Month: June 2014

performance anxiety

It can take me the better part of a month to polish a few thousand dull, lifeless words into a brilliant multi-faceted gem of staggering beauty. At which point, I’ll submit the story to my amazing writer’s group who will gasp in collective awe at my wondrous prose. Eyes welling with tears, they will fall at my feet, lamenting that the story I’d written has ended and begging me to bless them with more words to savor.

I will then snort myself awake, wipe the drool from my chin and blink my bloodshot eyes against the noonday sun streaming through my bedroom window.

Reality is a bitch.

So I stagger downstairs and make myself some breakfast (I don’t care what time you wake up, the first meal you eat is STILL breakfast!) then I crack my knuckles and open up my latest work in progress.

The first part of my narcissistic little dream is true: it can take me a month to write/rewrite/edit a short story. And it’s work. Hard work. Like tagging narwhals for science or re-enacting the first season of Sherlock in your living room with your cat, Benecat Cumpurrbatch, also for science (science is weird).

Once I’m done nurturing and growing my story, preening and pruning it to perfection, I have to send it out into the cold, cruel world. And just that one little action, clicking SEND on the email that will carry my story across cyberspace and time, is enough to fill my gut with snakes and make me want to crawl back into bed.  Because out there, my beautiful snowflake of a story is just mere slush clogging some over-caffeinated editor’s inbox.

Then comes the obsessive refreshing of my email over and over, during every waking moment and even in the middle of the night when I roll over and look at my phone for the time or to double check that I set my alarm for work because I’m obsessive about that now as well. Clicky, clicky, clicky on that little roundy arrow, like an old woman in orthopedic sandals feeding dollars into a slot machine while getting slowly hammered on complimentary Long Island Iced Teas. Only the old woman has better odds and I’m drinking a box of red wine straight from the spout. And after weeks of this routine I have a calloused clicky finger and my liver is sending me hate mail, but I finally, FINALLY, get a reply from the publication I submitted my story to. With trembling hand I open the email to read, “We appreciate your interest, but unfortunately we don’t think your story is a good fit for our blah blah blabbity blah . . . ” After the initial flattening weight of rejection eases up a bit, I take a long draw from my box of wine and send my story out to the next publication on my list.

It's madness

No wonder I self-medicate with red wine.

And as awful as that whole process is, it’s eleventy bazillion times worse when you’re trying to find a home for your Novel. Your Baby. Your One True Hope That All This Writing Nonsense Will Pay Off One Day. That’s where I am right now. Two weeks ago I sent my novel off to what’s basically my dream publisher.

My finger hurts. And I’m out of wine.

 

And I’m gonna try and find an excuse to insert gifs of Loki into all my future posts. It’s my blog and I do what I want!

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name game

While I was plotting my five year plan to become a published author (which is now going on six years, but who’s counting), I realized I had an important choice to make. Besides picking out just the right turtleneck and pipe combo for the dust-jacket cover, I had to decide if I wanted to use my real name.

Now for some of you, this may seem like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t I use my real name? “Amy Severson” is a perfectly serviceable name. It has all the parts a name should have without the distraction of any superfluous punctuation. People do tend to mispronounce the last name as Sev-er-son instead of Sea-ver-son, but that is a faux-pas I’ve been easily overlooking for almost twenty years.

Ultimately, I still chose to use a pseudonym.

And it’s not because I’m writing anything that I might be embarrassed to show my family like narwhal on polar bear erotica or Tea Party campaign speeches. I write primarily science fiction with a humorous lean (it’s really more like a bad limp, but the funny crosses the finish line eventually). But because I write science fiction, I felt that not using my first name could be an advantage.

Why?

Well, because I’m a girl. If I were writing romance or young adult or even literary fiction then having a girl name really wouldn’t matter and could possibly even be a plus. But science fiction is still a male-dominated genre. Just like gay male erotica is mostly written by straight women (yes, seriously, look it up). And it’s been observed that men tend to overlook female authors in favor of male ones. No, not ALL men, but let’s not open that can of worms, okay?

So I figured to level the playing field a bit and to give myself the best shot at being read by a wider group of people, I’d drop the “Amy” in favor of my first and middle initials. That left me with A.C. Severson, which is all fine and dandy until you say it out loud. Go ahead, try it. After about the third time it’s hard not to sound like you have some sort of speech impediment.

Lucky for me, like most married women, I have another last name to pick from.

That’s why all my future short stories, novels, poems scribbled on wine-stained napkins, will feature the author name of A.C. Adams. Pretty great name, huh? And it’s not even a “fake” name. It’s all really mine in some way or another. What does the “C” stand for? Not telling. I feel it’s important to keep some mystery in a relationship. There are a few people who read this blog who know, so you may be able to bribe them for the answer.

And that brings us to the name of this here website. I wanted it to tie in with my pseudonym in some manner, but I decided to use my first name with the middle initial. And once I said “Amy C.” what immediately followed in my brain was “Amy do” cause, you know, why should monkeys have all the fun.  The “Amy fall down” part was added because, well, I do. Fall down. A lot. It’s kinda my thing.

So there you go. A long drawn out explanation for something that probably no one even really cares about.  That’s also my thing.

Oh, and you probably noticed that my maiden name is Amy Adams. I might have considered that name to write under but ultimately didn’t want to cause any confusion between me and some bitch who had to go and become a famous actress with my goddamn name. For the record, I had the name first. Not that I’m bitter. I really try for that not to be my thing.

 

insecticide

I arrived home from work and ignored the cat as he loudly castigated me for having the gall to leave him alone yet again. Walking into the kitchen to wash out my travel mug, I looked out the window over the sink. Or at least I tried to look out the window. Blocking my view was a jittering, oily mass of black flies buzzing against the glass. A group of flies is called a “business” and these flies were all up in mine. I dropped my mug in the sink and backed away in horror, frantically trying to remember which of the Dark Gods I had angered this week.

Where could they have all come from? The apartment was fly-free that morning and now less than ten hours later it was host to a plague of the ugly bastards. And they were huge! Each one the size of my pinky nail and I have large hands (yes, it’s true what they say about gals with large hands. I have no idea what that is, but it’s true).

I pointed an accusing finger at the cat. “What good are you? Did you even try to kill any of those things?”

The cat gave me a “Not my problem, bitch” look and proceeded to lick the area where his testicles used to be.

This was a battle I would have to fight on my own.

Because I didn’t own a fly swatter or a flame-thrower and I feared using my shoe would break the glass, I armed myself with enough paper towels to give the Brawny lumberjack the uh-oh feeling. I approached the window expecting the flies to, well, fly, but they just did a skittering juke and jive across the glass. I don’t know if it was their bloated size, but their reaction time was slow for what I expected from a fly. Fortunately, this made them easy to kill. Unfortunately, this also upped the creepy-weird-gross-out factor to eleven.

The flies barely moved as I smashed them, sometimes two and three at a time, with the paper towels leaving greasy, brown-green smears on the glass. It’s like they were resigned to their fate and accepted the dry, white press of death with cold detachment. I was not similarly unaffected. I barely managed to suppress a violent case of dry-heaves as one by one I popped flies against the glass like some kind of Lovecraftian bubble wrap.

About thirty minutes later I had over sixty confirmed kills. I poured myself a quadruple red wine and sipped it as involuntary heebie-jeebie seizures wracked my body. Throughout the rest of the evening, I dispatched a few more flies that must have had a stronger will to live and had flown away from the carnage at the kitchen window. Before I went to bed, I checked each room of the apartment and finding them clear of flying vermin, I settled under the covers and prayed for a dreamless sleep.

The next morning the only signs of life were me and the cat, as it should be. I left for work relieved that my bug gut splattered ordeal was behind me.

Until I got home and found my kitchen window infested with buzzing black flies once again.

I screamed some barely intelligible obscenity and the cat darted for cover in another room. As I smashed flies with hand-fulls of paper towels, I scoured my brain for any possible explanation. None of the windows or doors had been left open, the trash was empty, and I hadn’t smelled anything that even remotely resembled death in the apartment since I’d moved in months ago. What was going on? Did I unknowingly anger an old gypsy woman? Was there a portal to hell hidden in the baseboard?

I stuck a straw down the neck of my bottle of wine and called my sister. “I’m living in a Stephen King novel,” I told her.

She listened to my tale of woe and asked the pertinent questions. “Are they arranging themselves so they form words? Like GET OUT or DIE?”

I took a long pull from the straw. “Not yet. I’m thinking about impaling some of the corpses on toothpicks, you know, as a warning to the others.”

“Good idea.”

“So far, there haven’t been any in my bedroom, so I think I’m safe during the night.” I saw an errant fly crawling along the living room wall and absently squashed it.

“Keep the door closed. And text me in the morning so I know you’re alive or haven’t been assimilated into their fly society.”

“Maybe we should have a code phrase. So you know it’s me and not the flies pretending to be me.”

I pictured two flies walking across my phone’s keyboard to type out, “THIZ IZZ AMY. NO WORRIEZZ. STILL HUMANZ. TOTES NOT A FLYZ.” Then I imagined them fighting with the auto-correct and the image made me laugh enough so I could go to sleep without feeling phantom fliez flies crawling across my skin.

In the morning, the apartment was fly-free, but I knew their little routine by now. Coming home from work, I took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen. The window above the sink was populated with only about a dozen flies, not the fifty or sixty I’d come to expect. For most people, a dozen flies would be cause for alarm, but for me it was practically a vacation. I killed them all swiftly and mercilessly then made myself a quesadilla.

Over the next few days, there were fewer and fewer flies until the glorious evening when I arrived home and nary a fly greeted me from my kitchen window. I’d already made myself a paper towel mitten purely out of habit, so I unwrapped my hand and folded the sections neatly so I could use them one at a time like a normal person. Not being forced to begin my evening with mass murder was a relief, however something felt . . . off.  It’s not that I missed killing swarms of flies (I’m only blood thirsty in my fiction), but it had become familiar. The evil you know, and all that noise. Now that this trial was over, I couldn’t help but wonder what new eldritch horror awaited me with drool-slicked fangs just beyond the periphery of my current reality.

If it’s spiders, I’m moving.

the long and short of it

So I wrote a novel, as you do. It’s a silly little tale about aliens from another dimension using humans to keep other aliens from a different dimension from killing them. I call it “Monsters All The Way Down” and for almost a year I’ve been trying to find an agent or publisher who loves it as much as I do. Or at least loves it enough to pay me for it. Affection. Cold hard cash. To-may-to. To-mah-to.

While trying to find a home for my novel, I’ve been writing short stories. I also took a few of my robot and zombie stories that I originally posted on my old blog, Fix It Or Deal, may she rest in peace (*crosses self* wait, is it left to right or right to left? what am I doing, I’m not even Catholic), and added to them and generally made them more presentable. I’ve been shopping these short stories around to various places. But trying to sell a short story is a daunting, pain-in-the-ass process. There are thousands of print and web-based publications out there and sifting through them, even with the help of websites like duotrope.com, can take dozens of eye-crossing hours. Then, once you find one that seems like a good fit, you submit your story and have to wait anywhere between four weeks and the heat death of the universe for a reply. And that reply is invariably “Thanks, but no thanks,” so you have to start the process all over again. All this for the chance to get paid a fraction of minimum wage once you calculate the time spent writing/editing/revising the story and searching for a market.

A carousel of insanity, right? Right.

There is another option: self-publishing. Depending on who you are, that’s either a nasty curse you spit out of your mouth like spoiled milk or the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. Like most things, I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Self-publishing isn’t the end-all be-all, but it is a good way to at least get your shit Out There in front of people. Whether they buy it or not, is a crap-shoot, but so is submitting to random e-zines. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take.

I’m hoping to have a select group of short stories all polished up and ready to go by the end of summer when I’ll self-pub them through Amazon. This little anthology will be cheap, probably only about $2.99, but I’d only have to sell a dozen to make more money than I would selling one story individually. I’m not really doing it for the money, however. I know I’m not going to be able to quit my day job any time soon. I’ll most likely end up giving away more copies than I sell. But it will be good experience. If I have success self-publishing a short story collection, maybe I’ll do the same with my novel. Who knows? The most important thing is just to get my words in front of people’s eyeballs. That’s why I write – to be read. If I make some extra wine money doing it then that’s just sprinkles on the cupcake.

All that said . . . I did just find out yesterday that a zombie story I wrote has been accepted for inclusion in an anthology due to come out this fall. Sometimes the carousel is a nice ride.

and we’re walking

I’ve invited you in (like the little vampires you are), so I suppose I’ll give you the tour. Now everyone hold hands with your tour buddy. Don’t want anyone getting lost.

Where you are right now is my Blog page. This is where I blog. What will I blog about? Oh, you know, bloggy things. You say the word over and over and it starts to lose all meaning, doesn’t it? Blog, blog, blog, blog. Sounds like an embarrassing bodily function. “And then Chet blogged all over the maid of honor. I could have died!” I suppose writing can feel like an embarrassing bodily function at times. Some words spring forth like toadstools after a rain, organic and vibrant and glistening with promise. Other words are secreted, expectorated on the page and are only suitable for reading by a patient relative or a medical professional. I hope this page will serve as loamy soil and not a wad of kleenex.

If you look to the left you will see my Home page. There is nothing there right now but a barely coherent metaphor involving red wine and me introducing myself as a writer. I don’t do that at parties, by the way. “Hello, my name is Amy and I’m a writer. Could you point me toward the wine?” I suppose I could; there isn’t any test you have to pass or license you need to apply for to be a writer. You just have to write. Now to be able to say you are a professional writer, that is a whole ‘nother ball of yarn. One I hope to bat around like a carefree kitten in the future. Which brings us to the next page on our tour . . .

Live Nude Words. As I’m sure some of you are disappointed to discover, there is no nudity on this page. False advertising, I know, but I gotta get people in the door somehow. This is where I will shill my syllables, peddle my pages like the vitamin D deprived, wine-soaked word whore that I am. There isn’t much to show at the moment, just a bit of ankle, a flash of shoulder, but I hope to have a full body of work on display in the future. All the pieces for a full monty joke are in there somewhere.

While I may not have much in the way of wares, I do have friends with books for sale. This brings us to the Pimpin’ page where you’ll find links to my writer friends’ websites so you can stalk them mercilessly. Between them, you are bound to find something that tickles your fancy: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Gay Romance, Humorous Memoir. Unless your fancy isn’t ticklish, that is. Have you tried behind the knees?

Well, that concludes our little tour. I see a couple of you lost your buddies. No, you can’t go back and look for them. They belong to my website now. Don’t worry, I will keep them safe and will teach them how to serve me. You may hear them from time to time, scuttling about in the walls, chittering to each other in a pidgin language even I don’t fully understand. And if you see a thin, translucent hand beckon to you from the shadows, back away slowly towards the light. Because no matter how much I feed my precious pets, they are always so very hungry.

 

this is my new home

I’ve moved around a lot recently. Almost two years ago I quit a job that was killing me and seven months after that, I found a part-time job I loved. Nine months after that I separated from my husband and moved out on my own (well, technically I moved in with a cat, but that’s another story). Just a few months later, I have a full time job that I love and I decide to resurrect my blog-life with a fresh, new domain name.

And that brings us here. And if you’re here, then you’re either one of my long-time internet friends, a real-life friend, or I owe you money. In which case I say, “Hi friends!” and “Man, I swear I sent that check two days ago, the post office ain’t what it used to be, and when you get it don’t be mad that it’s post dated about three months from now, okay?”

One of the moves I hope to make in the near future is into your home. No, don’t go changing your locks or boarding up your dog door. This is the internet, we speak figuratively here, especially since “here” isn’t even really a place, it only exists as ones and zeros on some server buried within a corporate compound, and “we” are nameless, faceless masses huddled over the glare of our computer screens desperate for some kind of contact other than the cold, plastic press of the keyboard beneath our trembling fingers.

Ahem. Anywhoo . . .

I am planning on publishing a book soon. A book you can purchase and either read as pixels on a computer screen or as a paper relic you can hold in your grubby, clammy hands. What will the book be about, you may ask? Well, after praising you for your inquisitiveness, I will tell you the book will be about robots, and demons, and monsters of our own making, and monsters made for us, and dogs, quite a few dogs. Curious? Then this new blog has accomplished one of its missions, which is to stir up interest in my writing projects. The other mission is to generally entertain, which I hope I have done with this here post you just spent your precious time reading.

At this new home of mine you can expect updates on the book (a collection of short stories, to be specific), news about any other writing projects, scraps of random fiction (maybe even including a monthly story based on a paper toy I assemble), all sprinkled liberally with the coarsely-ground peppercorns of my life. Or maybe my life is more like a nutmeg that you grate. Oooh, no, it’s like garlic squeezed through one of those press things that are hell to clean because there’s moving parts and the garlic gets stuck in that mesh shit and it doesn’t fully disassemble and top rack only my ass.

So, yeah. Welcome. For those of you I’ve missed over these many months away from blogland, I look forward to catching up. And for those of you that are new, I . . . um, I’m just gonna say I’m sorry now to save time.