short stories

The Update – July 2018

The Update – July 2018

It has been another month and much has happened since last time I posted.

Chuckanut Writer’s Conference

The biggest thing being the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. This was the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended. I made a handful of new writer friends and met a few published authors. I attended quite a few wonderful talks, a couple of which were way over my head, others were amazing and ultra inspiring.

The highlights of the conference were the sessions involving author Jonathan Evison. I’ve not yet read anything by him, but after hearing his infections energy-infused sessions I feel like I could tackle and succeed at any number of novels. I ended up purchasing his book, West of Here and made sure to get it signed. He mentioned that this particular book has a divided audience. People either love it or hate it. I think I’ll like it since it is a century spanning story taking place out in the Olympic Peninsula. I’m always reading up on the Peninsula for my own story research, it’s one of my favorite obsessions.

Open Mic

I also achieved a major milestone at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. It was the first time I’ve ever read my own work, out loud, in front of an audience. I did this at the fiction open mic held after the end of the conference. The audience was small, and I don’t think any of them were really into my dark fantasy story setting, but I still consider it a success. Melissa and my son came to support me, and Melissa said I sounded good. I even felt like I did alright reading it. It felt nice to finally get over the hurdle of reading my work for an audience, and I sort of look forward to doing it again in the future.

Current Projects / Abandoned Projects

So, I’m just about done working on my short story for submission to the Village Books Writer’s Corner Anthology. I finished off the next revision yesterday and sent it off to the editors. I feel pretty good about it, and, if it doesn’t get in, I will definitely submit it to other publications.

My post apocalyptic future short story is also coming along. I sent my first draft to the rest of my friends who are also publishing in this joint self-published anthology. I’ve received critiques on it from my fiction work-shopping group and plan to start going through that feedback next month.

There is bad news though. For a couple years now I’ve been slogging away at a horror novel. I’m about 35,000 words in, which does not feel like very much at all. I think that my interests have changed since I started writing that story. Also I think I may have taken on too many main character arcs, especially for a first novel.  And so, I am currently planning on setting that project aside indefinitely. I’m keeping all of the notes, just in case I get the itch to give it another go in the future.

Camp Nano

Now that I have officially announced the abandonment of my first real attempt at a novel, I need to start a new project. After attending the conference I am itching to give a new novel a go. But I do not yet have a real idea of what it will be about. Right now the plan is to set it in the same universe as my post apocalyptic short story, as I have quite a bit of world building to work from. By the time you all read this I will be diving in, as I plan to write the first 30,000 words of this new project in the month of July for Camp Nanowrimo. This is like a mini Nanowrimo, but you don’t have to commit to a full 50,000 words and can set your own goal instead. A few of my local writer friends are doing joining in on the fun, and have also set themselves goals of 30K. So, after this month, hopefully I’ll have an update for you on the beginnings of a new novel.

Other News

In other news, I turn 35 this month. I think that officially counts as ‘middle-age’. I’m not really sure what that really means to me yet. Does it mean that I should be wanting boats and fancy cars? Because I don’t really have the urge to buy those things. Right now I’d really love to just have all of my student loans magically disappear and for us to own our dream home. But those things take time.

I think there is something more attainable for the shorter term. To be published. I mean, there is a high chance that I’ll have a couple short stories published soon in a couple anthologies. And that will be wonderful, my work will be out there. But, for one I’m pretty sure there is no payment, and for the other, I doubt there will be a ton of sales.

Really, all I want is to get my writing out there, and possibly make a little money from it. Not a ton of money, I know that the chances of striking it rich as a writer are slim to non-existent. Just a little bit would be nice. So, this year, I will focus on producing and submitting my work to different venues. We’ll see where that takes me.

Wish me luck!
Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
May 2018 Update

May 2018 Update

Time is a precious thing. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, and so on. It is hard to find time for everything I strive to do.

Over the last couple months I’ve pared down greatly on blog posts and I even turned off my Patreon account. I’m hoping I can re-launch the Patreon again in a few months time, but for the moment I just do not have the time for it.

Right now my main focus, outside of family and day job, is running a new fiction workshop group, finishing a couple short stories for two anthologies, and editing a pile of stories for one of those anthologies.

Village Books Fiction 2 Group

I absolutely love the VB Fiction Group, but it reached a point to where it took over two months for the reading rotation to come back to you. Also, it happened to meet on the same night that to the local tech user group meets. For my day job I write code for a giant tech corporation, and it is important to network and stay up to date with industry standards in order to stay current.

So, starting this 2nd group has two benefits.

  1. Smaller group with faster submission rotation
  2. Better fits my schedule

We’ve had two meetings now with the new group, and it has been wonderful. The feedback has remained high quality and the other writers that have joined me are wonderful people. Though, I will miss the folks from the other group.

Anthologies!

And now for an update on my anthology submissions.

I’ve finished the first draft of one and submitted it for feedback to the editing group. So far the feedback has been positive. I’ve gotten some amazing notes on ways to improve the story. I’ve also learned that Kudzu doesn’t group out here in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m also in the editing group for that anthology and I have 11 short stories to provide feedback on by the end of the month.

I’m still working on the first draft for the other story. I wanted to have it done last month, but life got in the way. The current goal is to finish the first draft of that one in the next couple weeks.

Organization

With all of these deadlines and projects going on I decided I needed to revamp my time management tools. Starting this month I’m attempting to use a ‘Bullet Journal’. This is a super flexible way of doing a hybrid journal / todo list. There are so many beautiful examples of how people have customized there own Bullet Journals, but I do not have the drawing and calligraphy skills all of the folks on Pinterest have. Mine is super simple so far, just sticking to the basics of BuJo as laid out by its creator Ryder Carroll, with just an index, future log, monthly and daily logs, and a couple collections and trackers. Go here for more info on Bullet Journaling  – http://bulletjournal.com

Maybe after a few months I’ll share how I’m using my bullet journal.


Well, that’s all I have time for this month. Hopefully, over the coming months I’ll be able to return to a more regular posting schedule.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
{Book Review} Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

{Book Review} Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

Before we get into this review I need to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? Here it is. I may be a bit biased when it comes to works by Laird Barron.

There is a bit of history behind this bias. I first came across Laird Barron about a decade ago. Up until that point I'd only been reading Tolkien style fantasy and the occasional science fiction. At that time I was working at a large chain bookstore and I came across an intriguing book with a beautiful cover. It was so different from all of the other books around it.

This book was The Imago Sequence by an author I'd never heard of and published by Night Shade Press. Every other book was ultra glossy and they all looked just like the others, while this one had a gorgeous dust jacket printed on a slightly textured matte paper that made the different shades of absinthe tinted green stand out like a beacon among the gleaming rows of spines. Also, throw in the vague and unsettling image on the front cover. I had to have this book. So I used my employee discount and bought the store's only copy.

Up until this point my only real exposure to horror literature was a little of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, some Lovecraft, and Frankenstein back in high school. So the use of this level of nightmare imagery was something almost shocking. I'd never experienced anything like it before. It was new, exciting, and completely different, and it changed my tastes in fiction forever.

After reading this enlightening collection I began to search out other similar reading experiences and each time a new Laird Barron work came out I made sure to find a copy to devour. And this brings me to his most recent collection of short stories: Swift to Chase

Synopsis

Laird Barron's fourth collection gathers a dozen stories set against the backdrops of the Alaskan wilderness, far-future dystopias, and giallo-fueled nightmare vistas.

All hell breaks loose in a massive apartment complex when a modern day Jack the Ripper strikes under cover of a blizzard; a woman, famous for surviving a massacre, hits the road to flee the limelight and finds her misadventures have only begun; while tracking a missing B-movie actor, a team of man hunters crashes in the Yukon Delta and soon realize the Arctic is another name for hell; an atomic-powered cyborg war dog loyally assists his master in the overthrow of a far-future dystopian empire; following an occult initiation ritual, a man is stalked by a psychopathic sorority girl and her team of horrifically disfigured henchmen; a rich lunatic invites several high school classmates to his mansion for a night of sex, drugs, and CIA-funded black ops experiments; and other glimpses into occulted realities a razor's slice beyond our own.

Combining hardboiled noir, psychological horror, and the occult, Swift to Chase continues three-time Shirley Jackson Award winner Barron's harrowing inquiry into the darkness of the human heart.

{back cover copy}

My Thoughts

With this collection Barron is trying something new. The stories of his previous three short story collections all seemed to take place in a similar universe. These stories still seem to have a slight connection with his past work, but, at the same time, you can tell he is tackling new territory; and new styles as well.

Having said all of that, I'm not sure if this collection was as good for me as his previous work. But, this is not necessarily a bad thing. He has said in recent interviews that he is trying to branch out his writing styles to appeal to more than just the niche 'weird fiction' market, and this collection has some traces of that. There are some stories that verge on slasher thriller and there is one that is futuristic science fiction. If this means bringing more people to the wonderful worlds of Laird, I'm all for it.

I did absolutely love the story Frontier Death Song. This one was about a man who comes across the mythical Wild Hunt in progress while in the wilds of Alaska. (Wild Hunt – it is bad luck to see the Wild Hunt, click here to read more about it on Wikipedia) The Wild Hunt was also a major story component of another recent story I've read and enjoyed: The Brotherhood of the Wheel. I think I may have a thing for folklore based horror.

Conclusion

Do I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book?

Yes, very much so. Bit with a caveat: don't read it as a collection of short stories. Instead read it as a single story arc covering the plight of a group of people connected to a series of events in an Alaska town. Having finished the book I find much more value in the stories after the fact while thinking over who the all connect. I think this book would be a very enjoyable one to read a second time, and possibly more enjoyable than the first read.

If you are interested in reading some of Laird Barron's work I would suggest picking up a copy of his first collection The Imago Sequence as well as this one. You will not be disappointed.

Also be sure to check out his blog.

Posted by Joe in Reading