Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Quick Update of Good News Type Things

Without winning a penny of prize money or publication, I received perhaps my biggest achievement in publishing thus far. My store “Little Me, Big Me” didn’t win, but earned an Honorable Mention in Glimmertrain’s New Authors competition. Glimmertrain is the big time, bigger than anything I’ve submitted to before, and to make it in the top 5% of over 1000 entries is incredible. It means someone noticed me!

“Little Me, Big Me” is perhaps my strongest story I’ve written, one that suprised me when I saw how powerful it was when it came out. That’s a great feeling, being scared/pleased with your own work. The story is thinly science fiction, and it’s part of my recent struggle with genre. I’ve found labeling things by genre to be limiting and pedantic. My last story that was critiqued on critters.org received a number of replies that it was marked “fantasy” but didn’t feel like a fantasy story. My thought was “Who cares? What did you think of the story?” But genre also sets up reader expectations. If I wrote a story called “Feast of the Dragon” and wrote a touching character-driven piece about a young man trying to learn how to feed his pet iguana and listed it as fantasy, I would probably irritate readers. Recently, I’ve been wondering whether I “belong” as a fantasy writer, if I should write more fantastic and science fiction stories to be more “that,” or just write and let other people call the stories what they want to call them.

So my question is this– how important is genre?

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Bang Your Head! (Against the Monitor)

It’s been about six weeks since my last blog post. Between deaths in the family, an impending birth, frantic renovations (to prepare for said birth), a freelance project, and a nutty school schedule, the blog fell by the wayside. And in that time, I’ve had one of my short stories published in a new anthology, Song Stories: Volume 1. The story is “Equilibrium of Chaos,” which was published a couple of years back in another anthology (Hall Brothers Entertainment’s Villainy). The theme of the anthology is stories inspired by songs. “E of C” is exactly that. Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine may not be rock’s finest poet (or a nice guy, or even remotely sane), but he’s written some great riffs and some very cool songs. One of my favorites is “Hangar 18,” which is a fictional place that is reminiscent of Area 51. The song is a bit of sci-fi campiness, which transferred into my story. Once I developed a main character, the story really wrote itself. The antagonist, an ice-cold colonel in charge of the hangar, was a ton of fun to write. If you haven’t read my story before, pick up the anthology on Kindle here and try it out.

The authors in Song Stories: Vol. 1 are doing a blog-hop on the connections between writing and music. I have lots to say on this topic. I could address what I listen to when I write (classical, ambient, electronic, jazz, computer game music, anything without lyrics– can’t write with other people’s words in my head). I could talk about how music inspires my stories (the aforementioned Megadeth. I once wrote composed a story listening to Rage Against the Machine’s cover of NWA’s “F— the Police” to get in the narrator’s mindset. My novel I’m working on is thematically tied to Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime). But I’d like to talk, instead, about being a performer.

One author I like (I forgot who) once said that many authors are frustrated musicians. I can relate to that. I’ve been playing music since age ten or so. I began playing violin in the 4th grade. My parents were incredibly supportive (quite a feat, if you’ve ever heard a kid learning the violin). I stuck with it all the way through high school, usually enjoying it but never becoming great. In high school, my musical tastes expanded beyond classical, and I began learning guitar. This past year, I’ve begun to teach myself bass. I’ve never had a band, though I’d like to be in one. If I couldn’t be a writer, my next choice would be to be a rocker. I just lack the musical talent. I can play the instruments, but I can’t really make them sing. My gifts (if I may humbly call them that) are in the written word, not in the performed note. But this doesn’t change that ache I have in my bones to perform and share the music.

Confession: sometimes I sit at my computer desk, writing a story, and when the words are flowing, I imagine myself writing the words in front of 20,000 screaming fans, sweat pouring from my brow in the heat of the spotlight, the stage thundering under my feet.

Maybe what I really want– since I know I’ll never make a living playing a musical instrument– is the feedback that musicians get. When a musician performs, he’s there, in the moment, playing the notes. If he plays them notes real good, the crowd goes wild. Hell, even if you don’t play well, if you play with enthusiasm and energy, that gets the crowd so worked up that the response is the same. But writers have a different fate. Their feedback comes weeks, months, years, or decades after the writing. There is no immediate joy or rejection. I’ve published stories that I wrote years ago, and it’s weird accepting praise for something that was part of me a long time ago. Maybe that’s why I like to imagine myself rocking out as I write– because for me, the thrill of being a writer isn’t in the dream of someday having a fanclub or signing autographs for two hours (though I would be honored). For me, it isn’t even about having my name on a handsome hardcover in a bookstore. No, for me, the thrill of writing is in the composition. When I’m at the computer, I am on the stage, the drummer pounding away behind me, the guitars squealing, the bass thundering, and the crowd is right there with me, and we’re sharing the making of the music.

 

 

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