Sorry, but this is not why I write. And I can’t change that.

Okay, it’s been a while since an update. It’s not like I’ve been completely lazy. We have a lot of family and personal things going on around here this summer and it has eaten into a lot of my time. I mean, I haven’t been camping this summer (much) so that should give you some idea how busy I’ve been. (And it doesn’t look like I will be going camping until September at the earliest.)

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. What I want to talk about is a decision I have made about my writing.

I have two or three more stories to get out on Argo Navis Publishing before WorldCon in Chicago this year. That’s cool and easily doable. But after that I think I am going to turn away from self-publishing for a while. If not forever.

I have many reasons for this, and it’s not because I haven’t sold any stories. Actually, I’ve done better than I ever thought. No, it’s because I don’t like it. I don’t like the feel of it. I don’t like the fact it takes away a shit-ton of ordinary writing time away from me.

This decision has not been made overnight. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been struggling with this, probably way more than I should. But I’m a writer first and not a publisher. It’s not me. It’s not who I am. I don’t feel comfortable in that role at all. Some people do, and that’s good for them and I wish them well. But we’re talking about me.

I am a writer. I am not a publisher. Nothing I can do will change how I view and define myself, and how I have always viewed and defined myself.

It takes away too much time. Writing is more precious to me than self-publishing stories. That’s probably just me but I can’t help the way I feel. I can’t live or do something that goes against my basic nature. It’s not for me. It’s not. It’s just not.

Not to mention I’ve got so much else to concentrate on right now I feel overwhelmed. I don’t know if I will continue writing. Though I suspect I will. Maybe I will chuck it all and drive a truck for a living. My father did. It was good enough for him even though he and I were estranged. Then the new novel Haxan from CZP comes out in a couple of years. I’m not completely stupid. I know the business has changed enough I have to do a lot of promotion for Haxan and that’s fine. I actually like doing that because I like going to cons and libraries and blogging and whatnot. So that’s okay.

The second reason I am thinking about leaving self-publishing is because I have never written anything so I can see my name in print. Hell, when I first started writing professionally I used the pseudonym “Alden Crealock” because I didn’t care about my personal name. That wasn’t my motivation for writing then, and it’s not my motivation now. I only use my real name today because I don’t care whether it’s my name or some pen name up there below the title. For me, the story is first. The name has no bearing.

That’s not why I write.

Finally, it’s too easy. All right, I try to go the extra mile and have good covers, good editing, good style and formatting and all that stuff. Not because that’s my name on the cover (we’ve covered that) but because if I am putting a story out for readers I want them to have the best experience I can provide for them, and enjoy reading it. Because I’m also a reader, as well a being a writer.

To be honest, I think most people in this business feel that way. They want to produce a good product. But for me it feels too easy. That’s how I feel. I can’t help the way I feel. What works for other people doesn’t always work for another.

I can’t help the way I feel. It feels easy. And I kind of know it’s easy because there’s some really bad crap out there. I mean, it’s awful. It’s embarrassing. The writing is appalling…because it’s so easy to publish. Now I must be fair. I’m not giving every publisher a pass here, either. Some publishers make a living, a very good living, publishing really bad stuff. That’s their business model and that’s fine for them. Readers like it and they know their market. I wish them well.Writing is always hard enough anyway no matter what you are working on or publishing. I don’t have to read it, and don’t. But I do understand what writers go through. If nothing else I understand and sympathize with that.

I’m old-fashioned, I guess. I like sending a story in to an editor or publisher and having them decide whether or not my story is good enough to be published. I have always said, and I really believe this, that writers are the absolute worst people to decide whether their story is good enough to be published or not. No one, and I mean no one, is more ill-suited to pass judgment on his own work than a writer. We’re simply too close to it. So I do like having someone else make that call.

Again, just me.

I can’t help but wonder if some people are saying, “Okay, that’s easy for you to say. You’re a member of SWFA and HWA and even if a lot of readers don’t know you a lot of editors do and they know what kind of quality and professionalism you bring. I don’t have a track record and I’m trying to build one.”

I understand that, too. I’m only saying this is not who I am. I’m a writer, not a publisher. I can’t pretend otherwise. Does that mean I no longer want you to buy my stories? Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying.

I am saying I can no longer be someone I am not. I’m a writer, but that doesn’t mean I am going to abandon any story I have put out there for readers.They’re my stories. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of everything I write, otherwise I wouldn’t have published it in the first place. I sure as hell would have never sent it to an editor to be considered if I wasn’t proud of the story.

Oh, well. This is the current state I’m in. I seriously think (about 95% sure) I need to go in another direction. Because this is not me. It…it just doesn’t feel right.

It’s not who I am, and I don’t like it and it makes me feel uncomfortable. It would be like me going out and creating my own Wikipedia page about myself. That’s just…I don’t know. And I don’t care if that’s the way the business is now.

That’s not why I write. It never has been. It never will be.

So. Yeah. Moving on, I suppose.  Of course, this is me we’re talking about so everything could change by suppertime. Thanks for listening, anyway.  🙂


“Western Horror, My Interview with Kenneth Mark Hoover” by Darke Conteur

Darke Conteur interviewed me recently and we talked about a lot of things including the current state of publishing and genre. I had a good time doing this interview and I hope you like it, too.

Here’s the link to the interview. Hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to leave a comment and let her know if you enjoyed the interview!


Western Horror, My Interview with Kenneth Mark Hoover


In Which I Opine (whine) about Joining Professional Writer Organizations

I have learned I am now eligible for membership in Western Writers of America. I already belong to the Science Fiction Writers of America and Horror Writers of America. Therein lies the problem.

Do I need to become a member of  another professional writing organization? I am also eligible for the Mystery Writers of America. I mean, a line has to be drawn somewhere. These organizations have yearly dues and they’re not cheap.

Here is the crux of the problem. I am no longer convinced these organizations bring anything to the table in this new day and age of Have professional writing organizations become antiquated?publishing. Back in the day having the letters SFWA or HWA after your name, while it didn’t guarantee a sale, let the editor know he had a story from a writer with a professional track record.

I am certain these things are still important to some degree. I don’t mean to diminish their relevance while, you know, diminishing their relevance. But I can’t escape the fact the publishing world has changed drastically in the last three years (and will continue to do so) that organizations like this simply do not carry the weight they once did.

I am probably wrong about this. One thing I know is the cost of yearly dues is not cheap. At least it’s not cheap to me. I don’t want to become a member of WWA for no other reason than my own gratification, either.

On the other hand, I admit these organizations bring good networking opportunities. That is one thing that hasn’t changed in this new day and age of publishing. I also like my friends I have made in SFWA and HWA. Not that they would stop being my friends if I left, but you get the idea.

I suppose I would be missing out on more than I can list if I did not become a member of WWA. I hope no one looks at these organizations I belong to and thinks I am trying to prove something. Being a writer I am mostly always lost and confused anyway. It’s my constant state of mind.

Okay. I guess I will submit an application to WWA (when I get around to it) and continue my membership in the others even though it will put a pinch in my budget.

I guess when you get down to it these organizations still bring more benefit than not. Although, that, too, may change over time.

Thanks for hearing me out. I’m glad we had this little chat.

My Haxan Story “Redemption Bound” Will Appear in a “Best Of” Frontier Tales Anthology!

One of my Haxan stories published by Frontier Tales last year will be included in a Best Of” anthology TBA. This is great news for me and one I am happy to share.

I’ll let you know the date of publication and so forth when I get the word. I’m excited about this.  🙂

I’ve Been Invited as a Guest Panelist at ArmadilloCon 34!

I will be attending ArmadilloCon on July 27-29 as a guest panelist. I like this writing con a lot. It’s small and has a private, literary feel to it.

I’ve attended lots of cons. Most of them are great and I would urge a writer of any genre to attend a writing con even if it’s in a field you don’t work in. Some things about writing cross genres, like process, the world of publishing, the trials and tribulations writers endure. Another added benefit is that no one understands a writer like another writer. When I am talking to another writer and I say, “I am having trouble finding the ending for my story,” she knows exactly what I am talking about. She knows the angst and trouble and difficulty I am going through.

That is huge. It is very important to have other people who have been there, or are on the same journey you are, to talk to. It’s also a great way to network with other editors and publishers in the field. I can’t stress how important it is that you should attend a writing convention if you have the opportunity. They are very helpful.

Anyway, I am looking forward to attending this particular convention. I haven’t gotten any information about what panels I will be on, but when I do I will post them on the blog. 🙂

Does Going Indie Mean Less Time for Writing?

I have finally caught up a bit on indie publishing stuff (and other things in life) so I can turn back to the new Haxan novel in progress.

I am glad. I was starting to feel I had lost touch with it. I think this can happen if you don’t keep looking at a WIP and staying connected. It happens to me, anyway.

I still have a lot to do this week. But it is looking less bumpy that it was last week. I was also thinking about how busy this summer will be for me. I have a lot of things planned and I will have to juggle all my time. Not a problem, except if I fall behind again that means less time for writing.

I don’t like that.

It’s one of the reasons I am a little irked with the whole new indie trend in publishing right now. From my own perspective it leaves a LOT less time for writing. I understand the need for it, and these changes in publishing aren’t going to stop just because I find them personally inconvenient. I don’t like having to wear all these new hats, but I have to and since I have to I am going to do my absolute best.

But I do not like the fact it takes away so much time from basic writing.

I don’t like it, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I don’t think I ever will.

Look, here’s how it breaks down for me. I’m an old dog. I know I have to learn new tricks. Fine. This won’t be the first time I’ve had to change directions. I’ve done it before and I am doing it again. I am adaptable. I think most writers are, when push comes to shove.

But I have yet to hear a cogent reason why this new business model is stronger purely from the basic writing side. Because, you know what? It’s not.

Less time for writing means less time for writing. You are never going to convince me that is a good thing. I’m a writer, first and foremost. It’s who I am and it’s how I define myself. And, no, I don’t care if this is the new trend or not.When you take less time away from my basic writing you do not make me happy.

Less time for writing is not a good thing. Period.

Love, Betrayal,and Recombinant DNA Gone Wrong in Cabo San Lucas

I remember when I first began to write the short story “Dead Reckoning” and the challenges I faced. The prompt came from a writing class I was taking at the time. They were talking about an exercise the teacher gave a year or so ago in which he wanted the students to write a scene about a boat in trouble.

Everyone turned in a scene about a boat sinking. He seemed disappointed in the turn out after all that time. But I sat there thinking, “No way I would have written about a boat sinking because I know that would be the default plot line. I’d try to look deeper into the possibilities of the prompt than mail in something that boring.”

And then I started. “Ok, wise guy,” I said to myself, “what would you have written instead?”

After the class I went home and wrote this science fiction story. It had the added benefit of being set on a sailboat which feeds into my mania for sailing. The story went through about three very deep revisions until I found the proper voice. It’s one of my favorite stories and was written when I was beginning to move out of the SF genre and into other things. But I like the story no less for all that and people who have read it seem to like it, too.

Of course, you will be the judge of that. It’s being offered on Amazon Kindle now by Argo Navis Publishing. I really do hope you like it, and if you do read it I would appreciate an honest review posted at Amazon. Reviews help writers a lot, even so-called “bad” ones because they point out problems the reader had with the story.

If you are interested just click on the link below. Hope you enjoy the story! 🙂

A story of love and betrayal outside romantic Cabo San Lucas....

Product Description: Three years ago alien crystalline structures fell to Earth near Cabo San Lucas, shattered on impact, and released von Neumann machines. Meanwhile, a 52-foot island of teak and canvas crewed by three people sail toward the towering, enigmatic alien structures with their own hidden mysteries, and fractured lives…and broken love.

As mankind races to an ultimate understanding why these alien structures came to Earth, and how we can communicate with them, two of the three people aboard the sailboat plot to kill the third…while outside forces set into motion their own terrifying plan to jump start the next step of human evolution.

“Mark Hoover is a writer who never hesitates to go deep, to try to find the core of what it means to be human and take a good hard look. If he has to stare down a nightmare or two along the way, well, that’s just fine.” —Richard Parks, author of the Lord Yamada series

A Very Busy Week Ahead

Last night we used the new fire pit. I really like it a lot. I’m the kind of guy who can sit out in front of a camp fire for hours thinking about writing and that’s exactly what I did last night. I also used my 7×50 Vixen Forestas to look at the grouping of Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter last night. I could also see the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula. Normally the light pollution is so bad from my backyard I would have trouble seeing decent images. But last night, for whatever reason, it wasn’t that bad, even for bright objects like these.

I woke up early today. Got a busy week lined up. I will be looking at trucks this week and, frankly, I’m about to get one, I think. The Bonneville I have is fine, nothing wrong with it, but we do a lot of camping and outdoor activities and a truck will help with that a lot. Also, the Bonneville is going to someone in the family because he needs a new car (he’s getting married) so it works out for everyone.

I also have to get finished with the Argo Navis Publishing website and get the rest of the stories listed. I also need to get started marketing these published stories but I want to be careful about that. I see a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook spamming their indie work and I find that kind of behavior tiresome.  After I finish that I want to get back to work on the Haxan novel. I feel I am starting to lose touch with it because it’s been so long since I have looked at it. Oh, and there’s a dentist appointment in there, somewhere, too, this week. But I think I will have to reschedule that because I will be working that day at The Observatory. No problem there. I’d much rather work than go to the dentist any day.

And tomorrow I have to go to Frisco and meet my writing buddy. Maybe I can take a look at the Haxan novel then. I might be able to work that in. Bottom line is you might not hear from me much this week, but I’ll try to post when I can, or schedule some posts.

I am sure there are more things happening this week I have forgotten about. But, hey, some things will have to fall through the cracks! 🙂


I am still a writer first…everything else comes second

This morning I did some publishing work. I uploaded a new science fiction/cyberpunk story entitled “Dead Reckoning” to Kindle. I will let you know when the story goes live and give further details for it and Argo Navis Publishing.

Last week was a long, stressful week for me for many reasons. I am hoping this week will be a little better. (It could hardly be worse.) I hope so. I want to get back to working on the new Haxan novel and I am still in the process of planning my trip along the US/Mexico border to do research. Meanwhile, I am still practicing classical guitar but I really should be a little more serious about a regimented program. Then again, it is foremost a hobby for me and I’m having fun…what’s to gripe about?

Also hoping the weather takes a turn for the better. I miss going outside for my walks. They help clear my head and I use them to think about stories and where I want to go next. I foresee some hiking involved on the trip as well, so it would benefit me to get a little exercise in preparation.

All in all I am doing all right, considering. My main focus now is turning back to work on the new novel because even though I have to do this indie publishing stuff now I still only view it as a necessary evil. I do not and never will define myself as a publisher. I mean, I want to do a good job with Argo Navis Publishing and I want to present quality work for readers. I am the type of person who believes if you have to do something, then do it right.

But it does not define me. I am a writer first and last, and I always will be.

So when all is said and done I am doing all right so far. *knock on wood*  How about you guys, how have you been?

So you wrote a story? Congratulations. That was the EASY part.

Today I want to elaborate on a topic I touched on yesterday. I would argue, at least from my own experience, writing is very hard work. It’s not easy to write a story. Everything is against you. Time, quality, need of story, Writing is hard...but that's the easy part of writing....laziness, readiness, you can name a hundred different obstacles you have to overcome just to write the story. The one thing I have to dismiss, mostly out of observation and verifiable evidence, is talent. Talent in any form is absolutely unnecessary when it comes to writing the story. I wish it were otherwise, but that’s simply the case. You don’t need talent to write a story. I know this from experience because I have seen many stories, published and unpublished, that were written and conceived without any verifiable talent in evidence.

Furthermore, talent is unnecessary (as much as it pains me to admit) when it comes to publishing a story. Particularly in this day and age. But let’s face a hard truth here. Mediocrity has often been the benchmark. Do just enough to squeeze by, hit a chord with people, and you can be hugely successful. Jean Auel, Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, Robert James Waller and a ton of other “successful” writers prove the point (at least to me) over and over. So there’s nothing under the sun that can be done about that. We writers who try to view this profession in more serious terms of organic art have to accept that fact. I don’t begrudge them their success. But I don’t have to read their tripe, either. And I don’t.

Which brings us to the focus of this post. So you finally wrote a story. Congratulations! It’s a big achievement and never let anyone tell you otherwise. You know how many people never start and then finish a story? Most. So you are already ahead of the game. Therefore, congratulate yourself because you deserve some recognition.

But that was the easy part.

As difficult as writing is, and I maintain it is extremely difficult (particularly if you want to do it well) writing the story was the easiest part of the entire process. Now you have to be judgmental. And there is no worse judge of his own work than the writer who wrote it. That scene you like so much and you think is the centerpoint to your story? It’s probably not that good. That paragraph you are thinking of tossing because in your mind it just doesn’t work? More than likely it needs to remain because it’s central to the character growth.

There is no worse judge of a story than the writer who wrote it. So what can you do? Find a beta reader. Better yet, find two or three. And, no, I don’t mean family members (unless you know they can read critically) who will by default like what you wrote and not want to hurt your feelings. I mean find a cynical judgmental hard-hitting no-holds-barred beta reader who, while he may like you personally, has no problem at all telling you if your story is crap.

Sound rough? That’s just the beginning. It gets rougher, believe me. You have to put your ego aside and listen to the criticisms that fly your way. As my writing buddy will tell you, there are few people who have a smaller ego than myself. But when push comes to shove I don’t care what I think, I care what the editor thinks, and if he has a way to improve the story then I am on board with that. Because I want one thing: to make the story as good as it can possibly be. I don’t care about my feelings, or what I like or don’t like about the story, or how I think it should proceed.  I have written the story. Now it’s time to let someone else judge the thing on its own merit.

Hey, it’s not all bad. Maybe the beta reader will like the story and have a few criticisms and changes you need to think about. Or maybe he will tell you to stop killing trees…or I guess in this day and age stop wasting valuable electrons.

Now the difficulty scales up on a hyperbolic curve. You have to submit the story, often again and again before it finds a home. That entails researching guidelines, markets, the list is enormous. And then the story gets bought and you have to think about marketing strategies. It never ends. You are swamped in detail. Amidst all this…you have started your next story. That’s right. You don’t keep patting yourself on the back. You write another story. You keep running the marathon knowing you are never, and I mean NEVER going to reach the finish line, because there is always one more story to write, one more idea in waiting.

Writing never ends. It’s organic and it continues, and has continued throughout our history. I am very cynical when it comes to the human species. But there is one cool thing I know about us. We will always tell stories if we have the chance to do so. As hard and difficult as writing is, I like knowing I am part of that long process that defines us as thinking, seeking creatures who want to understand their place in the universe. A good writer tries to do that with every story.

Keep writing!

I am glad the holidays are at an end. Now the hard work begins.

I really am. Now I can concentrate on the 1000 other things that need attention.

I have short stories lined up for publication through Argo Navis along with:

1.) New Haxan novel to work on. And research.

2. Other short stories clamoring to be written.

3.) Outside work.

4.) Keeping up with Theater 13 Radio.

5.) Fighting our extremely poor Internet access. Which may ultimately impact Theater 13, because if I can’t get a dependable Internet then I really may have to shut down the radio. In fact, it just went out again as I was typing this, so shutting down Theater 13 Radio is becoming more of a possibility than ever before if I can’t get this rectified. I can’t in good conscience ask people to listen to the radio if I can’t assure them of a dependable connection. It’s just not fair to them. I am really wrestling with this right now.

6. I don’t even want to think about all the family stuff hanging over my head. I don’t know how I’m going to juggle that along with writing and radio and publishing.

And that’s the work. I’m not even taking into account my desire to continue learning and practicing classical guitar. Sheesh. It’s really overwhelming.

It all comes down to this. Something has got to go. I’m committed to writing and getting my backlog of stories published through Argo Navis. That means everything else may have to be forfeit.

And that’s what writing is all about, Charlie Brown. Making hard decisions.

I’m going to have to start making them.



Yay! Free Argo Navis Bookmarks!

Argo Navis Publishing will be adding new content over the coming months and years. Please bookmark them and follow them on Twitter @ArgoNavisMedia for  the latest updates.

In the meantime here are bookmarks for you to share and link with. Thanks!

Thoughts on Publishing

Today I have to work at The Observatory, which is fine because I like that job a lot. But as for my personal life I will be glad when these holidays are over and I can get back on a regular schedule around home. I have let some things lapse because other people have needed my time. Which is fine, too, because it can’t be helped.

But I want to get back to the regular grind and catch up on a lot of little writing and publishing details that have slipped through my fingers of late.

One thing I have been thinking of, though. A friend asked me how I like being a publisher now. Truth? I don’t. What I mean is, given the choice I would rather not have to be a publisher. But I can’t change how the profession has morphed and if I want to be successful I have to keep up with those changes. So the bottom line is I simply do not have a choice in the matter, and whether I like or dislike the new role I have to assume means absolutely nothing at all in the long run. It has to be done. Period. Therefore, if I am going to do it (and I am doing it now) then I will do the very best I can.

But do I like it? No. I do not. I do not like green eggs and ham, Sam I Am.

However…once again that choice is no longer up to me if I want to continue writing. Oh, sure, I could pull an Emily Dickinson and throw all my stuff in trunk in the attic. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. But, and here I have to be honest again, I do also want to be successful at writing. Since that is the case I will keep on learning what I have to learn, sacrifice what I have to sacrifice, and push where I need to push. There’s really no other way around it; not anymore.

Which brings me full circle to the beginning thoughts of this post. I really need for the holidays to be over so I can continue my regular schedule of writing/editing/researching/publishing/blogging/submitting/posting…yikes! Just thinking about all the work that is ahead of me gives me the crawlies. But I am behind on a lot of things. I need to publish the website for Argo Navis, the Twitter account for Argo Navis, update my personal website, blah blah blah. And that’s just the normal mundane stuff…that’s not counting the seven other stories I have lined up to be published, or the stories patiently waiting their turn behind those, or the other stories clamoring to be written. Haha, what a carousel, huh?  Still, what else can you do. It’s either ride the carousel or hop off. I’m going to ride.

Oh, and I’ve got a ton of reviews waiting to be written, too. Like I said…I’m way behind! 😛

Fishing the Styx – Coming Soon From Argo Navis Publishing (Update: Published!)


by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Copyright 2011 by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Argo Navis Publishing

“Hell is truth seen too late.”  —Thomas Hobbes

1. The Leviathan

   Keep going, Sayeth the demon.

Past the iron shore where pale arms whip the water into black foam. Through the blast furnace radiating from the crying walls of Dis. Far beyond the soft, red glow emanating from Deep Hell.

Paddle until your shoulders ache, and your heart shatters, and you are underneath tortured green clouds scudding over what was once the horizon.

Here, and only here, the river water slackens and tires. Runs still, and deep, and darkest.

Lean over and you will see a glimmer of all that ever was.

You will see the stars.


A story of science fiction, horror, and heroic rebellion exclusive to your Kindle and Kindle Fire: Fishing the Styx:

Conversation with Story: When to Keep Going, When to Quit

Story: Hello again.

Me: Oh, you’re back. That was quick. I submitted you to the magazine only two weeks ago. How are you doing?

Story: Boy, it’s brutal out there.

Me: I’m sorry. I keep sending you out and you keep getting rejected. You look kind of beat up.

Story: Yeah, that last editor was pretty critical, but he had some good points to make. I have to admit that. So. How are we standing so far? How many rejections does this make? Around twenty, I’ll bet.

Me: A little more than that. More like around thirty.

Story: Oh. I didn’t know it was that many.

Me: That’s okay, I still believe in you.

Story: I’m trying my best.

Me: I know you are. I put everything into you I could. The way I do with every story I write. If I didn’t believe in you I would not have sent you out to be considered for publication in the first place.

Story: I know that. But….

Me: What’s wrong?

Story: Been thinking.

Me: About what?

Story: Maybe it’s time to put me aside. Now before you get that look on your face hear me out. It’s not like we haven’t tried. Maybe the time just isn’t right for a story like me. There doesn’t appear to be a market interested in me right now. Maybe you need to put me aside and wait until an appropriate market opens up and then submit me there.

Me: I’m not ready to give up.

Story: I’m not ready to give up, either. But if we don’t maximize our potential, yours and mine, then we lose ground. That doesn’t help either one of us in the long run. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. I’m more than willing to go back out if you find a proper market. But in the meantime I think maybe I need to be trunked while you work on a new story.

Me: I don’t know how to break this to you, but I’ve written two new stories since I sent you out.

Story: I’m glad to hear that.

Me: Story.

Story: Yeah.

Me: I’m going to trunk you for a while. I think it’s time.

Story: No argument from me. I could use a vacation.

Me: If something opens up you’ll be the first to be sent out, right back into the thick of things.

Story: I’m always ready and willing to head into the front lines for you. But a little R&R sounds good right now.

Me: Sorry about how this turned out.

Story: What sorry? It’s the right thing to do. Sometimes you have to send a story down to the minors. Hey, I knew that much going in when you sent me out on my very first submission.

Me: All right. Well, you fought the good fight. I appreciate it.

Story: I could have been a champion. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.

Me: You got that from a story.

Story: Well, sure. It’s who I am. Nighty-night.

Me: Walk bravely, Old Soldier.

Story: Trust me, I’m going to enjoy the down time. Meanwhile….

Me: What?

Story: Get started on a new story.

Sometimes you have to wait for the right market before you can sell the story you have written. Have patience, and get to work on a new story in the interim.

My New Haxan Story Slated to Appear in February Issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine!

I got the contributor copies of Ellery Queen Magazine in the mail a day or so ago. They have my story “Phaedra” and it will appear in the upcoming February issue.

This was a big sale for me and I’m glad it is coming out now. I have made many other professional sales to many other magazines, and smaller non-professional magazines. They are all important to me. But let’s face facts. Some markets are harder to crack and harder to get into than others. Ellery Queen Magazine is one of those markets. It’s been around since, I think, 1941. In this day and age of publishing sturm und drang, that’s real staying power.

One of the best things about the story is that expanded elements of it will appear later in my novel Haxan which was accepted by ChiZine Publications. I like the synergy of this. I like exploring one aspect of a story from different directions and perspectives. I don’t think it can always work.

Sometimes a story pretty much does all the work on its own and as a writer we have no more to say about it. But my Haxan series is just that, a series. Different characters see and experience incidents in Haxan peculiar to their own viewpoint. All of us see things different through our own eyes and related to our own past experiences. That’s human nature. I like to explore that theme sometimes, if I think it deserves exploring.

And that’s the rub. As a writer I have to make the decision whether or not something like that deserves added exposure and time on my part. An incident like this, which sort of bifurcates Marwood’s life in Haxan and how he is viewed, has enough gravitas for that.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the release of the magazine. I hope you pick up an issue when it become available, and I hope you like the story. Thanks for listening!

Dialog with a Finished Story: Can I go out and play yet?

Me: Well, that is that. One finished story hot off the presses. Okay, the computer screen. But you get the idea.

Story: Good job, chief. Whoa, what are you doing now?

Me: Sending the story off to a magazine.

Story: Um, aren’t you going to let it sit for a while? Maybe let it cool off? Check it again later when your mind is fresh?

Me: What for? It’s perfect. There’s no need for all that.

Story: There is always a need for that. When you finish a story you should always let it sit for awhile and then come back to it with fresh eyes.

Me: Whatever for? I keep telling you it’s perfect.

Story: And I keep telling you that it may be perfect but more likely there are mistakes you have not seen because you are too close to the story. Your view of the story is rather one dimensional, being the person who wrote it. Especially this close to having just finished it. Better to wait a while and read it again fresh.

Me: Okay, then can I send it off?

Story: I’d like to send you off. No, then you need to let someone else read the story. Someone whose criticism you trust. It’s almost always good protocol to let a beta reader see the story. Even better, a beta reader who doesn’t necessarily read the particular genre you are writing it. That way she is approaching it as a pure reader and will judge the story on its merits alone. This is very important. Once the story passes those tests then it is probably safe to send away so an editor can take a look at it.

Me: I thought I was just supposed to write the story.

Story: There’s a lot you have to learn about this business, I can see. No, writing the story is probably the most difficult part, I will give you that. But your job is not finished when you finish the story. It’s really only begun.

Me: Okay, I will send the story to a family member. She likes everything I write.

Story: Again, no. What use is that? You don’t need someone who thinks everything you write is golden. You need a good solid beta reader who will judge your story on its merit alone. Family members, unless they themselves are writers, are almost always the worst beta readers. They are less likely to be truthful if they see something they don’t like because they are conflating the story with their love of you. They often can’t separate the two. No, you need someone hard and uncompromising, who will tell you the story is not working in certain regards if that is what they see.

Me: But I keep telling you the story is perfect. So if this beta reader finds something that he thinks is wrong with the story, obviously my opinion counts more. I mean, I wrote the thing, not him.

Story: Do you purposefully try to be obtuse and make my life hard? No, clown, that’s not how it works. You listen to criticism. You don’t have to agree with it, but you do have to listen to it and judge its value. Maybe they are right or maybe they are wrong, but one thing you cannot dismiss is their opinion. Their opinion of your story, at least from their frame, is not wrong. For them it is right, even if they can’t articulate it sometimes.

Me: But–

Story: Shut up and listen. You wrote the story. But the reader reads the story. He brings a completely new and different perspective which is denied you because you are too close to the work. So if your beta reader says there is a problem with the story then brother you had better listen and try and figure out where it has gone wrong. Yes, I agree, sometimes a reader misses the mark. They are human, too. But you don’t dismiss out of hand what they have to say about your story. Despite what you think, you have not written gold. I don’t give a damn who you are, there’s not a writer out there who does not, or would not, be better served with an editor’s blue pencil. Not that they use blue pencils anymore, but you get my drift.

Me: And here I thought I could send the story off because I finished it.

Story: You’re almost there, don’t worry. Give the story a little time to cool off, have a beta reader or two (whom you trust) read the story, make any necessary changes, and then send it to an editor. All else being equal you want to send the very best story you can, not a story you think is the best.

Me: You know, while you’ve been talking I’ve reread the first page. I found two typos already.

Story: That alone probably won’t get the story rejected, but more than that, or some other deeper structural flaw within the story, might. Put the story aside and put it out of your mind. When you look at it again you want to be fresh.

Me: Okay, you’ve convinced me. There, I’ve saved the file and I’ll come back to it later. So what do I do now?

Story: You start on your next story, of course.

Me: Hey, why didn’t I think of that?

Story: Do you really want me to answer that?

Me: No. I guess not.

Story: I didn’t think so. Come on. Less talking. More writing.

When you finish a story put it aside and come back to it later with fresh eyes.

Maintaining an Even Strain in Life and in Writing (Until it’s lost)

I haven’t gotten much writing done lately for various reasons: busy with other things, this and that cropping up and demanding attention. Nothing you can do about it, really, but try and muddle through. As I mentioned recently I am also letting my subconscious work through some tricky problems in the next scene, but that’s coming along nicely.

Next Tuesday I also have to go to the doctor for a regular medical thing. They have to put me under to do it. I am not looking forward to that. Not so much the procedure as being put under. I don’t like that idea. I don’t like the idea of not being in control. I guess the last time I was put under at the hospital was when I was six or seven and had my tonsils out. As you can see this was a long time ago. Now they just snip-snip and send you back home. But back in the day it was an overnight stay at the hospital.

This procedure isn’t overnight but I still have to be knocked out for it. And that’s the part I don’t like and that’s the part that is starting to weigh on me. Because of my past, because of how I grew up, I have come to depend on one person more than any other: myself. So when I am put under for this procedure suddenly for the first time in decades I will be completely out of control of my life. I don’t like that at all. Not at all.

In other news I am still super-excited about the novel I am working on. I was thinking about what I have done on it so far. I’ve got about 100 pages. It’s hard to judge how long these things will be, but let’s say 100,000 words. (It probably won’t be that long, and if it is will most likely end up being longer than that. Make sense?) So if I have 100 pages so far that’s 25%. Of course, this is rough draft stuff. Some will be tossed and some will be expanded. Maybe it will all even out.

My point being I am not obsessing over the length of the novel. I never do that. I let the story be as long (or as short) as it needs to be. I don’t dictate that, the story does. It’s another reason I never write for the market. Now it’s true I have been invited to write for an anthology a time or two. Obviously in those cases I have to be aware of word length and genre and so on. But that aside I never write for the market. I write the story. It means little to me if there is not a market available for said story. In fact, given today’s dynamic, whether there is an available market for a story means very little.

It’s not like the old days when writers had to go begging to publishers with hat in hand. We are in control of our own success and our own destiny now. I have always said I want writers to be treated with respect and empowered. We may never get the first, but we now have the second (empowerment) in our grasp. I like that. I like that a lot. I like having that power and being in control.

Which is why I am not looking forward to next Tuesday when in one aspect of my life I will (albeit for a short time) lose that control.

Talking Honestly with Story: Finding Confidence in Yourself

Story: What’s wrong, slappy? You look a little blue.

Me: I’m wondering if what I am doing is the right thing.

Story: In what particular, are we speaking of?

Me: We are speaking of writing. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my time. I work and work, write and write, and I don’t appear to be making any significant progress. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Maybe I’m not cut out for this.

Story: All right, it sounds like you’ve lost confidence in yourself. I have one question for you, though. Why are you doing this? Writing, I mean.

Me: Well, it’s certainly not the money. I could make more money digging ditches. The work would be easier, too, I think.

Story: Exactly. So there has to be an underlying reason you are doing this. Let’s face it, chief. There are a lot easier things you could be doing. Not to mention the incredible amount of time spent alone, having to force yourself to stay at home and write instead of going out with friends. But the question remains: Why are you doing this?

Me: Good question. I don’t like banging my head against a brick wall all the time. It hurts.

Story: If you ask a hundred writers how they go about writing, you will get a hundred different answers. There is no right way to write, no true process that trumps everything else. If someone tells you there is a magical key to success then you should immediately run in the other direction because I can promise you these people don’t know what the hell they are talking about. But if you ask a hundred writers why they write, and discount the idiotic and uninformed answers of “I want to be famous” or “I want to make  a lot of money,”  then I am willing to bet the majority of writers, real writers and not wannabes or armchair commandos, will answer along the same lines.

Me: I want to write because there is something inside me that compels me to do so. I’ve tried quitting before, and I can’t. I can’t quit. It’s like there are these words and stories inside me that demand to be told. I’m a voice for all these stories. They demand attention and I can’t ignore them.

Story: And that’s the reason most writers write. It’s a compulsion. They aren’t fooling themselves that this is easy or some sort of path to being famous. People who think that are the same people who buy magic beans and believe in castles in the sky. Writers, true writers, know what this is all about. It’s not about you or what you’re going through. It’s about the story that demands telling. That’s why you write. That’s why most writers write. When you come to terms with that, when you are able to accept that you are subordinate to the story, and so is everyone else in your life, then you will understand that you and every other writer throughout the history of the world has gone through this same process, and will go through it in the years and centuries to come.

Me:  So what do I do?

Story: There’s only one thing you can do.

Me: I have to keep writing. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?

Story: You have no choice in the matter, not really. As a writer, you simply do not have the luxury to toss aside this compulsion and pretend it never existed, that it was never part of your life, that it never governed your every waking action and thought.That’s a luxury. Writing is not a luxury. It’s work. You want to be successful? Then keep writing. Keep banging your head against that wall no matter how long it takes. So what if you never get published? Why is that important? In what way is it important? The main thing is you are writing. That’s what gives you fire. That’s why you exist. A writer lives to write. A writer does NOT live to be published. It’s a nice sidelight, but that’s not the reason for a writer’s life.

Me: I am a writer. I am.

Story: Yes, you are. So quit your belly aching and stop feeling sorry for yourself. You’re a writer. Start writing. That’s your main purpose in life. Live up to that and you will regain your confidence.

Me: Okay. I think you are right. But to start writing I have to find a new story. Where am I going to find that?

Story: Silly. I’m right here.

Writers exist for one thing alone: to write. Anything less is failing to meet expectations.


Yay! Updated Word Press with Random Banners

Okay, I’ve updated my Word Press and included a random assortment of banners other than the empty header I had before. These are all pictures I have taken on my research travels for westerns and other stuff. The banner will change as you go from page to page. Eventually I may pare these down, and probably add new ones in the future.

I hope you guys like this better. I think you were right at least in that the other theme was way too empty. 🙂

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