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TWICE IN ONE DAY

My ego knows no bounds at the moment. Thanks to Sophia Mostaghimi and all the people at Broken Pencil Magazine, Toronto, Canada, https://brokenpencil.com, for the release this morning of my original short fiction work, “DISGUISES” as Exclusive Online Fiction on their website. I invite you to head over there and give it a look. The reasons are multiple. I think it a good read and apparently the wonderful publishers of Broken Pencil did, too. Also, clicks count in a connected world. Third, if you enjoy it you might share it with friends and family.

Yes, I realize this is the online equivalent of a shameless plug, but I’m mot trying to sell you something nor attempting to alter reality (Well, maybe just a little).

 

Thanks,

Dane F. Baylis

YES!!!!!

Been forever since I’ve posted. What can I say, life happens. Today is a RED LETTER DAY! My original short-short story “DISGUISES”is up on Broken Pencil Magazine’s website out of Toronto, Canada as of this morning! They released it as Online Exclusive Fiction. Yes, I am THRILLED!

Please, go take a look. It’s a very quick read. Let me know what you think and please, Please, PLEASE – Spread the word.

Thanks,

Dane.

COUNTING TO TEN TO THE TENTH

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Once in a while I just have to  vent. Things have been VERY busy. Writing, revising, queries, submissions, status inquiries, rejections, rewrites, stalled editorial processes. This is what it’s like to be a writer. Locked away in my study/office, hammering at the keys and, occasionally, wanting to take a hammer to the whole damned thing!

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on both ends of this insanity. As a writer I have learned to live with the fact most editors (Even the ones who claim they’re open to everything.) operate from a very limited set of preferences. In the organizations where they employ outside readers, those are chosen because they share the bosses sensibilities and tastes – Or drinking habits. I, and others I’ve worked with, have been equally guilty of this fault. I, though, never claimed to have a balanced approach to everything I was exposed to.

As an editor I was bound by my experience on the other end of that proposition. If I was working within a stated “normal” response time, I would put my life on hold and move mountains to honor that commitment. If someone approached me with their wunderkind of creativity, the chid of their soul and desires, I told them up front, if accepted, it would be just the beginning of the process. This meant I expected them to return as good as I was providing. Everything was a Quid Pro Quo arrangement, governed by that old saw, “You’ll get out what you put in.” Honor that and I am yours to command – Within reason and only in private.

Lately I’ve been dealing with the exact opposite. Normal response times seem to no longer be calculated from when you submit a work or from a stated deadline but from whenever the person at the other end declares “normal” to be in operation. Example, six months stretching out over sixteen months and several inquiries with no definitive response. Another example? An editor working with me on-line for a publication that has accepted a piece who sends me suggested corrections and alterations via a Google.doc, which alterations I implement before all else, only to have the person at the other end of the process seemingly disappear. I, in turn, keep poking (As saccharine politely as possible) after the present disposition of the process. This leads to what I am beginning to interpret as a coded response. “I’m out-of-town this week-end but will get with you at the beginning of the week.” Which I have come to understand as, “Not now. Please!” Which, for its part, eventually morphs into a nebulous feeling of, “Maybe I should have asked – At the beginning of which particular week?”

Of course, all this Sturm und Drang might be attributable to my just being old-fashioned. I worked for years in the service industries while trying to promote my writing and art. In that world I learned that the burden of service was on the provider and a large part of that lay in communication. In a shrinking literary marketplace it would seem this basic tenet would be even more precious than ever. Then again, I’m a writer, poet, and painter. What do I know of reality?

Thus endeth the rant!

 

 

WHAT THE HELL DO I KNOW?

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It’s that rule you get slapped with in that first composition or creative writing course. “You – In the back row. Last week’s paper was drivel. You should write what you know!”

But is it meant to be taken literally? Well, some people think so and it’s an unfortunate truism in a world where electronic isolation is rampant. What is it I’m trying to say? Take a look around. Blog after blog, post after post is oozing an egocentric mash-up of, “This is who I am. This is where I went. This is what I ate. This is the same mass-produced outfit I bought that everyone else in the on-line marketplace was buying at the exact same moment.” The worst of it is when I see, “These are the events in my life that someone told me would make such a terrific story.” Uh, sorry, Chief. No it doesn’t.

How many of you really want to read page after page of that? A constant rehashing of someone’s angst and travails told in a monologue with all the weight and depth of a pine cone sliding over the ice on a winter locked pond. After the first couple of re-issues of ‘How My Life Went Wrong and How I Dragged Myself Back From The Abyss’ I find myself rooting for the fall!

So what the hell does “Write What You Know” imply? How many of us know more than what we’ve read about the world of organized crime? How many of us have been to worlds in far-flung galaxies? How many of us have had that crushing romance with a partner who kept a horrible secret locked away in a mother of pearl inlaid box in a Croatian tower? How many of the authors who wrote such tales did?

What they wrote about was emotions. They looked deep into themselves and found what triumph and disaster felt like for them. They looked beyond the logical mind stringing clever prose together and stared their fears in the eye. They delved into what they knew of passion, power, revenge, failure, desire, love, loss and redemption and gave those feelings to characters they had taken the time to get to know and believe in.

Everything else is window dressing that can be learned or extrapolated. The recoil of a pistol. Blisters raised by desert sun. Weightless floating in ocean or space. Gnawing, all-consuming hunger. All these things can be tried, one way or another. What makes a story live is the depth of empathy or revulsion you make your readers feel for the characters you portray. Instead of write what you know – perhaps the adage should be, DISCOVER what you don’t know for sure in your own heart and soul. Then see if it fits the people and things you want to represent  but about which you haven’t a clue.

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN IS ONLY THE BEGINNING

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Let’s talk about a pet peeve, okay? Something that required me ravaging a tree on my property this morning. All right, I was trimming it, enthusiastically, but I needed that sort of physical activity before I could approach this like a sane man.

Whatever you’re writing, it begins with research. That research may be as simple as ordering your own thoughts and perceptions in a few simple notes or a bare bones outline, or the in-depth fact-finding required for historical works, be they fact or fiction. Once having completed that process, you gather your ideas, notes, references (what all) and sit down at a keyboard. Your fingers assume their position and you begin. Eventually, with a lot of hard work, coffee, liquor, and a good bit of scatological tension relief, you make it to the end of your endeavor, typing in “The End”.

Pat yourself on the back, especially if you’re an aspiring novelist. Far more works of fiction are started than are ever finished. But are you really done? Maybe you should run Spellcheck one more time? Go ahead, I’ll wait. Are you done now?

If I were you I’d set this magnum opus aside for a day, or a week, or maybe longer. Then get back to researching. Not on what it was that you discovered or concocted to begin your labor. No, I suggest you open to page one and start reading. But before you do, go find yourself a good dictionary – And a thesaurus – And a manual on style – And a grammar guide. Why? Because I’ve seen more times when relying on Spellcheck produced the perfectly wrong word for the completely wrong use.

As you read, if you aren’t one hundred percent sure of a word’s definition and proper usage – LOOK IT UP! Pay attention to the context around it. The precisely defined word may not be the best one for where you’ve decided to plop it down.

If you’re using a particular word repeatedly, get out a thesaurus. What are the words that mean the same or relatively same thing as the one you’re beating to death? Have you made the mistake of using a homonym or homophone? Words that are spelled or sound alike. If you’re comparing or contrasting characters or qualities, what are the proper antonyms?

Are you familiar with the concept of hot and cold words? Aspiration? Metaphor? Simile? Alliterative progression?

By now you’re probably saying, “Hell, all I want to do is write.” My answer for that is, “No, you started writing because you wanted to get published.” If you don’t pay attention to the craft and mechanics of your own language, you’ll greatly reduce the possibility of reaching that goal. I’ve sat on editorial committees for journals and periodicals. One of the fastest ways into the “Thanks but no thanks” pile was to give me the impression that you felt rewriting your submission was my job. I hate to disillusion you, when I’m bingeing through a hundred or more manuscripts of varying length in a day or so, if you give me the impression you don’t understand the complexities of your native tongue, or somehow regard me as the hired help, your acceptance rate just plummeted.

Use a dictionary, a thesaurus, Strunk and White’s, “Elements of Style”, “The Chicago Manual of Style”, and any other resource you can find. Find an authoritative reference for formatting your manuscript, your queries, your cover letters. Learn how to do it by the book, then, after more practice than you can stand, show an editor you know how to bend the rules in imaginative and scintillating ways.

For God’s sake, if you want to be a writer, behave like one!