Posts Tagged ‘ publishing ’

School, Writing, and ‘Totes’ is Apparently a Word

I should probably start thinking of some good quality content to put on this blog after school ends. The semester has only just begun but when this year is over, well, then it’s over. Unless by some miracle I apply and get accepted to grad school, and that’s when things get really serious and time will no longer be a concept I can believe in.

Not that I really believe in it now, either.  I’m almost done with my second week of the semester and I already feel as though I’ve fallen so behind…whatever possessed me to save five anthropology classes (four 300-400 level) for my last semester…though it probably doesn’t help that I seem to have a strong case of senioritis that leads me to mistakenly believe I can easily do homework while drinking beer.

Just got to keep pushing to the finish line, though, right.

I’m scared to bits and pieces at the prospect of asking professors for grad school recommendation letters once this is all over.  I’m expecting the responses to be a toss up between, “who are you?” and “I don’t know if I’ve anything good to say about you…”maybe try someone else.

Oh grad schools, why do you need recommendation letters?  I can’t form social connections to save my life.  I was raised in the emergent digital age, I interface with computer screens and emoticons, not living people.

At least I have my writing to fall back on, is what I keep telling myself to my own maniacal laughter.  Writing is a career you pursue relentlessly while keeping a day job to pay the bills (and slowly suck out your soul, and crush your spirit, leaving you a sullen husk silently holding on by that thread of hope that one of your stories will sell like Harry  Potter one day — sorry to spoil it for young, beginning writers brimming with idealistic ambition), anyhow, it’s definitely not Plan B.

That’s why I need to finish writing something and how.  We did intros in one of the classes, stating our name, major, year, and something fun/interesting (it changes as we were moving through the class) about ourselves.  The first guy who went said he was a writer, and I was like oh-fuck, stole my interesting about me, then finished up that he worked on fantasy novels and had two manuscripts finished and I was like, well shit, now I’m just a wannabe and he’s a dedicated professional.  Of course it gets round to me and I’m like, yeah, I also write, then sadly admit, though I haven’t finished a manuscript yet.

The professor, who is also the class clown, was bantering and laughter, and he made some offhanded comment that we can network (the other writer and I) and that guy’s is all scoffing, “she’s not even in the editting stages yet”, but then the prof was kind enough to acknowledge, “but that’s not really something funny.  That’s a serious endeavor, and should be commended,” because he’s actually a nice guy- much better than other everyone-should-be-loud-and-boisterous type teachers I’ve had in the past, then he brought it back around and instructed me, “Now tell us something funny.”

To which I quipped, “Something funny” because you know, no ones ever heard that one before.  People laughed and he was like okay, whatever, moved on to the next person and immediately I thought of a million interesting/funny things I could’ve said about myself instead.

Anyhow, I guess I made the decision then that I need to either work on finishing a manuscript (and then another one and another one and another one) and getting published (my stories anyway, company blog totally does not count.  Side note, WTF is with the word “totes” all of a sudden.  First time I heard it was in the Malcolm McDowell and James Earl  Jones commercial and I’m like, “kids don’t talk like that”, come to find out, they do) back on topic, though, decision: either write something or stop telling people I’m a writer.

I think I’d die inside if I had to stop telling people I’m a writer, as though my spirit were suddenly severed from my body.  Writing is the first and foremost thing I’ve wanted to do going way back to when I was like ten years old and a teacher told me I should be a writer, and I was like, wait, I can do that?  As like, a for real profession, just tell stories all day? Yeah, I totes want to be a writer!

Okay, yeah, totes is the stupidest word ever. Jeez what is wrong with kids these days? Let’s just pretend it doesn’t exist and the people that use it, we’ll pretend they don’t exist either.

Right.  So, unless I want to be a spiritless automaton, going about my life, rank and filing bones, pretending I know something about anything science-y like, which I only partially do, I guess I have to get something accomplished, finito, published, and voila, me writer.  Yeah, I had a beer while reading about entheseal change earlier so I’m a mite loopy, apologies.  Probably start small, short story or something.  Move my way towards finishing one of the plethora of novels I’ve started but for some reason or another dropped, only to start a different novel altogether.

I’m going back to homework now.  Don’t use the word totes.

The E-Book Revolution

I’ve recently started using Amazon’s Kindle.  I didn’t buy one, I couldn’t justify buying an environmentally costly piece of tech designed merely for e-reading, though admittedly, the Kindle Fire does look very lovely and is a far more environmentally and economically sound investment versus the old one-trick-pony Kindle.  Unfortunately, being that I’m a poor college student, I don’t have $150 lying around.  I’m kind of saving up my money in hopes of visiting the optometrist soon and getting a pair of glasses so that I don’t get crow’s feet style wrinkles from squinting at the board during school lectures.

Anyhow, so I sprung for the only Kindle in my budget, the free Google Chrome app.

I’ve bought a few e-books: an ethnography on the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers that I needed to read for one of my Anthropology classes (and I got full points on the paper I had to write reviewing it), Odd and the Frost Giants written by my favorite author (it was on sale), and Infected: Click Your Poison by James Schannep (because, duh, zombies — totally worth the four bucks by the way, I recommend going and buying).

I’m liking e-books so far.  The one-click buying option on Amazon makes it very dangerous for my wallet, but otherwise, the Kindle’s highlighting and note-taking capabilities proved very useful for my writing assignment, and I like that my Kindle app on the computer can synch to the one on my phone, and I’m able to open up at the page I left off reading on anywhere, anytime.

On twitter, which is another dangerous new toy that’s becoming far too much of a distraction, I’ve recently collected several e-book authors on both my follower and following lists, and I realized as I sat there scrolling through the ridiculously numerous tweets of “buy my e-book” or “buy his e-book” or “buy her e-book”, that we are currently in the midst of a revolution in the literature world.  This thought may or may not have been prompted by an email update I received from Writer’s Digest featuring an article talking about e-books as an easy, low-cost alternative to conventional forms of self-publishing.

Admittedly, I have a few prejudices when it comes to self-publishing, I think most people do, but I’m trying to break away from those biases.  I like the indie movement, in music, movies, video games especially, so it stands to reason that I should be open-minded towards indie books, but I’m still very torn on the issue.

I know that traditional publishing can be very difficult to break into, with or without an agent.  I’ve heard many an anecdote on the subject; one about Steven King taking his first book to something like thirty-four different publishing houses before one agreed to option his manuscript and that J.K. Rowling and her agent had to offer paying half-the-costs of printing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in order to get a publisher willing to sign.  If such stories are true, it does beg the question, do publishers really know what makes a good story?  Not to mention, it fuels theories of an elitist world, where publishers decide whose voices can be heard, censoring the masses by silencing and squashing stories they dislike for whatever subjective reasoning they might supply.

On the flip-side, I feel that, with a few exceptions, the traditional publishing industry does help to maintain a certain standard of quality in the literary world.  When you, allegedly, have experts with degrees in English, Literature, Creative Writing, etc., boasting oodles of practical knowledge on the fine mechanics of story-telling, sorting through the hundreds of millions of would-be novels they receive yearly, you have to assume that at the very least, a good chunk of the absolute best in that stack are making it through to our eager reader hands.  I’m not an English teacher, and I’m not an editor, I don’t want to read juvenile writing efforts, and I most certainly don’t want to waste precious money (poor college student, remember?) on a book that probably should have been rewritten a couple hundred more times, or maybe just been tossed altogether.  Cruel as it may be, there is still much benefit in the tactics of the traditional publishing industry.

That being said, what do e-books mean for publishing?  Some speculate that between Amazon signing authors and the advent of the e-book industry, traditional publishing houses might be looking at going the way of the dinosaurs.  Though it would set a very scary precedent for the future, I’m not entirely convinced.  I do think that most authors looking to break into the field will try more conventional publishing routes first, e-books take a lot of work on the writer’s part, generally requiring the writer to do their own marketing, schedule their own events, and just all around doing the promotional work that a publishing house would do for them.  For some of these beginning authors, Amazon will be that “conventional” route, but there will be other author’s that won’t want to sign with Amazon for varying personal or professional reasons.  Those that can’t find a way into writing, or perhaps just don’t like the idea of going through traditional publishers may then look at e-books as an initial option, some will possibly stay e-book only, but I think many will use it merely as a springboard into print.

Because, honestly, at the end of the day, digital cannot replace the feel of holding an actual solid book in your hands, feeling the texture of the pages beneath your fingertips, hearing the soothing whisper with each turn, and breathing in the familiar smells of either the fresh ink in a brand new text or the dust and age in an ancient, yellowing tome.  The words aren’t the story alone, but the book itself, the object in physical form, is an experience that book-philes like myself will be none too eager to give up in lieu of fancy highlighting and note-taking capabilities.

I like my Kindle apps.  I love my books.

That being said, I think one day I may publish an e-book or two, mainly because I have some stories I’d like to put out there that I don’t think would ever sell in the traditional market.  Why write them then?  Well, every writer knows the answer to that question, the stories will eat me alive if I don’t.

Risk – “Junk Drawer JuJu”

Today I had originally planned on posting a completed version of a short story I’d been working on, however, as the story started developing I started to think about my dreams and why I began this blog in the first place.  It’s moniker, “Dastardly Reads”, was inspired by my own cowardice as a writer.

As a child, I used to write with full intention of being an acclaimed author, hoping to one day have my stories out into the world and maybe make a bit of a living off of them.  Yet, as my life went on, and I got older, more world-weary, and a lot too cynical, I became crippled by fear.  I didn’t want to put my stories out there, to let them be heard, because what if no one listened?

Or worse, what if no one liked what I had to say?

It is so easy to tear apart someone who has something they care about, especially something they created, displayed for the world to see.  I think it’s easier than some people realize and still others do realize and happily exploit its ease.   Writers, creators — artists in general, they take a great risk in putting their work out there.  The rewards can be great, or so I’m told, but they’re also rare, and more often the outcome is that you leave yourself vulnerable and wide-open to attack, and attacked you will be.

It’s no wonder Harper Lee cautioned would-be writers, “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career, that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”

Starting this blog was the first of many steps I’ve been taking in hopes to develop that thick hide, and I think  that it’s time I finally test its durability.  The short story I planned on posting today, I’m going to instead make attempt at getting it published and, once it is finalized, I will begin querying and submitting to a few literary magazines.  If nothing else, it will provide me a little insight into the publishing process.

Wish me luck.

Or even better, I’m posting a very brief snippet of the short story, and would love any constructive feedback you could offer?

Excerpt of “Junk Drawer Juju”

The tiny house at the end of Canterbury Lane looked ordinary by all outward appearances, and Millicent felt skeptical pulling her powder blue Coupe de Ville up sidelong the driveway. She peered vaguely out her window, took in the red brick two story with its wrap around porch, hanging plants clasped to the trellis, scant lawn decorated with pink flamingo ornaments and a dream catcher in the window, ivy growing up the building’s side, and a long hedge poised like a crouched tiger all around. The only aspect of the house that really set it apart from its neighbors’ own tacky layouts was the auspicious tree that stretched high up, over the top of the house, its wicked branches curved into spindly limbs scratching at the clear sun-baked sky.

Millicent threw her car into park and scurried up the walk, tentatively tapping the door, its knocker shaped like a napping cat. She hugged her purse to herself and shuddered, suddenly feeling ice through her veins, though it was a warm summer day. The door swung open and a small, beady-eyed woman filled its frame and gasped.

“You’re late!”

“I…I didn’t know…you were expecting me?” Millicent stammered, taken aback, perhaps there was something to this woman after all, with her bedraggled hair, gold spandex, and swampy “Mizz Thang” sweatshirt.

“Of course. Franz called. Said you’d be here around noon, it’s nearly supper time now,” Mizz Thang answered, swinging her door open wide and ushering Millicent inside.

Millicent softened her expression and smiled at her own silly conclusion jumping.

“Franz. Of course,” she drawled, stepping into the house and flinching when the woman slammed the door shut and tossed its lock and a series of deadbolts into place.

The house’s insides were even less conspicuous, knick-knacks and doilies topped with vases from flea markets, a large clock overhead featured a watercolor rooster cock-a-doodling atop a red barn. A shaggy dog, its eyes — one blue and the other brown, sat on the stairwell, disinterestedly watching the two women enter the house and stride swiftly into the den. There was a tweed sofa, a knit afghan flung over its high back, and a coffee table littered with magazines about gardening, cooking, and high-tech gadgetry.

“Would you like something to drink? Maybe some chamomile tea?” the woman asked and Millicent politely declined. Chamomile gave her hives.

Altogether, the atmosphere in the house seemed pleasant enough, like grandmother’s home, where small children sat quietly on the couch sucking sweet lozenges thirty years expired and hoping their parents would take them home soon.

“Right to business then,” Mizz Thang announced, clapping her hands together and causing Millicent to nearly jump clear out of her own skin, “Will we be casting a curse, hex, or love spell?”

“Aren’t they all the same thing,” Millicent dryly wondered. Mizz Thang grinned, she had maybe five teeth in her mouth.

“Of course not. A love spell is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, a hex is the hasty excise of a fleeting moment of anger that smarts for weeks after, and a curse is a rage so precise and exacting, their great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will feel it!”

“I see. Then I suppose I’m here for a curse,” Millicent decided, setting her features grim. She was a chubby cheeked woman, prone to fits of giggles when drunk, though, so the effect wasn’t much.

“Of course,” Mizz Thang replied whimsically, “No one is ever here for a hex, but as a matter of professionalism, I’m compelled to recommend the hex over curse. It’s more efficient, economical, gets the job done with a fraction of the side-effects…”

“Well…I don’t know…” Millicent wavered, crossing her arms over her chest and worrying her bottom lip. When Mizz Thang put it that way, it was difficult to resist.

“Hexes are far easier to reverse in the instance of buyer’s remorse, and also, require no animal sacrifice whatsoever. Easier clean up.”

“Ah…well…I do feel bad about the animal sacrifice bit…but no. No. I’m definitely going with the curse,” Millicent announced.

“I tried,” Mizz Thang said…


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