“I enjoyed this piece very much.”

As an editor with a fledgling journal and a lot of passion for connecting with other writers, I like to send feedback with my responses to submissions, be they rejections or acceptances. I do this for many reasons, the strongest of which is simply that when I receive a response, especially a rejection, I like to know what worked and what didn’t to help me improve for next time. I understand that a lot of journals out there receive so many submissions that a personalize response is just not feasible, and that’s fine, too. But it’s always nice when you get something back and there’s constructive criticism and perspective.

When I receive a rejection that had feedback, it’s usually telling me that there was a lot of merit to the story and my style (yay!) but that there just wasn’t enough. Not enough oomph, not enough to set it apart from other stories or make it really, really exceptional. It’s something I’ve really come to understand about my stories, that I am mostly a storyteller. I like telling stories, and sometimes, those stories aren’t remarkable or groundbreaking, but they’re nice and entertaining and pretty solid. They’re enjoyable, but, when space is limited and there are so many other stories, that’s sometimes just not enough. And that’s okay.

But I did receive an acceptance letter recently that simply stated “I enjoyed this piece very much” and asked if it was still available to be used in a future publication. Something about this very simple approach really struck me, because I felt like it really encapsulated my writing style and the kinds of stories I wrote, and it just made me so pleased that this letter seemed to embody that, in a way. It didn’t delve into technique or plot or character aspects. It just said “I like this. This is nice.” And that, I think, is my writing in a nutshell. I write stories that people like, that are nice. Not great, or earth-shattering, or stupendous. But something that might like your life a little better having read it, even if it doesn’t stick to you like glue.

Simple storytelling has it’s place in the world alongside all the mind-blowing, boundary-breaking epics as well. It’s so refreshing to encounter an editor and a magazine that seems to feel the same way, by simply liking a piece and, for the most part, just leaving it at that.

Monday Morning Reset [03/13].

This post almost did not get made, all thanks to a cat on my lap. When there is a cat on your lap, and your laptop is in another room, more often than not you decide that a Monday Morning Reset post is not the most important thing in the world. You’re gonna let that cat stay on your lap. Thankfully, the cat in question was feeling fickle this morning and got up often, with enough time for me to snag the laptop and bang this out. I’m half expecting him to show up halfway through writing it to sit on my lap again.

I’ll be honest here: last week is kind of a blur. As I type this, there’s snow gathering outside, more snow that we’ve probably had all winter, and last week we had a day reach sixty degrees. These weather extremes has had my sinuses in a whirlwind, so I’ve been varying degrees of sick and distorted all week. And Saturday was just hell at work. I don’t know what was in the air or if it was the approaching full moon or what, but people were crazy, and I had a really bad day, and now I’m just glad it’s over and my mind can hopefully focus on other things. But when I stop to try to recall what I did do before Saturday, it’s all just a blur. But I’m going to try to recall enough to do a proper Reset.

Reading: Because reading two other heavy books in the form of Battlefield Earth and Dune weren’t enough, I finally cracked open Atlas Shrugged this morning. I’m pretty stoked to start it, not only because I’ve always thought it was a brilliant title, but I’m really fascinated by Ayn Rand’s philosophies. It’s so interesting to have someone who you agree with so much in some aspects, but completely and utterly abhor their thoughts on other aspects. Or so I assume. This will be my first delve into actually reading her works rather than observing her from a secondary standpoint.

(Update: In the course of writing that last paragraph, I had a cat again, though it was the other cat, and he had left by the time I finished. Fickle, fickle felines).

Writing: I feel a little bit of freedom since I’ve publicly declared my April project dead, which always makes the words flow better. I’ve finally reached the turning point in Fearless that I feel has been building forever, and now we’re going to charge toward the end (I hope!), and I only received one rejection this week, putting my total at 35. So that was good, but I really need an acceptance soon or else my confidence is going to really take a beating. I know there’s three submissions I should hear back from this month, at least, so I’m just going to try to stay confident in that regard.

‘Rithmatic: Not a whole lot else to report. As I said, the last week was just a blur and work kind of damaged my spirits a bit. One more week to go, though, and then it appears I’m back on a more part-time schedule (three days off instead of just two…two is not enough when you’re trying to balance two careers!). I’ll miss the big, fat paychecks, sure, but not as much as I’ve missed having that extra day to write and get shit done.

This week, I’m just really hoping to plow through it to get to the week with three-days-off, which is also my birthday week, although I really don’t have any plans to celebrate at the moment. But maybe now that I’ve got two brain cells to spare for thoughts, I can come up with something fun.

Happy reading, everyone!

A Project’s Quiet, Gentle Death.

While I can’t really complain too much, 2017 so far has not at all turned out the way I had envision when I set my goals and began to pursue them in January. And that’s okay. Having goals and deadlines and sticking with them is important and whatnot, but it’s also important to be flexible and reevaluate the direction things are going when necessary. I was not expecting to be working forty hours a week for the past three months when I had made plans to put out another short story collection in April. I was expecting to have at least fifteen more hours than what I had to be writing a bunch more stories to either be included or to be sent out to publishers. The deluge of new pieces I expected to have by now are little more than ideas or unfinished starts in various notebooks. I could just cease sending out any new material for a while, but submitting is kind of addicting. Why would I want to publish this story in a collection that might not get enough attention when it could go in this really popular magazine instead? So I needed to reconsider my plan.

I really want to publish more books, but the fact of the matter is that right now, it’s not going to happen the way I hoped it would. I’m certainly going to plug along as best I can, but until my work schedule gets back to where I’ve wanted it to be, writing is going to continue to be a slow process demanding a lot of patience. And that’s fine. I’ll get there. Who knows, maybe I’ll hit a wind and suddenly finish a bunch of stuff and then I’ll have a treasure trove of things to start throwing out into the world. But, for now, it’s just steady as she goes, tortoise wins the race kind of approach.

On the bright side, I do have a week coming up which is more in line with what I would like to be working, so I’ll have an extra day to work. Fingers crossed that this trend continues.

I still want to publish another short story collection some day soon, hopefully still in 2017, but my metrics for it has change. Anyone keeping track will know that I’m aiming for 100 rejections this year. I’m at 34, so I’m pretty positive I’ll reach that goal. Perhaps that’s when it’ll be time to consider what stories to put together and share on my own accord rather than waiting to strike the right notes with other editors.

Until then, it’s just time to keep on truckin’.

Monday Morning Reset.

Here I sit, doing my Monday Morning Reset, on a Monday that I actually have off. When I started this little weekly evaluation and refresh, I was regularly having Mondays off, so it just made sense, because I had the whole day ahead of me to wrangle some stuff into order and get my shit together. This has definitely not been the case for a while now, as work has been crazy to the point where I’m actually working more hours than my supervisor (whaaaat?). But today, sweet, blessed today, is a genuine Monday Morning Reset like the days of old (January), and I am very much looking forward to it.

Granted, since I am working more these days, my afternoon is going to be filled with a lot of errands and such, but I know I have this morning and the evening while the boyfriend is at work to get some other stuff taken care of. But for now, let’s have a look at the week that was and the week ahead.

Reading: I’m getting closer to knocking out a couple of the books leftover from last year, as well as one of the newer ones for 2017, though I’m really backed up and my stack is fat. I have trouble focusing on reading except in the morning, but I might try to knock out a few more chapters today. For my new book of the week, I’m delving into Gregory Maguire’s Wicked again; it feels like it’s been ages since I’ve read it, but I’ve always enjoyed it, so it’ll be a nice, lighter, quick read to help pad the numbers a bit.

Writing: It just struck me yesterday that we’re already in March. In the sweet, innocent days at the beginning of the year, I had these plans for a special April project, but I’m realizing I might not have the time. I can still make it a May project, but that means I’ve got to readjust how I do a few things. I might not be submitting as much for the next few months, but I think, since at last count I had more than 40 stories floating around, that’s okay.

A few more rejections came in, bringing the current total to 34. Perhaps it’s the lack of acceptances to make things a little brighter, since I haven’t had one of those in a while, but the rejections have been hitting a little harder lately. One was for an anthology I was really getting my hopes up for, so that blow hurt, but I’ve got to keep moving on. There’s another anthology I’m excited about that will be making their choices this month, too, so I’m just going to stay hopeful on that one for now, and maybe a few others will turn up. I’ve also got the upcoming issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly to look forward to, as they’ll be publishing my story “The Space Between Worlds.”

‘Rithmatic: I only saw a surge back up in my weight once in the past week, and that was after an unorthodox day that involved going out for a really big breakfast, so it’s okay. I’m definitely noticing a difference in my face these days, which is always where I start shedding pounds first, so that makes me happy. Yesterday was the four-year anniversary with the boyfriend, and we celebrated it by having to work. Just like Valentine’s Day! But, no, we had our days off together last week, which is rare, so we took advantage of it by doing lots of things, including going to see Logan, which I highly recommend, especially to fellow storytellers. I need more superhero movies like this…or rather, not so much a superhero movie as it is a movie that happens to have superheroes in it. It’s such a wonderful, moving, intimate story, about characters we love and characters we will love, with outstanding performances all around. It’s not shy on the excitement and fighting, either, while still managing to pull a few heart strings. I’m really sick of the over-the-top, save-the-whole-universe, assembly superhero flick (Guardians of the Galaxy, you get a pass), and Logan is such a perfect antidote to that. It also didn’t hurt that the little girl’s name is Laura, which means i got to hear Sir Patrick Stewart saying my name a lot.

Ahem.

Nothing too big planned for this week. I might be doing a call for beta readers soon, so keep an eye out for that, and a new featured story from WUR Vol. III is up, so definitely check that out, especially if you like pirates and space and especially space pirates. I’m off to try and keep this spark of productivity alive for at least the next half of the day

Happy reading!

New Featured Story: “To Catch a President” [WUR 2016].

Today, we say good-bye to Adam L. Bealby’s delightfully brilliant “A Comedy of Edwards,” but don’t worry. You can still enjoy it in World Unknown Review Volume III, and, besides, that just means we get a new story to tide us over through March. Also featured in WUR Vol. III, “To Catch a President” is very different from “A Comedy of Edwards.” And that’s kind of the point, because we try to touch on a lot of different types of tales in WUR. And while Adam L. Bealby had you rolling off your seats in laughter, I’m hoping James Wylder has you perched right on the edge of them this month.

I almost feel like James was cheating by sending me a story about space pirates, because I love me a good space pirate story, and “To Catch a President” really hits on all the great little tropes one comes to expect from such a story, while giving it his own little twists and quirks. And while this story is just a little slice of adventure, it’s very clear to see that there’s a whole galaxy that’s been developed here, one I hope I can explore more of in the future!

Here’s to hoping you all find his characters as intriguing and interesting and exciting as I found them, tough, really, I’d be surprised if you didn’t. Come read the story here and maybe go give James a visit or a follow, too. We’ll be interviewing with him later this month as well, so keep an old-style filament lightbulb eye out for that.

Happy reading!

February by the Numbers.

It’s still hard to believe that it’s already March. This winter in general has been a weird one, as Chicago sits through unseasonably warm temperatures. It’s really nice, I’m not complaining too much, though I do feel like it’s somewhat my fault, because I decided to be an Adult about things and finally put down money on a nice, warm winter coat, the kind that can handle the brutally cold Chicago winters. So of course, since I was prepared and dropped some cash, we have one of the warmest winters with a record setting lack of a snowfall. Um, you’re welcome, Northern Illinois.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s March now, and February is over, and it was all just a messy blur. A big step down from January being relatively successful. And if you don’t believe me, I have numbers to back me up.

Books Sold: 0
So much for my “One Books a Month” goal. To be fair, I didn’t do much by way of promotion, just because it has been a weird month of being overworked (but thankfully not underpaid). Hopefully this month I’ll have the opportunity to explore some advertising options to help this number get better for March.

Stories Completed in February: 1
Stories Sent Out: 6
Stories Accepted: 0
Stories Rejected: 13
Stories Published: 2
“Maybe February will be better,” she said, back in January. February was definitely not better for my short story work. I have simply not had the time to write and edit and send as much lately, though I’m getting better at prioritizing and managing my stress and knowing where to put it. I think the hardest thing about February was the onslaught of rejections without a single acceptance to soften the blow. I know I have a lot of submissions that will be decided on in March, but it’s a struggle to be positive about them when you’ve had such a harsh month.

Books Finished Reading: 3
Books Finished for 2017 only: 1
On the bright side, February was pretty okay for my reading goals. I’ve cleared out a few of the books I started in 2016 but didn’t finish by the end of the year, as well as added my first book to the 2017 bookshelf. I’m making some solid progress on the others, too, and hope to have added a few more by the end of March.

Weight on February 1st: 170
Weight on February 28th: 167
The majority of the month held at a solid 168, and I started my period without a surge back up, so I’m hoping that’s the sign of the stat of the steady trickle down. I feel a million times better since I started a little bit of exercise, and that’s the most important part anyway. And at least one person has said I look like I’m losing weight, so, even if the numbers aren’t spectacular, the results have been getting there slowly.

In other news, I had a really crazy dream last night that inspired something that might be a script. I’ve never written a script before; I’ve never felt the urge. And while this idea could make a decent book, I can’t help but feel it’s best as a TV show or something. I blame the Oscars, swaying my mind toward imaginary speeches given when I totally write a script for something although I have absolutely no screenwriting experience…(cough).

Anyway, on to March. My birthday’s in March, so only good things can happen in March, right? Right? Oh, Lord, I hope so.

Forced Reset.

Well, today is a very interesting Monday indeed. I usually really look forward to Mondays, because it’s the start of a new week, the start of a new book, and a bunch of other things for me to focus on for the week ahead. This Monday, though, I woke up feeling like utter crap. I really hope I’m not getting sick again, though I really hope it’s just a perfect storm of a stressful weekend at work and staying up too late watching the Oscars. But I couldn’t help myself. They’re so shiny! It also didn’t help that the boyfriend has a random morning shift today, which throws our routine and cuts into my writing time, but I still managed to squeeze in some work before he left, and now I’ve got a few hours to squeeze in a little bit more.

Here’s what I had going on and what I hope to get done for this week.

Reading: I finally finished the first official 2017 book for the year; as I suspected, the honor went to Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, a really great book about vegetarianism. The idea of eating meat again really squicks me out, so I don’t think I’d ever feel the urge to go back to it again, but, even if it weren’t for that, this book offered a lot of fuel for the fire in its exploration of just how gross the food industry is. Even if you remove the cruelty aspects of factory farming, the stuff meat goes though before it hits the shelves is extremely alarming. But that’s a topic for a different post.

The new book for the week is The Pointe Book by Janice Barringer and Sarah Schlesinger, a book given to me way back when, when I was a ballerina and starting to teach pointe, a book I was supposed to read but never got around to it. So it’s been in the pile for a while, and it was on the top, so I thought, why not? Besides, I’d had a conversation with a coworker last night about my dancer past, so perhaps it was a sign of things to come. I’m really looking forward to reading about the history of pointe ballet and feeling those nostalgic longing for dancing again.

Writing: Ask and ye shall receive. I remember last week complaining about the radio silence on the other end of all my submissions, and so, naturally, I get a flood of six rejections from last Monday. That’s almost one a day! And I have to admit, they hit a little harder than usual, perhaps because I have been so down and depressed lately. But I’m trying to turn that focus around to submitting stories, and while I haven’t managed to really get something out every day, I’ve been doing okay with it, meeting a few deadlines as they approached and things like that. And I know I’ve been saying this every week, but I really feel I’ve finally gotten over the roadblock in Fearless and things are starting to build to that final conflict. No new acceptances, though I know a lot of decisions are planned for March, so I’m going to be anxiously awaiting word on a few anthologies that I’m really eager to potentially be a part of.

‘Rithmatic: Weight has been pretty consistent, but I think all the sit-ups have been making an improvement. I feel much better; I feel stronger, which I think is the most exciting part, like I can carry myself better and my back hasn’t even hurt as much. And I had one regular customer tell me it looks like I’ve been losing weight, so maybe it’s been a nice fat-to-muscle conversion going on.

I’ve blown through a few more recipes in my Thug Kitchen cookbook, which included some tasty ass tofu tacos and some lackluster banana pancakes, but now I’m reading an interesting place, because my intention was to go through everything all orderly, but, through unfortunate circumstances, we currently don’t have a working oven. So anything requiring an oven is right out. That does not bode well for my sense of orderliness, but I shall try to overcome. So the goal is to find some good vegan biscuits to buy somewhere because thee’s no way I’m skipping the biscuits and gravy recipe.

Still haven’t bought that couch. I’m being obnoxiously frugal. I am, by all margins, pretty poor, so when I actually do have money, I cling to it pretty hard, having gone through some really tight times before. I don’t ever want to be in those places again. So dropping some cash on something we technically don’t even need right now is a little tough. I’m even thinking that, since we don’t need it, since we don’t plan on even being in this apartment for long, it’s just one less thing to have to move later. I don’t know. It would be nice, though.

I did get one of my five student loads completely paid off, though, so there’s always that. It was the little one, but now that that’s dead, it’s time to take on the next!

I think that’s mostly it for now. I’m off to shoot off a story to Strange Constellations before they close up subs for a period. Then hopefully a shower and some aspirin will help my head feel better, while the fact that it’s Monday might (please, please, please!) mean a slow day at work.

Wish me luck! And happy reading!