Sunday, October 31, 2010

Something Spooky from Eric

Happy Halloween!

Here's an unedited ditty from my early days, back in the early 2000s. I sent this story out to a few ezines, never heard anything back.

Then my sister-in-law Googles my name and finds it on some guy's emag-site! So I guess this is ~officially~ my first publication.

It's sexual in nature, a sex-horror. All my horrors are sexual, now that I think about it.


Funny that I've always lumped sexuality and horror together. My first novel is a horror, and one of my current wips is a horror, and both have deep, deep sexual undertones, with women who use their sexuality to manipulate and control men.

Oh, the HORROR!

This is mostly unedited from the original draft. I knocked out a few semicolons (isn't it funny how that is such a common newbie habit!), and cleaned up a couple of confusing sentences, but otherwise left this intact.

Go ahead and pick it apart if you want. There's a ton to pick!

Letters From the Dead

Waking that evening, Lionel reached out and expected to find her there, beside him in the bunk. How he hated her beside him. How he loved not finding her there. She'd swayed beneath him when they'd left port, and Lionel had begrudged her that, taking little pleasure in the appalling acts with Hillary, the thing he called his wife. For years she'd hexed Lionel with her seductions, her smooth words, her touch that melted him; now she swayed beneath him in another way, lurid, part of the endless sea, groaning in the sails and the wind.

Eleven years Lionel had opened his eyes and seen Hillary. This evening Lionel opened his eyes and found an envelope on the pillow next to his head. Outside the sun sank low on the horizon, and the cabin was too dark to be sure of it, but the white object looked like a letter.

Reaching for the light next to the bed, Lionel remembered it was broken, shattered. Last night, he'd swept up the glass after Hillary broke the lamp. Lionel touched his temple. There. That was where Hillary hit him with the lamp, ripped it free from it's bolts and struck him in her final desperate act.

Lionel stood. Naked, he felt his way to the aft light, next to the head, and lit the cabin. Seeing hurt his eyes. The sailboat creaked in the light. In the daylight, the ship's planks blanched in the sun and complained and refused to hiss against the water. But the night was a comfort to both Lionel and his boat. Cool darkness, like closed eyelids on a burning pair of eyes. In the light there was too much to see.

It was a letter, the white object, creased as if it had been hurriedly folded, or as if a child had done the folding, awkward; the letter lay half-open on his dead wife's pillow. On Hillary's pillow.

The letter gaped at Lionel like Hillary's mouth after she'd swallowed too much salty water, open, looking for air, finding none. Lionel hadn't seen the end of her when she'd gone under. Hillary drifted down into the dark water and simply disappeared. She was alive when he'd last seen her, Lionel was sure of that. She kicked against the rope, but an anchor is a heavy burden. Around your neck, how heavy is that? Can you support it as you swim? Resist its iron weight as it tugs you under, hundreds of feet to the bottom? It seemed oddly humorous last night, watching Hillary fight the weight of the small anchor, the fifty-pounder Lionel rarely used but kept on the deck anyway. He'd used the anchor last night, all right; and when he'd pulled it onto the boat this morning, the anchor hung alone on the rope. Nothing left of Hillary. Spread like forgotten ashes unto the sea.

But there rested a letter on his pillow. And Lionel knew what it said. He didn't have to open it. Hillary was a wicked woman. Evil. From the depths of the ocean Hillary reached up and stroked Lionel with her seductive dead fingers.

She'd looked up at Lionel as she sank, gaping for air, her panicked face wavy beneath the water, her hair wild and alive and reaching, the long auburn strands probably still alive, reaching now from the ocean floor like spines from an urchin. Lionel could see her eyes, bulging and blue. And her unsmiling teeth. Hillary had such perfect and wicked teeth, white and straight as they soaked in their salty grave.

Her teeth seemed to Lionel the most important part of his dead wife. When she'd otherwise wasted away, bored with her own condescending abuse, when she'd become a skull with a pointed tongue, all bones and ribs and sharp angled hips, Hillary's cheeks drew back and exposed more of her teeth. You're too fat, she said to Lionel. Then she flashed her teeth, snarled, and tore away at Lionel, ripped apart his self-respect with her perfect teeth.

Hillary wrote a letter once and put it in Lionel's pocket:

You belong to me

Keep that, Hillary said. It's true, you know.

Hillary made love to him that night, after she folded the letter and tucked it into his jeans, made love as if the letter represented a bonding, a covenant. She consecrated her vow—if that's what it was—on top of Lionel with her eyes closed. She couldn't look at him when they made love, she said. It ruins the mood.

Lionel kept the letter tucked beneath his pillow, where Hillary could see it when she wanted. Hillary asked about the letter regularly. Show it to me.

That was her foreplay. Lionel showed her the letter and then she took him.

And now, where they'd made love two days before, was another letter, folded as roughly as had been the first.

You belong to me.

Lionel could read it on Hillary's lips as she sank into the ocean. She hadn't been gasping, she'd been speaking, reminding Lionel of his place. She'd asked to see the letter. From a hundred feet below the world, Hillary gave Lionel her ultimatum. Show me the letter, and then I'll take you.

"No," Lionel said. He spoke to the letter as if it might answer back. It seemed a living thing, breathing as the sailboat shifted back and forth on the evening wind.

There was nothing left to do. Nothing else but to walk to the bunk and touch the pillow that still smelled like Hillary's hair. So Lionel stepped to the bunk and sat on the sheets. The sheets were wet, either from his sweat, or from the thought of being soaked in saltwater poured from a dead woman's eyes. She's coming. Hillary's coming to take me.

Lionel picked up the letter and examined the creases. The boat creaked, and Lionel thought he heard footsteps, a flutter that might be the sail, or that might be a loose-knit skirt flapping on a skeletal woman.

Surprising how calm a man can be at the end. That was Lionel's thought when he saw how steady his thumbs held the letter. He unfolded the paper.

The words didn't make sense. They were jumbled letters, nothing but scrawling lines:

You belong to the sea

Not what he expected, Lionel read the words again. He realized the handwriting was his, not Hillary's. He must have written the letter last night, in the calm aftermath of killing Hillary, after he watched her face disappear beneath the sea, written the words and forgotten about them. Easy to forget. There were so many things to think about, now.

He needed air. Lionel folded the letter and placed it under his pillow, where Hillary once kept her letter. Then he went up to the deck and stood looking over the stern of the boat. It was almost night. Lionel felt more at home in the darkness.

Lionel checked the rudder. He looked into the water, and below the rudder Lionel saw Hillary there, gnashing her teeth, wild-haired beneath the ocean. But it would be dark soon. And in the darkness, what dead things are there to see?

circa 2001, Eric W. Trant

- Eric

Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNo: It's OKAY to Fail!

NaNo's all over the blogo, and I'd like to weigh in on this, if I may.

First, let me say: It's all right to fail!

Odds are you will NOT reach 50kw in one month.

Odds are you will NOT have a readable or editable manuscript.

Odds are you will NOT be able to edit and revise that (unreadable) manuscript into something saleable.

Folks, I'm a pragmatist and overly honest. I call it like I see it. I don't believe in false confidence or unrealistic expectations, and I'm telling you right now, NaNo is chock full of unrealistic expectations.

Let me tell you the reality of NaNo.

NaNo IS...

... a way to kick off your writing habit, if you do not already have one.
... a means of re-establishing your routine, if you've lost it.
... a fine excuse for dealing with your Writer's Guilt (see my previous posts on this).

NaNo is NOT...

... a good or easy way to write a novel (this is debatable, but is true for my writing style).
... the only way to write a novel.
... the only time of the year you should be writing.

So with that said, let me suggest this to you, my writer friends:

Use November to...

... establish (or re-establish) a consistent writing habit.
... write something legible and healthy.
... educate those around you that writing is ~important~ to you!

The point is, folks, be healthy during NaNo. Set realistic expectations. Don't give in to the peer pressure to set random goals you ~cannot~ achieve.

Be honest with yourself. Keep your balance -- there is no sense neglecting other parts of your life to hit a random word count of 50k words. You'll only frustrate yourself and those around you.

Do your best, and so long as you make forward progress, you are a success. 12k words, success. 5k words, success. Polished revision, success.

Do you see? Please say you see.

My fear is that NaNo discourages writers who "fail" to get the badge. It's a fine idea, folks, but don't be upset if you miss that arbitrary mark, and don't get all flippant if you do.

Because hey, I hit 50k words a long fucking time ago and I wasn't the first. Good job, now sit down and keep writing.

- Eric

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Got Fired

So I lost my missionary position, but that's all right, it was entry-level anyway and kinda boring.

I found an ad in the paper for a boob job, went and applied, they said I didn't meet their minimum applicant requirements, so I went next door, where they had a new blow job opening. That one fit me, and they sent me back next door to help with the boob job, but I didn't last long and had trouble getting up the second day and I wound up getting laid off.

After that I went downtown to the government offices to apply for a hand job.

"You can do this at home," she said, "but the pay's not that high."

I told her I didn't mind the low pay -- something beats nothing, right -- and since I can set my own hours and work at my own pace, I've managed to squeeze out a lot more than she probably thought I could.

I'm an over-achiever like that.

- Eric

Monday, October 25, 2010

Submission deadline: Short Stories for An Honest Lie

Ping YOU et al:

Submissions open NOVEMBER 1 through MARCH 15 for short story submissions for An Honest Lie Vol 3: Justifiable Hypocrisy

Open Heart Publishing Submissions

This is the anthology I'm in twice -- see sidebar for Vol 1 and 2 -- so you know they'll accept just about anybody.

Debrin Case, the publisher (see his interview here) is looking for well-edited, clean stories with a creative twist.

Here's a hint: Debrin loves urban fantasy, especially Charles DeLint, and he likes the story to appeal to general audiences.

For instance, in Vol 2 he made me take out the hell words from my story, including the hell I had tucked in the title and the last line. Those lines were the same, actually, and he said I ruined the punchline, change the title, and so I did. My story is now entitled One Small Step. The last line is the same, though, and he let me keep that one hell in the story.

So take out the curse words and obscenities and add a little fantasy and change the title.

I'd be happy to look over anyone's submission, so long as I don't get swamped.

Please feel free to reference this on your blog, as Debrin is looking for ~GOOD~ submissions, and I know you all have some creative stories about hypocrisy tucked in your vault, and you have friends who can cook up something gritty for Vol 3.

NOTE: This is a paid publication, no entry fee (not a contest, see my blog on which way the money flows), includes professional editing, and you may be required to read your publication aloud, on camera, in a room full of staring people.

Then again, we may meet in a pub for a get-to-know-you. We did that too, see this post.

Also, whomsoever sells the most books (out of approx 13 authors) wins a book deal! That's how I got my book deal, if you were wondering. I sold an order of magnitude more books than most of the other authors, because that's how I roll, and publishers like authors who get out and hump it.

Any idea what Justifiable Hypocrisy is? Have you done this in real life? Do you have a book deal? Do you want one?

- Eric

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One simple rule to avoid SCAMS

Here's one simple rule I follow that allows me to avoid scams, not just in writing, but in general life.

See, as a writer, we are bombarded with scams. I can't and won't list them all out, and not all of them are scams as such -- they are unscrupulous, but they are legal -- but I'll mention a couple.

Many writing contests charge an entry fee. While some writing contests are considered legitimate, and offer respected prizes, I lump most of them in the not-to-do list. There are a few I might consider entering, but not many, and to date I have entered none at all that charged a reading fee.

I won't say that vanity press is a scam, but I'll say be careful who you choose, if you choose to go vanity press. Do your homework and make a smart business decision.

Both contests and vanity presses are legal ways to get published, but they're both often listed in the scam category, and that brings me to how I came about my one rule for avoiding scams of all sorts.

Let's go back to Eric when he was in college. I grew up in a small Southeast Texas town on the Gulf Coast. In 1989, I drove to Austin, Texas, to attend The University of Texas, and unloaded my stuff into a dormitory that housed three times more people than my hometown, (2.78 times more people, to be precise).

I ordered pizza like they did in the movies. That was neat and I did this a lot afterwards.

I ordered Chinese food, which I never believed came in that little white box that opened on the top -- Chinese food boxes with chopsticks were a myth to me as much as trolls and fairies are to you.

I rode in a taxicab, and on a city bus, and hit those buttons at the crosswalk that changed the stoplight, and saw my first beggar right there on campus. He chased me into the dollar theater when I wouldn't give him money, and for a minute I thought I was going to have to fight him and his buddy to get them off me.

Come on, Captain, you got some money, he kept saying, his buddy hobbling behind him and both reeking of the street and beer, me all alone because I was the only person I knew. Come on, Captain.

A cop took my hunting knife, said I couldn't carry that in my truck (she didn't take the machete or hatchet I had behind the seat, God help me if she'd found that or the other shit I had tucked here-and-there), and the officer laughed at my girlfriend (I met her after the bum-thing) when she told the officers that I was from a small town and didn't know any better.

What's this knife for? the cop says. She shows it to the other officers and almost hits me when I reach for it.

I was gonna show her what I use it for.

Cutting rope, I said. I had rope in the back of the truck -- I always had rope, don't you always have rope?

She said I could claim it at the station, but she took it home and I never did get that knife back, dangit, and I loved that knife. It was a bone-handled full-tang Kabar my brother gave me for my sixteenth birthday, and the high school principle back home once saw it in the parking lot, opened the truck door and took it out and called me to the office and said that I should put it under the seat so nobody would steal it.

Anyway. I guess he was right.

One evening I'm in my dorm room and the phone rings. You've won one thousand dollars in prizes! the guy says.

What the hell are you talking about? I say.

He goes on, and I don't believe him, but he says he is right outside with my prizes, all I have to do is come down to the lobby, pick em up, and that would be it, and I said, All right, then.

Just bring forty-five dollars, he says, and I'll give you a thousand dollars in prizes! Congratulations!

I'm expecting him to have a dolly and maybe a truck full of shit to offload, and I'm wondering where I'm going to put it all.

In walks this pothead in frayed khaki shorts. He says something. I say something. He takes the money and hands me a book of Austin City Limit Coupons and is gone like a fart in a hurricane.

It wasn't illegal what he did, not really. I later discovered that the local whack-heads sold coupon books to the freshmen each fall, that it was a regular deal and about as illegal as selling those roses on 6th street, but that night cemented into my mind the one simple to avoid scams, and it is this:

Money only flows one way!

This applies to jobs, businesses, sales, and yes, to publication in writing.

Let's go through the logic here.

If someone says you are working for them -- or that they are giving you money in the form of a prize (spare me) or inheritance from a distant relative -- then the money flows from them to you, right? That's how my paycheck works at my day job. I never pay them unless I receive a specific service (such as gym membership or health care or some such).

Otherwise, I provide a service and my company pays me for the service. The money is flowing from them to me.

Now, if the money is flowing from you to them, you are NOT working for them, nor are you receiving money from them. NO! You are paying them.

Do you see what I'm saying, about the direction of the flow of money?

So if someone offers to publish your book for you, or hires you as an author, or says they will represent you, and in turn asks for money from you, then the money is flowing in the wrong damned direction, and boys and girls, what is Eric's one rule to avoid scams?

Say it together:

Money only flows one way!

I'm not saying don't pay someone to professionally edit your book, nor am I saying you shouldn't submit your work to publishers who charge a reading fee.

I'm just saying that if you choose to pay someone to look at your work, do so knowingly and with some common sense.

Oh, which brings up another rule of mine, which is this:

Don't call me, I'll call you.

I'm immediately suspicious of anyone who calls me offering money or ways to make money. In other words, be wary of any agent or publisher who contacts you without your solicitation. I'm even wary of headhunters in my day job who solicit me for engineering positions.

Do you have any rules to avoid scams? Have you ever been scammed? Did you learn anything from your scam? Has a cop ever laughed at you, or taken your favorite knife, or have you ever been attacked by zombie-bums?

- Eric

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Writer's GUILT

Writer's Guilt is that feeling you have for holing up in your writing space -- and I guarantee you it's a hole or a cave, because if it wasn't, you'd never get anything written.

You hide and for a few hours you write.

Even if you're published, even if you're a famous author, you know that what you write will probably never be read. It's not wasted, but it's a first draft, something that may resemble the final story, but it's not the final story.

Or you revise. God, I hate revision. So if you're like me, you sit cursing in your Writing Cave (creating new curse words like shitballs and hellfuck and madre de mutherfucking dios), hack-hack-hacking until the words are right and you can move off that page and never, never, NEVER look at that piece of dingleshit again (unless an editor asks you to look, in which case it must not have been that bad, eh).

You embrace the art of writing and in doing so you neglect your family. You could be playing with your kids or taking them frog-hunting around the neighborhood. It's frog season, you know, the tadpoles are grown, and last year, around this time, we bagged nineteen -- count em, NINETEEN -- toads a-hopping around the neighborhood.

You neglect little Fluffy, or in my case, Princess Daisy, our Pomeranian who sits in my lap as I write. Let's not mention Nicki the ball-crazy Corgi. He's too nuts to sit in my cave with me.

You neglect your chores, dinner, put off getting dressed or showered or nibbling your sweetie pie. (I don't put off that last part. Hell, yesterday I stopped mid-sentence to nibble on her.)

You delay all these things in lieu of WRITING.

And if you're like me -- and I bet you are -- you feel guilty.

You feel like you should be doing all those other things, that your family is more important, that the Corgi deserves a good ball-throw in the yard, and wouldn't that be more fun than banging out another 750 words on this goat-fucking story that SUCKS, and you hate the voice, the tone, the main character, and... well, your mind bends back to the keyboard and you peck out another 750 words and 200 to grow on, because you didn't want to stop in an awkward place.

I'm giving you all permission, so here it is: Stop feeling guilty.

I'm lucky because my wife supports my writing. She pokes her head into the cave, kisses me, says, How's it going?

Good. This sucks, so I'm doing it right.

This is the story you're going to publish in the spring, the one with me in it?

Yep, if I can get it fixed. It sucks donkey balls. I hate my life.

I made you a plate.

She hands me the plate she made, the food she cooked, sets down an open beer and says, How much longer?

An hour or so. Thanks for the food and beer. Pick out a movie and we'll watch when I'm done.


Then she picks out a horror blood-fest action flick, and puts her head in my lap while we watch and I drink another beer, and now you all know why I love her so much.

Anyway. The point of all this is that you should NOT feel guilty. Find some balance. Write and be PROUD that you write, no matter what or whose balls it sucks.

Talk to your loved ones about it, help them understand that writing is important to you, and if it's important to you, it will be important to them, no less than would ballet for your daughter or soccer for your son or soccer for your daughter and ballet for your son. If that was what they loved and enjoyed and said, Daddy/Mommy, please, can I do it, I LOVE it!

You'd do it, and you'd be happy for them, especially when they succeed at something they worked so hard to achieve.

Don't feel guilty.

Don't feel guilty.

As they say about good workouts, we can say about good writing: EMBRACE THE SUCK!

And embrace it without the guilt.

Do you feel guilty? Does your family support your writing? Do you have any curse words I can add to my arsenal?

- Eric

PS: Speaking of WRITING CAVES, have you entered Summer's LAZY BLOGFEST, where you post a picture of your writing area Nov 1. I'll be exposing my cave then, so be prepared.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Balance: Note to Self

This here post is a note to myself. If nobody else reads it, so be it, the post served its purpose.

But if you want to read on, have at. It's about balance.

My life has become unbalanced.

I got busy at work. I usually post during my downtime at work. Now you know my secret, why I've been so quiet, both here and on your blogs.

Late nights kept me from getting the sleep I need to get up and write each morning -- I write at 4:30AM, when it's quiet, which means I need an early bedtime to hit my writing mark.

My wife and I are expecting a baby son between today and Thanksgiving, and we're in that final throe where I'm in a total panic and she's saying, Honey, calm down, it'll be all right, and I'm saying, But formula's gonna be $700 a month! Holy shitballs, woman, how are we gonna feed that little baby boy! And quit looking at that $700 rocking chair! Holy shitballs, woman, you have expensive taste. She blinks and we get the rocking chair anyway, because she's beautiful like that and I love her way more than money, and she's right, it'll be okay.

I coach soccer for my son, and we're having a tough season. I try not to worry much on this, but I need to run practices, check schedules, send emails, and wash those penny jerseys and the goalie jersey.

I work two jobs, one my own business, one the job that pays the bills. Both got busy at the same time. My day job -- I already mentioned that one -- hit a hotspot, and at the same time my night job picked up and badabing badaboom, I'm off my balance beam, on the mat, floored and gassed and no idea how to get back up and go at it again.

Plus I write. Like you all. Did I mention that one, yet?

But enough about me and my busy-ness. I'm busy. You get the picture.

There's this one thing I haven't mentioned, though, and it's my gym-time. I work out every day at lunch. It's a religion for me. I don't miss workouts unless there's a damned good reason, and I don't miss more than one or two per week, ever. I get at least three per week, usually four or five, and only allow myself to take off on weekends, but on weekends, I stay off my ass and do stuff that requires physical labor, like putting up a fence last week.

Did I mention I had to put up a fence, too? Forgot about that one. Don't forget putting out Halloween decorations, too, while I was putting up the fence with the kids and the wife asking me to haul this and that down from the attic.

Anyway. I love my family, and I did it (mostly) without complaint.

Back to working out. I didn't skip, because working out is important to me. It keeps me sane, healthy, keeps my stress in check, and if I manage to peak (which I am trying to peak this fall), I feel sexy as hell. Not that it'll do much good with a new baby, and not that peaking when you're almost 40 is all that impressive, but still, it means something to me.

The point is I made time for the workouts.

Even when life was unbalanced.

Even when I was so busy I could barely find time to check my emails, ate at my desk, and all that other blah-blah I don't have to tell you about, because you, my fellow modernites, know exactly what I mean.

Oh, and my alternator went out. Let's not forget about that alternator, holy shitballs woman, I just had to spend $700 on an alternator, how are we gonna afford this baby!

I want to find that balance again. I want to juggle my balls without getting racked, if you get me.

I need to get back on the writing, my blogging, keep my head in this literature game.

I need to stay on top of my side-business.

I need to keep up with my day-job.

My family needs me, my wife and my kids and my soon-to-be-born son.

Stick with my workout routine.

Find balance. Find solitude. Relax.

Make time for what is important. Leave out those things that don't matter, and remember how to say, No.

Remember it'll be all right. It always is.

(Writing this out, helped, see! I figured exactly what was needling me, and it's that combination of nerves you only get before weddings, Christmas when you're ten, and baby-baby-babies...)

Holy shitballs, eh! He's almost here!

- Eric

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I landed a BOOK DEAL!

And the Winner Is... Eric Trant!

I landed a book deal!

This morning I got a call from Debrin Case over at Open Heart Publishing letting me know I had received the book deal he was offering to one of his short story authors.

"Yes, I have some books," I told him, when he asked.

"Good," he said. "Have one to me by December first."

Now I have to edit those pieces -- again -- and figure out which is the best one to put out for publication.

Do I keep working on my current piece, which is about 12kw along, add some sections to that novella I wrote in the spring, re-write that horror from a few years back, hit that trilogy I got bogged down in, or finish that fantasy novel I stopped working on a while back? Or maybe go with that lit-fic-fantasy I wrote last year, the one my wife likes because I based one of my characters on her.

Or maybe take the easy way out and do a short story compilation... (not my first choice).

I think, instead of thinking on this too much, I'll relax today and think on it tonight while I sleep and have an answer by morning. My brain works like that, by osmosis. All my good stuff occurs while I sleep and I forget it all the next morning, except for the really, really good stuff, which somehow floats close enough to the surface for me to scoop out and keep.

I would like to thank a couple of my fellow bloggers, though, for reviewing and promoting An Honest Lie Vol 1: Encouraging the Delinquency of Your Inner Child.

Mesmerix over at Scribbler to Scribe wrote a solid review. She's one of those people who gives more than she takes, which is especially a good thing if you're a boxer, except she's a writer and editor and legal advisor in foreclosure and bankruptcy. She inspired that Pay It Forward post I put up a while back, owing to her generous nature, and I hope some of her generosity rubs off on me.

I also hope to learn, via osmosis, some of her editing tricks.

Donna Hole, whose punchiness is always a welcome respite from the more timid bloggers we read and love. Donna is unapologetic in her opinions and her critiques and that deep-throaty voice that keeps its tongue bit back one or two words short of one-word-too-far. I do believe that the very first post I received from Donna mentioned how I had head-skipped POV in a scene I posted up for a blogfest, and she caught the fact that I lied to the reader. "Lie to the characters but not the reader," she wrote.

And she's right, you know.

In any case, there it is and here you go. I have a book deal.

Coming in Spring of 2011...

- Eric