Too Little Or Too Much

A short while ago, maybe a month or two, I publicly shamed myself on Twitter for not having a large enough output this year. In 2015, I had published a novel and appeared in three anthologies, and released one of those stories as a stand-alone title. Halfway through 2016, I was feeling the pinch of having hardly any releases at all this year. So far, I’ve released only one short story, Let Go, and a short story titled “Black Site” was published in CLONES: The Anthology. Although I was busy writing, not much of it was making its way out into the market and it was making me a feel bit depressed. I felt like I either wasn’t doing enough or wasn’t getting stuff done (partially true, but mildly inaccurate), and the weight of it was like a vise around my neck.

The big pro-tip to being a writer is one simple rule: Finish Your Shit.

I was not finishing my shit, or at least not the one big shit I had in me, but not necessarily for lack of trying. I’ve been working on a novel since March and it’s become my own personal Moby Dick. Not because it’s a wild, untamed beast that I have sworn revenge against, but because it’s been such a long, arduous journey in trying to finish it off. I know the rough shape of it, and when I’m working on it, it feels good and (mostly) right. And it’s not even a lack of focus or desire to continue plugging away at it.

Mostly, it’s because I allow myself to keep getting interrupted with other projects. This is by no means a bad thing, nor is it a complaint. If anything, it is perhaps a very good problem to have. I’ve put this novel on hold several times, and have done so once again, in order to tackle a story and an invitation that is simply too good to pass up. Back near the start of writing said novel, a lonely old man named Everett Hart told me a story and his voice demanded that I write Let Go. So I did. And then I got invited to contribute to CLONES: The Anthology. I had a killer idea for that one, so, again, the novel got put on the back burner. Ultimately, it was certainly worth it. This book became an Amazon Best Seller in their sci-fi anthology category, and, for a very brief time, I was a Top 100 science fiction author over there. Pretty cool!

I’ve gone back and forth with this novel-in-progress a few times now, interrupting the process once more very recently in order to write a novella that captured my fancy. It’s called Broken Shells and it needs lots of editing, but the story itself is largely finished. I began writing this shortly before my mother passed away, and in the weeks following her death it provided a much-needed retreat for me, and even a little bit of therapy. All that remains now are the finishing touches. That, too, is now on hold, thanks to an invitation that was extended my way late last week.

At the moment, I am roughly 3,000 words into REDACTED. I’m not sure what I can or cannot discuss about this work yet, so it’s perhaps best to say nothing. It’s the kind of deal though, that when you’re invited in, you do not turn it down. And since a dude at Amazon called me to discuss this work specifically goes a long way in telling me it could maybe possibly be a big deal. The kind of project that you simply do not say No to and walk away from. If anything, you drop whatever you’re doing and get to work. Of course, it’s entirely possible I’m blowing smoke up my own ass. I get the impression though that this is at least important to Amazon, and it could certainly have the potential for more readers to discover my work, which is a fantastic reward all by itself. So, yeah, I dropped everything and got to work! REDACTED will be novella length, and while it’s in my wheelhouse of both science fiction and horror, it’s of a particular sub-genre I haven’t written in previously. There are a few hurdles to overcome, and plenty of research to do. Thus far, it’s been a lot of fun, though, and I’m excited to see where it goes. I’ll have plenty more to say about this in the coming months, so be sure to stay tuned, or sign-up for my newsletter to get the big scoop straight to your inbox.

My main problem though has been reconciling the disparity in my work versus my output. I’ve been busy, even if I don’t yet have a lot to show for it. I will eventually, and there’s plenty of stuff on the horizon. So, I made a list of stuff in progress to give me a sort of visual reminder and a much-needed kick in the ass that I actually am doing something! Here’s where things stand at the moment for 2016:

  • A short novel is under review with a small press publisher for publication. The sample was apparently good enough that the editor recently asked for the full manuscript. If the story is not a good fit for this publisher, there are other avenues I can explore, so we’ll see what happens there.
  • LET GO – Published
  • Black Site – Published in CLONES: The Anthology, pending solo publication
  • Broken Shells – pending publication
  • Novel – in progress
  • The Marque – pending solo publication (originally published in Crime & Punishment)
  • Preservation – pending solo publication (originally published in The Cyborg Chronicles)
  • REDACTED – in progress, expected publication late 2016/Q1 2017
  • Audiobook edition of Revolver – in progress, release TBA

To top it all off, while doing yard work yesterday inspiration struck. I came up with a cool idea for a post-apocalyptic natural horror short story, which I’ll probably work on once Secret Project is finished and then leap back into the novel.

None of this even takes into account the advance copies of books I need to read and review. Or the fact that all of this must be balanced against working full-time and having a family.

And yet, yeah, somehow, for whatever reason, I honestly felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

Ultimately, I’ve decided I’m OK with where things are at presently. If my output for 2016 is a bit diminished, then I have to be fine with it. I may still be able to get one or two of these projects out by year’s end. If not, then 2017 will be a banner year for me in terms of published stories!

Too Little Or Too Much

Review: Young Slasher by S. Elliot Brandis

Review:

young slasher

Young Slasher, the latest from S. Elliot Brandis, is a slasher horror story that owes an awful lot to comic books, particularly Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass and uber-scribe Grant Morrison. This is a story that wears its influences proudly on its sleeve and name-drops them with regularity, not necessarily to be cute to show off a measure of pop culture awareness, but because these are the things that shape and inform our titular killer, who goes by the very comic book-ish name of Mia Sanguine.

Mia is a real-life movie slasher for the twenty-first century. Inspired by comic books and horror movies, her psychopathy even comes with its own Spotify playlist so that she can kill with a punk soundtrack. Her origin story is rooted in modern-day Big Topics of our time, as her and her best friend are ridiculed and bullied by their high school peers. Mia was a late transfer to a private school filled with spoiled, rotten rich kids and her taste in fashion and music made her an outcast. Her friend Casey is struggling to define his sexuality and is routinely harassed by his bigoted, homophobic classmates. And so, they hatch a plot, inspired quite knowingly by Kick-Ass. They want to become real-life horror movie killers.

And although I stated above that this is a horror story, that’s not entirely correct. It has all the benchmarks of a horror narrative – that sleek, cool looking cover; a terrific bit of the old ultraviolence; a fantastic slasher villain with an impressive array of cutlery and scorn – but Young Slasher is more accurately a fun work of metafiction. As Mia might say, this book is “meta as fuck!” and the meta narrative run multiple layers deep, reaching quite a bit beyond merely the fictional, fourth-wall breaking killer that fans of Deadpool will recognize.

Aside from being an interesting thought experiment and clever literary construct, this book would not work without a reason to care beyond picking out points of reference and trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. That’s where the characters come in. Mia is simply a fun girl to hang out with for the couple hundred-some pages that she exists in. She’s brutal, but also empathetic, and, perhaps troublingly, somebody I could relate to.

As a victim of bullying during my own school years (being the only kid with a gnarly scar running the length of my chest from open heart surgery and unable to engage in the more rough-and-tumble aspects of gym class made me both an outcast and, since I couldn’t run, easy pickings. When I eventually found comfort in junk food and became overweight, I was then the fat, scarred outcast), I found myself fully sympathetic to Mia and Casey. I could understand their urge to find primal satisfaction in waging war against their tormentors, even if, even at my lowest, I wouldn’t have gone so far as to take an axe to somebody’s head (although I’ll admit to fancying some pretty dark daydreams about how to handle the idiot jock who liked to leave an empty seat between us so he could kick that empty desk over the seatback of my chair and into my spine over and over and over during high school Geometry).

Mia and Casey may want to be villains, but, like most fictional anarchists, there’s a certain measure of joyful escapism to be had in their exploits. It’s fun to watch them turn the tables on their bullies, even as they go far beyond the pale in their brutality, taking a beeline right away from justice and straight on to revenge.

[Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Buy Young Slasher At Amazon

Original post:
MichaelPatrickHicks.booklikes.com/post/1441587/review-young-slasher-by-s-elliot-brandis

Review: Young Slasher by S. Elliot Brandis

The Infection Is Spreading: LET GO – Now Available on Nook and Kobo!

Let Go eBook

Amazon Kindle readers have been enjoying my latest release, a short story called Let Go, for the last few months. Now, more readers will be able to check it out as the infection my story spreads onto other platforms.

Let Go is now available on Nook and Kobo. I’m still waiting for the book to go live on iTunes and will update once a link to that store is available. If you’re a Kindle reader, well, you can still find Let Go at Amazon, as always.

Here’s the synopsis:

Widowed and with retirement drawing near, Everett Hart believes he has already lost everything – until the dead begin to rise.

Trapped in a cheap restaurant with a small band of other elderly survivors, Everett is forced to decide if he’ll fight for whatever scraps of a future remain, or if he will simply… let go.

LET GO is a short story of approximately 10,000 words.

Hunter Shea, author of I Kill In Peace, The Montauk Monster, and the forthcoming Jersey Devil, called Let Go “poignant,” and “an excellent addition to the zombie genre, a study not in bloodthirsty hordes but the internal struggles of one lonely, old man.”

It’s Everett’s struggle that many reviewers have been most attracted to. In her review, Teri Polen said, “I wasn’t expecting such an emotional read.  Powerful imagery with outstanding characterization.”

Amazon customer, Deb Robbins, wrote, “It’s about Everett’s emotional turmoil, so well described that it’s profoundly sad to read… There’s a great deal of emotion packed into this short story, and the ending made me teary-eyed. Excellent reading.”

Amazon reader, Bill, succinctly states, “this is how short stories should be done.”

Let Go is only 99c. My other books and short stories will soon be making their way onto more non-Amazon platforms soon, as well, so be sure to keep an eye out for updates on those releases, too!

The Infection Is Spreading: LET GO – Now Available on Nook and Kobo!

Writing Through the Unknown

About a month ago, my wife dropped a bombshell on me regarding our finances. The projected costs of daycare for our son next year will be roughly equivalent to what I bring home from the day job, which leaves me in a bit of a tough spot. Although nothing has yet been decided one way or the other, at the moment it is looking like I have two options. I can continue working so we can break even on the budget, or I can become a stay at home dad with zero income.

While I would love to stay at home and spend time with my son, this latter option would force me to change the way I write and publish. The day job, you see, is how I pay for editing and cover design. Without the day job, I have no income for publishing. But with the day, going into next year’s round of tuition hikes, I’m working just to pay that bills and still having no income for publishing aside from whatever revenue I can generate from selling those titles currently available.

And that income? … Well, it ain’t much at all, really.

As you might expect, this news has thrown me for a bit of a loop. I’ve spent much of this month trying to recalibrate and plan ahead for a bit, and try to get a grip on the shape of the rest of this year.

I’ve also been submitting to several different markets in the hopes that something lands. The recently released CLONES: The Anthology was a good, but brief, bit of exposure. For a few hours, I was even in the Top 100 of all science fiction authors on Amazon. That did not last long, but it was fun momentarily, until it was time to get back to work.

I haven’t submitted to any markets in more than two years now. I shopped Convergence around for a bit after hitting the quarter finals and scoring an insanely positive review from Publisher’s Weekly in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest. I didn’t get any takers (or even any responses to inquiries), and self-published it to pretty solid reviews (it’s currently sitting at 4.4 star rating, so if you’ve read this book, or any of my other works, please leave a brief review), and was quite content to carry on as an independent author-publisher.

Now I find myself potentially facing a pretty massive change. I don’t foresee abandoning writing anytime soon, but I may have to alter how my work gets published and distributed. If it’s to get published and distributed at all.

I do still have some tentative plans to release a few standalone titles later in the year, the bulk of which will be publishing several short stories that appeared in various anthologies recently. An audiobook of Revolver will be starting production soon, and I’ve got a terrific narrator on tap to bring Cara Stone to life. This is going to be a really exciting project to direct and produce, and I’m hoping to share more on this in the coming months.

In the meantime, I’m submitting. I’ve gotten some feelers out there with various publishers of science fiction and horror. I’m about half-way through a sci-fi novella and staring down the end of an open-door submission period that I may not be able to make, but we’ll see what happens. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I’ve got a short story in review for a magazine, and a horror novella submitted to another publisher. It would be stupid of me to pin all my hopes and dreams on being accepted to any of these, let alone all of them, so I’m keeping my hopes firmly in check.

I’m also writing. Writing, writing, writing. That’s the only thing I can do. Maybe these works will get published, maybe they won’t. All I can do is work, and, hopefully, be able to keep working, even if at a reduced capacity next year. Worst-case scenario, I suppose, is that I get plenty of trunk novels saved up until I can make my grand re-entry.

Or, you know, maybe my books suddenly take off like wildfire and I build up a nice cushion of savings to keep on publishing (hint hint).

But, again, nothing has been decided one way or another yet, and it will take a few more discussions with my better half before we figure out the logistics and what will work best for us as a family. Of course, I certainly hope and want to continue releasing my work and am planning as such until I know otherwise. So, this is not goodbye. This is merely me venting something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for news on that Revolver audiobook and future short story releases later in the year. And plenty more book reviews are on the way!

Writing Through the Unknown

Let Go

Let Go eBook

Earlier this year, I wrote a hard science fiction cosmic horror story called “Black Site,” which will be appearing in the upcoming Clones: The Anthology this spring/summer (and holy crap, wait until you see the cover for that book! WOW!). This story was a bit of a challenge for me on several levels and required a lot of rewriting before I was comfortable enough to submit it for edits and feedback for future revisions. It’s a story I am damn proud of, and there’s a lot of layers to it, but once it was finished I needed something a bit more straight-forward to focus on, something that was driven a bit more deeply by character rather than concept.

One night, while emptying the dishwasher, a man named Everett Hart told me his story. His was a simple story, but one filled with loss and uncertainty. Everett was unmoored by the tragedies life so often brings us, and he’s closer to the end of his life than the start of it. He told me these things while sitting in a restaurant known for its fried fish, during what must have been the start of a zombie apocalypse.

Everett’s story can be found in the short horror story Let Go, and it’s available now at Amazon.

While Everett struggles with letting go of his particular baggage, writing Let Go was a way for me to, ahem, let go of the haunting complexity I encountered while writing “Black Site.” It was a way for me to let go of that previous story with a bit of a palette cleanser.

Unlike “Black Site” the focus is not on any particular high concept idea(s), but on a character and his emotional challenges. I wasn’t looking to reinvent any particular wheels with this one. I just wanted to tell a straight-forward, character-first kind of zombie story, and I think I did OK in that mission.

Mostly, though, I just wanted to tell Everett’s story as he told it to me one evening after work while I was occupied with household chores. I think his story is one worth telling. It’s a story of loss and grief and trying to cope with those unexpected moments when life completely flips the script and upends your expectations. It’s also about coping with the unknown, in all the various guises the unknown can appear in. This is a story of life, and life after death.

Buy Let Go At Amazon

Let Go

A Note On My Campbell Award Eligibility

AnthoCover3_400

I had wanted to write about this sooner, but unfortunately my AT&T powered internet has been kaput all weekend and likely will not be restored for, by their best estimates, another 4 to 8 days depending on how long it takes one of their engineers to respond to the help ticket. So, I’ve been sitting on some information that I really wanted to share sooner, which, if you read the title, is that I am eligible for the Campbell Award!

Writertopia does a better job explaining this than I can, so…

The John W. Campbell Award is given to the best new science fiction or fantasy writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy was published in a professional publication in the previous two years. For the 2016 award, which is presented at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon), the qualifying work must have been published in 2014 or 2015.

This is my first year of eligibility and it’s all thanks to my inclusion in The Cyborg Chronicles, which featured my short story Preservation. (FYI – you can purchase this wonderful anthology for only $1.99 at the moment on Amazon.)

Preservation is being reprinted in the anthology Up and Coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors courtesy of S.L. Huang and Kurt Hunt. Since we were allowed to submit multiple stories for a total of 20,000 words per author, I also submitted my short story Revolver, which originally appeared in the anthology No Way Home. For me, these two stories represent a nice bookend to my year of writing in 2015, as No Way Home/Revolver appeared early in the year, and Preservation/Chronicles was a great way to close out December. It’s a terrific honor to get both these stories before the eyes of award voters, in addition to potentially new readers discovering me for the first time.

Up and Coming is entirely free to download and features 120 authors with 230 works amongst them, and over 1 MILLION words of sci-fi goodness. All of these authors are Campbell Award eligible writers, and the hope is that this anthology can be used to help guide the nomination process. The anthology is available in both .mobi and .epub formats, so please go give it a download and read it.

You can download it at Writertopia and/or Bad Menagerie.

If you’re eligible to vote, I certainly hope you’ll check out my stories and decide if they’re worth a nod. So, how to vote?

Again, I’ll crib from Writertopia:

The John W. Campbell Award uses the same nomination and voting mechanism as the Hugo, even though the Campbell Award is not a Hugo.

Like the Hugo Awards, the Campbell Award voting takes place in two stages. The first stage, nomination, is open to anyone who had a Supporting or Attending membership in the previous, current, or following year’s Worldcon as of January 31. For Sasquan, this means members of Sasquan (the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio), MidAmeriCon II itself, and Worldcon 75 (Helsinki) can nominate any eligible author. This web page helps identify eligible authors for the Campbell Award.

The official nomination page is available at the MidAmeriCon II site. Nominations will close on March 31, 2016.

To be able to vote for the award, you must be a member of MidAmeriCon II (the 74th World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, MO). If you are not a member of MidAmeriCon and wish to vote, you must purchase a supporting membership or an attending membership before January 31.

I guess I should mention that if you want to nominate my cyberpunk sci-fi title, Emergence, for a Hugo Award, you are certainly free to do that, too!

A Note On My Campbell Award Eligibility

Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

I was catching up on some episodes of the Three Guys with Beards podcast (hosted by Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, and James A. Moore – all great storytellers that you should be checking out) when they got onto the topic of writing styles. Or maybe how they approach their writing is a more apt description. Which then got me to think about the manners and methods of how I write.

Look, every writer has their own style. There’s no right way, and there’s no wrong way. Anyone who tells you different is talking out of their ass. If you’re a writer, find a method that works for you, but don’t be afraid to try new things. If that new thing doesn’t work for you, pitch it out the window and do something else. Simple, right?

In the episode, the bearded ones mentioned a couple different styles they’ve employed, from running straight through beginning to end, writing the climax first, or playing hopscotch through the manuscripts and going back and forth.

For me, I’m a straight-up beginning to end kind of writer. I wouldn’t say I outline, but I have the barest of bones of a structure in my mind, usually supported by at least three story beats that get fleshed out as the story progresses. Once an idea locks in, I typically know the three big beats – beginning, middle, and end – at least in general terms of action. Not always, but usually. This breaks down to having an inciting event, a significant action set piece at the half-way mark, and a (hopefully!) strong resolution. These constitute certain narrative tent-poles that I work toward in a linear fashion, letting the beats in between build naturally from the story as I go. When I’m first starting out, I rarely have any kind of in-depth plan starting in Chapter One as to what will happen in Chapter Thirty, but I do have a general idea of where the plot is leading. I mostly just let the characters and story figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C.

The book I’m working on now, a sci-fi thriller set in a post-climate change Earth, has been working slightly different, but still following a similar road map. I knew the inciting event, which occurs (in this first draft) around chapter three. Last night, I figured out what chapter four needs to be and will be writing that today. This is all building toward a mid-story event that puts everything into upheaval and will change the dynamics of the story a bit as the plot expands around a new threat that I have been slowly teasing in an off-handed way. Now what happens from chapter four to Point B, I don’t really know yet, but am confident I’ll discover it along the way. I have a few rough ideas, but the story will let me know what it wants to do, and I trust in that.

I recently completed a short story called Let Go, which is slowly getting prepped for release (it’s off to my editor now, and a cover designer is on tap, so stay tuned!), and which is a zombie horror title. My horror works differ only a little bit from my sci-fi stuff in terms of work flow, and tend to be much shorter. Even though they tend toward short story-to-novella end of the spectrum, I’m still teasing through that three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end, only at an accelerated (for lack of a better term) rate. However, I tend to go back and feed in a bit more information throughout the story in future drafts after it’s all been written.

This is true of Let Go, and was perhaps at its most serious extent with another recently finished short horror story that I wrote for an upcoming anthology (more on that soon!). This short story is tentatively titled Black Site and is a sci-fi horror, and required extensive amounts of revision both as I went along and through subsequent drafts. After I had the first draft written, I had a much better understanding of what needed to change, altered, deleted, and added. Especially what needed to be added. For only being around 10,000 words, I think it may be the most heavily re-worked 10,000 words I’ve written yet and it hasn’t even been put in front of the editor yet.

This brings me to another point in terms of figuring out a writing style or methodology, and why nobody can tell you what works for certain – nobody else knows your freaking story like you do. And so nobody can tell you how to write it. Sometimes you just have to learn how to write it as you go along, or after you’ve beaten yourself through that first draft. With Black Site, I had an idea of how that story would go and what I needed to do with it. When I hit THE END, I found myself deeply unsatisfied and knew that certain elements were missing. That’s what a second draft is for! But, I had to get through the finale in order to figure out how to work through the earlier segments to take corrective measures and get it back on track. Could I have avoided this by writing the ending first? Well, maybe – but only if I had known for sure what that ending was going to be. While I knew what the ultimate fate of the characters would be in terms of the story’s resolution, I didn’t quite know the circumstances surrounding the climax until the characters figured it out and told me how it was gonna be.

I like to let the story speak to me. I’m comfortable with that, and often find myself enjoying the surprises the story hurtles at me. Others need to have a rigid outline with every detail mapped out. That’s just not my bag. What about you, fellow writers?

Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style