Monday, June 30, 2014

A Couple of New Things

I have a couple of new things to announce.

1. My friend and guest on the blog tour (see my last entry) Christina E. Pilz will be posting her answers to the four questions about writing on her blog some time today here:

I enjoyed her answers so much that I have decided to post them here on my blog as well. That will be a new entry for tomorrow. Please remember to return to read her fascinating answers.

2. My poem "Homecoming" has gone live on Pedestal Magazine. Go here to read it:


3. I just finished the "revamp" (I hate the word "rewrite") on the ending of my science fiction novel "Letters to an Android." It got me thinking about the types of stories I like to do. Anything to do with "the underdog" will always grab my attention. But I also like the little stories (that can quickly become big all by themselves) about the human heart. "Letters" is set against a sweeping science fiction backdrop, but it is really only the small story of two people (one natural human, one created human) from two completely different backgrounds who find common ground and bond in a long-distance correspondence.

Thinking about that: I wrote this to a friend in email today:

I have read so much science fiction that I hate (most in my early years when I thought of myself more as a scifi fan.) Still, maybe it's not such a surprise that I'm writing it again lately. I want to grab that wanderlust feeling where the backdrop is science fiction with sweeping vistas and far-traveling ships, but still tell the tale that is close to the heart. For me, the best stories are not about the big, vast battles with lots of FX that go on and on (I'm thinking of movies that favor amazing destruction until you are boggled and overwhelmed and can't feel a thing even though thousands of lives are ending.) So that is what I chose to write. Also, just because something is labeled "science fiction" does not automatically mean "sterile," "military," "indecipherable." And if I put stuff like that into my stories, it's mostly to be tongue in cheek with it. I don't write that much humor, but I do love irony.

And that's it for today!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blog Tour Entry: Four Questions on Writing

I met Kelly Dunn many years ago at the San Diego Comicon. Since then we reconnected in 2011 when she edited the wonderful anthology Mutation Nation in which she included one of my stories. She invited me to be one of the guests for this blog tour started by Michael Cieslak, a Board Member for the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and a writer and editor. His latest anthology, Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails, includes tales of loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit Last Day Dog Rescue. To learn more about Michael, please visit him at The Dragon’s Roost. For this blog tour, Kelly posted her wonderful entry answering four questions about writing Monday, June 16, at her blog . Go read it now. It’s great! I thank her for inviting me to do this blog tour.

And now, here are my answers to the four questions:

1. Why do you write what you do?

That’s a very easy answer for me. I write what I want to read.

Unfortunately (or maybe not so unfortunate) this puts me all over the place in terms of genre because I like to read many different genres in all types of literature from poetry to novels.

As a pre-teen (and even now) my favorite holiday was always Halloween. Some of my first poetic efforts use that holiday as a theme. As a teen, I loved science fiction and I wrote stories and poems around that theme. Many were published in high school and college journals. Later, while still enjoying science fiction, I branched into horror and dark fantasy. I found the genres of both to be more all-encompassing than one might think at first glance. Horror was not only a genre of chills and frights. Psychological character studies and erotica were also broadly accepted in that genre, while general science fiction was (despite Samuel Delany, Nicola Griffith, Storm Constantine and some others doing ground-breaking, taboo-ish themes) in a dry period frowning at explicit erotica, romance or even too much emotion and characterization.

The horror genre also seemed more open to gender-bending themes, gay or bi characters, and I enjoy that diversity and freedom. And one could write about vampires, werewolves and ghostly things without being frowned at or being told to “get serious.”

I also enjoy romance, erotica and mainstream. I’ve written in all those categories, both with my poetry, short fiction and novels.

So you can see I am all over the place in my body of work. It also makes marketing myself more of a chore!

2. How does your writing process work?

I love this question because it’s fun to talk about.

When I am being creative, my mind does not naturally work in a linear, logical process. Images and phrases and snippets of dialog might pummel me from out of nowhere. This happens when I first get ideas, before I’ve written anything, and it happens in the middle of writing a story or novel as well. It doesn’t stop. It just keeps happening as my story progresses. If I am being smart, I’ll record those lines or scenes in my writing journal. I guess you could call them notes. Often they are poems.

Let me talk about poetry here for a second. When the poetry doors open my mind is richly fed. I love playing with words and sounds of words and beautiful, otherworldly images. I’m not focused at all on form, so my poems are mostly free verse with a side of haiku. My mind gets to soar and play, free and unfettered, when I write poetry. And what poetry taught me over the years is a very valuable lesson: trust your subconscious mind in writing and you will be a better writer. My poems that are planned sound planned. My stories that are planned sound planned. When I just let go and write images and words that I love because I am in love with them and for no other reason, I do my best.

My process for writing poetry involves an empty book or journal, a pen, and the quiet of the night-time. Most of the time I write poetry in my bed before sleep, and always by hand. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m going to write. Often I use ‘prompts’ in the form of words or sentences from my own work, or from something I am currently reading. This gets my mind into the poetry mode. The prompt word or sentence itself often doesn’t even make it into my poem. Sometimes I make up titles from words I find when I open my poetry journals in the middle and begin looking at words at random on the page, not reading them in order, or sometimes reading sentences backwards.

From that poetry exercise, stories and novels can also form. Many of my stories and novels were poems first. I do not use outlines. So instead of writing an outline, I will often write a poem to capture the flavor and atmosphere I want to take wing. Sometimes lines from the poem end up in the story. Despite my crazy process, I still generally write my stories and novels from beginning to end and not out of order.

My most recent novel soon to be released, “Letters to an Android,” is the result of a short-short story I wrote for an online challenge, but it is also definitely the result of a series of one line poems (some of which became chapter titles) and haiku. I even found a way to put haiku into the novel! Writing that novel was such play for me. To help inspire me, the process for that novel also included gazing at a lot of science fiction landscapes on art sites and on googleimages. Looking at art also inspires me to write poems.

When I was younger I was overwhelmed by the concept of a novel. I didn’t think my ideas were deep enough or long enough to sustain a whole book. I would become anxious at the thought of writing one. My first novel was shelved forever. The second was never completed. Then I wrote “Pale Zenith,” a science fiction novel, and while writing it I told myself I was going to simply put everything into it that I love, write characters I could describe poetically and fall in love with, and not look back and not worry about it fitting some trend or trope or classic genre. I did do some research for some of the technology in the novel (and research is my least favorite thing,) but other than that it is purely fantastical from my imagination. When I finally broke free of trying to write a “proper novel” and just allowed myself to have a good time, I found the concept of a novel no longer intimidating.

3. What are you working on now?

Right now I have just finished the edits on “Letters to an Android.” I am also compiling two short story collections, some new and some previously published short stories.

The short story collections are “The Red Fountain, Where Vampires Come to Drink,” and “Risque Science Fiction.” The first collects some of my best vampire stories from a period in my life where I was writing a lot of fiction and poetry for magazines such as “Dreams of Decadence,” “Prisoners of the Night” and a lot of long-gone, little magazines. The second will include some of my science fiction that includes erotica, gay characters and/or taboo themes. One of those stories was published in the hardback anthology “Bending the Landscape,” and another in the long out of print anthology “Air Fish.” I don’t want to lose those stories, and so I am doing the collections.

One of my newest short stories, “I Keep the Dark that is Your Pain,” is in the anthology A Darke Phantastique due out at the end of July 2014.

Sometimes I have dry periods for my poetry, but in the last two and a half months I’ve written a lot of new stuff and continue to do so, and I’ve made new poetry sales to: Pedestal Magazine, Dreams and Nightmares, Horror Writers of America Showcase, and Scifaikuest Magazine. And I have a lot more new poems making the market rounds.

4. How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I find this to be the most difficult question to answer. I write in many genres. So the question is what makes my fiction different from other fiction of its kind?

I often include bisexual or gay characters in my writings. For erotica writing, such as my short story collection, “My House is Full of Whispers,” I’ve done it all: gay, straight, bi. In my romance novels “The Foundling” and “None Can Hold the Dark” my characters are male and gay. In “Letters to an Android” my main characters are unlabeled as to gender preference, but the main relationship is between two men. That book is science fiction, not erotica. In “Pale Zenith” my characters are fairly straight although I make mention of group marriages, and two of my main characters are unusually close twins who fall for one woman.

Another thing I love to do in my fiction is play around with poetic turns of phrase. I hope that makes my writing a little different.

I am a believer that character IS plot, and so I don’t force my characters into too much pre-planned plotting. I give them a bit of background, a setting and a couple of related or unrelated ideas, then I let them lead me into their story. My stories are about the people, not the car chase.

My guest on this blog tour is a fine writer, Christina E. Pilz. She will post her answers to these four questions on her blog Monday, June 30. I will also include her entry in my blog. Her blog address is:

Christina E. Pilz was born in Texas, but has lived in her adopted country of Colorado since 1971. Since then she has taken far too many college courses, switched majors half a dozen times, and has gone to England almost as many times as she's gone to Casa Bonita. In addition to that, she's written her first novel, a sequel to Oliver Twist, called Fagin's Boy. Of her writing she says, "Being a writer is not just what I do, it’s who I am. Even if everything else in the day turns sour, if I have written, then it’s still a pretty good day."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Submerged Kingdoms of the Mind

I am participating in a blog tour on Monday. This means I will be posting answers to four questions about writing here on my blog on Monday. My friend Kelly Dunn asked me to be her guest for this tour "chain." She already posted her answers last Monday here:

My guest will be Christina E. Pilz who wrote a wonderful book I highly recommend called "Fagin's Boy," who will post her answers to the four questions on her blog on June 30. If you want to check out her blog now (and hopefully on June 30) you can do so here:

I tried to get other guests but they declined. I was hoping to have at least two. Maybe at the last minute I will get more guests for this tour.

I started this blog four years ago, made some posts, then forgot about it. I intend to remedy that from now on. I will be posting once a week (at least) on writing related topics, and any other things that may be occupying my brain in the moment.

Right now I'm focused on making adjustments to the very ending of my new science fiction novel "Letters to an Android." That novel was a blast to write. I wrote it off and on for about five months in between traveling for my business and a lot of stress-related moments. I literally feel like I often had to steal the time to write it. Sometimes I spent hours on it late at night. Sometimes an hour here and there during a busy day. Because I am a fast writer, five months to write a novel is excruciatingly slow for me. When I had downtime from my business, I was able to write big chunks very quickly.

I love the feeling of writing a novel. Hell, I love writing. It's just so damn fun. This is the result of a lot of growth and inner contemplations and wrestling with my art over long periods of time. There was a point in my writing life where writing became very stressful and worrisome to me, where I forgot about telling stories about characters I fall in love with and spent too much time thinking about what I should be writing, about right and proper ways of writing and storytelling, about genre, marketing, subject matter and audience. I would become so overwhelmed with all these factors that I thought I should be concentrating on and applying to my writing (as if they are some sort of magical ingredients) that I was no longer having fun. I was trying to identify as a "writer" instead of just playing with the puzzles of the beauty of words and how they form images and emotions and express my own longings and desires and dreams (the fun part that I love!) I began to live too much in my head, and focused too much on what other writers were doing that I was failing to do. Even as a published author and an experienced one, I became over-sensitive to rejection. Everyone is sensitive to rejection, of course, but I began doing damage with my own poisoned thinking, telling myself I just didn't fit in with any genre or group, that I was doing something wrong, etc. I became so frustrated that I made a very big decision to take a break from writing altogether. Of course this is an extreme reaction to my dilemma, but that's what happened.

I had no plan. I still continued to journal for myself and write poetry. Beyond that, I didn't do much else with my writing. I didn't know if my break would last two months, two years or forever. I did not allow myself to think about it. The relief was great. The pressure went away.

I do not recommend this action to everyone, that's a sure thing! But for me the break lasted nine years, and I don't look back with any regret. Instead, I just look forward now.

When I decided to get back to writing again, I had a long talk with myself. It was not just a cut and dry thing. My talk lasted about two months. In essence, I asked myself if I really wanted to get into that "writer" mode again. I made myself aware that everything I did was a choice, and every label I might use to define myself (such as "writer") is not really an identity, just a descriptive noun. I knew I could write. That was not in question. The question was: why write?

My answer would fail to satisfy me if it pertained to the outside world, if it contained anything about "selling," "making a living," "gaining awards, prestige." In other words, while all of us crave outside validation, my answer needed to exclude that into the "extras" category and not be my reason 'why'.

I told myself I would only begin again if I was having a good time. I told myself that I must write only what I love and not what I think others might want to read. I wanted/needed to write what I wanted to read. That may seem selfish, but what art isn't? And why do it in the first place if it's not something you yourself can love? If you write for audience approval only, aren't you limiting your scope and turn a thing of love into a four-walled, harshly ruled job? Creativity has a hard time flourishing in such circumstances. That isn't to say I wouldn't be tempted by a good monetary offer to write something to specifications, it just means that if I am going to write my thoughts, my dreams, my stories, then they must first and foremost be for me. I'll write what I want to read. And I'll have damn fun doing it. If the fun begins to wane, I'll command it back by diving into the subjects that fill my heart to overflowing.

I promised myself that if I stopped having fun I would stop writing. No fuss. No muss.

My lesson, if there is any lesson to impart, is this: In any art too much thinking "in the head" is toxic. I believe the subconscious mind knows what it wants and should be allowed expression without all the filters and programs and labels that stop it up and create writer's block. This does not mean I don't have an idea or a general story in my head before I begin a story or novel. It means that to allow it to flourish I don't cling, I just let it go. Sometimes stories will download into my brain but in order to get them on the page in an un-forced, natural way (without allowing logic or labels or outside fears to interfere) I need to daydream them onto the page. That means letting go, having fun, playing as I played as a child with my stuffed animals and dolls.

I'm not saying there aren't frustrations that accompany art. I would like to make a living at it, of course. Wouldn't that be grand? But the pressures and disappointments that go with an expectation of that take too much away from me. I can't allow myself to think like that. I can produce volumes, but only if tell myself it's play. It's a neat trick and it took me a long time to learn it!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Exciting New News

It's been a long time since I posted here. I am going to be slowly re-vamping this blog and making it a regular thing.

From now on, this is a blog mostly about writing. I will also be posting things like some of my newest poetry, news of my upcoming/ongoing projects, links to book releases, story publications, and anything else related to the writing world that I feel like talking about.

Right now I have two new writing-related announcements:

I just finished my new science fiction novel "Letters to an Android." And there is haiku in it!

I have recently sold poetry to four magazines: Pedestal Magazine, HWA Showcase, Dreams and Nightmares, Scifaikuest. My poem to Pedestal will go online there around June 21 and I'll provide a link when it's up.

I'm very excited about updating this blog and posting in it often. More later!