Thursday, December 30, 2010

Forty-two

I finished writing my 42nd short story of the year this afternoon, a 3,700-word heist story that I started writing on January 17, 2007. Unfortunately, I don't know where to send it.

This happens sometimes. Most of the stories I write, I write with a specific market in mind. Some of the stories I start writing without having a market in mind, but do have one in mind before I finish writing. A few--a very few--are like this story: born homeless.

I'll put the manuscript on top of my to-submit pile and do a little market research later.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Forty-one

I completed and submitted my 41st short story of the year this evening. This time it's a 1,200-word bit of erotica started on June 8.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Forty

This evening I finished and submitted my 40th short story of the year, a 5,400-word Mother's Day confession I started writing December 2.

Published 2x

I received contributor copies of two anthologies today: Video Boys, containing my private eye story "Watching Kyle," and Rock & Roll Over, containing my story "One Hit Wonder."

Published

"Southern Comfort," a bit of crime fiction featuring a private eye with a dark family secret, appears in the Winter 2010 issue of Big Pulp. I don't have my contributor copy yet, but the publication just went on sale. Learn more and order here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I was framed

James Reasoner writes about receiving his first check for a professional fiction sale 34 years ago today in "I Remember It Well."

I received payment for my first professional fiction sale on November 9, 1978, almost two years after James, but I don't remember it all that well. What I do remember is framing the check stub and one crisp new dollar bill, and for many years that little frame hung in my office. I just went digging through the plastic storage bins under my bed and found it. Now that I've found it, I think I'm going to put it up in my office again.

I also framed a copy of the story ("The Magic Stone") along with the cover of that issue of the magazine (Young World, November, 1978). Alas, that frame seems to have been lost during one of the many times I've moved since 1978.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thirty-nine

I completed and submitted my 39th short story of the year this evening, a 1,000-word bit of erotica I started yesterday.

Friday, December 24, 2010

60

I received my 60th acceptance of the year a few minutes ago, this time for a hardboiled private eye story featuring my reoccurring character Morris Ronald "Moe Ron" Boyette.

A textbook case

I'm pleased to announce that I am one of 60 contributors to Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction, a writing textbook edited by Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller scheduled for publication by Headline Books in 2011.

Learn more about the book, the editors, and the contributors at the Many Genres blog.

Meet me in Mexico

Banderas News has a short article about the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference this coming February, "Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference February 25-27, 2011." (There's more about the conference at the Puerto Vallarta Writers Group website.)

I'm one of the scheduled speakers, so if you want to say "howdy," why not do it in Mexico two months from now?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do I need a social network?

Earlier this evening I deleted my MySpace account and I stared hard at my Facebook account, wondering if it deserved the same fate. Not yet, I decided, but maybe soon.

The MySpace account had stopped being useful several years ago. I realized this a few months back and started deleting my friends, most of whom were other writers who had apparently joined MySpace, just as I had, thinking it would be a good way to market ourselves and our books. It wasn't. At least, it wasn't for me. And not one of my former MySpace friends noticed or cared that they had been defriended.

I joined Facebook a bit later, while I was in college (to bring latecomers up-to-date: I graduated in December 2005, at the age of 48), because that's what college students were doing. My current Facebook friends are a mix of family, friends, and other writers, and I rarely post anything on Facebook. There are few intimate details of my life that I'm willing to share in a public forum--and with Facebook's woefully inadequate privacy protection it is very much a public forum--and I don't feel comfortable inflicting writing news on family and friends who mostly don't care that I've sold another story or had one published. I'm not even sure that more than a select few of my fellow writers care about my successes and failures because they are rightfully more concerned with their own.

So, if I rarely share information via Facebook and I don't follow anyone else's updates, what value does membership offer for me?

I'm still trying to answer that question. But, unless I convince myself that it has absolutely no value, I'll keep my Facebook account.

And keep posting my writing successes and failures here where anyone who reads my blog posts is doing so by choice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

59

I received my 59th acceptance of the year a few minutes ago, this time for an erotic ghost story.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thirty-eight

I finished writing my 38th story of the year, a 5,000-word Mother's Day confession that I began writing December 7. The final draft is printing now and it'll go in the mail this afternoon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

How long ago?

Any writer who's known me for long knows I abhor the word "got." (To recap: Frequent use of "got" is the sign of a sloppy writer. In almost every instance "got" can be replaced by a better, more accurate, more descriptive word or phrase.)

Lately, there's another word that's been bothering me almost as much: ago.

Unfortunately, many writers, editors, and readers don't understand its proper use in a time sequence and bollix up their stories unnecessarily.

For example:
At the end of a long, hot summer, Little Tony finally had had enough. He pulled a snub-nose .38 from the holster attached to his belt at the small of his back and drilled a pair into the little prick who'd been riding him the entire time. He had never intended to harm his wife's younger brother, but three days ago the simpering fop had pushed his last button and Little Tony only had to wait until the two of them were alone to scrape that pimple off the world's ass.
Whoa! Wait a minute! When did the simpering little fop push Little Tony's last button?

Grammatically, the simpering fop pushed Little Tony's last button three days before this story was told, which might be--because this is written in past tense--days, weeks, months, or years after the shooting.

What the author meant is that the simpering fop pushed Little Tony's last button three days prior to the shooting.

Therefore, the author should have written:
He had never intended to harm his wife's younger brother, but three days earlier the simpering fop had pushed his last button and Little Tony only had to wait until the two of them were alone to scrape that pimple off the world's ass.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

58

I received my 58th acceptance today, this time for an 800-word romance I wrote in January 2009.

The acceptance is a bit of a cheat because I'm accepting it for a newsletter I edit, but if I won't accept my own work, why should I expect other editors to?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thirty-seven

I finished and submitted my 37th short story of the year, a 5,700-word confession that I began writing November 19.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thirty-six

I finished and submitted my 36th story of the year, this time a confession with an Earth Day theme. I started writing this story November 18 and worked on it in fits and starts while working on a couple of other stories that I hope to complete within the next few days.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Top five

At Chris Rhatigan's Death By Killing blog, guest blogger Sandra Seamans lists her five favorite flash stories of 2010 in today's post "Top Five of 2010: Sandra Seamans."

Included in her top five is my story "Dead Things," published by Big Pulp. She says:
"Michael’s story is as old as time, but the pov he chose to tell the story pumped fresh life into the tale."

Monday, December 06, 2010

57

I received my 57th acceptance earlier today, this time for a private eye story I wrote back in 2003.

I also learned that three stories previously accepted by the same publisher have now been scheduled for publication.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Essay

I don't track my nonfiction and other writing the way I track my fiction production, but I did finish and submit a 450-word essay this evening. A writer I've known for many years (one of several Internet friends I've never met in person) is putting together a collection of essays about bad dates and on Tuesday sent me the call for submissions.

I guess I've been lucky because I've never had a truly bad date, but there is one that has haunted me for nearly 40 years. So I wrote about it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kindling

For every J.A. Konrath there's a Michael Bracken.

I received my first royalty check from Amazon Digital Services Inc. (ADSI) for the five titles I made available for Kindle: $15.

Granted, none of the five titles are novels. Two are novellas; three are short stories. Four have been previously published; one is original. Four are crime fiction; one is romance. The novellas sell for $2.99; the short stories for $.99.

I also have seven titles available from three different publishers (two novels, a short story collection, and four short stories) and have short stories available in two anthologies available in Kindle format. My royalty check from ADSI does not reflect income from these titles.

Although I have mentioned all of these titles here and on my website, I've not been actively promoting them the way some writers promote their work.

I prefer to spend my available time writing new material.

Even so, here's my pitch: If you have a Kindle and want to read some good crime fiction, good romance fiction, or good confessions, try some of my titles. They're all available here: Michael's Kindle Titles.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brand names

When I first started writing confessions in the 1980s, I quickly realized that editors deftly removed brand names from the stories they published.

"I drove my Rambler to Sambo's and ordered a Royal Crown Cola to drink while studying the menu" became "I drove my car to a chain restaurant and ordered a cola to drink while studying the menu."

In the belief that the less work a manuscript requires prior to publication increases--however minutely--the odds of the manuscript being accepted, I learned to write fiction without using brand names.

During the past few years things have changed. Confession editors are no longer excising all brand names from confessions prior to publication, and I recently read a confession that had so many brand names in it that I thought I was reading a shopping list and not a short story.

So I wonder which serves a story better: frequent use of brand names or complete removal of brand names?

I think use of brand names can be a crutch, a way for writers to create a character using shorthand--after all, a woman who wears Levi's and Polo shirts is quite different than a woman who dresses in Dolce & Gabbana and Manolo Blahnik--instead of making the character come alive through words and actions.

At the same time, use of brand names can date a story. Readers significantly younger than me may not even recognize the three brand names in my example above:

The Rambler was manufactured by American Motors, back when the U.S. had four major automobile manufacturing companies. The last Rambler was manufactured in 1969. American Motors was purchased by Chrysler in 1987 and renamed Eagle.

Sambo's was a chain of 1,200 restaurants that went bankrupt in the early 1980s and, apparently, only the original restaurant, opened in 1957, still exists.

Royal Crown Cola may be better known today as RC Cola.

If it's important to set a story in a particular time and place (pairing that RC cola with a Moonpie would likely set a story in the South in the 1950s), then brand names may be a valuable addition to a story, but if time and place is less important than the story itself, use of brand names would detract from the story and would be especially distracting to future readers unfamiliar with the brand names.

So, even though confession editors seem more open to the use of brand names, may I suggest that brand names be used judiciously and only when their use truly enhances a story.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thirty-five

I completed my 35th short story of the year this evening, a 4,500-word St. Patrick's Day confession I started writing October 14. The final draft is printing now and it'll go in the mail tomorrow.

It's been almost three months since I completed a new short story, an anomaly not indicative of how much writing I've actually been doing. I didn't write much fiction in September--the month began with a family issue to address followed by a week of illness, and a load of other writing and editing filled up the last half of the month. But I returned to the keyboard in October and have been putzing around with various stories, adding bits to this story and that, outlining some new stories, and generating a variety of story ideas that I hope to get to soon. But generating ideas, outlining stories, and writing beginnings and middles don't create finished manuscripts. Only writing complete manuscripts accomplishes that goal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

56

I received my 56th acceptance earlier today, this time for a 6,200-word confession.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Published 2x

My Christmas stories "Bittersweet Homecoming" and "Fatherless at Christmas" appear in the December issue of True Confessions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Published

My erotic deal-with-the-devil's-minion story "The Loophole" was published in Men at Noon, Monsters at Midnight (StarBooks Press, Christopher Pierce editor) back in June but my contributor's copy just arrived.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

55

I received my 55th acceptance of the year via email this afternoon, this time for a Valentine's Day romance/confession.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Published

My Christmas confession "Santa's Little Helper Saves the Day" appears in the December True Story.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Published

My Thanksgiving confession "Turkey for Two" appears in the just-published December issue of True Love.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Published

My crime fiction story "Tides" appears in the just-released anthology Beautiful Boys (Cleis Press), edited by Richard Labonte.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Published

"My Lover's Secret," a confession, has been released by Lady Leo Publishing. It's available in various electronic formats.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

53

I received my 53rd acceptance of the year this evening, this time for a bit of crime fiction.

Published

My article "Sky Island Gardening" appears in the November/December Texas Gardener.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

52!

I received my 52nd acceptance of the year a few minutes ago, this time for a short story featuring Waco-based private eye Morris Ronald "Moe Ron" Boyette. Boyette has appeared in several published stories since his "birth" in "Feel the Pain" (Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, Mysterious Press) in 2003.

With this sale I've achieved my annual writing goal--to average one acceptance per week--and every sale from now until the end of the year is gravy.

Which is a good thing because I haven't finished any new manuscripts since early September.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Published

My Thanksgiving story "Home for the Holidays" appears in the November True Confessions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Published

My ghost story "Pushing Coal" appears in the just-released anthology Specters in Coal Dust, edited by Michael Knost and published by Woodland Press, LCC.

To order directly from the publisher, go here: http://www.woodlandpress.com/book/folk-lore/now-shipping-specters-coal-dust

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I've been tweeted

I don't have a Twitter account, but the SFWA tweets my blog posts. Even more unusual is that someone else--Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen--quoted me in one of her tweets on October 10. Go figure, huh?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

51

I received my 51st acceptance of the year in today's mail, this time for a Christmas confession I wrote in 2008.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

50

I received my 50th acceptance of the year a few minutes ago, for a hot, summer confession.

Monday, October 04, 2010

49

I received my 49th acceptance of the year in today's mail, this time for a 6,100-word Christmas story.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Food for thought

While reading Kevin Burton Smith's "Murder on the Menu," an article about food in mysteries in the current (Fall, 2010) issue of Mystery Scene, I was surprised to see this:
And we should mention Hardbroiled (2003), edited by Michael Bracken, a collection of tough private eye stories in which food plays an important role.
It's nice to know that somebody other than the contributors remembers the anthology.

Published

My story "Too Good To Be True" appears in the Winter True Experience.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kindling

Now available for Kindle: "Pick." While stealing the contents of a file folder, a B&E man witnesses a mob killing. Then his life gets complicated.

As time permits, I'm making my previously published crime fiction short stories available for Kindle, most of them for a mere 99 cents.

Friday, September 24, 2010

48

I received my 48th acceptance of the year this afternoon, for a 5,700-word Christmas-themed confession I submitted August 22.

Passport

A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at a writers conference in Mexico. I haven't been outside the U.S. since I was a teenager, and that was a one-day trip into British Columbia, Canada.

I agreed, then learned I needed a passport to travel to Mexico. The process of applying didn't seem particularly difficult...until I saw the questions I had to answer about my parents. My dilemma is that my parents have been dead for many years and I have limited family documents.

I had to obtain a copy of my birth certificate--at least I knew where I was born--and I found the answers to some of the questions there. I found the rest of the answers by digging around in my files, but it took a while.

I'm lucky I didn't need information about my grandparents. I might never have completed the application...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

47

I received my 47th acceptance back on September 4 but failed to note it here, for a story written as a confession but sold to an anthology.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Published 2x

My erotic story "Tossing the Caber" was published in Teammates and my erotic mystery "Smooth Strokes" was published in Boys Getting Ahead. Both of these anthologies were released several months ago; my copies just arrived.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The recession hits home

A couple of years ago, when a few of my primary fiction markets dried up and a few others started dragging payments, I altered my household budget. I eliminated fiction income from the budget and adjusted my projected expenses based on the presumption that my only income would be provided by my three biggest clients.

It's a good thing I did. Even though I brought in more money last year than in any year since 1996, my year-to-date income in 2010 falls short of 2009. I continue to sell fiction at a steady pace, but the long-term markets I'm writing for continue to drag payments and the new markets I've found don't pay as well as the markets I lost.

Through careful budgeting and a little luck my year-to-date income after expenses is slightly better than last year, but I don't like the financial direction my fiction writing has taken. It's no longer a question of budgeting cash flow as much as it is budgeting time and effort.

Do I step back, adjust the type of fiction I write, and take a hard run at some of the remaining top markets? The risk, as I learned early last year when I took a hard run at Woman's World, is that I may wind up with a lot of unsold and possibly unsellable short stories.

Do I attempt to increase my productivity, writing more for lower paying markets in an attempt to compensate for lost income? The risk is that I wind up Walmarting myself, making a little money from each of many sales rather than making significant money from each of only a few sales.

Or do I continue to write for the better paying markets that still publish my work, even though they now drag payments several months? The risk is that the publications don't survive the recession and disappear owing me significant amounts of money.

The life of the average freelancer is not easy. The life of the average freelance fiction writer is harder still.

And the recession just complicates everything...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ArmadilloCon, again

Elspeth Bloodgood, Kim Kofmel, and I share "Memories of Fandom Past" at ArmadilloCon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elzes/4989118670/. Joining us but not pictured: Cat Conrad.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Published

My confession "The Secret Lives of Teachers" has been released in various electronic formats. It should be available for Kindle within the next few days.

Published

My romance story "An Engaging New Year" appears in Passionate Hearts, released this month in various electronic formats. A print edition is forthcoming.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Kindling

I am in the process of making some of my previously published short crime fiction available on Kindle. Rather than bore you with how much money I'm earning and how I'll soon retire to a villa on the south of France, how about if I tell you about the first three stories?

When the lady of the house seduces the ex-con tending her lawn, murder isn’t far behind.

Available now.






The Baker High School class of 1974 had big dreams. Then one father’s small crime changed everything.

“Dreams Unborn” was named one of the best mystery stories of the year by Joyce Carol Oates and Otto Penzler, editors of The Best American Mystery Stories 2005.

Available now.


When two young men break into a house and discover evidence of a horror beyond any they could imagine, one of them is forced to choose the lesser of two evils.

Uploaded this evening; should be available within 48 hours.

Published

My story "Dead things" was published today at BigPulp.

Monday, September 06, 2010

"What do you do...?"

I received the following via email this morning and thought I would share my response.

"Do you have confession stories that have not been accepted after sending them around? What do you do with them?"

I don't have many unsold confessions. Up until the black confession magazines (Black Romance, Jive, etc.) ceased publication a few years ago I had sold every confession I'd ever written. Now, with fewer confession magazines and the existing magazines (True Love, True Story, etc.) not as interested in some of the stories that would have easily sold to the black confession magazines, I have a few confessions hanging around in the filing cabinet.

But I do what I've always done:

1) If I can see a flaw in the story, I revise, retitle, and send the story around again. (I've sold a few this way.)

2) If I don't think there's a flaw in the story, I wait until an editor changes jobs and submit to the new editor. (I've sold many this way.)

3) And, lately, I've been keeping my eyes open for opportunities--anthologies, other magazines, epublishers--that don't identify as confession markets but have guidelines that make me think a confession or confession-like story might be appropriate. (In the past couple of years I've sold half a dozen or so this way.)

Interviewed

Haven't gotten enough of me yet? Last month I was interviewed by Aurora, a website that reviews and interviews the authors of young adult fiction, and the interview was posted this morning. Check it out at http://aurorareviewsarchives.blogspot.com/2010/09/interview-michael-bracken.html.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Published

"My Undercover Lover," a confession, appears in the October True Story.

Published


My erotic crime story "Slash and Burn" appears in the just-published paperback anthology Boy Fun, and the e-book anthology Beach Challenge.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

47

I received my 47th acceptance of the year a few minutes ago, for a story I submitted earlier this afternoon. I originally wrote the story as a male-viewpoint confession but sold it to an anthology instead of a confession magazine.

Published

"Loving My Neighbor," a confession with a Halloween tie-in, appears in the October True Love.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Video killed the writing star

Another first: I'm part of a book trailer promoting Passionate Hearts, an anthology of short romance fiction. Watch the trailer at http://www.freado.com/book/8040/passionate-hearts.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Thirty-four

I finished and submitted my 34th story of the year, a 2,900-word bit of erotica. I started writing the story on December 20, 2007, and had about half of it written. I picked it up again Monday when I realized it fit the theme of an anthology that just sent out an open call for submissions, and I finished it this morning.

Monday, August 30, 2010

46

I received my 46th acceptance of the year this afternoon, this time for 4,400 words of violent crime fiction about a hired killer.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

ArmadilloCon pics

Michael Bracken (moderator) and Thomas M. Wagner answer the question "Are Online Sites the New Fanzines?"
George Wilhite, Michael Bracken, and Joe R. Lansdale discuss "Writing in Other Fields." Not pictured: Steve Wilson and moderator Michael Ashleigh Finn.

45

I returned home from ArmadilloCon this afternoon to find my 45th acceptance in my mailbox. This one's is a 6,600-word Thanksgiving-themed confession I submitted July 18.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Marketing gone amuck

I can't claim to have seen everything, but this comes close: My name (and the names of the other contributors) on a tote bag promoting Passionate Hearts, a forthcoming anthology containing one of my stories:

http://www.zazzle.com.au/passionate_hearts_bag-149385558866592477

Great review

In a Bookgasm review of The Baddest of the Bad, a collection of the best material from the first three issues of Out of the Gutter, Rod Lott writes:
"...followed by the even-better 'Professionals,' in which Michael Bracken spins a story of a male prostitute who gets into big trouble with one of his johns."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

ArmadilloCon

I'll be at ArmadilloCon (a science fiction convention) in Austin, Texas, this weekend. I'm on three panels (moderating one of them) and will be reading "Pushing Coal," a ghost story to be published later this year in the anthology Specters in Coal Dust, at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

If you are also attending, say howdy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thirty-three

I finished and submitted my 33rd short story of the year this evening. This one's a 1,000-word horror story, inspired by a folk song, that I began writing yesterday evening.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thirty-two

I finished and submitted my 32nd short story of the year this evening. This one's a 5,700-word Christmas-themed confession that I started writing July 19, 2007. I'd completed the first scene--just shy of a thousand words--some time in the past and wrote the balance of the story over the course of several days this week.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

44

I received my 44th acceptance today, this time for a romance to be published in an anthology of romance stories.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thirty-one

I finished and submitted my 31st short story of the year earlier this evening, a 3,000-word Christmas confession that I started writing on July 30.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

43

I took a break from office work and went grocery shopping. When I returned, my 43rd acceptance of the year was waiting for me. This one's a romantic/erotic story about finding a modern-day "handsome prince." In my story, the handsome prince is a rich Texas cowboy.

42

My 42nd acceptance of the year was waiting in my inbox when I checked email this morning. This time it's a ghost story, accepted by the editor of an anthology of ghost stories set in the Appalachian coal mines.

Friday, August 13, 2010

40, 41

I received two acceptances today, my 40th and 41st of the year. The first is for a story about a hitman and what he sees through his rifle scope. The other is for an article I wrote for a gardening magazine.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Published

"I Was a Topless Waitress," a confession, was released in electronic formats by Lady Leo Publishing.

The publisher describes the story this way:
When Samantha ”Sandy Beaches” Beecher loses her job as a Web site designer, the only job she can get is waitressing topless at Mountain Tops.

The money becomes seductive, allowing her to pay off her debts. But, she soon learns that the real money’s in stripping, and she seriously considers making the change until one night, her world falls apart, and Samantha must decide what kind of woman she really is.
"I Was a Topless Waitress" is currently available from the publisher's website and should soon be available from Amazon and other sources.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

This Little Piggy Went to Market

What I'll be doing on Facebook next Wednesday:

MICHAEL BRACKEN presents “This Little Piggy Went to Market: How I’ve Sold More Than 800 Short Stories”

You're invited to visit www.facebook.com/janice.curran to participate in this special Featured Friend event for writers! Click on over Wednesday, August 11, between 12 and 1 P.M. Central/1 and 2 Eastern to read Michael's tip, comment and ask questions. Have to miss the event? The thread will remain posted so you can view it at a later time. Hope to see you there! :-)

Janice Curran, host
www.facebook.com/janice.curran

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Published x2

My story "Burning Love" appears in the September True Confessions and my story "Lessons in Love" appears in the September True Story.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Story thirty

I finished writing my 30th short story of the year a few minutes ago. It's a 6,100-word Christmas confession I started writing on May 2, but I only wrote the first few paragraphs back then. I picked the story up again Sunday morning and finished writing it this evening. The final version is printing out now and it will go in the mail tomorrow.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Submitting to the mathematically challenged

I've been surfing the net this evening, searching for places to submit unsold stories, and I've stumbled across too many "paying" publications that reveal mathematical ineptitude in how they describe their pay rates.

For example, one site that claims to pay professional rates states that they pay .05 cents per word.

Say what?

Five cents per word is usually considered a professional rate.

One-twentieth of one cent per word is not.

If they truly pay a professional rate, then they should state that the pay rate is:

5 cents per word

or

$.05 per word

but NOT

.05 cents per word

As it stands, their stated pay rate is either abysmally low or their editors lack proofreading skills. Either way, would you want them to publish your work?

39

Mail delivery was quite late today, but well worth the wait. In it was my 39th acceptance of the year, this time for a confession I wrote back in early 2008.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

OKC in 2011

I've received--and have accepted--an invitation to lead two sessions at the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.'s 2011 Conference in Oklahoma City, May 5-7.

Monday, July 19, 2010

38

I received my 38th acceptance of the year earlier this evening, for a confession I wrote back in 2008 and revised earlier this month at the editor's request.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Story twenty-nine

I completed my 29th short story of the year today, a 6,600-word Thanksgiving-themed confession that I started writing on July 18, 2007. I'm printing the final draft now and expect to drop it in the mail tomorrow.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

34, 35, 36, 37

I received my 34th, 35th, 36th, and 37th acceptances of the year a few minutes ago, all from the same publishing company in England. One story was accepted for an anthology being put together right now and the other three for future projects. The oldest story was written in 2005; the other three in 2009.

With these four acceptances I've now received exactly the same number of acceptances as I did all of last year, and I'm placing stories faster than I'm writing new ones.

Why am I unhappy?

In "The Creativity Crisis" (Newsweek, July 19, 2010) Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman write, about creative people, "They're not particularly happy--contentment is a kind of complacency creative people rarely have."

That explains a lot.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's happening at my Barnes & Noble

The section for westerns at my local Barnes & Noble is growing while the section next to it--anthologies (which contains both fiction and non-fiction)--is shrinking.

The section devoted to books about writing is shrinking rapidly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

33

I received my 33rd acceptance of the year in today's mail, this time for the romance/confession I submitted July 4.

Published


My story "Professionals," which first appeared in the second issue of Out of the Gutter back in 2007, has been reprinted in The Baddest of the Bad, a collection of the "baddest" stories from the first three issues of the magazine.

When "Professionals" was first published, Bill Crider noted that it "reveals that Bracken is himself a real pro when it comes to crime shorts."

The Baddest of the Bad, edited by Matthew Louis and published by Gutter Books, is available directly from the publisher at www.GutterBooks.com, Amazon, and other retailers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

31, 32

I received my 31st and 32nd acceptances of the year this morning. One was for the 5,000-word Halloween-themed confession I finished and submitted this weekend; the other was for a 3,000-word Thanksgiving-themed confession I wrote in 2009.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Story twenty-eight

I completed and submitted my 28th short story of the year today. It's a 5,000-word confession/love store tied to Halloween that I started writing back on May 5. I wrote only part of the opening scene back then and wrote the bulk of the story this week.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Story twenty-seven

I completed my 27th story of the year a few minutes ago. It's a 4,800-word confession/romance. The final draft is printing now and it'll go in the mail the next time I pass a mailbox.

Kindling

I have four titles available for the Kindle, and sometime overnight my latest--"I Slept With My Sister's Husband" (Lady Leo Publishing)--became by bestselling title, surpassing All White Girls (Wildside Press) in second, my self-published Unbridled Love in third, and Just in Time for Love (Hardshell Word Factory, recently bought out by Mundania Press) in fourth.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Published

Tomorrow, July 1, is the official release date for "I Slept With My Sister's Husband," a confession released in electronic formats by Lady Leo Publishing. The Kindle version has been available for about a week; the PDF version went live earlier today.

This is an old-school confession in the sin-suffer-repent mode, the kind of confession that the remaining confession magazines don't publish much any more, if at all.

Lady Leo Publishing has accepted two additional stories for release later this year and sent another one back this past weekend for minor revisions to one scene before issuing an official acceptance.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The official coronation

In "Diversify Your Career: Exploring Fiction-Writing Options" (Romance Writers of America's Romantic Writers Report, July 2010) Vivi Anna writes:
In today's unstable publishing market, it is important for an author to be flexible and willing to change. That means thinking outside the box to stay published and to make an income.
Towards the end of the article, after suggesting alternate markets for novels, she delves into short fiction and writes:
Can't stay away from romance? There are a whole slew of magazines looking for romantic "true" stories. The "Trues" as they are known in the industry: True Romance, True Confession, True Love, True Experience, and True Story are always looking for well-written, emotionally fueled stories. Crime writer Michael Bracken is sometimes referred to as the "King of Confessions" because of the more than 170 stories he's written for the "Trues."
It's in print, so the rumors must be true. I have been crowned "King of Confessions."

Monday, June 28, 2010

More ApolloCon pics


Lee Thomas, Michael Bracken, and David B. Carren discuss horror on the "Shiver Up Your Spine" panel. Not pictured: Gabrielle S. Faust and moderator Stina Leicht.

Bill Crider moderates "Writing 101" with Michael Bracken and (not pictured) Katherine Eliska Kimbriel, Stine Leicht, and Julia Mandala.

ApolloCon pic

Visit Patrice Sarath's blog post "ApolloCon 2010 --Wrap Up" and scroll down to the second photo to see me on the "No Excuses!" panel (left to right: Rosemary Clement Moore, Katherine Eliska Kimbriel, Michael Bracken, Patrice Sarath, Rhonda Eudaly).

The woman in red, the only audience member visible in the photo, is Rebecca, known better in these parts as Plot Monkey.

30

I received my 30th acceptance of the year this morning, this time for 700-word bit of crime fiction.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Never tempt fate

When I read Dean Wesley Smith's May 6 reply to one of the responses to his blog post "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Rejection "--"Always plan for sales. Expect rejection but plan for sales."--I was flabbergasted.

A successful pro who expects rejection? That's the antithesis of my attitude. When I submit a manuscript, I expect acceptance.

Was I being cocky or egotistical? A quick thumb through my files seemed to indicate that I wasn't. Many recent manuscripts were accepted upon first submission, I was receiving twice as many acceptances as rejections, and year-to-date sales were exceeding my goal. The numbers seemed to confirm my expectations.

I shrugged my shoulders and figured to each his own.

But I should known better than to tempt fate.

Since May 6 I've received five acceptances...and 16 rejections. I've received about half my year-to-date rejections within a seven-week period, and year-to-date rejections now outnumber year-to-date acceptances.

Ouch.

Funny how fate has a way of reminding us of our place in the world.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nook News

Earlier today, Barnes & Noble announced their new, improved, and renamed e-reader. It's a half-size Nook that can only be used to read erotica. They anticipate sales to rise rapidly because, "Everybody wants a little Nookie."

29

I received my 29th acceptance of the year in today's mail, this for a 4,000-word confession written back in 2008.

Kindling

Yesterday, for the first time, I saw Unbridled Love on a Kindle. Although everything else appeared fine, none of the paragraphs were indented. I resolved that problem and uploaded the revision this morning.

So here's the sales pitch:
Melissa Grant, the 25-year-old owner of a tack shop, is disgusted with the way the new riding instructor at Rocking Horse Stables treats her classmates during their first lesson, and her attempt to confront him is thwarted when she bursts into his apartment over the observation room and finds him half-undressed.

Will an escalating series of attractions and repulsions set against the backdrop of the riding stable where Hans Edelmann teaches and the narrator has her shop--including their preparations for the annual competition at Stallion Stables, the pending sale of Rocking Horse Stables, and the narrator’s mistaken belief that Edelmann is interested in an older woman--lead to true love?
Unbridled Love: A Romance with Horse Sense is available exclusively for Kindle.

Order yours here: Unbridled Love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Those were the days

One of the panels in which I'll be participating at ApolloCon is "Paper, Pixels, Podcasts," a discussion of how science fiction fans have communicated in the past and in the present, and how might they communicate in the future.

I'm on the panel to represent fandom past. Beginning with the first issue in December 1973 and continuing through the final issue in November 1979, I edited Knights, a science fiction fanzine that began modestly with a small print run produced on a ditto machine. When the readership increased beyond the ditto machine's capacity to produce readable copies, I produced several issues on a mimeograph before Knights graduated to a publication that was typeset (pre-desktop publishing, mind you) and printed on an offset press.

Along the way I published columns, articles, and letters from SF writers and editors who were already successful and several who have since became successful--Charles L. Grant, Thomas F. Monteleone, David Gerrold, Robert Bloch, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Algis Budrys, Bob Tucker, Gene Wolfe, Don D'Ammassa, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, William Rotsler, Rick Wilber, Barry N. Malzberg, Christopher Priest, Richard A. Lupoff, Ted White, Grant Carrington, Gregory Benford, Patrick Hayden, Al Sirois, Robert Silverberg, and many others--as well as artwork by people such as Phil Folgio, Thomas Canty, and many, many others.

It was a heady time for a young writer-to-be.

Learn more at:

"Knights"

"More Than a Footnote"

P.S. A quick Internet search reveals that copies of Knights--the ones not in university collections--are selling for $30+. If you're interested, I've a few copies of later issues that I've been toting around for years and would be willing to part with for slightly less than the going rate.

ApolloCon

ApolloCon starts one week from today in Houston, Texas. I'm scheduled to appear on four panels--details below--and I hope if you're there that you'll stop by and say howdy.

Fri 10:00PM - 11:00PM
Shiver Up Your Spine
Seattle I
Michael Bracken, David B. Carren, Lee Thomas, Stina Leicht (M), Gabrielle S. Faust

Sat 10:00AM - 11:00AM
Writing 101
Seattle I
Stina Leicht, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Michael Bracken, Julia Mandala, Bill Crider (M)

Sun 10:00AM - 11:00AM
No excuses! Writer's Boot Camp
Seattle II
Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Rhonda Eudaly, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Patrice Sarath
(M), Michael Bracken

Sun 11:00AM - 12:00PM
Paper, Pixels, Podcasts
Tucson
Pat Virzi, Mel. White, Michael Bracken, Amy Sisson (M), Melanie Miller Fletcher

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Story twenty-six

I finished my 26th short story of the year this evening. It's 1,900 words and was written for me, not in response to a call for submissions or to meet any particular publication's requirements. For that reason, I haven't a clue where to submit it. But I'll send it somewhere.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Story twenty-five

I finished and submitted my 25th story of the year this afternoon. This one's a 2,200-word bit of erotica to meet the requirements of a call for submissions sent to me a month or so ago.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Same name, different game

Until I started surfing the Internet several years ago, I thought my name was unique. I was wrong.

The author of Hey, We Can Play This Game shares my name but isn't me, nor am I Michael B. Bracken, the author or co-author of several books such as Perinatal Epidemiology. There's also a Mike* Bracken out there who reviews horror movies and may be the same Mike Bracken who was the horror expert on the game show Beat the Geeks, and recently another writer named Michael Bracken--perhaps one already mentioned--has had quite a bit of his non-fiction appear in Google searches for my name.

I wonder how much identical or nearly identical bylines impacts our writing careers. Might editors purchase something from one of us thinking we're another one? Might a reader purchase a book from one of us expecting the work of another?

Then again, maybe one of us needs to become really, really famous before I concern myself with the answers to these questions.


*FYI I'm not "Mike."

Monday, June 07, 2010

28

I received my 28th acceptance of the year today, this time for a confession I submitted on May 9.

Friday, June 04, 2010

When editors move on

I learned earlier today that this is the last day at work for a magazine editor who's published many of my stories in her two magazines.

I find that every time an editor moves on, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm dismayed that I will have to learn the likes and dislikes of a new editor. On the other hand, this means that all the stories the outgoing editor rejected can be resubmitted.

I've been selling to these two magazines for several years and have worked with several editors over the years, but there's no guarantee this will continue. The new editor might love my stuff and accept many stories during her tenure or the new editor might not like anything I write and I might not sell to these magazines again until after the new editor's tenure expires.

I've had both happen to me in the past. In a few cases my sales increased when a new editor took over; in a few cases my sales dwindled; and occasionally my sales dried up completely.

This editor leaves with three of my stories in her slush pile. It might not be long before I know what the new editor thinks of my stuff.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The slow purge

I'm becoming increasingly disenchanted with social networking. Through MySpace I'm linked to many other writers, who care as little about me as I care about them because we were both trying to push our books when we linked. Through Facebook I'm linked to a small but odd mix of friends, family, and other writers, and I'm leery of posting anything there because my writing life and my personal life don't mix well.

Because I've not published any books lately, I've not much to promote (Go to amazon.com now and buy my books. All of them.), and because personal information is available to the world once it's posted on Facebook, I've been cautious about what to post, if I post at all.

I have connected with some lost friends and family, and for that I'm grateful. So, while I'm reluctant to leave either site on the off-chance I might yet connect with another lost friend or family member, there's no good reason for me to remain linked to so many people.

Therefore, at the pace of two or three a week, I've been purging my "friends."

My criteria? If you have more than 500 friends, you won't notice when I unfriend you. If you haven't logged on to your MySpace page in six months or more, you may not even remember you have a MySpace account and won't notice when I unfriend you. If we haven't swapped some kind of personal message in some form through one medium or another for six months or more, you probably won't notice when I unfriend you.

And so, one by one, I'm saying a silent farewell to my social network.

But I'll keep hanging abound here for a while. This I enjoy.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

27

I received my 27th acceptance of the year this morning, this time for an erotic story involving baseball.

Batter up!

Published

My story "The Gimp, the Vig and the Ring" appears in the just-released anthology Muscle Men.

The call for submissions did not specifically mention crime fiction, but didn't rule it out, either. So, the "muscle man" I wrote about collects debts for the mob.

ApolloCon, ArmadilloCon

I'll be attending two science fiction conventions this summer: ApolloCon in Houston, Texas, June 25-27, and ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas, August 27-29. I don't yet know which programming events I'll be participating in, but I'll probably be on a panel or two and may even do a reading. If you're at either of these conventions, stop by and say howdy.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Seven years, or 84 consecutive months

With publication of stories in the July True Confessions and July True Story, I have now had one or more short stories published each month for 84 consecutive months.

26

I received my 26th acceptance of the year this morning, for a vampire story. I originally wrote the story in response to a call for submissions for a vampire anthology, but missed the cut. Instead, it sold to an anthology of extreme horror.

Published 2x

My story "Fun in the Sun" appears in the July True Story and my story "Reunion at the Lake" appears in the July True Confessions. Both are romance/confession stories.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The company you keep

I spend far too much time reading other writers' blogs. I don't know what I'm looking for, but I do know what I've found.

I've found that some successful writers--successful meaning regularly published--aren't particularly good writers. Their blogs are filled with typos, grammatical errors, spelling errors, and misused words. One writer at a group blog I follow is so bad that I actually pity her copyeditors. She must be one hell of a storyteller to compensate for her poor writing skills.

Am I being too harsh? Is she just bashing out her blog posts first draft with nary a moment taken to proofread what she's typed but actually turns in clean copy for her paying gigs?

Maybe so.

But I think writers are known by the company they keep, and the company writers keep are words. If your blog posts are consistently sloppy, you might be better off not posting at all rather than demonstrating to the world that you lack basic writing skills.

Words are the company you keep. Use them well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Story twenty-four

I just finished and submitted my 24th short story of the year. This is a 3,700-word story I started writing on April 10 in response to an anthology call for submissions sent directly to me. Is there a genre known as romantica? Because, if so, than that's what this story is--part romance, part erotica.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wholesale slaughter

This may be a record, but today I received word of 21 non-acceptances. Not rejections, though the net effect is the same.

The editor of two publications I've been selling to for many years announced that the magazines had gotten far behind in responding to submissions--something her contributors already knew--and announced that she was going to discard all submissions received prior to a specific date. Any stories that had not already been contracted for and any stories not currently under consideration (meaning the authors of those stories had been told the stories were under consideration) could be submitted elsewhere or, should the authors wish, be resubmitted.

Sigh.

That means I have 21 manuscripts to deal with.

Sometimes being prolific can bite you in the butt.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Haunted by my past

Thanks to the Internet, I am frequently reminded just how long I've been writing for publication. Today on Amazon I discovered Shadows Of... (vol. 4), which includes the original publication my short story "Madmen and Mothers-In-Law," Shadows Of... (vol. 5), which includes the first publication of my story "Assembly Line Luck," and Shadows Of... (vol. 6), which includes the original publication of my stories "Heirloom" and "The Critic."

Vol. 4 was published in 1980. Vol. 5 was published in 1981. Vol. 6 was published in 1982.

Buy a piece of history. You can purchase any of these for only $49.99.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

25

I received my 25th acceptance of the year earlier today, for an 1,100-word mystery I wrote in 2002.

Hanging out with Umberto Eco

In a blog post at The Big Idea, Jason F. McDaniel manages to reference both Umberto Eco and me:
In the first lecture, “How I Write”, [Umberto] Eco reveals much of his writing process, how his ideas are formed and how he works out his novels. He also talks about how he came to be a writer. I like to hear authors give autobiographical accounts of how they started writing and how they sustain themselves. The other day I listened to an interview with Michael Bracken on Reading and Writing podcast. Bracken says he became a writer when he was 14, seriously. He decided he wanted to be a writer and he set about to make it happen. Now he’s in his 50’s had has over 800 short stories published!

Now that's some pretty good company.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Story twenty-three

I finished my 23rd short story of the year this evening. It's printing now and will go in the mail tomorrow.

This one is a 1,900-word mystery that I began August 11, 2009. I had written about half of the story before setting it aside. Late yesterday evening I rediscovered the story while looking for something to fit an anthology call for submissions. This story clearly didn't fit, but, as I reread what I had written, I realized that I knew what pieces were missing from the story. I stayed up well past my usual bedtime to finish writing the full draft. This evening I tweaked a number of sentences and rethought a few of my word choices, but left it essentially as i wrote it last night.

And I still need to find something that fits that call for submissions...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Story twenty-two

I just finished and submitted my 22nd short story of the year. This time it's a 2,100-word confession with a literacy theme. I started writing this one on November 26, 2009, had about half of it written, and finished writing it today.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Story twenty-one

A few minutes ago I finished and submitted by 21st short story of the year. This time it's a 2,100-word erotic baseball story I started writing May 6, several weeks after receiving a call for submissions from an editor who has previously published my work.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Published

My erotic vampire story "Blood Lust" appears in the July issue of Hustler Fantasies.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Story twenty

I finished my 20th short story of the year a few minutes ago. The final draft is printing now and the manuscript will go into the mail tomorrow. This time it's a 5,700-word confession I started writing April 30.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Be a prop master

Every story contains props, from everyday items like wallets and keys to specialized weapons and enchanted amulets. Without props, stories are little more than talking heads in empty rooms.

Because your stories contain props, you must become a prop master. You must know where your props are at all times. If you lose track of your props, you lose track of your story. Lose track of your story and you lose your reader.

Here's an example:

On page 114 of the ROC paperback edition of Jim Butcher's Storm Front, the narrator "tossed the pentacle on the table," where it remains for the rest of the scene, even after the narrator leaves the building.

On page 280, the narrator notes that he still had his "mother's pentacle talisman" at his throat.

No, he doesn't. The pentacle remains on the table on page 114. The narrator never picked it up. He never returned to the building to get it. He didn't send someone to get it for him, and no one voluntarily brought it to him.

In this case, the prop master failed.

This mistake could have been corrected with a simple sentence along the lines of: "I grabbed the pentacle on my way out."

So how to avoid losing track of important props?

Start at your story's climax and identify every important prop--the pentacle, the revolver, the poodle, the red slippers, and everything else. Then, one prop at a time, go backward through your story and find each reference to that prop.

Make certain that your characters haven't left important props behind. If, for example, your character has a derringer in the climactic scene, and he stuck the derringer in his pants pocket in the first scene, make certain he didn't change pants in the fifth scene--and, if he did, make certain that he transferred the derringer to the pocket of the pants he's wearing at the climax.

So, to avoid missing and misplaced props, become a prop master.

Your readers will appreciate it.

Think your writing sucks?

Scott D. Parker's post at Do Some Damage, "When the Well Runs Dry," questions what to do when you start thing your writing sucks. Here's what I suggested:

When you start thinking everything you write sucks, stop reading quality literature. Find and read the worst piece of shit in your TBR pile--or go to the bookstore and find something terrible.

At some point you'll realize, "Hey, I've had diarrhea that didn't smell this bad."

Put that book or story in your writing space where you can easily see it. Every time doubt creeps in, look at it and tell yourself, "My writing is better than THIS, and THIS got published."

Then everything you write will act as literary air freshener to drive the stench of someone else's bad writing from your workspace.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Grumpy

I am in danger of becoming a grumpy old man.

In the past 24 hours I've found typographical errors in the headlines of Arts & Sciences Magazine (one of my alma mater's publications), factual errors in the current issue of The Writer (the second issue in a row with factual errors), and a serious but easily correctable plot flaw in Jim Butcher's Storm Front (an otherwise quite enjoyable novel about a private eye wizard).

Whatever happened to copyeditors, fact checkers, and proofreaders?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Story nineteen

I finished and submitted my 19th story of the year this evening. This time it's a 2,400-word fantasy involving a couple of dragons and a woman who operates an alehouse.

I'd been staring at an anthology's open call for submissions for several weeks without having any story ideas. Sunday, while walking around the mall with Plot Monkey, the opening scene came to me.

The rest of the story took a little more effort.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Covered

The cover for The Baddest of the Bad, a new anthology forthcoming from Gutter Books, was recently posted. Squint and you'll see my name.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Podcast interview

A few months ago I was interviewed by Jeff Rutherford for his Reading and Writing Podcast. Listen to the interview at:

http://readingandwritingpodcast.com/022-reading-and-writing-podcast-michael-bracken-interview/

How easy we forget

One of the drawbacks to being a prolific short story writer is that, in the drive to create and submit new work, it's easy to forget about previously submitted material.

This morning, for example, after looking through my file of submitted work in search of a particular story, I realized a few of my manuscripts had been away from home far too long.

So, I sent follow-ups to editors questioning the status of stories submitted in 2007 and 2008.

But I don't ever just ask, "Have you made a decision yet?" Should an editor fail to respond, where am I? I'm stuck sending yet another follow-up letter.

To avoid this, my follow-up letters include something similar to the following: "If I have not heard from you by [insert date], I will presume the story was unsuitable and will feel free to submit it elsewhere."

That way, if an editor fails to respond to my first follow-up letter, it also serves as my withdrawal letter.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Story eighteen

I completed and submitted by 18th story of the year this evening, a 4,700-word confession that I started writing on the 24th.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Published

My short romance "All-In for Love" was published today at The Long and Short of It, where it will be available for a week.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Disappearing act

I'm a strong advocate of record-keeping, something not enough writers seem to do. I believe writers should know exactly where they've submitted a manuscript, what the response to it was, and, if accepted for publication, what rights they licensed to the publisher and for how long.

I've met too many writers over the years who didn't and don't keep good records. They resubmit stories to publications that have already rejected the stories, submit a manuscript to multiple publications at the same time without realizing they've done so, and don't know what rights they've licensed and so have no idea which rights they still control.

So, I have a copy of every contract I've ever signed.

Sort of.

I became a professional writer back when we all used typewriters. Photocopiers were expensive machines owned by businesses, not by part-time writers working in their spare bedrooms. To make a copy meant sneaking copies on the copier owned by our employers or driving into town with a pocketful of change to use the over-priced and poorly maintained copier at the grocery store.

The same went for faxes. Fax machines were office machines and, on the rare occasion when a writer needed to fax something--publishing moved much slower then and most business was done through the U.S. Postal Service--the fax was sent surreptitiously from work or from the local print shop.

I was ahead of the curve.

I owned a fax machine.

And my fax machine had the ability to copy.

So I copied all of my contracts, using my fax machine, before returning the originals to publishers. Without leaving home! Without having to look over my shoulder at work!

On thermal paper.

Guess what.

Thermal paper fades.

And I now have several blank sheets of thermal paper in my files where once I had copies of my contracts.

Sigh.

24

I received another acceptance this afternoon, my 24th of the year. This time it's for a 5,100-word confession I submitted March 27.

22, 23

I woke this morning to find two acceptances waiting in my e-mail, this time for a pair of confessions I submitted on Monday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What happens when you die?

After my death, I won't care what happens to my writing. But I'm not dead yet, and I do worry.

My will--such as it is--doesn't designate anyone to care for my literary estate. Who in my family comprehends copyright law well enough to understand the 1,000+ contracts, letters of agreement, acceptance letters, and other correspondence related to the assignment of various rights that I'll leave behind? Who in my family comprehends publishing well enough to seek publication or republication of existing manuscripts? Will they see my bulging filing cabinets as a potential--albeit small--income source into the future, or will they simply see a room full of paper and old magazines and books no one has read that must be discarded before my home can be sold?

And how often do the files of workaday writers--those who publish regularly but lack the fame of a bestselling writer or the renown of a multiple-award-winning writer--disappear when the writers die? How much literary trash and literary treasure has been lost because writers like me failed to find someone--anyone--willing and able to care for their literary estates?

And why do I even care? After all, I'll be dead.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Character ethnicity and why some of my characters are indeterminate

Years ago, when I started writing confessions, there were a dozen or more confession magazines, just as there were several mystery magazines and several science fiction/fantasy magazines.

Confession magazines--women's magazines featuring a specific genre of women's fiction known as "confessions"--served two distinct readerships. Many of the confession magazines featured white characters for a white readership; the rest of the confession magazines featured black characters for a black readership.

The best paying confession magazine--then, as now--was True Story, a few confession magazines were on the second tier of payment rates, and the rest were grouped in the third tier. I came from the science fiction genre where the mantra was to submit to the best paying publication first and work down until the story sells. Which I did.

But there was a problem with this. If I wrote a story intended for one ethnicity, I had to revise the manuscript before I could submit the story to a magazine serving the other ethnicity. In those days I was fortunate that I used a correcting Selectric, the top-of-the-line, every-other-writer-envied-me typewriter.

Typewriter. Not computer. A revision meant retyping an entire manuscript.

This was not time- or cost-effective.

I discovered a trick to avoid having to retype manuscripts. I stopped giving my characters physical features that were associated with one ethnicity or another.

I made them fat and skinny, tall and short, big-hipped and small-hipped, large-breasted and small-breasted. I gave most of them dark hair--black, brown, auburn--and dark eyes--brown, hazel.

Then I could send the manuscripts to any of the confession magazines without revision. This was much more time- and cost-effective, and for several years I sold every confession I wrote.

(For a few years I even wrote confessions on assignment, creating 5,000-word stories based on one-paragraph descriptions sent me by an editor.)

The publishing world has changed over the years. There are only five confession magazine still being published--and they promote themselves now as romance magazines--so I no longer need to use this trick.

But I still do.

Not always, but frequently.

It's no longer a trick; it's a habit.

Friday, April 16, 2010

20, 21

While I was away from the computer yesterday evening, two more acceptances--my 20th and 21st of the year--arrived via e-mail. The first is a short romance I submitted March 10. The second--a confession submitted on April 8--is the one I mentioned in my "Always be kind to editors" post on April 9.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Virgins and veterans

I currently have 62 manuscripts in editors' hands (or buried in their slush piles) awaiting decisions.

Some of these manuscripts are virgins, out for the first time, eager and ready to impress editors; others are jaded old veterans, having been out and back a dozen times or so, hoping for nothing more than to be in the right place at the right time when an editor has a hole to fill.

One file drawer contains an uncounted number of manuscripts that aren't currently in the hands of any editor. They are retired from travel--some temporarily; some permanently. But each one remains eager to go out again, eager to please a new editor, and every time an anthology's call for submissions crosses my desk or a new publication announces its submission guidelines, these manuscripts vie for my attention. "Send me," they all say. "Send me."

I would send them all, if I could, but only a few are chosen.

And maybe, just maybe, this time they'll catch an editor's eye.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kindle update

I sold my first copy of Unbridled Love today. I'm now well on my way to becoming another Kindle millionaire.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Story seventeen

I finished and submitted my 17th short story of the year this evening. This time it's a 2,100-word ghost story I started writing last week. All I had was a call for submissions from an anthology editor, a vague idea, and a couple of random sentences. After a long discussion with Plot Monkey this weekend, I realized I was trying to tell the story from the wrong character's POV. Once I changed the POV, the entire story fell into place. I wrote most of it yesterday and spent a few hours today revising the draft until I felt everything flowed. Then off it went.

19

I received my 19th acceptance of the year today, this time for a 5,700-word confession I submitted April 3.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kindling

My romance novella Unbridled Love is now available for Kindle at Amazon.com. This is a story that was too long for the confession magazines and too short to be a novel. It joins my young adult novel Just in Time for Love and my private eye novel All White Girls in Kindle format.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Always be kind to editors

Last night I submitted a story to a market to which I've never previously submitted and received an e-mail in return asking how I'd learned about it.

I replied that two former editors--editors of now-defunct magazines that had published several of my stories--had mentioned the publisher and that both of the former editors had since had work released by that publisher.

This morning I woke to an e-mail that said, in part, "I'll read it and let you know the outcome..but [editor's name redacted] already gave you a thumbs up!!!"

Maybe this story will sell. Even if it doesn't, a door has been opened into a new market, and I owe the opportunity to former editors.

And any editor that gives me a three-exclamation-point thumbs-up to another editor is aces in my book.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Story sixteen

I finished and submitted my 16th short story of the year today, a 2,700-word romance I started writing on April 3. This one was a bit of a challenge, and I actually had to print out and read/edit several drafts on paper before I felt I had written the story I wanted to tell.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

17, 18

Two acceptances today, my 17th and 18th acceptances of the year. Accepted were the story I queried yesterday and the story I submitted on April 2. Both sold to anthologies.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Story fifteen

I completed my 15th story of the year earlier this evening, this time for an anthology seeking stories about rock 'n' roll relationships. It's a 2,300-word story that I started writing last night and finished a few minutes ago. This particular editor wants to see queries rather than complete manuscripts, so the query left here a few minutes ago.

Story fourteen

I completed and submitted my 14th short story of the year this morning. This time it's a 5,700-word confession that takes place during one fateful summer. I started writing this one on March 23, finished it last night, and proofread/edited it this morning.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Story thirteen

I finished and submitted my 13th story of the year this afternoon, a 1,050-word bit of erotica that I started yesterday.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

16

I received my 16th acceptance of the year today, this time for a Take Your Dogs to Work-themed confession I submitted on the 22nd.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Published 3x

My confessions "Memorial Day Madness" and "A Daughter's Homecoming" appear in the May True Confessions, and my hardboiled crime story "Meat and Potatoes" about a con man/killer appears in the just released anthology Biker Boys.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reviewed

In a review of Best Gay Romance 2010, Eric Page writes:

"These stories explore the idea that one night, one week or one summer can be as romantic as a life spent together. From the sweet, everyday and unexpected discovery of love on your own doorstep in ‘Total Package’ by Michael Bracken, to the more sophisticated wisdom and suggestiveness of ‘The Falls’ by Natty Soltesez this paperback collection of (sometimes very) short stories is a good read, leaves you feeling warm, covers all the kind of love from first to make-up and even, in this most cynical and bitter of reviewers hearts, lit a candle of hope that we might all get a chance at the ‘happy ever afters.’"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Story twelve

I completed and submitted my 12th short story of the year this morning, a 5,100-word confession that takes place at a family reunion. I started work in this story on March 23, finished the bulk of the writing on the 25th, and proofread/edited the final draft yesterday.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Sherlock Holmes pastiche I'll never write

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are engaged to locate a pedophile that's been terrorizing London. Holmes, using his superior deductive reasoning, determines that the pedophile is at one of the city's schools and goes undercover to roust him out.

After the pedophile is arrested, Dr. Watson asks Holmes, "And at which school did you discover this cretin?"

"Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary."

Research tip

Those of you who like to tie your stories to holidays and other annual events might be interested in checking out this page from the U.S. Census Bureau:

http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/index.html

It contains lots of good information about significant annual events. (For example, did y'all know that May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month AND Older Americans Month? I didn't. I just knew Mother's Day was in May.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Story eleven

I finished and submitted my 11th story of the year this evening, a 2,900-word confession centered around Take Your Dog to Work Day. I started writing this story on February 2, but wrote most of it last week and this afternoon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

15

I received my 15th acceptance this morning, this time for a deal-with-the-devil story with a twist: the deal is actually with one of the devil's less-experienced minions.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

14, again

Because a story accepted for an anthology at the beginning of the year was unaccepted by the publisher when the editor turned in an anthology that was too long, my tally of acceptances dropped by one. So, today's acceptance of a confession submitted February 13, becomes my 14th acceptance of the year.

What's that smell?

"The most important thing, especially on a first draft is to remember that it is a FIRST DRAFT. It is supposed to be crap. Give yourself permission to write crap and you’ll be amazed by what happens."--Candace Havens, Genreality

You shouldn't be. If you give yourself permission to write crap, you'll write crap.

I've quoted Ms. Havens out of context--this was part of a much longer post about overcoming writer's block--but I've seen this advice presented many times by many writers, and I find it repulsive.

While a first draft may be imperfect, one should never settle for producing crap. The more loathesome your first draft, the more work you'll have to do to your manuscript to create a publishable draft.

Why create unnecessary work for yourself? Why not produce clean drafts at each stage of the process? Do your best with each draft and you'll find yourself producing fewer drafts. You may even reach a point where your first draft is your final draft.

(And these days, with word processing software and personal computers giving us the ability to revise on the fly, who's to say what constitutes an actual draft?)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Literary mash-ups

Literary mash-ups are all the rage these days. The one I'd like to write, but probably won't, is the story of the horror writing bear who lives in the 100 Acre Woods with his friends Piglet and the Raven: Edgar Allan Pooh.

-1

I'm down one acceptance this year.

I woke this morning to find an email from an anthology editor. The complete manuscript was too long and the publisher suggested cutting three stories. One of them was mine.

Sigh.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Story Ten

I finished my 10th story of the year a few minutes ago, a 680-word mystery that'll be headed off to Woman's World in the morning.

Friday, March 05, 2010

14

My 14th acceptance of the year came with no effort on my part. Out of the Gutter is producing a "Best of" anthology and asked to include my story "Professionals," from issue 2, in the anthology.

Of course, I said they could.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

12, 13

I received my 12th and 13th acceptances today, for a Mother's Day-themed confession and a Memorial Day-themed confession.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Published

My story "One-Night Stan" appears in the April True Confessions.

11

I received my 11th acceptance of the year this morning, this time for a short essay I wrote about working in my grandmother's corset shop when I was a teenager. My grandmother's shop specialized in serving the needs of mastectomy patients and the "tasteful" anthology is "celebrating the most female of body parts, the breasts."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Clean up your act

A few days ago I received a copyedited short story manuscript back from an anthology editor with a note that it's "always a treat to edit a story that doesn't need much editing."

Of all the things an editor can say to me, that's probably the best. I strive to produce clean manuscripts that, if not perfect, are as close as I can get.

Why? Because I also sit on the other side of the desk and see the God-awful manuscripts many writers submit--manuscripts filled with spelling, grammar, and stylistic errors; manuscripts filled with extra spaces and inconsistent paragraph indenting; manuscripts that make me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell the writer was thinking when he hit the send key or stuffed hardcopy in an envelope.

I may never be an artist of staggering genius whose name adorns magazine covers or whose stories open or close anthologies, but, by God, I'll be one of the craftsmen editors rely on to fill a magazine's back pages or an anthology's middle section, one of the craftsmen he knows will produce solid stories requiring minimal editorial effort during editing and production. It's a good thing to be.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Story nine

I finished and submitted my ninth short story of the year this evening. This time it's a 5,100-word confession with a Father's Day theme. I started writing this story on the 19th and worked on it every day except Sunday, which means I averaged 1,000 words/day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Published

My article "Hunt Youth Discover Gardening!" appears in the March/April issue of Texas Gardener.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Story eight

I'm printing out the final draft of my eighth short story of the year and will drop it in the mail tomorrow. This is a 3,100-word bit of erotica I started writing October 11, 2008. I'd completed about a third of the story--the opening scene, the last scene and some notes in between--before I picked it up again earlier this week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

10

I received my 10th acceptance of the year earlier this evening, for a 3,700-word bit of crime fiction about what happens to two college boys on Spring Break in the Caribbean.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pick-up line prompt

On the SMFS list a writer mentioned that her critique group's writing prompt was to create a 100-word flash using a coroner's pick up line...and that none of the six members could even think of a pick-up line for a coroner.

Here's what I came up with:


THE VOODOO MURDERS
By Michael Bracken

Detective Peters sat at his desk, thinking about the new coroner, an attractive young redhead who'd been assigned to the case as soon as the detectives realized there was a serial killer on the loose. Peters was daydreaming about her and wondering if she thought of him the same way.

He was startled when the phone rang, and he snatched the phone's handset from its cradle. "Detective Peters."

"I'm finished with the voodoo killer's latest victim," the new coroner said in her most seductive voice, "so if you want, you can come down here and get a little head."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Story seven

This morning I finished and submitted my seventh short story of the year. This is a 2,100-word story about a hitman unable to fulfill his contract.

On January 5 an anthology editor who previously accepted one of my stories asked if he could include me as a probable contributor to an anthology he was about to pitch to a publisher. This doesn't happen often. Not to me. So, of course, I said he could.

This past Monday I received an e-mail from the editor telling me the publisher had OK'd the anthology. I had already jotted notes for possible stories just in case the anthology sold, but I didn't really like any of them. Tuesday I had another idea. This one I liked and I spent the next several evenings writing and rewriting the first two paragraphs. The first two graphs set the tone and I couldn't write the rest of the story until I was happy with the opening.

Yesterday morning I wrestled the opening into shape, spent the day writing the rest of the story, and surprised myself late in the day with a little twist that made my planned ending even better. I let the ms. sit overnight, proofread/edited it this morning, and sent it off.

Now I wait to see if I met the editor's expectations...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Story six

I finished and submitted my sixth short story of the year this morning. It's a 2,100-word confession set at a wedding.

I wrote the first paragraph on January 27, wrote the rest of the story yesterday, and did the final proofread/edit this morning before sending it off.

Monday, February 08, 2010

9

I received my ninth acceptance of the year in today's mail, this for an erotic vampire story I submitted February 7, 2009.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Tending to my story garden

I've spent the past few days tending to my story garden.

My story garden contains several hundred stories-in-progress.

Some freshly planted seeds are nothing more than a title, an opening sentence, or a one-line description of the concept.

Others stories have sprouted into opening paragraphs and opening scenes.

A few stories have matured into spindly outlines, with structure but no foilage, while others are a disorganized riot of foilage that needs to be trimmed into shape.

A few are almost ready to bear fruit, missing only a scene or two.

So I've spent the past few days tending to my story garden, plucking away dead growth from a few stories, adding foilage to a few outlines, adding structure to a few sprawling stories, all the while reminding myself of the many story seeds I've planted over the years.

Before too long, one of the story seeds will grow into a mature story plant, ready to share with others.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Published

My science fiction short story "I Can't Touch the Clouds for You," first published in the July 25, 2005, edition of Sun, was reprinted in today's edition of Seeds.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

8

I received my eighth acceptance of the year earlier today, this for the story about "One Night Stan" I submitted Sunday evening.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Story five

I completed and submitted my fifth short story of the year this evening. This is a 3,900-word male-P.O.V. confession that I started writing November 4, 2007. It started with a typo in another story: "one night stan" instead of "one night stand." When I spotted the typo, I thought "One Night Stan" was somebody I could write a story about.

So I did. I wrote much of the first half back when I had the idea. I worked out the plot for the second half and wrote a couple of the key scenes a month or so ago. Then today I wrote the filler scenes that tie the key scenes together, cleaned up some rough patches and typos (none that inspired new stories, though), and wrapped it all up this evening.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Show me the money!

A freelancer's financial life is much like roller-coaster riding: It has its ups and downs. Occasionally you go off the track, but, usually, you wind up back in the station where you started.

This is especially true for writers at or near my level of success (selling regularly, but mostly to pay-on-publication markets). I earn enough from freelancing to maintain a modest lifestyle, but the income is highly irregular. Budgeting is nearly impossible because I rely on many checks of varying amounts that arrive randomly throughout the year.

For example, on January 14 I had 4 cents in my checking account. The morning of January 20 the kitchen cabinets were mostly bare, I had a stack of unpaid bills almost 2 inches thick, and only a few dollars in cash. That morning I raided my savings account to pay the two most pressing bills. Only 10 days later, my kitchen cabinets are full, all my bills are paid, I've replaced the money I took from savings, and I have a healthy balance in my checking account and cash in my pocket.

Many people live paycheck-to-paycheck--some don't have a choice, others because they've made bad choices--but freelancers living check-to-check when they aren't sure when the next check will arrive and how much it might be deal with a much more difficult financial situation.

Are there ways to to turn the roller-coater ride into more of a train ride (still on a track and still with ups and downs, but at least with a destination in mind and more time to plan for the ups and downs)?

There are many, and here are a few that help me deal:

1) Find steady gigs. In my case, it's a former client that made me a part-time employee. That's two checks a month, for the same amount each time, paid like clockwork. For another freelancer it might be a regular column or a publisher that contracts for a specific number of articles or short stories each month.

2) Find semi-steady gigs. For me it's two clients. One hires me by the hour and cuts me a check every two weeks. Even though the checks arrive like clockwork, the amount varies wildly based on the number of hours I worked during that two-week period. The other pays me a flat rate each week. Even though the amount is the same each week, the checks arrive somewhat sporadically.

3) Produce a lot of a material for as many markets as possible. The more different places there are that owe you money, the more likely it is that one of them will send you a check on any given day.

4) Whenever possible, write for pay-on-acceptance publications.

On the flip side is managing outflow:

1) Pay your bills on time. This prevents late fees and damage to your credit rating.

2) Use credit cards sparingly and pay them off promptly. This prevents interest charges.

3) Build a savings account. The more money you have set aside to deal with emergencies, the less likely it is that a problem or bump in the road will turn into an emergency. (Many emergencies are the result of a failure to plan ahead.)

4) Stock up on non-perishables when you can.

5) Learn to love peanut butter.

I'm sure there are many other ways to deal with the ups and downs of a freelancer's financial life, but doing these things have helped me enjoy the ride. The next time my financial roller-coaster car crests the top and heads down I can throw my arms up and scream with joy rather than grip the steel bar holding me in my seat and quiver with fear.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Story four

I also finished my fourth story of the year, the 4,400-word story of a contract killer I mentioned a few days ago. I don't know where I'm sending this one, either, but it's finished and ready to submit.

Story Three

I finished writing my third story of the year earlier this evening. It's a 1,600-worder that straddles the line between dark crime and horror fiction. I haven't yet submitted it anywhere because I'm not up to speed on my dark crime/horror markets and will need to do a bit of market research before this one goes out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Interviewed

I was just interviewed by Jeff Rutherford for readingandwritingpodcast.com. The interview won't be posted for a month or so. In the meantime, why not drop by and listen to some of the other interviews.

Another story I probably won't write: "The Vampire Umpire"

He only works night games, and every time he turns into a bat he gets hit with fastballs.

Published 2x

My stories "Lucky Clover" and "Spring Fling" appear in the March issue of True Confessions.

Tracking stories

Scott D Parker is tracking his short story production this year. His goal is 12 new short stories in 2010. Will he make it? Follow his blog to find out.

7

I received my seventh acceptance of the year this morning, for a short romance I submitted last July.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stories without markets

Friday morning I woke with an idea for a short story, mostly an image and brief series of events that I knew would make a strong opening scene. I roughed out that opening scene before my morning shower, went about my day, and returned to the story around six that night. I worked on it until midnight, woke at seven the next morning and continued writing until I had a 4,400-word draft around three Saturday afternoon.

The story is complete, though I have to proofread/edit it and make make a few changes before I have a final draft to count as a completed story for the year.

My dilemma is that I have no clue where to submit the story. It doesn't fit any of my usual markets--too violent, too sexual, too long, too male--and the few Web zines that it might fit don't pay. (I'm not opposed to placing work with non-paying markets; I just can't put food on the table that way.) What to do, what to do?

Some of my best stories are like this. The ideas come unbidden, they don't fit any particular market, and they take bloody all forever to place.

Still, I'm not one to look a gift muse in the mouth. In a day or two I'll pick this story up again, give it a good going over and then submit the manuscript somewhere...because it'll never sell if it sits in my filing cabinet.