Secret Project Reveal!

I’ve been talking about it since January, and you all have been very patient. Finally, today, I’m ready to reveal my secret project.

I’ve written a science fiction novella, and I’m going to publish it here on Paper Beats World for all of you.

This will be the first of a series, of course, because I can’t ever just write ‘a’ book. The series is called Station 86. The first story, which will begin on September 14th, will be called Seeming.

If you just can’t wait, and as a special birthday present to all of you, I’ve included a spoiler below.

By the way, if you want to enter to win a free copy of either Days, and Other Stories or 30 Days, 30 Ideas, here’s three ways to enter.

  1. Comment on this post. Anything will do.
  2. Go to Facebook, and watch for my post today asking for comments.
  3. Go to Twitter, and watch for my tweet today asking for comments.

Good luck!

And now, meet Sennett.

The transit wasn’t as busy as most mornings. Sennett managed to find a seat, and settled in to nibble on her breakfast and try to distract herself with her news feed. It didn’t work, but it gave her somewhere to look besides into the frightened faces of her fellow passengers.

An older man sat down next to her. “Ma’am?” he asked, “Excuse me, Ma’am?”

“Help you?” Sennett asked, looking up.

“You’re a peace officer, right?” he asked.

“That’s what my badge says,” Sennett said.

“Right,” he said, “Do you know anything? About what’s going on, I mean.”

“Only what everyone else knows,” she said, taking a bite of her hatsu.

“Oh, okay. So, um, should we be worried? I mean, do we know who attacked the councilwoman?”

Sennett sighed. “Sir, we live in a great big station hanging in the middle of space. On that station, every day, we hunt down thieves, loan sharks, killers and your garden variety asshole who just wants to get drunk and punch someone. The only difference today is that the person who was killed was someone we all know. So, I think, we shouldn’t be anymore worried today than we are any other day.”

“Oh,” the man said. He got up to find another seat.

Join Sennett, Godfrey and Station 86 on September 14 for Episode One of Seeming.

Changes in The Last Two Years

We’re coming up fast on the two year anniversary of Paper Beats World. It’s amazing to think I’ve stuck with it that long, but I have. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty impressed with me. If you knew my history, you’d be pretty impressed with me, too.

Of course, it probably helps that PBW is nothing like it was when I first started out. I basically don’t write any of the columns that I started out writing, and I do so many things I never thought I was going to be doing here. But that’s one of the great things about a blog format. It can be a living, breathing entity in ways that other mediums just can’t. Here are just a few of the things that have changed in the last two years as PBW has grown.

The background, a lot

I am, far too often, changing the form from one thing to another. If I had the time I would change the theme every week. I think that would irritate people, so it’s probably a good thing that I can’t do that. It took me awhile to find a theme that looked professional, and also showed off my newfound love of images to good effect. I think I’ll stick with this one for a while, though. It’s working for me.

The content

I have tossed and added a lot of columns over the last two years. I used to write columns about websites for writers, poetry columns, charities in need of help and markets that you could send your work to. These dropped off for numerous reasons. No one was reading them, I was bored writing them. I wanted more flexibility in what I was presenting to you guys.

In this, I got a pretty big surprise. Since I’ve been posting my stories here, I’ve been getting a huge response from all of you. I can’t tell you how touched I am by the response. I have some awesome things planned for you guys because of it.

The schedule

I was a little stupid, starting out. I used to write literally five columns a week, most of which were time consuming and frustrating. I didn’t like what I was writing, it was taking time from my fiction work and stressing me the hell out. None of that was good for me or you. I figured that my website hits would go way down when I dropped two days. I was wrong, they went up. I think it’s because the content got better, even as the quantity went down. It probably helped that I wasn’t dreading writing my weekly posts. Just saying.

Me

Finally, I’m a different person than I was two years ago. Back then I was clinging to my book for dear life, praying that I could stay afloat. Now, I have hope for the future. I have two published books (that you can buy right here) I’ve written three novels, one novella, and a ton of short fiction. I have a game plan for my book if it gets traditionally published, or if it doesn’t. I have confidence that I can make it on my own if I need to.

One thing that hasn’t changed is how awesome I feel about this blog. I love reading your blogs, and I love it when you all give me feedback here. It reminds me, as I’ve said before, that I’m a citizen of Planet Earth, in all of it’s crappy, shiny glory.

Thank you.

Writing 101, Day 11

Happy Throwback Thursday. Sometimes I feel like I could write a whole book about this town, but who would read it? The only ones interested already know.

Paper Beats World

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Can I be honest?  I’m not totally sure I remember where we were living that year.  We moved around a lot when I was young, and by a lot I mean once or twice a year.  I realize now, as a grown woman, that my mom must have had some sort of good reason for this constant moving around.  Surely she wouldn’t have put me through the incessant packing, uprooting me from school after school, constantly leaving people places and sometimes pets behind without good reason.

But maybe she didn’t.  If there was ever a reason, she never shared it with me.

What resulted was a very fluid childhood, in…

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Dear Kyle,

I thought about you again today. It’s gotten to the point, after all of these years, that I think about you and smile instead of breaking down. Not that I don’t break down, sometimes. There are a few songs that always do it to me. I freaked my kid out the other day, when one came on Pandora and I just lost it. We were packing up our apartment, that shitty little apartment that we’d finally outgrown. The lines from ‘When I See You Again’ just jumped out at me. “I’ve come a long way, from where we began”. If that isn’t right. The last time you saw me I was a broke single mom. I didn’t have a job, didn’t have a voice. I was nowhere, going nowhere. Now, I’m living in my first house, happily married with two little girls.

I think you’d like my husband. He’s into computers and he likes taking things apart. He likes fireworks, but not as much as you. He’s funny, like you were. I wish you could have met him.

My daughter reminds me of you. She’s funny, she loves to read. She has way too much fun when we set up a firepit, which is just you all over. I tell her stories about you, and how you were the only teenager with a receding hairline all summer. I tell her about the time we almost blew the house up on the 4th of July. I tell her that you were smart.

I tell her that I should have done something.

Dear Kyle,

It’s hard to be on Facebook on the anniversary. It just reminds me how many people loved you. I haven’t seen your little girl since the funeral, but that’s not surprising. It’s not like I’d cross paths with her mom often, not hanging out with that whole crowd anymore. Kind of felt like after I left the ex, everyone but you and Dan forgot about me. It’s weird, Dan being his brother, that he should have stuck around. I wish I would have told you when you were still here that I appreciated it.

It’s all for the best that the other’s leave me alone. For the most part, they’re self-destructive. Most of them are still using. I don’t want the kids around that. I was always the outcast, the clean person hanging out with the stoners. Guess I can be thankful of that, now. But when I see them, in public, it’s like seeing strangers wearing the faces of friends. Even the faces seem different, but we’re all getting older.

Except you.

Dear Kyle,

We lost Dan, but I guess you know that. I wasn’t encouraged to attend the funeral, but I went with his mom to see him at the hospital before he went. He looked very much like he always did, it was hard to imagine that he was so sick. I wish he had learned from what happened to you.

He didn’t leave behind any blood children, but three step babies.

I couldn’t help him, either. I don’t know what I would have done. He knew what he was doing, he had to. So I did what I could. I brought my daughter to see him, hoping it would remind him what he had to stick around for. You know, he was always a better uncle than his brother was a dad.

It was very much like you. He was surrounded by users and pushers. I’ve gotten better at not feeling guilty, but it’s still there. I don’t know what I could have done, or if either one of you would have listened to me if I’d tried. At least I tried, with Dan. He shouldn’t have had to go, and neither should you. You were both so much better than you were ever treated.

I miss you. I’ve got a lot to tell you when I see you again.

All my love, little brother.

Disclaimer: This isn’t fiction. I had a friend named Kyle who died from an illness he got from a dirty needle. When we were teenagers he and his dad lived in the same house as my mom and me. My mom was sick, and his dad was an old friend of hers. So we were like brother and sister for almost a decade. He’s the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had. I listen to Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again, and it makes me think of him. I hope that this isn’t too much of a downer, because Kyle wouldn’t want that. He always wanted to make people laugh, he loved fireworks and cars. I wish I could have helped him. Maybe by sharing stories about him, I’ll inspire someone who’s suffering from a drug addiction. You’ve probably have a friend who will really miss you, so please get some help.

Star Trek Beyond Review

I hate summer, except for the movies. My goodness, do I love summer movies. It’s the only reason nerds like me get out of the house during the summer. Well, that and jobs. But if I didn’t need food…

Anyway, I’m sure it’s not a surprise to any of you that I am a huge Star Trek fan. I have seen every movie, and at least a few episodes of any show. My favorite Captain is Picard, Next Generation is the best series, and my favorite of the movies is First Contact.

I think it’s safe to say that I loved Star Trek Beyond. But I think I can safely say that even non trekkies will agree that it was a very good movie.

The story is solid, which is where everything needs to start. It had a beat to it, a flow that worked really well. An enemy named Krall kidnaps the majority of the Enterprise crew, leaving only the major players like Spock, Kirk, Bones and Scotty free. They’re stranded on a strange planet, having no idea who’s kidnapped them or what they want.

As it turns out, what they want is an artifact called the abronath that is part of a bioweapon big enough to wipe out a whole space station. Like the space station called Yorktown, which happens to be the home of Sulu’s husband and daughter.

The first thing that jumped out at me for this movie was the flow of danger. First, the whole crew is in danger. Then, just one person, who Kirk must save at great risk. Finally, the whole station of Yorktown, which we particularly care about, of course. This was a great way to keep tension fresh throughout the movie.

Now, of course, a lot of this is dependent on seeing the first two movies and being emotionally invested in the characters. That shouldn’t be an issue, you want to see the first two. Which brings me to my next point. This movie is a really good continuation of the first two ‘new’ Star Trek movies. There are moments that are throwbacks to earlier in this series, like Beastie Boys Sabotage playing at a crucial scene. But you don’t really need to see those movies to enjoy this one. It’s fine standing alone. Seeing the first two just adds a deeper understanding to this one.

Likewise, you don’t have to be a long term trek fan to appreciate the new series. But it adds something. There are moments that made me lose my geeky little mind, like when the Enterprise crashed and burned. (Not a spoiler, it was in the freaking trailer!) Or when Spock is given a box of the other Spock’s belongings that included a picture of his Enterprise team. I literally started crying at that.

I also cried during the very memorable speech for ‘Spock’ that was obviously for Leonard Nimoy. It was touching as hell, and just reminded me how much the acting world lost when it lost him.

Finally, I understand that there’s been some fuss over Sulu being gay in the new movie. I don’t want to get too far into this particular fight except to say this. Anyone complaining about continuity needs to stop. Spock wasn’t dating Uhura in the original Star Trek, either. Kirk’s dad is alive, Captain Pike is in a beeping chair, and Vulcan is still there. Get over it.

Submitting To Independent Publishers

I’ve been trying to find an agent for Broken Patterns since November. I understand that this is going to take some time. In fact, I planned on it taking up to three years.

But I recently started a new strategy. I’m still sending to agents, but I’m also actively looking for independent publishers that are more open to un-agented material. As I mentioned in a post last week, it’s been a really good experience. Honestly, I can count on one hand the list of ‘bad’ experiences I’ve had as a writer, so I’m not surprised.

As indie writers are becoming more prevalent, and indie publishers are getting clout, I’m sure some of you have considered this alternate path. If you have, you want to keep in mind that there are similarities and differences between an indie and a bigger company. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

The Similarities

What you need to keep in mind is that an indie publisher is still a publisher. They’re still professionals in a highly competitive field that gets more competitive every day.

Don’t waste their time, any more than you would waste the time of a bigger company. In fact, go farther out of your way to not waste their time, if you can. What can you do, you may ask, to not waste their time?

  • Check their submission guidelines. Don’t send them genre fiction of they don’t want it. Don’t send them info through the mail of they only accept online forms. Don’t send when they’re not reading.
  • I feel like I shouldn’t have to say it, but if I don’t I’ll feel like I wasn’t thorough. Finish your book first, if you’re writing fiction. If you’re writing nonfiction, you usually just need a proposal and some sample chapters, but that’s it.
  • And by finish, I mean finish. Edit, polish and get some beta readers. Make your book as good as it can be before you send it. Indie publishers are not less discerning than big publishers. They are, after all, running a business.

Along the same line, you’re still going to need a query packet. That means the query letter, synopsis and bio. The exact same information you’d need if you were submitting to an agent.

The differences

If you’re struggling to decide what path to take, this might help you make up your mind. As much as the basic mechanics of submitting are the same, it’s a totally different publishing game.

First of all, there’s a greater desire for non-genre work in an indie company. This has proven difficult for me, as I am a speculative fiction writer. But there are lots of indie publishers that want to see anything, just anything. I’ve found plenty of places to submit, but I’ve found a lot more that don’t want anything to do with anything that smacks of ‘mainstream’.

Another thing you want to keep in mind with indie publishers is that they are often small businesses, which means that they don’t have as many people doing stuff. With that being the case, it’s no wonder they have specific reading times through the year. I ran into a lot of places I think would be fantastic places for Broken Patterns, but they’re not reading now. I just put a note for myself in my planner, so I don’t miss their next reading time.

You want to remember, that indie publishers do have a few downsides. They don’t have the same relationship with book sellers as the big companies. That might mean your books show up on fewer bookshelves. But, with fewer and fewer people buying paper books, that might not be an issue.

With an indie publisher, though, you are running one big risk; the risk that they will go out of business. A lot of indie publishers fail, just like a lot of other indie companies.

Please understand, I don’t mean to frighten you away from indie publishers! I am willing to take the risk of a company falling out from under me, if it means I also get the chance to be one of the first books to make it big with a successful new company. I’ll take a lot of risks to be part of the start of something.

What to Do When The Book Is Done

Happy Throwback Thursday!

Paper Beats World

You’ve heard the old line, hurry up and wait. Well, when you’re a writer, you will learn the meaning of that term, I promise you. You do all that work, making your manuscript shine, suffering over your query packet. Then after days and nights, maybe years of work, you send your manuscript to a market.

Maybe it’s a literary agent. Maybe it’s a magazine. Either way, one thing remains true; you will have a very long wait before you get a response. If you ever get one at all.

So, what do you do while you’re waiting? Well, first you take a pen and write the date you can expect a response by. This should be available somewhere in the submission guidelines.
Now, here’s the hard part. Forget the thing exists until you get to the day you put on your calender.

There’s an episode of Castle with Dean Koontz…

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That One House In The Neighbor

Todd thought that it was a good thing when Roxie needed walked while he was working. There was only so much staring at a computer screen and calling himself a moron that he could take at one time. So when the little boxer started scratching at the front door, he hurried to save his work, and headed out with the leash. As he did, he wondered why so many writers seemed to prefer cats.

There was a light drizzle of rain outside, making the late spring air smell wonderful. He took a deep breath while Roxie pulled ahead of him, intent more on exploring than doing her business. They passed the house on the street that no one lived in, making Todd shake his head. He guessed that everyone had that one street in their neighborhood. His son, Timothy, swore that the place was haunted. Well, he supposed he couldn’t fault the kid for having an imagination. He was the son of a writer, after all. But it was still a pain in the ass. Timothy wouldn’t go near the place, not while walking to school, taking the dog out or on evening walks with Todd. While it wasn’t a major thing, having to walk a different way, it was something Todd didn’t feel he should have to do for a twelve year old boy.

Though he had to admit, seeing the place in the gray, cold weather, it was a creepy house. The paint, a putrid pea green that he supposed had been the fashion once upon a time, was peeling. The front porch looked like it wouldn’t support a man’s weight. He wasn’t sure, but it looked like there was a taxidermy squirrel nailed to the front door. He grimaced. Why had the city allowed it to get in such bad shape?

Roxie was barking at the house. She was straining at the leash, trying to get into the yard. “Stop that,” he said, pulling her back. “You can’t make all that noise here.” The neighbor’s thought he was strange already, the way he stayed home all the time.

But Roxie apparently didn’t care that her master might be embarrassed by her barking. She gave a solid yank on the leash, and he let go. She ran right up to the house. Todd, shouting her name, ran after her. She pushed her way through the door, disappearing into the house. Praying that no one lived there, he followed after her.

The house was uninhabited. The front room was scattered with beer and vodka bottles, along with an impressive amount of cigarette butts. Obviously some of the local homeless people had been using the place to party.

“Roxie!” Todd cried, “Get down here, you stupid dog!”

He could hear her nails clicking around upstairs. Cursing the dog, half sure that the floor upstairs wasn’t going to hold him, he descended the stairs. She was standing in the hallway, wagging her tail.

“Come on, Dummy,” he said, reaching for her. As he did, he heard someone behind him, chuckling. He turned to see a woman, dressed in a raggedy blue house dress. In her hand she held a rusty butcher knife. “Pretty dog,” she said, then lunged forward. She sank the knife into the side of his neck, laughing maniacally the entire time.

Todd fell to the ground, gasping for air that he couldn’t get.

The house hadn’t been haunted.

A Review of Bojack Horseman, Season 3

Partial spoiler alert, but no more than what you’d get by reading the episode descriptions.

The only downside of having access to a whole season of a show that I love is that I will watch all of it as quickly as possible, and then I have to wait almost a whole year for the next season. That’s what I did with season three of Bojack Horseman. I just finished it, all twelve episodes in the span of a week. And I feel blown away.

If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, let me give you a quick rundown on the show. It’s about an actor that was famous in the 90’s for being on a sitcom called ‘Horsin’ Around’. It’s a similar show to Full House or Boy Meets World. He was happy on the show, for the most part, having survived an abusive childhood. Then the show ended, and his life fell apart. It turned out that he was only happy when everyone was clapping for him.

Twenty years passed. He didn’t work for the most part. Mostly he drank, did drugs and slept around. Along the way he picked up a kid named Todd who sleeps on his couch. He’s on again, off again with his agent, named Princess Caroline. His last hope at being loved again is an autobiography. When he’s incapable of doing that because he has nothing that resembles self-control, he’s forced to hire a ghost writer.

Enter Diane, who is dating then married to Mr. Peanut Butter, who Bojack happens to hate.

The first two seasons were pretty spectacular. Don’t watch the third season if you haven’t watched the first two. During that time Bojack, after getting popular again after Diane’s book comes out, gets to star in a movie about his childhood hero, Sagritariate.

The third season is about Bojack trying to win an Oscar for that movie. At the same time, one of his old costars is trying to make a spinoff of the show, called Ethan Around. (Think Fuller House and Girl Meets World) He falls in love with his crazy publicist, and is confronted head on by all of the mistakes he’s ever made. As his current attempts to be happy are thwarted in every way possible, his sins won’t allow him a moment of peace. He can’t seem to manage to not be a terrible, selfish person for anyone or anything. One by one, the people who have tried so hard to save him give up. It get to the point that, by the last few episodes, I was cringing every time Bojack was behaving himself. It usually meant he was about to do something terrible.

The cast is pretty spectacular, with Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris and guest stars like Weird Al, Daniel Radcliff and Liev Schriber, it’s a well-acted, well written show. It’s also incredibly subtle. As person after person in his life give up, they disappear from the opening credits. The ending of the season is pretty much telegraphed, but only in retrospect.

As a warning, this is a dark season. Topics like abortion, suicide and excessive drug use are explored in great detail. Don’t watch this one with your kids, even if half the characters are anthropomorphic animals.

It really was an amazing season, though. Give it a watch when you get the chance. All three seasons are available now on Netflix

Season four, by the way, is scheduled to come out in summer of 2017, damn it.

A writing update

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any sort of behind the scenes update, so I thought I’d take some time to do that today. Frankly between the continued gun violence and the election, I’d like to just talk about writing today.

My current schedule’s been a little nuts. I’ve got a ton of writing projects that have to be interspersed between some health issues with my mother in law and some health issues with me. Now, this month, the back to school season is starting, which means my house is getting crazy. We’ve got equipment coming in the mail, classes to sign up for, new clothes and supplies to buy, schedules to plan. It’s the same everywhere, I suppose. Any schedule change throws me for a loop, though. So I’ve been getting up early to squeeze two hours of writing time in before I leave for the day job. This is great, because I head off to work already feeling like I’ve accomplished something. But it also means that by the time I get home from the day job, I’m pretty much spent. Mostly I just want to lay on the couch and watch Bojack Horseman. (More on that next week.)

Even in the crazy season, though, I have stuff to do. And I’m getting a lot done. Here’s where I am right now.

Woven

I’m getting kind of emotional about Woven, at this point. I’m still looking for an agent or indie publisher for the first book, Broken Patterns. Been looking since November, but I refuse to be discouraged. It will happen, or I’ll self-publish. Either way, all I can do is keep on submitting. In the meantime, I am super excited to report that I just finished the rough draft of the third book in the series, Missing Stitches! It finishes out the trilogy, and it’s very bittersweet. I’m working now on the third draft of the second book, Starting Chains. I always like third drafting. The story is there, and it’s solid by that draft. I’ve just got to make sure that it flows right and make minor plot changes. I’ve written the next book, so I can add little things in from that, so that the whole series fits together like puzzle pieces. It’s a good time.

My short fiction

Since I’m no longer rough drafting, I’m spending a little more time on short fiction. Not because editing takes any less time, but because I always like to be making something new. I hope all of you have been enjoying the pieces that I’ve been posting here on PBW. My plan is to create some new short story collections once I’ve written enough. Hopefully I’ll get at least one of these collections done by the end of the year.

The secret project

I’m not ready to give away everything about the secret project just yet. Here’s what I will tell you, though. It’s Science Fiction, It’s almost done, and you’ll have access to it on October 5th. See, I worked a deadline in there to keep myself at my freaking desk.

By the way…

Some of you might already know this, but August 31st marks the second year anniversary of Paper Beats World. I’ll be doing a pretty huge post that week full of thank you’s and lessons learned over the last two years. For now, let me just say that I’m truly humbled by how many people come to my little corner of the internet. Especially now that I’m posting more of my own fictional work, every one of you means so much to me.

Thank you.

Stay tuned.

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