Where Have I Been, You Ask?

Right here, at my desk, madly editing.  That’s #amediting for all you techno-tweeters out there.  Yes, for over a year I’ve been focused on editing and revising this stinky old Contemporary/Romantic/Intrigue/Suspense (just what IS the darn thing?!?) originally drafted during 2009 NaNoWriMo.  I started 2017 planning to get the thing edited and submitted to first readers by the middle of the year.  Then I wanted to start sending it out to potential agents at the beginning of 2018.  Ah, the best laid plans….

Actually, I’ve done pretty well.  My first readers got the manuscript last fall and I recently started sending queries to agents.  But my gawd!  The editing!  Will it ever END?  The document I’ve been working on has been labeled “FINAL” for MONTHS!

And then I saw this on the interwebs:

That’s when I stepped away from the editing and really got down to the querying.  I’ve got the book all nicely wrapped up in a pretty gold ribbon, waiting to be sent out into the world.  And I’m turning my attention to my NEXT book, to begin the process all over again.

Yes, the new book has already been drafted, but happily, it’s not a first draft.  But there’s more editing/rewriting in my future.  A lot more.  There’s that Thomas Edison quote about genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  I’m not claiming any sort of genius over here, but I think that any creative process has a spark of genius in it.  That ability to take something in one’s brain and convert it to something others might be able to feel and/or experience is pretty darn close to being a miracle.  So maybe that Edison quote can be paraphrased to reflect the writing process.

In the meantime….

 

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So then there’s this…

I recently popped into my local indie bookstore (shout out to Sundance Books!) and found that thing that makes a writer’s heart go pitter pat — their very own work on the shelf.  If you look closely, Gentle Reader, the two collections in which I have stories are sitting side by side.  This makes me so happy!

Legs of Tumbleweeds, Wings of Lace: An Anthology of Literature by Nevada Women

and

Tahoe Blues: Short Lit on Life at the Lake


Nom de WHAT?!?

Pen name = Nom de plume.

I recently published a short piece of horror fiction under my pen name Arlene Stuart.  It set off a firestorm of questions. 

Okay, it was three questions.

First, hunh?  Yeah, I know.  Delusions of pretension over here.  Like I’m Mark Twain or J.K. Rowling.

Second, why?  It’s fairly common for authors to use different names for different genres.  I’ve published a fair amount of non-fiction under my legal name (clips are here) and I’m working on a Middle Grade historical novel that I hope to publish.  But I also have a few romances drafted, ranging from clean to a little smutty.  Plus the short horror.  It’s pretty simple — I want to keep the non-fiction and kids’ stuff separate from the smut and scary stuff.

And third, why Arlene Stuart?  Family members will recognize both of these names.  “Arlene” is my birth middle name and “Stuart” is my grandmother’s maiden name.  So, in a sense, I’m honoring both myself as a youngster, and my ancestry.

But there are hoops to deal with.  When I submitted the horror story, I noted that I was using a pseudonym.  Unlike J.K. Rowling when she started to write mysteries, I’m not trying to keep it a secret.  There’s no worry that I will be outed and then have to deal with the backlash.  I told the anthology editor that I wanted to put this other name on the story and she handled the blurb perfectly.  Which, of course, gives me direction for the future.

There are the post-publication the questions, the puzzled looks, getting paid, and autographs.  I’ve compared myself to Mark Twain, which clears things up some.  His nom de plume is way cooler than mine, though.  And as for payment, hey, we live in a digital age.  I didn’t get a check; I just provided a PayPal e-mail address.  Easy peasy.  As for autographs, I haven’t gotten to address that, yet.  I imagine I’ll just sign “Arlene Stuart”.

Ironically, if I’d used my real name, I would be first on the list of authors on the back cover.  Oh well.


“Shot to Hell” Has Been Published!

The universe is a funny thing and the biddy running the operation has a wicked sense of humor.  In my last post, lo these many months ago, I whined about the fact that I’d written two lovely stories, submitted them around a bit and they had fallen flat in the publication arena.  I had sighed and put them away with resignation and move on to editing a NANO novel from 2008.

Then, precisely two weeks later, I got an e-mail from a friend.  Darling, darling friend Kirstin sent me this:

Subject: Final Call: Nevada Anthology — Women Writers Who Give Back

Nevada Anthology: Women Writers Who Give Back

Editing literary magazines, organizing readings, and teaching are rewarding but time-consuming endeavors. Each moment spent cultivating someone else’s poetry or prose is another moment away from one’s own writerly work. The sacrifices are real, yet most editors, organizers, and teachers are happy, albeit exhausted, to contribute to their communities. A forthcoming anthology will showcase poetry and prose written by Nevada women who contribute to other writers’ educations, publications, and writerly communities.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Length: send four to seven poems -or-prose less than 3,500 words
  • Previously published work encouraged. Previously unpublished work is just fine, too.
  • This call for submissions will close at 11:59 pm on February 7th. Late submissions cannot be accepted.

This project is funded in part by a grant from the Nevada Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

It was like this call for submissions was aimed right at my head.  I didn’t duck.  I submitted those two stories I had set aside and Heather Lang accepted Shot to Hell, the flash fiction horror.

Haven’t touched a copy yet, but here’s the cover AND I’ve been paid.  I think I’ll use that filthy lucre to buy some wine to toast that comedienne the Universe Biddy and my friend Kirstin.  Sláinte!


When To Let A Project Go

Short stories are a great training ground for novel writing, but are they worth the energy?

I had this wonderful idea, with a great setting, interesting characters, and a theme.  I had a submission goal.  I thought the story was lovely, a perfect fit for the publication.  Heartwarming and tender, my story even had dogs.

It was rejected.

I had another story.  It was based on a true incident, but there was nothing special about it.  Then the truthiness was edited away and a supernatural aspect came into it.

Length became an issue.  It was too short for a short story, so it became flash fiction.  I set an arbitrary word limit, which, while researching potential homes, was either too high or too low.

My critique group had questions, issues, and feedback comprising more words than the story itself.

I went to a conference and one speaker talked about shaking things up and changing the POV.  He was also the editor of a literary journal and encouraged submissions.  I changed the POV of my story to 2nd and it just sang to me.  The freshness!  The drama!  I submitted to the journal and waited for months and months and months.

It was rejected.

So here I have two perfectly lovely stories collecting dust.  When do you let a project go?  Do I just tuck them away in my bottom drawer, never to be seen again?  Or do I keep sending them out?  And if so, where?

There isn’t much demand for short romance or shorter supernatural.  My initial, and only, attempts at publication were both aimed at paper publication.  Is electronic publication a paying, valid, or even respected alternative?

Paper magazines are going away.  Newspapers are going away.  Even books are going away.  But are they being replaced with electronic alternatives?  No one is really saying.

Lots of questions and no easy answers.


Todd Borg

The Todd Borg book signing and reading at Sundance Books in Reno was essentially just like my experience with seeing Stephen King.  Except for the crazy fans and the multiple lines and the waiting and the scrambling for seats.  Oh, wait, yes, there was a scramble for a seat.

Todd Borg is a local author with a mystery series featuring a South Lake Tahoe P.I. and his Harlequin Great Dane.  The books are packed with local settings, humor, and are just fun to read.

I roped my friend Nancy into going with me because I knew she was a fan and she can be bribed with lunch.

Sundance Books is a gem of an independent bookstore located in a historic old house in downtown Reno.  It’s one of my favorite places and if they had ample food and a bed, I’d probably move in.

They are huge supporters of local authors and artists and even lil’ ol’ me did a reading at Sundance a few years ago (see here).

Todd was just like Stephen King – He’s a great speaker, knows how to tell a story, and is effing funny.  His talk was aimed at the writers in the crowd and I appreciated that.  He chose to read a funny scene involving the dog, which Nancy appreciated.

But unlike Stephen King, Todd was also open to a follow-up question via e-mail.  Granted, I’ve never tried to e-mail Stephen King, but I thought it was great that Todd Borg took the time to answer my question.


Stephen King, Part 3

Stephen King’s talk was effing entertaining.  The man knows how to tell a story.  He had it all – humor, pacing, swearing up the yin yang.  And an appreciation for his audience – a bunch of readers hanging out in a bookstore.

Some stories I’d heard before – he used material from “On Writing,” which I’ve read so often I’ve practically memorized it.  Others I probably gleaned from other sources.  But there was new stuff.  Fresh stuff that gave insight into the man, the myth, the writer.

I particularly loved how he says he has three personas – There’s the guy who was up there in front of us, slightly schlumpy in jeans and t-shirt, shooting the shit with us, out in the world, selling books.  There’s the husband of oh so many years who goes to the grocery store and takes out the garbage.  And then there’s the creepy guy who has a cabin in the woods who writes the books.

That resonated with me.  As a writer, I want to be like Stephen King, with three personas.

He took questions from the audience and it was great fun to see just how excited some people were to be actually speaking to someone who was their hero.  Quivering with the excitement would be an accurate description.  And we were going along, having a good time.  People were asking good questions and he had great responses, until the idiot in the front row asked him to autograph her hat.  He said “No” and that was the end of the fun.

And then we got to stand in ANOTHER line to pick up the book we’d bought earlier.

All in all, a weirdly surreal experience.  And I’d probably do it again.

So, when is Janet Evanovich coming to Reno?