A Week of Writing: 4/30/18 to 5/6/18

Another week of writing come to a close. Got some novel writin’ done, some short stories spruced up, a bunch of submission sent, a pile of rejections received, and even a publication to crow about.

Have a look.

The Novel

Well, I was hoping to have a complete first draft by this point, but instead I decided to stray from my outline for the climax of the third act, which meant I had to rework a bunch of things. That slowed me down considerably. The changes will make for a better book (I hope), but they definitely cut into my raw production.

Date Day Words Written
4/30/2018 Monday 0
5/1/2018 Tuesday 1018
5/2/2018 Wednesday 1550
5/3/2018 Thursday 0
5/4/2018 Friday 0
5/5/2018 Saturday 0
5/6/2018 Sunday 2523

I managed 5,091 words last week. Not bad, all things considered. I’m at just over 85,000 words for the manuscript, and I think there’s probably another 5,000 or so to go. I don’t want the book to be much longer than 90,000 if I can help it. That said, it’ll likely go over for the first draft and then edit down to 90k or just below it.

Short Stories

Like the week before, I didn’t finish any new stories, but I fixed up a bunch of old ones. Some of those I submitted, and some I’ll submit this week. I also started outlining a new sci-fi story I’m pretty excited about. I’ll start working on that soon.

Submissions

Last week was very active in the submission department.

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 6
  • Withdrawals: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 1

A little bit of everything last week. I sent a bunch of submission, got a bunch of rejections (three in one day), and I even had to withdraw a couple of stories from a market that went under.

The Blog

Three more blog posts last week, including my monthly submission statement for April.

4/30/18: A Week of Writing: 4/23/18 to 4/29/18

Yep, the week before this one.

5/2/18: Submission Statement: April 2018

My monthly tally of submissions, rejections, acceptances, etc, including some of the rejection letters I received in all their glory.

5/4/18: One-Hour Flash Success Stories

A list of the flash fiction and short stories I’ve published that began life as one-hour flash fiction writing exercises. Also, why I think setting a clock on your writing can be a good thing.

Goals

One more time, with feeling. FINISH. THE. NOVEL.

Story Spotlight

This week’s story is my most recent publication, and it’s one of the few stories I’ve published that could be called literary . . . if you squint, from a long way away. The story is called “Simulacra” and it was published by the fine folks over at Ellipsis Zine.

Read “Simulacra

Image by MarjanNo via Pixabay

 


And that was my week. How was yours?

Ranks of the Rejected: Andrew Bourelle

This time on Ranks of the Rejected I spoke with an author who directly inspired me to get off my ass and start submitting stories on a regular basis. I met Andrew Bourelle through his brother Ed Bourelle, a friend and colleague, and we started trading stories about six years ago. Not only did Andrew give me great feedback on my work, his dogged persistence in the face of rejection is part of what inspired me to start this blog. In fact, whenever I tell a story about a “writer friend” to demonstrate some point about not letting rejections get to you, half the time I’m talking about Andrew.

Folks, this guy is the poster child for sticking to your guns, working on your craft, and not letting rejections slow you down. His perseverance (and oodles of talent) have resulted in some well deserved success over the last couple of years, and I couldn’t be happier for him. So check out the interview below, absorb the wisdom therein, and then go read Andrew’s stuff.


1) What genres do you typically write? Do you have a favorite? If so, what about that genre draws you to it?

 My writing tends to be pretty varied, I think. I’ve published stories in literary journals, and I’ve published genre stories as well: mystery, horror, science fiction, etc. I’ve never really been able to confine myself to one genre. I don’t stop myself and say, “Wait, you’re a literary writer—you can’t write a post-apocalyptic monster story.” If I have an idea, I write it. And if I think the story is halfway decent, I make some attempt to find a place to publish it.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of mystery/thriller fiction. I love to be surprised by what I read, and mysteries and thrillers are built to surprise readers. I like to put my foot on the gas and take readers for a fun ride. I’m working on mystery/thriller novel that’s giving me a chance to do that.

2) You recently published your first novel, Heavy Metal. Tell us a little about how that book came together and how you went about the business of getting it published.

I wrote Heavy Metal as an experiment to see if I could write a novel. It’s a coming-of-age story set in the late 1980s. The main character is contemplating suicide, and in many ways the book is a character study. But I also wanted the narrative to pull readers in and keep them engaged. The novel has been described as suspenseful, intense, heartbreaking—which are all adjectives I’m happy with.

As I wrote it, I didn’t really think about how it could be labeled or marketed. I just wrote the story that was coming out of me. However, when it came time to find an agent or publisher, no one really seemed to know what to do with it. Is it a literary novel? A Young Adult novel? I didn’t care how it was categorized. I just wanted to write a book that might resonate with readers. But I imagine most agents took one look at the query letter and said, “Eh, I don’t know how to sell this.”

After a few years of failing to find an agent to represent the book, I pretty much gave up hope of ever seeing the book in print. Then it occurred to me that literary publishers often hold contests and publish the winning manuscripts. It’s one way that story collections and literary books that don’t seem to fit into easy commercial categories find a publisher. I figured I’d give it a shot. It ended up winning one of the first contests I entered—the Autumn House Fiction Prize. I’ve read past winners of the prize and am honored and humbled to be in their company. I think my editor told me there were more than 500 submissions. Somehow, from that pool, Heavy Metal was selected to be one of a dozen or so finalists, and the final judge, William Lychack (the author of a wonderful coming-of-age novel called The Wasp Eater), picked it as the winner. I always thought if the right person would just read the book, they would want to publish it. That’s essentially what happened; it just took longer than I thought to find the right person to read it.

3) Your story “Y Is for Yangchuan Lizard” was recently chosen for inclusion in The Best American Mystery Stories 2018. This is your second go-around in the anthology, and I know your last story led to something pretty cool. Tell us a bit about that.

A story of mine called “Cowboy Justice” was picked to be in The Best American Mystery Stories 2015, which by itself is one of the highlights of my writing career. But it also opened up a really interesting door for me. James Patterson was the guest editor that year and picked the final selection of stories. Around the time the anthology was coming out, his people contacted me and said he was getting ready to launch a new series of short thrillers, called BookShots, and wanted to know if I was interested in coauthoring something with him.

We worked on a short thriller called The Pretender, which was published in 2016 in Triple Threat, a collection of three of his BookShots. The Pretender is also available as a downloadable audio book. It’s a fun story about a retired diamond thief who can’t outrun his past. It was an extraordinary experience to work with James Patterson, and I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity.

4) Okay, this blog is called Rejectomancy, so tell us about your first rejection letter or the first one that had a significant impact on you as a writer.

I think my first rejection came in high school. My teacher knew I liked to write and passed along information about a “short short story” competition. (I wish I could remember what journal held the contest, but I’ve forgotten.) I think the stories had to be 250 words or fewer. I wrote something and sent it in, knowing 100-percent that I wouldn’t win. But the act of sending something out seemed really important to me, like I was telling the universe that I wanted to be a writer.

In some ways, receiving the form rejection was validating to me. No one laughed at me. No one said, “Are you crazy, kid? You’re out of your league!” I got the same form rejection all the other real writers got. I have no idea if they took my story all that seriously, but it at least felt like they had.

 5) Got a favorite rejection? Memorable, funny, just straight-up weird?

The worst rejections are the personal ones where an editor’s critique of the story is unhelpful. I recently received a rejection where the editor said that the “tense shifts were distracting.” I thought, “Oh, there are tense shifts in there? What a rookie mistake.” I carefully reread the story and there weren’t any tense problems. I thought, “Did you copy the text from your last rejection into my rejection by mistake? Did you even read my story?”

On the other hand, there have been times where editors have made editorial suggestions that turned out to be valuable. I remember my short story “Little Healers” was rejected by Pseudopod, and the editor made a note about a problem he had with the story. I hadn’t noticed the issue before, but once it had been pointed out to me, I agreed with the assessment. I revised the story and sent it elsewhere. It was published in the anthology Swords & Steam Short Stories and was listed as an honorable mention for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. If it wasn’t for the rejection, I might never have seen the problem.

6) What’s the toughest part of rejection for you? Pro tips for dealing with it?

I think one of the keys to not letting rejections get to you is to have plenty of stuff out there under consideration. If you only have one or two stories that you have under consideration at one time, then a rejection can feel like a real setback. But if you’ve got 10 or 12 stories under consideration at 15 to 20 different publications, then you always have stuff in circulation. A single rejection doesn’t hurt much because you have other stories under consideration at the same time.

When I was submitting stories early on, I would only have one or two that I believed in, and I’d submit those to one publication each, even if simultaneous submissions were allowed. Then I’d wait however many months for a response and be bummed when a rejection rolled in. The key for me was writing more stories, getting more out there under consideration, and not putting too much hope in any one submission.

7) Plug away. Tells us about some of your recent projects and why we should run out and buy them.

You mentioned my story “Y Is for Yangchuan Lizard” is coming out in this year’s volume of The Best American Mystery Stories, which will be published in October. I was unbelievably excited when I got the news. The table of contents includes authors like T.C. Boyle, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Joyce Carol Oates—writers I’ve read, admired, and learned from.

Another big publication on the horizon is a second project with James Patterson. Texas Ranger, a novel he and I coauthored, is scheduled to be released in August. It was a lot of fun to work on. I recently received an ARC, and it was a real thrill to see my name on the cover with James Patterson. I can’t wait to see the novel in bookstores!

  


Andrew Bourelle is the author of the novel Heavy Metal. His short stories, poems, and comics (illustrated by his brother Ed Bourelle) have been published in journals and anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories, D Is for Dinosaur, Equus, Florida Review, Heavy Feather Review, Prime Number Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Weirdbook Magazine, and Whitefish Review. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewBourelle.

 

Excerpt: “Caroline” from Red Sun Magazine #3

My story “Caroline” was just published in Red Sun Magazine #3, and it’s the cover story. The you can check out that cover below by the incredibly talented Mitchell Malloy. The piece perfectly captures a scene from “Caroline,” not to mention the overall tone of the story. Also in this issue, Red Sun horror editor Phillip Englund interviews me in a vain attempt to discover what exactly is wrong with my brain that makes me write such bleak and horrific tales. 🙂

The good folks at Red Sun have also given me permission to publish the first 500 words of “Caroline” right here on my blog to whet your appetite for the rest of the story, not to mention the other great stories that are offered up in issue #3.

An Excerpt from “Caroline” from Red Sun Magazine #3

“Can I go to the basement to see Daddy?” Caroline said.

Barbara set the shotgun on the kitchen counter, made sure the safety was on, and knelt down to her daughter. “No, honey. Daddy isn’t ready for visitors yet.”

“When he finishes his lessons?” Caroline asked, hopeful. She and David had been very close, and Barbara knew she felt the loss more deeply than her twelve-year-old brother. Mark wanted nothing to do with his father.

“Maybe, but that might be a long time from now.” She pulled her daughter close, and Caroline melted into the embrace. After a few moments, Barbara gently pushed Caroline away. It took real effort to let her go. “Now go outside with your brother and Uncle Robert. I’ll call for you when I come back upstairs.” It was just too dangerous to have the kids in the house during rehab.

“I could help you with the lessons,” Caroline said. “I could help Daddy too.”

Barbara smiled. “I know you could, but remember what the people from the Rehabilitation Agency said. Just one of us right now, until he gets a little better.” Caroline was so smart, and she was fascinated by the rehab process, questioning Barbara on every detail. Barbara didn’t tell her daughter much–most of it wasn’t fit for an eight-year-old to hear, and the rest . . . She wouldn’t dash Caroline’s hopes like that.

“Please, Mom. I miss him so much.” Tears stood in her pale green eyes. Green like her father’s used to be.

“Go on, honey. Now,” Barbara said. It was a knife in her heart to see Caroline like this.

Caroline shuffled to the sliding glass door, opened it, and stepped out into the backyard. Her brother and her uncle were waiting for her. Robert looked a lot like David; he was three years younger, though his hair had started to gray at the temples. Stress, probably. She watched him scoop up Caroline, saw her come alive in his arms, smiling and laughing as he spun her around. Mark walked up behind them. He was smiling, too. They all looked happy. Despite the terrible thing that had happened, her family looked happy.

She watched Robert and her children for a few moments, trying to soak in as much of their joy as possible. Robert didn’t like staying outside while she was downstairs. He wanted to be with her if things got bad, but she wouldn’t allow it. She needed him to stay with Mark and Caroline. She didn’t want to worry about them while she worked with David. There was another reason, too, one she couldn’t tell him. Robert had become the bedrock upon which they were rebuilding their lives. She couldn’t risk him getting hurt, or worse. She remained devoted to her husband, but if David couldn’t come all the way back . . . She pushed the thought from her mind, guilty for even considering it. It was too soon to be thinking like that.


If you like what you’ve read, head on over to the Red Sun Magazine website and purchase issue #3 for the rest of the story, plus a whole bunch of other goodies.

Multi-Sub Publishers: Skip or Submit?

Occasionally, you will run into literary or genre markets that accept multiple submissions, where you can submit two, three, or more stories at the same time. These markets are pretty rare in my experience, much rarer than markets that accept simultaneous submissions. In general, they also tend to publish shorter works, either flash fiction or poetry, but there are a few that will take full-length short stories at two or three at a time.

So, providing you have enough stories sitting around, should you send multiple submissions if a market accepts them? I say yes, and here are two reasons why.

  1. Shotgun analytics. If there’s a better way to get an idea of the kind of story a market is looking for (without reading every issue of their magazine), I don’t know what it is. For example, I recently submitted three flash stories to market that accepts multi-subs, and each one was markedly different in tone and content. Now, even all three get rejected, I feel like I’ll have a fairly good idea what they’re NOT looking for, and that will allow me to dial in my submissions next time. Update: I wrote this post a few days ago, and since then I’ve received two rejections from the market I mentioned earlier. I received one standard form rejection and one higher-tier form rejection with an invite to submit more work. That info at least points me in the general direction of what the editors might be looking for.
  2. Better odds. Sure, it’s possible that you send three stories that the editors hate, but I think you have a better chance at an acceptance or at least some solid feedback with multiple submissions. This kind of plays into my first point. If you send stories that are all fairly different, I think you stand a better chance at getting an editor’s attention with one of them, and, at the very least, getting some useful feedback.

Now, there are potential downsides to multiple submissions too. If you’re gonna send multiple submissions, you should be prepared for multiple rejections, maybe all in the same day. That can be a blow to the ol’ ego if they’re all form letters. Also, multi-sub publishers may not accept sim-subs, and if the publisher is particularly slow to respond, you could have two or more stories tied up for a while. Both are factors you should consider before hitting send.

Here are two good markets that accept multi-subs. I’ve sent submissions to both.

  • Flash Fiction Online: This market accepts everything: genre, literary, you name it. Like their name suggests, they only accept flash fiction between 500-1000 words. You cans send up to three stories at a time, and they accept reprints too. So you can mix you submissions between original fiction and reprint. They pay pro rates for originals (0.6/word) and less for reprints (.02/word).
  • Kaleidotrope: This is a semi-pro spec-fic market that accepts up to three short stories at a time. They’re a bit different in that they’ll accept stories up to 10,000 words.

What are your thoughts on multi-subs? Know of any good markets that accept them? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Author Self-Promotion: 4 First Steps

In today’s literary market, it pays to self-promote, and there are plenty of options available to authors for that purpose. So, if you’re just getting started with this whole publishing thing, how should you begin promoting yourself? I’m not a marketing expert, but I can point you at some basic and fairly easy-to-do things that have worked for me and can help expand your presence on the ol’ interwebs. Like the title of the post says, these are very basic first steps, not any kind of recipe for instant promotional success (if you have one of those, please post it in the comments :-)).

One more thing. Before you get started self-promoting, I suggest you obtain the following two items:

  • A good author bio. There are a lot of good reasons to have an author bio ready to go, but you’ll need one for nearly all of the online marketing platforms I’m going to suggest below. Writing a bio is a very individual thing, and you’ll need to decide what’s important enough to include. If you’d like to see how I write MY bios, check out this post.
  • Author photo. You might consider this one optional. Some folks don’t like having their picture taken, and there are some very real privacy and security risks that go along with letting the world know what you look like. Personally, I like the author photo, and I generally plaster my smiling mug all over the damn place. Like the bio, what makes a good author photo is up to the individual author. If you’d like to see what I think makes a good author photo, check out this post.

Okay, if you’ve got your bio and your author photo, here are four of the easier ways to get started down the self-promotional rabbit hole:

  1. Social media. I know, this sounds like a total no-brainer, but I know more than a few authors who don’t have any social media presence. Hey, I get it; Facebook and Twitter are full of inane bullshit, but, unfortunately, the vast majority of potential readers have Facebook and Twitter accounts (or start growing the ones you do have), and if there’s an easier way to reach a fuck-ton of people quickly these days, I don’t know what it is. So, at a minimum, I suggest you get a Facebook and Twitter account. If you’re the kind of author who tends to have a lot of illustrations in his or her books, then image-based platforms like Instagram and Tumblr could be good options too. The trick with social media is to stay active, posting often and with meaningful content. That said, the best way to do that is the subject of many, many articles, websites, and books, and is well beyond the scope of my humble little blog. All you need do, though, is type something like “grow my Facebook audience” into Google, and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands of resources on the subject.
  2. Set up a Goodreads author page. Goodreads is one of the premier book review sites, with something like 25 million members, so I definitely think having a presence out there is good idea. Obviously, you need to have published or self-published a book or have had a short story appear in a collection that was published (people need to have something they can actually read and review). Setting up an author page is super easy to do (and free), and once it’s done you get access to cool marketing tools like Goodreads Giveaways. You can also link your blog and other social media to the page. Basically, if someone has read one of your books and likes it, they can go to your Goodreads author page and see what else you’ve written, learn about you and your blog, and so and so on. Here’s my Goodreads page if you’re interested.
  3. Set up an Amazon author page. Maybe you’ve heard of Amazon; they sell a lot of books. If you’ve published or self-published books or short stories in collections that are sold through Amazon, I think an Amazon author page is a must. This is another freebie and setting up the page is really easy (go here for that). Like Goodreads, you can link your blog and other social media to your author page. Amazon also offers a lot of promotional tools for authors, but they’re usually of the pay-to-play variety, and you’ll have to decide if they’re worth it. You set up an Amazon author page for the same reason you set up a Goodreads author page: it’s a place for readers to go to learn more about your work, and with Amazon, buying that next book is just a click away for interested readers. Here’s my Amazon author page if you’d like to take a look.
  4. Start a blog. This is the most involved of my suggestions because running a blog requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s great to have a platform for your ideas and a place to promote your work. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute must, but it has been THE most successful promotional tool in my little repertoire. My suggestion is to pick some kind of hook or theme beyond, hey, here’s another author’s blog. Make sure that theme is something you actually want to talk about (and you can talk about a lot) and that ties into your work in some way. Starting a blog doesn’t have to cost you anything either, and WordPress and Blogger have perfectly serviceable free packages. That said, spending a few bucks to get a domain name and access to a few other useful features isn’t a terrible idea. Also, remember to point folks back at your blog in your author bio (and everywhere else it’s appropriate).

This really is just the very beginning/scratching the surface of promoting yourself as an author. You’ll need to invest time and effort into keeping these various platforms updated and current (for example, you often have to tell Amazon to add your latest book to your author page). As I mentioned earlier, there are TONS of books and websites devoted to helping authors promote their work though all of the platforms I mentioned above (and a bunch more). As usual, a little research goes a long way.

Got any tips to help new authors start promoting their work? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Listen to “Night Games” on Pseudopod

My vampire/baseball story “Night Games” was published on Pseudopod today. If you’re unfamiliar with Pseudopod, they’re a top-notch horror podcast that features short stories in audio format. Their readers are fantastic, and my reader, Rish Outfield, did a hell of a job bringing my story to life. Anyway, click the link below to listen to “Night Games” and let me “stake” you out to the ballgame. (Hah! I’m a bad person.)

Click Here >>>>> “Night Games”

Picture Me: Some Thoughts/Advice on Author Photos

Along with a bio, a lot of publishers big and small will ask you for an author photo to display alongside your story, on the back cover of your book, and so on and so forth. I know lots of folks hate having their picture taken, and if that’s you, I understand, but if you DO want to have an author photo, here are some things you might consider. Note, I am not a professional photographer, so take any technical advice I offer with a grain of salt. These are things that have worked for me; you may want to go in a completely different direction, and that’s perfectly cool and acceptable.

  1. You should look professional. I’m aware that people’s ideas of what “professional” means can vary widely, so I’ll approach this from my own perceptions of the word. For me it means getting myself into presentable shape: freshly shaven (face and head), putting on a nice shirt of some kind that will photograph well (I prefer stretchy T-shirt type things in dark colors), and doing some light maintenance on the facial area. For you, professional may be completely different, and that’s cool; you just want to make sure the image you’re putting forth is the one you actually want (a lot) of people to see.
  2. The photo should look professional. Usually, this means hiring a professional photographer. I lucked out and married a woman whose hobby has been photography for the last twenty years. Your author photo should probably not be a selfie.
  3. Style. So I prefer a close-up type photo, what is usually referred to as a head shot. I find that it scales up or down a lot easier when publishers have different display requirements. Even with my meager Photoshop skills, I can take the original and resize it for whatever the publisher needs. As for background, I like simple industrial looks: brick, steel, stone. This is all stuff that’s available outside my front door in downtown Seattle. That said, the black or white “studio” background is perfectly acceptable.
  4. Format. I’m a little out of my depth here, but generally a publisher will ask for a hi-res jpeg or TIF file, so it’s a good idea to keep hi-res versions of both handy.
  5. Color or black and white. This is totally a personal preference, but I like black and white. To me it just looks more authorly. That said, I have a color version of my author photo if a publisher required one.
  6. Smile. Again, this is just personal preference, but I think looking like a friendly, approachable person is a lot better than looking like a brooding angry writer guy. Your mileage may vary, of course. My goal with my author photo is for people to see it and think, “Hey, I’d have a beer with that guy” rather than “I wonder if that guy will punch me if I ask him about his books.”

So, with all that in mind, here’s my current author photo, for better or worse:

rudel-author-headshot

If I could change a few things, it would be the hole in the brick wall below my left ear and maybe a bit more contrast between myself and the background, but those are not deal-breakers for me, and I’m pretty happy with this photo. This one is over a year old, and I’m considering changing it out in the next few months. I think freshening your author photo every couple of years isn’t a terrible idea; you want people to recognize what you look like now not five years ago.

Got any tips for author photos (like, what might be wrong with mine)? If so, I’d love to hear about them (or share your own photo).