First Reprint or Another November Story

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I didn’t plan for several of my stories to hit the market in November, but here we are. The first reprint I ever submitted was accepted by the good folks at Smoking Pen Press for their time travel anthology. I like that the editors didn’t decide on a name for the anthology until they had selected the stories to include. That way they could see what common themes came through, and they found one. Nothing good seems to come from time travel, so they titled the anthology The Trouble with Time Travel.

My contribution is “Temporally Out of Service.” If you’ve followed this blog back to its beginning, you may recall this was the first story I every wrote. It was inspired by a misspelled sign I encountered on a hotel elevator. You guessed it, that’s where the story title comes front. If you like sci-fi time travel or private detective noir or both, this is the story for you!

After the rights reverted to me last year, I happened to see this publisher’s call for time travel stories. Since reprints were accepted, I took a chance. You know what they say, don’t self reject; and I’m glad I didn’t. You can purchase the eBook here from any of your favorite online retailers. A print version should be released in the coming weeks. If you’d like a little taste, read on.

***

Not really paying close attention to the clerk beyond learning which way the woman went, I raced past the desk and headed down the hall.  I hurried by the business center on the right and then what appeared to be a tiny fitness center immediately after.  I next passed the elevator.  It was in a recessed alcove on the left with a sign taped to the door, still fluttering a little as if someone had rushed by.  On the other side of the elevator was the door to the stairs.  At the end of the hall was the south entrance, the one I did not have a view of earlier. 

All was quiet, so where did she go?  I poked my head into the stairwell.  Nothing.  No footsteps racing up the stairs.  No doors to other floors above slamming open or closed.  I opened the door to the outside and scanned the area.  Nothing.  I backtracked down the hall to peer into the business and fitness centers.  Nothing.  I started to worry I would have to go door to door and floor to floor to track her down.

Not wanting to make that scene quite yet, I retraced my steps one more time to the end of the hall.  This time when I reached the elevator I read the sign attached to the door.

TEMPORALLY

OUT OF SERVICE

THX,

MGMT

“Temporally?” I asked aloud.  “The staff can’t even spell ‘temporarily.’”  I was about to launch into a long mental diatribe about the sad state of the public education system when I noticed the sign and entire elevator door had the same sheen that had covered everything in the parking lot earlier.  If you would ask me years later why I did what I did next, I’d tell you I don’t know.  But I did it.  I pushed the UP button.  The doors opened.  I walked in, and the doors closed.

November Stories

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Many of you may be knee deep in NaNoWriMo this month. If you’re already waist deep, congratulations! I’m probably ankle deep at the moment.

For those looking to take a break, I would like to share the release of a couple of my stories. The first, “The Sea Lords Script”, previously had been published by Ash Tales. I noticed not too long ago that the story had disappeared from the publisher’s website, which was a huge disappointment. Then I get an email saying they were converting to a podcast format, and my story had been narrated and was live. Even better! You can listen here. The publisher said several kind words about the story at the start, which I am grateful for. I think he understood what I was attempting to capture with the story. A little post-apocalyptic humor anyone?

The second is a horror story title “Shadow” that I shopped around for a while, and I am glad it has found a home in the anthology Night Terrors Vol. 6. The anthology will be released on Monday, November 9, but you can pre-order it for $0.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited. Below is an excerpt ending on a cliffhanger that hopefully wets your appetite for more. If you do end up buying, please leave a review on Amazon, whether good, bad, or indifferent. It all helps the metrics.

***

The house is dark as Michael pulls into the garage. It is the night of Heather’s birthday party at Bria’s. The house should be ablaze as Heather gets ready. Instead, Michael opens the door leading into the kitchen and enters total darkness, at least immediately. After being under the bright lights of the garage, Michael’s eyes have trouble adjusting. He flips the light switch to his left. Nothing. He tries again. “Great, something else to add to my list,” he mumbles, not wanting Heather to hear and possibly ruin her mood for the party. “Hey, Heather, where are you, and why is it so dark?”

“In here, honey,” utters a faint voice from the bedroom.

The curtains are still open, so there is some ambient light making its way inside. Michael feels grateful for even this small a blessing as it allows him not to trip over the numerous dog toys strewn all over the floor on his way to the bedroom. The bedroom is another matter. Those curtains are drawn. He can’t see a thing.

“Where in here?” Michael tries the bedroom’s light switch. This one doesn’t work either. Did they have a power surge that tripped a breaker? The garage lights work, but maybe they are on a different circuit. He will have to go check.

“In here,” the voice insists, more persistent this time.

“Are you in the closet?” Michael takes a couple of steps deeper into the darkness of the bedroom. “What are you doing in there? Are you ready for the party? Here, let me turn my phone’s flashlight on. I don’t think our lights are working.”

As Michael digs in his pants pocket for his phone, a silhouette appears in the bedroom door behind him. Finally pulling the phone out, he activates the flashlight and shines it into the closet. The silhouette silently moves closer.

“I thought you said you were in the closet,” Michael replies, after finding the space empty. “I know you’re turning 30, but that’s no reason to act all morbid.” The silhouette extends a black appendage toward Michael and grabs him on the shoulder. “I said I’m right here.”


3Q20 Update

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Another light quarter, despite more staying-at-home. Let’s see where I ended up.

  • Words written = 3450
  • Submissions = 28
  • Rejections = 18
  • Acceptances = 1
  • Holds = 1
  • Publications = 0
  • Awards = 0
  • Withdrawals = 0

The good news is I tripled my word output. The bad news is that’s not saying much when the prior benchmark was about 1100 words. The words last quarter were devoted to two new short/flash stories. The in-laws visited for a week, and all of a sudden I was able to be productive. If it weren’t for the End Times, that could happen more often, which my productivity would welcome.

The fourth quarter includes NaNoWriMo where I traditionally have my greatest output for the year. I’m hoping to continue that streak. My goal is to complete the work-in-progress by the end of the year. I still don’t know if the WIP will end up novel length or something shorter. After letting it sit since the Before Times, I’ve already started rereading it to familiarize myself with the work again.

I also won a registration to an upcoming virtual writing conference that included a slot to pitch an agent. The agent I was assigned doesn’t appear to be interested in my WIP’s genre but is interested in picture books and middle grade books. I have several of the former completed, and one of the latter started. Having never pitched an agent before, I needed to figure out what I am pitching. Then, I need to figure out how to pitch it.

The number of submissions and rejections last quarter weren’t my best but still serviceable. I need 34 submissions in the fourth quarter to reach my goal of 100 for the year. I haven’t hit that number of submissions in a quarter since the second quarter of 2019. I’m hoping to start submitting soon the two stories drafted last quarter. Fresh stories always increase the submissions number (and by extension the rejections number).

I was pleased my streak of one acceptance a quarter continued. I’m also hoping the single hold I received turns into an acceptance this quarter. The editor asked for a rewrite, which I happily obliged, and am waiting for the final decision. In the interim, that market solicited submissions for its next issue from presumable past and pending (since I received the email) contributors. The problems are it’s a genre I don’t dabble in often and a length I don’t reach that often any more (3-7k words). So I don’t have anything that’s a ready fit. I do have a story idea that would fit genre-wise and likely will be the right length, but I doubt I’ll have enough time to complete it before the submission deadline later this month, especially since I’m focusing on the agent pitch the first part of the month.

On the flip side, my streak of one publication a quarter ended. I had a work slated to be published in September, which would have continued the streak, but the published delayed the release until 2021. At least I’ll have that to look forward to. I have one more publication in the works, the sole acceptance last quarter, but there is no release date yet.

That was my July through September. Now it’s time to win over an agent with an as-yet-unselected-work and then attempt to finish a novel. No biggies.

How’d you do last quarter?

The First Sentence

How important is the first sentence? A Writers Path had a recent post on the importance of the first sentence setting the tone for the entire story. That blog also had a similar post on The Importance of a Great Literary First Impression.

Aeryn Rudel of Rejectomancy had a post as well where he analyzed the first lines from his stories that were published last year. And The Write, Already! blog recently had a series of posts promoting John Brueckner’s “892 Opening Lines” book. There’s even a publication dedicated to the first sentence called, not so coincidentally, The First Line. I’ve posted previously about that publication.

I also recall an editor of Asimov’s or Analog year’s ago discussing how important the first sentence was. What I recall, whether I remember correctly or not, essentially was if the first sentence didn’t grip him, it had little chance of being purchased.

Clearly, this is on a lot of people’s minds. So have I practiced this philosophy? I’ve certainly tried with varying amounts of success. I’ve also tried to vary my approach. Sometimes the first line is dialogue. Other times it’s the narrator speaking.

To date my favorite is from a story I’m still shopping around. Indeed, I hope to use it as the lead story in my short story collection submitted to the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize. (I wrote about this contest here.) The line is: “The naked man ran screaming from the room.” Don’t you want to read on to know why he is both naked and screaming? I thought so; I haven’t gotten an editor to bite yet though.

Do you try to nail that first line before proceeding with a story, or do you not worry about it? Do you have any first lines you’re especially proud of? Let me know in the comments.

 

1Q19 Update

The first quarter of the new year is done, so it’s time to check on the ole productivity.

  • Words written = 11,070
  • Submissions = 26
  • Rejections = 32
  • Acceptances = 0
  • Publications = 1
  • Awards = 0

Not terrible, but not great. A fourth of my 2019 word goal of 60,000 would be 15,000. I fell short of that one, but I did better than I thought. I found it difficult to write this quarter.  Free time was not abundant, and when I had it, I felt unmotivated to write. I even had two business trips–my favorite writing opportunities–and still got very little writing done.

So what did get done? About 4000 of those words were the result of flash fiction stories. I finished three of roughly 1000 words and then another four that were some amount less than that. In addition, I added a little to the WIP novel (1600 words) and about 450 words to various existing stories I edited before sending out again. I also wrote the first 600 words in a story I’m collaborating on with a fellow novice speculative fiction writer.  I hope to have the opportunity to keep adding to the word total in that work.

The largest chunk of writing went toward finishing my long suffering novella. That was another 4200 words. I am pleased to report that project is now done! Well, the first draft is done. This was a weird one. Most of the novella is in final form already having finished it last summer. However, the consistent critique from my beta readers was it lacked a proper ending. So that’s what I’ve worked on adding intermittently for the last six months. I’ll have to see what my beta readers think now.

My goal was to finish the novella and then break it up into its three component short stories. That way I could include all three stories in the short story collection contest I plan on submitting to by the April 15th deadline. The rules for that contest limit any one story to 15,000 words. The problem is, even with breaking the novella into three stories, the third story now clocks in at 16,200 words. Whoops! Don’t worry, I have plenty of other stories to include in the collection. Besides, the newly written part needs editing anyway before it’s ready for submission.

I also was disappointed not to have an acceptance this quarter. Admittedly, I didn’t maximize my chances, having taken several stories out of circulation, so they’d be available to include in the contest collection. Still, I’d really like to get to where I’m receiving at least one acceptance a quarter. Those are huge motivators.

I did have one publication in Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters. Buy the issue here!  It’s a noir detective story with a sci-fi twist.

So that’s it. How’d your first quarter go? Let me know if the comments if you had any triumphs or failures.