Ask, and ye shall receive…

It’s another Monday of another week, a week I’m glad is over because it’s been a strange one. Not bad, which is good, just a little off. This week isn’t much better, but I’ll shoulder through it all the same. The important thing is to just take each day as it comes, with a particular looking-forward-to regarding Mondays. There’s just something about the freshness of the new week that really keeps me going lately.

Reading: Although the pile of books I’m reading right now keeps getting larger because I haven’t managed to finish anything lately, I’m getting close with a lot of them and I’ve added Tina Fey’s Bossypants to the mix, which I can gather so far is going to be a very quick, very amusing, and very relatable experience for me. All and all, I’m going to keep trying to finish Night Train to Memphis, which just seems to never, ever end, but I’ve got to get there eventually, right? …right? Please, just let me get there eventually…

Writing: Here is the section where the title of this post comes into play. Some of you (like, maybe two of you) might remember last week when I said something to the tune of, “Oh, if only I had more rejections coming my way so I had more stuff to just lazily turn around and send off to other journals!” Ask, and ye shall receive. It started almost immediately later that day, but throughout the week, my rejections skyrocketed from 19 since I started keeping count to a whopping 24. Five rejections in one week, and I’m feeling a little battered because of it. And, of course, all five of those stories have been promptly trussed up and sent off again, but I’m feeling that first tinge of discouragement. All these rejections and not a single acceptance? Oof. It’s a little hard on the ego, but I keep remind myself to just stick it through, because at the start of October, I’ll have two stories coming to print to remind me that I don’t completely suck.

And that’s the real crazy part about this industry. Not only do you have to be patient in waiting for responses from what you submit, but there’s usually a long wait between acceptance and publication, too. The magic and excitement of an acceptance wears down long before you finally see the final product in print. You’ve got to have the perseverance of a saint to be a writer, you really do. Thankfully, the fact that I’m reminded every morning of how much I love this (masochistic as it may seem) helps out a lot. I’ve never been happier to suffer so much dragged out torture and emotional roller coasters.

The new story I started this week is something I hope to finish for World Weaver Press’s Equus anthology, which is kind of exciting for me, because, while I’ve never really been one of those girls who were gaga for horses, there’s always been a part of me that wanted to be, and I feel like I’m tapping into that a little. Also, it’s only four days away from the deadline for Less than Three’s Heart of Steel anthology, and I’ve almost got my story finished. I’ve started typing it, at least, and thankfully have at least two days off because the deadline to really get it done. I am not going to miss another deadline!

‘Rithmatic: Scale still remains the same. I managed to get two walks in last week, though, so that’s really good. Definitely will get at least one in this week, too, though I’ve got to start trying to figure out what to do about my hiking once winter really hits. The autumn weather is fine; I like to bundle up for walks, anyway, but Chicago-area winters are harsh as hell, and I’m not that crazy to do ten mile walks in below freezing weather. I’m considering a gym membership once some Christmas money comes my way, but I always consider a gym membership, but can’t bring myself to actually spend that money. Maybe I’ll decide that it’s winter, so hibernation is acceptable. But I did that last year and that’s when I gained the twenty pounds I’m trying to shed again now. We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it.

That’s it for now. Time to go figure out which story to send out today, which I think will officially put me at forty stories out in the ether. But try telling that to me workaholic self that claims I’m not doing nearly enough. Ahem.

Which one is the BEST?

There’s a good chance a series might be coming out of this. Prepare yourself from a Rant About Work that Turns into a Metaphor About Writing, number 0002.

“Which one is the BEST?”

Not our gelato case, but it’s similar enough.

So, I work at a coffee bar in a grocery store, including a gelato bar, which is pretty sweet because we make our own gelato and it’s pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself. Our case is a decent size, too, so we have around eighteen different flavors at all times. Variety is the spice of life, but it’s also the bane of my existence with a certain type of customer. This is the customer that would do best in a situation where only chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla were available because they can’t make a damn choice to save their life. This indecisions comes with easily my least favorite question at the gelato case: “Which one is the best?”

“BEST,” you see, is an extremely subjective epitaph. What I consider the best one is not necessarily what you consider the best one. In fact, when customers ask which one is my favorite (which is a cousin-question to the question in question), I tell them my favorite (Salted Peanut Butter Sorbet), and they wrinkle their nose in disgust. If you have a strong opinion about what you don’t like, how the hell don’t you have an opinion about what you do like? Not to mention, favorites vary day by day. Salted Peanut Butter Sorbet is usually my favorite, but sometimes, I go crazy over the Chocolate Sorbet or the Mixed Berry or the Blueberry Pomegranate. Also, I’m vegan, so I’ve only had the sorbet, since those are dairy free. I usually give them that warning, because I have no idea what the gelato proper tastes like.

Another variation of this situation is “Which is the most popular?” This one drives me crazy, too, because it just makes me think that this person simply cannot form an opinion without consulting the driven masses. And that varies too, because, guess what? All of our gelato is good. There’s rarely a bad one in the bunch. Which is the best? NONE OF THEM. They’re all going to be the best to someone, it’s just a matter of opinion.

So what does that have to do with writing? I was thinking about the question in the context of the publishing world. What path to publishing is the BEST path? Is it traditional publishing houses? Indie prints? Self-publishing? Should you focus on quantity and get a lot out there quickly? Or should you toil over your quality to ensure that you’re putting out the best book you can, even if that means you’ve only got one every decade or so? Are quantity and quality mutually exclusive? There are so many choice! Which is the best?

And that’s just it. There is no best. What’s best for me is not necessarily best for you. We all have to choose our own path, because, I swear, if you ask me what my favorite path is and you wrinkle your nose because you don’t like that path, then why did you ask me in the first place? Who cares what other people like best? Be bold in your own decision on what feels right for you and embrace it…by getting the biggest size and digging in.

Interestingly enough, we offer samples at our gelato bar, so the worst question of all is “Is it any good?” Just try it! I don’t know what you like. And I like to think you can sample different paths, too, but here’s the thing: you’ll never really know until you try, right?

Dang. I kind of want some Salted Peanut Butter Sorbet now. With Mixed Berry. Because it totally tastes like PB&J, and that is ah-maze-zing.

Magical Mornings.

You know you’ve hit on something good when you can’t wait to get up in the morning. For quite some time now, I’ve managed to maintain my habit of waking up around six thirty in the morning (sometimes a little earlier, by natural inclination or by cuddly cats), getting my coffee, and then settling in to do some reading and writing. I do this for about two hours, until nine o’clock rolls around, and at nine, I turn on the laptop and take care of things until ten or ten thirty, which is usually the time the boyfriend wakes up or I have to wake him up so we have enough time for breakfast and lunch and whatever else before we go into work for our evening shifts. I like systems that work, but what I like even better is that I haven’t even gotten remotely sick of this process yet (which is not what I can say about the repetitiveness of the evening job). Halfway through the day, I can’t help thinking to myself, “I can’t wait to get to bed because then I can wake up and get back to work again!”

That’s how I know that this is what I was meant to do. That’s how I know this is going to be what gets me going, charges me up, and makes me happy. I can’t wait to go to bed just so I can wake up in the morning and take charge of my writing as I’ve been doing this past month or so. It’s a really thrilling thing to realize that you’re finally getting a hang of the thing you’re meant to do with your life.

And Monday mornings are especially magical because I basically just sit here and talk about all the things I’ve been filling those three scant hours with every day. Three very precious, wonderful, delightfully productive hours.

Reading: …well, maybe not too productive. I’m reading a lot, but I’ve got another week without a finished book. It doesn’t help that I keep adding to the pile, but, hey, one of the fun things about Mondays is that I get to crack open something new. This week, I decided to finally delve into some L. Ron Hubbard with Battlefield Earth. I will probably regret this decision, but I hope starting it now gives me enough time to finish it by the end of the year.

Writing: Only two rejections came in from last week, and, as my resources of stories runs a little tight, I still managed to get something different out every day. Today, I started a flash fiction intended for Whortleberry Press’s Forty Flashes anthology, finished it, and sent it off, and so that puts me at 39 stories currently floating out there, awaiting responses. And that’s the problem when I have a week with only two rejections. It makes it that much harder for me to turn something else around or find a place that accepts reprints or wring my hands over the few unfinished stories I have that just won’t seem to complete themselves any time soon. Rejections have gotten exciting because it means I can just turn a story around to somewhere else, leaving me more time to finish the WIPs. Still, it would be nice that, with 39 submissions out there, one or two come back with an acceptance next time instead. I’d be pretty okay with that scenario, too.

At the moment, I’m mostly focusing on finishing a short story for Less than Three Press‘s Heart of Steel anthology, with its deadline quickly approaching. I’m really digging the premise of it, and I love the nice heavy word count on this call, because my fantasy pieces always end up being too long. With a 20,0000 word max, I think I might be good with this one…assuming I finish it on time!

‘Rithmatic: Weight is still the same, six weeks running now, which leads me to a stronger conviction that either I have a scale broken in a very specific way or I really need to start with the calorie counting again. I managed to get my 10 mile hike in last week, too, and, I might even get two hikes in this week, but I always hope for two but only discover time enough for one. I’m dreading a long weekend at work coming up, but generally trying not to think about it.

And I think that’s a good wrap-up for now. Things are plugging along nicely, just as I like it, though I wouldn’t mind a little bit more excitement thrown in. Today should be a good one, though. Grocery shopping, probably a movie, and the boyfriend finally found some Chinese checkers, which I’ve never played but he’s been wanting to teach me. So wish me luck. And happy reading, everyone!

In which complaining about work turns into a metaphor about writing.

I am a writer, and, like most writers, that means I have another job. It isn’t a glamorous job, this other job, and it’s not even a really good job. But it’s an easy job, one that doesn’t demand too much of me and is structured to allow me to use my mornings for my writing, which is when I’m the most productive and creative at the same time (a very rare convergence, let me assure you). And I like to think that I’m pretty good at this job, too, even though I’m starting to get a little worn down by the repetitive nature of it. But I am good, and what I’m particularly good at is closing out little coffee shop corner of a larger store down for the evening.

We’re a small department, only a handful of us, and we’re all pretty good at the job. You kind of have to be when there’s so few of you to do it. But I always feel like I’m particularly good at the cleaning-for-close part of it, because the place always seems so much dirtier after I’ve had a few days off than when I was the one who closed the night before. That’s how it was last night, as I was going about getting under all the equipment and moving stuff around to clean up. I thought, “It’s never this dirty when I’ve closed the night before.” Because I’m all about maintenance. I clean the same things the same way, dirty or not, every night I close because I know that even one day of not doing it allows it to start getting dirtier quicker. And that was evident when I cleaned last night. The reason things are so clean and tidy when I work is because I’m maintaining a certain level of cleanliness at all time. Daily maintenance goes a long, long way.

And then I got to thinking of how that kind of relates to writing. One of the most popular bits of advice doled out by writers is to write every day. And as someone who writes every day and is infinitely better for it, I can’t agree more. It’s daily maintenance for your craft, even if it’s only a few lines or a page a day. It keeps your prose from getting dirty. It keeps it fresh and clean and new, even if it sometimes feels tedious. It’s important. If you start slipping now, things might get to a point where it’s been so long that you have to work extra hard just to get things back to where they should be. Daily maintenance makes a big different in the long run. Even if you’re running out of time because you’re supposed to clock out at a certain time or else you get a Payroll Talk from your supervisor, it helps to take the extra time to clean under that espresso hopper or wipe down those cabinets or puke out a page of garbage just to fill a page because at least it’s better than nothing.

Besides, the more you do something, the easier it becomes. So write, every day, because every little bit helps.

The Monday After a Weird Week.

Last week was categorically a weird week. I’m the type of person who gets very set in her ways. I like repetition, I like structure, I like things being A Certain Way. Last week went so off the rails of my usual week that I knew it was bound to be an adventure. It’s good for me to have weeks like that to shake up my foundations a little, but I’m definitely glad it’s over and I’ll be heading into more normalized territory this week.

The week definitely had its fair share of positives and negatives. So allow me to recap.

I think I need to get a lot of reading done this week…

Reading: My plan to get a book finished this week, especially to make up for not finish a book the week before, didn’t quite pan out. And, of course, since it’s Monday, I still added a new book to the pile, because we can’t change the rules all because I’m reading too many dense things right now. So The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot has finally made it onto the pile, a book that I’ve been wanting to dive into ever since I heard an interview with Skloot on NPR ages ago. I’m shooting for finishing either The Marriage Plot or Night Train to Memphis, but, knowing me, it’ll probably be Witches Abroad, because I’m a Pratchett-aholic.

Writing: Rejections surged this week, putting me at a whopping 17, up from last week’s 10. And most of them have already been spruced up and turned around and sent somewhere new, too. Lather, rinse, repeat. Thankfully, the proof for Alban Lake‘s Potter’s Field Six was sent out to contributors yesterday, so I’ve got that as a very tangible thing to look forward to. I can’t wait to share it with everyone; it looks like it’s going to be a really solid publication. I also started up a story today with the intention of submitting it to Meerkat Press’s “Behind the Mask” feature. The deadline is literally a few days away, though, so I’m not sure if I’ll make it. I’m going to try, though, dammit.

Submissions to this year’s World Unknown Review keep pouring in, too. I’m really thrilled by the variety, though, as usual, we’re a little heavy on the spec fic. There’s still plenty of time before the deadline, though, so send in some work! We’ve totally smashed last year’s number to oblivion, but I think it would be really sweet if we could break 100 submissions this year. It’s a long shot, but there’s always a big influx closer to the deadline.

And speaking of WUR, check out the interview I posted yesterday with WUR author Shawn Proctor. He’s our featured author from last year’s volume, and you can read his story, “The Courier,” here.

‘Rithmatic: Due to the strange week, it felt like I had a bit more time off, but I didn’t use it to do much hiking, because the weather has been a little…wet. I did get one of my ten-miles in, though I didn’t have the motivation to do it on any other day. And I’m not entirely sure when we’ll get a chance to squeeze on in this week, but we’ll see. Getting out there in nature does wonders to help keep my spirit lifted and positive, so it’s definitely becoming a must (though who knows what I’ll do once winter hits. Winter in Chicago is not exactly pleasant for the outdoors).

Weight: still the same. I don’t even know why I bother mentioning it anymore. Or maybe my scale is just a very special kind of broken. It’s been more than a month with absolutely no fluctuation, and that seems weird.

But that’s all for now. It took a bit longer than usual to post this; I’m a little scattered this morning because I have to work in a few hours, which makes me feel all restricted and everything. Plus, there’s been some issues with the boyfriend’s car, and so we’re taking care of some of that this morning, and it’s just a really off start to the Monday, which I hope doesn’t lead to just a really off week. But only time will tell.

An Interview with Shawn Proctor [WUR 2015].

The fact that Shawn Proctor’s short story, “The Courier,” featured in last year’s World Unknown Review, is set in a college makes me wonder if the fates created a delay in my interviews just so that the timing would work out that it would be September’s Featured Story. Whether it was destiny or not, you should definitely settle in and read this chilling tale if you haven’t already, and then hop back over here to read this little interview digging into the author’s inspirations and very clear love for the art of writing.

So, we’ll start off with the deceptively simple: Who is Shawn Proctor?

I grew up reading science fiction, horror and fantasy, anything from Poe and Lovecraft to Asimov and Phillip K. Dick. In college, I cut my teeth on literary fiction, and now I write speculative fiction that cuts between genre and literary aesthetics.

How did you discover the World Unknown Review, and what inspired you to submit your story, “The Courier”?

I am active on Reddit and came across your call for submissions. I loved that you specifically said that it was an inclusive publication that focused on quality rather than genre.

I had this story–the second of a Lovecraftian series–close to finished and loved the idea that World Unknown Review would be a perfect home for it.

Which it definitely was! Just as last month’s story, “The Melancholy of Devotion” was inspired by the works of Mary Shelley, “The Courier” jumps right out of the lore of H.P. Lovecraft. What’s your own personal connection with Lovecraft’s work, and what inspired you to delve into that world?

I have been playing the Call of the Cthulhu roleplaying game since high school, so I have been making stories in Lovecraft’s mythology in one form or another for twenty years. In the 1990s, I interned at Weird Tales where the editor George Scithers and the slushpile taught me the perils of trying your hand at Lovecraft–and a bit of how to overcome them.

His story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” is a personal obsession of mine. The geography. The slow build from innocence to horrible knowing. I wanted to figure out what happened next while mirroring the original story’s arc.

I’ve noticed lately a lot of Lovecraft in the horror world and beyond. Why do you think it’s gained a lot of popularity these days?

He has a strong cult following, but there are very few popularly known adaptations of his work, even though he has passed into the public domain. The completeness of his vision and intensity of its horror makes it very tempting for writers.

Another thing I loved about “The Courier” was its ability to take me back so vividly to my college days. Miskatonic and Arkham are clearly fictional, but I could swear I was right back at my own alma mater. What was your own university experience like, and how much of it did you channel into this story?

In my high school and college experience, “workshop” is both a noun and a verb. And I have seen how that personal and vulnerable environment pushes artists and writers in healthy and unhealthy ways. You get a thick ski and a detachment from your work. You learn that the part of the story you love the most is the part you’ll need to cut. It’s intense! Survive years of workshops and rejection won’t hurt anymore.

But I’ve also seen writers who use workshop as a way to tear down peers in order to elevate themselves. Worse, they sabotage promising writers they perceive as threats. Hopefully not through supernatural means!

Who would play your main characters in a film version of your story?

If I could go completely alternate reality, I’d have a young David Bowie as Burton and a young Alan Rickman as Neil. Two greats that died this year and I’m sure they would chew the scenery until it was begging for mercy.

Tell us about the last book you read.

I just reread The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There has not been a worthy successor to Douglas Adams yet. I don’t know that there ever will be.

He wrote quotable and memorable books that crush your worldview and skew it forever. And only now that I’m older do I really have an appreciation of his genius and incredible craft.

Who are your biggest writing influences and inspirations?

I love to write about superheroes, so there’s Ben Percy and Tom King who’ve picked up where George R. R. Martin‘s Wildcards books left off. Then there’s Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, of course. Phillip K. Dick, Samuel Delany, and Asimov, as well. And lastly the monumental talents of Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin. They made original, breathtaking stories, and the unvoiced challenge is to find a way to even be mentioned in the same breath.

Just as much though, I belong to two online writing groups with up-and-coming speculative fiction writers, and they push one another to find a new level.

What’s next for Shawn Proctor?

Besides world dominance, I am working on a urban fantasy novel called “The Boundless Bronze Warrior” and a bunch of short stories. But I am very proud that my short story “Sugar” will be featured in a forthcoming Crab Orchard Review.

Where might we be able find more of your work?

My website shawnproctor.com always is updated with my newest fiction. You can also check out my twitter @shawnproctor, which is a fiction of a different sort, or Instagram shawnproctorwriterartist, which has awesome visual art, too.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to World Unknown Review for featuring my fiction. Without wonderful publications, we writers would have a lot of stories sitting in drawers!

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And a big thank you to Shawn Proctor, too, for taking those stories out of his drawers and sharing it with us, too! Please dig into “The Courier” if you haven’t already and check out the other great stories accompanying it in the World Unknown Review Volume II. And thank to Shawn for being a part of the slowly expanding WUR family!

Stardate: Sept 5, 2016.

Hooray for Mondays! Those of you who have been paying attention know that I’ve been doing a “reset” every Monday, where I sort of sit down, take account of everything I’ve been doing, and start up on some new things to keep everything fresh and exciting. This Monday’s a little different. It’s Labor Day, a holiday, but I’m actually working today, which is not the usual case. I get that it’s because I’m a lower-paid employee in my department and it’s a holiday, so it’s a lot cheaper to have me working instead of someone else, but it does shake things up a bit. I still have the morning, though, and that’s when I get the FUN work done, so it’s all good. I just can’t be lazy afterwords like I usually am.

Reading: I didn’t get a book finished this week, as I try to finish at least one book a week, mostly because The Marriage Plot, while very good, is also very DENSE, so that ate up a lot reading time and energy. I did, however, find my missing Galapagos, so that’s back in the rotation, and I started up Terry Pratchett’s Witches Abroad, reminding myself that it’s been far too long before I cracked open a Pratchett. This one is easily among my favorites (which is what I say about most of them), and I think anyone who loves fairy tale retellings needs to pick it up yesterday. I’m hoping to get at least Night Train to Memphis finished for the week.

Writing: The rejection count ticked up to 10 as of yesterday, with no acceptances yet. Two a week’s not a bad pace, because it allows me to turn some stories around and send out to other places, while I try to churn out a few new ones. I’ve been keeping steady on the submission-a-day goal, which is awesome, but I’ve got some big deadlines creeping up on me, making me sweat a little. Today, I started up a story for The First Line that I really kind of love right now, and I’ve still got to type up my little yarn about a guy who’s afraid to fly. I’m going to strive to finish up the story about growing out of our perceptions of idealized romance, though I’ve been striving for that for a while now.

‘Rithmatic: Weight: still stagnant. At least it hasn’t gone up, so maybe I’m just doomed to this weight for a while, though I know I can do better. Two pieces of toast last night probably didn’t help. Whoopsies! But they were delicious. Worth it.

Managed to get a hike in this week, though not nearly as much as I thought I would with the four days off I had (it was a busy week). This week looks a little more promising; I’ve got at least two tentatively scheduled. No big plans on the horizon, though my schedule is all out of whack, so that’s probably for the best. It’s definitely going to be a One-Day-at-a-Time sort of week. And that’s okay. But I do have epic nachos to look forward to for lunch today.

How’s everyone else’s week looking? Does your life tend to speed up with the approach of fall or does it slow down a little? Have you had any pumpkin spice stuff yet (I, resolutely, have not).