Brief Update on “Exploitation and Other Stories”

I’ve been actively writing / revising stories since my last update, and here’s where I’m at on Exploitation and Other Stories. The progress I’ve made will depend upon what genres I include in it. My original intention was to have it be a collection of science fiction stories, and if I stuck with that intention, it would be about 57,000 words long. The fantasy stories would add another 10,000 words, and I’m comfortable including them. The question is whether or not I ought to include the flash fiction pieces like “Parable” (about 5,000 words) and the mysteries like “Stones” (another 16,000 words). If I include all of them, then I would have enough for the collection to be published (my goal is to have about 90,000 words). However, I would still need to get the cover art and copy edit done, and there is another issue: some of the stories have been published (or will be), and I have to wait a certain amount of time before I can reprint them. If I exclude those stories, then the SF part will drop by about 5,000 words; if I wait, then the earliest I can publish it is in April. In other words, it isn’t ready yet no matter what I do, but it is a lot closer than it was a week ago.

I haven’t done any other writing this week, and I don’t expect to add any more poems to this year’s collection. One reason I haven’t worked on my longer works (novels, novellas), is that I wanted to work my way back into writing fiction by focusing on the short stories. They longer works will be next on my agenda, since my folder full of partial stories and story ideas has been pretty much cleaned up. All I have left in it are scenes without plots, characters without stories, beginnings that lead nowhere, and stories threatening to be novels / novellas. Overall, I feel pretty good about where I’m at right now, especially since I did very little writing from August to mid-December.

Brief Update

Well, I ended up doing a lot more prep work for my Spring classes than I intended to, but now they’re both ready to go and I won’t be distracted by them until the classes start. I also loafed a bit over the past few days (too much Slotomania on Facebook 😦 ), so I feel refreshed and ready to focus on writing. I expect to have something positive to post by New Years, but if I get ambitious, I’ll start making weekly updates.

The first thing I need to do is get organized and decide what to write. My poetry collection (2015: A Year of Poetry) will probably be first, since I need to have it ready to publish in early January, but it shouldn’t take long to finish organizing it and double-checking to make sure I have the final drafts of the poems in the collection. I won’t be able to include all of the poems I’ve written this year, though, since a few are pending publication and I’m waiting to hear back from a few publishers about some others. I’m still undecided about doing the second editions of my earlier poetry collections, but I ought to make that decision pretty soon.

I’m inclined to finish the collection of stories after that, since it’s up to about 62,000 words if I include the mysteries and the sacrilegious flash fiction, but even if I get it done, I won’t be able to publish the collection for a while (it will need to be copy edited, and then there’s the matter of the cover art). I’m also going to do some serious thinking about the basic plot structure of the sequel series for my Angus the Mage series to make sure they are all coherent. The mystery novel will probably go to the back burner, where it will join the science fiction novel I’ve been putting off writing since I started working on the Angus series. I’ll probably get to them both eventually, but I’m not sure when. I’ve also been thinking about “Please Don’t Eat the Penguins,” so we’ll see what happens with that, too.

Project Updates

Once I begin writing in earnest again, I will update the progress I am making on my various projects. At present, those projects are:

  • Currently Writing:
    • Exploitation and Other Stories (a SF / mystery collection):  ~45,000 to 52,000 words
    • Angus the Mage Sequels
      • Aftermath:  ~ 5,000 words
      • Symptata’s Curse:  ~ 4,500 words
      • I Will Be King:  ~ 2,000 words
    • Installments (a mystery Novel or Collection):  ~ 7,000 words

My goal is to average 2,000 to 3,000 words a day from mid-December to Mid-July. If I do that, I should be able to complete most of these projects by then. We’ll see….

  • Preparing to Publish
    • 2015:  A Year of Poetry (I need to organize the poems and format copies for the different online retailers.)
    • Second Editions of my poetry collections to correct minor formatting issues and include the poems I’ve written since publishing these collections.

Brief Update

I just finished revising the group finals and the review related to it, so almost everything is done for my courses. What’s left is:

  • Teaching on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, then Thanksgiving break.
  • Giving the individual finals the week after thanksgiving. It will take some time to grade them, but they are spaced out fairly well. (The tests, not the students. Well, most of the students, anyway…. :-))
  • Giving the group finals on Dec. 4, 9, and 10. These pretty much grade themselves, so there won’t be too much to do for them.
  • Calculating and reporting their final grades.

Once this semester is over, I will finally be able to clear my mind of it and focus on some writing. I don’t plan to do anything for my Spring courses until January, so I should get quite a bit done before the end of the year.

I am SO looking forward to not having to be up before noon….

Goal Update

Heading into the home stretch for the Fall semester, here’s how my goals stand:

  • I’ve completed my poetry goal for the year, and as long as I don’t forget to do it, I’ll have at least one poem posted to my blog each week. I doubt I’ll make that sort of commitment next year, since I plan to work primarily on fiction until July or August.
  • I finished the first draft of “Surrogate,” a long story (~7000 words) that I’m going to add to the Sci-Fi collection I’m compiling. It brings the current word count for the collection up to about 43,000 words. I want to have at least 75,000 words before I publish it, so I’m at least halfway there. If I add the stories that aren’t science fiction, then I’d be nearer to 50,000 words, but I’m not sure if I’ll be including them. It depends on what happens with the mystery novel / collection. I haven’t done anything with that of late, so it’s still up in the air which way it will go.
  • I haven’t written any more on “Please Don’t Eat the Penguins,” but I may try to tackle it over Thanksgiving break.
  • I haven’t written any more on the Angus sequels, but I’ve jotted down a few more notes and continue to think about it. I may need to reread the series before I get back into writing them, and if I do that, I’ll probably tinker with revising them. If I do, it likely won’t be until after the semester is over.

Overall, I haven’t been very productive with my writing this semester, and I ought to feel guilty about it. But I don’t. I’ve been busy with my day job, and there have been far too many bouts with insomnia for me to feel much guilty about it. (I don’t write well when I’m excessively tired, and that’s how it’s been during the week for most of this semester.) The semester is winding down, though, and once it’s over, writing will become more like my day job than my real one, and then the guilt will likely kick in if I don’t get off my duff and do something about it. 🙂

Poem #105: “Senior Moment”

Another week without much writing, since I spent it working on the reviews and finals for my classes. I have a little more to do on them this week, and then my prep work for the semester will be done. I’ll still have teaching and grading to do, but it shouldn’t be excessive. (The grading will mostly be during the two weeks after Thanksgiving, when they take their finals.) I should have some time for writing between now and then — if I feel like doing it. I didn’t feel like writing last weekend, which is why I worked on the reviews / exams. Now I’m feeling a bit run-down because of it (and my chronic insomnia), so I probably won’t feel like writing until later in the week — if that. Despite this, I revised the beginning of a story and have a good handle on how I’m going to finish it, and I jotted down a few new ideas. So, when I finally get back to writing, I shouldn’t have too much trouble getting started. Hopefully, that will be on Thursday or Friday, which seems to be the pattern I’ve had over the semester.

In the meantime, I had two brevettes accepted by Whispers…. yesterday. They will probably get published next month. I’ll post an update when they do.

Finally, here is the poem for this week — a much longer one than usual:

Senior Moment

I can’t believe
how long it takes
to find my pool
cue.

Why did I put it
in the closet?

It’s too early—
10:00 am—and
no one I know is in
the pool hall when
I get there.

I play an hour
before my back
starts to hurt.

Half an hour later
there is a dull throb
in my forearm, as if
it’s forgotten some-
thing important.

Maybe it has?

I pocket ball after
ball—the best I’ve
played in ages—and
finally call it quits
after three hours.

The faint, muffled
scent of fresh sweat
stains rises from my
armpits as I reach
out to pay the bill.

My fingers shake
from fatigue, but I
feel refreshed, alive.

On the way home,
something nags at
the nape of my neck,
worrying it like a half-
remembered, half-
forgotten itch, but it
isn’t until I pull into
the driveway and
see the other cars
that it hits me.

I don’t recognize them.

The dorm house is
a different color.

The boys standing
outside throwing the
football back and forth
are so, so young…

I slowly drive by and
pull up to the stop sign.

I grip the steering wheel
so hard my knuckles almost
bleed, and I sit there so long
that one of the boys runs up
to my car and taps on the
passenger’s side window.

I turn with tears seeping
from my eyes, and press
the button to lower it.

“Hey man,” he says
in a way that only
the young can.

“Are you okay?”

My mouth moves a
few times before I fi-
nally say in a soft, even,
empty tone, “I forgot
I was teaching today.”

He has kind eyes, like
a Born-Again striving
so hard to live up to
His new standards.

Before he can say
anything else, I nudge
the gas pedal and my
car creeps away.

I haven’t played pool
since I graduated college
and started teaching—
there wasn’t time.

It’s midday.

I should be
teaching now.

How could I
have forgotten?

I’m only 43.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Poem #101: “Reflection”

If my count is right, “Reflection” is the 500th poem that I’ve written (and kept) during 2015. It is a form that I created that is an adaptation of the sonnet. I call it a “sonnettennos” because the first half is a sonnet and the second half is a sonnet in reverse. The rhyme scheme from the first half is inverted in the second half, and the two halves of the poem focus on complementary or opposing ideas. I’ve only written a few of them, so it might be a bit clunky; however, I wanted to write a formal poem to complete my goal for this year, and this form seemed appropriate for the task. Now that I have completed my poetry goal for the year, I plan to focus more on fiction for while. Speaking of which, my short story “Limbo” has just been published by The Corner Club Press, which is available for free online.

Reflection

It took me twenty years to write a thou-
sand poems. Why? Because the vast major-
ity were formal verse, and learning how
to write them took some time. I probably purged
two hundred of my early ones before
I had five hundred that I kept. The son-
net took a year all by itself. The tor-
ture of its simple rhythmic form—once found—
became a splendid melody, and then
they flowed like rapids from my pen. The more
I wrote the easier they came, and then….
Well, college put a damper on my work.
Although I kept a thousand, there were more,
so why the hell have I been keeping score?

I’m anal. That’s the simple answer. Sure,
the numbers measure what I’ve done, but poor
ones rate the same as masterpieces. Purg-
ing all the worst ones helps. But still…. And then
there’s this year’s poems—some five hundred short
ones—added to the tally. Barely ten
percent are formal rhyming poems bound
by rigid rules and expectations. For
the most part, they are free verse poems, sound
bites, haiku wannabes, imagery, word-
play, mimicry, and moments captured—more,
by far, in three to five lines or a doz-
en words than otherwise. They came in spurts,
like sips of boiling coffee too hot to swallow.

© 2015, all rights reserved.

Update

My writing is rather scatterbrained at the moment, since I’m busy developing several projects at once and writing what I feel like writing when I feel like writing. As a result, my progress on these projects has been inconsistent and somewhat sporadic. The past two weeks reflect that, since I haven’t done much writing during that time, and what I have done is as follows:

  • I went on a poetry binge and just finished poem #499 for the year. One more will complete that goal, and I’ll probably do it tomorrow to get it out of the way. It will be nice to have at least one of my writing goals done. (Incidentally, I’m debating revising the existing collections by adding the poems from the past two years into them and republishing them as a second edition. We’ll see how I feel about that in January.)
  • I wrote a few flash fiction pieces similar to “Parable”, but nothing significant enough to put a serious dent in completing the collection(s) I’m working on. Still, it is a bit of progress none-the-less.
  • I revised and added to the start of a mystery novel of sorts, but it might end up becoming a collection of stories framed around a group of writers workshopping each others’ work. It will depend upon how long the main story gets and how interesting the by-play with the other characters become.
  • I continue to jot down ideas for the sequel(s) to my Angus series and have written the first draft of about half a dozen more scenes.
  • I’ve done nothing more with “Please Don’t Eat the Penguins,” but I haven’t given up on it. I’ve had stories stall this way before, and when the time is right to return to it, I’ll know.

It looks like I’ll have a lot of writing to do once the Fall semester ends. I’ll probably spend about 3 weeks in December working on it before doing the prep work for the Spring semester in early January. I only have two classes in the Spring, so it won’t be too demanding. The face-to-face Introduction to Ethics course will go quickly, but I plan to tinker a bit with my online Introduction to Philosophy course. A student directed me to a useful online resource (“The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps“), and I want to integrate a few of the podcasts on the Pre-Socratics / Anselm into it to supplement the readings / lectures.

Brief Non-Update

Midterms are coming up next week, so I spent the weekend preparing reviews for my students instead of writing fiction. I’ll be compiling the exams next and should have them ready by Wednesday. That will give me the weekend to get some writing done before I have to grade the midterms. Once I have them graded, I’ll have about a month before I’ll have to start working on their finals. Hopefully, I’ll get some writing done then, too. My mom likes the handful of initial scenes I’ve sent her for the sequel(s) to my Angus series, so by the time December gets here I should be ready to write them. I’m looking forward to doing it. In the meantime, I’m up to 440 poems; my SF collection is nearing 40,000 words; and I have added a couple of ideas to my Angus sequel. I’ll give another update after next weekend.