Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post, to say Merry Christmas to all of my new friends out there. For me, 2009 was a special and important year for the Wilkster: I met some absolutely incredible people via the virtual world, and I advanced tremendously as a writer. Through painful setbacks or those days when the words came out right, 2009 became a very important period of time in this man's life.

So to all of you who have commented on this blog and to all of you who have privately helped me along (I'll not go into names, but I believe you know who you are), I wish nothing but the best this Holiday season and hope you know that your friendship and mentorship, has not been taken lightly.

All the best,

Friday, December 18, 2009

This Ramblin' Man Wakes Up

Just like Waylon Jennings. I'm doing a lot of running around right now: road trips, head trips- you name it. My mind has been on autopilot for some time now and yesterday, while browsing in the book store in my usual mental nothingness, something hit me in the back of the head. Hard. It was my ego. It was telling me to get off my ass and get to work. You've let that pile of paper and that flash drive, eat at you and fester long enough.

Part of this revelation, was the result of the query letter. That's right, the query letter. I was taking another look at it and I realized that it just never looked quite right. But why? It's because my book has a main plot and several sub-plots and they are all critical to the story. I could never get this across in a brief query. In fact, I learned something important and that is maybe you, the aspiring writer, should write the query for your novel at the beginning of the process. It's a quick way to find out if what you'll be writing makes sense. If you're at a sticking point, it might be worth a shot.

My rejection slip said something to the effect of: "The plot is not all that believable and at least two of the three characters, need better descriptions." Like I said, to the effect of, but not exactly. Ive been stewing over those words and now I see what they mean. I need to fully cement which plot is the main plot and then back it up to the hilt. It needs the same attention, that I've been giving towards the emotional makeup of the characters. That equals just short of a ton and is a critical point I've been missing.

In terms of characters, I know I can do better after letting the work sit and now re-evaluating the first few chapters. One of the three main characters, and the main character at that, is ambiguous. We're not supposed to know that much about him, not supposed to know how we feel about him. But do I put that out there in the opening pages, for people to get that picture of him from the word go? I mentioned their mental makeup, but what about these characters as living, breathing people? Answer: I dropped the ball in that department, but can easily fix it.

I've just printed out the first six chapters. Over the break, instead of trying to interject small pieces to the original, I'm going to write a new alternative beginning. I'm going to re-think and then re-work the plot(s). I'm going to write as many word as it takes (I'm at nearly 83k right now), to get it all across and then I'll begin stripping out anything that is not useful. Along the way, I'll interject the feedback I get from a few trusted and unbiased souls.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 14, 2009


In less than a week's time, I'll be off to Kansas to visit the folks, which means a lot of driving to get there and even more in the way of eating and drinking once I'm there. I accomplish little else during these vacations and this year will most likely prove to be no different. Not a big deal. What I will be doing a lot of though, is considering where to send my writing in 2010. Of course when I say "send", I'm talking about venues for exposure, publication, etc. for both short stories and the novel I'm working on.

A consideration in all of this, is will these venues help gain me the exposure and critical experience I need, as I work towards becoming a publishable writer. When you start looking at the outlets for writers of the short story, in terms of magazines, ezines and so on, the number of them available for submission is staggering. It's easier to get your feet wet on the internet, because many of the zines get back to you in a fairly timely manner. Most of them also get tons of hits, are run by top notch people and populated with some really good talent. I wouldn't be here today without them.

So we all know about the great blogs, and sites that are out there, and what I wrote above, was no revelation. Didn't you know, that I would have an ulterior motive? Here goes: I would like to ask a favor, of those who are so kind to frequent this blog. If you happen to read some of my work online, please feel free to comment, er, freely. Here's where I'm going with this. You've just read one of my stories. It was just so-so in your opinion. That's cool. Only, and I'm dead serious with this, rather than not comment at all, feel free to add something like the following: "I like how you did this, but you might want to work on these things with your writing..." If you don't feel comfortable saying this in the comments section, by all means send me an email.

I realize asking the above is huge and can make people uncomfortable. But I'm to the point at which I like to hear what's right with my work- trust me, those comments kept me going when I was ready to give up- but I now also desperately need to hear what's wrong with it also. I'm not saying I need to hear an asshole say "you suck" just because he can- hell, I can hear that anywhere (and do). No, I want constructive criticism that will improve my writing and prepare me for the world of query rejection that comes with this craft. Then I want to take that rejection and improve. I'm finding that a writer who desires to be published, has no use for rose colored glasses.

So what's the plan for 2010? In reality, chances are that I'll write no more than 5-6 short stories for 2010. While I love the format and wish publishers would once again open the door to the short story, I've found that I prefer the novel format. Not only that, but my last short and arguably my best, took me upwards of six weeks to really nail down. If that's the amount of time it takes for a good story to gestate, then why mess with a good thing? You don't. But you have to pick your battles and for now, working on the novel wins out. I must give this novel, my absolute best.

On that note, said novel is on the first leg of a hardcore critique tour. I hope to have enough feedback, that I'm able to make changes and start sending out serious queries by Summer of '10. If it takes longer, then so be it. In the meantime, I've another novel started and I'm enjoying the time off from the previous. Honestly, I'd been over that first novel so many fucking times, I just couldn't stand to look at it anymore. Having time off from it, can only prove beneficial and working on this new piece, is like taking a bare-assed trip into a new world.

As with all of my ramblings, I look forward to your input.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tagged For A Story Virus...Finally, The Non Dripping Kind

My buddy David Barber, tagged me for this virus. I've never done something like this before, but it's fun as hell. Rather then go through it all, I'll give you the gist, off of David's blog:

"I was tagged today by MRMacrum, who had been tagged by Cormac Brown, who had been tagged by I, Splotchy, who started this thing off.
Click on Splotchy first to get the gist of things, then read Cormac's and then MRMacrum's." From there, you'll get to where David went with his.

Here's my addition:

Amid the chaos, this guy was cool. He owned pinache. As the crowded mall was swimming in hysterics, Blanco strolled nonplussed.

The lady pointed. Jenkins turned. He closed his eyes, breathed and opened them again.

He saw the man coming towards them. He was maybe 5'10" tall, black suit, angular build. But it wasn't that he was so nonplussed that startled Jenkins, it was his complexion. He was the first albino, that Jenkins had ever seen in his life.

Blanco was now in front of the security guard and the woman. He always stunned people, especially those who had never seen an albino before. He smiled. She screamed. He touched a point, just below her ear and she fainted. He managed to catch her before she hit the ground.

Jenkins had a string of saliva, stretching from his bottom lip to the floor. The albino offered him his handkerchief. Jenkins accepted. He didn't know what else to do.

"Jenkins!" his radio was screaming. "Goddamnit, are you..." Jenkins threw his radio down. The albino adjusted his Tag Hauer watch.

"My brother is at it again, I see?"

Jenkins looked at the lady, then back at the albino. "She acted like she knew you."

"I suspect she just noted my extreme confidence- happens all the time. Now, about my brother..."

"But, who are you?" Jenkins asked.

"So sorry- busy day. Blanco's the name."

"Which one is your brother?"

"Both, I'm afraid. However, I only claim, well, I call him Super for short...public perception and all. The other one does nothing for the family name."

Blanco then noticed something on the ground. "Ah," he said and walked to it. And casually leaning down, he stuck his finger in the green blood, put it to his tongue. He nodded, made a pistol with his forefinger and thumb, pointing it at Jenkins.

Jenkins eyes rolled. He hit the ground like a side of beef. An eyeball dis-lodged from it's socket.

Blanco winced- the eyeball was an accident. He then looked at his watch, wiped the blood off his finger.

"Well, I'd better take care of those two. Again," he said, only to himself while shaking his head. "Every damn Christmas, it's the same thing."

He produced a bored fart noise from his mouth, which echoed his mood. He then cracked his neck and disappeared. If he hurried, he could still make his pedicure.

That's it for me. Now I tag:
Christopher Grant

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Over At Ligature Marks...

Gulf Coast Swimmer, story of mine that you may remember from a few weeks ago, will find it's way there in January. Dave over at Ligature Marks is doing some exciting things within his site: author interviews, film, fiction, etc. He is also currently taking submissions for his January premiere issue. So if you're looking to find another outlet for your work and would like to expand your readership, head over and check it out.

By the way, I found out about Ligature Marks, over at Sandra Seamans site- My Little Corner. Besides here obvious chops as a writer, Sandra does and absolute top-shelf job of searching out and posting all kinds of resources for lazy people like us. I'm sure most of you have been to Sandra's site and gained from it. If you haven't, I would recommend checking it out. Either way, make sure and tell her thanks.

Over at A Twist of Noir and Thrillers Killers and Chillers, they are looking for Holiday infused prose. Yet because they are the big dogs out there and if like me, you are at their sites several times a day, you probably already knew that.

And before I forget, Paul "Mr. Prolific" Brazill is adding columnist to his list of achievements with I didn't say that, did I?. Check him out over at the new site, Pulp Metal. If Paul is involved, you know it will be good.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Story in Transition

I'm getting a lot of writing done today. In particular, I've gone back to work on a story previously sent out to a couple of different places in the past, with no reply. I've been letting it simmer for a couple of months and now, looking at it objectively, I can see why it was ill recieved, but cannot really explain it. It's just...lacking. Not in lenght or the idea of the story, but rather how it functions.

I'm trying a couple of different tactics to improve the flow, using different narrative viewpoints. This may also offer a new twist to the story, allowing the reader to be more involved in seeing the characters and feeling the atmosphere. We'll see if it works and if it doesn't, I can alway revert back to the original narrative and start from scratch.

I will say that this piece is a little more risque, in parts, than some of my other stuff- you should have seen the rough draft! How bad was it? When Hustler rejects your work as "too explicit", well, you know you've got some work to do. But the final draft will not be an out and out porn fest and the deviant behaviour involved, will absolutely be a critical key in progressing the story and defining it's characters. In other words, it concerns a moral delima we may all face at some point in our life, but would rather not admit we could be actually be tempted by. When the reader is finished and puts themselves in the shoes of the main characters, I want them to be uncomfortable. I want them to say, "that could never happen to me," with the afterthought that maybe it could.

(Note: I did not actually send it to Hustler, even though at one point, it would have easily qualified. I will however keep a copy of the rough draft for um, casual reading on those lonely winter nights...)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making a Connection

God, I've been doing a lot of reading, listening to a lot of old country music, tons of thinking and very little writing. This isn't unusual for me. As I've alluded to in the past, I'll go through this process for weeks, maybe even months and then I'll write upwards of 2k words a day, for days on end.

What I have been working on, is solidfying the style of writing I not only like, but also suits me as a person. It's very hard for me to write something, that involves little or no human passion. Now that's just me. Some people are brilliant at building a story that is very good, but the characters are neither here nor there. I don't know how in the hell they do it, but they do and I admire them. On the other hand, if I do not feel a direct emotional connection with my characters, I have to let what I'm working on sit until I do feel that connection.

I've got a couple of what I feel are good pieces, that I've written over this past year. A little polishing and they could probably be ready in a few weeks. However, they do not represent me as a writer and how I feel...maybe. I'll have to make a decision to leave them as is, or build on the characters some more. A couple of them are actually pretty hilarious- a real departure, if you've read any of my work to the right, but maybe a little too formulaic. We shall see.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just Thinking

I've got about ten thousand thoughts in my head right now.

I've got about five different writing projects started, but haven't really advanced them.

Now comes the hard part: getting those thoughts, down on paper. I don't know about you, but often times I'll spend days or weeks, thinking about a story. I'll try to put it down several times, but a few paragraph's into it, the damn thing falters. I go back to thinking. Then I'll have that day, when the words finally come and they gush onto the paper. Those are good days.

It's the days in between that cause me problems. My brain is in overdrive. I'm thinking about anything and everything- I just can't shut the fucking mechanism down. I don't sleep right. I don't speak right. I don't want to talk to people. Words are pushed around but will not find a reasonable pattern. I settle on the edge of the cliff, hoping no one pushes me off.

I feel that miracle day coming on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gulf Coast Swimmer- Up at A Twist of Noir

By now, many of you have figured out that I pretty much suck at blogging. I've never been much of a witty conversationist and, quite frankly, find myself to be quite boring. To be honest however, I don't worry about it much. What I really enjoy, is writing fiction, because I have a wild ass imagination. To that end, I've got a new short up over at A Twist of Noir, titled Gulf Coast Swimmer.

Originally, this story was my entry into a recent contest over at The Drowning Machine. At 2,500 words, it did okay- such is life. I went back to work on it (I probably put about 6 weeks into this one story) and came up with what you now see at AToN. If I could describe it in one word, I guess that word would be "Epic".

I hope everyone enjoys it and as always, I'd appreciate any feedback- good or bad. I'm willing to take a couple of gut shots, if it means improving my writing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

200 Miles and Bad Ass Song Lyrics

I'm back from a little trip down Key Largo/Key West way. Actually, we rode bikes 100 miles to Key West, stayed a day, then rode back to Key Largo. But if you're ever in Key West, check out Irish Kevin's bar- it's a hell of a place to throw a few back and listen to some music laced with, well, let's just call it entertainment. This brings me to the second half of this post's title.

While at Irish Kevin's, a two man group performed Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone" and I remembered just how much I loved this song, back in the day. And if you think about it, how many songs talk about hitmen and the like? Very few. This song, is the ultimate in flash fiction when you get right down to it. If you've heard it before, enjoy. If you haven't, then today's your lucky day. (Note: I've posted the lyrics below, but here is a youtube video, w/lyrics: Twilight Zone Video with Lyrics)

(somewhere in a lonely hotel room,
There's a guy starting to realize
That eternal fate has turned its back on him,
It's two a.m...........)

It's two a.m., the fear has gone
I'm sittin' here waitin', the gun still warm
Maybe my connection is tired of takin' chances
Yeah there's a storm on the loose, sirens in my head
I'm wrapped up in silence, all circuits are dead
I cannot decode, my whole life spins into a frenzy

Help I'm steppin' into the twilight zone
The place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go, now that I've gone too far
Help I'm steppin' into the twilight zone
The place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go, now that I've gone too far
Soon you will come to know,
When the bullet hits the bone
Soon you will come to know, when the bullet hits the bone

I'm falling down a spiral, destination unknown
A double-crossed messenger, all alone
I can't get no connection, can't get through, where are you
Well the night weighs heavy on his guilty mind
This far from the borderline
And when the hit man comes
He knows damn well he has been cheated

Help I'm steppin' into the twilight zone
The place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go, now that I've gone too far
Help I'm steppin' into the twilight zone
The place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go, now that I've gone too far
Soon you will come to know, when the bullet hits the bone
Soon you will come to know, when the bullet hits the bone

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mary Lang

I want to bring up the subject of influence. Not necessarily author influence, but rather an event that compels you as a writer.

An event that was significant to me, occured in 1983 in Hays, Kansas. It involved a missing person's case, with undertones of murder. The missing person's name, was Mary Lang. She was about 31 years old, smart and very attractive.

Let me put this in perspective. I grew up in, and then south of, a small town called Zurich, Kansas. Zurich has a population of about 100 people. Hays, is approximately 30 miles northwest of Zurich. Hays has a population of about 20,000. When I was a kid, Hays was the "big city" we could go to, for grocery shopping or to stroll the mall. People just didn't go missing. That kind of thing, just didn't happen.

I was around 11 years old at the time. What I remember most from the incident, was the picture in the paper. All that was shown, was Mary's car door, slightly ajar. That was it. The scene left you with numerous possibilities. Maybe, she ran away. Maybe, she was abducted. Nobody knew then and nobody knows now. Conspiracies and rumors, already a big part of life in rural Kansas, flourished. They remain to this day.

I'm building up to write more in regards to my thoughts on Mary. But I ask you: was there an event like this, or similar in your life, that affects your writing?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm NOT What Willis Was Talkin' 'Bout!

At least that's how I felt merely one day ago. Yesterday morning I got the email regarding the partial I sent out. Not the call, the email. And as you struggling writers know, that ain't what you want my brotha's and sista's. As my father-in-law would say, "Wowzers!"

Let me start this off by saying that I had and still have, a tremendous amount of respect for this agent. From the moment they contacted me, they were up front, firm and corteous. Having said that, I'll try to outline their response, my response (to myself) and lessons learned.

Their response. In short, they did not find the plot all that beleivable. Also, they felt that it is the rare crime novel, which can succeed with a Private Investigator as a central character. Of course, my novel has a PI as a central character. They also went on to express concern about lack of setting, etc. All in all, it was a short and concise response, if not a bit vague. I say vague, because they finished with: "try me again." If someone can tell me what "try me again" really means, I would appreciate it (seriously, what does that mean?).

My response was simple and honest: "Thanks for your reply and feedback. I will put it to good use." I meant every word of it. Of course, this was written while icing my gonads, which felt as though they'd been kicked about twenty times by a large Russian woman, wearing steel toed boots.

I was actually ready to start writing this post yesterday, right after I received the news. Then I stopped and took a step back, letting reality set in. The reality, is that this was one agent and only the first one at that. I then fell apart, slowly but steadily, throughout the day. I finished work, went home, did a lot of thinking while having a few drinks and called it a night.

I woke up late this morning. I remembered my thoughts from the previous night. They rang with Steinbeck, Yates, Matt Hilton and so forth. Why? These guys all had more than their fair share of stumbling blocks in the beginning. And, as far as I can tell, things worked out (well Yates...) or are working out for them. It's called the learning process and it's about what you take away from the experience. I'll list those lessons learned, below.

1. If you have a manuscript to send out, let others read it first. Now, I did this; I let aquantances and a friend read it. Big mistake, at least in my opinion. I would recommend letting someone read your work, who has absolutely no emotional interest in you as a person, whatsoever. It's called putting yourself out there.

2. Think very hard about the query and synopsis you include with your work. Then, go back to step one and include these items in that process as well. Allow people you've never had so much as a conversation with, absolutely shred them to pieces.

3. Have a backup plan for the aftermath. Be confident, but also be realistic. If you get bad news, take a breath, and realize that the world is still turning and will go on turning. If possible, find a place to go and just chill. Are you going to stop the pain? No. But you can at least take steps, not to prolong it. Feeling sorry for yourself, will get you nowhere.

4. Remember that a ton of people are in your shoes. Some have been in those shoes for years and they're still writing.

5. Start writing again, immediately, but do so with a new sense of what you're actually writing. Even if you don't agree with the agents comments, take them to heart and use them. Regardless of how you feel, these guys are the pro's and they do this for a living. You and I, are still just a couple of chuckleheads.

I'm an extreme person who's emotions range from the highest of highs, to the lowest of lows. Yesterday was low point: I'd obviously blown my big chance. Today, things look different. Don't get me wrong, I'm still reeling, but I now have something to work with. Before, I was writing off of love for the craft and sheer ambition. I've still got the ambition, and now, I'm also armed with knowledge.

Now it's up to me, to take the next step.

PS. If any of you have questions, want more insight or just have something to add, please feel free to contact me. I've been lucky enough to have several people in the writing community, help and support me. I'd like to pay it forward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Burning Car

This is a couple of weeks old, so for Floridians, it's old news: Burning Car on Skyway Bridge

I remember seeing the report on television when it happened: they actually displayed the car with "something" burning in the opened trunk. Then they said it was a body. Then, they showed a photograph of her. Sheryl Lynn Laird looked so happy in that picture. The victim's killer/ex-husband meanwhile, was on the railing of the bridge getting ready to jump- it was all caught by a passerby. The picture here, does absolutely no justice to the horrific scene I viewed that morning.

When I write, I give a lot of thought to human feelings and emotions. For me, it's these fragments of joy, anger, jealousy and fear, that truly make the story relatable. Even so, it's difficult to imagine what this poor woman went through before and during her experience. Also, we'll never truly know and can never honestly relate to Sheryl on that desperate level, in that desperate moment. I've tried to do just that and failed. Miserably. To an extent, this would also carry over to the afflicted man who committed the crime; somewhere along his life's journey, Robert Laird's wires got crossed. Brainwaves shorted and sparked. The results, of course, were beyond terrible and affected many lives in the process.

Sadly, this is yet further proof, that real life is in fact stranger and more disturbing, than the fiction we write.

I can always go back and look at that picture of Sheryl. I can see her smile. I can wish the best, for her young daughter now growing up without a mother. Unfortunately, it's the burning car on the Skyway bridge that will stick in my memory. I'll never need to see another picture, to remember that.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brain Sizzle

It's late Sunday afternoon and I've got this little bit of anxiety brewing. Nerves are floating. I'm thought-processing ideas for my next book when BAM! I get this idea for a short story. I'm hesitant. Do I want to spend time on another short or move on?

I think I'll spend some time. I got this character who's head I want to get into. He's got some issues. We've all got some issues. I'll pit mine against his. We're going to party. We're going to play games with each other and see who comes out the other side. It's gonna be a total gas.

Possible problem: this will turn into another idea for a novel and I'll shelve the short story version of it- it's happened before. But I need to write the short. I need to feel that high. I'll also give one last go over my manuscript and start outlining the new book (which started out as a short story).

My brain is sizzling with ideas right now and I flat ass love it. I sincerely hope all my friends are feeling the same way- it's too good a feeling, to keep to one's self.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Best Foot Forward

No word yet on the partial I sent out. Those of you who have been in this situation, know what it feels like. This is my first time. I'd be as cool as the other side of the pillow, if I could say there was no anxiety. There is- a ton of it. I also know that I put my best foot forward. I went over those first 50 pages with a fine tooth comb, a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers. Once it was in the mail, I went to work on the rest of the manuscript; if they ask for a full, I vowed to be prepared.

I finished up the manuscript on Tuesday and put it away. I'm letting it percolate. I'll pick it up again today or tomorrow and give it a last going over, which is something I do with all of my work. When I put it away at the end of the day, I'll move on to the next project.

It will be hard letting this book go. I've spent almost 8 months living and breathing with it. However, I think that dwelling on this one book and this one partial, is not the way towards progress. I need to re-charge. I'll do that with my next novel, which comes from a short story I wrote for the Drowning Machine's Watery Grave contest. It didn't win, but I see the potential.

If the partial succeeds and they ask for a full, I'll be a happy man. If it doesn't, I'll get serious sending out queries to other agents. Success or failure- either way, I cannot stop the writing process. Either way, I have to get better. And I do. Every time I write, I get better. Thinking about it, this is the fun part of being a writer; being new to it. You see progress, each time you put something on paper.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who I am...Part One

That's the question you're asking. Then you'll ask "and why should I care?"

Right now, I'm a little known writer residing in St. Petersburg, FL. I started writing about 1 1/2 years ago. I've written a few short stories that have been pusblished online- crime for the most part. I just finished writing my first book. I sent out my first partial, just a few days ago. I'll let you know what happens, good or bad. I'll also feed you bits and pieces of me and my work as we go along.

And that's what this blog is about: trials and tribulations. It's about how you feel, when you've written something great. It's about how you feel, when you get that rejection slip in the mail.

It's about writing the hard way.

Many of you are like me. No, not handsome and smart and funny. You're writers. One day, you decided to pick up a pen and pad or opened up that word document on your computer. You said, "Today is the day," and from there, you began. You wrote that first page. Then a second. It was two more pages than anyone, including yourself, thought you could write.

You did it the hard way.