Alive: Part II Complete

For the past year I’ve been working on and off on completing my fourth book, Alive: Part II. I am proud to say that a rough draft is now complete at approximately 60,000 words. The book came out shorter than I intended but I’ll deal with issues of length later. The story ended how I wanted it to end and it feels like a good place for my characters’ lives to wrap up.

Now, I will be taking a break from the book for a few weeks before I go back to edit. In the meantime, I’ll start brainstorming and possibly start writing my fifth book, Hazard. This will be based on, or inspired by the poetry piece of the same name. While most of my books have dealt with issues of racial discrimination, this one will focus more on mental health and self-esteem. If you’ve read the poetry piece you might wonder how that ties in, but I will reveal that the resurrected protagonist took his own life.

Hazard is a work I have been waiting to flesh out for a while. The protagonist and the backstory was clearest in my mind, but I have numerous details to sort out with the world-building. The pursuit of publication is another issue, but it’s one I won’t worry about too much now. I will keep trying to get The Doctor published, but aside from that I want to focus on becoming a better writer and building a platform for myself.

Brief Update

I’m back to writing for Factinate so I’ll be posting any of the published articles on this site.

Also, I am now aiming to have a rough draft of my second werewolf novel, Alive: Part II completed by May.

In terms of comics, I started reading Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series and I’m loving it so far. Kill or Be Killed is still my favourite ongoing series and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series wraps up. I was reading Fables but the main conflict, the conflict that has defined the series since the beginning, came to an end halfway through. So apparently the second 75 issues of the series will focus on other subplots, so I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series.

However, the series was worth the discovery for the cover art alone. James Jean put together an impressive list of masterpieces.

Blogs= “Previously Published”

As I mentioned in my last post, I am now working on trying to get an extended version of The Doctor published, likely in a magazine. As writers, a lot of conventional wisdom tells us to create a blog so that we can try to build an audience for ourselves and so that we simply exercise our writing muscles. What a lot of the conventional wisdom does not tell you is that posting early versions or excerpts of your work can make publishing outlets consider it “previously published”. This principle can apply if you have a blog with millions of readers, or a blog with virtually none.

The simple presence of a page with a work that matches something else in title, in part or in whole, is enough to disqualify you from publication. I had this experience before with The Artifice. I created an article, and received a list of suggested edits. At the time, The Artifice’s own guidelines said the article would not be published once a certain amount of edits were suggested. So I simply posted the article on my site since I didn’t hear anything back for a few days.

The day after I post the article on my site the editor emails me to advise that my article was in queue for publication and now cannot be published since it is already published on my site, since Google searches and SEO will lead people to my site instead of theirs. So, forgetting The Artifice’s idiotic editing system and lack of clear communication, I couldn’t get my article published on a site with thousands of readers, because I posted it on a site that doesn’t even have one hundred.

Now I may run into the same system with The Doctor because a shorter version of it has already been posted on my site. A lot of my short poetry pieces end up fueling ideas for my longer works, such as my Alive series coming from the series of poems I posted on this site. I think it makes sense for ideas to develop this way and it is counter intuitive for small steps like this to be punished. It is ridiculously tough to approach a literary agent about a novel with no previously published work (“previously published” meaning having a real writer’s credit in something other than my own blog). So I write on my blog, practicing and developing ideas. Then the fully formed idea is rejected because its predecessor is alive on this blog.

The Swap and the next publishing mission.

I have previously discussed my plan to try to get my short story, The Swap, published before I try to get any of my novels published. The idea was that having some success on a smaller scale is worth the time and effort in order to make myself more appealing to sales-minded literary agents on a bigger scale.

As expected, I have been met with some rejection but the most recent one actually gave me personalized feedback, as opposed to a generic rejection letter e.g “Thanks for sending us… We will have to pass.”

In this feedback the editor says the pacing was an issue, and then also says the writing was too “on the nose”.

Now, perhaps I have some work to do on the pacing. The comment about the writing being too one the nose interested me though. The short story was inspired by a previous blog post, where I argued that getting racists or racism apologists to swap bodies with a black person would be the only way to make people see that our world is not colour-blind.

In my story, Jason Byrd volunteers to have his mind implanted in a black man’s for six months, in return for a $200,000 payday if he doesn’t feel like his new skin gets him treated negatively. I am thinking the editor’s comments apply to Byrd’s internal monologues, where he lashes out at social justice warriors, political correctness etc.

The thing is, that is how the new breed of racists talk. They take any opportunity to share their bitterness and resentment with an audience, especially an online audience that allows them to hide behind distance and anonymity.

Look at this blog post as an example, where two videos that have nothing to do with feminism lead to some disgruntled man getting triggered and seeing an opportunity to vent.

A scene with a female character in it leads someone to give praise to the series for not having “feminazi bullshit” in it.

“Deborah Ann Woll is so beautiful and talented. The female characters in this show are some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. No feminazi bullshit, no pandering, no SJW nonsense, just all normal, strong, believable women characters that didn’t make me feel like I was watching a show created by tumblr. I loved Karen and Madani in this show (Madani started off annoying until around episode 4 though.) This show is just so well done. There’s some cheesy writing here and there, some flat jokes, but shit, nothing is perfect. I’m stoked for season 2.”

Another scene with two female extras leads to a rant on woman not being good fighters.

“This is such a bullshit scene LOL I laughed out loud there’s no less than two women in that crowd. There is not a single civilian contracted mercenary group that would ever hire women for combat. Sjw’s and stupidity may have forced the US Army to allow women into combat but civilians don’t have to and most people that own their own businesses are smart enough to know simple facts of life. Simple facts such as women are ineffective in combat and if you don’t believe that look at any stats from the US military’s physical Fitness tests. Without fail the ratio of men passing these tests to women passing these tests are ten-to-one one across-the-board. They are not built for combat there’s nothing sexist about that it’s simple fact men are Fighters they are built to be that way women are not.”

As much as bigots complain about everyone being “offended by everything” nowadays, the bigots reveal their own insecurities and fears when they let small instances of minority representation get under their skin. They reveal that they are the ones whose minds are always circling with thoughts of victimhood. You can argue that online forums would give a more concentrated dose of this thought process, but anonymity just allows people to truly be themselves. It can also further polarize people since many online users seek out information that already supports their worldview (the selective exposure thesis). However, polarized online thoughts do eventually translate to polarized internal thoughts. Hence Jason Byrd’s diatribes against the world around him. On the nose? Maybe. Accurate? Definitely.

With that said, I am not saying my writing is perfect. Maybe I still drive the point home too bluntly, but for now I am moving on to another short story. I’ll be turning The Doctor into a short story, aiming for about 5,000 words this time since that seems to be the lower end of the accepted spectrum. However, I’ll just write what I feel and see where it gets me.

Next Publishing Mission

Earlier this year, I committed myself to finishing my fourth book, Alive: Part II and a short story entitled The Swap.

Alive: Part II is about 3/4 complete, and The Swap is now complete.

Instead of trying to get any of my books published for the moment, I want to pursue publication for The Swap. I have submitted it to two magazines so far, with one of those submissions ultimately being a waste. I made the mistake of assuming the manuscript format was similar to what is accepted for novel submissions (you can laugh at my mistake) but short story ones are a different creature entirely. I am pretty sure the editor of the magazine didn’t bother reading the story before he rejected it, and I can’t blame him.

There aren’t that many magazines that accept science-fiction stories of my story’s length so I don’t have that many outlets to submit to. I am hoping that one of the less than 10 options I have works out, but the odds of that are very slim.

If the short story submissions don’t work out I’ll likely post it here and then try to gain some traction online through other outlets. Trying to publish a book without any previous publishing experience is almost impossible so I figure that having a real publishing credit under my belt can help (marginally) when I continue that search.

Memory Slave

I have been working on my fourth book, Alive: Part II, on and off the for the past six months. The past few months have seen more progress and I am not about 40,000 words in. However, I have now reached a part in the story where I am trying to decide where I will take the story next. More brainstorming and a clearer idea of my goal for my characters will give me a better sense of the path I want them to take. With that in mind, I took a break from writing that book but I didn’t want to avoid writing altogether. Along with the grandma piece I posted last, I wanted to delve deeper into a concept that has been on my mind for the past few weeks.

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Memory Slave

She couldn’t remember how she got here, but she wasn’t supposed to. Her name, her place of birth, her family, were all lost to her. Sometimes she came close to remembering, seeing slivers of her past life cut through the memories forced on her. Those slivers, whether good or bad, were hers and she cherished them for seconds at a time. There were other memories drowning her real ones, parasites controlling their host.

The parasites were injected by people whose faces remained hidden: Doctors experimenting on a lab rat. There were no windows, no night and day. The lights in her room always shut off at some point during the day, announcing her bedtime. Yet days still lost their meaning without dates or the seasons. She measured time with her memories, counting the moments between a new one being added.

She knew the memories weren’t really hers, but they were the only complete ones she had. She was still attached to hundreds, feeling all of the pain that was forced on her. Her mind was a bounty of misery and insecurities. Some people wanted to be rid of the memories that crippled their lives in some way: the unrequited love, the betrayal by a friend. Others were hiding from something truly traumatic, trying to erase violence they did to others or violence inflicted on them.

These memories were a gateway to pain, but they were also a gateway into the mind of the hosts. She knew their friends, their neighbourhoods and sometimes she even saw their faces. She knew their class, their race, their sexual orientation. These central parts of their identity were an anchor for most of the memories in her mind. Most of the memories were tied to something private that became public.

There was another class of memories, usually reserved for the wealthier hosts. They had the luxury of purging the most trivial things from their mind. One rude encounter was reason enough to remove a memory. Funny enough, they were usually the bully in these encounters.

She couldn’t remember truly meeting anyone. The masked doctors were her only gateway to the outside world. She tried to speak to them, but they never responded. She started with threats, hundreds of memories ago. Her will became weaker with each memory and soon enough she longed to simply hear one of them greet her, or answer if she asked them how they were doing.

She now had to accept that she was only a tool. No different than a hammer that a worker used and unceremoniously disregarded. There was a time when she thought she must have done something to deserve such a fate. Perhaps this was some sort of prison sentence? Time erased that thought from her mind. What was the point of punishment if you didn’t know what it was for? Was there some sort of lottery to pick the lucky winners? Was she just one of many selected from a certain area?

The white walls seemed to mock her. Promising answers beyond, but unwilling to yield. Some unseen force pinned her to the floor before the doctors came in. A distinctive hum always accompanied the increased gravity, as if some giant machine came to life beneath her. The doctors arrived, ignored her words and injected the latest memory. When they left they made sure to open the door just wide enough to squeeze through, preventing her from seeing anything beyond. When the door opened, no other sounds crept through. Wherever she was, it was soundproof and isolated.

There was another world out there, where she could find friends, family and happiness. She wanted to see that world again, to see herself. Her room had a small shower and sink, but no mirror and no reflective surfaces of any kind. She knew her skin was dark brown and that her hair was black, a contrast to everything around her. Her nose was broad, her lips full, and her knowledge of herself died there.

The remnants of her past life didn’t reveal anything more. She saw an older woman’s face, with dark skin like her own, perhaps her mother. She saw a small red bricked house, surrounded by cracked sidewalk and weeds. Perhaps her home. There was no way to truly tell that these memories were hers, she only assumed they were because they weren’t tied to something negative.

She heard the humming this time before she was pinned. Her pacing came to a halt as her feet stayed rooted to the ground. The pressure on her knees forced her to kneel, planting her hands on the ground as well. Her cot was to her right, looking like it was on the verge of imploding. The springs were squealing in protest, almost constricting one another by the time the doctors entered.

The gravity didn’t affect them, allowing them to move swiftly to either side of her. White pants, white shirts, white surgical masks. Their clothes almost seemed to glow under the light. She had to keep her head facing the floor, trying to turn it was too painful. The syringe came from the doctor to her left, piercing a spot just above her right ear. The memory wouldn’t come to her immediately, it would take some time. She guessed it usually took a few hours, but there was no way for her to be sure.

The doctor’s footsteps were almost drowned out by the hum as they left the room. Her face was nearly pinned to the floor by the time the gravity subsided, causing her to nearly jump off the ground with the force of her exertion. There were usually at least three light outs before another memory was injected, and she knew that she guessed that she carried hundreds now, some fresh and others lurking beneath the surface. It seemed like almost a year may have passed, but she never got used to the enhanced gravity. It was as if they increased its strength a little more with each visit.

Alive: Part II

For any new readers or those who haven’t trawled the archives, I have begun working on my fourth book again. It is a continuation of the werewolf story I told in the third, “Alive”.

Due to numerous things I am looking into at the moment, especially hunting for a new place, my time has become more limited and I’ve had some trouble writing one page a day as I originally intended. Now I aim to write an extra page a day for everyone missed (e.g. miss 5 days, write 5 pages the next day). I began working on “Alive: Part II” months ago, beginning with writing 500 words a day. I continued with this pace for a few weeks until I eventually stopped, due to a tighter schedule and excuses on my part. I realize that I can’t use a busy schedule as an excuse not to write. One week without writing can quickly morph into months. I originally intended to finish a draft of Part II  by the end of this year, but that will likely have to be moved to March 2018. I now realize that committing to a smaller amount and staying consistent can still pay bigger dividends than aiming higher and falling off earlier.

I began watching Hemlock Grove recently, mainly because I wanted to see more of Bill Skarsgard after his performance in It.  The plot involving a vampire (Skarsgard) and a werewolf teaming up to investigate a series of grisly murders was also appealing. Basically, it seemed like an awesome concept that Twilight could have been if it wasn’t bogged down by teen love and Mormon wish fulfillment.

I nearly gave up on the show, mainly due to the acting. Skarsgard has apparently developed a lot as an actor since the show’s first season at least. Famke Janssen’s performance is hampered by an English accent that either comes and goes, or is just overdone. Four episodes in, and one of the strongest actors is the actor who plays the werewolf, Landon Liboiron. Hearing about the mythos again actually motivated me to make sure that I stick to the task of completing Alive: Part II. The transformation scene is also a memorable and painful looking one that makes me wish I could have thought of it first.

Hemlock Grove fortunately is focusing on its fantasy mythos early on in the series instead of the high school drama that the character’s ages lends itself to. I’ll stick with the series and see how it goes, and will probably revisit for inspiration as I try to craft a werewolf story that someone aside from myself will also read and enjoy one day.

Alive: Part II Progress

For any newer readers, you may not know that I have written three books, which I am still trying to get published. This blog was created as part of my effort to build an online platform and further hone writing skills through my blog posts. My most recent book is Alive, a werewolf story. I have always loved fantasy tales and it was exciting to craft my own. With Alive complete I began working on the second and final part of the series.

I completed a few thousand words of Part II but regret to say that I haven’t touched it in almost a month now. Work, where I have done most of my writing over the past year, has become much busier and my life outside of work has become much busier as well as I take on more responsibilities, such as looking for a new place. Along with some part-time work, the gym, guitar etc. it has been tough to find time or energy to write. However, I don’t want to keep embracing excuses. I’ll get back to writing by this end of the week, with my goal of 5oo words a day. Originally I wanted the book to be completed by September but now I will have to settle for completing it by end of the year.

Then the work of editing and continuing to seek publication for my other work will continue. I contacted ten agents about part I but have received no responses so it looks like I am back to square one in my journey to getting published. It can be disheartening, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse to quit either. I have now accepted it won’t come quickly. I used to think I’d be published by the time I was twenty-five but now I can accept it might not happen until I’m fourty. It’s a long climb, but I’m looking forward to it.

Continuing The Pursuit of Writing

I am currently working on Part II of my third book, Alive. So far, I am only a few thousand words in, making sure to write at least 500 words a day. By September the complete Alive story should be completed. What I don’t know, is if I’ll have an agent by September.

I’ve sent out queries to ten agents, some of which have already rejected it (evidenced by the lack of response after their stated response deadline). If I manage to get interest from any of these agents I will finally be able to take my first actionable step towards a career as a writer, editing and polishing Alive into a finished product. Which would likely be followed by Alive: Part II, and then Elseworld. There is no guarantee that the books will sell well, but we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get to it.

Even if I do get an agent, it could be 18 months to 5 years before my book is published. In the meantime, I need to take other steps towards crafting a career as a writer. My current tech support role has helped to develop many skills, but I wouldn’t say writing is one of them. I have been thinking of where I want to be in ten years, a self-employed author and blogger, and I know that I need to take more action towards making that happen. Even if I can’t support myself completely with creative writing, I want to find a career that lets me embrace my interest completely and complements it. Journalism is one of the biggest contenders but it is a very tough field to get into, especially for the topics I wish to write about, entertainment and race. Aside from a career as a journalist I am also pursuing other jobs with magazines and newspapers, trying to streamline my job hunt and find work that I find stimulating and rewarding.

As Mark Manson points out, all work will require sacrifice, and all work will be unenjoyable sometimes. The question is what type of unenjoyable experiences are you willing to put up with for your career?

“If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start.”

I have had my work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times. I am still writing and still trying to get published. I am willing to receive constructive criticism, and fine tune and edit over and over again. The peers who have read Elseworld complimented me for the imagery, which is something that was lacking in previous drafts according to an agent. I applied the negative feedback I received and was able to create something better, ultimately enjoying the experience and remaining grateful for it.

I believe that the struggles of trying to be an author are something I can tolerate. I’m sure I will be tested more as time passes. If I do get an agent, their criticism will undoubtedly be more severe than anything else I’ve received. If I can satisfy the agents, then I will have to deal with the editors at the publishing house. I may be forced to debate about certain changes to the book; ones that they view as more marketable. Those are debates that I look forward to having.

“It’s 2017”

I recently started working on part II of Alive, which continues my story of werewolves and racism. The first one followed my black protagonist, Mason, adapting to his new abilities and breaking off from a radical sect that wanted to use their power to wage war against the people that oppress them. The second part will lead to all out war between Mason and the radical sect, but also has more of a focus on Mason’s attempts to oversee the implementation of new policies that will empower his people. A key theme of the second book is that laws are not enough to change how people think, which reminded me of an oft-cited mantra.

“It’s (current year)”. This can be used by conservatives to shut down the talk of discrimination or by well-meaning liberals who think that the passage of time is enough to ensure equality. Whatever side it comes from, the sentence demonstrates a child-like naivete of how the world works.

When slavery was abolished, racism persisted. When Jim Crow was abolished, racism persisted. I wonder if people used to say “It’s 1970”. Laws may ban people from certain actions, or maybe even certain words, but laws can’t change what is in their minds. If someone holds the racial mindset of the 1950s near and dear to their heart, they will teach those values to their kids, and so on. Time itself is not a cure for racism. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current climate of right-wing backlash, where pretty much any comment or act that doesn’t endorse bigotry is labelled as “political correctness” or the work of “social justice warriors”. People are upset that they, and society as a whole, are being called out for bigotry now more than ever. Instead of adapting to changing times, it is easier to reminisce of times when you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about consequences or criticism. At worst, these people support bigotry. At best, they enable it. Yes, sometimes people do cry racism, misogny etc. where it does not exist, but I don’t believe that these instances account for the majority. I do believe that these instances get lumped in with all of the legimate ones, especially by people whose views are already intolerant. They get a smokescreen for hiding bigotry: “I’m not racist. I just hate it when these social justice warriors get offended by everything.”

I want to know what these people consider “everything”. Is it something as simple as Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or is it a case where another unarmed black man got killed?