Works in Progress—Stories and Novella

In following with a plan laid out in an earlier post, this week’s post will just be a little update on where my writing is at. Here we go:

The Ghul of Yazd
This story should be published in the next two weeks by Strangelet Journal. I will likely do a separate post here when it goes live. I can’t wait for this horror/undead/suspense thriller to come out. In the meantime, Strangelet has already revealed the cover art (right) and you can pre-order “Issue 0” now on their website. Strangelet_FrontCover

B” – a science fiction story.
This is set in the year 2070 after a series of conflicts known as “The Great Wars.” It was influence by Dante, a song by Ellie Goulding and T.E. Lawrence. I just finished the 2nd draft and this weekend I plan to wrap up the 3rd draft. After that, it should be pretty close to done and ready to submit. It will be nice to have something done (knock on wood) before the Ghul gets published.

AFTA” – a comic-horror novella.
Man, does it take a long time for a novella to get reviewed and accepted/rejected…After submitting a couple of query letters to some horror publishing imprints, I’m still waiting to hear back. I guess it’s just getting used to novella/novel submission time frames vs. short story submission time. I will keep you posted on what happens.


That’s all for now. Tune in next week when I write the next BIG post on the craft of writing or come back two weeks from now for another update on my works in progress. It’s up to you. I hope this new blog schedule works for everyone. It’s definitely making things easier for me.

Advertisements

The Craft: Conflict and Metamorphosis

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a short story not just good, but great. Why do some reach out and grab you and others leave you cold? Well, I think I’ve hit on one of those things that compels you to keep reading: conflict leading to metamorphosis.

I began to suspect this was an important thing when Kenneth Jobe, another writer I follow, said that it was strange that his stories that were accepted both had characters in them that didn’t die.

My story ‘Tale of the Revolution’ is in there, and like my other story to be published so far, it’s a bit of an anomaly. Once again, it’s the rare story where no one dies and there are no curse words.

“Both stories where no one died?” I thought. That got me to thinking about an editor who said that he preferred to accept stories in which the protagonist DID NOT die, but was rather changed by what they experienced. Then, something else clicked: I remembered that at the writing workshop I took at RavenCon, Allen Wold said that a story was a tale with a plot, setting and characters in which the characters, the world or both change in some fundamental way.

So, like writers do, I mused a bit more on this. I turned it over and thought about it: Did my stories contain characters that metamorphosed, that changed? Yes, they did. Both of my accepted works featured protagonists that underwent major changes by the end of the story. How and why did this change happen? In every case, it was because of pressure, because of conflict.

The HatchlingsAntonio_del_Pollaiolo_Apollo_and_Daphne
In “The Hatchlings,” the narrator, Pharos, must decide whether to witness the horrendous Zakir ritual in the arena from start to finish or to walk out. The tension or conflict is: Will he stay or will he leave? He decides to stay and is forever changed by it.

The Ghul of Yazd
In “The Ghul of Yazd(to be published by Strangelet Journal in Sept.), Rasul must decide whether to assassinate a child, knowing that failing to do so means he will betray the hashashin brotherhood. In the end, he balks, setting in motion a long series of events and personal transformations…More on that later, once the story goes live…


It made me think of the story I’m working on right now, “B.” This story passes the metamorphosis test as the main character changes profoundly by learning the truth about the world she inhabits and deciding to DO something about it. She is a completely different person from the one she was a mere 4,000 words earlier. That’s no guarantee an editor will like it, but it’s a good start.

So, as you write this week, think about that. How do your characters—acting under pressure and in the midst of conflict—change? It works as a device in literature because, in the end, that’s what life is. Who is the same as they were 10 years ago? Who is the same person that they were this morning? We are constantly changing (or resisting change) in response to pressure. Characters in literature should be no different. After all, as Borges wrote:

The universe, like you, is Proteus.

or in the original Spanish:

el universo es, como tú, Proteo.


PS…Don’t forget to break the rules. I’m toying around right now with a protagonist for a new story who NEVER changes. I can just see him saying, almost spitting out this line of dialogue: “Me? Change? I don’t change. I never change. Let the world change. I remain constant.”

Of course, the delicious thing about this character is that a person with such an attitude immediately creates conflict wherever he goes. He will either force the world to change or have to bend to IT as a result. There you have it: Tension and conflict leading to change. We’ll have to see how the story turns out…That’s a post for another time.

Giveaway and Blog Tweaks

So, first, a business item: My Weird West tale, “The Truck Stop” and a historical novella, “The Man Who Ran from God” are both free this weekend (Aug. 16 and 17) on the Kindle. Stop by and check them out. You don’t need a Kindle to get them, just the Kindle app.


Blog TweaksCover_1_kindle_1_5_12
Next, I just want to talk about this blog. I’ve been trying my best to update it every week. I haven’t always succeeded and it’s been tough feeding the beast with all my other commitments (job, family, life and fiction writing). I don’t think I will be able to deliver every week.

So, here’s the deal: I will TRY my best to do a post EVERY week, with more substantive posts coming every other week, starting NEXT week on Aug. 22. That is, unless there’s a major life event or emergency. I will try to keep those posts bigger, more substantive. Musings on the craft of writing, the state of publishing, philosophical tirades, etc. The off-week posts sandwiched between the substantive posts will be more prosaic posts about where my writing work is at. Today’s post is an example of the later: just a writing update post.


Writing Update
So here’s the first writing update. You can learn more about the works referenced here in last week’s post or my Works in Progress page.

  • I have resubmitted my comedy-horror novella, “AFTA” to a couple of new places. Not a single squeak out of them yet, but, hey, this is a novella submission, so it takes time. Right?…Right. It’s also a cross-genre piece, which I imagine editors picking up with tweezers or fire tongs, hoping they won’t get burned, infected or mutilated. Oh well. Comedy horror can work and it’s a damn fun genre. Problem is, it’s too funny for some horror publishing houses that want “suspense” and too dark for comedy houses looking for light comedy. But there’s someone out there that will fall for “AFTA,” I just know it.
  • I am about half way done editing my science fiction short story, “B.” I’m also working through (FINALLY!) the notes from the writing group (hosted by Lisa Mistry and Jason Van Gumster) that was kind enough to read a beta version of the story. I will polish this one up and start submitting it.
  • Strangelet Journal just put together the Table of Contents for their first issue, with my story, “The Ghul of Yazd” in it. You can follow Strangelet on Twitter as the publication day approaches. I, for one, am super-excited to share my story. Can’t wait.


Musical Interlude
It’s been too long since we’ve had music on this blog. For some reason, I’ve been wandering through the Renaissance and Baroque composers lately…Don’t ask. I love this track, (“O Dolce Vita Mia” by Willaert) especially the beginning note. There’s something undeniably “spacey” about it. Enjoy.

The sounds of Gothic deep space.

Back to the Writing

All right, getting back at it. Just a short post to let you know I’m still alive, kicking and writing. Here’s what I have on my plate today:

ResubmittingWriting Man
I have to take a little time today to resubmit my comedy-horror novella, “AFTA.” It hasn’t been rejected once already, but I’m not deterred. It has a number of rejections ahead I’m sure, but, hey, that’s writing.

I hate to take time out to do this, but I know “AFTA” will find a home, I just need to find the right market. Often, this involves writing query letters, a wholly new activity for me. I don’t understand why you just can’t send the manuscript like you do for short stories. If anyone out there has a good explanation for this, I’d love to hear it in the Comments section below. Any tips on potential markets are also appreciated. 

Prewriting.
I have TONS….TONS of ideas for short stories. I also have some scoped-out novels that I keep adding tidbits to like filling in a painting with more and more detailed brushstrokes. Pretty soon you have characters, a structure, scenes, dialogue…But I digress…

The challenge is to get these ideas down, before they fly away. I have the ideas stored in hardware (on my mobile phone) and wetware (in my head). I need to dedicate serious time this afternoon to transferring the good ones from both.

Editing.
My new Sci-Fi story “B” has been patiently waiting my editing for months. I had to go back and do some rewriting of my “Ghul of Yazd” story, so I was held back a bit. No more. I will be getting to editing the 1st draft today or this weekend at the latest.


There you have it, the life of a writer when he isn’t exactly writing: Submitting, prewriting and editing. I’m starting to get anxious because I can’t wait to get back to what I really love: writing first drafts. It’s this editing and other stuff where I feel I get bogged down. (Those writers that LOVE to edit always annoy me and—I admit—make me jealous). Still, it needs to get done. If I believe in anything as a writer, it’s giving readers a quality finished product. I want to see my name attached to quality stuff.

That’s it. It’s time to get to work. I just wanted to keep you guys updated and let you know what’s coming next. Until next time…

Keep reading, keep writing,

Darius

“The Ghul of Yazd” Finds A Home

Finally. My story “The Ghul of Yazd” has been picked up by Strangelet Journal for publication in its first issue due this fall.

I always believed in the “Ghul,” in the story. I knew no matter how many times he got rejected—no  matter how many stabs and bludgeons he absorbed, he’d get back up and resubmit himself. And one day, slowly lurching along in his unique way, he’d find a  home. After all, ghuls are hard to fricking kill. The-ghoul-poster1

So, today, I’m very excited. It’s my second story to be picked up by a magazine after “The Hatchlings.” The “Ghul” helps  show that my writing’s not a fluke or a one-off. More importantly, I think Strangelet will be a great place for it. It seems that the new mag will be right in that “literary speculative fiction” niche I like to be in. It’s also cool to be part of a new mag’s inaugural edition. And finally, the editors aligned with my long-term vision for the story since its inception (a happy marriage of artistic vision there) as a piece of found fiction a la Potocki’s magnificent Manuscript Found in Zaragoza.

I will provide more details in the coming weeks as the publication date approaches. For now, check out my “Rejectionable Ghoul” page for more details. I will only add that the manuscript was rejected seven times before being accepted. So, fellow writers out there on the InterWebs, wherever you are—keep at it. You never know when that next acceptance letter will come.