Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cold Brood: Year One

Hello, folks. Today marks one year since I launched Cold Brood. Where's the time gone?

It's been a fun little experiment, though I still prefer seeing my words in traditional print venues. Self-publishing is fine, but it's kind of like drawing a picture and hanging it on your own refrigerator. I want to draw a picture you hang on YOUR refrigerator. Or something like that. Poor analogy, but I'm too tired to come up with something better.

Let's talk stats. When I began this little ol' blog, I doubted anyone would bother to read it and the few who did would do so only because they'd stumbled upon it accidentally. Well, thanks to the wonderful and indispensible Google Analytics, I can tell just how often and how long certain regions of the world stick around on this site. I am happy to report that people from every continent dropped in for a gander (except Antarctica -- probably because penguins haven't figured out how to log onto the 'net yet). There are several hot spots who come back again and again -- Belgium, for one. In fact, most of central Europe has paid repeated visits to Cold Brood. Cool! Keep on comin'!

To date, Cold Brood has over 25,000 views. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that. 25,000+? I have no idea where that stands compared to the average blog, but it sounds good to me. As I said, keep on comin'! For whatever reason, the post entitled Game Day has far and away the most views. Not sure why. It's not all that compelling. But, hey, you won't hear me complain. 

Google Analytics got me thinking about checking on the stats for my other writing and I'd like to share some tidbits with my writerly friends (and those of you who may care).

In several years since I began submitting written works to various markets, I have submitted 213 pieces. Of those, 16 have been accepted, 156 rejected, 10 are pending, 5 have been withdrawn (for one reason or another), and 26 remain inconclusive (due to no response from the market or the market going dead). It took 57 attempts before I had a piece accepted for publication. When you break all this down, 7.5% of my total submissions have been accepted and the number climes to greater than 10% when you take out inconclusive and withdrawn subs. That's up from 1.8% from the time of my first submission to when I finally got picked up on the 58th try. Again, not sure where this averages with other writers, but I'm all right with 10%. That number will only get larger if trends are to be trusted. I'll only start worrying when it dips back below 8%. (Note: these numbers do not include the columns I wrote for various newspapers or the articles, interviews, and reviews I wrote for Modern Fix Magazine--these are strictly short story and essay submissions).

Anyway, I'm not a numbers guy so I'm going to quit talking about them before they start getting a big head.

Thanks for reading over the past year. It's appreciated. And it's been fun! Come back anytime.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dear Editor: Thank You For Your Rejection!

Hello everyone.  A couple months ago, I posted about an obnoxious response I received from an editor after submitting a short story for consideration in an anthology his imprint was publishing.  If you missed it and wish to read its complete lack of professionalism, please do so here.

But for every barb, there is a bouquet. And that came in the form of the absolute best rejection I've received to date. This is a true gem and it was almost better than getting accepted. Here it is:

Dear Aaron,

Unfortunately, your submission, "Little Bone Joey" has not been accepted to be included in the anthology. I really would like to thank you, however, for your consideration to be a part of this project.

I appreciate the amount of time and work that you invested in this story and I am certain that you will be able to find a publisher for this elsewhere.

Technically you have written a nice story and I enjoyed reading it. Please know that I am not rejecting this work due to any flaw of your own ability.

Aaron, I hate to have to pass on this submission. Yours is one of those stories that, if I had more room in the book, would definitely be in. I liked this story a lot and it's been at the top of my consideration list since I received it. I particularly enjoy the uniqueness of your plot - it's thoughtful, intriguing, and told through a powerful voice in your character, Joey. You have a great talent for emotional and descriptive prose.

Unfortunately, I simply received a number of other stories which also held positive attributes of their own. Due to the sheer volume of submissions, I am only able to select a small amount which most closely matches the overall character of the anthology.

I received about 350 submissions for this anthology. The final Table of Contents, though not yet finished, will probably number about 26 - 29 stories.

I learned a new term that was shared with me in a rejection I recently received, and I think it's appropriate for me to share with you. For my anthology, I received an "embarrassment of riches." Meaning, I received SO many fantastic stories from SO many fantastic authors that it is truly embarrassing to have to tell most I cannot accept their writing for this book. This includes friends, peers, and authors such as yourself, whose strength of writing and accomplishments far surpass my own.

Keep writing - You have gained a fan in me, and I look forward to reading more material from you in the future.

Warm regards

Wow. A writer, by default, must have skin thick enough to absorb rejection. They cannot get discouraged. They must persevere if they are to have any measure of success. Reading such a note re-established my faith in the publishing industry. This is the anti-form rejection. It truly made my day. Thank you, dear editor. You rock. That felt like a daub of salve on this thick skin.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Slap on the Wrist for Trolly!

An open letter to Internet Trolls,

Here at Cold Brood, I always welcome comments and feedback. I eat constructive criticism for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

However, if your goal is to leave disruptive, rude, or otherwise stupid comments please understand they will be deleted. This blog is my face on the Web and if you insist on spitting on it, well, I'll just wipe it off. Yes! Do you hear me? I WILL WIPE IT OFF!

Of course the natural reaction would then be to spit in the face of the offending commenter, but no. Because here on the Web, people can hide themselves under that uber-generic ANONYMOUS. Posting as ANONYMOUS is absolutely welcome as long as it's constructive. I love the comments left by all the lovely ANONYMICE. But if you're just going to post mindless drivel under that moniker, you are nothing short of a coward. Plain and simple.

Here's the thing--if you don't like the content of this blog, don't read it. And if you get some perverse pleasure out of throwaway, uncreative, drive-by commenting in the pre-dawn hours when your life seems meaningless please do yourself a favor and seek out that meaning. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Sniff glue. It won't damage your brain anymore than it already is.
2. Try cordless bungee jumping.
3. Drink a glass of paint thinner. That'll clear up the constipation that's got you in such a mood.
4. Skinny dip in hydrochloric acid.
5. Start your own blog so that I can post comments on it. As myself, not a crawling little grub.
6. If you're still feeling ignorant, read this then feel free to bring it on. With the latest in Google Analytics, it won't be hard to pinpoint your location; those maps are detailed.

Oh, look at you! You took your wrist-slap like a perfect little trolly-angel.

You are dismissed. Go nurse your hangover.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dear Editor: Edit THIS!

As a writer who depends upon editors to buy my work, I realize this post is playing with fire. I'll take my chances.

Often while browsing the 'Net, I'll come across some small press editor or other's blog which I eagerly devour. Invariably, I can depend on finding that obligatory post in which said editor denigrates, belittles, or otherwise condemns the hopeful writers who anxiously submit their work for review only to ultimately be rejected. Hours of clattering away at a keyboard (not to mention even more hours revising draft after draft) before finally clicking SEND on that fateful email, only to wait three months (or more) for a form rejection letter really, well, sucks.

But, hey--that's the industry. I am a professional. I possess the thick skin required to await the inevitable rejection...after rejection...after rejection. I have never replied in anger to an editor who has rejected my work. I accept that not everything I write is perfect (some of it is downright despicable) and I accept that even good stories sometimes get shot down. It just makes each acceptance all the sweeter.

Further, I understand an enormous cross-section of people who think they can write well cannot and a large subset of this group may, by extension, also be classified as unprofessional. I empathize with an editor's frustration when a writer submits piles of pure slush or responds to rejection with bitterness or outright malice. As a one-time editor myself, believe me--I know.

Now let me turn the tables. What follows is an actual reply I received from an editor recently. I am including it here without an iota of retouching. Please note: I'm not picking on editors (especially those of you who currently have a story of mine under consideration. Heh.). Most of my interactions with them have been wonderful learning experiences. Obviously, I am withholding said editor's name. I just couldn't ignore posting this. Read on to see why:

i read some and scanned the rest
you have to tweak it to make it fit more of what i am looking for.
1. stop beginning words with AND. never a good thing
2. make the dialogue more standard format. way to much slang and sloppy writing (i know thats the style but i dont like it)
3. have the character, one or both, take into account what they are doing, they are killing people, its something to think about. this antho isnt about killing people, its about dealing with death. so its needs to be a little deeper.
4. when someone says, somethin. you ned to add an ' on it to replace the G same with em is 'em
if you feel like doing this stuff and sending it again, i dont see whay i cant use it.
(i didnt edit this email much, i dont bother)

Let's dissect this point by point.

1. From now on, I will stop beginning words with AND. Andalusia, Andrew, Android and several others have now been stricken from my vocabulary. Not really. Because what this person meant to say was "Stop beginning sentences with 'And'." Wait, why is it never a good thing? As long as conjunctions are used sparingly to start sentences, they are perfectly acceptable. I promise. Don't make me go all Strunk & White on you.

2. Standard dialogue format is wonderful if that's the way your character speaks. This particular character doesn't speak in standard English. In fact, I don't know many people who do. Maybe a few stauncher politicians and members of the clergy. I understand too much slang can be distracting, but let it go. Feel the character. Get inside the character's mind, man. Trippy, right?

3. Perhaps if this editor had finished reading the story, the "dealing with death" would have become clearer...since a death is the climax of the story (and actually is implied rather than described). The characters aren't "killing people." Of course, those things might be difficult to glean just from scanning. That got me thinking about how many stories are rejected by editors who don't, you know, actually do their job and read the thing top to bottom. And then I felt my blood pressure rising, so I stopped thinking about it.

4. Adding an apostrophe when dropping a letter or letters from a word is the writer's choice. I understand doing so is standard (something this person seems to adamantly uphold), yet it is not required. Just ask a guy named Steve King. Or Cormac McCarthy. Or Bernard Shaw. Me, I prefer a page uncluttered with throwaway punctuation. Still unconvinced? Check out this article, paying close attention to the paragraph labeled "Omission and elision."

5. The penultimate sentence tops everything. Let me get this straight: I am expected to revise my story to make it more standard, but this editor can't be bothered to employ correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, or mechanics? If you don't have the inclination to be professional, then I can see I have wasted time submitting.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, writers. Editors, feel free to weigh in as well. Am I off the mark here? Writers who submit to markets learn quickly they need editors far more than editors need them and that anything perceived as bitterness toward editors comes off as unprofessional. Well, I'm bucking that trend today. Because there are certainly some editors we writers do not need. And (uh-oh, there's that pesky coordinating conjunction starting my sentence again) I'm not bitter in the slightest. Just appalled.