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Been a long time, dear friends.  Well, a few weeks.  A lot has changed.

For one, I am retired from military service.  At the ripe old age of ... well, let's just say under 50.  I am no longer beholden to "the man."  I call my own shots and answer to no one, save Mrs. Axe and that pesky bitch in the back corner of my brain.

(Muse:  I heard that!)

I also relocated and now reside, permanently, in the desert southwest with my sweetie.  That means not only are Mrs. Axe and I caught up in a second honeymoon but I get to see my precocious and adorable 3.5-year-old granddaughter a little more often.  We are still working on repairing the house and coping with the interesting beasts roaming nearby (and that's just the townsfolk) but I want to bring my presence back here for good.

I have a whole plethora of stuff to talk about.  I am working on a post that should come up tomorrow, I have several short stories to be released in the next few months, I'm still working on getting Pilgrimage out to agents, and work on the new book series continues.

Anyway, please hang out and enjoy.  More to come.
So in following up with my last post, I read a little more about the idea that some literary agents have the posted policy that no response means an implied rejection.  I honestly don't have any issue with this policy, as long as it is stated outright at the beginning.  One the agents I referenced did say it explicitly in their submission instructions.  I think is fair; I knew what I was getting into.  But what about when there is no policy and you just don't hear back?  Awkward.  I am reminded of this post I made last year where the venue (for short stories) just said, "Oh yeah, if you didn't hear back, we didn't want you."  In both cases, it would be nice to know that going in.

Anyway, here are some older blog posts from literary agents on the pro and con side of a no-response policy.  Makes for interesting reading.

Limbo of Agency


Pilgrimage has been out at agents for a bit now.  As is standard, I put it out to multiple agents - just as queries, mind you, since most of the agents I started with asked for samples vice the full manuscript.  I kicked it out there to see what would happen.  No expectations, just a first attempt.

Results have been mixed.  The first agent responded back with a polite rejection in 48 hours.  Fair enough.  Another responded back a few weeks later, with another declination.  One agent had a policy of "no response in two weeks means you should assume rejection."  Again, since the standard was stated at the outset, that's all good.  This means I have had a couple of responses which, if disappointing, were at least expected.

I also have two queries languishing.  Both had targeted response times (i.e., "we respond to queries within xx weeks").  In both cases, I have exceeded the response times by at least 2 weeks and heard nothing.  This leads to uncertainty.  Did they receive my query?  Did they laugh and not bother to respond?  Did an intern forget to send the rejection?  Did they respond, mistype my email and assume I had received it?  Maybe they just haven't gotten to it.  I understand that agents are busy, and that like anyone else, they don't always meet response times.  Still, it is frustrating on the author's end.

So I sent it out to another round of agents a week ago.  At one site, I kept getting my email kicked back, with a message stating that the agent's server classified my submission as spam.  Even when I stripped out all attachments and went text only, same result.  I sent a very brief email to the agent (which got through), stating that I was having problems and that perhaps they were having some trouble on their end.  They responded, saying the message head been passed to their server administrator.  No further response, or invitation to re-submit my project.  Again, I get that they are busy.  Still felt like a unceremonious brush-off.

(Muse:  Are you not being oversensitive here?  You are the one trying to impress them, right?)

I dunno, I think that works both ways.  Aren't agents supposed to put their best feet forward as well?  A good first impression should be everyone's goal.  Perhaps I am mountain-izing my molehills and I am being over-sensitive.  I guess I just prefer the quick, terse, "No thanks," so I can keep moving forward, instead of wondering what might be.

I read this entry on the blog Thoughts from a Literary Agent.  To sum up, it is another example of some ass-monkey making a fool of himself and torching the crap out of his career.  Ehh, as amusing as these things are, they aren't really represenative.  But even this guy got a response.  I can't seem to get that from all my queries and well, hell, I even followed their guidelines.

Yeah, I do scratch my head over these things.  A lot.

Ah well.

Biiiiiig Changes


Life has an equal amount of humor and tragedy, kind of like when a clown is set on fire.  As I sit here at my desk and spin words into the void, I realize that I haven't visited my old blog for a month.

Big changes coming up in the next few months.  I'll be retiring from military service.  I am relocating from my temporary midwest locale to my home in the bucolic mountains of northern Arizona.

(Muse:  The one that almost burned down?)

Yeah, and there's that to cope with.  Issues with family, and what not.  Bank snarls and trouble there.  It is all becoming one rich tapestry of stress and confusion.

Through it all, still finding some time to write.  I shelved Shattered Colossus.  Even though I have the four-book series pretty-well outlined, I just wasn't feeling it.  I can always re-visit later, though I've said the same about any number of stories I left in limbo.  I wrote a few short stories, one of which I am using as the basis to start a new book series.  I tentatively titled the first book Princess of the North.  It's my initial experiment in writing a novel-length story in first-person, so we'll see what we see.

Some good news.  I did get some writing done, and I keep kicking Pilgrimage out the door to agents.  Mrs. Axe has been doing some new artwork and is coming along nicely in expanding her repertoire.  She'll be here in a little over  a week to escort me home and I certainly cannot complain about that.

I will make a good faith effort to keep up with things here as I go.  Feel free to message me and give me a kick in the butt as a I fall behind.

Oh, the Suck

It was with great regret that I read the following article on Tor.com's blog:

David A. Trampier, the Illustrator Who Defined the Look of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Has Passed Away, 1954-2014

This hit kinda hard.

Though I have not participated in any kind of pen and paper role-playing game for well over two decades, I remember the man's iconic artwork.  For an impressionable youngster who did, and still does, have a soft spot for the sword-swinging genre, Trampier - or, as he signed his work, "DAT" - visualized an entire world of possibilities for me.

I also followed his comic strip Wormy, which was published in Dragon magazine for a long time (repository of the comics here), alongside artist Phil Foglio (of Girl Genius fame).  It was one of my first exposures to a multi-threaded story, with a wide cast and various perspectives.  I very much find that old comic series was a large influence on my Woodhollow stories, which I really need to revisit one of these days.  I always looked forward to reading the next installation.  And then one day, it just stopped.

Trampier burned out and fell off the planet.  Checks went un-cashed, phone calls un-returned.  There were rumors, outlined on this blog, about what had happened.  Whatever the truth, it's a sad tale of artistic talent that has vanished into the void.  And it is another reminder that I continue to get older, as the icons of my youth fall to ruin, one by one.

Think I need to go out into the sunshine for a few minutes and cheer up now.

Timely Intervention


I've been kicking around a bit.  Pilgrimage is still out for a few agents (will detail progress further this weekend).  I finished another short story last night for a contest.  It's an excerpt of a longer piece and I realize that taken on its face without the greater context, it has absolutely no speculative elements in it, short of being set in fictitious cultures.  Will that hinder my chances?  Hell if I know.  I also outlined the better part of a four-book series, in which I like the central concepts but the whole execution seems to be lacking.  Still, it is something to work on.  I also have my secret steampunk short-story anthology that I ... err, oops.

(Muse:  Nice going, asshole.  Not a secret anymore.)

So in short, I have a long list of projects in front of me.  I have some stories out submitted, a novel that is probably my best work ever out with agents, and lots of projects to work on.

So why do I have no motivation?

Writer burnout is perhaps the most insidious thing I face as a writer, and I know I've posted about it before.  Comes and goes.  Still, sometimes fate throws you a bone.

I stumbled across this article called Recovering From Writing Burn Out.  Some of the advice is pretty obvious and makes you go, "Duh!" but reading the organized thoughts helped me get in the right frame of mind.  So I sat down and hashed out another story for my erstwhile-secret anthology.

The desire to give into writing despair is pretty tempting, especially when stories are not selling and feedback is lukewarm or worse.  I am reminded of this Demotivator  (linked here in case the img file pukes out):

But I guess sometimes you just have to take hold of your testicles (or ovaries, as applicable) and just gut through it.  That's where I am right now.  It may not be my best work ever but it's still moving forward.

'Nuff self-pity.  Back to work.

Cliches are Cliched

I spend a bit of time trolling around the internet, looking for various ideas on being a better author.  Most of the time, I end up sorting through nonsense but now and again, I find something interesting.  On his blog, author Jason Sanford posts about how actively avoiding cliches can actually be detrimental to your writing.

I'm not sure I bought off on everything here but food for thought.  I guess it gets back to the only absolute rule is:  there are no absolutes in writing.  I think.

Those Destructive Hussies

I saw over on Cat Rambo's blog this entry for an issue of Fantasy Magazine called Women Destroying Fantasy.  (It is not quite as destructive as it sounds.)  Unfortunately for me, entries are restricted to female writers.  I have the utmost respect for Cat and wish her, and Fantasy Magazine, the best (FM guidelines for this issue here).

Still, I wonder what would have happened if a magazine had a call for just male authors....  I am fully versed on the privilege/diversity arguments and would expect to hear them all.  I understand the arguments, on an intellectual level.  At the same time, I wonder, "Are we equal?  Or aren't we?"  Why do we insist on dividing ourselves?  Does is sounds odd that I want to cheer on Fantasy magazine and wish for their success and still be disappointed in them at the same time?

(Muse:  Awful deep thoughts for you, especially on a Saturday morning.  How much have you had to drink?)

Too much.  Or not enough, depending on how you split it.  Hey Muse, you're female.  Care to submit in my stead?

(Muse:  Doesn't work that way, cupcake.)

Ah well.

Anyway, fem friends go check this out and see if you can submit something.  Man friends make sure to follow up and read it, even if you grumble about it.

Neck Out, Ready to be Chopped

Well, I finally did it.

(Muse:  Learned to write?)

Not quite.  After finishing Pilgrimage and horsing it into a reasonable good shape, I started the submissions progress and began submitting to literary agents today.

This was a much more involved process than I would have believed.  I read an absolute ton of information on the process, polled author friends, read back over my copies of Writer's Digest, and maybe forty or fifty examples of successful query letters.  E. L. Wagner (linked on the left side) was particularly helpful and offered up some good advice.  It's amazing that despite all the conventional wisdom on what a query letter should look like, there are an infinite number of variables that go into it.  How do you know you gave yourself the best chance?  Hell, I have already gone back over what I sent out and started second-guessing myself.  Not that I misspelled a bunch of stuff or anything but minor stuff, like whether I should have put the word count towards the front instead of after the elevator pitch, or whether I should have said, "Dear Agent:" or "To Agent:" or "Attention Agent:"  Sounds silly but this is brought on by reading all these shades of query letters out there.  I am reminded of the old saying:  A man with one watch knows the time, but a man with two watches is never sure.  I am not sure.

I admit it:  this process left me shaking and a little nervous.  I don't believe I was this nervous when I did my first short-story submission.  I'm not sure why.  Really What's the worst that could happen?

(Muse:  The agents could use your letter and manuscript as an example of what not to do?  Set fire to your dreams and urinate on the ashes?)

Yeah the more I think about this, the more unsettled I am going to be.  But what's done is done and I need to have a little optimism.  It's the hands of fate now - fate, and some agents who I hope are having a good day and like my work.  And assuming I am offered nothing but polite rejections, this is not the end of journey for Pilgrimage.

We shall see.

10 More Ways to Waste Time

So ....

I found this collection titled The 10 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Blogs.  I already read John Scalzi on a pretty regular basis but the rest of these were kind of nice to find, and all conveniently packaged in one bundle.

(Muse:  So, you now have nine other reasons not to be writing.)

Yeah, like I need the distractions.  It's a fine line between writing and reading about writing, or even writing my own blog.  Of course, lately I haven't really been doing a lot of either.

Still, there is some good into on these pages and I think it is great for talented authors to share their thoughts with us plebians.  Check them out.

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