Sunday, May 8, 2016

FAREWELL TO OLD WORKS

Due to moving—and for the first time—I’ve had to start getting rid of published books that I am part of.

Not so long ago, I found it a mark of pride to showcase every single anthology, magazine, journal, newspaper clipping, etc. that included my name in print... alas, I buried myself in mounds of swill and vanity!

Perhaps a bit sensational, but it did get to be too much, although not a terrible problem to have in retrospect. There now are just certain pieces I prize more than others, and ‘room’ on the shelves dictates what I can and can’t keep.

With that being said, it still pains me to donate these works away, although I hope a new reader will find pleasure in their pages.

Thus farewell, “DAILY FRIGHT, 2012”.

Backstory to DAILY FRIGHT, 2012: In March, 2011, I wrote a couple of my earliest works, two separate flash fiction pieces (500 words each) for this massive anthology (550 pages, yo!), and they were both accepted SAME DAY(!) of submission! It wasn’t my first acceptance (but, like, #2 and #3), and at the same time! Man, was I dancing, and I printed out the acceptance notice and hung it on the fridge, and expected from then on, every publication I submitted to would be falling over their feet to grab me up.

The book was a neat concept, one piece of flash fiction per day, over a calendar year, this being leap year, so 366 different horror stories, edited by Jessy Marie Roberts—who was very kind—and published by Pill Hill Press, who put out a large number of books, some others of which I was also happily part of.

I received no pay for my work, not even royalties. The book cover-priced for $24.99, although I have doubts it sold well, and with the number of contributors involved, I don’t fault the press for not providing physical copies (but not even a complimentary .pdf version...? C’mon...)

Anyway, I remember this experience well, as it was the very beginning of my writing journey, and the acceptance of having my name published gave me confidence to go on, to push myself for improvement, which I feel I have.

The funny thing is, at that time I had no other writer friends to share the news with... I simply didn’t know anyone in the industry. The book was published in November, 2011, and I bought a copy of the book to prove I was really a “writer”. By its publication date, I’d gotten to know some people, but this anthology did not have a Table of Contents, and I never actually read anything from it, so I didn’t notice who else was involved.

But before I passed the book away now, I glanced in the back at the contributor bios. Most of the names I don’t recognize, but it’s an affecting reminisce to think now that after several years, some of these people have since become my friends, while some names I encounter occasionally enough on the internet to at least recognize and follow their achievements. And there are more names than the ones I know and listed below, over 100 others! Some authors wrote four or more stories, some just one, but overall enough to fill 366 days.

I don’t think there was ever a complete Table of Contents listed online, but cheers to sharing a “For-The-Love-Of” project T.O.C. not-too-long-ago!

T. Fox Dunham
Kurt Fawver
A.J. French
Scott Goudsward
E.E. King
Frank Larnerd
Aurelio Rico Lopez III
Joe Mynhardt
Gregory L. Norris
Suzanne Robb
Joseph Rubas
Sheri White

Here’s a Goodreads Link, and a few other contributor names: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13186822-daily-frights-2012?ac=1&from_search=true





 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

MY FIVE YEAR WRITE-IVERSARY

MY FIVE YEAR WRITE-IVERSARY

This month marks an important personal milestone as being my five year ‘Write-iversary’! Meaning five years ago, in February, 2011, I decided to pursue fiction writing for the sake of publication.

Base Stats as of February 15, 2016:

352 Submissions since February, 2011:

84 Acceptances (*23 of those Acceptances are REPRINTS)
268 Rejections

= 23.86% Acceptance Rate

Of those Acceptances (including Reprints):

65 are Published
19 are Pending Publication (3 of which I don’t expect will ever be published, as either the publisher or their project seems to have fallen by the wayside).

In the last five years, I’ve written 73 original stories. Of those 73, I still carry some degree of sentimentality or pride for 52 of them.

Prior to the Feb., 2011 date, and going back to 1993, I’d written another 15 stories at random times of my life, which I may or may not have submitted to contests or underground ’zines, but which are not included in submission statistics, as I was not tracking them nor had any publishing goals set.

Lifetime of original words of fiction = 313,435
Original words of fiction written since Feb., 2011 = 295,884

In addition to fiction short stories, I’ve written and published:

3 Non-Fiction Articles
1 Book Introduction
15 Blurbs
2 Anthologies (Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death...), the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award
1 Convention Souvenir Book (2015 HWA Bram Stoker Awards Weekend & 25th Anniversary World Horror Convention)

Besides winning once, I’ve been blessed with three more Bram Stoker Award nominations. I’ve also been nominated for the International Thriller Award and nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, in addition to nominations or winnings in a number of smaller indie contests or the such.

Observations:

I noticed my average word length for stories has increased dramatically over the last year. In the 2011-2012 years, I averaged about 1,500 – 2,000 words a story. During 2013-2014, I averaged about 3,500 words a story. 2015-present, my story averages have jumped to about 7,500. In the past five years, my shortest published story is 25 words long. My longest story (really, a Novella) is 34,816 words long.

This time last year (Feb., 2015) I was at 70 acceptances and 235 rejections, giving me a 22.95% acceptance rate. So I’ve averaged a little better than one acceptance a month over the last year, which I feel is pretty good, particularly as I did not write for six months during 2015 while caring for my brother and his affairs.

Although I strive to sell works at five cents a word, I estimate my going-worth or average acceptance pay rate over the last year is at three cents a word. Twice for fiction works 6,000 words+, I’ve been paid at ten cents a word. When I first started writing for ‘publication-sake’ I did not consider the financial worth of words and was thrilled to be published in any “For-The-Love-Of” self-published, charity anthology. Most of what I wrote during that time was dreadful anyway! Now before beginning any new story I consider the payment, the prestige of the publication (or skill of editor), and the amount of time needed on my part, especially as I think of myself as a rather slow writer.

In addition to writing fiction, my ‘Day Job’ duties consist of corporate contract technical writing as well as teaching technical writing in the University California system; raising infant children; volunteering for organizations and youth groups; and engaging in all other manner of life obligations and responsibilities...

The biggest thorn in my side is having not yet finished my first full-length novel, CHESTNUT ’BO... I was about 87,000 words into it last year, when I stopped to care for my brother. Afterward I was not able to emotionally pick it up, as where I left off just reminded me of the beginning of his illness and the months of following horror. I have, however, just recently began to work at it again, and am now over 90,000 words, and truly hope to work on nothing else until I’ve completed it with a hard-line max of 100,000 words.

I wrote the following thoughts last year, but they still hold as equally true today:

I’ve made mistakes, but also gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in publishing, editing, and crafting stories. I’ve made wonderful friends and am still thrilled as a fan-boy each time I get to share a T.O.C. or even just communicate with an author I admire (er, swoon over!). I’ve met and/or worked with Joe R. Lansdale, Bentley Little, Ellen Datlow, Tom Monteleone, Steve Rasnic Tem, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Jones, and others whom I’ve been reading for 23+ years, not to mention authors whom I’ve became familiar with and have inspired my dark fiction reading in the more recent 10-15 years, like John Joseph Adams, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, Chuck Palahniuk, Neil Gaiman, Robert McCammon, and many, many more. Plus there are those other writers who have been particularly supportive and benevolent to me, such as Lisa Morton, Weston Ochse, Gene O’Neill, Jonathan Maberry, Stan Swanson, all the members of HWA L.A. chapter, as well as a hundred others.

My only regret is that I waited so long to even ‘try’ writing. I loved writing in high school but went to college under the impression I needed to focus on ‘serious-minded’ business, and never the twain shall meet. Although I ultimately did pursue other creative endeavors, I waited until I was 35 years old before I decided to attempt that childhood dream of writing... I torture myself now thinking where I could be with an additional fifteen years of experience under my belt. Ah well, I’m elated with the adventures I’ve found thus far and can only hope it all continues for countless more years!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Random Writing Muse

Thought about this last night, and with absolutely no empirical data to back up, decided the following as a breakdown of the qualities needed to be a successful writer:

30% Skill
30% Perseverance
25% Networking
15% Luck

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Book Review: "Ghost Summer: Stories (a collection)" by Tananarive Due

Book Title: Ghost Summer: Stories (a collection)
Author(s): Tananarive Due
Release Date
: September 1, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Prime Books
Number Pages: 256

Ghost Summer is a first-rate foray into horror that doesn’t have to be shocking or violent or gruesome to be effective, but rather finds its success in quiet, introspective, and atmospheric tales that wind the reader down a lovely meandering path of curiosity and subtle dread before they find they are lost inescapably in some dark forest with a menacing breath coming from over their shoulder.

Due first began publishing fiction in 1995 with her supernatural novel, The Between, and has since remained a steady voice in speculative writing and thrillers. She’s been awarded several literary nominations and awards, most notably the American Book Award in 2001 for her novel, The Living Blood. This review’s subject, Ghost Summer, is
her first collection of shorter works, compiling fourteen short stories and a novella, each a character-driven piece that continues to affirm the author as an exemplary storyteller. The tales run a gambit between suspense, horror, post-apocalyptic, and magical realism.

Most of the stories in this collection are reprints, although to the reader who has come across any of them before in best-of-the year anthologies or popular magazines such as Nightmare Magazine or The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, a notable observation is that the stories are just as good rereading them a second, third, or fourth time over. There’s no reliance on gimmicks, but rather a confident literary voice that fills Due’s writing with allure, thrills, and equanimity.

An interesting structure to this collection is that the stories are assembled by similar theme: The mini-cycle of a southern town, GRACETOWN; exploration of mortality through THE KNOWING; tales from the post-apocalypse, CARRIERS; and lastly poignant loss through VANISHINGS.

Some of the more remarkable stories include the following:

The Lake: A teacher relocates to a small town, moving into a lakeside house, in which the featured lake one should never swim.

Ghost Summer: A boy looks forward to visiting his grandparents in Gracetown, as children there can see ghosts. This trip however, their encounters lead to something more, and he begins to unravel a local mystery.

Free Jim’s Mine: A historic piece about runaway slaves who encounter something worse than bounty hunters.

Patient Zero: Classic outbreak piece, about an infected child isolated in the hospital and the effects as less and less people come to visit.

Danger Word: In a world overrun by zombies, a boy, Kendrick, is watched over by Grandpa Joe, though all good things must come to an end.


In total, Ghost Summer is a study of cerebral horror, the subtleties of dark thrills that leave the reader both with unease but also with the enjoyment that comes only from partaking in the finest of literary fare. Highly recommended.


_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.




Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: "Press Start to Play" edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

Book Title: Press Start to Play (Anthology)
Author(s): Edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
Release Date
: August 18, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Vintage Original, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
Number Pages: 528

Going into
Press Start to Play, one may be a bit hesitant; hmm... science fiction stories about video games? Interesting concept, though how far can this be taken, before the gimmick gets exhausted? Based, at least, on the strength of John Joseph Adams’ previous anthologies, any hesitant reader may wish to turn off ‘Call of Duty’ and flip to page one. Because, as it turns out, there’s nothing gimmicky about this anthology and, moreover, the depth authors take the subject is prominently inexhaustible; In short, this is one of the best anthologies published in 2015.

From pixel pong games to console immersion, this is an exhilarating journey through the levels of penned speculation. In addition to hard science fiction, there is a wonderful blend of dark horror, high fantasy, adventure, and insightful literary merit to these stories, which ranges from characters becoming part of the game they were playing; the effects of gaming on society; fantastical blendings of gaming and real life scenarios; the future of gaming; and even imaginings of how gaming can save the world.

The standard caveat applies, that not all stories will appeal to all readers; such is the balance of including a diverse mix of unique writers, but most of the tales in this book will be found appealing in numerous ways.

Some of the top picks include:

“Desert Walk” by S.R. Mastrantone
– A slow-build mystery about a rare cartridge game, where the player does little but walk in a desert. Just subtly chilling enough to leave the reader with ineffable feelings of dread.

“Rat Catcher’s Yellows” by Charlie Jane Anders
– A touching vision of the curative effects of living in an augmented reality.

“Survival Horror” by Seanan McGuire
– Funny, smart, riveting; A half-incubus and his cousin—the granddaughter of a witch—are trapped to play an evil (i.e. hacked) video game, which threatens to trap them in another dimension.

“Save Me Plz” by David Barr Kirtley
– One of the best tales in this book, a sword-wielding adventuress goes off in search of her ex-boyfriend who has mysteriously vanished from his college dorm room after obsessively playing a game based on real life.

“Anda’s Game” by Cory Doctorow – A rich story filled with world building that tackles the complexities of class struggle as well as being a young girl who finds her gaming life to be superior to her real life, until it isn’t... and then it is again.

“Select Character” by Hugh Howey – A surprisingly uplifting, sweet tale about looking at gaming from a different perspective. This closing selection is not quite as impactful as some of the other stories in the book, but it’s a great take on subjectivity, well written, and just ‘fitting’ on so many levels.


Overall, Press Start to Play is highly recommended and comprised of so many brilliant tales, one cannot help but long for a second installment once unlocking the accomplishment of finishing this book.


_________________________________

Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.