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.


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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.


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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, October 2, 2015

Tribute to my brother, Jeff Guignard

Though this is not writing-related, it’s part of my life, which affects my writing, so wanted to share. The original post is on Facebook with responses here: www.facebook.com/tribute.

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My younger brother, Jeff Guignard, passed away last night about 1:15 a.m., holding hands with a dear family friend.

He was my only sibling and my best friend, and the sense of his loss is so profoundly unrecoverable that I feel half of me died along with him.

Jeff was stricken with a sudden and frighteningly aggressive form of stomach cancer. Three months ago he was a healthy, strong man, living life as normal with no health concerns but for a mild pain forming in his stomach; in the course of only three months he fell deathly ill and withered to a skeleton, so weak as to barely raise his arms. He was fighting it to the end, but last night his heart gave out. He was only 36.

Jeff truly lived life his own way; he never pretended to be someone he was not, but accepted his fallibilities as frankly as he did his strengths. He spoke his mind, did whatever he wanted—to a fault, sometimes—was independent, loyal, and genuinely endearing to every person he met. Funny, brazen, sensitive: my brother brought energy and joy with him wherever he went. He dressed the same as he did in high school; Vans sneakers and baggy shirts, and everyone knew Jeff would always be the first to drop whatever he was doing and rush to the aid of someone he barely knew, whether it was to help them move apartments, lend them money, or sit with them in time of crises. He would open up on the most personal of topics with anyone, and he had a thirst to know and experience everything in the world. Jeff held himself back with mistakes made during his twenties, but as those years faded, he turned everything around and made amends to all including himself. He worked hard, developed a love for skydiving, sharpened his self-confidence, shared new goals and dreams; spent every other weekend at my house, playing with my kids, being the best uncle, and then suddenly this cancer hit him. It just seemed he was on the verge of finally ‘finding himself,’ of making it…

These past three months have been the hardest, most despondent time of my life. Once Jeff was admitted into the hospital, he was hooked up to machines and never able to again leave. Every day his condition worsened in some way; Debilitation, fatigue, pain -- Doctor after doctor would come in and just tell him he was going to die, and there was no hope. Though Jeff often did feel forlornness, he never gave up that hope. He and I worked through treatment plan after treatment plan, and though each failed, and he got sicker and weaker by the day, and more doctors would come in and tell him to ‘give up’, ‘to pick a hospice to die in’, and Jeff and I would cry together after the doctors would leave, we’d then discuss options, alternatives, vow not to give up, and we’d tell them to f**k off, and he was going to make a recovery and storm back in there one day and show them all...

The first two months of the cancer, Jeff felt the most depressed, and angry and scared. It was all so sudden, all so unexpected. He did not want anyone to know or see him in that condition; he wanted friends and family to remember him the way he was—healthy and smiling and independent. For those who texted or called Jeff, and never received response, please understand it was only his dejection at circumstances, not to mention the amount of effort in responding to so many well-wishes when he needed to rest. He was never alone though; my mother and I rotated shifts and spent every day with him, so he’d never be unattended. My life became a daily itinerary of how much time I could spend with him, and what we’d accomplish during that time. We’d watch movies, share memories, and often just sit in comfortable silence next to each other, lost in thought as to life and loss, regret and accomplishment, and the ever-gnawing fear of what the next hour would bring. I cried more for him than he did for himself.

The last, third month, Jeff gained acceptance of his disease and opened himself up to having friends visit. Thank you all so much, who came, and I’m sorry for those who were planning to come soon but did not make it in time. I tried to schedule his visitors so that he’d have around-the-clock care, without being overwhelmed by too many at once. Know though, I passed on every message to Jeff and let him know who I’d scheduled, and the size of his smile at every name I spoke reminded me of my brother from just three months ago, running and playing and healthy and free...

Even though Jeff’s condition was extremely delicate, I still had treatment plans for him and prayed so hard every day, believing that even with the most remote chance, he’d still be able to make a miraculous recovery and be around another fifty years... even in the face of every grim report and doctor visit, there was no way my little brother could be taken so soon... I tried so hard for him, and I’d have given anything to have saved him... but, God, I’m rambling and pouring tears now as I write this...

My memories of him are overwhelming, each more dear and cherished than the last, which makes it all the worse that they’re gone and I can never share in those things again: eating cinnamon rolls at the breakfast table; watching horror movies late at night; talking about books, about news, about gossip, friends, work, anything. My brother just made everything better in my life. Each time he would knock at my front door, my day brightened.

Jeff was my greatest champion, and I his. I knew my brother would support me in anything, regardless of how rash or careless the decision might be; he’d tell me that I shouldn’t do it, but then he’d be there for me anyway if I did. Regardless of my guilt, he’d be on my side. That’s not a characteristic one wishes in most people around them, but it was an immense assurance to know that no matter what, he’d have my back.

Jeff loved death metal music, astronomy and science fiction, high fantasy, Nintendo video games, junk food, books, and Monster energy drinks. He was an animal lover, a pacifist, enjoyed swimming, and most of all socializing with friends and family.

He hated computers, social media, banks, shopping, and pickles.

Jeff graduated Charter Oak High School, class of 1996.

He was impeccably polite. Every nurse that came into his room, Jeff would say hello, and ask them about their shift. They’d ask him how he was feeling, and he’d inquire the same of themselves. He’d thank and compliment every technician, therapist, nurse, who provided care, every time. Even when Jeff wasn’t part of their shift, nurses he’d had in the past would visit him to offer hope and assistance. When we left today, too many of the staff to count approached me to share tears...

Jeff was a ferocious driver, and in three years accumulated thirteen traffic tickets, all of which he somehow got dismissed by judges through charm and tenacity.

One time Jeff won a telescope on The Price is Right.

One time he and a friend won a trip to the Marlboro dude ranch in Montana for two weeks of partying, sports, and pampering.

One time an 18-wheel truck drove over his car, crushing it, and dragging it half a mile down the freeway. There was nothing left of the car but a pocket of air in the driver’s seat, from which Jeff emerged, unscathed.

One time Jeff was a child, and he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. His favorite flavor of shake was strawberry and then it changed to cookies-and-cream. His favorite color was blue.

One billion times and more, Jeff brought the purest of happiness into my life, and into the lives of so many others.

Jeff was a beloved son, friend, brother, brother-in-law, and so much more, not to mention the most wonderful uncle a child could have. He’d come over to visit my son, Julian, often, reading to him, playing games, making up stories, telling jokes –– It was like I was living vicariously though my son, playing with my brother again as we did when children. Julian loved his Uncle Jeff so much, and asked about him daily...

I just can’t believe he’s gone... can’t believe it, can’t believe it.

Thank you to my wife, Jeannette Vasquez-Guignard, who supported me and loved Jeff as much, to my mother and father, and to his numerous friends that helped to give comfort, write letters, offer assistance, etc. Among them (not limited) include Miguel Holguin, Amber Sambrone, Michele Vaughn, Janie Igler, Erik Jansen, Kim Johns, Marisa Leigh Roman, Jennifer McGuigan-Wingfield, Regina Croom, Misty Acero, Mike Clayton, and so many more I'm missing, not to mention those who provided much needed advice and empathy during this time to myself.

I love you, little brother, and I’ll miss you forever. I know every person you touched will say the same, that their lives will feel a little emptier, sadder at your loss, but also having been made fuller by knowing your smile, your laugh, your empathy and sensitivity.

R.I.P. Jeffrey Brian Guignard, 11/13/1978 – 9/29/2015

I hope and pray that whatever occurs in the afterlife, you’ll be there with me when my own time arrives...


 
 

*** I also created a shared album of photos of Jeff on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/pictures


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Online condolences may be shared at either of these obituary links:



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VIDEO TRIBUTE

I created a photo tribute video for my brother’s memorial service. This video montage covers his life in chronological order, but still only represents such a tiny part of who he was.




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