Thursday, July 31, 2008

Would you like to upgrade your policy?

Finished the Malpractice submissions first draft. Not a bad one, but I need to set it aside for a couple days before doing the revisions.

Basically, it's about an insurance salesman who sells "special" policies for those entering Bloom Memorial for treatment. I like it, as the entire story is basically told in description and one-sided conversation with a restrained, ball-gagged patient.

Clocked in the first draft at 2,268 words. I wanted it to be longer, it just didn't want to cooperate. Oh well.

As always, my call goes out for proofers if anyone's interested, thoguh I'll probably have it revised by the time any replies could get back to me.

J.C. Tabler

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wow, A mid-week post!

Started on a new story tonight, and this one is rolling well. Description and one-sided conversation with a patient bound and gagged on a hospital bed. I like it so far, bout halfway done, and I'll probably finish the first draft tomorrow.

Now, stolen from Cate Gardner:

The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, has estimated that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How do you do?
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM
Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

31...I think...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Doing science and I'm still alive

Woke up this morning, got myself a gun. Actually, we went to church only to find out our pastor is leaving the congregation. I don't like this, not one bit. I like this preacher.

Anyhow, on the writing front. Started another zombie piece as a World is Dead backup, but only have a general outline done. I'll be writing on it next week in between setting up the nursery, this week just got away from me a little. I wrote every night, but mainly just fluff to make sure the pump is still primed. I'd hear a line on the radio or T.V. and write a few apragraphs of a story flash based around that idea. Make sure I'm good to go.

Starting tomorrow, however, I'm getting back into my old routine of spending an hour every night at the computer, even if I'm writing a sentence and deleting it over and over again. I've discovered one thing in my life, and it's if that first line doesn't lead to a second line right away, then there's nothing to it.

I should explain my writing process a little. I don't plan. I have an idea, and I'll mull it over for a while, then I'll start writing. Once I start, I stop only at predetermined points and let the story sit for a few days. I'll then go back, reread the last couple of paragraphs, and get back to work on the story where I left off. A short story can take two writing days, with three/four days of thinking in between. A flash piece is normally done in a marathon sitting, a couple of hours writing and an hour of revision. If a piece really catches my fancy, like a recent zombie story did, it gets written without another thought, tossed in the air, sliced into little bits, and revised. Those are the ngihts I go through an entire pack of cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey.

Planning seems futile to me. Like going on a good roadtrip, a story should change as you make it. I can't force a dramatic piece to be funny, a comedy to be scary, or horror into romance. I have to let the story go where it wants and hope my fingers can keep up with the flow. I used to call it "finding the thread", but I now call it "tuning in". Good stories are like watching television shows with rabbit have to keep them pointed a certain way to have a clear picture. Move around too much, and you end up watching Spanish soap operas and ER flashing in and out through a screen of static, then spend a long time bringing it all clear again.

That said, here's the lowdown on the writing front:

I'm restarting my submission for Malpractice . I think I know what I want to do, mixing it with my dead story "Norton is Watching" to make a creepy little stalker bit about an abortionist and an insurance representative.

"Guilty in God's Court", my outlined piece for World of the Dead is this week's project following a day of rest tomorrow.

I still have about a dozen pieces out, and am once more questioning my e-mail's accuracy in reporting incoming messages. As a result, I'm going to start submitting from my Graveside Tales e-mail.

other than that, not much to report. Hoping to "tune in" tomorrow night and get a big chunk of a first draft knocked out.

If not, then I'll start writing and deleting openign lines again.

J.C. Tabler

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Back to the grindstone

Another week of work over. We'e doing alright, taking calls from people who need help with their health insurance. I've already informed my boss I'm coming after her job after I hit the floor, and next week we get trained in on the last of the basic systems we need to be cut loose from our training bonds. That'll stop us from transferring calls to folks who have the same skill set we have, and it'll stop us from being a general pain for the rest of the Specialists.

Finished up "Rock A Bye Baby" this morning, with only minor changes to it. I was amazed that, in one two hour sitting, I wrote what was basically a finished story. The response is that I'm now working on another Zombie piece because I want to have a backup for The World is Dead . I think it may work out alright, but we'll see.

Other than that, I've just read the amazing Miss Gardner's first draft of her story. I'll have to give it a few moer reads to give feedback, but I'm liking what I see already.

Still waiting on Harvest Hill , and I've decided that, someday, I want to write a novel. Not right now...don't have the time what with kids and all. I'll stick to short stories for a bit. Besides, as Ambrose Bierce (my cat's namesake) once said "A novel is a short story, padded." and "The covers of this book are too far apart".

Dinner party tonight, but before that, let me say one thing about a certain woman in Maine. Check the news, I'm too lazy to link, but this lady found an 8 foot PYTHON in her WASHING MACHINE!

...I'm never doing laundry again.

J.C. Tabler

Friday, July 18, 2008

You know what peeves me?

I know, it's a common complaint but...

...I'm getting sick of editors.

This isn't because of a rejection. I take rejections in stride. This is more because I haven't recieved a rejection in a while. See, there are several pieces (not Harvest Hill ) that are out there right now to certain anthologies (once again, not Harvest Hill ...I love those guys). My problem isn't even these people are still doing considerations.

My problem is that they have stated, several times, that they're evaluating every piece, giving feedback (nice on both), then...apparently...holding every single piece until they're ready to send out all the letters.

This would be fine and dandy, but in a couple of instances the editors are way past the deadline for submission. Look, if I'm going to get a rejection, and if you know you're going to reject me, send out the letter. Please, send out the damn letter. Do you know how stressful it is, long after deadlines have passed, to be sitting around waiting on an editor to "let you down gently"? I've got things to do, stories to write and rewrite, and if you've decided to send me a rejection, send it already! Let me get back to work.

This doesn't apply to those poor souls who have stories on hold...or those fellows with gigantic slush piles to weed through. They get a pass, because it takes them far much more time to evaluate than it did for me to write...all I ask, though, is some simple courtesy. If something is going to take much longer than your projected response date to send, then have the courtesy to give us a mass email and say so.

In a world where projects seem to fold daily, having no news is definitely not good news. It leaves the writer wondering if their work is still viable with a market, or if it should be sent to find another home. I'm not asking for special treatment, just to be updated occassionally on delays that might occur. Considering the deadlines we're given, and the ranting editors do when something is far out of bounds, there needs to be some general courtesy extended to those who submit in relation to timelines.

Alright, I'm done venting. Back to the edge of my seat, waiting for my rejections to come in.

J.C. Tabler

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In the treetop...

So I have some choices. I have a rather long zombie piece, that I'm thinking will never really work as a short story, that I started writing for the World is Dead anthology. tonight, though, I started on something else, a short piece.

It's...I don't know. I'm going to need a critique of the first draft to see what I need to do to it. The zombie thing..well...I came in with an image that was meant to be a background shot, and turned into a 2,027 word short story. I'm not sure what I think of it. I like it, it hints at a world but never goes into strict detail. The ending seems somewhat expected, though. I'm thinking I need some feedback before my edits.

In short, I finished the story I think I'm going to be submitting to World is Dead , the first draft at least, in one two hour sitting tonight. I like the plot, but I may have to expand it. Any volunteer readers out there to tell me this stinks and really needs to be rewritten from the ground up?

I'm thinking of the title "Rock A Bye Baby".


Still waiting on that Harvest Hill rejection letter...

J.C. Tabler

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I Now Declare Crap Month...

Officially closed. I think tonight I managed to break my writer's block with an image of a decomposing corpse reflected in a bar mirror. After that I started another piece, a bartender narrating a ghost story to a patron, with the reader as the patron. No, there's no expected dialogue to be imagined. I just kinda wanted to put the reader into the position of being the guy on the other side of a wooden bar with a talkative (and bored) bartender.

I checked my submission list the other day and came up with:

"Dead Air" at Aberrant Dreams I'm thinking this one either got lost, or was a rejection that never got sent out, or some other such thing. It's been well over 100 days. I had heard stories about slow response times...but man oh man...

"Tribe of Harry" at The New Yorker All I want this year is a rejection on their letterhead and a bit of personalization. That'd be almost as good as an acceptance from anywhere else.

"Demon Whiskey" at Harvest Hill I have no illusions of this one getting accepted, but I am looking forward to the comments when that rejection finally comes in.

"Poppa Bear" at Cause and Effect This piece has been called interesting but too sentimental, strong characters that turn into caricature, etc. The general consensus was that it needed some story work, which got done and got it resubmitted somewhere else.

"The Simple Account of Sergeant Shea, Immediately Prior to the End of the World" at Allegory Ezine , a piece that I had fun writing and submitted after a rewrite only at the urging of the undeniable Ms. Gardner, who insisted it could be found a home somewhere. I don't really mind, it was written for me.

"Big Jim Can Wait" and "Winter Wonderland" at Northern Haunts Anthology , if for no other reason than I had so much fun writing my accepted piece, "Many Comforting Words", that I wanted to write two more.

"Linguistic Prescription" at Postcards from Hell , a surefire rejection in waiting, but I'll be honest, I'm starting to get a kick out of reading the rejection letters for this piece, so I'm going to keep sending it out there.

"Sacrifice of Man and Cloth" at Saint Ann's Review , because, like the New Yorker, I want a rejection from these people.

"No Tell Motel" at OG's Speculative Fiction Magazine . Ever since it got shortlisted and then cut from Voices Anthology , this sucker has been making the rounds, racking up two form rejections in less than a month and a half.

In addition to this, I have a basic idea for the Malpractice anthology if I can get it running, the aforementioned Bar Story got it's first two intro paragraphs done tonight (my writing time must be fit into a busy schedule, don't harp on me), and a developing idea for a serious piece after I finally finish "Norton's Watching".

On other fronts, work is going well. A couple more weeks and I'll be shifting calls without supervision, the pay is good, and even on a tight budget we manage to live a decent life. Worrying now about Christmas, what with three kids and all.'re you all doing?

J.C. Tabler

Friday, July 4, 2008

A post for y'all

Because I have to mow the lawn and go buy fireworks, I don't really have time to do a nice, long update. Instead, I present something from my crap pile, a scene from a story that never got finished and probably never will. without any further pause, here's the introduction to Stranger in My Homeland.

The first Saturday in May, as written about by Hunter S. all those years ago with his limey friend in tow, was decadent and depraved. It lacked the civil or social value that was inherent in every other high class society meeting this town threw. Instead of string quartets and cocktail conversations about recent pieces of art, there were garish hats and strong mint juleps that stained the white linen suits of the men on the way down, then on the way back up as they hunched over a toilet. Meanwhile, from their boxes in the bandstands, those wealthy few watched the teeming masses on a sea of green surrounded by brown track, a mob of humanity that was circled sporadically by the rumble and pound of hooves on mud as thoroughbreds strained by. High society watching low society as the sport of kings separated the two into their proper social standings. It always seemed strangely appropriate to me.
“Damn tourists,” I mutter, stirring tea and staring into the roiling crush of bodies.
A crowd has moved into town in their bright suits and ties, fat men with faces reddened by muggy air and liquor. Their voices bray through the air, calling to one another in an intense mixture of affectionate curses and amounts of lost money. The tongues curl with accents that sound as foreign as Arabic. Clipped words and missing r’s drown out the lazy drawl that normally fills the street. My knuckles turn white against the cool glass.
“One mint julep,” a portly man in a lime green suit yells out, “and make it good this time.”
The green man wraps one fleshy arm around the waist of a blonde haired faux-southern belle. He whispers something in her ear and she laughs, a harsh nasal noise. Her hands flutter weakly in the air to catch the sun on the gold rings that line her fingers, and she licks his ear as she mumbles something back. Judging from the hungry look that crosses the green man’s face, I guess her response was a lewd suggestion that almost overrode the desire to watch horses run.
I watch the crowd mill about in front of Churchhill Downs. Down the street come the raucous catcalls and hoots of the local revelers. Adopted locals, every one of them, as no self respecting Louisvillian would actually attend the Derby. It was an unwritten rule, like nodding to complete strangers on the street when meeting their eyes. The actual citizens, those born and bred on the too-small streets of Kentucky’s largest city, were at home watching the race on TV, placing their bets in small pools, drawing horse names from a hat as they drank heavily with close friends and not in close quarters with heavy people.
“Heigh-ho Silver, away!” the man in the green suit brays a foot away my steps, flinging his arms into the air so violently that his julep splashes over the side of the silver cup and smacks wetly onto the sidewalk, a mixture of booze and crushed ice.
The suit is glaring in this crowd, a beacon of poor taste and too much money. Lime green, so bright that it looks as if it belongs in the window of a seedy bar advertising a second-rate beer in flashing neon, it’s the sore thumb of a gaudy circus. The color isn’t found in nature, isn’t found anywhere down here except on tiny, old black men headed to church or on the backs of pimps down in Portland. It’s a hustler’s suit, a hustler’s color, what money would look like if a madman with a box of markers designed it, and this guy thinks it makes him fit in. What he doesn’t want to say, the loathing and superiority that brought him south to view the sport of kings in a neighborhood of peasants, is shouted by that garish color. It says, very simply, that he has the money and ability to dress this way anytime he wants, that his status lets him pull it off.
“Jackass,” I mumble, taking another sip of iced tea.
The horses would run later in the afternoon carrying their miniature riders. Every breath would be held as the first leg of the Triple Crown played out in a town that, the rest of the year, was considered a backwater city in a backwater state. By the end of the week these people would be in their homes telling tales of rednecks and hillbillies as they dined over tiny portions of overpriced food. While swigging martinis and ignoring strangers they would laugh uproariously at the simple folk of the south, of Kentucky, and swear that they would never come back.
What I’ve never understood is why they even bother to make a pilgrimage down here. Was it to bask in the decadence of a city they knew nothing about, or just to get drunk like the green suit and his whore? They could just have easily stayed home, these two invaders, watched the race on television and placed their bets with some high class bookie in a quiet little bar where a she-he that looked like Marilyn Monroe crooned Ella Fitzgerald in front of a small jazz trio. If they hate us, our city, our people, our way of life the rest of the year, then I don’t see why they should embrace the worst of the state for a few days in May before going back to treating us like the redheaded stepchild of America.
His face goes blank as the julep is swigged, then twists into a mixture of disgust and perverse delight at tasting something that, no doubt, he thinks is a true delicacy of a backwards people. His whore laughs again, a nasal sound that slices into the very core of the skull and dances on the bone. She wants a drink, tugging the cup from his hands and spilling a mixture that no Kentuckian ever really touches down the front of her dress. Even from here I can see her makeup, placed so carefully on cleavage, start to run down the fabric. Any self-respecting woman would have started crying, screaming at the injustice done to such an obviously expensive outfit. Her response is to grab the green man and force his face between her breasts, to lick the offending alcohol off her body. He goes to work at his new job with vigor and determination, sliding his tongue furiously over exposed skin.
Now the mob continues in its movement, pushing along the man in the green suit and his painted bride-for-a-night, a rolling river of decadence surging through the gates of the Downs. I sip the last of my tea, set it on the rusted metal porch table. In an hour it would be time to go to the bar and settle onto a corner stool before the race was run. Once the drunks had lost their money and gone to draw out more they would flood the Rose Bar with their foreign accents and noxious, whiskey-fumed breath. Any longer than an hour’s wait and it would be impossible to find a seat after these invaders on my peace found out there was a bar within walking distance. I heft myself out of the chair, slip my hat over a balding scalp, and decide to brave the crowd in favor of a quiet drink away from this madness.