested in following me, I’m DarcKnyt there too.

God bless, all.

-JDT-

More About Dreaming

Once Dreaming
Image by Ekler via Flickr

Lately, I’ve been having strange dreams, which may or may not be responsible for my exhaustion level in the morning.

The other night I dreamed I was part of some 17th or 18th century militia group.  We sailed (those ships were awesome, don’t you think?) to some bay or cove, disembarked, lined up for inspection or roll call or whatever, and then began a series of … well, games, for lack of a better term.  We had musket rifles, flint locks I guess, and those funny white pants and sissy shoes, but not the snazzy jackets.  Instead we had those great, almost pirate-type shirts, and the three-cornered hats.  Ah, those were the days.

I have no frickin’ idea what that was all about, if anything.

Before that, I had a dream that involved a loooooong plank, like a piece of dimensional lumber, but it spanned a ravine, or crevasse of some kind.  On the other side was a shop, and a lady there who seemed friendly.  I can’t remember many of the details.  Somehow, that dream evolved into something about a tire on my car.  That tire, however, was shaped like an elongated gallon milk jug, sans handle, and fitted into the rim, a conical sort of affair at the bottom of said elongated jug.  The air filler nozzle thing (anyone know what that’s called??) sat at the top of the jug, on the corner, and if I remember correctly (don’t bank on that), there were four such.  I remember part of the dream involving squeezing that weird tire (don’t ask me how a car’s supposed to roll on that) and hearing it gasp and wheeze as I mashed the air out of it.  A problem with my tire.  Not the least of which, I would say, is the shape.

But dreams are weird, aren’t they?

Anyway, I’ve been waking up more exhausted than normal.  Like I haven’t really slept.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve gone to bed as always, stayed in bed for long periods, but wake up feeling unrested and tired.  I go through my day relying on coffee and food to keep me awake until I can accomplish what I need to (my job hunt takes about 15 minutes these days — ugh) and can go to bed again.  Bizarre.

My wife has fantastic, comforting dreams of guardian angels and messages of hope.  I dream about little girls and concentration camp-like train trips in cattle cars which turn out to be dreams, except the person dreaming the dream is moments away from death in a bus accident.  (I wrote a short story on that called “Field Trip” if you’re interested.)  I dream about staircases that lead to a heavy, riveted metal door marked “Do Not Enter”.  (Another story.)  I dream about raging oceans tearing wooden vessels to scraps and splinters and flashing lightning and shattering thunder.  I dream about dogs vomiting bones that vets, doctors and zoologists can’t identify.

I dream of dust-colored figures with almond-shaped, black wet eyes, who are wrapped in rotting gauze, and come out of mist-cloaked beach heads with knobby, arthritic claws, reaching for the warmth of a bonfire.  I have no idea who the bonfire belongs to, but there are three of those dessicated brownish-gray wraiths drifting in their tattered, cobweb-hoods out of the fog.

I have no idea what’s going on, but I’ve got some good story ideas in there.

I don’t know where my dreams are coming from, what’s prompting them or where they’ll lead.  I just wish I could capture them — even if they’re just snippets — on film.  I’d make a big splash on YouTube, I can tell you.  And these aren’t the vague, black-and-white images of most dreams, either.  These are vivid, Technicolor dreams.  I can remember the revolutionary militia dream’s colors — the gravel pathway winding over the grass, which is that bright green of early autumn; I can see the dark pitch-sealed bulkheads of the ship, and its rich mahogany dressings, gleaming brass fixtures, and ivory canvas sails snapping and fluttering in the stiff ocean breeze.  I can feel the walnut gun stock, smell the powder of the wadding, the oil-and-metal smell, like in a mechanic’s shop or an auto repair garage, faint on the gun’s barrel and mechanism.  Very true, very real, very tactile.  And yet, a dream.

What about you?  What are your dreams like?  Have they changed that you’ve noticed?  Have they become different as you’ve gotten older, wiser, more cynical (if that’s true)?  Have a favorite dream?

-JDT-

Writing, Writing, Writing

Okay, so I’ve been doing some writing lately.  Big deal, right?

Well, sort of.  See, I promised a story to someone and I started the project, but I haven’t finished it.  I did, however, have the foresight to break the piece into four (so far) separate parts, so I could post one part over the course of the week.  If you’re interested you can check either my deviantART page, or my fiction blog to see it.

The point of doing little stories like this is two-fold.  First, to force myself to write.  I have to write.  I have to.  And originally, the idea was to force my hand to keep moving so I could get motivated to write my book, which languishes yet on my hard drive, abandoned, lonesome, mournful.  That obviously didn’t work, but it did keep me writing, keep me growing.

The second thing the li’l stories were supposed to do is give me opportunity to practice new things.  I could play with new styles and voices and see what I could do in other genres, if possible.  From this was born “Sharkey”, which I love (though no one else seems to as much as I do).  Yes, they were supposed to be short stories, not novellas, but most of them turned out that way.

Well, since I’ve started this one, I’ve discovered that I don’t really … like the story.  I mean, I don’t hate it, but I never got blasted with the bolt of inspiration I kept waiting for.  I feel a bit like I’m forcing it because, while the original idea came easily enough, the solidification of that idea isn’t forthcoming, and that makes me nervous.

The other thing I’ve discovered lately is my propensity for overdoing everything when I write.  I carry my banter on too long and bore the reader, I carry the dialect thing too far and force the reader to translate, I describe the setting a bit too much and again, the reader’s bored.  I go one step too far.  Adverbs — another example.  I decide to eliminate them from my writing and I literally don’t have any at all in my prose, not even one.  (I’m speaking strictly of the “-ly” adverbs here, not adverbs in general, just so you know.)

A weakness to attack.  At the same time I don’t want to go too far the other way and leave my descriptions too spartan, my dialog too bland and flavorless, my banter too curt and fake and clipped.  Balance.  It’s always been a chore for me, whether in writing, smoking, relationships, eating, or any other area of my life.

What weaknesses do you have to confront in your writing, and are those things reflected in other aspects of your life?

Sound off, y’all.

God bless,
-JDT-

All original content copyright DarcKnyt, 2009
All rights reserved

Other Horror Flavors

deliverance
Image by moonshake via Flickr

I had a brief comments exchange with a talented young writer over on my deviantART page recently.  She was amused by my use of the term “redneck horror” to describe a genre in which the horror takes place in an extreme rural setting, be that bayous, backwoods, open barren plains or deserts, great rolling prairies or the deep south.

She said she always thought of it as “Southern horror” – but that’s really too narrow, too limiting for what the genre entails.  The horror takes place in some setting which allows for rednecks, whether that’s in rural Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, New York, Oregon, Washington, Idaho(rror), etc.  Doesn’t matter where.  Backwoods England will work as well as chigger-country USA.  There are rednecks everywhere, and they can and do occupy every recess of land where urban or suburban sprawl hasn’t pushed them out, and they can be horrible.

I don’t mean literally, of course, I mean literarily.  But the fact remains that any sufficiently woodsy or backwoodsy area can be the setting for great redneck horror, a genre some of us horror writers forget about.  Which is interesting, when I stop to consider how often it’s slammed in our faces.  Classics like The Hills Have Eyes or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre come to mind, but even good ol’ Jason Voorhees ran amok in a rural area before storming the rest of the known universe.  And, who can forget the granddaddy redneck horror of them all, Deliverance? Huh?  I mean, c’mon — Deliverance.  ‘Nuff said.

For many of us, the city is horrifying enough, with its dark alleys, smoked glass and steel, dark recesses in walls and alcoved, shadowy doorways, and empty, rotting constructs.  It’s full of seedy neighborhoods full of seedy people, so if we throw more atop that dung heap, no one bats an eye.

The same is true of going to the other extreme, too, but those of us less familiar with the sidewalk-less, open ditched, tree canopied life of slower pace, tobacco wads and rocking chairs on creaking porches don’t reach for that flavor of spice often enough to season our work.  Why should we think to?  I mean, we’re always taught to write what you know, right?  But think about that: who’d write only what they know?  Who knows anything about being a vampire, or werewolf, or zombie?  That doesn’t seem to stop us from writing about it either; same with being a fairy (faery), or ogre, or orc or whatever the hell else you’ve got running in your imagination.  If we only write what we know, we stunt ourselves.

Some fantastic stuff has been written in the redneck horror genre, though, for those who dare plumb the depths.  It’s been around forever.  As for me, I think a redneck horror piece – even if it’s only a short – is way overdue, and something I look forward to doing.  It’s a refreshing change from the ordinary settings of my normal work, and gives me a chance to stretch memory and descriptive muscles I haven’t exercised in a long time.  It’s a challenge, it’s a new wrinkle in my style, and it’s fun.

And after that, I think a short story – because I can’t see doing anything novel-length that way – a western horror story.  Why not?

How ‘bout you?  What new wrinkles and niches and facets and rips and tears are there in your chosen area of writing?  What new, exciting things are you eager to try to stretch, grow, expand?  And if you’re not a writer, what would you enjoy reading as a change of pace from the plethora of vampires in silk clothes and opulent marbled mansions or wizards in dank dungeons and damp towers?

Shout out, y’all.

-JDT-