Category Archives: Writing

Tales from Indie Publishing #1: Putting together a collection of short stories

Credit: Connie Ma / Flickr / License: CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
Credit: Connie Ma / Flickr / License: CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Not too long ago, I tried my hand at writing a novel. I developed a character, set out the plot, and decided on the voice. I wrote several chapters.

It sucked.

The process. The writing. The whole friggin’ thing. I hated writing the novel, and I hated reading what I had written.

I sighed.

How in the world was I going to be a published writer if I didn’t write a novel? My passion, short story writing, is not a lucrative business (as if writing anything is a lucrative business). I’ve had several short stories published, read them at local reading series, and even received many compliments on my work. But, I had never been paid—not one single pennyWhat’s more: if I ever wanted to have a book published, it was going to have to be a novel. Publishers and agents aren’t interested in short story collections. Maybe—just maybe—you can get a short story collection published, if you have a novel that you sell and the collection comes along for the ride. And that’s a pretty big maybe.

Given this reality, I decided that I would publish a collection of my short stories on my own, despite the stigma of being “self-published.” I have the experience of putting together a publication, being the editor of Newtown Literary, as well as the former editor of a teaching journal. What I couldn’t do on my own, I would pay someone else to do. It’s an investment, sure—but what better investment to make but in one’s self.

As I looked at the short stories I had written and had been published elsewhere, I started to see a pattern. Many of my stories, especially those written in the past couple of years, were about myself as a man and all that entails. From being a son to a brother and from being a partner to finding myself newly single, I realized that I was writing about making connections with others and how my gender and sexual orientation impacted that process. The stories that didn’t adhere to that theme, I put aside for a later collection. I sought feedback from friends and considered for a long time what stories to include. My inclination, of course, was to include everything, but that was not going to make it easy to market.

This process is making me be more than just a writer—I’m also becoming a businessman. In my work putting this collection together, I have to think not only as a writer, but also as a marketer and salesperson. I have to think about what I’m going to tell people when they ask me what this book is about. I have to think about where I can publicize the book. I have to think about the cover and how will I visually represent the contents of the book into an attractive cover. I have to think about my “brand.”

Ultimately, I’m enjoying the business side of being a writer. It’s forced me to think about my writing—and myself—on a whole different level. Looking at the short stories I’ve written and trying to find a common element has shown me what I’ve been “doing” the past couple of years as a person, the reflective and intellectual pursuits I’ve been engaged in as well as how I’ve grown. As I design the book and finish the editing, I’m now confronted with the real scenario in which I will be putting my work out there and not just saying, “This is who I am as a writer,” but also, “This is who I am as a person, as a man.”

I’m aiming to have the collection out March 2015, leaving myself enough time to publish a professional piece of work (both in the writing and the visual design) and market it properly. Follow this space, my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, and sign up for my mailing list on the right side of this page to be kept up-to-date on the process.

Sound and Rhythm: A Writing Exercise

In this second of two posts sharing the writing I did during a writing class this past weekend, I experiment with poetic techniques of sound and rhythm. The prompt involved completing the scenario of a couple having a fight then going for a drive, happening upon a deer in the middle of the street.

Jasper drove his usual 10 miles above the speed limit and Nancy kept her usual silence even though it was a particularly winding road. This time, her silence was punishment—punishment for the things he had said. If he had an accident and damaged his precious car, it served him right. She look out the passenger side window, watching the forest blur past, green streaks punctuated with streams of light from the setting sun.

She felt him accelerate, bait for a trap, a trap she was not going to fall for. She kept her mouth shut tight. They rounded a corner, and she noticed he didn’t let up. She turned her gaze to the road—silent, but ready to sound a warning.

As they rounded the turn and the grocery store came into view, she saw it. Brown. Standing there. She opened her mouth, but there was no noise. Jasper said, “Shit” and turned the wheel hard to the right. The deer stayed in its place as they drove onto the shoulder of the road. Gravel, like bullets, hitting the underside of the carriage. Ptt, pttt, ptt.

Clear of the deer, Jasper turned back onto the road. Nancy kept her mouth shut, trying to calm her breath and heart. He said, “Sorry.” She nodded and put her hand on his khakied thigh.

Ekphrasis: Van Gogh’s “Two Figures in the Undergrowth”

I took a writing class this weekend focused on incorporating poetic techniques in writing that isn’t poetry. This is the first of two posts sharing the writing I did during the workshop—it is an ekphrastic work inspired by Van Gogh’s Two Figures in the Undergrowth, pictured below.

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Undergrowth_with_Two_Figures_(F773)Here, on this side, the familiar looked fragmented. These woods, all green and brown on the other side but changed here, were recognizable to her. She had played there with her little sister, bounding through the wildflowers that somehow managed to grow under the canopy of green filtered light, floating down upon the yellow, white, and pink flowers.

Here, though, the quality of the air was thicker, heavier. She could feel the air molecules, as big as grapes, brushing against her skin. They refracted the light, revealing the blue and red within the brown tree trunks and turning globular flowers into colorful streaks.

And, all around, on this side, stood apparitions, figures, glimpses of people. The enlarged molecules revealed the ghosts that haunted this wood, the people she and her sister must have entertained, or annoyed, or disturbed when they were bounding children.

Now, here, she was herself a figure—forgotten and brushed past. She exhaled, expelling the smaller molecules of the other side, the thin air escaping her lungs. She breathed in the larger molecules, becoming a glimpse among the apparitions.


“Adventures in Droneland” is up at Inkshares

I’m working with to crowdfund my short story collection Adventures in Droneland. If I make the minimum funding goal, Inkshares will publish my book by pairing me with a leading editor and book designer and print, distribute, and market the book. Please visit the Adventures in Droneland page on Inkshares to read more about the book and support me by pre-ordering your copy (for as little as $10!).

My story, “A Tale of Five Thousand Erections,” is out

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 10.31.56 PMCheck it out by purchasing the third issue of Wilde Magazine.

An excerpt:

Your first erection comes as a surprise, age 12.  You wake up from a deep slumber to find a tightness and slight pain in your pajama bottoms.  Looking down, you see the cotton pants stretching where your crotch is, and you pull the waistband tight in order to see exactly what is going on down there.  You see it.  It no longer looks like your penis.  It’s bigger—sure—and stiff, but it is also slightly elevated, pointing to just above your headboard.  You’re used to it limply laying there, a dead snake or maybe just a really tired one.  Now, it pounces in time with your beating heart.  You’ve heard of these before and expected it to happen at some point, but you thought you’d have to be a teenager for it to happen.  Further, you didn’t expect the head of the erection to be so . . . red.  You also didn’t expect the ache that would go along with it.  Nothing is like you expect it; this is a lesson you don’t really learn until later.