I finished an insanely risky story about a month ago called “The Bomb and the Scalpel.” I call it risky because the premise involves a single protagonist speaking in five discrete voices throughout the piece–and at 8600 words, it’s got nearly 1500 words on my next-longest story. I actually had the idea for it at the start of the summer, but knowing it was going to challenge my skillz, madd though they might be, I wrote a couple other pieces first, focusing on distinctive voices and perspectives that would really stretch me out. It might end up a tough sale (though all my sales appear to be tough for the moment), but it’s also ambitious and crazy enough that, if it finds the right editor, it might connect with a vengeance.

Reread “The Initiation of Shadrow Mason,” which I’d had some doubts on, but found it to be surprisingly strong. Like “Steve Kendrick’s Disease” (get it now in M-Brane SF #5!), it’s an ensemble piece, and to me those characters just leap right off the page. I normally write stories with singular protagonists or two equal partners, but looking at those two stories, one of my talents appears to be juggling a team of characters without losing any of them in the crowd. I must look into doing more of this.

Revised “When We Were Mutants,” a story I’m still in love with, and sent it to the Writers of the Future contest on the last day of their quarterly deadline. That contest is big. Probably 1000+ entrants per quarter with a potential paycheck of $5K plus anthology money.

On doing some research, I’ve found a lot of writers submit there quarter after quarter, including past finalists and non-first-place winners, along with people who have sold to 3+ professional markets but are still able to meet the contest’s amateur requirements because their third pro sale hasn’t yet appeared in print. Competition will be tough.

People grind away at the writing game day after day and year after year; many seem to hit this semi-professional level where they’re able to make big story sales to Asimov’s and Fantasy & Science Fiction and all the other places I’d love to have my name appear in (along with dozens of sales to smaller markets), but never quite put it together enough to break into the big leagues over on the novel front.

But if you’re published in Asimov’s, no way in fuck you’re just going to give up, so they end up like Crash Davis from Bull Durham, cracking away in the minors, talented and useful contributors, but unlikely to ever get The Call. In this analogy, I’d obviously like to think I’m Nuke LaLoosh, but even if I’ve got the literary equivalent of that 800-MPH fastball, management (editors) think I’ve got problems with my command, so I’m down there in some podunk A league with a couple hundred sunburnt fans up in the bleachers for $1 beer night, competing for limited roster/publishing space with established players with better track records.

I let myself imagine I’ll break out from (just about) obscurity in a flash, hoisting that Writers of the Future trophy and riding the wave into Bestsellervania without looking back, but I know that’s sadly, hilariously improbable, literally 1000-to-1 odds, every other contestant chasing the same dream.

More likely, I’ve got some grinding in my future. To deal with that probable reality, I’ve been trying to write a story per month this year, and am on pace to finish up 2009 with 20 publishable stories, counting both the ones that have already sold and the ones I’ll have making the rounds. I’m already a long ways ahead of where I was last year. With steady, dedicated progress, I could have a couple big sales in another 2-3 years, be a name those familiar with the genre will recognize when they scan a mag’s table of contents.

On the other hand: Fuck it. I want to flash some power. Once that 20th story is completed and launched into Rejectionland, I’m starting a new novel. Sometimes players get yanked from AA straight up to the majors. Sometimes–it’s nothing you can begin to count on, but sometimes it happens–draft picks never spend time in the minors at all.

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I am a Science Fiction and Fantasy author, based in LA. Read More.
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