I Dreamed a Dream

I've been watching a lot of old episodes of A Show with Ze Frank on YouTube. As part of the show, an artist animates dreams submitted by viewers. Their experiences are SO different than how I dream. I dream stories like I'm watching a movie or sometimes living as one of the characters but always as part of a narrative arc.

Yesterday's dream involved a homicide detective investigating a series of infant deaths. Rather than a serial killer, it turns out to be part of a human trafficking ring. Apparently the adults had fled but those sending the abducted babies did not know, so they kept shipping them to the location. A young child lived there and she feed the babies the way she feed her stuffed dinosaur, with small candies that went down a hole in its mouth. The infants weren't murdered. They were starving to death.

Then my wife woke me up.

The (Very) Basics of Roller Derby

As I've been mentioning for the last year or so, I'm an official with New Hampshire Roller Derby. Despite it being the fastest growing sport in the country (and possibly the world), it's still an amateur sport that most people don't know has made a resurgence (or if they do, they presume it's much like the derby of the '70s). Cue iconic picture:

Modern roller derby started as an alternative sport (think elbows and punk rock, a la Whip It) but has evolved to genuine, amateur status (amateur meaning professional without getting paid). The game has dedicated officials, a lengthy set of rules, and is a sport no matter how many sexist newspaper writers fixate on the fact that it's predominantly played by women. (And Jesus do they fixate on that. Look, they have boobs, it can't be a sport! Fuck off, skeezer.)

So here's the short of it. Each team is comprised of 14 skaters. The game (or more lovingly, the bout) is played in two halves of thirty minutes. Each half is segmented into "jams". Each team fields four blockers and one jammer per jam. The jammer wears a star on her helmet to signify that she is the point scorer. (In effect, she is the ball or the puck, but she's human and she's only wearing pads on her knees, elbows, and wrists.) The blockers comprise "the pack". At the jam starting whistle, the jammers must work their way through the pack to be eligible to score. Once they've finished this initial pass, each successive time they pass blockers, they score points (but no more than one point per blocker per lap). They can even score a point by lapping the opposing jammer if she is slow or stuck in the pack.

Where it can get difficult for spectators is that the pack is this nebulous assortment of players from both teams. They're simultaneously playing offense and defense. Sometimes this means stopping and forming odd-shaped walls. Sometimes it means sprinting like crazy. There are lots of hits (blocks) with shoulders, hips, and asses, but no clotheslines or elbows like you see on TV or in the movies (those will earn you a penalty or even get you expelled). There are still fishnets and the occasional tutu, but not as much as you saw five years ago. Now it's mostly jerseys and compression shorts. Yeah you get pink hair, piercings, and tattoos, but just because they're a little rough and tumble doesn't make them less athletic.

People like to fixate on the names (mine is Charles Dickins, in case you were curious). It's a constant conversation within the community. A lot of people are starting to give up derby names in an effort to gain respect and to be taken seriously. Others don't want to give up their names and there are myriad reasons for it. Some use it as a shield, something to allow them to have the confidence they're not allowed to have in their real lives (because they have boobs and we don't want boobs to be confident); others use it to hide from work because no one wants their kindergarten teacher showing up with a black eye after taking a stray elbow to the face); and still others keep theirs because it was part of the fun and whimsy that drew them to the sport to begin with. Again, if you think that real sports don't use pseudonyms, I direct you to Pistol Pete Maravich, Magic Johnson, his Airness, and King James and politely ask you to shut the fuck up.

Last thing in this brief lesson. There is a second helmet cover on the track. One of the blockers may be designated as a pivot. The pivot is a blocker with special privileges. The jammer may, if she chooses, remove her star helmet cover and pass it to the pivot. This causes the pivot to become the jammer. She may do this because of injury, equipment malfunction, or getting stuck in the pack. For first timers, it can add a level of "what the fuck is going on" to an already chaotic pack, but once you've seen a few bouts, the strategy starts to become more clear.

So, with that growth and maturity of the sport, the iconic picture of the '70s has now become more like this:

The Constant Struggle

Like so many creative people, I struggle with depression. I'm one of the fortunate ones in that I received help for the problem early on in my life and have been able to learn the warning signs of when things are bottoming out. That doesn't mean anything's been fixed. You don't fix depression. You learn to cope with it. If it's severe enough, perhaps you take something to mitigate the problem and make your life livable. But you don't ever fix it. I think that's the thing people who've never dealt with depression have trouble understanding. Well that, and you don't have to have a reason to be depressed. No one ever understands that.

And that's what I'm pondering today. I'm feeling down. Why? Because I'm feeling down. There is no why. I'm employed. I'm paid well. I'm happily married. I have cats. My writing career has been on a consistent upward trajectory. The derby season is going splendidly. There is no reason to be down except for the fact that I'm down.

When you're down, you find things to be down about (rather than getting down because of all those things). I should be feeling up. What a great life I have. But I don't. I'm still in the middle of the querying process of my most recent novel. That's always stressful in its own right, but it's oh so worse when you're bottoming out. Each day that goes by without word is one more opportunity for the depressed part of your brain to say, "See, you're a failure." It doesn't matter of those days are fully within the time the agent says they take to respond. It doesn't matter that response was so strong that you skipped stages of the process and went right to full manuscript review. Those are positives, and you don't focus on positives when you're depressed. You focus on every day that's gone by since those requests first came in and today, where nothing has happened. You listen to the demons inside your skull whisper that you're not good enough. You're never going to be good enough. If they liked what you had written, they would have read it by now. They would have answered. You're a failure. No one likes what you write. No one likes you.

That's a pretty shitty thing to say to a person, and you're saying it to yourself. How horrible is that? But it's like a wave. You just have to ride it out until it crests and things fall back to normal. You get through today because, at some point, tomorrow is going to be better. Maybe not tomorrow, but the day after. Or the day after that.

When I was submitting The Triad Society for the third time (meaning the third agent who had contacted me for re-writes), I said if it was rejected, I was going to take some time off from writing publishable stories and focus on fan fiction or something that would be fun without the pressure of submission following. I never did that. I got hooked on Family Jewels and started the process all over again. I remember how hard it was to have TTS read by three different agents on four different occasions only to have it rejected. That's pretty cool, right? People contacted me and said, I like you're story. Let's work on it. I think it's pretty cool, too, and days when I'm not depressed, it makes me happy. Today, well today I focus on the rejection part of it.

When I talk about rejection with my non-writing friends, the response is near-universal. Why would I want to subject myself to rejection? Why don't I just self-publish? I always tell them the same, if the story isn't good enough that I would brave querying, it's not good enough to be self-published. Self-publishing isn't a free pass. If you're taking your writing seriously, your story needs to be the best it can be no matter what path to publication your'e taking.

And it doesn't matter, because you can't escape depression. Feeling down that an agent rejected you? Swap that with your Amazon sales ranking. Only two people bought your book that month and one of them asked for a refund. No one likes you. No one wants to buy your book. No one thinks you're good enough. No one likes you.

See the trend? You don't need a why to feel this way. Depression is the why. All you can do is ride it out. When it passes, take the time to focus on the positive. Remind yourself of your accomplishments. Let the sunshine warm you and know that you're not alone. Keep working. Keep trying. Your day may not be today, but you still have tomorrow.

In Between Times

I always take a little break between manuscripts. I consider it a "voice reset." I used to be so jazzed I would immediately roll into a new project, but I found the voice of the next project sounded exactly the same as the one I had just finished. It inevitably led to a lot of rewriting and sometimes I'd have to drop all the work done as unusable. So now, I take time off and refresh. Sometimes that means playing around on HitRecord. This time around, I dabbled in my Knight Rider fan fiction. Mostly, though, I've been writing a lot of documentation. I'm the head of non-skating officials for New Hampshire Roller Derby and it's the start of the season. I've been writing a ton of "How to Officiate" documentation, which is a totally similar but totally different skill set than fiction writing. I do a lot of documentation for work, too, so it's not jarring. It does draw from the same pot of energy, though. I have trouble writing documentation and fiction at the same time.

Also, I think part of me is stalling until February. I wrote the first draft of FAMILY JEWELS in February then spent the rest of the year making it awesome. I think part of me wants to try and recreate that magic. I'm torn on what to do next. I had planned on writing THE CENOSAPIEN AGENDA. The original story idea had been as a sequel to FJ, but it quickly evolved into a different character (Serenity McIntyre), a different setting, and a different genre. Interesting enough, it changed so much that the sequel idea to FJ became a valid sequel again. So I can write TCA or I can write DISAPPEARING, INC., which is the sequel to FJ. Something to ponder as February begins next week. I'm still writing "How to Head NSO" documentation, so I guess this is a curse of riches situation or something.

(And admittedly, part of me is hoping that an agent says, "BAM! This is it. You need to get to work on a sequel because publishers will want more of this!" which would make the decisio-nmaking process much easier.)

2013: A Singular Endeavor

I don't normally do a year in review because my pursuit of publication has been an ongoing effort for over four years now and that story has only changed somewhat. Write a novel -> query, write a novel -> query, start new year, repeat. That was 2009 through 2011. Then came 2012, the year of the great rewrites. I was asked by three different agents to revise and resubmit four different manuscripts, and the entire year disappeared while working on those stories.

And here we are at the end of 2013. It started much like it did every year before it. In February I started and finished the first draft of my most recent novel, FAMILY JEWELS. 28 days almost to the minute. I didn't feel proud. I didn't feel excited. I felt like I had been there before and it wasn't working. 2012 had gotten me "this isn't your best work" plus "this is so close but not for me" plus "I can see how another agent would love this, try sending it to X and Y" plus "This is an amazing story, but it can't be your first novel on the market" all of which equalled being in the same place I had been at the start of the year. Obviously I was improving at my craft, but I still didn't have representation and I still didn't have a book deal, and that just wasn't good enough. And so, we begin 2013, the year of the singular endeavor.

I finished the first draft in 28 days. I spent six months on the second draft. I spent another two on the third draft. And another two on the fourth draft. I did other things in between. I joined a roller derby league. I learned how to skate. I learned how to officiate. I became the head non-skating official of my league. I injured myself repeatedly. I joined a group dance studio with my wife. I wrote the first chapter of my next novel. You know, I lived life. I took all that advice I had always said didn't apply to me and I applied it to me.

And here I am at the end of 2013 and guess what? I still don't have an agent. BUT, I've written the best novel I've ever written since I started taking my writing seriously. It's not my favorite story I've written (that still belongs to WITH A CROOKED CROWN), but it is lightyears better than anything I've put down on electrons. I read Donald Maass' prompts on Twitter and gave more thought to characters that would have otherwise been cliches. I got AMAZING feedback from my beta readers and I applied it to fill all the holes and fix all the failures in logic. I asked myself, what more is there to my character and then I tried to find it and offer it up in the story. (Sure, I've done all that before, but not with the rush I've felt before. It was always, "I don't have any more time to make this better" and that was a mistake. This time, it was going to be better until it was the best it could be.)

How do I know I accomplished that? Well, I started querying this past Saturday (with the twelfth draft of my query) and by Monday, I had two full requests. That's right, kids, FULL requests. Not partials. Stick that feather in my cap, why don't I? I think I will. My query is strong. My synopsis doesn't read like a shopping list. My novel rocks. Even if this doesn't get me an agent, I know that what I'm doing now is what works for me, what makes me the best I can be, and I'm confident that if this novel doesn't have an agent calling me up and saying, "Let's take over the world together," the next one will. Or maybe the one after that. Let's keep going until we find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of this Tootsie Pop.

So happy new year to you, ladies and gents. I hope your past year has been as rewarding as mine and that your forthcoming year is filled with hopes and accomplishments.

Where Did All My Free Time Go?

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted. Mea culpa. I tore a tendon in my shoulder and the recuperation (ongoing) has really thrown my routines for a loop. I've been working from home a lot or not working and going to physical therapy a lot. It may have been a good habit to write on the train every day, but once I stopped taking the train, writing became a lot harder. I also waited longer before starting a second draft. It was helpful, but dear lord I finished the first draft at the end of February and here it is back end of April and I'm not done with the second draft yet. What the hell? So lazy! :)

With the shoulder, I'm not allowed to roller skate. The risk of a fall may move me from physical therapy to surgery, and that's not something I want to risk because I watched a YouTube video of what they do in the surgery and hell no I don't want them perforating my collarbone so they can tie my tendon in place. Screw that! The silver lining in that situation is that I had to come to terms that this most recent attempt to start a men's roller derby team in southern New Hampshire has flopped. For that reason, I volunteered to officiate for the very successful women's roller derby league. Come out to a match! I'll be the guy in a pink shirt they announce as Charles Dickins.

Board games are really big in the Northeast, I've mentioned before, and I have a group that meets every week to play. But that was my big group activity. Usually I worked, I wrote, and I spent time with my wife. Now that I've added roller derby to the mix, my time has evaporated. It's amazing how popular the sport is and how much people need help. If you're at all interested in seeing what the modern derby is like, head to the Googles. It's a safe bet something is going on near you.

Now that I'm going back into work more frequently, I'm writing again, and the second draft is coming along. The first few chapters were a slog, but I've whipped them into shape and the next chapters have gone much faster. I'll give them another pass before sending them out to beta readers. Gonna get this thing to its fighting weight.

Because I'm commuting, that means I'm on the subway, which is where I traditionally read. I broke from my comfortable genres (fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, or biography) and went with literary fiction, something I never read because BORING! I know I'm often told I write literary fantasy (another way of saying, your work is slow moving and focuses too much on character, where are all the explosions?), but I don't write literary literary because I don't want to focus on language and emotions and god aren't I see emo, tear. Or so was my perception of literary. But then I read Jamie Ford's HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET and holy shit, people, you have to read this book. It has cemented itself as a contender for my favorite non-fantasy/sf book of all time. I kept gushing on Twitter because it was just SO good. Even when it slowed down, I didn't stop reading, I just yelled GODDAMMIT FORD, WHEN DO THEY KISS? at my nook and kept on reading. If you're looking for something new to read, you HAVE to read this one. Have to. That's an order.

And once you're done with that one, keep an eye out for Jason Hough's debut sf THE DARWIN ELEVATOR. It comes out in July (I already pre-ordered), and I was lucky enough to get an eARC, which I'm reading right now. I'll offer my thoughts at greater length once I'm done.

For now, go read HOTEL and/or play roller derby. You'll thank me later.

Novice Juggler

I know it's been a while since I posted. I've been meaning to for a while, but some "things" happened. I hate things. Rarely does one converse about things and speak of good news. Good news is "events" or even "news". "Things" mean shit's gone down.

For me that's my labrum. What's a labrum you ask? Good question. We all hear about rotator cuffs because pitchers tear them all the time. They're what make you rotate. The labrum is the tendon that sits inside your shoulder socket to let your bones do their thing without grinding together. I tore mine in 1997 but thought it was only a bad muscle pull, so I let it heal naturally. This was stupid on my part and made my shoulder for shit ever since. Well never fear, it's torn again so maybe this time it'll get fixed for real. Of course that means drilling holes through things and tying things and being in pain until all that happens. I've been on vicodin, which, I don't know why anyone would want to be addicted to that shit. Your brain is fuzzy, you can't comprehend, you're tired ALL the time, and you can't poop! And people take this shit willingly? No thanks. If I'm going to be fuzzy headed, it'll be from the pain. At least I won't be tired.

But I have accomplished some things. The first draft of FAMILY JEWELS wrapped up at the end of February. I spent my writing time finishing Peter V. Brett's THE DAYLIGHT WAR. If you're reading his Demon Cycle, I expect you've already picked this one up. If you're not reading his Demon Cycle, you're missing the best epic fantasy being written in the market today, so go pick up THE WARDED MAN (in the US, THE PAINTED MAN in the UK). Normally after that very brief break, I would jump right into a second draft, but I'm considering a revision to "The Rules" and as such am trying new methods to see if they improve my process. I started the second draft but immediately stopped. I'm going to write a short story instead. One with mermaids! And not the Disney mermaids either.

What I don't know is how my typing will be affected if they drill holes into my bones. I go for an MRI on Monday and things should become more clear after that. Until then, mermaids and future private detectives and lots of Aleve because my head remains clear on Aleve. Screw you, vicodin.

That Was a Little Terrifying

When I get up in the morning, I write. When I get to work, I spend all day in a cubicle on a computer. When I head home, I write. When I get home, I am often on a computer. I live the classic American sedentary lifestyle. I type 99 words per minutes according to quick brown foxes that jump over lazy dogs. Or at least I did until this past week.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is probably something most writers will deal with at some point or another and at varying degrees. For me it meant that holding the Chinese take-out bag sucked because pinching hurts. Or it meant doing hand stretches because of the dull ache in my hand at the end of the day. More recently it meant stalling for a few minutes at skate practice because I couldn't actually tie my laces. And then a few days ago it finally struck home. It meant I couldn't write, or at least I couldn't use the index finger on my right hand. Not that the index finger is an important digit when used on a QWERTY keyboard.

My word count dropped. My typos skyrocketed, and by the end of the day, I gave up writing entirely. Same went for Friday. My word count was zero. Zero word-count days are sad days. They're the days where the sun remains trapped behind clouds and everything looks gray and desolate. It was a little more terrifying than I let on, too. A couple tweets about it, just to share and maybe gather support, but no hands above my head, run in circles screaming. More just a "What have you done? Why didn't you fix this sooner? You've just ruined your entire life." silent admonition.

Clearly I'm typing today, so something's changed. My wife is a vocal proponent of chiropractics. I am not, having known a few that have made ridiculous claims as to the snake oil they could sell me. Also being forced to see one as a child so we could throw money at not fixing the problem. (A chiropractor found my dad's cancer--it was that far advanced--and my mother got it in her head that they could then cure everything, which they can't.) In this case, however, research shows that manipulation of the hands can actually alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms similar to more direct action applied by medical doctors. I looked all this up, and read about it on reputable sources.

It cost me more than I wanted to pay (to which I am still annoyed), I will have to go back repeatedly over the next month and spend even more money (to which I am annoyed but slightly less because that was expected), BUT I can type again. I had been waking up in pain every morning, but today I woke up just fine and here I am cruising along. I even wrote yesterday and hope to do so again if I can steal some time for myself.

So take care of yourselves people. Don't wait until it's too late. I don't know about you, but I think I would sound like an idiot trying to write with Dragon voice recognition software (and it would make writing on the train particularly awkward).

Musings and Other Thoughts

My wife and I have resumed our Christmas tradition (after a year off due to the economy) of spending a few days up in the White Mountains at a bed and breakfast. Nearby is one of New Hampshire's historical covered bridges. They're historical because these things are over two hundred years old. And I drive my car over them. Yup, that's right, Henry Clay and I have traveled over the same covered bridge (and shame on you if you're an American and don't know who Henry Clay is; history->repeating and all that ;)).

There are covered bridges in other states, but they don't interest me as much. There's something about the aged Appalachians, not so high as the Rockies but higher still than your normal hills and over a minor gorge is a covered bridge, wood cut and laid down centuries before, still viable today. And why is that? Because it's covered. I swear to god, that's the actual reason. It's not some marvel of engineering (well it is, but it's not like the guy was a time traveler or something). They covered the bridge and the planks were protected from the environment and thus have endured. That is awesome.

That is so awesome that I want to write a portal story where a covered bridge is a gateway to the past. I know portal stories are cliche, but I don't care. I love covered bridges.

While on this vacation, my wife read a book that's being turned into what looks like a cheesy movie. She insists I'll like it, but what she describes to me, it sounds kind of cliche. High schoolers acting like high schoolers, evil casters acting like evil casters, Southerners acting like Southerners. Nothing really challenges role expectations. Still, she insists I'll like it. I'll put it at the bottom of my to read pile so I can forget about it.

She did say something that piqued my imagination. She mentions how the Southern bitties don't like the Daughters of the Revolution.

Light bulb!

You always get stories about popular groups with global Machiavellian schemes. Masons, templars, illuminati, etc. What if all those organizations warred and defeated each other and now least organizations battle each other. Daughters of the Revolution versus the Sons of the Confederacy. Knights of Columbus versus the Elks versus the Rotary. What kind of plots would these organizations advance and who would be the unlucky bastard to get stuck between them?

Candy: A List

We had a poor turn-out this year for Halloween, which means we have left-over candy, which means I've been eating left-over candy. Here are the best name-brand candies out there. You may have your own, different list, but it's wrong. ;)

1. Reece's Pieces/Peanut M&Ms (tied)

2. Twix

3. Watchamacallit

4. Snickers (the almond variety is why my childhood favorite, Mars, is no longer on this list)

5. Krackle (settle for Nestle Crunch only if you don't love life)

Filling Up the Tank

When I first started writing in a professional manner, I would have to take breaks every few months. I would take two weeks off and just read, letting my brain cool off and my creative juices to replenish. The more I wrote, the less frequently I had to do this and for shorter amounts of time until I haven't had to do it at all this past year. I had a pretty solid routine, take the train into Boston and write the entire way. Take the subway to work and read the entire way. I wrote and read every day and that seemed to balance creative intake and creative output.

But I'm unhealthy and I need to lose a lot of weight (a lot, so let's just leave it at that). I started participating in Boston's bike share program, riding a bike to work rather than riding the subway. While this did not have an immediate impact on my creativity, it seems to have had an effect over time. I've been feeling really burnt out the couple weeks. Now that the weather is cooling, I've started to take the subway again and started reading a new book (THE CITY'S SON by Tom Pollock) and I feel a spark I haven't felt for awhile. I've taken the past few days off and will resume writing tomorrow. I'm hoping a little break is what was necessary. I know there's been a lot of stress. Three full requests is no small thing and work has been incredibly difficult this year. Or rather, my editors have been incredibly difficult this year. My job is the same as it's always been, but content has been delivering later and later and I've had to turn it around faster and faster. I actually developed insomnia for a couple weeks. Let me tell you, that sucked.

I actually have (another) really exciting opportunity regarding one of the fulls I already delivered. Over-the-moon exciting, so of course I can't tell you about it. Cross your fingers for me, if you would be so kind.

So what does that leave? Well, I'm still fat. I need to lose weight and "working out" is something I detest. I always have. I always will. I do much better competing than I do simply standing on an elliptical and trudging for 45 minutes. I need a goal, a challenge, something I want to accomplish. I played kickball, but that was only once a week and our post-game dinners usually packed on more calories than we burned during the game. Serendipitously, they're starting a men's roller derby league in New Hampshire. I haven't skated in 25 years, but I think this might be just the kind of thing I would like to participate in. The biggest hurdle? My feet. I have insanely wide feet (8 EE if you're familiar with skate boots). No one has something that wide that I can borrow, which means I'll have to buy custom skates. It's a big deal if I choose to participate and I or it craps out. A skate made of quality components will hit me just under $600. How horrible would it be to spend that and then not be able to participate?

I can't keep doing what I'm doing. It may be cute to say "Oh bother" in a Whinnie the Pooh voice, but looking like him is not that cute.

So Much Time and for What?

I'm not one for "How To" books. I can never stick with them. It feels like reading a reference book. The closest I come is to reading Don Maass on Twitter who gives good advice on improving your characters.

So I'm linking to this post by Peter V. Brett not because of the book he's referencing but because of his life experience as a writer. When I first read it, I just shouted, "Yes! This! Exactly this!" While I don't mind trotting out my degrees (one in creative writing and another in playwriting), anyone that knows me knows I think very little of the education I received while pursuing those degrees.

I wrote my first short story in first grade and decided in seventh grade that I wanted to be a novelist, just like one of my favorite teachers, Brother Stephen Chappell. I got to high school and they told me I couldn't take creative writing until my junior or senior year because they found that the underclassmen lacked the maturity to take the writing seriously (despite the fact that I was asking to take the class as an incoming freshman, which I think demonstrates I want to take the damn thing seriously). I got but the one class in high school where the teacher frequently used my work as an example for the rest of the class on how it should be done. Clearly there wasn't anything for me to learn there.

And then I got to college. I had an amazing poetry writers workshop by a Lebanese instructor who proved to be the best writing professor I would have in my entire tenure in higher education. I had a Chinese teacher who announced the first day that writing could not be taught! You simply had to write and you would know how to do it or you would not. I had her repeatedly, which may tell you why I think so little of my creative writing degree. It was just class after class of writing for other students who most likely had the same experiences as me, being the best in their high school classes, but not the same interests. "Writing something other than fantasy" is not good feedback. Nor is "Write something real, not fantasy." Hope you enjoyed seeing Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, motherfucker. They were books first.

Playwriting was better, but marginally so. The classes were smaller, I think, which is what made the difference, but they were still the same format of workshop. I often fantasize about teaching college because writing, to a degree, can most certainly be taught. If you disagree, then why do you read so many blogs where people giving writing advice? That's teaching. More over, a business of writing class would be awesome.

With all these young authors today talking about this teacher or that who had such a huge impact on them and prompted them to achieve their first novel days out of their mothers' wombs, all I can think was, am I only the only one that had a shitty writing education? My best classes were poetry, Chaucer, history of the theatre, and a senior theatre capstone. And it took me 4 1/2 years to get my degrees and I count my valuable writing experiences on four fingers. How disappointing.

But, at least, now I know I'm not alone.

Redux: Where I Write

As time goes on, I find there's a topic from my old (decommissioned) live journal that I wish people might have read. So I post it here as a "redux", meaning I haven't changed anything, so some of it may be out of date. Still, the heart of the post is worthwhile, so I post it for you to read. In case you're wondering, I settled on THE TRIAD SOCIETY as the final title.

How strange. I seem to have fallen into a pattern of posting every other week on a Thursday. That is unintentional. June is my busiest month out of the year and this year was particularly bad. The amount of dreck that came out of editorial was massive. The worst offenders submitted and then promptly left on vacation. Jerks.

But that's not what this post is about! I just had to get that off my chest. (The last month really has been miserable in that respect. So much more work than was necessary to complete these projects. Sometimes it took me longer to decipher what was needed than to actually create the ebook!)

Have you heard of

The Rejectionist

? She's a popular insider/industry blog, written by an anonymous agent assistant. Her agent reps fantasy, too. She seems like a pretty cool assistant to work for. I hope she works for an agent I query and not one I've stricken from my query list. I think we'd have a fun dynamic working together (though her tastes lean toward classic metal and maybe some NWBHM while I lean toward Nu Metal and Metalcore). (Interesting aside, I plugged Metalcore into Last FM the other day. I was pleased it recognized the genre, but displeased when it spat death metal at me instead. I know the difference, Last FM! Don't try and fool me!)

Now, we don't always see eye to eye. She reminds me of

Anna Genoise

a lot in her absolutist take on prejudice and discrimination. While we all agree that discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference is wrong, I tend to lean toward a "multiple factors" approach rather than pointing a finger and calling for the torches and pitchforks. Still, I enjoy her blog. She has sass and I'm a sucker for sass.

Well, last Friday she made a proposal. Don't tell, show us where you write. It's a common question, "Where do you write?" That and When... At home, on the porch, whatever. Writers tend to adopt favorite spots, locations where they are most productive. Some people go to Borders every day and that's how they do their thing (I've tried this and neither Borders nor Barnes and Noble are conducive to maximum output). Instead of just saying where we write, which has become almost rote memorization by now, we should show it.

Now for me, I write in public places, so I limited my pictures so I wouldn't creep people out by taking pictures of them. If you've followed this journal or read

my website

, you know I love breakfast food. I like it from a diner. And I like it at a counter. Specifically, I like Jackie's Diner. (I also enjoy Dylan's in Chelmsford as a second option.)

I went to Jackie's with my wife when we first moved to Nashua. I tried the coffee and it blew my mind. They serve Green Mountain coffee. If you live outside of the Northeast corridor, this is the coffee the serve at McDonald's except without the shit ton of sugar that McD's adds. Specifically, they serve breakfast blend which is the awesomest coffee ever. Enjoying the coffee, I went back. And back. And back. I am now a regular and eat at the counter with other regulars. They know I write and mostly leave me to my devices (especially when I stare off into space). We can differ on politics, which is a big deal in New Hampshire, and other things, but that's all cool because we're all regulars. The waitresses know what I do and they support me in my effort even though the owner Carol doesn't like laptops. Mine doesn't take up a lot of space, thankfully.

She's okay with it. I'll give her a signed copy when I finally get published. Coffee, pancakes, eggs, more coffee. Who couldn't write like this? My brain is powered by breakfast! Rrraaaaaaahhhh!!!!!!

Problem is, because I'm such a regular, they like to talk to me. That's all right. That's more of an early morning or weekend writing spot. I get the bulk of my writing done on the MBTA commuter rail between Lowell and Boston North Station. Getting a job in Boston has proven to be one of the greatest events of my life. Not only because I work for a much better publisher than I used to (which I do), but because now I have a commute. This was hard to get used to and some days it still runs me down. Getting home at 6:15 in the evening being "early" sucks. Getting home at 10:00 at night sucks more. But despite all that, the commute has proven the absolute best thing that has ever happened to my writing. It is time that can't be taken away (except by standing room only and shrieking children). I tried to set boundaries with my wife when we first moved in together (before we were married, because you know you were asking). It would last for a few weeks and then dissolve. This can't be taken away. This is dedicated writing time. Two hours of writing a day, one hour each way. I wrote BLACK MAGIC AND BARBECUE SAUCE and WANTED: CHOSEN ONE, NOW HIRING in a year's time because I rode this train. People think I rushed or I didn't revise. Nope. Two hours a day, five days a week and then writing at Jackie's on the weekend. That netted me two novels. Bam!

My regular seat was taken when I took this picture. I was in one of those sideways facing seats that fold up when no one is in them, so I couldn't frame the best picture I wanted. But writing on the train is writing on the train regardless of where you sit. This is also why I use an Eee PC (early gen netbook if you don't know what that is). Like any good fantasist, I have a bit of a belly, so using a full-size laptop is kind of hard. And who needs it? I can type on this thing and that's all I need. Type type type.

After taking this picture, I worked on my WIP for the rest of the ride in. I will do the same on the way home. Later this year, I will have another completed manuscript to send to agents and eventually I'll crack this glass ceiling and publish my damn books!

And who knows, when I finally do, maybe the Rejectionist will be the assistant who pulls my work out of the slush pile. (That's Joseph L. Selby, Le R. The next work you'll receive from me will be either THE TRIAD SOCIETY or THE HOOK AND HAMMER SOCIETY depending on which title I finally settle on. Get ready with a request for a full! ;)