New Flash Fiction Story Published

Hey, everybody and Happy New Year! We’re starting 2017 off right: a new short-short So-You-Found-Mestory of mine has just been published. It’s about a self-conscious story. This is how it starts:

So you found me. Well done.

Don’t think for a moment that I’m merely a story. Oh no, not even close. I have thoughts, feelings, ideas, just like you. Just like any other sentient being…

If you want to read the rest head over to Between Worlds magazine and read the story, it’s called “So You Found Me.” You can also read the full new edition of BW magazine which has new stories from a bunch of up-and-coming writers. And, as always, I encourage you to contribute to the magazine which you can at the bottom of this page. Between Worlds is a paying market (for short stories, not flash) and we need to preserve and nurture these markets. Thanks!…Enough promo!

Hope you enjoy the piece and please leave a comment there or here on my blog. Would love some feedback on it. And thanks to Between Worlds for considering and publishing the piece!

See you again soon.

,DJ

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A Look Back at My Year in Writing—2016

2016 was a pretty good year for my fiction writing. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. This post follows an annual tradition: it’s the one time in the year where I look back at what I said I wanted to do way back at the start of the year and see how I did. It will also look at other things I accomplished. So, here we go.


1. I Didn’t Go to Any Cons.Pushkin Writing
This was bit of a fumble. I wanted  to go to two Cons (you know, those assemblages where fans and creatives get together and talk), but I didn’t even make it to one! Well, it was a crazy year. I moved to a new place, work was hectic—and oh yeah!—there was  all that fiction writing to do. So, this didn’t happen. I will definitely try to make up for it—penance, penance—in 2017.

2. Blog Changes
I did get the blog headed where I wanted it to go. The posts are regular, but short and telegraphic when they need to be. I’ve also blogged a little bit about subjects that aren’t writing- or art-related. So, little steps. Little, good steps.

3. I Wrote What I Wanted
Hell yeah. This was probably my biggest breakthrough this year. Early last year, I just thought, “To hell with it, I’m going to write what I want to write.” And I’m glad to report I have. Regardless of marketability or clear genres or even common sense—I just dove in. I wrote those stories which were “burning in my belly” like Halberstam said. I finished a South American gothic horror fantasy, wrote a comedic play with a medieval setting and started a piece of flash fiction for crying out loud. Me! Flash fiction! A style which I swore I would never write in. But an idea came to me in the airport, I fired up my laptop and in 30 minutes later it was done.

And I brought it all back home with a story featuring the protagonist of The Ghul of Yazd—Yusuf ibn-Yaqzan. They’re all very different pieces, but they have a common thread. They’re EXACTLY the pieces I wanted to be writing when I took them up. And that has made all the difference.

4. I Saw my First “Literary” Fiction Piece Get Published
This year was the third time I had a piece of mine get published traditionally (i.e. by a third party publisher/magazine). Well, that felt good. And any year when you get something (anything) published is a good year. It also marks the first time I had a work published anywhere which had NO supernatural  elements. It was “literary fiction,” you could say. Anyway, it was exciting to see it in print.

5. I Wrote my First Play
This was also the first year in which I dipped my toe in a very, very difficult new style: I wrote a play. I still think it has flaws, but I was  able to keep it together, write five acts and have some consistency in plot, character, setting, etc. I’ve been shopping it around, but must admit I’m finding it rough going since I have to learn a whole new way of putting forward the piece. No emails sent to distant lands without a second thought. (And I get a lingering sense that I may not be enough of an extrovert to be a good playwright. All that dealing with playhouses and working through the script with total strangers—ugh!). But I wrote what I wanted and—damn it!—It was fun!

6. I Felt My Writing Improve
Now, it can be hard to judge your own stuff. I realize that. We always think our own works are the best. It’s a human weakness. But I do feel that the preparation, the thinking behind them and the outcome of my works improved this year. I would definitely say—to get a bit down in the weeds—that my plotting improved. I have struggled with that aspect MIGHTILY in the past. It’s very difficult to do the right amount of planning. Plan too little and the story fly off the rails. Plan too much and you risk not allowing your characters to breath and  live—and the whole project comes off as flat and sterile. I’m finally starting to zero in on a happy medium where I plan just enough to keep the whole thing moving and alive, but within the proper constraints. It was gratifying to see that change in my pieces this year.


So, all in all, it was a pretty good year in fiction writing. I will see you guys in a couple of weeks, where I’ll post a bit about my plans for 2017. I’m looking forward to another year of writing fiction.

My New Story Is Out in Sobotka Magazine

Great news! My new story “Barabanchik” is out now in Sobotka Literary Magazine. You can pick up Issue 4 of the magazine here. Sobotka Issue 4

I’m happy because it’s my first story published this year. I won’t say much more than that, but will include the start of the story here, in the hope that it gets you hooked:

A man looks at the world and sees phenomena, perhaps self-contradictory in nature, and goes about trying to explain them. In ancient times, these explanations took the form of myth. Why do the seasons change, why does the sun set, why are people born, and why do they die? All these could be explained with the presence of gods, angels and demons meddling in the world of men.

The modern age is no different. Man, when confronted with the numinous and unknown, still fumbles around for a deeper meaning behind the shifting shadows. But he no longer has recourse to the old, familiar cast of supernatural beings. In their place, he must find new explanations to the mundane absurdities and sudden horrors of this world.

The following story is a recollection of just such a phenomena. It happened not long ago in Moscow…

For the rest, you’ll have to buy the issue.

Thanks for all the support for my writing from my friends, my family and the extended “kin” I’ve met via the blog. And to Sobotka for picking up the story! I couldn’t do it without you guys.

Until next time,

Darius

Works in Progress–2 Strikes

Here’s a little update on where my writing projects are at. We start off with two recent rejections and new piece I’m working on.


Breakpoint—My science fiction short story, “Breakpoint” got its second rejection. So, what did I do? I went out with my friend David and had some good MalRed_Sox_Yankees_Game_Boston_July_2012bec (Zuccardi, for the wine people out there) and some Brazilian churrascaria. The copious amounts of red meat and wine seemed to do the trick. As did being able to share the disappointment with David. He is a biologist so he has submitted to plenty of scientific journals and got some stuff accepted and some stuff rejected. His advice? Just move on to the next magazine. Know what? He’s right.

I’ll be selecting a new magazine and resubmitting this one soon.

AFTA – Got my 2nd rejection for this comedy-horror novella. That one hurt more than the Breakpoint rejection. I figured that Breakpoint would get rejected, but I was a bit more surprised by the AFTA rejection.

The good news, though, is that I got on the Dark Markets website earlier today and I already found a new, great market that’s looking for horror novellas. I plan to resubmit it this weekend.

X — Here’s the really good news. Last weekend I banged out about 1,800 words on a new horror story:

It was great to start writing a first draft again. I’ve been editing, editing, editing for so long it was great to just start writing from a blank page. Of course, after not writing for a month, I was a bit rusty. But toward the end of the writing session, it all “started clicking” and it felt good. The most important thing that it reinforced: whenever you sit down to write a SHORT story, always plot it out first. A novel is a different beast, you can let it roam. But a short story, man, you have to know where it’s going before you start. And the good news is—at least with this piece—now I know exactly where I want this to go.

See you next time,

DJ

The Ghul of Yazd Gets Published

My short story, “The Ghul of Yazd” just got published today in Strangelet’s Journal’s first edition. Click the link to order the print or epub version of the magazine.

800px-Tower_of_silence_Yazd

So, the Ghul finally made it…And just to whet your appetite, here are the first 100 words of the action in the story.

Bashar, Alisher, Yusuf, and Hasan carried a funeral bier. It was little more than a pallet with handles. A child’s body, wound tightly in a sheet so that its body was not exposed, lay in the center of the bier. They rested the handles on the top of their shoulders and carried torches in their free hands. A full moon shone down on the slow procession, casting enough light so that the men could see their next step. On the crest of the hill, the white circular walls of the dakhma, the Parsi burial ground, glowed in the moonlight.

That’s it. The start of the journey. To read the rest, you’ll have to click the link.


A Word of Thanks
I just want to use this opportunity to thank all my Beta readers who gave me encouragement, criticism and help along the way. Daniel, B—, Laura and Matt, I couldn’t have have done it without your reading and critiquing. Your editing—and friendship—mean so much to me.

And thanks to Casey, editor at Strangelet and all their staff readers and editors. Thanks for seeing something in the Ghul. And for believing in my original vision and working with me to see it through to completion. It was a great ride.

,Darius

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.

Two Years of My Blog + A Giveaway

Well, it’s been two years since I started this blog, “A Writer Begins.” On July 20, 2012 I wrote my very first post. Here it is, in its entirety:


My New Novel

[Jul 20 by dariusjones]

Well, here goes nothing.

My first novel has just been published. It’s on the Amazon Kindle store here. It’s also on Goodreads.

Please take the time to leave a review. And a big thank you to all of you who have already got it and are reading it.

,D


“Well, here goes nothing”??? Wow. I’ve come a long way since then. Here are some of the best things that have happened in my past two years of writing:

  • I sold at least 200 copies of The Library of Lost Books (haven’t counted sales in over a year).
  • I gave away at least 1,600 copies of The Library of Lost Books.
  • Fiction Vortex published my short story, “The Hatchlings.” And it won 3rd place in their Reader’s Choice Award for that month.
  • Self-published an historical novella: The Man Who Ran from God.
  • Finished and submitted a new comedy-horror novella. (Let’s hope the publisher likes it!)
  • Wrote and submitted and submitted and submitted a historical horror fiction piece, “The Ghul of Yazd.” I believe in the Ghul and know he will find a home someday…
  • Written 107 blog posts and had 1,500 views of the blog.
  • Watched followers for this blog grow from 0 to 96.
  • Connected with over 500 Twitter followers. Really loving the interaction with readers and fellow writers over there.
  • Went to my first Con, RavenCon, where I attended all the writing panels I could and a writing workshop.  I plan to be their next year in April. It’s totally kickass, so you should go. Just look for me in the writing panels, I should be there.
  • Switched my writing strategy from purely self-publishing to writing mostly for traditionally-published markets. This means I’m writing my stuff and submitting it to magazines instead of putting it up on Kindle.

I want you to know that I’ve done all of this while keeping down a full-time, pretty stressful job. I write mostly on the weekends (on Sundays) and do the business and blog end of stuff at night when I can. The reason I’m telling you this is not to pat myself on the back, but to make all you guys out there stuck in a 40-hour (or more) a-week job, know that you can do it. You can write in your spare time and make real progress. I know, I’ve done it. The trick is having the discipline and self-confidence to stick to it.

So, I keep writing and you guys keep reading my stuff and supporting me.

Mayan Writer

In my darkest hours, at those times I’ve wanted to quit, to give up the writing gig entirely…There’s been one thing that has kept me going—the fans. I can count a number of times when a glowing review, an enthusiastic note or a kind comment struck me and shook me to the core. So, thank you. Your encouragement counts for more than you’ll ever know.


Giveaway

As a small sign of appreciation I’m celebrating by running a giveaway this weekend. I’m doing a 2-day (July 19 and 20) giveaway of The Man Who Ran from God and “The Truck Stop” on the Amazon Kindle. So, if you haven’t had a chance to get them, grab them while you can.

As for the future, well, one can never tell. But I’m going to keep writing and giving my best every weekend. There’s lots more to come, so stay tuned.

And once again—thank you all for keeping the faith. 

Darius

“Get it Done Little by Little”–Novella Done

So, first things: good news. I’ve finished, proofed and reviewed by comedy-horror novella. In fact, I’ve just sent it off to a publisher. We’ll see what happens next. There’s not a HUGE market out there for comedy horror, but I’m hopeful.

In other news, I keep on trucking on. I’m getting some good feedback from my other stories and I’ll share things as they develop. I’ll also get back to some of the personal news that’s been getting me down lately in posts to come.

Right now though, I’m outside just enjoying the sun of a Saturday afternoon, blogging, and dreaming about getting back to writing first drafts. I’m so sick of the damn editing! Enough already! It’s time to let the first-draft wild dogs (or is it horses?) out and watch them “lap the Miles.”

More to come…


I was thinking of a song that captured what I felt in finishing this piece. That feeling of being triumphant, but drained. This defiant number from Bob Marley hits it just right.

“Let’s get it done little by little.”

Just remember, Ya’ll. Keep on trucking. Don’t give up.  Finish your piece.

Good Luck,

DJ

Another Giveaway Weekend

For you blog readers who want to check out my writing—here’s your chance. I’m running a giveaway this weekend.

My historical novella, The Man Who Ran from God and my short story, “The Truck Stop” are free all weekend long (April 12 and 13) on the Kindle store.

Cover_1_kindle_1_5_12MWRFG_Kindle

And remember, you don’t need a Kindle to download and read the stories.

Enjoy!

Mardi Gras Giveaway

It’s Fat Tuesday and it’s time to indulge.

My historical novella, The Man Who Ran from God  and my short story, “The Truck Stop” are both free today (March 4) on the Kindle store. That’s 25,000 free words.

Cover_1_kindle_1_5_12MWRFG_Kindle

So, whichever Krewe you support, be it Proteus, Orpheus or Zeus, grab the two works before you head out to the parade. You’ll be glad you did when Lent rolls around.