New beginnings

I’ve been posting under the nom de plume “Stone Table” for the better part of fifteen years. As my writing career begins to bloom thanks to the 501words blog I’ve realized that a more professional web presence would be prudent. Not that I have a problem with my moniker but having to introduce myself as an inanimate object at conventions in order to be recognized as that guy from the Internet is kind of awkward and not the kind of impression I want to leave with people. More so when you want to be recognized as a peer and professional. So, after years of regrets followed by nail-biting, I am happy to announce that is now mine.

From this point forward, I will be blogging under my own name. The domain will remain online for archival purposes and I will be phasing out my other uses of my nickname. Change is always uncertain but I’m excited by what’s to come.

Explore the Dollhouse

Even though my current favorite show, Dollhouse, has been officially canceled1, the folks over at Smart Pop are running a Dollhouse Essay Contest.

We love Dollhouse. And we know from Buffy and Firefly that Joss Whedon fans are across-the-board smart, insightful, and involved.

So we’ve teamed up with Jane Espenson, Dollhouse writer and Mutant Enemy veteran, to put out an essay anthology on Dollhouse composed entirely of fan-written essays. Everyone, novice to seasoned writer, is eligible to enter; the only requirement is that you are fan of Dollhouse!

Write a great essay on Dollhouse, send it to us, and your essay could be published in a Smart Pop book edited by Jane.

I usually shy away from non-fiction but I might give this a shot. I’m a huge fan of Dollhouse (and of Joss Whedon in general) and I have very strong feelings about what Joss and team are trying to do with the show.

1There is a glimmer of hope that Fox will reconsider the decision to cancel the show, if the ratings for the last aired episodes makes a miraculous turnaround. One would hope they would learn their mistakes from Firefly and simply Trust In Joss.

Doing the Limbo – How low will you go?

Inspired by John Scalzi’s “In the Spirit of Pulps, and Paying Even Less“, there has been a slew of discussion on the topic of pay rates for authors (and I’m sure I’ve missed some). In short, John rails against markets paying minuscule per-word rates for fiction and defenders from both camps come out to add their side to the debate. Two posts in particular stand out to me, as an aspiring writer.

I think it’s easy for new authors to fall into the trap of submitting to smaller, lower-paying markets first, thinking that their odds of getting published are higher. When your confidence is low, you are statistically more likely to get an ego-boosting acceptance from non-paying and token markets. Duotrope’s list of most approachable markets backs that up: 52% are non-paying, 16% only pay occasionally, and 6% offer payments up to semi-pro rates (usually a flat rate per story). Two markets do pay professional rates but only accept twitter-length stories.

Bad Credits Will Not Help You Get Published, from Rachel Swirsky guest blogging on Jeff VanderMeer‘s blog, discusses why no credits are potentially better than credits from “bad” credits, from her experience as an editor and slush reader.

My friend Christie asked me what I thought about the debate a few days ago. I realized, upon reflection, that while logically I know to aim high, the temptation for easy approval is still there and that doesn’t fit with my goals.

Tobias Buckell‘s post on Writing neepery, while not exactly a watershed moment for me, did give me something very valuable to ponder. Setting a minimum rate per word that I’ll accept. Writing is just as much a business as publishing and both should be treated with seriousness. There are always exceptions to the rule; markets like Electric Velocipede and Hadley Rille Books are favorites of mine and I’ll submit to them regardless of rate if I have something that fits.

At some point, you need to ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve as a writer. If you’re simply looking to see your work in “print”, electronic or otherwise, then it really doesn’t matter where you submit. If, like myself, you want to make a career out of this writing thing and eventually make a living at it, then you need to value your work appropriately.

Reprint questions

I have my first story, published in the Return to Luna anthology from Hadley Rille Books, available to submit as a reprint. I’ve read/heard a few good discussions about the economics of reprint sales but I am woefully uneducated on them otherwise. Help me, hive mind. Any best practices to follow or traps to avoid?

In exchange for this valuable information, I offer you this post-Halloween treat:

The Eternal Flame’s pixels burn bright and efficiently

Shortly after World War Two, a statue to honor the memories of the dead was erected in the Ukraine. The gas torch in its palm symbolized eternal memory. Years later, the Soviet Union fell and infrastructures crumbled. Natural gas shortages led to the flame being turned off and for years the statue stood dark and unmaintained. Now, a new use for it has been found.

Cell Tower Statue

The defunct gas flame has been replaced with a pixelized version that consumes less than 400w of power. Inside the display sits a cell phone transmitter. I think this is a perfect example of the ideas behind GreenPunk. Take existing infrastructure and repurpose it. Not only is it functional, it’s also aesthetically pleasing.

The new Eternal Flame

This goes onto my list of places I’d like to visit. The spirit, ingenuity and vision of the people behind this should be celebrated. They’ve found a way to continue the monuments original purpose along with providing a useful and, I suspect, critical service.

See English Russia for more picture and the original article.


Not gonna do it. Nope. I’ve decided NaNoWriMo is not for me, at least for the foreseeable future.

I think the NaNo people are doing a great thing. Noble, in fact. Every year they relaunch on October 1st and every year I log back in to my account, thinking, this is my year. Write a novel* in 50,000 words! Write, write, write every day. Words, thy name is habit. But you know what? I don’t need NaNo.

So many amateur authors start out wanting to write the Great American Novel. Who can blame them? Walk in to any bookstore and you’ll be hard pressed to find more than a shelf or two in any given section dedicated to short stories. It’s implied that novels are where it’s at, baby. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve come to an acceptance. I am a short story writer who may occasionally write novels, in the future. I am not a novelist who occasionally pens a short story.

I’m okay with this. In fact, I’m overwhelmed with satisfaction. I wrestled with the idea of NaNo this year, trying to decide between the two ideas competing for attention. Somewhere in that clash between dwarf-piloted airships firing lighting and that urban fantasy with magically-tattooed hunters, I realized something: I’m already doing exactly what I want to be doing.

I’m reading slush. I’m critiquing stories on OWW and two small groups online. I’m writing, more or less consistently. I’m editing. I’m submitting. I’m exploring dozens of ideas. I’m learning. We’re even planning, sometime in the next few years, to launch our very own shiny SF/F zine. You know what? I am completely happy with where I am and what I’m doing.

I don’t need to write a novel right now. I’ll tackle that challenge when I’m ready and feel like I have something worthy of the long form. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing short stories. I’ll keep revising and polishing and submitting. One of these days, I’ll get a sale, and then another. I’ll make a pro sale and finally join SFWA. And I’ll keep writing short fiction, until something grabs me so strongly that I can’t let go until I see it through to the end of something longer.

* half of a novel, for genre work

Writing update, October edition

One good thing about being broke is that paper and ink is cheap and ideas are free.

I’ve managed to do a fair bit of new writing in the past couple of months but I’ve been bad about blogging about it. New stories written, old stories rewritten, a handful of submissions and nearly as many rejections. I even submitted to the Writers of the Future contest after years of talking about doing it. Five stories are in the wild right now. Hopefully I can double that by years end.

I’m toying with the idea of attempting NaNoWriMo again this year. I’ve tried it off and on, most recently two years ago. Life went crazy an ended that effort prematurely. Two ideas are vying for attention — the urban fantasy I started in 2007, following three long-lived brothers with magical tattoos hunting the non-sparkly bad guys that killed their parents, and a more contemporary fantasy but with Dwarves, airships, and a clockwork army. Think steampunk but with lightning instead of steam. Sparkpunk. If I don’t do NaNo, I’ll at least knock out a few more short stories, possibly in these two worlds. They’re both fun to play in.

My TODO list for October resembles the following:

  • Revise my Hodag story, due by October 15th
  • Decide if I’m going to do NaNoWriMo
    • Outline NaNoWriMo story
  • Write a Zombie flash fiction story, due by October 16th
  • Organize my list of upcoming anthologies/themes that I want to submit to
  • Revise and submit “Starry, Starry Night”
  • Revise and submit Augmented Reality story
  • Rewrite “Recycled Dreams”

What are you working on?