Was it just me, or was January the longest month ever? I really did feel I was on Monday, January 73rd. Maybe it’s because the weather here has been really, really crappy this year. We’ve had a lot more snow and cold than usual, which is really saying a lot for North Dakota.
Hopefully, things will be better this month. At least there’s a spark of hope, as we can start making camping reservations in the middle of this month! At least that gives us something to look forward to!
As always, it’s been Busy City around here.
I started my new class and officially added communication as a minor, but I’m really starting to think about switching it to be my major. We will see what happens. I’m really enjoying the class, especially the fact that it’s online so I don’t have to slog across campus this shitty winter. Weather aside, the class is interesting and, honestly, it seems a lot less stressful and there seems to be a lot less work than what I experienced with my English classes. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, I loved my English classes. But sometimes the workload seemed ridiculous (one class consisted of ten small papers and two long papers; reading was regularly 75+ pages between class meetings). The work in my current class is quite manageable. I’m not sure if that’s a function of it being a different department (comm vs Engl), because it’s online, or because it’s a lower-level class (200-level vs the 300-400+ levels I was taking in English). Maybe it’s for all of those reasons. Either way, so far so good, and I’m enjoying it.
And for those of you who were following my parking ticket drama, the ticket WAS voided and everyone in our department can now park in the “Research” lot at the vivarium, as we always should have been able to. It did, however, burn my butt when, for two or three days toward the end of last week, there was a personal vehicle parked in one of the “service vehicle only” spots at the vivarium. So, I park in a spot I should have always been designated to, and I get a ticket; but this personal vehicle keeps parking in service spots, which there’s no way it’s authorized to, and I have yet to see a ticket fluttering on its windshield. I didn’t call parking services on it yet because I’m trying to be a better person, but that can only go on for so long, lol.
More good news: I also received the official hard copy of my diploma and now have that hanging in my office, so woot for that!
One of the fun things I did recently was to participate in a mystery book exchange on Facebook. This one was run by a friend, so I knew the exchange was legit. The book was done “secret santa” style, so I didn’t know the person I drew.
The idea was to send them a favorite book, so my first two thoughts were Watership Down, by Richard Adams, and Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich. After I thought a little more, I assumed that the person would likely be a fan of horror/scifi, given our common friend, and so those might really miss the mark. On the other hand, I couldn’t pick a standard in the genre (like a Stephen King book) because they likely would have read it all already.
I finally decide on the first book in the Wayward Pines series, Pines, by Blake Crouch. In spite of being turned into a miniseries on Fox, it’s not as widely known as it should be. It’s clever and interesting with some twists you see coming, and then twists where you *thought* you knew what was going to happen, but really didn’t. I like that in a book. So, I thought I’d try that one for my book exchange person.
Of course, I ran into a problem right out of the gate. I hopped on to Amazon to buy the book and have it sent directly to the name on my list, but new copies weren’t available and used copies ranged from $35 to $85.
Undeterred but muttering “the hell if I’m going to pay $35 for a book for a stranger,” I surfed over to eBay and found a couple of copies for $5. I bought two, one for myself and one for my recipient. I had both sent to me to first to make sure that both are in good condition. I don’t want to send someone a horseshit copy. It delayed my book getting to the recipient (I hope they didn’t think I forgot them) and it cost a little more in postage ($7 for first class, yikes), but it was worth it.
Frankly, I think there should be more of these. It’s a lot of fun, especially when it’s complete strangers. If I did a book exchange at work, then I’d just get books that my coworkers would think I would like, you know? With strangers, you definitely get a chance to try something new. As evidenced by the book I received (not from the same person I sent to): Bang the Drum Slowly, by Mark Harris. I look forward to reading it!
I’ve been doing pretty good on my mindfulness/wellness goal of taking a picture a day. I started out doing it on Instagram, but I abandoned that pretty quickly because Instagram is nothing but trash. So about halfway through January I stopped posting on my Instagram author account and started posting my picture of the day on a new WordPress site. It’s certainly nothing exciting, but if you are curious or bored, you can check it out here:
My Picture of the Day site
And believe it or not, I actually made some progress on writing. I started with resubmitting some stories.
Part of what slows me down on getting back on track with my writing is fixing all the records I pretty much abandoned last year. Normally, submitting a story involves researching to find a publication that the story would fit with, reformatting the story so that it meets the style guide of the publication, sending the story off, and updating the records of the story to say when and where it was sent. Then, those records are updated when I hear back on the story.
Since I pretty much just stopped all the writing business in July and haven’t even bothered to update records since, I’m finding that I have stories that were sent out in last February that I’ve never heard back on and have to hunt down what happened. I’ve got stories that were rejected as far back as May that haven’t had their records updated (so they still show basically as “pending”). And I even have stories “pending” at publications that have since went out of business.
In other words, my records are a mess, which really complicates the submission process.
In spite of that, I’ve gotten four of my stories submitted to new markets. I’m working on two new stories. And, I’m working on an odd (for me) writing project (more on that later).
So the good news is, there is finally some progress on my writing goals. YAY ME!
Also, there has been progress on my reading goals.
January 2022 #500Stories500Nights
- 1: “Love and Assimilation,” by Bryce Heckman (Tales to Terrify 510)
- 2: “Junippy Paw,” by Gordon B White (Tales to Terrify 510)
- 3: “The Lunch Pail,” by WB Stickel (Nocturnal Transmissions 112)
- 4: “Joey and Rue,” by Dominick Cancilla (Podcasts from 3F)
- 5: “Mum,” by Luke Kondor (The Other Stories 67.1)
- 6: “Migration,” by Laura Garrity (Overcast 154)
- 7: “An Acid Trip Through Time,” by Michelle Lane (The Wicked Library 1102)
- 8: “The Masque of the Red Death,” by Poe (Tales From Beyond the Pale 49)
- 9: “The Hollow,” by Greg Jackson (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 11-22-21)
- 10: “In the Name of Bobby,” by Julio Cortazar (The New Yorker: Fiction, 11-1-21)
- 11: “Smoke Bomb,” by Matt Thompson (StarShipSofa 674)
- 12: “Fairness,” by Chinelo Okparanta (Selected Shorts, 11-18-21)
- 13: “Little Nightmares, Little Dreams,” by Rachel Simon (Selected Shorts, 11-18-21)
- 14: “Little Free Library,” by Naomi Kritzer (Cast of Wonders 474)
- 15: “Girls Have Sharp Teeth,” by Genevieve Mills (Fantasy Magazine Podcast, 11-23-21)
- 16: “Shock of Birth,” by Cadwell Turnbull (LeVar Burton Reads, 8-23-21)
- 17: “Inkmorphia,” by Julianna Baggott (Nightmare Magazine, 11-17-21)
- 18: “Mulberry and Owl,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny 42A)
- 19: “Licking Roadkill,” by Richard E Dansky (Pseudopod 786)
- 20: “The Doom That Came to Sarnath,” HP Lovecraft (Drabblecast 454)
- 21: “It Creeps in the Corners,” by Erik McHatton (Tales to Terrify 516)
- 22: “The Only Way Out is Through,” by Alex Laurel Lanz (Tales to Terrify 516)
- 23: “Insectivorous,” by Joe Palumbo (Nocturnal Transmissions 114)
- 24: “There’s Something in the House,” by Thomas Teller (The Other Stories 72.1)
- 25: “Truer Love,” by Edd Vick (The Overcast 155)
- 26: “The Sound of Madness,” by Ricardo Victoria (The Wicked Library 1103)
- 27: “The Falls,” by George Saunders (The New Yorker: Fiction, 12-1-21)
- 28: “Not Here You Don’t,” by Thomas McGuane (The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice, 10-12-21)
- 29: “Stars So Sharp They Break the Skin,” by Matthew Sanborn Smith (StarShipSofa 677)
- 30: “The Elevator Dancer,” by NK Jemisin (Selected Shorts, 11-25-21)
- 31: “Marigolds,” by Eugenia W Collier (Selected Shorts, 11-25-21)
In addition to the short stories, I finished reading Crooked Hallelujah, by Kelli Jo Ford.
I finished reading Stoicism for Inner Peace, by Einzelganger.
I haven’t made much progress on the two reads I’ve been working on for months; I’m still working on Walking Dead and Philosophy and still working on Moby Dick.
Next up on my reading list are books related to the UND Writers Conference coming up in March. I’ll have to double-check, but I think I’ve purchased at least one work written by all the conference authors, which means I have a lot of reading to do!
To aid getting back on track with my writing, I’ve been prowling the internet for calls for submissions. Not only is that a good way to find markets for existing stories, some submission calls have a theme which can inspire a new story. For example, one of the calls I found is for stories about giant bugs. I haven’t written a giant bug story in a while, so I think I might try it!
The prowling reminded me of one of my . . . traits? quirks? handicaps? . . . as a writer. While I treat the act of writing as an art, I treat publishing as 100% a business with a product to sell. I make art; but then I want to *sell* that art!
For example, a penny a word is my minimum for submitting. I see a ton of calls for $10 or whatever, but unless the pay rate works out to be at least a penny a word, that’s not for me. This is actually somewhat unusual because there is a large cohort of writers that follow the “for the exposure” theory of publishing. That theory follows the belief that the more publications you have, the more name recognition you earn, which parlays into higher pay later. I agree with the writing cohort that says, “do accountants, car mechanics, and lawyers work for free to gain name recognition?” I guess you could call our theory of publishing the “show me the money” method! I’m not saying one method is better than the other. Heck, there are a lot of writers that I recognize because they are being published *everywhere* for free, which means that part of their method definitely looks like it works!
Another example is that I never, EVER enter contests. I don’t mean the kind where a publisher recommends your work for the Pushcart Prize; I’m talking about the ones the writer has to actively and intentionally enter.
First, a lot of contests require a fee. While I do understand that the fees cover the costs associated with the contest, I stand firm on the belief that money should only flow toward the writer.
Second, the danger is that might end up giving away your story, which means you are giving away your product for free. In a lot of contests, your story gets published whether you win or not. Really, you are gambling. You ante up your story in the hopes you’ll take the pot. If you don’t win the pot, your story gets published by the contest and can never be published anywhere else except at reprint rates. Again, not a judgment call on entering contests, but it doesn’t fit with my writing business.
BUT, in an immediate example of every rule has an exception, I actually *am* entering a writing contest . . . for poetry. One of my unstated goals for this year is to dabble in other writing. During my prowling of sub calls, I found a cute little poetry contest I plan to enter. It’s really outside my comfort zone. I’m willing to take the gamble on trying something new. I have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, but it’s a fun little exercise in refreshing the creative well by trying something new.
Here’s a link if you want to see what type of writing I’m going to be trying: Scifaiku!
And, last but not least (or more accurately, “holy crap I almost forgot”), the question of the month:
What’s the dumbest way you’ve been injured?
I don’t know. I’ve been injured so many dumb ways! The top two would either have to be the time I nearly cut my finger off trying to slice through a frozen kielbasa, or the time I had to go to the ER in Grand Forks, North Dakota to have a porcupine quill pulled out of my thigh. I was the highlight of the ER that night, as there are no porcupines for many miles from here, and none of the doctors had ever, in their whole careers, ever had to pull a porcupine quill out of a human being. There was some debate on whether they should maybe call in an expert for my case . . . a veterinarian. Fortunately, after waiting while every single person on staff that night tromped in to see the spectacle and hear my lame story, a quick surgery removed the quill and left me with no noticeable scar.
And for those wondering how I got the quill? I had decided I was going to learn how to do quillwork (crafts using porcupine quills), and I decided a good place to work would be in front of my patio door because the light was good there. At some point, I either dropped a quill on the floor or one blew out of the jar (because I was sitting in front of the open patio door). I was working sitting cross-legged on the floor, and at some point, I shifted and rested my leg on top of the quill. The rest is Grand Forks history.
That’s it for this month (see, I told you it was January 912th; look at how long this post was)!
Until next month, stay spooky, my friends!