My new story is up for your reading pleasure and/or pain at the glorious Lightspeed, with bonus absolute fucking gorgeous illustration from the lovely and talented Galen Dara! You should go read it. Trust me. I’m a real doctor.
So by now we’ve already all read about the Undead Press debacle ad nauseum. I just wanted to throw a few of my own thoughts on this thing out there, because fuck knows the Internet needs one more opinion and the world was waiting for my royal decree.
Starting out is rough. You always stand the risk of being schnookered, there are unscrupulous people who want to schnooker you because of that inexperience, and you’re so desperate for validation, like a puppy trying to drive a big rig, that you’ll sell to pretty much anybody if it means your story is somewhere vaguely resembling the public eye. The problem with that, as with the aforementioned trucker puppy, is that it could all end in tears. Did that puppy get its CDL before it started? Did it do its research? No? Well, that dramatically ups the odds that Trucker Puppy is going to drive full-tilt into a knife factory, keep going, and plow through a home for tender-skinned hemophiliac children before plunging off a cliff.
We live in the Age of the All-Seeing Eye Of the Internet. It is easier to educate yourself about anything and everybody, from candiru to Camus, than it has ever been before. I am, in fact, talking to you across a great wide gulf of Pure Fucking Information. Small presses are numerous and many of them are absolutely goddamned fantastic, but for every Small Beer there are a handful like Undead Press just salivating at the chance to screw you. But! You have secret teeth, my darlings! Come close, so that I may plant my tender knowledge seeds in your fecund mind-dirt.
- Do your fucking research.
- Are you getting paid even a token amount? Can the editor spell their own name correctly? What kind of press have they gotten? Have you read anything they’ve published? Do you know other people who have worked with them? Can you find other people who have worked with them? Remember: Internet.
- Do your fucking research.
- Do your fucking research.
- Do not bend over just because you are The Tiny Fish or whatever the fuck. That’s your fucking name on the story; treat it like thunder crashes and demons make out every time someone utters the goddamned thing. Don’t be a dick. Be respectful. Do ask questions if you’ve got ‘em, though, and if the editor ignores you, belittles you, or otherwise treats you like shit, run like hell. Token payments, whether contributor copies or a bright copper penny, generally go a long way towards showing respect. They are there for a reason (unless we’re taking lit ‘zines; see below).
- Research your do.
Not too long ago, I got solicited by a lit ‘zine I had never heard of to do a story for no pay whatsoever. Now, immediately my bullshit meter started going off, as well it should have. In the SF/F world, at least, this is generally not how the game is played. So I whipped out GoogleTwit, asked around, and hey presto, they were legit. It took me all of an afternoon to dig up that info, simply because lit ‘zines are run differently and I don’t know a lot of people in those communities (if it had been a specfic market I’m sure it would have taken an hour, tops). But I had to do the research first, and until I did the research I didn’t agree to shit. I don’t know a fraction of everything about this business nor do I claim to; I’m just beginning my long journey upstream. What I do know about is staying suspicious when you’re small and the world is full of things that want to eat you. Christ, didn’t anyone else read Watership Down?
Give your Trucker Puppy CDL lessons, a map, and opposable thumbs before setting her off on the motorway. Puh-lease Do Your Fucking Research. Take a deep breath before you agree to anything and ask yourself if it smells right, even if the aroma of OMG! STORY! IN PRINT! is almost overpowering the fine bouquet of BS. You will be happier in the long run, this I promise you.
Looks like ‘Sun Dogs’ will be appearing in Lightspeed soon! I am actually vibrating with excitement. God-damn.
I got commissioned to write a pulp piece and guys, let me tell you, being Frank Miller without the insanity is all kinds of fun.
The mobster has a gun pressed to Rack’s forehead. The mobster has a god-shitting gun pressed to her partner’s fucking forehead, and the only thing Rhye can do is watch and scream as the scum smiles at her and pulls the trigger and blows Rack’s perfect brains out from between his ears.
Boom: Opening. Interested to see where this goes.
‘Vixens’ is up – for free! At Lightspeed! – and I’ve got a bad case of the post-publication ennui setting in. I’m not sure what I was expecting, really. Writing is not a thing where you get a lot of feedback, unless you’re extraordinarily lucky and/or popular. That’s part of what makes it so tough. You tear a chunk of your brain out, fashion it into a paper airplane with HI I’M STORY DO YOU LIKE ME Y/N scrawled across one wing, and send it spiraling out into the world, where it promptly lodges itself in the gritty crawlspace beneath a stack of extra desks. That’s just how things are. The best cure, I find, is moving on to the next project as fast as possible. If you don’t have a next project, you bloody well make one.
If you did read it and enjoy it, however, I am very, very happy, because that means it did what it was supposed to do. Stick around. There’s more where that came from (no, that was not a threat) and if you didn’t like this one, maybe the next will getcha. I’m tenacious like that.
So my totally awesome buddy Lauren Dixon asked me to write something for her totally rad ‘zine, Superficial Flesh. I did (in something like thirty minutes, no less; tea is a hell of a drug), she rather liked it, and it will be coming to an Internet Near You very soon. It is, I am told, squicky. Very, very squicky. Like ‘Ponies’ squicky, if nowhere near as brilliant as that masterwork. Be on the lookout for it. Bring your best ‘what the fuck is wrong with you, Bo?’ face.
It’s that time of the year again, kids. The season when a young writer’s fancy turns to thoughts of Clarion and how many goats will have to be sacrificed to gain entry into that sacred realm. From now until the deadline you won’t be able to spit without hitting an encouraging post by an alumni telling you why you need to, nay, must apply if you’re at all serious about this writing thing, and there’s a very good reason for that. Are you sitting down? Have you taken a good, cheek-bulging mouthful of your beverage of choice so you can execute a proper spit-take?
Here it comes: because it’s fucking true.
This is not some dark conspiracy dreamed up by a shadowy group of chain-smoking, half-lit ner-do-wells working on behalf of the Secret Cabal of Genre Authors and UCSD Bigwigs, weaving their wicked webs to Steal Your Money from some leather-and-mahogany den beneath the lit department. It’s not rose-coloured nostalgia for a time when, for six whole weeks, you lived in a magic bubble by the sea where everyone around you was a writer and believed fully in your talents. Clarion works. I can’t say it works for everybody because what the hell ever does, but nine times out of ten you are going to come out of this thing a stronger, wiser writer, fully aware of both your strengths and your weaknesses. The instructors and more importantly the other students will teach you what works and what doesn’t. When you are sad, they will pick you up, dust you off, and buy you an ice cream cone, even if that sadness is because they just gently tore your story a new back passage. When you make a sale, they will be there to get rip-roaringly drunk alongside you and trumpet your praises to the heavens. And when you leave? You go with all those connections, all those little strands, all those I know a guy who knows a guy threads that honestly really, really help when you’re just starting out. Connections are important. They are so fucking important, and you leave with a host of them tied to your wrists like balloons, in addition to being a fully-fledged Clarion Alumni. These people are going to be your pack from now on. They’ll understand what you’re going through even when the well-meaning folks back home don’t.
I know I haven’t gone into a lot of depth about the actual teaching process and how effective it is, but I don’t need to tell you that; Clarion’s track record speaks for itself. It is VERY fucking good. The major thing – for me, at least – was growing an entirely new family that pummeled me into believing in myself. Teachers, other students, they all know you can do it, even when you don’t. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come back with a little more self-confidence, and that’s half your battle won.
And please, while you’re there, feed my ravens.
Back in the early days of my writing career, when the world was a molten ball of magma and I still adamantly believed I couldn’t write fiction to save my life, the first rejection letter I ever received was from Strange Horizons. Being maybe a little more cocksure than even I understood at the time, I sent them the only original piece I’d ever written, despite the fact that they were and remain a pretty huge pro market with a pretty small acceptance rate.
The rejection came after a very long time. It was a personal one, nearly two paragraphs long and almost completely positive. The story just wasn’t the right fit; there wasn’t anything wrong with it or my prose. I cannot describe how fucking happy that letter made me, just coming out of the gate. It was almost as good as a sale. I framed it (yes, I framed my first rejection letter), sold the story to another ‘zine with the improvements they had suggested, and moved along to other things. Strange Horizons became something of a white whale after that, though. Later attempts to sell them stuff netted me nothing but form rejections.
Until this past week. The story will probably go up in February, the same month ‘Vixens’ premieres at Lightspeed. I’m going to frame the acceptance letter and hang it next to that first rejection, I think.
Deep down inside everyone – I’m making sweeping generalizations for the sake of my argument, here – lurks an idea for a movie they would kill to see become reality. I am no exception to this rule. If you know me well, you’re probably already sick to death of hearing about this plot. If you don’t, well, hold on to your butts, because have I got a pitch for you.
It is called, quite simply, Three Creepers And A Chica.
Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons, and Tim Curry are flatmates in, oh, let’s say New York City (that is where these movies tend to occur). Much to their collective theatrical chagrin, they awake one morning to find a baby girl in a basket on their doorstep. The sensible one (Rickman) wants to do the sane thing and call the po-po. The party animal, however (Curry), strongly suspects the kid may be his and insists they keep her until things are sorted, despite the fact that none of them have any sort of child-rearing experience (that’s rearing, not sneering). Can they keep the adorable tyke’s existence a secret from their nosy landlord (Steve Buscemi)? What happens when two Child Protective Services agents (John Malkovich and Kevin Spacey) get thrown into the mix?
Three Creepers And A Chica. Make it happen, Internet. Spread the word.