Monday, January 31, 2011

Viva Mexico!

An update on my participation in the Puerto Vallarta Writers Conference February 25-27: I'll be leading a workshop in writing confessions, will join a panel discussion about what editors want, and will also join a panel discussion about writing and selling short fiction. If you need a tax-deductible excuse to travel somewhere where the weather's likely to be warm this winter, check out this conference. Find more details at http://www.puerto-vallarta-writers-group.com/Conference.php.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Paging Mr. Bracken

I spent much of this evening creating my Author Page at Amazon.com. I wrote a bio, uploaded a picture, and tried to link to all of my books. Alas, for various reasons, I wasn't able to link to them all.

On a related note, I've noticed that my two bestselling titles for Kindle are All White Girls, a hardboiled private eye novel released in paperback and hardback several years ago by Wildside Press and still selling steadily as an ebook, and Unbridled Love, a romance I self-published last year.

The two books couldn't be more unalike and I can't imagine any but the most eclectic readers enjoying both, yet they continue to battle for the top spot, with one taking the lead for a short time and then the other taking the lead for awhile.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Six

I finished and submitted my sixth short story of the year, a 3,600-word Mother's Day confession.

This story has Plot Monkey's fingerprints all over it. Last January we sat at my dining room table, developed the plot hook and the basic plot, and I started writing the story on January 9. I don't remember why I set it aside--perhaps because I knew I couldn't finish it in time to submit for 2010 Mother's Day issues--but I picked it up again earlier this month, finished it, and sent it on its way.

Published

My short romance, "Seeds of a New Relationship," appears in today's edition of Seeds, a weekly electronic newsletter for Texas gardeners. Read it here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Read an excerpt

Read an excerpt--actually, the opening page or so--of my romance "An Engaging New Year" from the anthology Passionate Hearts. While you're there, nose around and read excerpts from other stories in the anthology.

Published

My story "Come to Jesus" appears in the anthology Black Fire, scheduled for February release.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Five

I completed and submitted my fifth short story of the year today, a 3,300-word confession I started writing on January 19.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Panel assignment

I just received my panel assignment from Left Coast Crime.

I'll participate in “Short but Not Sweet—Short Stories,” 4-4:45, Thursday, March 24. Signings follow immediately after the session.

The panel consists of:
Jane Burfield (moderator)
Michael Bracken
Patricia Morin
Stephen D. Rogers

If you'll be at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe, NM, March 24-27, please join us.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

5

My 5th acceptance of the year arrived in today's mail, a contract for an Easter-themed confession I submitted January 14. Considering that the ms. was submitted by mail and the contract came by mail, that's a pretty quick acceptance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reviewed

Leanna Hayes reviews Specters in Coal Dust, and my story "Pushing Coal" is one of three selected for extensive comments. She says (spoiler alert!):
A number of the stories actually have (relatively) happy endings. I was surprised. From the cover and from the synopsis, I was expecting people dropping right and left with coal dust flying everywhere.

An example of one of these stories is “Pushing Coal” by Michael Bracken. “Pushing Coal” takes place in 1957. The story is about a coalmine collapse in Montrose county and is told from the eyes of a journalist fresh out of high school. The story in itself is quite depressing. We learn of the narrator’s family history, how he feels about not working in the mine like the rest of his family, how he deals with his sister, whose husband, Cole, is stuck and probably dead like everyone else. Body after body is pulled, and there’s lots of tears, until finally, Cole is pulled from the rubble. Alive. He tells his story, how he was rescued even though, technically, no one else is supposed to be down in that part of the mine. We learn that the souls of miners who died in a previous collapse (children, no less), saved Cole from his impending doom. When his picture is taken, the narrator finds that, after developing the film, the dead miners are actually supporting him so that he can stand.

Needless to say, that’s the softest story in the entire book.
She closes her review with:
If you want to be thoroughly freaked out, I’d suggest getting your hands on this collection. I don’t, however, suggest reading it in cold, dark places.
Specters in Coal Dust can be purchased directly from the publisher here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Four

I finished my fourth story of the year this morning, a 4,600-word confession I started writing on January 13. It'll go in the mail later today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Anthology?

I pitched an anthology today, fleshing out an idea I had several months ago.

I try to keep anthology proposals floating around at all times, but I may make more of an effort this year to put multiple proposals into publishers' hands.

I've edited eight anthologies (five published and three cancelled before publication), enjoyed the process, and would like to do it again. With my current workload, and based on my previous experience, I could easily edit two anthologies each year.

(Hint to publishing gods: If given the opportunity I would adjust my workload to edit more than two each year.)

Reviewed

In her review of the anthology Under the Desert Sky, co-contributor Josephine Myles offers this comment about my erotic crime story "Lipstick in the Rain":
"[Michael Bracken] offers a very sparse, terse narrative from the perspective of an emotionally distant cop."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

4

I received my 4th acceptance of the year this morning, for an erotic crime story I wrote in 2009.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Three

I finished writing my third story of the year, a 5,400-word confession with an Easter theme. I started this one back on October 29, 2009, writing only a couple of paragraphs at the time.

Two paragraphs was enough because when I reread them a few days ago I remembered the core idea of the story. As I started writing the little bits and pieces fell together.

It's printing as I type and will go into the mail tomorrow.

If you type two spaces after a period, you're doing it wrong.

Farhad Manjoo explains why in "Space Invaders."

Changes in reading habits

I am a voracious reader. (How can one be a writer and not be a voracious reader?) I'll read most anything, from cereal boxes to novels, but I've recently been making a shift in my reading habits. Where I once read several magazines each week, along with several chapters of various novels and a few short stories, I've been making a conscious effort to read more short fiction.

It started with the realization that most of the magazines I read add little value to my life: Did I really need to read Esquire and GQ? Sorry, GQ I let your subscription lapse. Did I really need to read Newsweek now that it's an opinion magazine and no longer a news magazine? Sorry, Newsweek, I let your subscription lapse. I didn't actually cancel any subscriptions, I just let them lapse over the course of several months and realized I didn't really miss any of them.

But, like a junkie needing a fix, I had to fill that reading time with something. The solution: short fiction.

At least half the books in my to-be-read pile are anthologies--mostly crime fiction in its various sub-genres, but the pile also includes horror, science fiction, and fantasy--and, because I usually read in bed just before going to sleep, I've made it my goal to read a short story every night rather than a chapter of a novel.

I'm meeting my goal most nights. Some nights I'm too tired to read, a few novellas and novelettes get read over the course of two nights, and some nights I read two or three stories.

I've noticed this impacting my writing in two ways:

1) When I read a great deal of non-fiction I find that I incorporate things in my fiction that clearly doesn't come from my day-to-day life. For example, I'm more likely to set stories on beaches after reading several issues of Islands.

2) On the flip side, I find myself having a better feel for story structure after I've immersed myself in short fiction and my stories seem to have more depth and more complexity.

I don't know how long my dedication to reading at least one short story a day will last, but it's working for me right now.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Two

I finished writing my second short story of the year this evening. This one's a 4,800-word bit of noir crime fiction that I started writing on November 6, 2010.

Just as with the previous two stories, I wrote this one with no market in mind and it goes on top of the to-be-submitted pile.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

3

My 3rd acceptance of the year arrived in today's mail, this time for a St. Patrick's Day-themed confession.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Published 2x

"Lipstick in the Rain"--a bit of erotic crime fiction--appears in Under the Desert Sky, an anthology scheduled for release January 13. The anthology also contains a story written by one of my pseudonyms.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

1, 2

I received my first two acceptances of the year this afternoon. One's a confession I wrote in 2008 and the other's a confession I wrote in 2009.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

When editors don't get the joke

My work has been blue-penciled by many editors over the years. Some have improved my work, some have made changes but neither improved nor damaged my work, and an insignificant number have actually done damage.

Of all the things an editor can do, though, missing the joke or pun bothers me most.

Here's a sentence from one of my manuscripts:
"She had been one-third of our inseparable trio back then--The Three Mousseketeers because of the way we'd worn our hair--but she'd gone her own way since then and we hardly ever saw her."
Here's the published version:
"She had been one-third of our inseparable trio back then--The Three Mouseketeers because of the way we'd worn our hair--but she'd gone her own way since then and we hardly ever saw her."
What's most frustrating is that the pun should be self-explanatory, but I explained it anyhow --"because of the way we'd worn our hair"--and the editor still didn't get it.

Sigh.

Maybe I'm only funny in my own mind.

Published

My confession "Love and a Hula Girl Lamp" appears in the January True Confessions.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Published 2x

My hardboiled crime story "Wet Work" appears in the just-published Out of the Gutter 7 and my erotic hitman story "Reprieve" is the lead story in the anthology I Like to Watch (Cleis Press; Christopher Pierce, editor).

Sunday, January 02, 2011

One

It's a new year so all my counts start over. This evening I finished writing my first short story of the year, a 2,100-word bit of noir crime fiction.

I wrote the first paragraph on August 30 and it sat on my computer until yesterday morning. When I reread what I had written, I saw how changing a couple of words would lead the story in a direction I wanted to go. I could then envision the first two-thirds of the story and I knew the type of ending I wanted.

As I drafted the first part of the story I bounced random questions off of Plot Monkey and asked fellow SMFSers two questions about guns. The answers from Plot Monkey helped me formulate the ending and the answers I received from my fellow SMFSers confirmed that the role a gun played in the end was plausible.

But, much like the last story I wrote in 2010, I wrote this story without a specific market in mind and now it sits atop my to-be-submitted pile.

2010 in review

Here's what happened in 2010:

59 acceptances (vs. 37 in 2009)

72 rejections (vs. 61 in 2009)

51 short stories published* (vs. 29 in 2009), 2 articles published (vs. 3 in 2009)

I completed 42 short stories (vs. 75 in 2009).

I completed (to final draft) 144,930 words of short fiction (vs. 216,310 in 2009).

That's an average story length of 3,451 words (vs. an average of 2,884); the shortest story was 680 words, the longest was 6,600 words.

I completed and submitted an average of .81 short stories each week (vs. an average of 1.44 each week).

(I only track completed short fiction word counts, not words written for incomplete projects, nor words written for other forms of writing.)

Income from
Editing: Down 3.13%
Fiction (not novels): Down 24.25%
Non-Fiction (not books): Up from $0
Royalties (from all books and, beginning in 2010, from Kindle self-published short stories): Up 46.18%
Seminars/Teaching: Down to $0
Salary: Up 6.45%
Overall gross income: Down 1.91%

Observations:

Although I remain employed part-time, I still earn the majority of my income from full-time freelancing.

Even though I sold more short fiction in 2010 than in 2009 and even though I had more short fiction published in 2010 than in 2009, income from short fiction decreased because some of my primary markets are behind schedule in issuing payments.

Income from editing went down as a result of decreased work from one of my two primary editing clients.

___
*I may update this information later; I’m confident that I’ve had additional stories published but have not yet received my contributor copies.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Getting details wrong

When a writer makes a serious factual error I'm thrown from the story. That just happened a few minutes ago while I was reading Luis Alberto Urrea's story "Amapola" in By Hook or By Crook and 27 More of the Best Crime & Mystery Stories of the Year (Tyrus Books, 2010). I'd barely started reading the second page of the story (page 504 in the book) when I stumbled across:
"We met in my senior year at Camelback High. Alice Cooper's old school back in prehistory--our big claim to fame, though the freshmen had no idea who Alice Cooper was."
Alas, neither Alice Cooper (the singer) nor most of Alice Cooper (the band) attended Camelback High. Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier), Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, and Dennis Dunaway attended Cortez High. Only drummer Neal Smith attended Camelback High.

Did the author do his research by listening to old Alice Cooper albums? In the song "Alma Mater" on the School's Out album someone (probably Alice) sings "But you know, it breaks my heart to leave you, Camelback, my high school."

So here's a tip for would-be writers: Don't rely on the information contained in song lyrics when there are other, more-reliable sources for factual information.