Sleep, who needs it?

Subway is a nefarious band of lowly olive hoarders. This really doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but I have to get it off my chest. With all the meats and cheeses they have that you would think cost them so much more, how has the simple black olive come to be the most valuable ingredient under their roof?

Black gold.

Subway’s black gold.

They put, like, six little rings on a footlong, and only a few more if you ask for extra. Maybe they’re regulated by the fearsome Black Olive Mafia (BOM, for short), and are only allowed one olive ring per two inches of sandwich, or risk severe fines and penalties. And you don’t want to piss off the BOM.

Anyway, moving on…

I did have one piece of writing-related news I forgot to mention in my last post: my short story Of the Beholder is being published in the horror anthology Robbed of Sleep: Stories to Stay Up For, Volume II, which is out in e-book format TODAY! (and coming soon in paperback) RoSV2 features 19 authors and is edited by Troy Blackford. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I really like the story included for a couple of reasons:

1) It was the product of a writing prompt, which I had never thought of as a way to produce a good, viable story. I saw prompts just as a way for people to get over writer’s block and nothing more. I know now I was wrong.

2) I rewrote, edited, revised, and ultimately finished the story while I had a lot going on in my life, both personally and professionally. I had become incredibly unhappy at my job and was deliberating the pros and cons of looking for work elsewhere, and this was around the time my wife spent 3 nights in the ICU. Working on the story provided me with both a distraction from my problems and a release of frustration.

During the writing of this story I realized that writing was more than just something I did in my spare time. It had become a part of me and who I was—I realized I need to be writing to be happy (although for a few years writing was replaced by making music, so maybe I just need a creative outlet), and that’s around the time I really tried to kick myself into high gear in regard to my productivity, with mostly positive results.

I say all that so to say this: check out my story, Of the Beholder, in Robbed of Sleep: Stories to Stay Up For, Volume II. It’s an awesome assortment of scary stories told by some really talented writers. Besides, sleep is highly overrated anyway, don’t you think?

When It Rains, It Pours

*F-bomb alert.

Great news: another one of my stories, Aiden’s Acting Up Again, has been accepted for publication by The Rusty Nail Literary Magazine. I’m not sure of their publication schedule, so I can’t tell you when to look for it, but of course I’ll pass along the info when I get it.

So, after months (maybe over a year?) of rejections—approximately 42—suddenly I’ve gotten two acceptances in seven days. It’s amazing, to say the least. I don’t really have as good a grasp as I should on the demographics of my followers, so I’m not sure if there are people out there in the same boat I am (aspiring writers) reading the blog. I purposely decided quite a while ago to not write about writing so much, because it bored me, and if it’s boring to write about how must it be to read?

Anyway, if there are any beginning or aspiring writers reading this (or any aspiring anythings for that matter), all I can say is the hard work is worth it. I’m still in the very early stages of my (hopefully long and successful) writing career, but getting these first two stories accepted has wiped away a lot of the frustration I felt writing day in and day out, thinking I was spinning my wheels and maybe wasting my time.

There were many mornings where I would get up at 6am like clockwork, grab some coffee, sit down at the computer and…stare at the screen for fifteen or twenty minutes without writing a word, before giving up altogether and browsing the internet (and on occasion, I still do). Sometimes I would get angry with how little progress I seemed to make. I would think, I’ve been getting up 90 minutes earlier than I have to to work on this crap, and it’s going nowhere—what the hell am I doing? Am I just wasting my time?

Deep down I knew I was getting better—I could see it in the new stories I was writing. But without any sort of validation from an outside source (and rejections swiftly piling up) I began to wonder if I was right. Finding online critique groups helped up to a point; there I get useful feedback, but there’s no shortage of unnecessarily harsh criticism in some of those groups; some people just seem to seethe with bitterness, eager to tear apart anything they deem unworthy. *On a side note: to the person who critiqued a story of mine by saying it was “lazy as fuck, and you know it,” that story was accepted for publication last week, so you can stick your critique where the sun don’t shine.

Kelso-Says-Burn-That-70s-Show

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get something published this year; I thought that was perfectly reasonable, but by mid-April I began to have my doubts. Then I read a column on Lit Reactor by Richard Thomas, who seems like a very cool guy; always looking to help writers, not to mention a killer writer himself. In his column, he pointed out that many publications accept simultaneous submissions—meaning you can send something to them as well as others at the same time. Why, he asked, would you send out submissions one at a time when you could send out three, five, eight, etc? He compared it to looking for a job: you don’t apply for one, wait to hear back, then apply for another. You apply for ALL OF THEM. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I never thought of it that way.

In late April, I went for it. I submitted four or five of my stories to three or four different places each, and what do you know? He was right. I’ve seen results.

I hope you all have a good weekend. I’m going to be doing research/planning a heist on a nearly impenetrable underground vault before heading to Oklahoma for a good old-fashioned fish fry.

I’ll end with a word of warning—you’ll probably get sick of me updating when the stories are available to read, so brace yourselves. 🙂

The Reddit ‘No Sleep’ Experiment

reddit-logo2

So do you guys reddit? With all the mandates on writers to use all forms of social media (including my reluctant creation of an account with Google+, which I’m still trying to get a feel for), I assumed that most everyone would have at least dabbled with the internet behemoth. After reading a post from fellow writer/blogger Katie Cross, however, I realized that may not be the case.

What is reddit? Man, is that a loaded question. In a lot of ways, reddit is a microcosm of the internet itself. It has everything you could possibly imagine—cat videos, pranks, world news, politics, technology, fitness, pop culture news, plus a plethora of content that is both NSFW and NSFL (and if you don’t know what those abbreviations mean, you’re probably not going to want to click on anything with those tags on them—not safe for work and not safe for life, respectively).

There are literally thousands of groups, all categorized into areas called subreddits, that you can subscribe to and decide what you do and don’t want to see; the music subreddit, for example, is listed as /r/music. There are links to content, such as photos, videos, and articles, as well as (usually quite lengthy) discussions about said content.

And just like the internet as a whole, there are several useful resources for writers: workshops where you can submit work for critique, articles to help you strengthen your skills, discussion groups about various aspects of writing…all, of course, helpful in its own way.

Then there’s /r/nosleep.

HKBqrhs

The design for the brand new nosleep t-shirt.

No Sleep is a subreddit dedicated to trying to frighten and disturb you; it’s kind of like gathering around a virtual campfire and swapping ghost stories. All stories are told in the first person as true experiences. The people who read the stories and leave comments treat them as if they’re real, because one of the guidelines is “Everything is true in /r/nosleep.”

One of the keys to reddit is its unique upvote/downvote process for determining what’s popular. It’s a bit like Facebook with added negativity. Anything submitted to reddit is subject to its users’ approval or disapproval. This goes for No Sleep as well.

After reading stories there for the last few months, I decided to give it a whirl. I had been tossing around an idea for a flash fiction story that I thought would meet the criteria of the group, so I submitted it last week. Surprisingly, it was upvoted by the majority of people who read it, and there were quite a few encouraging comments. Encouraging in that they all requested more—updates to the situation I detailed in my story. I then decided to write a second chapter with the intention of it being a bit of a bridge to the third and final installment, bringing the story to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion.

So, first story: 152 upvotes, 37 downvotes. Not bad. Reddit’s nice enough to let me know that means 81% like it. Second story: 68 upvotes 19 downvotes. 78%. Still not too shabby, but the real story is in the comments. The first story had 33 comments, ranging from ‘keep us updated’ to ‘please update soon, the suspense is killing me.’ The second had 10, mostly just saying ‘uh-huh, keep us posted,’ and one sarcastic butthead. Obviously the first story resonated with people more than the second one. It’s not exactly a line by line critique of your work, but what I like is that it’s instantaneous feedback from some of the most honest people on the planet—anonymous strangers on the internet. If they don’t like your story you’ll know, because they simply downvote and don’t comment on it.

If you like to read creepy stories, or want to see how people like the stories you make up, jump on over to /r/nosleep and give it a shot. They have monthly contests for the most popular story, and a sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ subreddit for discussions about the group. I’ll be writing the conclusion to my epic saga in the next day or two, so you may be reading my story there soon. I may end up posting the whole thing here on the blog at a later date as well, time will tell. So, who are my fellow redditors out there?