Friday, February 25, 2011

Unsolicited Inspiration

God's a funny guy, and lemme tell you why I say that. I mentioned on Ann Best's website, when she was discussing bloggerville and whether it will survive, that the Almighty keeps Himself entertained at my expense.

See, I've been off-kilter since that baby was born. He's 3.5 months old, not quite sleeping through the night, giggling a little, crying louder, finding his personality, manipulating his mommy and me, and being an all-around joy.

Plus, work hit me hard.

But enough with the excuses. God doesn't make excuses, doesn't apologize, doesn't give a reason, and doesn't ask why, so why am I doing it?

The fact is I haven't been writing.

Cue God, or fate, or chance, or karma, put whatever name you want on it, but along comes that force making fun of me.

Out of the blue I get asked for a couple of critiques. My ex-wife sends me all my old writings -- and maybe I'll post the very first story I wrote back in high school, now that I found it again!

My publisher calls and says he wants to do a Tour de Dallas, and he politely doesn't mention the book deal because I don't think he likes the books I sent him, and the one I'm supposed to be writing isn't getting written.

I get back on the blogger-wagon a couple of weeks ago and start fidgeting on the keyboard and making sure I still have online friends.

But then the BEST thing happens!

My old boss read an early version of my short story "One Small Step" about a year ago, before I submitted it, before it came out in An Honest Lie 2: Delusions of Insignificance.

He liked it so much he took it home for his wife to read.

She took it to her work. They let their kids read it. He said it inspired him to dig out his old Arthur C. Clarke books and re-read them, said they don't write stuff like that anymore.

He said they were at a baseball game last year and the moon was full and his wife pointed up and said, You think Percy is up there?

And this morning he shows up in my office with a gift bag and a copy of An Honest Lie 2 and says, Sign my book, and we got you something.

What is it? I ask.

Open it and see.

Well, that's what I saw. It even says FREEBOTTOM on the pocket. Percy Freebottom is the character, see. That there figurine is him or my name's Fudd.

What a gift! How inspirational, especially to a writer whose nose gets bent a little farther out of shape every time someone reads his stories.

It's those little inspirational moments that keep us going. It's not the money -- what money? -- or the fame, or the notoriety. It's those moments.

It's that email I sent my Pop framed in his office. It's that email I sent to my (then) wife on September 12, 2001, that somehow went viral and I got emails from strangers saying I'd touched them, made them cry, did you really write this Eric, thank you for saying what I was thinking! I was surprised, by the way, to find that 9-12 email taped to my cousin's fridge door during a visit several years later.

It's those moments that keep you going. They're genuine, heartfelt, real, unsolicited, moments.

Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for not letting me give up.

That's God I'm thanking, by the way, not you knuckers. You all just distract me from the ~important~ things in my life!

But really, I hope I inspire you, and that some of this enthusiasm rubs off on you and you realize how important a little story can be.

Remember that. You never know who's reading!

And here's another plug for "An Honest Lie 3: Justifiable Hypocrisy" Go submit something!

Have you received unsolicited inspiration lately? How? Who?

- Eric

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Call for Submissions: March 15

Deadline is March 15 to submit your short story for An Honest Lie 3: Justifiable Hypocrisy!

I spoke Saturday with the publisher, Debrin Case, and he mentioned submissions have been slow this year.

How slow? I asked.

We only have four stories so far, he said. But there is usually this huge data dump in the first two weeks of March.

So get your submissions in! He's looking for new authors, unpublished, up-and-comers. He's a small publisher, so make sure that's your bag. Small pubs usually mean less money, more personality, less editing, more artistic freedom, smaller distribution, more devoted fans, newer and less-known authors, a better chance at actually getting published!

So it's a give-n-take with the small publisher. I personally have enjoyed it because the pressure is less intense, and the pay even from a large publishing house rarely outweighs the stress they induce on their writers.

Anyway, get to submitting! If you need a crit, I'll take a look at 1kw or so before you submit. Remember editors hate to edit, so clean up that story before you submit!

Are you submitting? Post up a ~small~ excerpt. What is your story about? Please spread the word. Let other talented writers know they have until March 15 to submit to An Honest Lie.

My story is called "Melvin Gee's Short Trip to Hell," working title. It's about clipping angel wings and riding that Long Black Train.

My excerpt (330wd, don't post more!):

"I'm Melvin Gee," Melvin said, holding out his hand, which a few moments ago had been little more than a fleshy sack of shattered bones, crushed along with the rest of his body beneath a mangled Ford F150. "I'm not sure I'm in the right place, but heck, I just followed one of the lights."

"One of the lights? That's unusual." The angel looked at Melvin's offered handshake. Then she checked a clipboard in her left hand, tapped it with a feathery pen in her right hand, nodded, and looked back up at Melvin. "Melvin Michael Gee?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Hmm," the angel said. "Looks right. Whatever, let's go. We have to get you signed in with the big guy."

The angel turned and began walking down a packed-dirt path. Slender and long-robed, seven feet at the shoulders, lacking the wings Melvin supposed an angel should wear, the angel presented herself in a regal way. Her hair was a radiant silver, and spread down her back as she walked.

Melvin noticed that where the angel's bare feet touched the dirt path, the grass crept toward the prints, pinching off the trail behind her. Melvin hurried to follow her, both of them walking toward a range of mountains several miles in the distance.

Holding her pen between her fingers, trying not to mark her robe, the angel rubbed her left shoulder as she walked; the ink stains on her robe spelled old habit.

"Yes, I know what you're thinking: the sky, this field, that little stand of trees, the mountains... beautiful. Peaceful, isn't it. Makes you want to lay down and sleep. Don't. This is the Old Garden, the one you cats got booted out of. If you fall asleep, or slip off this trail, or God help you if you steal one of those precious apples, you'll get carried off. But I bet the big question is why I don't have wings."

"Actually," said Melvin. "I was wondering about the path. It—"

- Eric

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fracking macking macker bracker

Just wanted to let everyone know exactly how I'm feeling these days.

Fracking macker fracker bracker cracks. That's the mood.

You ever have those days where you want to run naked through a cornfield?

That's me. Do I need to go all the way to Mexico to find a cornfield? I feel a streak coming on...

By the way, buy Roland D. Yeomans' book, "The Bear With Two Shadows"

Writing in the Crosshairs

He'll put a link up near the top of his blog if he really wants you to buy it! (That's for you, Roland.)

- Eric

Monday, February 7, 2011

Playing by Ear

I'm convinced nothing great is done on purpose.

Nothing. Maybe God can do it, but I can't, and I don't think any other human can do it.

You simply can't come up with a "great" idea, employ "great" writing, develop a "great" marketing strategy, and issue forth to the world a "great" masterpiece that spans the generations.

Greatness is an accident, every single time. Don't get me wrong, there are intentional components that go into structuring great writing -- plot, scene structure, grammar, and so forth -- but the truly great pieces are written by accident.

The author writes by ear, feeling the story, forgetting about the rules, forgetting about sentence structure and paragraphs and action scenes and descriptions and dialogue.

Lemme give you an example, since I see some of you nodding and saying, Loon-ball.


Good example, right? But what the hell does romping bootie have to do with writing?

I'll tell you, since it's obvious now that you don't combine those two things like I do.

Great sex is never on purpose. I mean, I've had great sex when it was pre-planned, but there were always little unknowns, little twists and turns and unforeseeables that made it that much more fantastic. There were little tweaks that made good sex great.

And those twists were accidents.

Let's skip the gratuitous detail and let me challenge the naysayers by asking this: Do you plan every position, in advance, before you engage in sex?

Nope. It's spontaneous. You have some idea of what you want. You have some general skills, specific talents, a place and a partner and an arsenal of dirty thoughts.

But it's not pre-planned.

Neither is great writing. You can have a general idea, and a place, and a plot, but the writing, the act itself is ACCIDENTALLY banging out just the right words... who would have thunk?

Who could have guessed?

You read it later and realize your monkey paws did indeed pound long enough on that keyboard to peck out a masterpiece!

And when you try again later, bang all you want, you can't do it again. Because it was an accident.

Don't believe me? Go ahead and try.

- Eric