Category Archives: Writing

The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 2

The Scribe’s Arcanum:

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 2

In 2006 I made my first short story  sale. It was hard won and an amazing experience. Here’s how it happened:

I had joined the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) as an affiliate member in the early 2000s. For various reasons at that time they were looking to jettison members who didn’t have any sales. They now required a semi-profesional sale of not less than $25 to retain affiliate member status and stay in the organization. They gave us a year to make affiliate or be cast out. 

There were rumblings from some members, but having an interest in setting goals with  deadlines, I took this as the perfect opportunity to do whatever it took to make my first sale. I had a year, and a year could go by quickly. I knew I had to get started right away. 

In addition, to complete this goal I would have to break a rule I was taking way too literally. That rule: start at the top market and work your way down. The problem with that strategy is it takes a long time. Especially when some top markets were holding stories up to a year (sometimes longer) before sending a rejection letter. On the plus side, if you made a sale it was going to be a big one. 

However, to achieve my goal, I wouldn’t be able to use that strategy any longer. At least, that is, until I made my first semi-pro sale. 

As part of this new strategy, I looked at semi-pro magazines that had sent me encouraging notes along with a rejection. Then I wrote stories specifically for that market.

I had done this at least once before, written a story specifically for a magazine that showed interest in my work.  One such magazine was Dreams of Decadence, edited by Angella Kessler. 

In the year 2000, my wife and I made a return trip to New Orleans. We hadn’t been back to NOLA since our honeymoon. We had stayed at the Bourbon Orleans, and a kindly bellhop had given us some advice on where to go and which areas to avoid. The dark and dangerous streets of the French Quarter excited my imagination. Then, in our youth, being adventurous, we found ourselves having drinks at a vampire bar, as part of a tour led by a self-proclaimed vampire who called himself Vlad. 

When we returned home, my experiences coalesced into the story, The Hours of Sleep. I’ll talk more about that story in another post. Suffice it to say, I sent this vampire short story to Dreams of Decadence and received a rejection letter. Still, Ms. Kessler wrote back telling me she thought the story was interesting and unique. No easy feat for a well worn trope. 

I decided to try my hand at writing a story specifically for her magazine. To do this we traveled to Pandemonium Books and Games in Boston to pick up some sample issues. It could have been Man from Atlantis, but I think it was Pandemonium. Either way, I grabbed issues from a handful of genre magazines.

Bringing them home, I read each magazine cover to cover and analyzed them to see if I could understand what made that particular editor tick. 

I discovered some simularites between the stories. In Dreams, the majority of the stories were written in the first person point of view, the protagonists were overwhelmingly female, and if I’m remembering correctly, the stories all had a dark ending. 

I set out to write a story with these qualities while retaining what I felt the editor thought unique about my story. I entitled the story, “Despair.” Aptly named, for as soon as it was ready to send out, Dreams of Decadence had closed up shop.  My dreams were dashed. 

I had also learned in the interim, most magazine editors, and those stalwarts who still read short stories, were sick of vampire fiction. Seemingly, no one was buying vampire fiction any longer.  What to do? What to do? 

I ended up putting the story away in what is sometimes known as “the trunk.” Yes, a trunk story, as it’s called, is an unsaleable story writers would place into a physical wooden trunk before the digital age. Today, writers usually just store the story on their computer hard drive (keeping a backup in the cloud), and move on. 

Eventually, in 2006, I took the story out of mothballs, performed another light edit, and then sent it out to a small press magazine that, surprise of all surprises, was actually looking for vampire fiction. 

This time I received another personal rejection. The editor said she thought the writing was excellent, but didn’t like first person narration and decided to pass.. I’m not that big a fan either. I figured that was the end of that story’s marketability. No one was looking for vampire fiction… or so I thought! Stay tuned for more in the next thrilling installment. Haha! 

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The Scribe’s Arcanum: Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 1

The Scribe’s Arcanum

Anatomy of a First Sale—Part 1

How do you get published traditionally? A lot of newer writers have this question. I can tell you how I did it, giving you some insight into the process. This will be a longer post, probably the longest of the Anatomy of a Sale series since I have to start from the beginning. I’ll try to work though the background information quickly. 

I wrote my real first short stories back in junior high. I had the opportunity to read a story to the class, and once I did, I become known as: The Writer. There was another classmate who was known as: The Artist. I was envious of him as I had wanted to be an artist myself, a comic book illustrator to be exact, but found what I really wanted to do was tell a story. I discovered in short order it was easier to tell a story with words than with pictures——at least it was for me. 

Then in high school I wrote a short story for an English class. At the time, I was trying to sail under the radar. I couldn’t help but take up the challenge, and once my teacher saw I had talent, I lost the ability to remain invisible in that class. There’s a lot more to this story, but I’ll save it for another day. 

Fast forward to late 1996, early 1997. After a couple years of marriage, I felt settled down and focused enough to try my hand at writing again. This time I wanted to see if I could make a fiction sale. I told my wife as much, asking her to buy me a Writer’s Digest Short Story Market  for Christmas/Hanukkah. 

I made her a promise that with that tome by my side, I would write a story and send it out.  If nothing else, I’d get my first rejection letter. 

I had researched enough to know that even top writers like Stephen King had spent a great deal of time collecting rejection slips. I felt that getting a “thanks, but no thanks” letter was an achievable goal, and it kept me from worrying about the results. The worst that could happen was that I would be sent an acceptance letter and not get my goal of a rejection. That would have been a “failure” I could live with. 

I wrote my first story, with an eye towards making a sale, on a Brother word processor, sending out a hard copy in the mail and waiting breathlessly for the post office to send me a response. Instead of a rejection, I was surprised to read a short note informing me that that the magazine had just gone out of business. 

Immediately, I sent the story to a small press magazine. A few months later I received a very nice note written on a form rejection letter stating: “Good story! Just too traditional for this publication.” Not a bad first rejection. In-fact, it’s extremely good. Much better than I realized at the time. 

Most of my rejections were like this. I had immediately received encouraging letters and notes, but no sales. It was a better sign than I could have known. I was close, but life was getting in the way. By the end of 1997 I had transitioned into a  management position in the security industry. Producing reports and policies and procedures manuals kept me writing, and a  24 hour pager and 16 hour shifts kept me exhausted and with little time for anything else. 

In the year 2000 I completed a transition to a human resources position, regaining some of the time I had lost. With extra time came an emptiness I couldn’t seem to fill. I had returned to martial arts over a year earlier (having left my old school in 1997) and even though I loved my training, it wasn’t enough to fill me up. It was only when I returned to writing that I felt whole again. 

That year, I found a message board frequented by horror writers who had been popular in the 1980s. These authors had been my writing heroes, and they inspired me to return to my horror roots. Before that, I had spent most of my time writing science fiction. I figured I understood the horror genre more than SF, and that I would have a publication credit in no time. How wrong I was! 

In 2004 I placed a short story, “Graven Image,” with a webzine called The Swamp. I didn’t get paid for that “sale” but I did get an acceptance, something I sorely needed at the time. 

It wouldn’t be until 2006 when I made my first sale. Yes, It would take me six years to make my first paid sale. Persistance pays off. Persistance and practice. I’ll tell you how that happened next time. Stay tuned. 

The Scribe’s Arcanum – Intro

I’m reinstating The Scribe’s Arcanum. 

Wait!

What is The Scribe’s Arcanum, you ask?

Great question! 

The Scribe’s Arcanum is just a tongue and cheek way of saying: the writer’s secrets.  

Back in the early 90s, as a young man transitioning into my early 20s, I felt I needed a way to regain my focus and steer my life in a successful and prosperous direction. Having lived life for the most part scattershot, I began keeping a journal on the family Commodore 64/128,  utilizing a rudimentary word processor in an effort to motivate myself to take action in every area of my life. 

Interestingly, I wrote this journal just like a  modern blog in a time before the internet as we know it (I think there were some newsgroups and such available using very low baud modems, but I didn’t have access to this nascent technology at the time). That’s right, I wrote it as if people could somehow read the journal I was creating on a giant floppy disk. I’m a futurist! Haha! 

Writing the journal/blog helped me to set goals and take action toward my dreams. In short order, I returned to school, earning an associate’s degree (I would later go on to earn a bachelor’s degree and graduate magna cum laude), earned a black belt in old school Korean Karate (Tae Kwon Do/Tang Soo Do), back in a time when a black belt meant something, and met the woman of my dreams, who would later become my wife. 

Today, I have decided to return to The Scribe’s Arcanum  as a way to share my goals and accomplishments as I continue to work on my writing career, while sharing any tips, tricks, or secrets I may have picked up along the way. This time The Scribe’s Arcanum is not so much for me as it is for you. I hope I can give you information along with some encouragement to help you with your writing goals. I  also hope you’ll stick with me through this  journey. Be assured that I’ve already written a group of blog posts yet to be published, so if you follow my blog, I’ll be able to update the content on a consistent basis. 

I hope you’ll get a lot of value from this blog and wish you all the best with your hobby or career.

Welcome to The Scribe’s Arcanum! 

Until we meet next time… 

Year in Review 2018

Each year I create a list of goals for every area of my life. Throughout the year I work on my goals, track my progress, and then commit to posting my top accomplishments. This is my 10th year!

 

Writing

Novels

The Tower (working title- 97,000 words)

  • Completed the first draft of The Tower (working title). The manuscript clocked in at 97,000 words. 
  • Began 2nd draft. 

Year of the Assassin (94,000 word crime thriller)

  • Completed 1st draft of both a 10 page and a 2 page Synopsis
  • An editor for a large independent publisher asked to see the full manuscript based on the query letter. I submitted the full manuscript.
  • Queried with samples to 3 agents. I researched and wrote targeted letters. 
  • Sent query letters to 2 independent presses.

Fantasy Novella, (20,000 words)

  • Researched and wrote targeted letters.
  • Edited 2nd draft. – Put The Tower aside to work on edits.
  • Completed 20k word manuscript and cover letter.
  • Submitted to open call at major publisher.
  • Submitted a revised version 16,000 words to major science fiction and fantasy. magazine. “There’s some good writing here. Hope you’ll consider us in the future.”
  • Submitted revised version to a major contest.

 

  • Short stories

This year I spent  extra time on short fiction.

  • Wrote or reimagined 7 short stories approximately 25,000 words in total.
  • Submitted stories  to 11 markets.

 

Reading – Notable Fiction read in 2018

  • The Big Bopper by Reb MacRath
  • The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons 
  • The War of Art  by Stephen Pressfield
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons 
  • American Assassin by Vince Flynn
  • The Moore House by Tony Trembley 
  • Headhunter by Michael Slade 
  • Legion by William Peter Blatty

 Reviews 

  • Reviewed The Big Bopper
  • Reviewed The Moore House

Martial arts

Unlike last year, I spent less time attending martial arts seminars and more time writing.

  • Attended Drowning in Kali III at the Derderian Academy of Martial Arts.

Home training included:

  • Stick, double stick, stick & knife, Filipino Boxing.
  • Western Boxing, JKD combinations, kick boxing, shadowboxing, heavy bag work. HIIT training.
  • Karate/TKD/TSD Kata/Hyung.
  • Kendo sword cuts.
  • Weight Lifting.
  • Body weight exercises.

Health

  • Ophthalmology – No change = good!
  • Optometry- Slight change but no need to change glasses. 
  • 1st Dental cleaning – gold star.
  • 2nd Dental cleaning and X-rays – gold star.
  • Signed up for temporary insurance and than insurance at Patty’s new job. 
  • Had to get new referrals for specialists.
  • I was able to reduce Pepcid AC usage. 
  • Blood work and fasting glucose. All testing normal. 
  • Annual physical – Gold star. My weight was up 3 lbs since my last physical, but the doctor didn’t seem concerned with it. It’s all muscle, I tell ya! 
  • Got a flu shot.

Family

  • Celebrated Patty’s milestone birthday at Toyo Japanese Steak House.
  • Called parents twice a week to keep in touch.
  • Visited Grand Niece and Nephew in CT for birthday.
  • Went to see a movie with my parents.
  • Went to see a movie with my dad.
  • Wished and/or celebrated family birthdays. 
  • Celebrated my birthday with a Grandma’s of New England coffee cake (my favorite!). Patty ordered and had it shipped to me.
  • Had my first Facetime chat with my Grand Niece and Nephew.
  • Kept in touch with my former college English professor through email.
  • Attended my Brother-in-Law’s mother’s funeral and attended the fellowship at Kamahlot in Templeton. 
  • Called to wish my Aunt a happy birthday.
  • Called my brother.
  • Took my mom, dad, and aunt to Texas Roadhouse for Mother’s Day.
  • Went out with my mom and dad for Pizza for father’s day.
  • Congratulated my 2nd cousin on his 7th dan in Judo (5th dan from Kodakan). 
  • Babysat for my Grand Niece and nephew.
  • Had breakfast with my parents at Foxwoods.
  • My Auntie Anna passed away this year. She will be missed.
  • Assisted Patty with her transition to a new job.
  • Celebrated Christmas at Junior’s Deli at Foxwoods with my parents. Brought my brother and sis-in-law in on the celebration through FaceTime.
  • After Christmas get together and house warming with Patty’s family at sister-in-law’s new house in CT.

Spiritual

  • Continued nightly prayers.
  • Lit candle in remembrance of my sister.
  • Had Good Friday and Easter dinner with Patty.
  • Kept Passover to the best of my ability.
  • Brought Patty to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.

Cars

  • Patty bought a 2017 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring fully loaded for work. -Top goal!
  • Performed general maintenance on Patty’s car.
  • Performed general maintenance on my car.
  • Upgraded to AAA Plus.

House

  • Had a chimney sweep company clean our chimney.
  • Leak test completed on our AC system.
  • New condenser coil installed.
  • Bees exterminated.
  • Cleaned and organized walk in closet.

Fun & Travel

  • Stayed at Marriot Renaissance in Providence, RI.
  • Met one of Patty’s old co-workers for lunch at Mohegan Sun at The Hash House.
  • Spent a weekend in Freeport Maine.
  • Visited the Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro.
  • Attended Steely Dan & Doobie brother’s Concert at Xfinity Center.
  • Went to see James Taylor at Tanglewood with one of Patty’s Co-workers. Watched. Fireworks on July 4th in Albany NY. Stayed at Fairfield Inn & Suites for 3 nights. Got a deal by buying points.
  • Attended the Mohegan Sun Whiskey Union.

Whiskeys sampled:

  • Laphroaig 10
  • Ardbeg An Oa
  • Glendalough 7 – Irish Whiskey
  • Highland Park 12
  • Macallan Sherry Oak 12
  • Nikka Coffee Grain Whiskey
  • Ragtime Rye
  • Singleton 12
  • Suntori Toki
  • Glenfiddich 15
  • Monkey Shoulder

 

  • Sampled Bulleit Burbon – at Foxwoods.

 

  • Traveled with Patty for work to NY and utilized the time for a writing retreat.

AV/Tech

  • Upgraded Drop Box for Scrivener files.
  • Upgraded to High Sierra and Mojave.
  • Canceled PS Vue and switched to Directv Now.
  • Canceled Sprint and returned to Verizon.

Movies Watched at a Cinema

  • 15:17 to Paris – Cinemaworld in Fitchburg with parents.
  • Death Wish (2018) – Cinemaworld in Fitchburg with my dad.
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout  – Providence IMAX
  • The Nun – Providence IMAX with Patty.
  • Peppermint – North Attleboro Showcase 4k projection and recliners.
  • Halloween (2018) – Regal Cinemas Fishkill, NY. 
  • Creed II – Regal Cinemas Fishkill, NY.

That’s it for 2018. See you in 2019… Happy New Year!!!

 

 

Year in Review 2016

Each year I create a list of goals for every area in my life. Throughout the year I work on those goals, track my progress and my challenges. Then, to keep myself honest, I commit to posting a list of some of my top accomplishments and challenges, and some of my smaller ones as well.

I challenge you to create a list of goals, keep track of them during the year, and then celebrate and post your accomplishments at year end. If you do, please let me know. I’d love to look at your list.

Writing Career

writing1

Novels

  • Major goal accomplished: I completed the final draft edits and formatting of my 90,000+ word crime novel, Year of the Demon.
  • Sent Year of the Demon to the Minotaur Books/MWA First Crime Novel competition.
  • One of my favorite authors read and gave me feedback on the YOTD manuscript.
  • Commissioned a new cover for Wolves of Vengeance from Lynne Hansen Design.

WOV-Cover-Refresh-web

  • Currently at 65,000 words of a projected 90k on my paranormal thriller, The Tower (working title). I set this book aside to complete YOTD and to take advantage of some other writing opportunities.
  • Having seen a publisher’s open call for military horror/creature novels, and having an idea for a novel length story that meets the guidelines,  I decided to bring back Captain Amanda Rann from WOV and begin a draft. The open call doesn’t have an end date, and it’s very likely that they’ll close submissions before the novel is complete. If that happens, I’ll be ready when they open again.  I’m currently 20,000 words into the manuscript. No matter what, this is a story that has to be written. Another opportunity came up, one with a very defined set of perimeters and end date, and I felt I needed to put this novel on hold for a short time while I worked on the new project. See below:
  • Another publisher has an open call for novella length fantasy stories of varying sub-genre, fantasy worlds that are inspired by cultures other than the usual stories based on ancient Western civilization. I finally came up with the perfect idea and began writing. I’m over 10k into the story, and hoping I can finish by the 12th of January when they close. This one requires so much research that the deadline may very well be impossible. Tor may extend the date depending on how many viable manuscripts they receive. Either way, I have my fingers crossed.

writing2

Short Stories

  • Wrote a horror noir short story (5K).
  • Wrote another horror noir story based on an old story, reinventing it with everything I’ve learned over the years (5K).
  • Wrote the first draft of a dark fantasy flash fiction story (1K).
  • Began an edit of a previously written story for an open call anthology but abandoned in favor of a new story.
  • Began an edit of an old story, but decided to abandon it for now. I might return to it if the right market opens up.
  • Performed a virtual reading of Sat Down Inside Her from a room at Mohegan Sun. Sat Down Inside Her
  • Sent out short fiction to 4 markets. I spent most of my time working on long fiction this year.
  • Wrote two short stories. Again, I decided to spend my time on novels this year.

Networking

  • Wrote  reviews of books I enjoyed.
  • Included in a writing round table with some fantastic authors.

Down and Dirty: The Ultimate Writer’s Round Table Joust: Part 1

Down and Dirty: The Ultimate Writer’s Round Table Joust: Part 2

Martial Arts

me

kali-jujutsu

  • Made some fun martial arts videos:

Early Morning Kali Stick Work

Shadowboxing Workout

Ukemi on Hard Ground 

kali-gardner

kali-gardner-2

taky-benefit-1

taky-benefit-2

taky-benefit-3

  • I brought my old Wave Master Training Bag into the corner of the living room and put down a puzzle mat to create a small dojo/dojang/kwoon in the living room! Don’t tell my wife! 😉
  • Attended Master Larry Tatum’s Kenpo Karate Seminar at the Derderian Academy.

tatum-kenpo

  • Worked on Kali stick work, Panantukan – Filipino Boxing, and JKD mitt drills with Patty in our home training group.
  • Practiced Kali Sinawali and single stick drills
  • Worked JKD boxing drills and all my kicks, on training bag.
  • Utilizing JKD and FMA as a conduit, I was able to integrate all previous martial arts training. This has taken me years to accomplish.
  • Focused on Naihanchi (Tekki) Sam Dan & Jindo (Gankaku Kai) forms.

Health

  • Had two ophthalmologist appointments. Glaucoma medication increased.
  • Had two dental cleanings. Began using fluoride rinse.
  • Got an eye infection. Antibiotic eye drops cleared it up.
  • Had annual physical and taken off of low oxalate diet.
  • My weight has fluctuated, but overall it is down.
  • Increased weight training.

Family

  • Called my Mom & Dad 2x each week.
  • Had lunch with my parents and took them to see 13 Hours at the cinema.
  • Had lunch at Olive Garden with the in-laws/outlaws.
  • Celebrated our grandniece’s birthday.
  • Visited my Mom & Dad at Foxwoods.
  • Visited Mom after attending a martial arts seminar in the area.
  • Celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary.
  • Breakfast with outlaws at Meadowbrook Orchard.
  • Helped my uncle with a computer issue.
  • Attended an educational PowWow at the Foxwood’s Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center with my parents and danced with my Mom
  • Visited the outlaws new townhouse.
  • Brought my parents to see a movie in Worcester.
  • Contacted my brother and let him know about money the state owed him.
  • Celebrated our 24th anniversary of our 1st date.
  • Had breakfast with my Mom & Dad in Webster.
  • Kept in contact with my aunt.
  • Visited my father-in-law for lunch and fixed his wifi and set up his laptop.
  • Had Thanksgiving breakfast with my Mom & Dad
  • Donated in my sister’s name.
  • Sent my grand niece to see Doctor Strange.
  • Visited my parents for a pre-Christmas/Hanukkah breakfast and then went to the Townsend Rod & Gun Club where my Dad taught me how to load and shoot a black powder rifle.

black-powder

  • Attended my niece’s baby shower.
  • Attended Christmas gathering at the outlaws.
  • Became a Great Uncle for the 3rd time.

baby

  • Went to see Adam Carolla at Foxwoods. Ate at Junior’s Deli.

 

Car

  • Patty’s car –  Inspection, oil change, wheels rotated and balanced, brake job, airbag recall, replaced broken sun visor, replaced ignition coil (under warranty) and wires.
  • My car – B service, wipers, airbag recall, replaced battery, brake job.
  • Had an accident in my car and had car repaired.
  • Had a part fail and had to go back and have them replace the part.

 

House

  • General maintenance and cleaning.
  • Fixed TV by taking it apart and cleaning the fan.
  • Replaced bathroom rugs.
  • Changed the high/low return air registers for Summer & Winter.
  • Maintained air cleaners.
  • Cleaned out house and brought junk to dumpster provided by the association.
  • Replaced a burnt out AC capacitor in our central AC unit.
  • Created a small dojo by installing puzzle mats.
  • Took down old shades and installed curtains in the living room and dining area.
  • Removed and installed new blinds in bedroom.
  • Patty utilized a shredding day to get rid of our confidential documents at work.
  • Cleaned behind the fridge and stopped it from overheating.

Travel

  • Portland Maine – Stayed at the Portland Regency Hotel & Spa. Went to Holy Donut, dinner at the Armory Lounge where they played blues music and we relaxed and had drinks. I tried Woodford Reserve Bourbon on the rocks and enjoyed it. Irish pub, Elevation Burger, hotel restaurant. We poked around the shops. Jewish Museum. Alex & Ani.
  • Mohegan Sun – I turned Patty’s three day work seminar into a writing retreat. While Patty was at the seminar I stayed in the deluxe king room and worked on a novel. We ate at Summer Shack, Michael Jordan’s 22 Sports Cafe. I tried a Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon and l really enjoyed it.
  • Bronx Zoo – We visited the Congo area, saw the Gorilla exhibit, rode the monorail, and went to jungle world. We also saw sea lions yelling at each other.
  • Boston – Stayed at the Onyx Hotel  on the Penthouse level. Ate at Boston Beer Works. Had a good time.

 

That’s it for 2016. See you in 2017… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!