Never Give Up, Just Bury Yourself in It

I’m posting this today with irony. Editing this for press, my mind is on the fact that I’ve possibly lost quite a few files that older versions do not compare to. Backup often, and well. I will not, however, give it up. What a glorious opportunity to rewrite. (Silent screams)
On to the post.

Do I ever want to give it up? Someone asked me this about writing. In fact, another – less avid reader, mind you – suggested it unless I started imagining love stories versus horror tales.
Do I want to give it all up some days? No, I say. I take heart from the greats and occasionally envision digging a long, shallow hole, crawling in, and scooping handfuls of dirt over myself. It’s not suicide, it’s good business sense. Dead writers are more salable (sans writer salaries), and exponentially more likely to become famous writers.
I’m sure the climate down there might get to me, and I would soon find myself lumbering around like the walking dead after the next agent. Perfect pitch, indeed.
Imagine a living dead version of a lemonade stand. I with my dreams, making the best of it. All I need is customers.
Maybe the first few won’t like it. Too sweet. Too sour. Too light, too heavy. Too lemony.
Everyone’s a critic. Seldom do words of praise get uttered. They are tucked away behind fear and excuses. Instead we get buried in complaints. Sometimes ones from left field. Don’t get me wrong, advice is precious to me. I thrive on the fact that someone deems me worthy to receive it. It is an honor to be chosen as a potential learner. Think of how few people you wish to openly advise. Now imagine yourself a busy editor. If only I knew the proper way to send concise thank you notes to all those who offer me assistance.
But, some say that sometimes bad calls get made. A sentence is murdered because of a bubbly coffee burp turns it sour in someone’s mind. Don’t tear it up, they say. Send on. Crunch on. Go on.
That’s life. Don’t sweat the setbacks, the sludge, the bad calls, the negativity or even the silence. Just bury yourself in the goods. Accept the possibility of success (in life, preferably!), and trudge on.
Bury me in progress.

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Walk on the Dark Side

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Music can change our hearts, but can it change our minds? What if life reflected a song instead of the other way around?

Inspired ny music, the anthology Dark Side of the Moon contains short fiction from the ragged, mad corners of the mind. Named after Pink Floyd’s album of the same name, this book stretches the imagination to the tunes of some psychedelic progressive rock.

Plus, my short story “Couple Modifications” is on the set list! (Catches random clothing article and flashes winning smile.)

Dark Side of the Moon is now available on amazon and createspace! Will update the fiction page shortly, but here are the links. Kindle on amazon.com or paperback at createspace

Attention: Small victories may result in… fright?

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Warning: Not to be used as prosthetic

In life, any victory along the way can encourage us, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to others. For instance, putting your shoes on the right foot the morning after can really boost your survival-type confidence level. In the event of a disheveling event like an apocalypse, you will at least not have smushed toes whilst running to safety.

Yesterday, I didn’t finish the Great American Novel. I didn’t become a New York Times Bestseller. I didn’t get Doubleday or Scribner to know my name. I’m still not in the Horror Writers Association.

But, I did see my name on an Amazon Author Page.

It was kind of devastating in a nice way. It really is no lie that success is far more frightening than failure. Now, don’t get the idea that I think this is some milestone of grandeur. I just feel this spot in stomach that must be housing thousands of cocoons of butterflies to come. It’s not spinning or bubbling, but preparing. For the inevitable. The inevitable what? Attention. That thing equally required and threatening to living a truly prosperous life.

Didn’t I start doing this because stickball was too violent and I preferred the company of a keyboard? It never criticizes my multiple perspectives or shallow indignities or even my pathetic pleas for.. oh, yeah. Attention.

It’s really no wonder that word appears on labels before important warnings, like, say, do not dry pets in microwave or hammers may be harmful if swallowed (Miley, that means you!).

So, speaking of attention, I’m good. Really. But buy the one book on the page, and any scheduled after. Just, um, never mind me.

Email Ediquette: Correspondence with Editors

Untitled (2)Emailing more editors than pals these days, this writer wonders what the conventions of proper correspondence say about formatting formalities. Etiquette standards have changed since high school, and I aim to keep up with the times. Politely.

I’ll admit it. The first few queries I wrote contained addresses like the old fashioned cover letters from ninth grade. I must have gotten some snickers.

Then, as I received responses, I realised the electronic cover letter comes equipped with its own address lines. Apparently, there’s no need to repeat an address already entered in the ‘to’ and ‘from’ fields unless it’s requested in the submission guidelines.

Now, no street address gets included unless requested. Most payments are made via PayPal when submitting electronically, but some recommend or require a physical address on the first page of the manuscript.

I try to pay attention to preferences. Rushing through multiple submissions on a busy day has caused some mistakes. Mistakes get submissions ignored. As English gurus say, ‘If you cannot follow instructions, you cannot get paid.’ Now, I follow the rules: Read. Reread. Follow.

Nowadays, most editors use commas after greetings, lower case letters on second words in closings (aka signature: Best regards vs. Best Regards), and first names only in the salutation. eHow shows parts of a business email appearing much this way.

My first email still goes out fairly formal, complete with colon, somewhat like:

Dear Editor:
(Or Dear Benice Tome:)

In 23 words, ‘Formerly Brilliant’ gets dumb fast. Obsessed with palms, Professor Duncan leaves the FU campus to start a hand modelling school, only to meet the pair of his dreams.

Nadia Byline works free, tries hard, but must pay to live. See more Byline at neverclick.com.

I hope you find “Formerly Brilliant’ a good fit for Burning Paper. Thank you for reading this far.

Best Regards,

Nadia Byline

 

 
I generally get something back which requires nothing but a look of shame and disappointment on my part. Sometimes, I receive rewrite requests or contractual dealings. These generally look a lot like:

Nadia,
(or Natia)

After building up a sentence that seems to stretch forever beyond its actual length before telling you my decision, while containing vaguely discouraging compliments before exclaiming congratulations! We somewhat like your story and will put it in Mostly Mad 2. Abbreviations to follow.

We require this of you and will be on this loosely defined schedule. This is another bit you might like to know. Oh, and the fired writer once said to the editor, “Sir, concision.” Laugh or you’re fired.

Peaceful heartbeat normalizing prose only a busy editor knows.

Best wishes,

Firstnamebasis

Now, not only is that a long first name, I never know if I should use it back. I generally maintain a third-email rule, lest I feel like a bit of a slut. Get me to that third ‘date’ in the outbox, and your getting tongue. I mean first-name-comma salutations, bud!

Don’t fire away.

Here’s where success proves to be more frightening than failure. For reasons I might list later. All that elation turns to nerves when it’s time for the follow-up email. How to answer?

Way I figure, in the dance of emails, an editor may play slop, step on my feet, even get a little closer than cousins before I. They are busy, I am still keeping enough distance that none of the school chaperones are pulling us off one other, and I’m gettin’ published! Dance around the desk? Yes.

Equal amounts of editors include their title beneath their name which maintains some proper (“Arms length!”) distance in the dance. Your lead, boss.

Note to the wise. If you have a name that gets underlined when typed, autocorrected, and slaughtered by ‘oh I donno’ everyone, check it three times an email. And on the site. Also, read the proof if sent one and the copy. Always. Bored? Write better.

Follow your editor like that one that keeps getting away.

So in this merciless dance, be cordial, compassionate, and positive. You’ll need some class and humor, not guile and ego, to get a response.

Says the barely published. To my defense, I have read a lot of advice. Lots.

No editors were mocked in the making of this post. Respectfully and sincerely yours.

Anyways, please share any thoughts or experiences in the comments.

On the (right) Path

wpid-Fictpath.jpgMy short story On the Path has been published on Bewildering Stories! This online speculative fiction magazine is free to read and contains quality stories of various lengths. Click in and stay awhile; it’s worth it.

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be accepted. It’s like cheerleading tryouts never happened.

The story? Avid runner Alice visits her favorite park where she encounters a stranger who behaves suspiciously.

Thanks everyone for your help, support, and interest. I really appreciate it. No matter how life wrings you out, keep trying to iron out the wrinkles with a smile.

Button Pushing 3.0 How to view a draft for dummies like me

Word! No seriously, Microsoft Word related…

So, I am doing some post-minute editing. This is something I do after I submit, when all the errors jolt me awake at night or grip me during chores, causing semi-convulsions. And I have discovered something. Something other than I need to start reading instructions again.

Isn’t it nice to know you are the cause of your own frustration? (No.)

When editing a document, scrolling is abysmal in Print mode. You go along smoothly for a while, then pop! You’re on another page, place lost. There is a little button at the bottom of my Word window that gives me the option of Draft mode. Ha! Page breaks marked, no jump while scrolling. Where was this ages ago? Undiscovered by this gal.

So, my lesson for the day is: Push those buttons. Every single one.

Some twice.

Just save often. (Or consult the manual or Help files. Even take a class.)

Geesh.

Here’s a great link for shortcuts. You may want to use find in page to locate your most useful actions.

Shortcuts for Word

Writing matter$

wpid-PicsArt_1372038663844.jpgIf you write and succeed in being published, you know that it isn’t for the money. You’ll likely need an agent to ensure that you ever make any money at all, not just that coveted position in the stores or seller’s lists.

Because it’s the achievement, the recognition, that we’re in it for. And that image is what we see, not the numbers or bills.

Writing is not a choice career for those relying on it for a dependable, steady income. Not that it cannot provide one, it’s just highly unlikely and very, very hard work.

Many writers actually end up spending money on their craft. Workshops, classes, books, writing implements, and, if you’re lucky, an agent. And copies of your published success for your closest friends and family.

So, when do you get paid for your work? When you do. For now, just roll around in that which money cannot buy: happiness.

Craft of Coping

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That's Semour, my stress skull. He says journals make him warm and squishy inside.

Anyone who writes submits themselves to criticism. But that process too can be beautiful. Still, rejections roll in seemingly faster than the submissions can roll out. So, I found something to do with them other than brood and weep. I’m calling it scrapjournaling. But, let’s start at the beginning.

This inexpensive album of dreams (pictured here open) hangs above my desk, full of replies from editors. It was fun to decorate and assemble with some cardstock, two metal embellishments, and a little suede lace. I printed out replies from editors in what I thought were appealing typefaces and colors. I then glued the printed replies in with my favorite desktop utility: a gluestick.

Gluesticks are much more fun now that I’m an adult.

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Semour sees you One Buck...

Then came the day that Semour and I needed to expand. So I set off to make my first scrapjournal. Scrapjournals and I are alike by nature: unruly, askew and homemade. They’re prettier than covered-over comp book journals. And they’re IN. Kay? I saw it in a craft store so it must be so.

Scrapjournals are easy to make. The first step is gathering papers that coordinate and follow the theme. Then, the papers are put in an order that best suits the book and folded at vicarious angles to get that messy look that just screams artistic. After the pages are secured my stitching, glue, or basically whatever happens to work, it is time to add memories, recipes, pictures, etc. Mine will house my responses from editors and anything else closely related.

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Colored ink makes us smile.

Taking one plastic file folder and cutting the front off it with my safety scissors gave me a bright durable cover for journal one. After collecting coordinating papers to stuff inside, I decided to sew the first journal together at the fold with embroidery floss.
NOTE: Do yourself a favor if you try this method and prepunch your holes with something sharp.

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Postcard from Frederik Meijer Gardens. That sculpture looks rather suspect from this angle.

I selected a postcard for the center of each of my journals. Inside are envelopes and plenty of pages to affix more and more rejections, I mean replies, to. The pages include various colored journal papers, notebook papers, photocopies, and even pages from wordfinds.

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Postcard: Gerald R. Ford Museum. Photo: my livingroom.

I chose to hold my second journal together with some suede lace through a centered hole (hole punch = 98¢, no callus = priceless}. I like this, because it allows for revision!

Inside the second, there is a photocopy of a likeness of the Declaration of Independence. And some old printshop bookmarks. Also, I utilized some leftover cardstock for the cover, as you might notice.

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Grue's Personal Submission Survival Kit. That cover really beings out Semour's eyes.

So that is the tale of my ever-growing garden of rejections, I mean replies, and their newfound beauty. Hope you enjoyed.

Merideth Grue

BTW: Semour is a Halloween-themed stress skull I purchased last season. He is the most invaluable tool that I own. When you squeeze him, blood-marinated maggots form massive bubbles in his eye sockets. He’s my best friend, and a dang good paperweight.

Power of Perspective(s)

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Yours truly picked up a book on POV recently. While perusing it the last few days, I noticed how much it was needed. Funny how those subtle differences in narration can mean so much, or confuse so.

For those of you who are lost, point-of-view refers to the angle from which a story is told – whose head we are in. Narratives can contain multiple POVs, but to be done well, having some conventions to follow helps. I’ve begun to think of it like a framework or map.

BTW, in general: 1st (person) is I, 2nd is you, 3rd is they, omniscient is all-knowing. That’s the basics, but it gets more complex.

I have always struggled with head-hopping. This goes like:

‘Jane wished she could spend the whole day just smelling the flowers, as they reminded her of her grandfather’s garden. She intently showed one to George, who thought, What a silly creature. He was more of a horse man, like his father. She knew he’d run off to the stables as soon as he could.’

Thing is, when I lie asleep and dreaming, my inner narrator head-hops like a madwoman. My dreaming mind truly believes itself telepathic or psychic (or something).

Is this how a supreme being would think? That would be one schizoid thought environment. All those otherwise silent remarks disrupting everything. How exhausting!

While writing I must take special measures to ensure the “mere mortals” will understand. Yes. (Hint of sarcasm.) Some coherent motion to the intrusive nature of the ol’ mind recorder would do.

So, aside from all this, I am left with one curiosity. Has anyone else ever dreamt like I do? Do you dream like a camera-eye or omniscient creature?

Does anyone else dream in color but sometimes in pop art or sepia tones at times? I am assuming some adults out there still remember their dreams.

Am I alone?

Hopping along now…

Writing Blues

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It never ceases to amaze me what I notice about a manuscript after I submit it, either trying to get it critiqued or published.

How is it I can create three separate characters and all their names begin with the letter J. This of course looks completely normal to me until I know others will see it. J-j-just makes me wonder.

And what format to submit? The ugly one, of course. Safest bet, I’m sure of it. Dirty little spiral.

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Not that the voices of my English teacher from high school, my mother and countless others haven’t piped up during the inevitable post-submission read.

How can I find the will to attempt to beat that contest deadline now?

Ugh. Maybe I’ll just paint for a while. I will plan this with the knowledge that it will lead my inner rebel to work once again.