Saturday, January 23, 2010

Project Darkbelly – Making Cuts

I made some “progress” last night. One of my short stories I refer to as “Project Darkbelly” has really surpassed itself in length. I’ve yet to write the ending, and already looking at over 12,500 words was really tormenting me. Categorically, that’s well into novelette territory, which the SFWA defines as 7,500-17,499 words. I realize there’s no way I’m going to get this under 7,500 words. Just not gonna happen. But, I did burn the midnight oil and managed to shave over a thousand words. I’m roughly down to 11,500, and my goal is to somehow keep the entire story around 12,000. Since I still have scenes to write, I’ll just have to see how it goes. I’m already thinking up more concise alternatives in terms of the story’s climax.

Here’s an example of some revision from this evening.

Original introductory snip:

WAR CHANGES A MAN. Especially when the enemy’s rank and file in said war is comprised mainly of reanimated dead. People whose lives consisted of nothing more than toil and trouble, rather than rest in their graves, now made up the legions of a dark lord called the Carrion King. Tens of thousands of gruesome golems. One-time fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters.

Revised introductory snip:

WAR CHANGES A MAN. Especially when the enemy’s shock troops are a host of crazed undead. A few thousand gruesome golems who were one-time fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters, had become moaning, croaking, slack-jawed revenants of a dark master called the Carrion King.

So, by going through and making little revisions here and there, I’ve managed to whittle away over a thousand words. Some folks—writers especially—would scold me for fixating on the word count at this point, when I haven’t even finished it, and they’re probably right to do so. But it’s been nagging at me. Very few speculative fiction publishers will look at anything over 10,000 words these days, so I can’t keep chugging away on something that I know I’ll have to make such dramatic cuts on once I’m finished writing. It puts me at ease to do this now, so I can move forward feeling a little better… even if I know I still have to make more sacrifices in the near future. It’s all for the better, though. I think the “tightening” process nearly always makes a story even more dramatic and impactful.

Here’s another revision.

Original snip:

In spite of the past few days of running and fighting, Lasrien still cut a dashing figure. He was pale-looking and blue-lipped, but trim and graceful. His helm, tucked in the crook of one elbow, exposed a handsome face with lean masculine features and tired, red-rimmed eyes beneath close-clipped black hair. Lasrien wore his panoply of plate armor well, the breastplate fitted with a gold and silver image of the Bestia Lumina, the Illuminated Beast, a golden phoenix encircled in a halo of light. His tattered blue cloak also bore the same symbol embroidered in gold and silver thread.

It was said the Beast represented a rebirth of men’s souls. Marcus used to consider this concept a wondrous thing. But upon witnessing all that he had seen in Gurthkam, a rebirth of the soul had taken on an entirely new meaning for him—a marred and grotesque one.

He glowered at Lasrien until the knight blanched.

“Sire?” The knight looked at Marcus with a questioning glance. “Have I offended you?”

Revised snip:

Ser Lasrien, though pale, stood yet trim and upright despite the long days of fighting and running. He had his helm tucked in the crook of one elbow, uncovering a handsome face beneath a loosened topknot of raven-black hair. He wore his panoply of plate armor well, the breastplate fitted with the gold and silver image of the Bestia Lumina, the Illuminated Beast, a golden phoenix encircled in a halo of light. His tattered blue cloak also bore the same symbol embroidered in gold and silver thread.

Marcus glowered at Lasrien until the knight blanched.

“Sire? Have I offended you?”

That’s my process. The whittling of words, accompanied by some rearranging. I cut the entire paragraph about what the Beast represented. I know what it represents, but it’s not necessary for the reader to know it in this story. If I were writing a novel, I’d likely leave it in. But I’m honing my ability to recognize the economy of words. If it doesn’t need to be in the story, take it out. This is the lesson I’m trying so very hard to teach myself.

Now my focus needs to be on getting this one finished, and then off to the discerning eyes of my beta readers and editors. Don’t worry. As soon as I’m at that point, you’ll be the first to know!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Go Big Blue! The Kentucky Wildcats – Still Unbeaten

You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, but there’s no arguing that the greatest team in college basketball history is the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

They’re the  winningest college basketball program of all time.

13 Final Four appearances.

SEVEN National Championships.

They’re 18-0 so far this season. The ONLY undefeated team left in the NCAA. AP ranking has them at #2 this week. John Calipari has this team rolling.

Now, hold on. I’m not going the way of another much more famous writer named “Martin” who blogs about his favorite sports team more than his progress on his award winning and NY Times best selling series, but I have to say something! I’m riding this high, after all.

So, thanks go out to my buddy Ken Soward for making me aware of this awesome Youtube vid (1:46) by UKCAT8FAN. It’s got me pumped for tomorrow’s game against the Razorbacks, that’s for sure. And I’ll quote Ken from his Facebook page:

“…this is why I love my Kentucky Wildcats.”


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rejected! My First Rejection (Form) Letter

rejectedAnd so, my collection begins. I know I’ve been fortunate. Up until now everything I’ve ever written or submitted has been picked up for publication. That’s pretty lucky, and I realize it. But today, I’ve jockeyed into new ground. I’ve sailed into new waters. Today, I am officially A REJECT.

Here’s the e-mail I received at 3:21 pm EST after submitting “Blind Ambition” to Clarkesworld Magazine a mere 36 hours earlier (that there’s some quick turnaround, folks):

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for the opportunity to read "BLIND AMBITION". Unfortunately, your story isn't quite what we're looking for right now. Each month, we receive hundreds of submissions and while I may like many of them, I can only publish twelve of them per year.

In the past, we've provided detailed feedback on our rejections, but I'm afraid that due to time considerations, we're no longer able to offer that service. I appreciate your interest in Clarkesworld Magazine and hope that you'll keep us in mind in the future.

Take care,

Neil Clarke
Clarkesworld Magazine

As noted, my submission was turned around amazingly quick. Admittedly, my wife is dubious. She commented that she didn’t think they actually read it at all. But she is slightly biased, after all.

Anyhow. I can’t help but feel let down somewhat—who wouldn’t be?—especially since it’s a form letter and Mr. Clarke doesn’t offer feedback as to why he rejected the story. On the other hand, at least now I can move on. I’ve finally received my first rejection letter. The chances were slim anyway. Clarkesworld only publishes 12 stories a year, so even if they receive 100 submissions a month, that’s, like, a one percent chance I’d make it in.

Besides, even William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES was rejected by a publisher who actually commented that it was “an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.” I’ll take the form rejection please, thank you.

I think I’ll touch up “Blind Ambition” a little bit—mostly tweak some minor historical details—and then send it out to more publishers. I do think it’s good enough AS IS to find a home, but if you’re reading this and interested in becoming a Beta Reader for me, I’m always open for more feedback. Facebook or e-mail me (link in the lefthand column).

Onward and upward!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Call Yourself a Cool Cat? Larry Platt Actually is One.

By now you’ve heard of him. He’s an overnight Web sensation thanks to American Idol. I’m talking about “The General” Larry Platt. This 62-year old Georgian has a message for all the wannabee thugs and gangstas: Pull Your Pants Up. You can click HERE to see The General’s American Idol audition, but what I want to share is this cool mash-up. There are a ton of these out there already, but most of them aren’t very good. This one’s the best I’ve found. I’ll just warn you, though. You’re going to be singing this song for the next few days. Just give in and enjoy.


Back in the ‘60s, this former student of Martin Luther King, Jr’s was a civil rights activist (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight racial segregation in the South). On September 4th, 2001, the Georgia General Assembly created Larry Platt Day and announced:

"For the past 40 years, Larry Platt has given of himself in service to the people of the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and the nation...Larry Platt merits the highest recognition for his many valuable contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and his dedication to the struggle for equality and human rights."

Platt earned his nickname from civil rights leader Reverend Hosea Williams (1926-2000), who was so moved by Platt’s courageous efforts that he dubbed Larry “The General.” During the notorious 1965 "Bloody Sunday" protest march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, where the protestors sought voting rights for all African Americans, Platt was actually tear-gassed and beaten, but this did not stop the General. He remains a community activist to this very day, working with the United Youth Adult Conference, a volunteer organization set up to find missing children in the Atlanta area, and fighting against public foreclosures.

So, this “overnight sensation’s” message is actually backed up by something real, by a lifetime of championing causes for men and women of color. Now if only these gangsta wannabees would recognize those who, like the General, have paved the way for them. Now if only they would appreciate and take the time to LEARN about those who have suffered, fought, been beaten, even died for a noble cause, so that today black men are free to walk around town acting like a fool with the gold in their mouth and their hats turned sideways. To me, Platt’s message is clear: Educate yourself. Walk proud. But most of all, pull your damn pants up and show a little respect. 


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Satan Responds to Evangelist Pat Robertson

This was posted today in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s “Opinion Exchange” column. I’m glad the Devil felt the need to speak out on this topic and set the record straight. Read on to see what he had to say:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.

Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"?

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan


Obviously this letter isn’t really from Satan, unless he’s a she and goes by the name “Lily,” but kudos to Miss Coyle for writing something that, well, to be perfectly honest I should have written! I hope to God Robertson reads this letter and responds with one of his own. What this topic needs is an honest-to-godliness hell-flame war.


Support Haiti Relief and Recovery Efforts



Saturday, January 16, 2010

TV News: A Song of Ice & Fire is Coming

Is HBO ordering a full season of George R. R. Martin's popular A SONG OF ICE & FIRE books? Looks like it. According to The Hollywood Reporter, HBO's programming chief Michael Lombardo thinks the early progress on the "A Game of Thrones" pilot looks fantastic and there is a very strong possibility that he will order a full season. Click the link to after the jump for more details.

 A Song of Ice and Fire - Jon Snow

HBO Ordering Full GRRM Season?

My take? I'm a huge fan of this series, so I'm really excited by this news. Even if you're not a fantasy fan, there's a lot to appreciate in this series. And if you're a newbie to fantasy, this is the one to pick up, the one I recommend to anyone who says, “I’ve not read much fantasy. What’s out there that’s good?”

It's also a reason for me to actually order HBO again, which I dropped after Rome ran its course.

The hardest part now will be the wait. They're targeting 2011. Maybe by then GRRM will have put out the next book, "A Dance with Dragons."

Also looking forward to Lena Headey (300, Sarah Connor Chronicles) as Cersei Lannister! Almost as much as Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. It’s going to be sweet.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Make Sure You Haven’t Soiled the Seat

250px-Public-Restroom-9770 I really hate public restrooms. I try to refrain, but sometimes a visit to the loo at the library or bookstore or restaurant is just unavoidable.

It never fails, though. Nine times out of ten when I go into one of these dens of decompressing, whatever faith I have in humanity to be thoughtful is utterly dashed. Why oh why can’t people just LEAVE A CLEAN TOILET? I mean, it would truly make the world a much better place.

Leave a clean toilet!

I mean, sure, do your thing, whatever it may be, # one, # two, #threeve, but then FLUSH, fer cryin’ out loud! And after you flush, take a quick look down. Make sure you haven’t soiled the seat, the rim, the lid (if there is one), and if you see a little dribble, wipe it up. And if you really made a mess, clean it! Crikey. What kind of loathsome slob leaves their feces for someone else to clean up? Oh, and don’t get me started on how often I’ve noticed another dude go straight from the stall or the urinal to the exit door without even glancing at the faucet. Ugh. No wonder Howie doesn’t like to shake peoples’ hands. I don’t blame him.

So, I’ll say it one more time (and I’m embarrassed that I’m actually blogging about this): Please, for the love of God, leave a clean toilet. By doing so you’re making me breathe easier (pun intended) and, let’s face it, you’re making the world a better place for your fellow man. If you’re one of the guilty, make it a New Year’s Resolution. It’s quite an easy one. It takes little effort. It may just possibly be one you can keep!

Leave a clean toilet.

That is all.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haitians Made a Pact with Satan, says Robertson

Why does this buffoon keep getting air time? Pat Robertson is a total nut.


Click the link below to see video of the good reverend condemning the Haitians due to this recent terrible tragedy. Evidently it's their fault and God's will.

Man, I'm embarrassed for this guy.

White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett 'Speechless' Over Pat Robertson's Haiti Comment - ABC News

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Project Darkbelly – A Short Story; and Etcetera

Happy Belated New Year and all that. The Bengals lost today in the Wild Card playoff to the Jets, so there’s that, but more importantly (to me), the AP-ranked No.3 Kentucky Wildcats won, beating Georgia in SEC play for an overall record of 16-0. One of only three undefeated teams left, alongside No.1 Kansas and No.2 Texas. Way to go, Coach Cal. We love ya!

So, typically I boast on my Facebook page via status updates whenever I have a productive night of writing. I like to say things like, “Wrote a 1,000 words tonight and feeling grrrrrreat!” Well, now that the “Light” at the end of Project Darkbelly’s tunnel can be seen, I’ve started cutting. I get so frustrated with myself for letting my stories get out of hand. Which I do. A lot. I tend to go epic with everything I write. You see, I thought this story would fall around 6,000 words at first, but quickly realized it was going to be more around 8,000. Nope. Once I hit 10,000, I thought it was going to take at least 12,000 to wrap this one up to my own satisfaction.

I exceeded 12,000 words last night. And I still have more scenes to write.

After reading portions aloud to a friend of mine earlier this evening—which I like to do, because the ear often hears what the eye doesn’t see—I started cutting. So, rather than boast on how many words I’ve written, I’m happy to announce I’ve shaved almost 400 words so far. I’m still around 11,700, which is about 50 pages in a mass market paperback—a fairly hefty short story. Too hefty, in fact. I mean a Cinch Sack’s got nuthin’ on this one.

I really think I need to have a beta reader get brutal on me. Ideally, I’d like to wrap this puppy and somehow figure out how to get it down to 10,000 words. I don’t know if it’s possible without weakening the story too much, but if anyone reading this has a red pen they’re just itching to use, drop me a line (write to: martinjm70(at)gmail(dot)com). In the end, I think Project Darkbelly will be better for it. I think. Did I say that already? Okay. I hope.

We’ll see.

Call me.