Strolling through the city of ghosts Mine and others Life lessening; remnants many The only commodities exponentially growing The less-ness and the dead Faces curl by, mighty and mellow Jesting jesters Secret stalkers Smooth and lined Chiselling the face of ages Charcoal sketches in a dusty book My neck cranes from the tarmac To sandstone stretching skyward Behind blacked shades I hasten a look Faces carved into stone statues Corrosion of time changes their masks And I see you there Dancing among the gargoyles Faces I’ve known Faces I’ve kissed Faces long dismissed Echoes of ancient conversations Undertows hidden behind music Soothing ears and fears with every pluck and stroke Muffling hyper consternation Rapid beats in the throat Lost words imprint the atmosphere Bare toes curl into the black cracked pavement They keep remaking it Covering the splits The old tracks; spectre paths Undertows ripple underfoot Soon only remnants shall remain Ruptured I’m one of them; a mere echo In this Undertow City.
May has, so far, been a fairly empty month as far as writing is concerned. Consciously so, but I still feel like I should be, even with the lack of time — notes and scattered lines to come back to only.
I have been dipping into a collection that I was (semi) planning to release this summer and designing some cover-art options to help inspire the project and move it along. The collection (if I release it) will consist of previously published short stories, whose rights have reverted back to me, and a few pieces that haven’t been printed before. I’m still undecided on whether to release it or not when it’s complete. That project is still in the compiling stage.
Since my last post, two of my submissions have sold! Very pleased with those. My short stories, Collector’s Edition and Always Time for Tea, will be published this summer. These were both invite-only opportunities. Even with that faith from the publisher(s), the submission nerves are probably a little more pressurised than those from an open-call — so, yes! I am delighted the stories were each received well!
One is a horror fairytale twist inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the other was (mildly) inspired by a documentary I watched a while back blended with the habits of a horror-fan collector. I’ll share more about those when the publishers have made their announcements and we have a release date.
Editing work has had my primary focus in May. This has been a good break from writing projects. Editing flexes a different creative muscle and is no less fun — especially when it’s not my own work! It’s nice to have a canoodle inside other creatives’ brains (words) and is an immense privilege, which I am always grateful to be entrusted with — especially developmental work.
Releasing this month is Mythical Creatures of Asia from INSIGNIA STORIES, in which I have three drabbles featured; To Be Unborn, Beneath the Mangoes and Seasoning Earth. I loved writing these little morsels. This eBook is available to pre-order now, dropping live on 10th May.
Self-Publishing and submitting; what I’ve learned so far, which admittedly, may not be much. It is what it is.
I’ve never considered traditional publishing, potentially because I can be a bit of a control freak (I hate waiting) coupled with a (sometimes stubborn) passion for self-learning and autonomy. In my view, it seems that there’s a lot of faff down the traditional route to wade through; from finding an agent and/or finding publishers that align with your style/genre/concepts. Jumping through many hoops for potential (likely) repeat rejection. Not that rejection is a bad thing, that too can be a very useful, if not utterly essential, learning and evolution tool. Then there’s if you’re accepted, you may have to change your writing significantly to fit into someone else’s ideals and target audience — a form of censorship and creative dilution, absolutely. Of course, I’m sure when (if) you get through the hoops, the potential for higher earnings and being considered a reputable writer because you’ve been approved and accepted by a higher power may well be worth the faff and hoops. Personally, all that feels like an elitist, bureaucratic headache for the most part.
Self-publishing has a lot of stigma thanks to the structure and standards set by publishing powerhouses. It’s a reflection of many of the institutions of life; be approved by the institution to be accepted by the masses, or you’re worthless. Music is like that too right. I don’t buy it, do you? I’ve read my fair share of tripe churned out by traditional publishers (sometimes due to who the author knows more than what they write), I’ve worked with highly educated fools who think their PhD gives them superiority even with a gross lack of real-life or business experience. They got approved, though. Better than you off the bat, right? Nope, I’m not buying that either. It filters right down through parenting as well — inescapable — must tick the boxes. All a despicable institutionalised, ritualised validation process, a façade that ignores the real nitty-gritty and that thing again — autonomy, passion, grit and authentic nurturing, in life as indeed art. Like the paper, age does not always bring wisdom, especially when one is stunted in their sole path and idealised view, selectively dismissing poorer choices. Or indeed highly institutionalised, even when it comes straight from the patriarchy (or matriarchy in some instances).
To self-publish, there are more and more platforms arising to help support and facilitate those with the desire to do this. There’s a load of work involved, even with a decent host. One must consider the writing, first and foremost, then, of course, there is editing, cover design (eBook/audio/paperback/hardback), book design, formatting, layout (yes, there are some basic standards for that, in respect of front-matter, back-matter, copyright declaration and numbering), narrator/producer (if producing audio). Sure some make it appear easy, but it’s far more involved than many may expect – it’s seen as the easy route to publication after all, right? Wrong. All of this takes time, dedication, learning and money. Of course, corners can be trimmed, but that will affect the end product. And we cannot forget attracting readers and reviewers to the work once it is out there — marketing really is another beast in itself. No, self-publishing is not easy by any stretch. Accessible — yes, easy — no.
I started self-publishing to get to know the process, and while I do love it, I’ve found much value to be gained in submitting pieces to small press and indie publishers. Gaining contacts, connecting with different audiences and driving creativity by rising to challenges I may not have considered solely. I’m not driven by pressure, and much prefer to go with the proverbial flow. There’s no cut and dry Pro-forma of right and wrong when it comes to art, creating it, and sharing it. It comes down to trying different things, and seeing which one resonates and fits with your flow best. In dealing with other publishers, I have quickly established in mind traits that I like and those which are huge turn-offs for me as a (submitting) writer. It’s fair to say once you begin submitting, you’d be mad not to have a ‘list’. Here are a few things that have landed publishers on mine after submission, which ultimately boils down to etiquette and communication:
- Poor communication. Submission guidelines are not only a way for publishers to outline what they want and specify the format, but it’s also a key component for publishers to manage writer’s expectations upfront. What I find massively disrespectful is publishers who don’t respond to a submission – it doesn’t have to be big; a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ is better than zilch. That’s just rude.
- I don’t like arrogance and indie publishers mimicking traditional publishers – if I wanted that, I’d chase traditional.
- When a call says ‘No simultaneous submissions’ but a publisher holds a piece too long, only to reject it, thus removing opportunities for the work to be considered elsewhere. If ‘No simultaneous’ is stipulated – considerations and responses should be swift.
- Editorial changes and queries – I’ve had pieces published with errors that were not present when I submitted, and the queries ignored. Again, poor communication adds to the uphill battle many indies (writers and publishers alike) face. Sometimes support is as simple as acknowledging and owning mistakes.
While I can’t speak for traditional from any sort of experience, other than a reader, it is clear that one size does not fit all — in writing, publishing and indeed life. Sometimes one has to stop dreaming and just do it. Leaving expectations at the door. Jump in, flail around a bit, get over the panicked shock of ice-cold and learn to swim — however that looks. Jump back out and watch by the edge for a bit if you have to breathe again.
But don’t be afraid to at least try. As a good friend of mine often says — fuck it!
Shadows engulf mother Earth, shade and still-cold stretch through half the globe as Batara Candra embraces her most impossible love, Batara Surya. Two halves of a singular coin. Coming together only briefly once every eighteen years. A passing lingering embrace that ripples waves of darkness, causing tides to threaten to turn, waves of anarchy and torrents of cold panic; what if they never let go?
Doomed love or doomed planet by total eclipse — an impossible love where no-one truly wins. Love must pass through the penumbra, saving this world from suffocating darkness or burning light.
Until next time, my love.
Gnashing and gnawing at my innards
Viscera shredded; trauma tombs embedded
Stitch in bells, weigh down the nauseating flapping
Jangle a euphonious jingle
Steady placement of chinked shield
There my guilt brims
Shame for wishing away rapid cell division
Liquor and voluntary scalding
Natures way away
Life folding poured out
Out of Order; terror of disorder
For two, a freshly dug hole
The morning after
Nipping at heals with the snow
A hollow in another garden
There, a piece of my heart lays
A depression for my first’s succession
She wants to see my torment on display
To harvest in morbid grief games
Pretend she’s just the same
Yearning to reap from the suffering leaks of my soul
Observe my lamentations trapped in a fishbowl
To don a cape, be in control
Prodding my wounds, infecting
Imitation empath storing stories
Catalogued, indexed, held hostage
Latching of grief vampires
Sucking ephemeral life’s marrow
Chipping stones off my bones
An archaeologist scraping the shovel
No delicate brushing of bristles
Desecrating my pain
Self-appointed steward on my cradles grave.
This year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo didn’t hit the goal. Winter always seems to be a time of heightened drama, in opposition to the slower, warmer, more reflective side I long for at years end. Quieten the noise, slow down the pace.
It doesn’t seem to matter the ingredients placed in the cauldron; there’s no slow and steady blending and simmer, it’s a sporadically exploding bomb — spewing shrapnel into the eyeballs and the roof, and right now it’s barely holding up. With that my focus was and still is in tatters, December may be more about finding all the pieces again and trying to fuse some sanity and peace.
Anyway, my Backyard Asylum novel project only reached 14k – quite a distance from the 50k goal! I beat myself up throughout November with exhaustion and lack of creative time to drive into it. That’s been quite prevalent this entire year more than just the month, but it did feel more saturated. Such is life; she likes her curveballs and depression likes to wrap her fingers around my throat for periods of total torment. She’s a cruel demon indeed. So, it’s been a case of prioritising basic practical needs over desire. Although creativity is certainly a need, when it’s embedded deep, which fuels desire — without the sparks of passion there is little will to trudge through the more mundane, life has to be more than that — the fight continues. I’m rambling now, this slump shall pass!
So, while Backyard Asylum is written in my head, I have to sacrifice some sleep, muster some energy from the ether and hit the keys — though maybe without the daily word-count pressure, which did me no good this first time around.
Regardless, I am happy with what’s down for this WIP novel — its bones are horrific in a promising way. There’s a lot to work through and develop, but I’m confident it will in time progress so I can nail this first draft and go deep into sculpting and editing through the rough edges. The characters have meat, and there’s some strong scenes pinned already. I spiralled off into research more than physical writing a little more than planned, such is the ‘panster’ way.
As much as I tried to avoid the temptation, I have my eye on a few open-calls for short stories. Nothing new and substantial has been written on the front yet, but there are some ideas stewing, so I’ve some snippets of poetry to go back to and work on to develop into a full-blown piece.
In summary, my first NaNoWriMo died in week two. But, the story itself will come into being, I am pleased with what’s been written so far, it’ll just take a little longer to get there. It’ll be a priority for 2021.
I bring to you another teaser from the upcoming release; Concoction V2. This time a quote from one of Andrew Taylor’s short stories written for the prompt ‘Whisky.’