Apex Magazine founder Jason Sizemore recounts zine’s origins, eyes future

By G. Robert Frazier

The man who founded one of the top online magazines of dark science fiction, horror, and fantasy literature in the country didn’t set out to be an editor. But once he set his mind to it, nothing could seemingly stop him.

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Jason Sizemore

Jason Sizemore is now 11 years into his run with Apex Magazine, with three Hugo Award nominations for editing and a pair of Nebula wins by his writers to show for it. (See Apex’s complete list of awards and nominations.)

“Three things happened simultaneously that caused me to go down this path,” Sizemore confessed during a question and answer session at last month’s Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, Ky. “I turned 30, and for the first time I started feeling mortal, I guess. I had my first kid, and that also made me feel mortal; it’s lot of work and I was always exhausted. And the third thing, I was at a completely dead-end job working for a risk management group for city government as a system administrator for their software.”

A disagreement with his boss led him to quit on the spot and go home to sulk, whereupon he noticed a zine he was a fan of and decided, “I can do this.”

“I did a six-month deep dive into language arts books, I studied the Chicago Manual of Style, and a lot of online stuff, videos; there are tons of resources out there,” he explained.

“I had a few stories published very early on that I hope no one ever has seen, but those early acceptances really gave me the confidence I needed at the time.”

From there, Sizemore pulled the trigger and Apex was born.

Not that things went entirely smoothly. The cost of starting a magazine from scratch led to a steep debt and a lot of consternation. But Sizemore persisted, learning more as he went, and garnered support on the conference trail that helped bolster not only the zine’s reputation but his own confidence.

Today, he even has an award named after him at the Imaginarium Convention.

For those wanting the full story, and a few laughs along the way, Sizemore writes about hisfor-exposure experience as an editor and publisher in the book, For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher.

“I look back at those first few issues I edited and I can’t stand it, because I have all this experience now,” he explained.

As for the writing, Sizemore says the most important maxim to remember is, what works for one person may not work for another.

“There is never one concrete right way of writing. It’s a very different beast from editing. There are very hard set rules for editing. While I do editing 95 percent of the time, I do like to write because there are no boundaries.”

Sizemore said it’s important to set goals with achievable milestones.

“If you’ve tried getting in all the pro zines without luck, then try the semi-prozines. You need an occasional win to keep yourself moving forward.  My growth as a writer reflects that of a lot of writers. When you start out as a newbie, you tend to jump at the first person who wants to publish you. I had a few stories published very early on that I hope no one ever has seen,” Sizemore said, “but those early acceptances really gave me the confidence I needed at the time.”

Sizemore agreed to share some additional insights with Adventures in Writing as his magazine launches its annual subscription drive.

When you’re not on the conference trail, what’s your day like?

Sizemore: Emails. Lots and lots of emails. Oh, and coffee, can’t forget the coffee. I spend a lot of time scheming with my managing editor, Lesley Conner.

My mornings consist of website updates and maintenance, accounting work, and promotional activities. After lunch, I like to do the fun stuff like copy edits, submissions reading, book layout, etc.

What’s the best part of being a small press publisher?

Sizemore: It’s definitely the fact that I’m helping bring something thoughtful and entertaining to the world. I never tire of the thrill of holding a new Apex book in my hands.

Where did your affection for dark science fiction and horror come from?

Sizemore: I give credit to my mom. When I was but a wee lad she and I would have Friday mother/son movie nights. We’d venture down to the video rental shop and pick up great movies like Alien, The Thing, Silent Running, and Lifeforce. Sure, I had some sleepless nights and some terrific nightmares, but it ingrained a curiosity in me regarding the intersection of technology/sf and the darker side of life.

Who are some of today’s writers you follow? Do you read outside your genre?

Sizemore: I have a shortlist of writers who I read faithfully: Mary Doria Russell, Brian Keene, Nick Mamatas, Michael Chabon, Joe Abercrombie, Damien Angelica Walters, Charlie Huston, Richard K. Morgan, and my guilty pleasure Chelsea Cain (I say guilty since she writes ready-to-digest crime novels, but she’s an outstanding writer).

So, yeah, I read outside my genre all the time. About the only stuff I don’t read are romance and urban fantasy.

You describe yourself repeatedly in your book, For Exposure, as a somewhat shy, socially averse person. That’s a common trait among horror writers and writers in general, isn’t it?

Sizemore: Oh yes, most people in the book publishing business are introverts. Except for agents.

I’m way more outgoing than I was just ten years ago. Running a public facing small business requires you to be able to stand up in front of crowds, to be occasionally gregarious, and learn how to hob knob.

apex-magazineWhat’s on tap for the magazine in 2017?

Sizemore: We have two special guest-edited issues that I’m excited about. Maurice Broaddus is taking the reins this coming April for an issue. In August, Dr. Amy H. Sturgis is editing an issue focusing on indigenous authors. Right now we’re having a subscription drive to raise money to expand our fiction offering and to increase our pay to our writers.

Apex has been nominated a few times for the Hugo. Short of killing the editors at the competition, what’s it going to take to win one of them?

Sizemore: Now that Apex Magazine is now considered a “pro zine” and not a “semi-prozine” it has become quite unlikely we pick up any more Hugo nominations. I’m grateful that we picked up three nominations before we matriculated to the pro-level!

If someone is new to your publication, what do they need to know?

Sizemore: Expect to read stories that will have you thinking about the ramifications of how humans interact with technology, the weird around us, and one another. Not all our stories are dark and foreboding, but a majority are.

If someone were to submit a story to Apex, what’s your best advice for them?

Sizemore: Read one issue of the magazine first. I know many writers don’t have bottomless pockets, so if you can’t afford to buy an issue for $2.99, everything we’ve published can be viewed at http://www.apex-magazine.com. Our stories definitely have a particular style, voice, and tone. If you can recognize it and it appears in your submission, your odds for success will be greatly increased. (Leslie Conner, managing editor at Apex, and her reading team offer these additional tips.)

Can a non-science fiction or horror writer find something to like about the stories in your magazine, or should they just bugger off and go find some commercial fiction to read?

Sizemore: LOL bugger off? I’d never say that to ANY reader.

I understand people have their tastes. Even within the diehard Apex Magazine fan ranks, not every story pleases every reader. Having said that, I do think we offer a broad range of interesting work. The only readers I might warn off are those who can’t handle darker material or they’re wanting a Nicholas Sparks experience.

Special thanks to Jason Sizemore for taking time out from his busy schedule for this interview. Those interested in writing or reading dark science fiction, horror, or fantasy tales, check out Apex. And don’t forget to look over all the offerings in Apex’s subscription drive.

Around the Web: A curated list of book news, writing tips and more, because, well,…books.

By G. Robert Frazier

So, I read somewhere that bloggers like myself shouldn’t waste time with these sorts of curated lists. The argument is that it doesn’t say anything about you, the writer, and it potentially sends readers away from your site. I can see the point of that argument, but I don’t entirely agree. For one, I think the following lists say a lot about me. The links below clearly show my interests in the industry and my support for other writers. If I see an industry-related article that might be entertaining or useful, I’ll share it. That said, here are some articles I’ve come across in the last few weeks you may find interesting:

The Authors Guild has now opened up member services to new and unpublished authors, as reported by Digital Book World. The $100 per year Emerging Writer Membership includes a quarterly newsletter, access to liability insurance in case you get sued for plagiarism or libel, marketing and social media advice (that you can get all over the internet), invites to seminars, workshops and writing events (not discounts, mind you, but invites!), access to their writer’s resource library of helpful articles and tips on publishing and promotion of your work. For a complete list of Emerging Writer Membership benefits and details on how to join, visit authorsguild.org/join/emergingwriter. Seems like most of these things you can get now for free by just doing some Google searching.

Amazon has made more changes to its review policy. This time it’s banning so-called incentivized reviews, which are reviews for products, including books, given away in exchange for “honest” reviews. The argument is that those doing the reviews aren’t being entirely honest since they are basically being “paid” for the review by way of a free book. As a result, there are more five-star reviews from incentivized reviewers than your routine readers. Read about it here.

The 2016 National Book award-winner will be announced Nov. 16 in a ceremony in New York City. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is among the five finalists for the honor. Parnassus Books co-owner Ann Patchett, during her booklaunch for Commonwealth in Nashville, said she believes Whitehead will win all the big awards this year, including the Pulitzer. As something of a Civil War buff, I already had plans to read the book. But when he came to Parnassus, I made sure to be there and get an autographed copy. I’ve still got a lot of books ahead of it in my must-read pile, but I’m hoping I can get to it before the year is out.

LitHub recently shared Junot Diaz’s introduction to the Best American Short Stories of 2016, all about his fascination with the literary short form.

Here’s Benjamin Percy on the books he wants to write, a combination of the best of genre and the best literary stylings. I’ve always enjoyed genre novels and never really had room for the so-called literary masters of the craft as I considered them boring and long-winded. I craved action and adventure, thrills and chills. Still do. But, lately, I’ve found myself picking up books I normally wouldn’t. Books like Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington, El Paso by Winston Groom, and the aforementioned Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Books that are literary, but combine action, mystery, and intrigue within their pages. It’s not that my tastes have changed, but that perhaps they have matured. On the one hand, I believe the more I read of such books, the more exposure to their style of fine writing and sentence structure and vocabulary, the more it will rub off on my own writing. In the end, it can only elevate a simple genre tale to a more impactful, meaningful story. Maybe I’ve come to this realization a bit late in my writing career, but I’m willing to explore it. I’m willing to expand and broaden my horizons. That, folks, is how you constantly learn and better yourself. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone. Explore your potential. Hopefully, in the months ahead we’ll see if my new reading habits are reflected in my writing.

The Hollywood Reporter ranked the movie industry’s 25 most sought-after writers, with several novelists making the list.

Jennifer Blanchard shared a handy guide explaining 5 Ways to Plot Your Novel, just in time for National Novel Writing Month.

The always insightful Jeff Goins highlights what professional writers know that amateurs don’t.

As it is approaching Halloween, you may enjoy reading Laura Miller’s introduction to The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which was reprinted by LitHub. It’s a somewhat lengthy treatise about the book, its ghosts and its characters, and Jackson. Once you’re done with that, you may find yourself wanting to read Jackson’s book again. I’d actually love to, but I’ve got a backlog of other books to get to. Maybe next Halloween.

While we’re on the subject of horror, you’ve no doubt heard about all the alleged evil clown sightings. Publicity stunt or urban legend, it has admittedly made for some chilling reading. Naturally, LitHub took the opportunity to share this fascinating story on “The Literature of Creepy Clowns.”

Otto Penzler has a penned the introduction to The Big Book of Jack the Ripper, out this year from Vintage Crime. I’m adding it to my Amazon Christmas list.

And if you are still looking for a horror-themed fix, Kevin David Anderson offers these terrifying episodes of Star Trek as a guide to horror among the stars.

Harlequin is about to cash in on the commercial women’s fiction trend by launching a new imprint to its trade program, Graydon House Books. The books will focus on family relationships and “run the gamut from light-hearted humor to emotional tear-jerkers.”

There are some surprising numbers in regard to ebook sales in the October Author Earnings Report. Despite the fluctuating numbers, one thing is clear: Digital books aren’t dead. If anything, they are making another resurgence for your reading attention. Kensington Publishing, for example, has plans to add two digital-first imprints to its Lyrical Press romance line. And, Comixology is debuting a line of exclusive digital comics. Amazon, meanwhile, is now offering free digital books to Prime members as part of its Prime Reading program. The selection is somewhat skimpy compared to what’s out there, but there are a number of potential good reads included in the program. The freebie program is obviously an effort to get folks to dust off the Kindle. Best thing is there’s nothing to lose if you pick a book and don’t like it, ‘cause it’s free. I personally don’t like reading digital books and prefer a physical book to thumb through, and I’ve got more than enough of them on hand already.

I recently saw an advance screening of Deepwater Horizon and thought it was a well-done, though very grim movie. Screenwriter Peter Berg recently related the fascinating account of the challenges encountered in bringing it to the screen.

I recently saw The Girl on the Train at the theater and was a bit disappointed. The movie dragged in many places, the main character was irritating, and the climax wasn’t worth the slow buildup. The Guardian’s latest film blog says the film heralds the return of the Hitchcockian thriller, but I think it falls short of such platitudes. Hoping the book, which I haven’t read yet, will be better.

Podcasts

BookRiot compiled this handy list of 30 podcasts for writers, but, dammit, who’s got time to listen to podcasts when we should be writing!

And finally, there’s this: the new trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Just ‘cause, you know, Star Wars.

‘Til next time…

Around the Web: Inspiring advice for writers and readers

By G. Robert Frazier

Every once in awhile I skim through my favorite websites or newsfeeds in search of interesting stories on writing and reading. I like to share those articles for other authors and readers who may like to draw inspiration from them. I haven’t posted one of these in a few weeks, so this one is extra long. Enjoy!

Author Anthony Hamilton grew up as a dyslexic who couldn’t read in an environment where reading wasn’t stressed as being important. Today, he’s a published author. Here’s his inspiring story.

Writer Alan Lewis shared this important story about a fellow writer who lost his battle with depression. It’s a moving story and something many writers experience. Writing is a difficult craft full of emotional ups and downs, self-doubts and personal triumphs. Sadly, it doesn’t always end well. I’m thankful to know Alan and many other writers like him in the Nashville Writers groups who meet each week to provide support and encouragement for each other, whether it’s in the form of a constructive critique or a simple conversation about the craft or life in general.

Literary Hub published this great article about How Books Can Help Us Survive A War.

Noir fiction is enjoying a renaissance. Author Nicholas Seeley expounds on why in this article.

Embracing intellectual messiness goes against our instincts and training as educated people, but writers and artists should accept and understand it as crucial to the creative process. That’s the gist of this message from author Malcolm Gladwell.

Another paying market for writers is falling by the wayside. Sadly, Thuglit announced its last issue will be published in May.

I came across this cool infographic depicting what 20 authors did for a living before they became famous. It’s particularly interesting that none of their previous jobs involved writing, which means when I become famous and join the list I will set a new precedent.

Columnist Leah Dearborn penned an article on the lifecycle of books, detailing how book production impacts the environment. While it’s eye-opening, I don’t think it will affect my book-buying habits.

Barnes & Noble’s longtime leader Leonard Riggio has announced his retirement. The big chain bookstore has oft-times been criticized for spelling the death of small, independent bookstores but at the same time turned his bookstores into a destination for book lovers. The New York Times says that today, the resurgence of indie bookstores has made B&N something of an underdog.

The Mystery Writers of America announced the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards on April 28, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015.

Sana Amanat, Katie Kubert and Emily Shaw all work at the comic book giant that is Marvel, and are helping change the way their stories reflect women and women superheroes. Hear what they have to say in this video from Today.

Writers interested in writing for TV or the film industry should keep a watchful eye on next year’s Writer’s Guild of America negotiations. The WGA’s current film and TV contract doesn’t expire for another year, but guild leaders already are gearing up for negotiations. Some of the hot-button issues it says need to be addressed at the next round of contract talks include cable parity, diversity, free rewrites, free pre-writes, sweepstakes pitching and “bake-offs,” late payments, packaging, creative rights, one-step deals, so-called “paper teams,” the erosion of the “quote” system, the guild’s ailing health plan and the steady decline in pay and jobs for feature film writers.

LitHub offers these eight writing tips from the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, of all things. Just goes to show the power of the written word, regardless of format.

Keith McCafferty makes the case for why writing a short story is the key to becoming a better writer in this article in The Strand.

Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts (William Morrow) captured the top award in the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards from the Horror Writers Association. He and a slate of other winners will receive their prizes at StokerCon 2016 in Las Vegas.

There’s an interesting article on The Guardian’s website on How plot grips us. Writer John Mulan notes: “Plot involves the laying of clues, the implicit promise to the reader or viewer that the true significance of what we read or see is not self-evident, but will eventually be revealed. A good plot exploits not just suspense, but also a kind of retrospective curiosity.”

Novelist William Boyd is the latest author to share his process in My Writing Day, a recurring feature in The Guardian.  Boyd explains how writing long hand is more conducive for him than pounding away at the keyboard, but adds that after about three hours of writing per day he’s spent. I sometimes feel spent before I can get in any writing. My brother says I stay up too late, which makes me tired all day.

If you need a reason to quit worrying and start writing, this column by Corey Mandell might help. I heard Mandell speak at the Screenwriters World Convention in sunny L.A. a few years ago and got a lot out of his discussion, but this column really drives home the point of putting away your fears and going for it.

Speaking of going for it, Steven Pressfield offers The Blitzkrieg Method as one way to power your way through your novel to the end without stopping or looking back. This is sort of the idea behind National Novel Writing Month as well, where you just sit and type furiously until you get to the end. I’ve been meaning to get to the end of my novel, aptly titled River’s End, for some time now and I’m going to try this method.

This is an oldie but a goodie. South Park writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone share an amazingly simple piece of writing advice on the importance of “therefore” and “but”.

Thriller writer John Gilstrap, who I met at the Killer Nashville Writers Conference last year, talks about one of the most important weapons in a writer’s arsenal: the query letter.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and writing! And if you come across a great article about the craft you’d like to share, just do so in the comments sections!

Around the Web: A roundup of articles on reading and writing

by G. Robert Frazier

As you know, I occasionally like to list a roundup of interesting articles about reading and writing. I’ve been meaning to add a new list for a while but have been busy writing, so the list just kept getting bigger and bigger. Herewith, then, is my latest collection for your reading enjoyment. Feel free to comment about any of the items that strike you or post links to articles you’ve come across. 

President Obama will nominate Carla D. Hayden to be the Librarian of Congress; Hayden would be both the first African-American and the first woman to hold the position.Speaking of diversity, blogger Jenny Bhatt wrote this interesting article on

Speaking of diversity, blogger Jenny Bhatt wrote this interesting article on diversity in publishing. The publishing industry should certainly encourage and promote diverse authors when it can, especially based on the statistics, but what we don’t need is a box on submission forms asking the writer’s color or sexual preference. Let’s let our words speak for us, not the color of our skin.

James_Patterson

The LA Times Book Prizes will honor U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and novelist James Patterson. Additionally, five finalists were announced in 10 categories. Patterson is currently sponsoring a contest in conjunction with his online master writing course in which he pledges to co-author a book with the winner of the contest. The catch is it costs $90 for the course and your chances of winning are probably as good as winning the next Powerball jackpot. Still, could you imagine what it would mean to have your name on a book alongside Patterson’s? Talk about a career highlight! I am very tempted to give it a shot. It’s only money, right? And, at the very least, you do get the benefit of learning in his writing course.

The Horror Writers Association has announced its final ballot for its annual Bram Stoker Awards. I so want to read all of these books. But more importantly, I want to be on this list some day. I’ve got a horror novel in the works that I hope to dust off in the next few months.

While we’re talking about genre, which is more important? Literary or genre fiction. Join the debate here. Personally, I’m a genre writer. I like characters that do things, action and mystery. I feel you can explore plenty about the human soul by putting your characters in unusual and moral situations while still being entertained.

The PassengerNPR talks the latest trend in crime thrillers: The ‘Girl’ in the title. Even more interesting are the comments at the bottom of the article, so be sure to read through. I just finished reading a “Gone Girl” type novel called The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz. See my review at BookPage.

If you missed it when it was first posted, here’s Christopher Walken reading “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.

The New Yorker recently cited T.S. Eliot as offering this advice on What Makes Great Detective Fiction.

Here’s a great way to get to know your characters. Interview them and ask these probing questions that CEOs sometimes ask on new hire interviews.

I’ve been saying it all along. There’s just something more to like about an actual print book than a bunch of digital letters flashed on your e-reader. According to a recent study, 92 percent of students agree.

Any sci-fi writers reading this? If so, have you ever wondered what it means to be a science fiction writer in the 21st century? That’s what author Charlie Jane Anders asks in this article over on io9.gizmodo.com.

Author Jo Nesbo has the perfect writing room. He never uses it.

To the sensory cortex in your brain, reading is the same as doing. The words you choose not only have the power to change your readers’ minds. They can also change their brains, according to new neurological research.

Publishers Weekly posted a different sort of list recently: 10 books about loneliness. The cool thing being that in examining loneliness, they also serve as an antidote to it.

Here’s a take on the ever-raging debate of pantsing versus plotting from The Atlantic. It’s from a 2013 article, but still plenty relevant for writers wrestling over how best to approach their craft.

The battle lines have been drawn again against The Huffington Post over its policy of not paying writers for their work. Some interesting reads on the subject (and make sure you read the comments as well to further the debate) at Writer Unboxed, from Chuck Wendig, and Huffington Post UK editor in chief Stephen Hull.  For more on writers getting paid for what they do, check out Kristen Lamb’s blog.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these roundups, and a week since this happened, but it’s fitting that we pay tribute to Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, and Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose, who both passed away recently. In memoriam, BookBub posted seven timeless quotes from Harper’s book, while Eco left this advice for writers.

Have you come across any interesting reads for writers? Share a link in the comments section.

Around the Web: Bazaar of Bad Dreams has everyone talking about King again

by G. Robert Frazier

Every day I scour the web and my newsfeeds for interesting articles about reading and writing. Because I’m such a swell guy, I then like to share the links to the best stories and most helpful advice I come across. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve seen and read this week that may also interest my fellow writers:

The Bazaar of Bad DreamsIf you haven’t noticed, Stephen King has been all over the news this past week in conjunction with the release of his newest collection of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. King is a god among authors so anything he does demands attention and further study. At the Killer Nashville conference this past week several of the panelists referenced King as a major influencer of theirs while also citing his popular book on the craft, On Writing. Novelist James Smythe shared 10 things he’s learned from Stephen King in a recent article on The Guardian’s website. The New York Times did an interesting interview with him this week, describing him as not just the guy who makes monsters. If you still can’t get enough Stephen King, check out this article and video clips from the Dick Cavett Horror Roundtable in 1980 in which he hosts King, Peter Straub, Ira Levin and George A. Romero. And after you read his latest book and reread On Writing and have learned all you can from the master, you can enter the Stephen King Short Story Contest.

While we’re on the subject of horror stories, check out this Art of Stories article on plotting a great ghost story. There are several links to ghost stories to read and other articles on writing ghost stories.

Speaking of short stories, Literary Hub shared an interesting piece from the introduction of 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories edited by Lorrie Moore on why we read and write short stories.

I keep saying I’m going to start a writing journal and this article about John Steinbeck’s writing journal is further reason why I should.

Finally, here’s an interesting video discussion between writers Alan Moore and John Higgs, describing HP Lovecraft, horror, and 20th century America.

Read anything interesting about writing on the web? Share it in the comments section.

Killer Nashville packed with informative panels, best-selling authors

Killer Nashville logo

by G. Robert Frazier

This weekend’s Killer Nashville writer’s conference, which actually gets underway Thursday, promises four days of education, networking, and fun for mystery and thriller writers.

Now that I’ve decided to attend (and catch the Austin Film Fest next year), I’m faced with another set of choices. Like many conferences, the event features a number of panels running concurrently with one another, which means I will have to pick and choose which ones to attend and which ones to skip.

Not exactly an easy task, I might add.

Continue reading

WIP Wednesday: NaNoWriMo perfect time to finish crime-thriller novel

by G. Robert Frazier

I’m following in the footsteps of another blogger who posts updates on their works in progress every Wednesday. I think it’s a great way to let you know what I’m working on, how I’m going about it, and maybe hold myself accountable to getting something done each week so I’ll have something fresh to write about. So, without further needless introductory verbiage, here goes:

I’ve been working on a crime-thriller novel – River’s End — for a couple years now. The novel writing has been through many surges and stalls, but my goal is to have the first draft done by the end of November. I’m probably 30 percent toward that goal, but I’ve outlined and/or written numerous partial scenes to come that should flow pretty quickly once I set my mind to it.

National Novel Writing Month also happens to be in November, so I’m going to use it as the catalyst to completing my novel. NaNoWriMo, as it’s affectionately called, encourages writers to hammer out a novel (or at least a solid start to a novel of 50,000 words) in a month’s time. As I’m already out of the gate, I’m setting my sights on finishing the final 60,000 words of River’s End.

I’ve already introduced all of the main characters – my protagonist, the antagonist, supporting characters, and the like. I’ve got a grisly murder, a teenager who has plunged off a cliff into a river after being attacked by police dogs, a huge stash of hidden drugs, and missing confidential informant for my protagonist to contend with. My Beta readers – which consist of my various writing groups and my brothers – all seem to like the intrigue and building suspense, so that’s encouraging.

I’ve allowed a few other projects to interrupt the actual writing of this novel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least I’ve been writing. Specifically, I’ve spent a vast amount of time of late on a screenplay I’m writing along with one of my brothers. We’ve finished the first draft and are now in the process of revising/rewriting to strengthen the story and erase any plot holes. We’re happy with how it’s going and eager to get to the finish line. Of course, we say that, but we know that we must also be patient. Great writing can’t be rushed and we’re taking our time to get it right.

I’m also always working on a short story or two. I’ve got a drawer full of them that I go back to from time to time to finesse and rework. My goal is to get at least one short story per month into shape so that it can be entered in a contest or submitted to various markets for publication. Last month I sent one off to the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Contest, so we’ll see how that goes.

Until next week, happy writing!

Reading and Writing Around the Web for 7/31

Every day I scour the web for interesting articles, writing tips, and just great reads. It’s all part of my ongoing effort to learn more about the craft of writing. A lot of these come from email newsletters I subscribe to or from my Facebook newsfeed. From time to time I may also throw in my two cents about the topic at hand. Not because I’m an expert, mind you, but because I feel like sharing. I encourage you readers to also chime in if you have any insights or thoughts about the topic. Just leave a comment.

Today’s roundup looks at some stories behind the stories, and, specifically, the authors.

Vacation poster (214x317)The new Vacation movie is now playing, but without the humor magazine’s name in the title. Here’s an interesting story behind the death of National Lampoon magazine.  And, better yet, here’s John Hughes’ actual Vacation story that appeared in National Lampoon and effectively launched the movie franchise. Sadly, the new movie is only receiving mediocre reviews so far. I don’t typically spend money at the theater for a comedy since there aren’t any special effects to ogle over. But, as the original Vacation is a favorite and I can use a good laugh, I’m planning to catch this one this weekend.

You can’t please everyone… Did you know Emily Bronte never knew how successful she’d become, according to this article from Time. (By the way, scroll to the bottom of the Time article for a list of the 100 best young adult books of all time.)

Did you know the newest issue of The Strand Magazine includes an unpublished story by F. Scott Fitzgerald? Here’s a neat little story about Andrew Gulli, the man who discovered the unpublished work. Go get a copy.

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While we’re on the topic of famous authors, here’s another interesting read. This one is a book review about the life of Edgar Wallace, the author who created that most cinematic of giant apes, King Kong. I wasn’t aware of how prolific an author he was, so I checked Project Gutenberg, and sure enough, there are more than a dozen of his stories available to download to your e-reader.

MidianUnmadeCover (198x300)Clive Barker fans should be plenty happy right now. Not only do they have a new book from the author to read set in the Hellraiser mythos, The Scarlet Gospels, but also a new anthology of stories in tribute to his Nightbreed/Cabal universe. Co-edited by Joseph Nassise and Del Howison, the book is titled Midian Unmade. I didn’t realize this, but Howison happens to own an independent horror bookstore called Dark Delicacies in Burbank. Next time I visit my brother in Burbank I’ll also make it a point to visit the store.

Got any good stories about authors to share? Post ‘em in the comments section below!

Ellery Queen, Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines are a steal

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I only occasionally purchase Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines. Not because I don’t want to, mind you, but because I’ve got so much other material to read already (including back issues I still haven’t finished yet.) But, obsessed with reading as I am, when I saw a recent online offer for a dozen double-sized magazines for a measly $16, I couldn’t resist. If you’ve never tried either magazine, and you love a good mystery story, you can’t go wrong with either publication. Some of today’s top authors are featured routinely in the pages of either magazine, and I’ve set my sites  on both magazines for my own short stories to appear one day. (Hey, to be among the best, you have to read the best!).

Do you read short stories? What are your favorite sources for new short stories? Share in the comments section below…

Reading and Writing Around the Web for 7/19

Welcome to another edition of Reading and Writing Around the Web.

Every day I scour my Facebook feed for interesting articles and tips related to reading and writing. Some of these articles are too good to keep to myself, so I’m sharing my finds here. Bookmark the ones you like, read and discard the rest. And if you see something you’d like to share on the craft, by all means add it to the comments section below.

For those of you contemplating self-publishing your work, here’s some interesting things to consider before you do. Both come from author Derek Haines:

The rush to publish (or better yet, why not to rush!)

An essential list every author should read

Jane Friedman’s website included a couple of posts about SELF-e, a business that helps self-published authors distribute their electronic books to libraries. Unfortunately, authors can’t yet reap any monetary rewards from the program.

Another way to help promote buzz around your book is jump on the Pinterest bandwagon. Here’s how.

And now, for something completely different (to coin a phrase), here are a couple of humorous bedtime stories to enjoy (one for you and one for your little ones):

B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures (all-ages)

Gwar’s Oderus Urungus reads Goodnight Moon (WARNING: adults only!)

If you adult readers still can’t sleep after viewing that last one, this one probably won’t help either (sorry):

The true story behind A Nightmare on Elm Street

You may be thinking about screaming right now. Before you do, here’s what scientists now know about screams.

Good night, all!