The Innocent Sink

Sometimes things work out just as you planned.  I found out today that The Innocent Sink is going to be published by Coffin Bell Journal, issue 2.1, on January 1, 2019.  I am extremely excited to have my work represented in such a wonderful publication.  If you love dark fiction, do yourself a solid and go check them out.  There are some pretty amazing works by very accomplished authors featured in every issue.  I consider it an honor to be associated with that group.

The Innocent Sink is one of those stories where everything went right.  I wrote the first draft in one day, 5,200 words that just flew off my fingertips.  It needed edits – oh boy, did it ever – but the characters and plot were there from the get go.  By the end of the week and after four major edit runs, I knew it was ready.

Getting published isn’t a numbers game.  When you finish a story and are ready to submit for publication, it is really important to do your homework to find the best possible match.  That means reading and adhering to submission guidelines, but also getting a good feel of the other pieces each publisher puts into print, as well.  For The Innocent Sink, I had a list of five places I thought would be a good match.  Just so happens, Coffin Bell Journal was the top choice on my list.

Like I said, sometimes it works out that way.

There is more good news on the horizon, but today is all about how excited I am that The Innocent Sink has found the perfect place to call home.  It’s a great feeling and a good reminder of why I do what I do.

Got a success story you want to share?  I’d love to hear about it, comment away!

 

 

There Is Always a Way

One of the best habits I picked up was to write 600 words in a journal first thing every morning.  It frees my mind, gets the clutter organized, and puts everything in the proper places.  The key is to not put much thought into what you’re going to write about each morning.  Just pick up the pen and write whatever comes to mind, no editing allowed.

I can’t tell you how many problems I’ve solved, how many decisions in life I’ve made, by working things out while writing these pages.  There is more to it than that, but the thoughts that come out first thing in the morning are a great place to start.  Collectively, it is by far the longest piece I’ve ever written and also the most important.

Morning pages aren’t my idea, rather one I learned about when my wife picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way.  To be honest, I’ve never made it past the bit about writing these pages first thing every morning.  They had such an impact on my life that I felt I had already gotten my money’s worth.  I’m probably missing out, so if you pick it up please be smarter than me and read past the first chapter, will you?

Against the advice of the book, I write my morning pages on the laptop and not by hand.  Because I work on the laptop all day and I want to stay in the practice of transmitting thoughts to the screen through the keyboard.  I suppose if I were a writer who still does everything by pen and paper, it would make more sense to do it the other way.  Whatever works – the key is to do them daily.

This morning, I got off on a real tangent while working on the pages.  I began writing some thoughts about various things going on in life, and a couple of notes about a documentary I watched the other night.  The documentary is called One Day in Auschwitz and tells the story of an amazing woman named Kitty Hart-Moxon.  She was brought to Auschwitz as a seventeen year old girl and survived for years in Nazi concentration camps before being liberated in 1945.  I am an avid documentary watcher – history, science, human events, you name it – and this was one of the best.  If you have a spare 50 minutes, I highly recommend watching this one.

There were many things to take away from her story, but the one that stuck with me was the resiliency of the people who lived in that hell.  They knew survival was out of their hands – a hopeless situation if there ever was one – and yet some still did everything they could to increase their chances.  The Nazi’s selected people to die, seemingly at random.  There was nothing any of them could have done about that.  The ones with a strong will to live, however, did anything and everything they could to make it another day.  In Kitty’s case, that meant making sure she had shoes, didn’t lose her bowl, and made connections with other captives.  Instead of focusing on what was beyond her control, she concentrated on what little she could control.

It would be vulgar to compare situations, but as I listened to this amazing woman it dawned on me that whenever you are feeling hopeless about something, the best thing to do is take whatever actions are necessary to increase the chances of a positive outcome.  You may not make it, but at least you know you did everything you could to save yourself from disaster.

While training for a pilot’s license, for example, my CFI made a point to instruct very early on that when something goes wrong – engine failure for example – the worst thing you can do is nothing.  The engine failed, you can’t change that.  But what you can do is work the problem.  Go through the checklists, look for an open field or sparsely populated highway, no matter how dire the situation may be, do something.  You may not make it, but the ones who do survive because they did everything they could to put the odds in their favor right up to the very end.  Never give up.

Well, here I went on another tangent again.  I originally wanted to tell you about the thoughts I had on evolution, the Big Bang, and creationism.  For the record, I am a huge fan of science.  I am fascinated by the enormity and age of the universe, physics, and the miracle of life.  I see the logic behind the advances humanity has made in science and think society is better for it.  At the same time, I am a believer who applies that same logic to say there must be something more than just happenstance and time.

Ah, that will be for another day.  For now, relaying the wisdom of morning pages and the story of the amazing Ms. Hart-Moxon was the priority.  To quote my old, dearly-departed friend, ““I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

 

<INSERT VERY GOOD REASON TO LIKE AND FOLLOW HERE>

I’m a Little Behind

Been a while since the last update, I know.  How have you been?  It’s been pretty busy around here, but that’s a good thing!  I’ve been pressing hard to finish up a manuscript that has a June 1st deadline.  Oops.  Not gonna make it, but everything will be okay.  In the words of the great Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines.  I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

You cannot rush the process of anything worth doing.  There are no shortcuts, no magic pills, no “get-rich-quick” schemes.  I’ve found that to be true for anything in life.  Things done well take time and hard work.  Repeat!  You can be more efficient about it, you can allot more time to it, but you can’t rush it.  That’s why you can’t cook a good steak in the microwave, why brewed coffee tastes better than instant, and why Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Turtle and the hare, man, turtle and the hare.

Point is, while the deadline has been looming ominously over my shoulder, rubbing its hands and going “Muh-ha-ha”, I don’t feel compelled to rush things.  The final product will suffer and it will be painfully obvious this thing needs to simmer on the stove a bit longer.  What would be the point, then?  Knowing it wasn’t ready but sending it in anyway?  Just wasting everyone’s time and pushing the completion date even further back.

Still, I have an obligation to finish my work and therefore other things fall by the wayside.  The stack of bills sitting on the corner of my desk, for example.  In spite of the fact that I refuse to water it, the pile keeps growing.  My hope was the laws of gravity would eventually catch up and topple the whole thing over – ideally right into the garbage can next to my desk, thus solving the problem – but as of yet, no such luck.

And the website, of course.  The idea behind the site was to give the little side things I write while working on bigger things a place to live.  Since all of my focus has been on the manuscript, there hasn’t been a lot of that going on.  Hence the lack of recent updates.

Fear not, my tens of followers!  I am rounding the bases and about to slide into home plate for the game winning run.  When I am discharged from the hospital after recovering from the injuries sustained during that slide, I will be back posting with a vengeance.  I’m too old for that running and sliding shit.

***

In this world there are leaders and there are followers.  You are a follower.  Start following.

Your Family is a Bunch of Liars

Been missing in action for about a week.  My son picked up the flu at school and decided to share it with Daddy.  Isn’t he a lamb?  Well, that’s just the type of person we’re trying to raise – a selfless giver who wants to share with others.  They say those are the things that start at home, so go us. 

The downside, of course, is that for the first three days I could barely get out of bed.  I don’t get sick often, but this thing just sucked the life out of me.  I’ll spare the details, you’ve been there.  Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I woke up one morning feeling better.  Gee, that was fast, I thought at the time.  Turns out it was merely the eye of the storm passing over the house.  Next four days, straight back to hell.

At any rate, except for that one day, I haven’t gotten much done since a week ago Sunday.  So there is a lot to catch up on.  I’ve got a Sunshine Award to talk about, a draft to edit, and another first draft to make progress on.  I’m finally feeling like my old self, so here we go…

Beta-Readers Are Wonderful, Awful People

There are no better lies than the ones told to us by loved ones.  Case in point – when I was a boy, I was a pudgy, Husky-jeans-wearing, socially awkward zero.  It was a hard way to grow up.  I should point out this was in the 70’s and 80’s, back when society viewed the treatment of outcasts a bit differently than today.

I have no idea why I was the way I was back then.  Today, I have nothing in common with that poor little guy.  The people who know me now don’t believe I was once that kid, but it’s true.   All that happened doesn’t bother me.  It actually made me a better person later on in life.  But I digress…

As painfully evident as it was that I was a round – a very round – peg trying to fit in the old square hole, my mother insisted on telling me how great I was.  How smart I was.  How handsome I was.  How the girls would flock.  What she said made her a supportive parent, but she couldn’t have been more wrong at the time.  And I damn well knew it.

But that’s what the people who love us do, right?  They find the good in us and focus on those qualities.  I loved her for it, but deep down I knew where it was coming from.  She overlooked the bad and focused on the good.  What a peach!

It all comes to this:  never listen to your loved ones when it comes to your writing.  (Or any other work you do, for that matter.)  They want to support you, especially if they realize you’re very passionate and enthusiastic about whatever you’re working on.  Pointing out the bad is honest, but it’s also hurtful.  And they have an investment in your relationship that goes far beyond whatever story you’ve asked them to read.  So don’t blame them for being biased.  But realize this means you usually can’t trust their feedback, either.

Best thing you can do is find beta-readers.  The angrier the better.  Write your story, do a few edits, and then put it in front of the most heinous, depraved, teeth-grinding people you can find.  They want to find problems with your work.  They want to hate it.  They want to tell you how it didn’t make sense, the writing is crap, and you should take up photography instead.  Or sewing.  For the love of God anything, just to keep you from writing another word.  When you find that gang, you’ve found what you’re looking for.

Because those are the very same people who are going to tell you when you’ve got a winner on your hands.  They aren’t biased in your favor, so when they say something is good, it means a lot.  The comments are sometimes astonishing, as people often take away something from your story you never intended.  Invaluable insight, there.

Takes a thick skin to listen to what doesn’t work, but those are your true opportunity areas so go back and fix them.  You should also focus on the things they said work well.  It affirms what you probably already know, which builds confidence to help silence the inner-critic.  Other times it brings to your attention something you’ve completely over-looked.

These are the things you want to find out about before you submit for publication.  Because chances are good the editor reviewing your work is even angrier than your beta-readers.  You would be, too, if your life was mired in the slush pile.

Did I sell you on the idea?  I hope so.  Now, where to find them?  Just so happens there is a great website for that very thing.  It’s called YouWriteOn.  No, I’m not affiliated with them whatsoever – being a shill is not my style.  I happened upon it a couple of months ago and the feedback has been tremendously helpful.  Figured I’d share it with you.

As an extra bonus, every year they have these competitions in which the top ten finishers have the opportunity for their work to be reviewed by a major publishing house.  I’m talking Random House and Orion, people!  You can check out the YouWriteOn site for details.  I’ve found it to be a priceless tool.

The sad thing is, the website has been around for a very long time but seems to be lacking in activity as of late.  I have no idea why.  Still, over the past 45 days a story I uploaded to the site was reviewed by ten different beta-readers.  The feedback – both good and bad – has been extremely beneficial.

There may also be writing and beta-reading groups in your area, as well.  I avoid those for the same reason I avoid feedback from my family.  Because people sometimes have a hard time being honest with someone they see face-to-face.  If there’s one thing the internet has shown us, it’s that people tend to be far more honest when they are anonymous.  I can take it.

Different strokes, right?  Whichever you choose, getting impartial feedback from a third party is really essential.  There’s nothing worse than finding problems after you’ve already clicked send on Submittable.

Thanks for reading.  Give a follow here or on twitter if you’re so inclined.  There’s something here for everyone…

via Daily Prompt: Astonish

Liebster Awards All Around

The highest compliments one can get are those from the people who do the same type of work as you. It is special because they understand the commitment, hard work, and dedication it takes to produce something worthwhile. That they take the time to give recognition is extremely flattering.  That’s why I was honored to find out my site was nominated for a 2018 Liebster Award by The Pensieve.

If you haven’t heard of it, the Liebster Award is an “award” given to bloggers by other bloggers for fun and in recognition of a post or overall blog that they enjoyed.  (Ties into that whole “highest compliments” bit rather nicely, doesn’t it?)  It’s also a great way to find new blogs to add to your reader. I was both surprised and honored to learn of my nomination and cannot express my gratitude enough. I highly recommend checking out The Pensieve as there are some great posts to be read there.

Rules are Rules

As per the official rules of the award, here I am to post what makes me passionate about blogging. It’s quite a simple answer, one that many of my fellow bloggers will no doubt relate to: I love writing. It’s what motivates me to wake up in the morning. It’s also what gives me a fair number of sleepless nights.

One of the better writing habits I’ve picked up over the years is to write little pieces that have absolutely nothing to do with the project I’m currently working on. They exist with the sole purpose of keeping my fingers moving. Sometimes I just need a little time to let an idea or plot point simmer a while longer. Or perhaps I need some distance from a draft that is mired in the editing phase. (Okay, I’ll admit it – sometimes I’m just procrastinating and need a break. There, I said it.) So I write short, mostly nonsensical pieces for fun. They give me a nice, low pressure distraction and help keep my work fresh.

I decided to create a website to give these little stories a place to live other than the “Misc” folder on my hard drive. (And it’s nice to have a web address to list on mini-bio’s.) And so while they were never written with the intent to publish anywhere (which ought to be evident by the general content and complete lack of editing), they are just as important to me as anything else I write. I couldn’t create the stories I write without them.

My Liebster Award Nominees!

Anyway, I write fiction because I like talking about others and not myself. So here is where this gets fun for me.

Something I hadn’t expected while building my site was the discovery of the amazing content that’s out there in the blogging community. There are many very talented writers and artists who put themselves and their work out there every day.  I very much admire the creativity and enjoy reading the thoughts and ideas of others.

Although I know sometimes a blog starts with fire and determination only to quickly burn out and fade away, my Liebster Award nominees are a few that I hope stick around for a good long while:

Tokens of Expression

  • Love thyself?  Then you’ll love what you read over at Aieshi’s website. Probably the nicest layout I’ve seen in a while. I should steal it.

Merchant Writes Again

  • A blog created by a very talented writer who has written some excellent stories.  It’s not easy painting a vivid picture with so few words, but he pulls it off.  Furthermore, anyone whose blog header reads “My pen loves gossiping to paper about my imagination’s secrets.” deserves an award.

VinayShankar

  • What do I know about poetry? Well, I know what I like. And there’s plenty to like here. Go read some.

Andi Writes About…

  • Andi is writing to write because that’s what Andi loves to do. Doesn’t get much better than that. Go have a look at what Andi’s up to and give her a follow so she keeps at it.

Reverse Science

  • This is a great science-themed website.  I love reading thought-provoking posts about the universe we live in.  If you do as well, this is a great blog to follow.

 

Ten Random and Completely Useless Facts About Me:

As I mentioned, rules are rules.  This is part of them so here we go.  Don’t say I’m not a sport…

  1. I have lived in Florida for years.  Yes it is hot.  Yes there are crazy people everywhere.  Please don’t move here.
  2. I play the bass guitar poorly, but what I lack in talent I make up for with volume.  I have mastered a few songs that the local stray cats really seem to relate to.
  3. I do not own any pets, but I do own two children who sometimes act like pets.
  4. I am ambidextrous and believe it’s a learned talent.  Anything can be mastered with practice.  Except, apparently, playing the bass guitar.
  5. I am a pilot.  It’s safer up there then on the roads with all the nuts down here.
  6. I have literally just discovered The Game of Thrones and am binge-watching it like hell.  It took me six years to discover Lost and The Sopranos, so this should come as no surprise to anyone.
  7. I’ll take a good book over a great movie anytime.
  8. I am what most would consider tall but cannot shoot a basketball for the life of me.
  9. I am the type that finds it very difficult to list ten random facts about myself.
  10. Did I mention that I live in Florida?

The Liebster Award Rules:

(These are direct from the official website so you can cut and paste as I have.)

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, or you chose to start a blog post about the Liebster award; you should do the following:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you. They will thank you for it and those who you nominate will also help you out as well.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. For the 2018 Liebster Award, I will be shaking things up! Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blog posting.

4. Provide 10 random facts about yourself. (Again this year I’m making this optional. If you wish to engage with your readers it’s a great idea to include random facts about you.)

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel would enjoy blogging about this award the award.

6. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here or simply link to this post.)

7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post.

via The Daily Prompt

 

 

New Story, Same Old Story

Well, I’ve done it again. After countless rewrites and having received a blessing from my professional, often angry beta reading group, I have once again released a little white dove of fiction into the skies of a cruel, cruel world. You’re own your own now, buddy, best of luck. Gonna need it out there.

I suppose my process is the same as any other author. When a story is finished, or at least as finished as it’s going to be, I choose the top five publications that I think would be the best fit for it. It usually depends on the genre, the theme, and the reach of the publication. I especially like the ones that are picky and have intimidating submission guidelines. Because when they respond with a ‘yes’, you know your story will be in good company. I then spend the next twenty minutes formatting to the guidelines, writing brief introductions, and trying to thwart off my brain from finally convincing me of what a horrid writer I really am. It’s a fun life.

But my website isn’t about the follies of a writer. You can read that almost anywhere else, so I’d rather stick to what this website was meant to be. Namely, a place to post those silly little articles that I write to give myself a distraction from what I consider my “serious” work. They’re nonsense, I know. But fun to write and, hopefully, fun to read. They keep my fiction fresh and my fingers moving. If they entertain anyone to boot, that’s just a bonus.  (If this is the first post of mine you’ve ever read, have a look around, won’t you?  They get better, if by ‘better’ you mean different than this one.)

I don’t know what the proper percentage of likes-to-impressions (or it is impressions-to-likes?) ratio is on WordPress. In advertising, I know ten percent is a nice place to be. Same with YouTube, I think. But for a blog, I have no idea. My website is new, so I don’t get a lot of views yet. I guess that takes time. The good news, however, is that I have 5 likes on the articles from a pool of around 10 total views. (The other 150 views are me trying to fix mistakes and don’t really count.) Based on my advanced mathematical calculation abilities, that means half of the readers, who by some small miracle have mistakenly landed on my website, have poor taste in literature and a background devoid of culture. And, as I tell myself while stressing over the data, the other half probably meant to click like and just forgot. Probably too awestruck by what they read.

Suffice to say, I probably need to do something about the number of readers that come here. I think my best bet will be to start advertising it. Not pay for spots, but rather make sure it gets mentioned in the byline of every piece someone else publishes from now on. Missed opportunities, there. But, as I tell my children, the only problems you really have in life are the ones you do nothing about. As far as I can tell, that little number has fallen on deaf ears. But we’ve got time yet.

I should also make sure I don’t insult the people who click like on my articles, huh? I believe that those who appreciate humor are most likely to have a sense of one. So rather take offense, they probably chuckled at the slight. I hope.

And, of course, the word ‘hope’ brings me back to my little white dove. Surely one of my top five will pick it up. And, no, I won’t tell you which ones so I don’t look like a complete ass if they don’t. But rest assured, as soon as it gets picked up, I’ll be sure to post the good news here. Maybe even Twitter.

(That last line was just a way for me to easily segue into promoting my Twitter handle – /paulkardos Tricky, right?)

For the rest, don’t fret. More nonsense to come again next week. Until then, feel free to click ‘like’ below. Makes me feel better.

I have faith in you. You can do this!

It’s…right…down…there…

via Daily Prompt: Thwart

The Waiting Game

Great news! The Crossing is currently under consideration for The Masters Review Anthology. I’m proud of the story, even if it’s several yards and a number of fences away from the genre I consider home. The reality is that it has just as much of a chance as any other story under review. The optimist tells me that’s a good thing, that it’s got a shot right up until it doesn’t anymore. The realist tells me that I value my talents far too much.

Waiting to hear back from a publisher is a most fascinating time. You know the response times are calculated in weeks, perhaps months, and yet for the first day or so you cannot help but obsessively check your email. Maybe because you can’t take the anticipation. Or perhaps your story is so fantastic, the publisher wants to jump on it right away lest they lose it to someone else. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The fact is, rejection is a part of the life of a writer. And it doesn’t limit itself by way of a short, albeit sometimes encouraging, formal letter of rejection, either.

The creative brain is in constant conflict. It begins with an idea, of course. Or perhaps an interesting character or two. From there you produce a result which closely resembles  something entirely unlike a good story. You jumble these things around for a while longer, and then, for some odd reason, you convince yourself there is enough there to not make a complete fool out of yourself. Perhaps even a book.

When that happens, every day I sit behind the keyboard and open up Scrivener. The blank page never scares me. It is an opportunity. A sign that something fun is about to happen. I am not afraid of it because over the years I have learned that the true meaning of “write drunk” has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s about writing freely and silencing the ever-present inner-critic. Everyone knows the first draft sucks (and they’re right), but the smart ones think they can clean it up during the editing phase (sometimes also right.) Might as well have at it, then. First draft is for dreamers, editing is for realists. So you write drunk and all the while, the inner-critic fights to reject you and your work.  It gets personal sometimes. It tells you the idea sucks, the characters suck, the book sucks, and you suck. (You may have noticed that the inner-critic isn’t very literate. Unfortunately, sometimes the inner-critic is also correct.)

However, once you figure out that the true joy for you is putting your ideas to paper, and that it can suck because you can edit it later, the act of writing becomes something to look forward to, not feared. The truth is, once you begin the editing process, you see what is good, what could be good, and what has got to go. You keep the good, fix the bad, and create something new to fill in whatever you trashed. It’s all creative work, and you always have one more edit to do so might as well write recklessly.   Do that often enough, and you’ll not only see how bad first drafts are, but also that you can put together something fascinating if you keep at it long enough.

Ever since I figured out how to truly embrace that, I’ve never once suffered from writer’s block. If I am obsessing over a story, perhaps lying in bed and thinking out dialog for a scene I want to write the next day, the act of writing itself never falters. When I’m short of ideas (very rare) and there’s nothing to write, I don’t sit in front of a glowing, blank screen. Why bother?

If it even exists at all, beating writer’s block isn’t a chore. There are thousands of tips about it, but I suspect those are written by people who are “blocked” themselves and can’t think of anything else to write about. If you haven’t noticed, I hate writing tips. Not because they aren’t sometimes accurate, but rather because they are rarely helpful. That said, here’s one from me: don’t listen to writing tips.

Not even that one.

They don’t help. I compare them to get-rich schemes. Somebody makes millions doing something, and then they tell you how they did it. The idea being that you can duplicate it yourself. The problem is, of course, you never do. Writing tips are the same thing. Yes, you should “show, don’t tell” and “write every day” and, well, “write drunk, edit sober.” But these are said in hindsight, and something that comes naturally. It would be like Wayne Gretzky saying “Just shoot the puck.” Yeah, thanks Wayne. Writing tips are advice from people who are trying to tell you how they did it. And getting better at something doesn’t work that way.

Tips can be accurate, but only useful in that a writer has found these common threads others may identify with and is sharing the insight. Writers need to look at tips and say, “Yeah, I do that” as opposed to “Oh, I should do that.” See the difference? The only use I’ve ever had for writing tips is how relate-able some are after I’m done.

Anyway, who am I to tell you what to do? Nobody. The idea behind writing, or anything else we do for fun, is to enjoy the experience. It’s why no one counts laundry as their hobby. Write drunk.  Edit sober if you want.  Or move on to something else if you don’t. Maybe get drunk-drunk. I won’t judge. When you get to the crossroads which dictate which direction to go from there, you’ll know exactly what to do.

In the meantime, I’ll be refreshing my email again.

Comments, concerns, and miscellaneous ramblings below, or on Twitter @paulkardos