Bitten again.


The so-called writing bug found me again last night and bit deep so that this morning I woke with an unquenchable desire to have another crack at writing my own stuff.

A few years ago, when I was keen on it, I had some limited success. I went through the stage that many who aspire to write go through and penned story after story, in countless different genres and sent them all into the aether. I lived through the waiting as though it were torture, the waiting to hear if a submission had been accepted. Eventually, I learned that hearing nothing is normal and, to get a response, particularly a personal response, was the next best thing to an acceptance. After what felt like years, the responses started to appear in my inbox. Not too long after that, they became more frequent. At the height of my “success”, I was receiving as many as two personalised rejections a month. If you’ve never tried to get your stories out there, for someone else to like your stuff and want to publish it, you just won’t understand what joy even a personalised “no” can bring.

“Thank you for your submission, Mark. We enjoyed the story but we don’t feel that now is the right time for this particular story. Why not try again in a few months?”

“Thank you for entering the competition, Mark. Your story, Dogs with swords for tales was very well written. Your style is very accessible and we are sure that in time you will find success. Please consider us again for future submissions. We’d very much like you to consider our upcoming competition in September.”

Close but no cigar.

However, not long after that, I started to receive the odd acceptance. The editors were often with online magazines rather than actual print, but an acceptance, wherever it comes from is like heroin to a writer. Within a very short space of time, I had three of my stories accepted for publication. I think they all came in the same month if I recall.

So what happened? Life happened. Like everyone else in this world who has commitments, namely family, work, pets, social life etc., it all takes its toll. My firstborn son tipped the balance for me. He has brought immense joy, but the cost is paid for in time. To a writer, time is currency. After family, it is the single most precious thing in the world.

With that thought in mind, this morning I had read through the bits and pieces I was writing just before life intervened. I had hoped to be able to pick up where I left off but sadly I don’t think that will be possible. Writing is a craft and needs working at. There are things I’ve produced in the past that now, reading them, I can’t fathom how my mind was working or how I made the connections I did. I like a lot of what I wrote before. I like where it was going and feeling in those words. Man, finding that again is going to be hard.

There is a submission window opening in a few days for a horror anthology. I’m going to try and submit something into it. Who knows, if I bag myself another personal rejection then I’ll know I’m onto a winner.

M.

Perspective


April! That was the last time I posted about anything and you know what? I’m really not surprised.

I hold a full time job as a paramedic (Although I work as an on-call police medic), I live on a working farm and my wife is thirty weeks pregnant with our first born. Oh, and we have a fourteen week old puppy.

That’s a lot isn’t it? I read that all back to myself and I think it’s bloody loads. Too much maybe for one person to deal with but you just have to suck it up and soldier on. My wife and I always busy. Always. It never used to be this way. It used to be that she was always busy. I was never busy. My free time used to involve playing xbox or PC games. I may have watched the odd movie or perhaps even had an odd afternoon to spend doing nothing more than abusing myself in which ever way I saw fit. Not now. I don’t blame the wife. She’s just a worker, a hard worker… and she she makes me feel lazy if I’m not working too.

Oh, one more thing. Being as I live on a working farm, there is one more little thing I forgot that may actually take up a little of my time…

Harvest is coming.

 

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I small disclaimer. I don’t grow pumpkins, but I thought this was funny and illustrated my point nicely.

Okay, so we’ve established that life is busy. That’s fine. I’m not miserable. No bloody time to be! So what do I actually do with my spare time? Well, I write. I have a few pieces I’m working on that I hope will impress a few editors but you know what, that’s no easy task. Neither is typing while drinking whiskey. I do hope you’ll forgive my grammar and any other mistakes. If not, have a whiskey and you’ll understand my drivel fine.

You know what? I digress a lot. I meant to explain something insightful and in truth, I’ve completely forgotten what I meant to say. It was probably something unimportant like how things change when a baby is on the way. Something about how before I’d waste my days playing games and abusing myself but now… well things have changed. I have to prepare for First Born’s arrival. I must work, set an example, provide.

Okay, enough’s enough. I’ve often found that long posts discourage readers. Something about attention span I think, I can’t really remember because I wasn’t paying attention that day at school.

Right then, cheerio!

M 🙂

Fat Count


Another 4500 words today which would normally be cause for celebration. However there will be no such thing today. 

One of the problems with being glued to a desk all day in an effort to hit targets is that you snack. You get the munchies all the bloody time. Get a bored and there’s a bag of Smarties that will cure that. Stuck for something to say? No problem, why not have a few bags of crisps while you think about it. Celebrating because you’ve hit your word count for the day? Why not have a bottle of wine?

I’ve been steadily expanding for some time now, particularly since I broke my collarbone. Being unable to drive has meant I can’t go to the gym which as kind of bigger excuse for me to be able to say I can’t do any exercise whatsoever. 

This is not good. I can feel my lack of energy dragging me down everyday now. I’m constantly lethargic. Everything is too much effort unless it involves sitting on my fat arse and typing into a keyboard.

This will change. Starting tomorrow I’m going to try and go for a run. I’ll start small again, like I did last time and start off with a 2 kilometre run. A few months ago I had built up to 5km. I could run that every night and you know what? It felt great. 

So, tomorrow this emphasis switches from Word Count, to Fat Count. 

Wish me luck.

M 🙂

The Sphincter of Pain


I’ve had a truly awful few days. The wife caught a sickness bug thats been doing the rounds and brought it home to share.

The problem with my wife is that when she gets ill, she really gets ill. A normal blood pressure for her, when she’s healthy, is something like 95/50 so anything that lowers that makes her hit the deck faster than a footballer in the penalty box. Something like diahorrea that literally turns your arse hole into a fountain and smells, well evil, will drop that blood pressure five points in no time. Add in vomiting and I soon have a wife who faints every time she takes a shit.

Oh you think thats bad? As it progresses she no longer has to be standing or sitting upright for her to faint. She’s the only person I’ve met who will pass out laying down. Don’t think thats bad? Well what if she’s vomiting when she passes out?

I stayed up the entire night with her, catching her when she fainted, turning her when she vomited and swapping buckets and bowls where needed.

All this with a broken arm!

I know, I know I’m a hero. But now I’ve got the bug and my ring is as raw as if I’d rolled up a sheet of sand paper and… well you get the picture.

So as Im unlikely to get anything else done, today will be another writing day. I wonder if I can have a 7000 word day?

The challenge is set. I’ll report back later with an update.

M.

A Good Day’s Work


Just a quick one to say I reached today’s target quite comfortably. I put down 4000 words which might not sound terribly much but it is. I find any distraction difficult to deal with when I’m writing and today I had the nieces over for tea and my wife was in all day. Breaks are important though and so we entertained the children with a BBQ, then went on a walk around the local area and even managed to fit in an episode of Game of Thrones. So, 4000 words is really pretty good.

Tomorrow I’ll be hoping to achieve even more. The wife will be at work leaving me on my own so there will be no excuse. Hmmm, except perhaps that I re-discovered Civilisation this morning. If you’ve never played that game then I advise you not to start. There is not better way to lose countless hours than by playing that game. If only it wasn’t so damn awesome.

Right then, a glass of wine to finish and then bed.

M 🙂

 

Submit and Forget


Submit and forget. Two words I have come to love this year, although it hasn’t been easy.

Way back in January I had only ever submitted my stories to the Black Library. I think I’ve sent two pieces their way and both simply disappeared. I’ve often wondered if publishers around the world are in on some vast joke whereby they and the people who make email programs have teamed up to make the ‘send’ button cast your work off into some ethereal void, never to be seen again.

Yet, this is one of those hugely important lessons an aspiring writer must learn. Hit send, and move on. Fire and forget. The story will get to its intended destination (unless you got the email address wrong) and so the only way you’re going to hear back is if you’ve been successful or that they liked it enough to say ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ Believe me, even hearing ‘no thanks,’ is a victory in itself.

You can try and contact the editor if you want and I personally would actively encourage this if you have not heard anything after a period of time has elapsed. You’ve slaved over that piece. Do you really want it sitting in a ‘pending’ pile for months on end when you could re-write it and send it to a different market? That said, there are rules to doing this though and they all basically revolve around doffing your cap in a vaguely submissive way and being nice. You have to remember that editors, who want the best stories for their market, are also people. And what do people hate more than anything else? People. Especially that particular breed of people known as arseholes.

The arsehole will contact an editor and demand an update. They will not ask politely, just demand. This is bad form and will likely get your piece not only rejected but quite possibly shredded.

Arseholes also have a tendency to publically insult pieces of work by other authors who are in the employ of the very editor/publishing house they themselves are courting. I know! Common sense does not apply to this particular type of a-hole.

Hmm, then there are stalkers. This is difficult as many editors also have public profiles on Twitter or Facebook on which they must appear friendly and pleased that you’ve taken the time to find them. Do not be under the illusion that because your tweet was replied to that you are now ‘mates’. You sent a tweet, he/she replied. End of. You will not be sharing a pizza and watching the football together come next week and you certainly won’t be seeing your name appear on any publications they may work for. Ever get that feeling that someone is only being nice because they want something? Well, I would imagine that this is how an editor feels most of the day and it must be exhausting.

I’m preaching here. I can feel it in my fingers, hammering my own frustrations into the keyboard and that’s because I have no right to preach. I am guilty of one of the all time great blunders that will haunt me for a long time to come yet. In my defence, I was just starting out, but hindsight likes to remind me what a valuable opportunity I missed and what an utter plank I was. A while back I had the opportunity to sit down with an editor and talk about one of my stories. What I should have done was to ensure I knew the house style and intellectual property inside out before I sat down for that meeting. Instead, when asked ‘where in our worlds do you see this story fitting in?’ I panicked and blurted out something cringe worthy like, ‘I’ve written it as blank canvas. All you need to do is tell me which characters you would like and which part of the world they would be in and I’ll do that!’ If I’m honest, I can still see that editor’s shoulders sag. Oh, and it probably didn’t help that I was really quite drunk too. Nerves will do that.

screw up

So, there you have it. Eternal shame and regret balanced against the knowledge that things can only get better if I stick to the rules, doff my cap, and try and help others who may be considering being an arsehole for the day.

I’ve not been idle though. I’ve not drowned my sorrows since that unfortunate moment in time. No, I’ve been busy. I’ve sent off no less than twelve stories this year and have seen three acceptances, two ‘nice but no thanks’ and five rejections, so far. I’ll keep plugging away because at the end of the day that’s all you can do. I’ll always remember that fateful meeting though, not only because of how I played the arsehole for a day, but because I did come away with some very good advice without which I doubt I would have had the success I’ve had this year.

Bleeding Fingers


Today I have mostly been writing and editing old stories. It’s been a bloody long day but come the end I will have submitted three stories to various markets making my total now doing the rounds, six!

I know at least one of them has already been accepted. I suppose I should put a little sampler up on here at some point but I’ll check with the editor first. A paragraph can’t hurt surely?

My novel is also grumbling along. That’s a beast of a project. I’ve never attempted one before though so maybe it will get easier with time? Who knows? I have the first half roughly planned out and also a good idea of what happens in the end but as I said, it’s a beast. Just finishing the damn thing will be a hell of an achievement.

Today has been a good day. I cannot deny that simple fact. I worked a night shift last night in police custody and was out all bloody night. I did a little over 180 miles in total scooting between the various custody suites but hey, that’s a story for another day. I’m just pleased I’ve got so much done on no sleep.

Come to think of it, I really should check and see what exactly I have submitted and to who. In my sleep addled state I could have made some blinding errors of judgment. Sod it, too late now anyway.

Right, this was just a quick update so, off with you. Get back to your own desk and write something yourself.

M J

Time is ticking…


I used to hate that saying. Time after all certainly does tick and I find it irritating when people feel the need to remind of such. It’s doubly irritating if it’s my own mind that reminds me.

The short story I am currently engaged in battle with is finally coming along quite nicely. I’ve reached the halfway point as far as word count goes and foresee no reason why I won’t hit the deadline for the first draft. Whatever the result sending this thing out turns out to be, I can honestly say it’s been worth it just for the experience of working to a deadline. Of course, I may change my mind depending upon the reviews I receive. The last time my mystical editors cobbled together an anthology it was quite well received and so I really hope my efforts don’t let the side down.

It’s been a battle. There is no doubt about that. The story-that-is-now-progressing-well was not so long ago in its fourth reincarnation until I finally got a handle on it. There are a few reasons I struggled with it and the top three are as follows…

  1. Time travel is an enormously tricky subject that only really lets on just how tricky it is when you sit down and try to work out your plot. I’ve found the way around this particular hurdle was to just make shit up.
  2. The POV (Point Of View) was all wrong in the first four versions I attempted. Seriously, that’s nearly forty thousand words that went nowhere. In the end I experimented with a combination of two which I think works rather well.
  3. Before I found a POV that worked, I just had no love for the theme of the story, probably becasue of the two reasons listed above and seriously considered pulling out more than once. In truth, had I had other projects to be getting on with than I probably would have. It’s good now though.

Hmmm, I must digress a second. There are bits floating in my tea. It tastes funny too.

Right, well, bollocks to the tea. I think I have some Gin around here somewhere.

M.

One Man in Borneo (and his wife)


I am one exceptionally lucky chap. Did I ever mention that before?

As I write this I am sitting by a pool in Borneo. Here to be precise. The temperature is a cool 28 degrees Celsius and after I finish writing this I might have a dip in the refreshingly cool pool, or I might go and have an ice-cream. Hell why don’t I do both? Check this out…

image

There is at least one ninja in this picture.

Okay, its not a great snap but I’m using a Google nexus 7 and it has no back facing camera but you can get some idea of the kind of place I’m in right now. Palm trees, the sea just a stone’s throw away, cocktail in hand. Yup, it’s pretty damn nice.

This holiday is my birthday present from my wife. She’s good like that. Oh wait… Before you go off all ‘lucky sod, I hope you choke on a coconut’, I am paying for something. It’s a self-catering holiday and so I am paying for all our eats and drink. Oh, and souvenirs. I won’t equal the amount she has shelled out, but I’ll certainly feel I have contributed well. In fact, if you consider the fact that I bought her a really nice camera for Xmas then we won’t be far off being equal.

It’s been a truly awesome holiday and I’ll certainly be slinging up a kick ass review on trip advisor in the near future. Ever considered holidaying in Borneo? Stop considering. Just stop and go pick up a brochure. Then book your trip. We’ve seen some amazing sights including orangutans, crocodiles, fuckoff big lizard things and sea turtles to name but a few. Awesome. The landscape is simply spectacular too. You can look at pictures of a rain forest all day long but you’ll never understand what it feels like until your trekking through one – as we have – in search of those wonderful creatures listed above. But on top of all that, what has really been made this holiday great is the people of Malaysia. They are a really lovely, but genuinely friendly people who will go out of their way to assist you in anyway they can to make your visit something special. Alternatively if you are the sort who does not fair well with your space being intruded upon, they understand this too and will leave you to it. Regardless, I have yet to see one Malaysian fail to smile, even in passing. Fantastic people. Many speak excellent English (it is taught as a second language at school here) in fact, most signs and business display their information in English first before anything else. This makes getting around Borneo incredibly easy. They drive on the right too and even have roundabouts. I could easily think of this place as a home away from home.

Anyway, it’s quite clear I’ve enjoyed my stay. But holiday aside, getting away has been good in other ways too. Before coming out here I had been getting increasingly frustrated with my writing – I think mostly through weakness. The call of the procrastinator is a seductive and alluring melody that calls weaklings such as I to spend my time like currency browsing time sinks like YouTube and Facebook or all manner of other forums. I found I frequently had nothing to show for hours of time spent in front of a computer. Out here, I have had no access to Internet (this is actually untrue as I did not discover the free wifi by the pool and in the lobby until the last day of my holiday – which is today) and so I have had nothing to soak up my minds valuable story producing energy or to lead me astray. The result is that I have not one, not two but three stories outlined (on paper lol!) and ready for typing up into a something awesome. Well, it’s a plan. I’ll let you know if they come of anything or if I am actually just riding a high at the moment and dreaming…. again.

Still, it’s hard not to dream with a view like this…

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Seventy ninjas...

Well, it’s time for me to go. I have this to devour…

* there was going to be a picture of an enormous cheeseburger here, with warm cinnamon apple crumble to follow…. But I ate it before remembering to photo it. It was very nice indeed. *

…. on a balcony overlooking that fantastic view.

M.