Mark Grace could play baseball. He played for 16 years and ended his career with a .303 batting average. Dude could hit. How’d he do it, hard work, dedication, years of practice, god given ability? Nah, Grace used a little something he liked to call a Slump Buster.
When a player was in a slump, Slump Busting was the act of finding the a woman one would consider the least attractive in the traditional sense and have sex with her. This means of breaking a slump was also known by some terms you may consider a bit less flattering, such as:
– Taking wood to a fatty
– Finding a swamp donkey
– Finding road beef
– Throwing yourself on the grenade
– Getting a blubbernaut
– Nailing the whale
I think you get the point.
So, what to do when you are in a writing slump? I haven’t had a story accepted in over a year now, my longest stretch. In the spirit of slump busting I’ve (unintentionally at least) written some stories that I consider quite heinous, written for the sake of writing, read up on story crafting, and even tried to attend a writer’s group that was of course defunct when I showed up.
What now? What is the writer’s version of Slump Busting? How do I nail my figurative whale, find my mystical swamp donkey or elusive blubbernaut??
Someone out there MUST have an idea!?
For the first time since I’ve been published I’ve hit, what is for me, my low point. I’ve made no posts, because I’ve had no work accepted for publication in the year 2014! Admittedly, my volume has suffered due to lifestyle changes, the most time-sucking one having been going back to school. Add in a few more excuses and what you have is basically…just that, excuses.
Although the amount I’ve written has been decreased, I didn’t think the quality had suffered, yet I find even the “positive” rejection is now something of a rarity. Nearly extinct is the “great story, but it doesn’t quite fit with this issue/publication/genre.”
There does seem to be less markets available for my level of submission, with smaller windows of time in which they are reading, but again that’s just an excuse. I spent some time on a story or two that were certainly out of my comfort zone, and I’m sure I’m better for having written them, however; it’s little solace as the benefit of improvement is unmeasurable, particularly when success is measured by acceptance.
So, what is the answer? More writing of course! Easier said than done when the only results are form rejections. Is it fan fiction? The Press of Atlantic City published on 11/1/14, “Why publishers want fan fiction to go mainstream” by Jessica Contrera. In her article she mentions many websites in which fan fiction is published. She sites numerous success stories, one of which is “The Gabriel Trilogy,” which is Twilight fan fiction that was picked up by a publisher and has sold 850,000 copies. Another example of Twilight fan fiction is the “Beautiful Bastard’ series in which 1 million copies have been sold. Let’s not forget “50 Shades of Grey” and its 100 million and counting!
Is that the answer? Pick a best selling franchise and apply your talent toward retelling the story? I don’t know if that’s the best route to take, but it still seems a more palatable version of self-publishing per se. I don’t think I’m one to spend the limited writing time I have in producing a novel that is a retelling of an existing story, especially given that the chances of being successful are possibly no better (assuming the same level of writing talent in doing an original story vs fan fiction).
Anyway, for now, my answer will be to stay the course. I’ve switched it up with a flash fiction piece under 1,000 words. We’ll see where that goes. Other than that I’m open to some advice!
One of my favorite horror sites, Pseudopod (who happened to publish my very first story), has just rejected my short story “Colony.”
The responding editor had some good things to say though:
“Thank you for sending us “Colony.” I have reviewed this submission and
decided not to purchase it. I found it lovely and well-wrought and
enjoyed most of it immensely. The ending just really didn’t work for
me. For me, it detracted from such an otherwise strong piece. It
brought me out of the dark place and shattered my suspension of
So, I guess I know what I need to fix.
Good news today as two of my previously published stories have been picked up in anthologies! I spent about 8 months writing a long piece and the accompanying synopsis, then had a bunch of rejections on the stories I finished recently so these acceptances are welcome news.
“Little Pieces” which was originally published in the October 2010 issue of Necrotic Tissue. The story deals with the harsh realities of dealing with death, knowing when to let go, and the complicated family issues that can accompany such pain.
“Little Pieces” was accepted into a Wildside Press’Haunts & Horrors’anthology. The editor said:
“It was great fun to read; very well-written and atmospheric, with an excellent ending.” I hope others agree.
“Cookers” was originally published on August 10th, 2010 in the aptly named Tales of the Zombie War. The story follows our young heroine in a coming of age story as she struggles to survive with her father and grandmother in…wait for it…a zombie apocalypse! These undead are super-heated, their flesh overdone and falling from the bone, and are just as dangerous as the mutated, meat-eating plant life.
“Cookers” was accepted into the ‘Zombie’ Anthology.
Dates are not set for either publication, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
My dark fiction piece on a lost soul floating his way through life and discovering what he may or may not be through various mundane every day occurrences has once more been rejected.
Originally declined by Pseudopod the editor gave me the following feedback : “I really liked the style of this piece, and the tone is great, but I didn’t really care for the way the
narrator deals with his ……. Finding out that ……just didn’t deliver the impact it really
Then I sent it to Morpheus Tales and the editor said: “we enjoyed reading your story we do not feel the material is right for Morpheus Tales and unfortunately we cannot use the material offered. We liked your writing style, but felt the story could only end one of two ways and it was too easy to predict….”
I deleted some plot reveals from the feedback above, but taking what the editors told me I added some depth to the main character and an extra twist or two making the ending much less predictable. Apparently, the changes weren’t enough for the fine people at Apex Magazine, so onward to another publication!
I am well into the second draft of my “novel” and to keep the masses (of one…maybe?) satisfied I am posting a story from 3 years ago due to my lack of new material.
Although some spots are cringe worthy it’s worth a gander into the past.
The sink was filled with soapy water, thousands of small bubbles, shimmering with rainbows from the refracted sunlight through the kitchen window. She could hear her two children playing in the basement.
Her thoughts drifted off into the past as she stared out the window and washed the large glass serving plate, from last night’s dinner, in the soapy water. The sky was azure and calming with a couple of clouds listing lazily in the breeze. A white blaze streaked across the great blue sea of sky then vanished. “A shooting star?” she thought. “During the day?” Figuring it must be her lucky day she made a wish.
She looked out at the wooden swing set in her backyard. It seemed like yesterday she was pushing her toddlers on the swings, now they would go out and play alone for hours. She enjoyed the extra free time but part of her missed the innocent dependence on her to be all there was to them. To be everything. She rinsed off the glass serving plate and placed it on a dishtowel on the countertop. She heard her children’s high-pitched laughter downstairs and smiled.
She sunk her hands down into the dirty water to pull out the drain stop. The sun outside moved behind a dark cloud and cast long shadows across her backyard. A rumble rolled in from the heavens, distant but ominous. The windowpane rattled and she cried out in pain as she cut her hand on a knife lurking beneath the water. Instinctively she yanked her hand from the sink revealing a long thin slice across the palm of her left hand. Drops of blood slid down her wrist and dripped into the sink water, swirling and mingling with the suds in a celebration of freedom from the flesh.
Suddenly as if the sun had been extinguished it grew unnaturally dark outside. A streak of lightening singed a jagged line in the sky outside her window. Another thunderclap, more jarring than the first, followed shaking her wedding ring from the windowsill into the water, murky with grease, suds and freshly let blood. After a failed attempt to catch it she watched the ring’s spiraling descent to the bottom of the sink. Her wedding ring clanked on the bottom of the sink and as if it was a catalyst the bright red in the sink joined together. Small drips swarmed, like angry, red wasps, and found each other. Unified they formed a message and there was no doubting the message delivered by this blood scribe. Crisp and unmistakable, the message spelled out a crimson “10”.
Another flash of lightening gave a glimpse of a shape outside, for just an instant. Did she see something? Was someone out there? Her heart moved up into her throat. Thunder rattled her once again and the kitchen lights began to blink. The television in the basement grew loud with cartoon laughter then quiet. Another bolt of lightening exploded and this time there was no mistake, someone was out there. It was a young girl in a dress swinging on the swing set. Thunder boomed once more and the lights in the house went off as if blown out. A primal fear of darkness and the destructive force of nature, so old she didn’t know she had it, caused her hair to stand on end as another flash lit up the back yard, leaving behind a bright and eerie glow of sickly, jaundiced yellow. The girl was standing halfway between the swings and the window. Paralyzed with fear the mother tried to cry out, but no sound came out, her throat sticky and dry.
There was silence now, save for the beating of her own heart and the dripping of the faucet. The wind howled outside, speaking words barely audible, raspy whispers, a breeze through razor blades. A shadowy image, impossibly darker than the false night, moved toward her outside the window. She realized she had been clutching her chest and removed her hand to reveal a bloody handprint on her white sweater. Little pieces of white fuzz were stuck in the knife wound on her palm.
The smell of ozone preceded another white flash that incinerated the darkness. A hand slapped the window and this time the mother managed a chocked scream as she looked up to see the face of the girl looking right at her. A bone white face with eyes of fluid mercury that shimmered as if melting and reforming. A mouth full of black serpents smiled and thick rope-like hair flailed in the wind like nooses blowing from a branch. Then the lights went out and the world outside her window grew black again. Her children screamed in the basement.
Panicking in the dark she fell over a kitchen chair and landed on her injured palm. Slick with blood her hand slid forward and her face fell forward into the linoleum. Her lower lip began to swell as she climbed to her feet. As she grabbed the doorknob leading to the basement she heard the faintest, tattered shred of a whisper that formed the words, “Your too late.”
Flinging the basement door open she faced the darkness, its great devouring maw warning her not to enter but she charged down anyway, knocking pictures from the wall as she fought for balance, disappearing into the blackness.
The door slammed shut behind her knocking more pictures down shattering glass and nerves. The lights began to flicker on and off in irregular strobes that hurt her eyes. At the bottom of the steps, through the jagged beat of lights, she found red barefooted footprints in small pools of blood. An icy wind caressed the nape of her neck and she turned to meet its source. The door at the top of the steps had frozen over in a block of ice. Through the frantic blinking of lights she could see small clouds of breath from her mouth escape the madness and dissipate into the darkness.
Her heart beat loud and frantically as she followed the bloody footsteps around the corner of her basement. One cautious step at a time she moved, afraid of what she would find. When she turned the corner the lights grew bright, like stars blooming supernova in the dead of night. Several lights exploded behind her but the ones in front of her stayed on, illuminating the horror in front of her.
The footprints led to the brick wall at the end of her basement where there was a huge hole. The lights grew brighter and brighter and she felt their searing heat on the top of her scalp. The image before her was immaculate in detail, frozen in the moment. The girl from the backyard stood before her smiling. Her porcelain white face frozen and smooth, with black serpents writhing at the corners of her mouth, their scales rubbing together sounded like fluttering moths. Her hair flailed angrily as her eyes melted and reformed in an endless cycles of death and rebirth. She spoke without moving her mouth. A stale breeze carried the stench of rotting corpses as it blew past her and carried the message, “They are mine now.”
Like a zipper the bricks reformed below her and made their way up, making the brick wall solid again. The blazing lights died gloriously above her showering her with hot flakes of broken glass.
“NO!” she screamed at the dark. “Give me back my children.”
She did not wait for a response and beat the brick wall with her bare hands, trying to find the seam that had closed right before her eyes moments ago.
She pounded her fists until it felt like she had broken both of her hands then fell to her knees sobbing.
In between her sobs the darkness, as if mocking her, carried the far off pleas of her children. Desperate, she felt her way into the basement utility room where her husband kept many of his tools. She ran her hands across the handle of a chainsaw. “Would this work she thought?” She gave up pondering its potential value when she realized she didn’t know how to start it. Her fingers made their way across the metal teeth of a rake, “Useless!” she aid out loud.
Realizing she had no idea what to do, she fell to her knees crying once again, and landed on a long wooden handle. She moved her hands along the length of the handle, past small splinters and gouges, and came to the large metal head of an axe. Her smile was invisible in the darkness.
She held the axe in both hands and swung it like a baseball bat at the brick. Nothing. Angered she swung again with greater force and the axe head sparked against the brick wall. Another swing brought about another spray of sparks. Frustrated she ran her fingers across the wall to feel if she did any damage.
“Kids, I’m coming. Mommy’s coming for you!”
The darkness tightened its grip around her, the cold void pressed against her flesh, and whispered in her ear, “Yes, mommy, come to me.”
The brick grew cold beneath her fingers, a headstone in winter. She followed the wall, hoping and praying for a crack or seam that she could use the axe against. Suddenly the brick stopped and she came to sheet rock. It was her only hope. She gripped the axe as tight as she could and swung.
A lightning flash lit up the room as the axe head stuck into the wall. She could hear her children screaming now. She reared back and swung again. Another flash bled out the darkness. In its brilliance she saw the wall bleeding from the axe wounds. A foul smelling mess oozed its way out
“Mommy, stop it hurts!” her children cried in unison.
“Lies!” she shouted back and swung the axe again and again in a desperate act of madness. Her children begged her to stop. “You’re killing us!” they screamed. She swung again and blood splattered across her face and the flowing mess from the wall began to pool around her feet. If they were pleading with her to stop, she hoped, then they were not being killed by her actions and she was merely being tricked. Her arms where heavy and her shoulders burned with the fire of exhaustion. The basement grew colder and the blood on her clothes began to freeze in small frosted clumps.
She swung once more and in the blaze of accompanying light she saw that she had made a sizable hole in the wall. Se wedged the axe handle inside and pulled with all her weight. A large piece of sheet rock cracked and broke off with a splash as it landed in the blood that collected on the carpet. Warmth poured out from the hole and it glowed red inside. It smelled wet and the effluvium that escaped reeked of iron and marigold.
She placed her head inside and crawled through the opening.
It was all warmth and red and wetness. A red mist hovered above the floor, swirling as if alive, making it impossible to see her feet. A beating, as if from a heart of stone, echoed trough the chamber she was in. Warm tendrils, meaty and slick rose up and grabbed her wrists, making it impossible for her to move. The red light grew brighter and a dark imaged began to take form before her. It was the young girl, her face still white despite the red glare. Behind her hung a bulging membrane sack and inside, curled in the fetal position with there backs pressed against each other, were her children.
“What have you done? Give me my kids back!”
Black snakes writhed in a mouth that didn’t move. “It has been ten years.”
“Who are you?”
“Don’t you remember?”
“I…I don’t know…”
Thick ropes of hair flailed. “Yes, you do.”
A spark of recollection caught fire in the mother’s mind. “That’s not possible.”
“You killed me ten years ago.”
“No, I never killed anyone! I didn’t, I….”
“You gave me life and then you took it.”
“Ten years ago I…. had an abortion.”
The stone heartbeat stopped and the girl floated towards her. Her silver eyes caught fire with shimmering bands of red. The snakes retreated inside the girl’s mouth and white lips pressed tight together. The grip around the mother’s wrists grew tighter and she could no longer feel her hands.
“This isn’t happening.”
“I have been so alone, afraid and angry.”
“Please give me back my children.”
“I only know death.”
“My kids didn’t do anything wrong!”
“They were given a life and a family! I have been given lies and the broken promise of a life that wasn’t.”
“I’m sorry! You have no idea! No idea about what I was going through, about the life you would have had! The horrible life we would have had.”
The chamber grew hotter. The mother started to sweat and it evaporated as soon as it escaped from her pores. She smelled of salt and fear. The girl’s mouth opened and the snakes writhed and hissed in primal anger.
“It is you who has no idea!”
The snakes unfurled from her mouth. Their emerald eyes and four pointed fangs, dripping with green venom struck. The mother was bitten on the neck, forehead, and both shoulders. The fangs sharp and long clamped down hard through meat and bone. She could hear her blood rushing through her body then slow as the venom took over. The room grew cold and the red glare faded into nothing.
The mother disappeared inside herself. She felt the energetic spark of life flow like an electric river that coursed and created. She saw a great light that wasn’t white or black yet was everything and she felt naked and secure. The light wrapped around her and knitted her soul into a great tapestry of dreams, hunger, and the highest of aspirations that were incomprehensible. She wept tears of purity, clear and thick, and then as suddenly as it came it left. The light was doused and the fabric of her being, not yet fully formed, unraveled and left a hole of unfathomable magnitude. Dreams burned up as if shooting stars until there was nothing.
“Stay with me.”
“But, my children?”
“They will be safe until their father returns.”
“They still need me.”
“I need you more.”
To this the mother had no words. The snakes retracted their fangs and fell to the floor, disappearing in the sea of red mist. The tendrils that ensnared her gave up their grip and the girl stretched out her arms before her in welcome.
The mother walked slowly, still carrying the axe in her hand, and cried, once more, the tears of purity that only existed in visions an dreams. As she walked the stone heartbeat came back to life, each step making the rhythm slower and softer. The girls white face bore the rivulets of silver tears as shimmering eyes wept. The mother dropped the axe into the swirling mist. Then they embraced and became one.
“I’ll allow you one last look.”
The mother watched as her husband came home and noticed the sink full of dirty dishes tainted with blood. She watched him run down the basement stairs to find his two children playing. Then everything vanished, burning up as if a shooting star.
I’ve been a bad blogger. It’s been a while but I’ve good excuses. First the holidays are always hectic and it’s hard to get anything recreational done. Next work has been nuts and I won’t get into that, suffice to say that well….it’s been nuts.
Most importantly I am in the end stretch of draft one of a novel length work. It has been consuming my free time, in a good way. I am enjoying the process and I know there’s a long way to go but it feels great. I can’t wait to finish it up and get going on the edits.
While I’ve been writing this novel sized piece my short story “Beth Hartley is Hot” was rejected.
I have not been fixin/resending any short stories because I don’t want to loose steam on the longer piece but all my little babies waiting to go back out into the world is making me itch a bit
In the meantime the most memorable book I’ve read in the past few months is Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters” a book that takes on: Transsexualism. Models. Riches. Shotguns. Makeup. Drugs. Disfigurement. Fire. Sexually transmitted disease. Estrogen. Real Estate. Weddings. Homosexuality. High Fashion. Yup, it’s a wild ride.
Interesting book. I liked it a lot, better than “Haunted” but not as much s “Lullaby.” What kept me from loving monsters? It had some very interesting twists and turns but the last one was just too much for me. I don’t want to spoil anything…but did you read it? What do you think?
“Desert Walker”, a supernatural tale of family and determination in a barren world of sand and death, was added to the short list of stories to be accepted in Shroud Magazine. I was notified of this on August 23, 2010, so at this point I figure no news is still good news.
Not much else to speak on at this point. My writing resume to this point reads like this:
1. “Infestation” story #145, Pseudopod, June 2009
2. “Painkiller”, House of Horror issue #10, April 2010
3. “’Til Death”, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, July 2010
4. “Cookers”, Tales of the Zombie War, August 10th 2010
5. “Little Pieces” to be published in the October 2010 issue of Necrotic Tissue
6. “The Key” to be published in Morpheus Tales #15, January 2012
So, obviously I’m hoping Desert Walker will be lucky #7.
I have about 3 to 5 more short stories that I think are fit for publishing. I would love to hit double digits for when I finish my grand attempt at a novel. I’m at about 11,000 words in on the first draft. All my stories published to date are basically horror but the novel will be more of a dark, young adult novel. It’s going well so far although I am not sure how a novel manuscript should look, but let’s not put the cart before the horse.