Friday, March 23, 2012

On Being "Okay" With The Way Things Are, And Returning to Reviewing

Part of this is a theme I've hit on before, so I'll try to be brief, not over do it.  But things never work out quite the way we hope or plan or dream they will, and that's especially true for anyone who embarks on creative endeavors.   We aspire or dream big, we work very hard, we see some marks of progress, cracks in the ceiling above us...and then we dream bigger, inspired by our minute successes.

I was very fortunate.  Did decently, right out of the gate.  Started taking my writing "seriously", and a year after that, received my first manuscript/synopsis requested from a midlist publisher.  They passed (Thank goodness, because it was crap), but at that same time, I "sold" my first story to the first edition of the The Midnight Diner, even garnered an "Editor's Choice" award, gathering in a substantial cash prize.    Under a year later, I made some missteps, submitted to a few crappy markets, but also sold several decent stories for semi-pro rates (.o1 - 03 cents a word), and landed the Hiram Grange gig.

Then I got out to Cons.  Met people.  Continued to sell a bunch of non-fiction pieces for good money.  Attended Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp not once but twice.  Learned a ton writing Hiram Grange, received some nice reviews, also edited a Lovecraftian-poetry-prose-graphic-novel thing, as well as Shroud's 2010  Halloween Issue.  Assumed the Review Editor's position at Shroud, did some good things there, then "retired" to focus on my own writing.

And then..........

Cue the crickets in the background.

I'm not sure what I expected.  That suddenly, I'd be landing stories left and right for pro-rates.  That suddenly, I'd "arrived".  But whatever it was I'd expected to happen, didn't.  I submitted some stories to a few pro-paying places, they were rejected (again, in retrospect, rightly so...they didn't stink, this time, but they were only "okay"), and then...things sorta.... slowed down.

Completely.

Now, part of this was my doing.  I spent almost two years in writing, editing, proofing, final proofing of Hiram Grange.  Then, editing both the Halloween issue and The Terror at Miskatonic Falls took up a lot of time (time well spent, mind you).  Then, I had to write my thesis (a short novel) for my Creative Writing MA.  Then, after that, I spent nearly a year on a convoluted, non-linear novel that's, like, my MAGNUM OPUS, before setting it aside because I need a ton of distance before I could fix its problems.

And then, I spent some time pitching a series to HarperTeen.  And then, last June, when they finally turned that down, I said, "Screw it, Billy the Kid keeps whispering into my ear, so I'm going to write this  thing."  And, nearly every day since that day, I've done exactly that, and I'm just at the final stages now.

Also, so much of this is out of my control.  Fact: I teach full time, and I doubt a day will ever come when I'll be able to afford not to.  Fact: I'm a family man who loves writing, but also loves his wife and kids more.  I get roughly 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day to write, in the wee hours of the morning (not counting days off and weekends), and that's it.  I don't have time to work on more than one project at once.

And yet.

When I see folks I'd consider to be my colleagues moving ahead of me.  Seeming to travel their career paths so much faster than me?

Well.  In keeping with the transparency I've always shown on this blog...


It kinda....hurts.  Makes me feel like I'm falling behind.  Even though I know I've made a conscious decision to focus on long-term projects, and I also know I've never REALLY focused on the short form hard enough to see if it's really a medium I can excel in....

It hurts.  Sometimes - hopefully this won't qualify me as a pansy - I have to log off Facebook, because I don't want to see another writer friend announce a story they've placed in a really cool anthology filled with writers I'd never dream of ever seeing my name next to.  It actually hurts emotionally.

But the facts that I've stated above are what they are, and they're not changing.  Also, there's the truth of it: I've decided to grind away on long term projects.  Have kept my head down writing. I firmly believe that to be a successful short-story writer, get published at a quality level, you need to be writing a lot of stories, back to back, constantly writing, editing, sending out, re-editing when they get rejected, sending them back out again....and I'm not doing that, right now.

So I'm working hard to be "okay" with the way things are.  And I'm getting better.  But I also wonder if - especially in this Internet world, where things are there one day, gone the next - if I'm keeping my head down too far.  So, I'm going to return to land of regular reviewing.  

First of all, I'll continue to review for Shroud Magazine, though I'm no longer the Review Editor.  Which means, I'll review books on my schedule, and not have to worry about administrative matters (which I did enjoy, mind you.  Just ran out of time for them).  Also, for Shroud I'm focusing entirely on reviewing Cemetery Dance titles and the new horror line at Samhain Publishing, so my efforts will be focused, concentrated.

Second, I'm going to start blogging regularly - about monthly, I think - at The Midnight Diner.   I'll be reviewing specific titles there, definitely CBA (Christian Bookseller Association) titles that I think are worth mentioning, (because, also transparently, I don't think many of them are worth mentioning) but also other works with spiritual themes.  I'm also going to, I think, feature small reviews and recommendations of classic works of horror.   Sort of my own little "History of Horror" column, except from the perspective of one who is investigating and exploring it, rather than one who'd consider himself an authority.

Anyway, my first review for The Midnight Diner - of Travis Thrasher's Gravestone - is up.  My next review for Shroud Magazine - of Ramsey Campbell's Ancient Images - will be up soon, also. And, I'm working on being "okay" with where I am, right now.

And I'm getting there.  It's just going a lot slower than I'd hoped it would.