Friday, December 28, 2012

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Holy holiday craziness! I love this time of year but it sure gets busy. I’ve been slacking on my blogging duties a little (nothing new) but I do have a few announcements for you.

The Good

I love The Onion. You know The Onion, right? The satirical news…um…paper. Can we call things “newspapers” anymore? They hardly exist. Newspapers are kind of relics, like speak-and-spells or centrist republicans.

Anyway, I’ve always loved The Onion and recently I had several ideas for fake news stories that I thought would be perfect for them. One problem though, they don’t take submissions! They have staff writers that come up with all of their content. That’s both impressive (the same people come up with such original humor day after day) and depressing (because I’m not one of them). 

Rather than setting my ideas aside I looked around and found a few Onion-like satirical online news sources that do accept submissions. Over the last week I’ve had 3 stories published on Glossy News.

P.S. - If you’ve never written satire you should give it a try. It’s a ton of fun. I try to keep my stories funny but inoffensive.  That having been said, as you can tell from the comments on the Palin story, if you touch on politics or religion, chances are pretty good that you’re going to offend someone. I just try not to be mean about it (note: the caption and picture on the Palin story are a little mean but those were contributed by the editor, not me).

The Bad

Rejection letters aren’t good. No matter how much we butter them up as learning experiences or chances to grow, rejection letters suck. That’s why this bit of news is under the “Bad” category. However, some rejection letters are better than others and some are freaking amazing. I recently had a short story rejected by the online science fiction magazine Bewildering Stories. The wonderful folks at BS (nice abbreviation) not only take the time and effort to have a team of reviewers look at every story that comes in, they go above and beyond to actually tell you what they think! Instead of a form “this story isn’t right for us” you get a whole personalized email telling you exactly why your story was rejected and what they think might improve it. Submit your stuff to them. They’re awesome.

The Ugly

While getting a rejection letter is bad, getting no response is worse. I realize that some agents and publishers don't respond to most queries/submittals but they usually warn authors on their website. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about a market that promises a response but don't come through. For example, I submitted a science fiction short story (probably the best thing I've ever written) to the fledgling online magazine Specutopia in mid October. 

Like I do with every submission, I played the waiting game. I tried not to think too much about how many days it had been in review. I got excited when the story wasn't rejected in the average response time. I got worried when the response time went past the average, then double, but I waited to contact the editor until the minimum 60 days specified on the website. In the meantime their website stopped working altogether. At 60 days I queried and after a week without a response I withdrew the story.

I'm sure Sepcutopia wasn't planning on going out of business or falling into a black hole or whatever happened to them. I'm not mad at them for that. What butters my bread is the lack of communication. A one sentence email or a brief announcement on their website would have saved me weeks of stress and allowed me to sent that story, my favorite story, somewhere else. So screw you Specutopia. I'm glad you're dead.

The Good - Part 2

I almost forgot. I’m scheduled to have my science fiction short story “Lightning Flashed” (which is the same story that was rejected by Bewildering Stories) in the 4th issue of Dark Edifice in early February! Those of you that have been following my antics for a while may have already read this story when it was published on OnFictionWriting. It may not be a new story but it’s still cool to get it out there for new readers. I’ll let everyone know when it’s out. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Couple Cool Writing Tips For Your Tuesday

Today I have two cool writing tips for you, both from the amazing TED-Ed series. If you're unfamiliar with TED-Ed (which, oddly enough, doesn't include classes taught by my father in law Ted), I encourage you to waste large portions of your day delving into the lessons on this site. And what better way to start than a couple super cool writing tips!

The first is about writing engaging dialog:

And the second is about avoiding ZOMBIE NOUNS!!!!!

And while I'm at it, here's a cool story about why the word "Doubt" has a "b":


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Song: Hot Geek Girlfriend

My wife and I took a trip over the Thanksgiving holiday and I told myself before we left that I was going to do TONS of writing.

Well...that didn't really work out. I did a little, mainly just jotting down ideas on random pieces of paper. My one solid writing accomplishment for the trip was a new song. If you've checked it out before today, you may have noticed that the "My Songs" page of this blog only had one song on it. It should have been called "My Song". BUT NO MORE! Now there are 2. They are truly plural.

I want to give a huge shout out to John Anealio who's awesomely geeky songwriting inspired me (I especially love this one). Be sure to check him out.

And as long as I'm doing shout outs, be sure to check out Ms. Sicoe's inspiring post about unrealistic expectations and insecurity. Inspiring!

Ok, now for the song:

Hot Geek Girlfriend

We met at a con
I was dressed as Aragorn
She said she’s always be my Arwen

Cosplays as 7 of 9
Her skin tight jumpsuit looks so fine
I will never be alone again

Oh no she’s ain’t no booth babe
Here just to hock some new game
She’s a nerd like me
Just much better looking
She’s my hot geek girlfriend

She speaks fluent Klingon
And quotes Monty Python
George R.R. Martin poster on her wall

She knows that Hon shot first
And the new Star Wars are the worst
Was no doubt it’d be for her I’d fall

Oh no she’s ain’t a noob
WOW Pally level 82
She’s a nerd like me
Just much better looking
She’s my hot geek girlfriend

Someday we’ll tie the knot
Dressed like Uhura and Mr. Spock
Have little Ewok kids
We’ll never hit the skids
She’s a nerd like me
Just much better looking
She’s my hot geek girlfriend

She’s my hot geek girlfriend 

What do you think?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reading Rainbow Remixed

This is just so cool I had to share. I'm not sure it's as good as the Mr. Rogers remix but it really speaks to the reader and the writer in me. Love it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Ever Guest Post: Jeff Harget

The best thing about blogging is the people you meet. Not that I've ever actually met Jeff.  We haven't had beers or shared embarrassing childhood stories or spent a cold Buenos Aires morning burying a dead llama jockey that I HAVE NO IDEA HOW HE GOT INTO MY TRUNK!

But Jeff has been super supportive to me and my writing. He's really nice. Like super nice. Like so nice it makes me wonder whether he actually has a closet full of suits made with human skin and he's just covering up for it. Even so, he's my kinda people.

And he's been kind enough to grant me my very first guest post! I asked Jeff to tell us a little bit about how he got his short story published. As always, he exceeded my expectations.

Check it out.

"I've Never Had a Story Rejected."

Can you make that claim?  Writers all over the world can.  Never rejected.  Not even once.


Are they storytellers so brilliant that rejection is impossible?  Is their prose so powerful that the Earth itself is moved by it?  Do they write their characters so real they knock at your front door and borrow cups of sugar?  Are their settings so vivid that you could walk through them with your eyes closed?

They must have a secret.  That's the only explanation for never having had a story rejected, isn't it?  Want to know what their secret is?  I'm about to divulge it.  Right here.  Right now.  Follow this simple step and you'll never find another rejection letter in your mail again.

Don't submit your story.

That's it!  It's the only way.  It's guaranteed to prevent the heartbreak of reading, "Sorry, but your story isn't right for us at this time."  And you'll never again battle the self-doubt that comes with receiving no response at all to your submission.

This is a secret I knew instinctively.  I had a perfect record with zero rejections.  I was undefeated.  And I wasn't about to jeopardize it!  Surely, my fragile ego couldn't possibly withstand an incrementing counter in the losses column.  Once a rejection came I'd never again be able to claim that I had avoided the disappointment of rejection.

Undaunted by fear, I blissfully wrote my stories and chapters.  I posted chuckles and light-hearted shorts on my blog without the dread of agents and editors scrutinizing every word and phrase.  I participated in weekly challenges with my online fantasy writing group, knowing the worst I'd receive was a callous critique.  I was happy.  I was writing.  And I had never been rejected.

And then came opportunity.  A message appeared in the fantasy writing group, posted by an editor who had just finished selecting stories for the "Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates" anthology.  She asked the group, "You wouldn't per chance have a really good story about magic?"

"Magic??? This is a FANTASY Writing group," I replied, and ended my response by quoting Harry Potter. "I love magic!"

She asked if I was fishing for an invitation.  I hadn't thought so consciously, but now that she'd asked, maybe subconsciously I was.  Was a push all I needed?  I inquired about where I could find the submission guidelines.  "Nowhere," she answered.  She doesn't like slush.  Submissions were by invitation only.  We took the conversation to email and she told me what types of stories she was seeking.

"What the heck," I thought.  I drafted the first thousand or so words of an idea I had.  I sent it to her and asked if it was in the ballpark.  She said it was.  So without regard for my perfect record, I wrote.  A few weeks later, I sent her the finished story.  And waited. 

An email arrived a couple months later.  It contained a handful of suggested edits.  I was ecstatic.  Edit requests mean they're interested, or so I'd read on more than one blog.  I happily revised and resubmitted.  A few days later I received word that she wanted to include "Barnabas" in the anthology.  My short story had found a home.

This was a case of me being in the right place at the right time with the right story sent to the right editor.  In North Carolina, we call that "sheer dumb luck."  But sometimes, sheer dumb luck is the best kind to have. 

But then I got to thinking.  That's what it always comes down to, isn't it?  Beautiful, powerful, exciting stories by the thousands skirt across the desks of countless agents and editors before they find a home.  They have to be the right story at the right time for the right place and read by the right agent. 

All we can do is keep submitting our stories until the celestial muses align and our words emit that almost divine aura that only the right agent at the right time can see.  It doesn't matter how many desks our stories see before they find their home.  What matters is that we continue giving our stories the chance to find that perfect home.

The quotable Winston Churchill said, "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."

Never having been rejected isn't a boast; it's proof you need to buy more stamps and click "Send" on more emails containing your stories and queries.  Have courage. Be tenacious, unrelentingly persistent.  The perfect home for your story is out there.  Only you can help your story find it.

About Jeff Hargett

Jeff Hargett is a grandfather from North Carolina with an imagination full of magic and dragons. He stays young and fit by dining on epic fantasy whenever possible. He has a short story that appears in the Spells: Ten Tales of Magic anthology and a couple others that placed in competitions, but prefers his fiction in novel-length doses. He is currently writing an epic fantasy series that he hopes will be published while he can still wield a pen. He’s a firm believer that when this world doesn’t suit you, you should write a world that does. He enjoys interacting with readers and other writers and spends far too much time loitering around his blog.

When this world doesn’t suit you, write a world that does.