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Rejected! – Carl E. Reed

 

Rejections. The bane of every working—or would-be working—writer. One hunkers down in front of the keyboard (or pad of paper, typewriter, tape recorder) and . . . writes . . . whatever process that active verb sums up for you. And when finished revising (You do revise, don’t you? Surely you’re not one of those rank amateurs who inflicts first drafts upon their readers? “The first draft of anything is shit.”—Ernest Hemingway. “The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist.”—Michael Lee) one sends the resultant manuscript out into the world to an editor (assuming one wishes to be published, that is; not self-published) and breathlessly awaits Caesar’s verdict: thumbs-up or thumbs-down. And when that all-but-guaranteed rejection comes bouncing back . . .

There are countless articles out there that counsel the writer how to react soberly and professionally to rejection. This is not one of those articles. No indeed! Today, friends and neighbors, fellow long-suffering Knights of the Quill, midnight scritch-scribblers, far-seeing farcical fantasists and quotidian-focused literary fictioneers alike, we are going to allow ourselves the inestimable sublime pleasure of hooting and howling at a select group of cement-headed cretins. I mean, of course, the critical mediocrities who rejected first-rank artists and their attendant masterworks with such clueless, querulous verbal spasmings [sic] as:

    • Peter J. Bentley of Bentley & Son Publishing House: First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale? While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”
    • Moberly Luger of Peacock & Peacock Publishing: “If I may be frank — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other. Your bombastic, dipsomaniac, where-to-now characters had me reaching for my own glass of brandy.”
    • Name Omitted: “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.”
    • Name Omitted: “I haven’t the foggiest idea what the man is trying to say. Apparently the author intends it to be funny.”
    • Name Omitted: “I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”
    • Name Omitted: “…overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

    • Name Omitted: “. . . you just don’t know how to use the English language.”

    • Name Omitted: “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character.”

    • Name Omitted: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”

      answers to the above: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91169/16-famous-authors-and-their-rejections

      …………………………………

I’ll close with one of my all-time personal favorites:

Name Omitted: “The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.”

(speaking of Crash, by J. G. Ballard)

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Our First Themed Co-op Writers’ Showcase

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, web-surfing I.Q.-augmented transgenic pets and government-controlled robotic mites photographing this computer screen, it gives me great pleasure to usher in . . . [trumpet fanfare & rumble of kettledrums] . . . our first Co-op Writers’ Showcase!

The theme for June 2017 was: 100 Words (Maximum) Related to Numbers. A warm round of applause for all the fast-typin’, hard-thinkin’, talented scritch-scribblers who participated in this inaugural exercise. In no particular order, then:

…………………….

Writer: Perry Palin

Title: Ten Words

Ten words. The note was ten awful words on a half sheet of lined paper torn from a notebook, crumpled, then smoothed and folded between the pages of a college text.

A spring wind had turned over the leaves on the trees, and then a warm rain rinsed the city dust into the street. Birds carried little things to make their nests. I remember your dark eyes, the hair on your arms, I remember the scent of you. The envelope had melted in the rain, but the message was there.

I won’t be there Tuesday. I can’t do this anymore.”

………………………………..

Writer: Kris Bowes

Chapter excerpt from Beneath Ember Skies

She wandered down the hallway to room eight. Eight, she thought, how sacred and profane. Change one letter for a fight.

The room was immaculate, save the young man inside the exothermal chamber.

Eight: the only other perfect cube that’s a positive Fibonacci prime.

He looked so much smaller inside the chamber.

In the old faiths, eight meant a new beginning, resurrection from death and ascension into eternal life.

She saw a flash of her three-year-old Ray.

Circumcision committed the Holy Spirit to the newborn on the eighth day – maybe it was the other way around. Who knew anymore?

………………………………..

Writer: Mimi Speike

Title: At Ten

Trailing a U-Haul, we were off to Florida, to a sleepy haven. Only two girls my age nearby. Jeanne, a snot with starter boobs. And lavishly upholstered Mary Hippe, pronounced Hip-pee/called Hip-po.

Florida! Cockroaches big as dates. Retirees, fiddler crabs, swarming the sands at the foot of our street. Creepy critters everywhere.1

On a budget! Oil stove shut down come bedtime. (Winters were cold.) AC was for rich folks. Oh-those-months-on-end-of-sweltering days-and-sleepless-nights-Christ-Almighty-how-did-we-endure-it?

In that steambath I wore, not sensible shifts, voluminous skirts buoyed by stiff-starched-net crinolines. (Think JonBenétRamsey)

Why? To fit in.

(Gave that up wayback.)

………………………………..

 

Writer: Atthys Gage

Title: Three Brutal Curses

He stood, hands dangling. The big guy took his backpack.

“Pleasure doin’ business with you, puto.”

They turned and walked. They hadn’t even frisked him.

His dad always told him: count to ten before you do something stupid. On ten, the little snubnose was in his hand. It barked three brutal curses.

One man dropped. The other scrambled away into the darkness.

Night shivered in silence. He approached the crumpled man. “I’d like a refund, please.”

He took the loco’s handgun. He took the backpack. And he walked.

Ten steps away, and nausea doubled him up like a gut punch.

…………………………

Writer: Carl E. Reed

Untitled

Einsatzgruppe C assembled on the parade ground at high noon in Central Ukraine. Their collective punishment: decimation for failing to capture an assigned quota of Jews.

Sieben, acht, neun . . .” the major counted off, pacing the second row of paramilitary police standing at ramrod attention.

Sprawled on the ground in the first row: two corpses in spreading pools of blood.

Zehn!” The major halted, raised his pistol to the head of Sgt. Schmidt.

Schmidt locked eyes with his commanding officer. “Still human,” he said. Yesterday he’d discovered two boys hiding in a crawlspace; moved on without sounding the alarm. “You lose.”

 

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Norman Spinrad: The Iron Dream & Osama The Gun

There are more books than time, yes? That is to say: given the finite spans of our lives, and the untold hours lost therein to sleep and work and divers other activities besides repetitively scanning black tick marks on a page from left-to-right, starting in the upper left corner and then working downward to the lower right—flip!—repeat; I suspect most of us have compiled long lists (mentally or written, eh?) of books we intend to get around to reading . . . someday.

I give you forthwith two works of Norman Spinrad’s I intend to peruse as soon as I scrape together the florins necessary to acquire them: The Iron Dream and Osama The Gun. Both books sound utterly amazing: compelling, provocative, psychologically and sociologically astute, courageous and unflinching in their exploration of the roots of politically motivated and culturally sanctioned violence. One gets the sense from reviews of these books that Norman Spinrad swings for the fences each time at bat. Who doesn’t admire that kind of all-in commitment from a writer?

And how did I miss these books till now?!

The Iron Dream: http://airshipdaily.com/blog/06052014-the-iron-dream

Osama The Gun: https://www.amazon.com/Osama-Gun-Novel-New-Caliphate/dp/1479408271

SFWA interview with Norman Spinrad: http://www.sfwa.org/2011/09/an-interview-with-norman-spinrad-anarchist/

What books are on your “must read next” list?

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Uncategorized

So You Want To Be A Writer – Prof. Colum McCann

So you want to be a writer? Attend, then, to creative writing professor Colum McCann!

………………………………………

Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody,” said Rainer Maria Rilke Letters To A Young Poet more than a century ago. “There is only one way. Go into yourself.”

“This most of all,” he says. “Ask yourself in the most silent hour of night: must I write?”

…….

To hell with grammar, but only if you know the grammar first. To hell with formality, but only if you have learned what it means to be formal. To hell with plot, but you had better at some stage make something happen. To hell with structure, but only if you have thought it through so thoroughly that you can safely walk through your work with your eyes closed.

…….

A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again.

…….

Don’t write what you know, write towards what you want to know.

…….

You have to put in the time. If you are not there, the words will not appear. Simple as that.

A writer is not someone who thinks obsessively about writing, or talks about it, or plans it, or dissects it, or even reveres it: a writer is the one who puts his arse in the chair when the last thing he wants to do is have his arse in the chair.

Good writing will knock the living daylights out of you. Very few people talk about it, but writers have to have the stamina of world-class athletes. The exhaustion of sitting in the one place. The errors. The retrieval. The mental taxation. The dropping of the bucket down into the near-empty well over and over again.

…….

Nabokov says that his characters are just his galley slaves – but he’s Nabokov, and he’s allowed to say things like that. Let me respectfully disagree. Your characters deserve your respect. Some reverence. Some life of their own. You must thank them for surprising you, and for ringing the doorbell of your imagination.

…….

And always remember that what we don’t say is as important as, if not more so than, what we do. So study the silences too, and have them working on the page. You soon find out how loud the silence really is. Everything unsaid leads eventually to what is said.

…….

Structure should grow out of character and plot, which essentially means that it grows out of language. In other words, the structure is forever in the process of being shaped. You find it as you go along. Chapter by chapter. Voice by voice. Ask yourself if it feels right to tell the story in one fell swoop, or if it should be divided into sections, or if it should have multiple voices, or even multiple styles. You stumble on through the dark, trying new things all the time.

Sometimes, in fact, you don’t find the structure until halfway through, or even when you’re close to being finished. That’s OK. You have to trust that it will eventually appear and that it will make sense.

…….

Plot matters, of course it matters, but it is always subservient to language. Plot takes the backseat in a good story because what happens is never as interesting as how it happens. And how it happens occurs in the way language captures it and the way our imaginations transfer that language into action.

So give me music then, young maestro, please. Make it occur the way nobody ever made it occur before. Stop time. Celebrate it. Demolish it. Slow the clock down so that the tick of each and every second lasts an hour or more. Take leaps into the past. Put backspin on your memory. Be in two or three places at one time. Destroy speed and position. Make just about anything happen.

Maybe in this day and age we are diseased by plot. Let’s face it, plots are good for movies, but when over-considered they tend to make books creak. So, unbloat your plot. Listen for the quiet line. Anyone can tell a big story, yes, but not everyone can whisper something beautiful in your ear.

…….

It’s not a throwaway thing to tell you the truth. It’s not a throwaway thing, to tell you the truth.

Punctuation matters. In fact, sometimes it’s the life or death of a sentence. Hyphens. Full stops. Colons. Semicolons. Ellipses. Parentheses. They’re the containers of a sentence. They scaffold your words. Should a writer know her grammar? Yes, she should. Don’t overuse the semicolon; it is a muscular comma when used correctly. Parentheses in fiction draw far too much attention to themselves. Learn how to use the possessive correctly as in most good writer’s work. (Oops.) Never finish a sentence with an at. (Sorry.) Avoid too many ellipses, especially at the end of a passage, they’re just a little too dramatic … (See?)

Grammar changes down through the years: just ask Shakespeare or Beckett or the good folks at the New Yorker. The language of the street eventually becomes the language of the schoolhouse. It’s the difference between the prescriptive and the descriptive. So much depends, as William Carlos Williams might have said, upon the red wheelbarrow – especially if the barrow itself stands solitary at the end of the line.

…….

Research is the bedrock of nearly all good writing, even poetry. We have to know the world beyond our own known world. We have to be able to make a leap into a life or a time or a geography that is not immediately ours. Often we will want to write out of gender, race, time. This requires deep research.

Yes, Google helps, but the world is so much deeper than Google. A search engine can’t hold a candle to all the libraries in the world where the books actually exist, live, breathe, and argue with one another. So go down to the library. Check out the catalogues. Go to the map division. Unlock the boxes of photographs. If you want to know a life different from your own, you better try to meet it at least halfway. Get out in the street.

Talk to people. Show interest. Learn how to listen. You must find the divine detail: and the more specific the detail, the better. William Gass . . . [is an] American author who says quite beautifully that a writer finds himself alone with all that might happen . . .

…….

. . . In the end there’s only one real failure – and that’s the failure to be able to fail. Having tried is the true bravery.

…….

Sometimes . . . you just have to have the cojones to wipe the whole slate clean. Occasionally you know – deep in your gut – that it’s not good enough. Or you’ve been chasing the wrong story. Or you’ve been waiting for another moment of inspiration.

Often the true voice is not heard until long into the story. It might be a year of work, hundreds of pages, or even more. . . But something in you knows – it just knows – that everything you have written so far has just been preparation for what you are now about to write. You have finally found your north, your east, your west. No south, no going back.

…….

Gogol said that the last line of every story was: “And nothing would ever be the same again.” Nothing in life ever really begins in one single place, and nothing ever truly ends. But stories have at least to pretend to finish. Don’t tie it up too neatly. Don’t try too much. Often the story can end several paragraphs before, so find the place to use your red pencil. Print out several versions of the last sentence and sit with them. Read each version over and over. Go with the one that you feel to be true and a little bit mysterious. Don’t tack on the story’s meaning. Don’t moralise at the end. Don’t preach that final hallelujah. Have faith that your reader has already gone with you on a long journey. They know where they have been. They know what they have learned. They know already that life is dark. You don’t have to flood it with last-minute light.

You want the reader to remember. You want her to be changed. Or better still, to want to change.

Try, if possible, to finish in the concrete, with an action, a movement, to carry the reader forward. Never forget that a story begins long before you start it and ends long after you end it. Allow your reader to walk out from your last line and into her own imagination. Find some last-line grace. This is the true gift of writing. It is not yours anymore. It belongs in the elsewhere. It is the place you have created. Your last line is the first line for everybody else.

…….

(The following quotes taken from the full article found here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/13/so-you-want-to-be-a-writer-colum-mccanns-tips-for-young-novelists?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Bookmarks+base&utm_term=225927&subid=22099271&CMP=EMCBKSEML3964 )

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Uncategorized

Pulp Fiction: The Golden Age of Genre

 

 

 

Okay, gang, we seem to be a little light on new blog posts at the moment (notwithstanding Kris’ grand-slam right out of the analytical park last time at bat here in Story Country), so I’ll throw this out there for those interested in watching, not reading, something new. PULP FICTION: The Golden Age of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Adventure. Please comment afterward as the spirit and/or jarred (or should that be “jaded”?) intellect moves you. . . .

Heigh-ho, The Golden Age!

 

 

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About Writers

Bring Me the Head of Philip K. Dick!

AI-Robot -- PKD

http://www.hansonrobotics.com/robot/philip-k-dick-android/ 

…A human being without the proper empathy or feeling is the same as an android built so as to lack it, either by design or mistake. We mean, basically, someone who does not care about the fate which his fellow living creatures fall victim to; he stands detached, a spectator, acting out by his indifference John Donne’s theorem that “No man is an island,” but giving that theorem a twist: that which is a mental and moral island is not a man.

Philip K. Dick, “Man, Android and Machine”

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.

—Philip K. Dick

It is amazing that when someone else spouts the nonsense you yourself believe you can readily perceive it as nonsense.  

—PHILIP K. DICK, Valis

This is a mournful discovery:

(1) those who agree with you are insane

(2) those who do not agree with you are in power.

—PHILIP K. DICK, Valis

If you or I ever really accepted the moral responsibility for what we’ve done in our lifetime—we’d drop dead or go mad. Living creatures weren’t made to understand what they do.

—PHILIP K. DICK, Now Wait For Last Year

The appropriate response to reality is to go insane.

—PHILIP K. DICK

………………………………………….

Are you aware that “they” once built an android of Philip K. Dick?

This mechanoid simulacrum was no mere mannequin, robot or cheap A.I. computer program powering a ventriloquist’s dummy but a seemingly sentient creature whose camera eyes focused on your own as you talked. An android so advanced that its eyes would track you if you got up and moved about the room; that listened attentively to your speech, pondered, and then responded in kind. Whose face could display every shade of emotion known to man, and who in turn could read the emotion on your own face.

The android had the corpus of P.K.D.’s works and interviews programmed into its advanced artificial intelligence in order to draw upon this vast repository of Phil Dickian thought to answer questions put to it in near real time. Yet the one question its makers dreaded interviewers asking it above all others was, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” Because if confronted with this particular dystopian sci-fi interrogative Phil would begin to talk . . . and elaborate . . . and baroquely ornament its answer with references drawn from the entire corpus of human knowledge and divers academic/esoteric disciplines (psychology, sociology, philosophy, religion, history, engineering, physics, astronomy, myth, magic and mysticism, et. al.) until infinity—or its makers pulled the plug.

And I do mean infinity. When programmers examined the queued-up data logs compiled from Phil’s prepared response to this question they found themselves marveling with equal parts rueful humor and bemused horror at the discovery that the android was prepared to discourse on this particular subject . . . forever. Literally—forever: until the end of time. The only way they could get faux-P.K.D. to stop talking about androids dreaming of electric sheep was to wipe its memory clean and start over with a different question.

Came the day one of the principals involved in chaperoning the android to a new convention fell asleep on a plane. Upon arrival at the airport this man woke up, grabbed his personal effects and left the aircraft in a groggy state only to belatedly realize that he’d left the android’s head behind.

It was never seen again.

Run, Dick, run.

…………………………………………..

http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/bring-me-the-head-of-philip-k-dick/Content?oid=3191917 

http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/frank-views-archive/philip-k-dicks-final-interview/

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writing technique

On Writing: authors Stanley Fish & Roger Rosenblatt

Take a deep breath: we’re going fathoms down, down . . .

The craft of fiction requires imagination and discipline in equal measure. It is both art and science; its demands on the practitioner gestaltic and quotidian. Gestaltic in that the production of text comprising a unified whole of divers elements such as plot, theme, dialogue, characterization, symbols, motifs, etc. from oneiric visions, fleeting hypnagogic insights, ephemeral reveries and focused bouts of cogitation requires one distinct set of skills. Quotidian in that the fashioning—sentence after cunningly wrought sentence—of the most apt, evocative and concretizing of words that will resonate with the reader and allow him or her to enter (insofar as possible) the fictional dream of story requires quite another talent.

It is this latter part of the craft—the quotidian art of the sentence—that authors Stanley Fish and Roger Rosenblatt teach so well. Their reverence, awe and delight in the sentence qua sentence gladden and uplift this aging author’s heart. I believe you will be charmed as well as you listen to these wizened masters speak.

Note: You may have some difficulty (depending on your computer’s internet service speeds and feeds) with the following link. I assure you any irritation caused by video stutter is well worth fighting through. Two points: (1) Pause the presentation occasionally to allow your system to catch up, and (2) know that the issue—on my computer, anyway—cleared up about halfway through.

Onward!

CLICK HERE: https://charlierose.com/videos/16610

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