Lost in the mail

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At the end of July, I received a response from a magazine editor regarding some writing submitted to them last September. This came as a surprise, because I’d forgotten all about it. September 2016 was when I started submitting work more regularly, and many other pieces had gone out to various publications since then. Some responded within weeks, several within months, and one or two responded within days.

When the lag time between pressing send and receiving feedback is nearly a year, it can be a bit discouraging. If the publication you’re submitting to does not allow for simultaneous submissions, whatever you  choose to send them is off the table until such time as they accept or reject it, or you withdraw it from consideration. Most of the publishers I’ve considered–and all that I’ve submitted to–have wisely chosen to use electronic submission systems. This is as efficient as their process is going to get.

With such long response times being fairly commonplace, especially among the more well known publications, there is not much to be done about it, other than try to make your own process as efficient as you can. For my part, I’ve been rotating among some faster responding sites and periodicals when material becomes available while waiting on responses from one or two of those that take half a year or more.

Some of what I send out next is new writing, some pieces are reloaded and sent off to another prospective home. This varies, depending on what the writing is. Short stories go solo, poems go in groups of threes, fives, or whatever other number a particular editor is willing to accept per submission. Poetry is still a tough sell, as it probably always has been. But, whether it’s poetry or short fiction, there are any number of publications where a given piece of writing might find its place.

As of this moment, I’m awaiting word on three submissions, putting together the next two, and planning where to go after those. Pieces are moving all the time. Keeping the process electronic makes things more efficient for me, and for editors on their end, but there is still the time between.

 


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7/7/17

Today is an empty box on the calendar. It’s Friday, which is great, but nothing is scheduled to happen today.

Things that are in the process of happening:

Writing the first of the final chapters in novel #2.
The Nook release of Hidden Leaves will be soon.
Ten poems are out on submission, five are ‘in progress’ in Submittable.
Three scripts are complete in another project. (Story drafts)

My first beta reader has read through all of my current manuscript and pronounced it good. She reads a lot of mysteries, and her comments were encouraging. It’s important to me that it works as a mystery, leaving aside the elements of the story that are more urban fantasy or paranormal. There will be a few more beta readers added after the manuscript is complete.

That’s it!

Time for more coffee and typing.

I hope everyone has a great Friday and an even better weekend.

Writing through depression

Depression runs in my family. Over the years, I’ve had some pretty dark days.

During the time I’ve been working on The Ghosts of Autumn I have experienced a few depressive episodes. The important thing–to me–is that in rereading the manuscript, I can’t tell which days those were. The scenes in the novel are what they needed to be. The best that I could make them be at the time they were written. There isn’t a point in the book where I could clearly say “damn…things must have sucked on the day I wrote that” The dark scenes are dark, the funny scenes are fun, there are light moments in the serious scenes and some darker moments in scenes where the characters are not in any danger. The tone that I wanted to create is there throughout the whole of the story.

I’ve blogged about the depression itself over on my personal tumblr blog, which seems to have become only an annual event (every time I get an email wishing the blog a happy birthday, I remember it and sometimes post something).

I’m mentioning that for only two reasons. One, Tumblr is the only social media site that actually asked me important questions when I searched for a depression related hashtag. It gave me an info page with hotline numbers and asked if I was okay. Then it went on to suggest a few blogs to follow. No other site has done anything like that. It reminded me of an online game I used to play when my girls were very young. Guild Wars was the only game I can recall that did anything like that. It would give a chat message saying something like ‘you’ve been playing for four hours, please take a break‘. In reality, I had been parking my character in safe spots and getting up to go do things like laundry or dishes, checking on napping toddlers, etc. in between completing quests. So I hadn’t actually been playing that entire time, but I appreciated the thought behind it.

The other reason is that whenever I am dealing with a serious depressive episode–or even if I just need a little “me time” to recharge after dealing with too many people, I tend to vanish from social media. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed over the years. If I’ve withdrawn from posting, commenting, and/or even ‘liking’ things, or I just haven’t logged in at all on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram for a few days that’s when I’m not doing okay. If I’m online and interacting with any posts by friends or other accounts that I follow, it’s better than when I’m just not bothering to connect at all.

I might still be feeling down, but if I’m engaging in any way with something someone else has posted it can be a productive thing. Sometimes I am just reaffirming that I am not alone. It can be a way of confronting it and trying to work through it–especially if it is specifically depression related. Other times, I might just be looking for a distraction to help me feel better. Many times, that actually works. Like many creative people, my mind runs at a hundred miles an hour, and doesn’t always stop until I sleep. I’m constantly imagining things, questioning things, and recreating things in my mind. It’s an almost continuous flow. Montages of things real and imaginary, all the time. When stuck in a negative feedback loop, things can go downhill pretty fast. But when I am able to flip the script with a new thought that I like, or a positive emotion, it is possible to ride that right out of whatever funk I am in. Nothing works all the time, but this has happened with just random discoveries online. It’s all in how you use it.

It’s in times like these where staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen can lead to nothing at all, or an eruption of creativity that leaves me wondering why it can’t happen more often. The days where progress is made–or not made–in a less emotional manner don’t leave an impression on me. It’s those times where it’s been difficult to focus through the glitches in my stream of consciousness that have given me the most hope. Because slowly but surely, something that is its own thing has been created through consistent effort. It can be read like any other book I might pick up on a bad day, and the story holds my attention. That’s how I know. In the end, everything is going to be okay.

Character counts

During my last read through of the manuscript for Ghosts of Autumn, I counted character names. Not just any character with a name, but those that are key to the story. They are not all “main” characters, but each moves the story forward in some crucial way.

There are of course many other characters named in the book. Some are in scenes with the primary characters that have the most dialogue, others are named but have no lines or never appear in a scene, and there has even been a couple that were given lines but were not given names. Those were crowded scenes.

As of this post, the story is about 85-90% complete, and there are 45 characters that have large parts in it, or whose parts moved the story forward in various ways.

Those are the characters that advance the plot through their words and actions consistently. At times, some of them have changed the entire trajectory of a scene because a character moment occurred that I didn’t see coming until I got there. That time Lieutenant Blanco quoted my protagonist, Detective Vincent Salvati, as saying “you can’t spell Deacon without OCD.” comes to mind. It seems an offhand comment in the scene, but it was an important character moment for all three of them. Salvati never says this in the book, he is only quoted as “always” saying it. The scene was going somewhere else up to that point, but that was too good to pass up. It has Salvati’s sarcasm, Blanco’s bluntness, and tells the reader something they might not have noticed about Detective Deacon up to that point. All in one line.

There are a lot of moments like that where scenes turned on a character’s personality. I like this cast of characters a great deal. Even when they don’t do what I tell them.

Contrast

A stately procession

of perfect silhouettes

cast in proper fashion

of shadow play etiquette

dissembling (i

t

s

da

mna

b

ly

gninedaed

Projected princes, princesses

Kings, Queens and combatants

a pantomime of yesterdays

successors and advancements

we are

tahw

we

yldetaeper

d

o,

dearie

os t’nod eb a teppup

–turn things on their heads!

–nrut sdaeh no rieht sgniht!

Why not?

© 2016 Peter Newland


Ideas. Where do they come from, anyway?

This poem is one that isn’t going to be submitted again. (It was part of one submission last year as a counterbalance to the more structured poems that I was trying to sell at the time, but no dice). It’s one of those that doesn’t fit anywhere. It may be in the collection I put out whenever there is enough of them to call it a collection. It is interesting, but was just a weird little experiment in styling with some e.e. cummings influenced word play and formatting fun.

It could have gone on, with the same contrasting verses style, but it would have been just more of the same. It’s the rare poem that holds my attention and genuine interest beyond a page length. Once you’ve got the idea across (whatever it is) it is done. Poems are odd things anyway. Even poets don’t always like poetry. I’ve written songs, stories, poems and essays, and every other form of writing is easier to access, understand and comment upon.

It depends as much on mood in the moment of reading as it does on anything else, really. In putting together recent submissions, one day I might feel a verse truly missed the mark, and on another might not see anything else that could have been done with it to convey that idea. So I can understand how someone might look at the above and think “WTF is this crap?” I have myself. At other times, it seems okay. It is just a sort of short hand Socratic dialogue in verse form. “Contrast” is point-counterpoint, call and response structured and non in the same poem.

It is just discussing the pretense we engage in when we structure expression along certain lines, which can be done beautifully, but is a contrivance. So the imagery of pomp and circumstance in some measured, precise lines and then the Jester says “yeah… screw that.

It was fun.

Some of the other poems I’ve struggled with recently are more structured. Some seem to write themselves and the expression of the idea is not terribly difficult to fit into the form I’ve selected. Other times, it’s just brutal. Yes, if we keep working at it, we can always craft the verses into something workable. If we do it well enough, we may even find a way to keep the meaning we intended clear. It’s only when we somehow surpass even that stage that our meaning might be conveyed to a reader  without too much pondering on their part. Writing evocatively becomes more challenging when you are restricted to fewer words. Everyone should try writing poetry and songs, even if that isn’t really their thing. Just making the effort can teach us a great deal.

Glitches in the Matrix

Ever have one of those days/weeks/months?

Where time slips away from you while you are a) doing what you are supposed to be doing and/or b) doing what other people were supposed to be doing, and thus c) getting not much done because of the many points where a) and b) intersect in your life?  Like glitches in The Matrix, weird stuff just keeps happening that shouldn’t happen in a well maintained virtual reality.

So it’s Monday, and nearly the end of February. I killed my workout earlier today, then went and ran errands. Came back to edit an exercise video (from the workout I filmed) and the camera goes into charge mode. This is an annoying looped state of uselessness where it does nothing but flash the “charging” symbol and won’t shut off even if you unplug it–even though it’s not really “on” either. Oh sure, the screen lights up, but will it allow input? No. It will most likely stay just the way it is until fully charged because that’s what cameras do when they’re begging to be replaced!

Earlier this month, I went to upgrade a software application for my consulting biz and the payment failed. This was after needing to send my web hosting provider a renewal payment through Paypal because that charge also was denied. Were there funds in the account? Absolutely! Was there a problem with the new chip card? Apparently not, as I found a competing app while trying to locate an alternate payment option for app #1, and there was no trouble with that transaction. So. New app. Now all I need to do is port over all the data I had in my ex-app to the shiny new app. I still have no idea why Armed Forces Bank hates charges from perfectly legit businesses in Vancouver, BC, but apparently that’s mutual. At least one of the charges that didn’t go through didn’t register on my bank’s end.

And that was prior to Facebook denying an ad campaign for this same biz by saying “your ad wasn’t approved because the image depicts physical attributes in a way that may upset some viewers.” This was a surprise. Never had that happen before. Once I saw the part that said “you can appeal this disapproval” I thought–hey! I’ll do that. Someone will then see that the image in question is in fact the header image to the biz page on Facebook. Then there will be no problem. Right? Wrong. FB apparently doesn’t want small businesses advertising with them (at least not those that show images of what might happen to you if you get off your ass and work out).

So, thanks everybody! Those were very effective time wasters.

After all that, I printed out a script and wound up needing more ink.

When I find Agent Smith I am going to Kung Fu the living hell out of him.

 

 

The “Other” other story project

A few nights ago I printed out the first script of the story drafts of  another project I am working on whenever time allows. This is an A/V project that I hope one day to film and put out there. It has a diverse set of influences, so the project will involve an original Urban Fantasy storyline, some martial arts choreography, a design aesthetic inspired by Steampunk/Cyberpunk–but is neither, and  a few other experiments I’d like to see happen with special fx and drone footage.

This will be an Indie project, and I am hoping to be involved in every aspect of its development and production so I can learn as much as possible. One of the first steps I am going to take after finishing the next two scripts, is to show them to two of my old martial arts teachers who have both worked on multiple Kung Fu movies and get their opinion on what challenges we might face in realizing the vision for the story on screen. After that, I’ll be moving on to working out the specifics of some of the choreographed fight scenes I’ve been imagining, and commissioning some more high level concept art of some of the design elements that will be well beyond my ability to create.

For now it’s just one of the stories I am working on. When I take the binder with the first three episodes of the story to my advisers for feedback, it will start to become a much more ambitious project with multiple collaborators. I’m looking forward to that.

The story has been building itself in my mind for  a few years now. It has influences from Babylon 5, to the Dresden Files, Bruce Lee movies, Warehouse 13, and some very impressive Indie productions that made themselves look amazing with very little capital behind them. The quality of independently produced entertainment has skyrocketed in recent years. From DSLR cameras that can film cinema quality imagery, to special FX software that is more affordable than ever, effects that were very high end years ago can now be replicated at your house with enough time and effort. It’s an amazing time to be alive!

When it reaches the point that it is more than an idea I have in development at the hacienda, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. Whatever form the project takes, once it’s more than just me and the narrative of the story, it will get its own social media channels, website, and whatever else it needs to reach the audience that might enjoy it. Until then, it may be the subject of the occasional blog topic, because there is a lot that goes into realizing a story in film. One of my primary motivators in considering the idea was that there would be so much to learn, and the opportunity to collaborate with other artists in a variety of areas to realize the story in a multimedia format. That, to me, is inspiring. In this story I have much more to look forward to than just sitting alone in a room pouring words onto a page. There will be other people involved! I hope I remember how to talk to people that aren’t only in my head. That could help. 🙂

Now that I’ve blogged about it, I have to get back to writing the first draft of the next script and then get back to work on the second novel that is making itself difficult for me to finish.

Until next time, true believers!

 

The Ghosts of Autumn

A few years ago I decided to try participating in NanoWriMo.

It wasn’t something I had done previously, and if I am recalling correctly I got to about the halfway mark of the word count goal before getting stuck and putting the project on the shelf for a while.

The premise of the story never changed, but the approach in writing the story did. I thought initially that I would follow three perspectives through the narrative, but after some experimentation, it became clear that to achieve the tone I wanted for the tale, it needed to center more on one character’s journey. Other viewpoints still come into play at several points, but the novel turns on the growth of one point of view.

It is interesting how the tale has changed and yet at times still seems the same in my mind. While writing, in my mind’s eye I can shuffle through the scenes that never happen in this version, and touch on events that won’t be seen in the final narrative, but they are still part of the story. What we end up with is the director’s cut, if you will. When the version I have settled on as “final” is submitted later this year,  it may have an editor’s cut as well before seeing the light of day.

The working title when it began was Perspectives–and was always intended to be a working title. After making the changes to the old narrative, and finding a better balance when alternating POVs, I’ve renamed this novel The Ghosts of Autumn. It captures the spirit of the story. There is a unique collision of influences in it, from Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series to Edgar Allen Poe’s tales of horror and suspense, among others. It has been fun to write ever since the story told me how it had to go.

I will keep updating on the process as this story wanders out into the world. It has a few more stops to make.

Hidden Leaves

the novella cover

Hidden Leaves is on sale at amazon.com thru the 18th of January!

Dani Brandt turned sixteen without her father and grandfather. Her family moved away from the only home she had ever known to escape the stigma of her grandfather’s trial. He was exonerated of the murder charges, but that didn’t matter to most people. A year after her father passed away she reaches her breaking point–setting out to prove her grandfather’s innocence. Enlisting the help his oldest friend, Mr Deveraux, Dani takes a daring risk to uncover the truth. But he warns her that “whatever you think it is…it’s not what you think it is.”

https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Leaves-Peter-Newland-ebook/dp/B01JM541JY/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1484339791&sr=8-4&keywords=hidden+leaves

 

Hello world!

This is a test of the non-emergency post-cast system. Had this been an actual emergency, I would have been frantically texting somebody or dialing emergency services. IF this posts, there is  no emergency.

Next time: an actual post!