Thursday, January 02, 2020

End of Year / End of Decade Report

I wanted to do this before the end of the year, but I was a little busy, and that was a good thing. I ended the year -- and decade -- on a happy note.

This made me happy because for the past month I've read others' account of the achievements and milestones of the past ten years. And that's where I ran into problems.

Thinking of achievements was difficult when they were weighed down by loss. I'm at an age when most of my achievements are behind me while the next generation steps out and marks their own milestones. On the other end of the spectrum, the older generation ... well, we know what eventually happens when you get older. You, one day, stop getting older. There was a lot of that in the past decade, and -- possibly a statistical anomaly, or just the edge of normal -- many of them fell within an eight-month period. That wasn't a great year.

Professionally, I was excessed from a position I held for more that ten years. Then I made it back, and I was let go again. I've bounced around the system since, including what I thought was a new permanent position, only to be let go, again, at the end of the term. Nothing that I did -- they loved me -- but they all play budget games. They love me when they're desperate, but when they catch their breath -- and I've done the hard part -- they'll look for someone with under two years experience who they can push around more and pay less.

But, yes, there were some positive things that I can focus on:

For starters, I'm still writing this blog, and still creating comics. These both started the decade before last, but the fact that they continue shows a great commitment (even if Wikipedia still won't list my twelve-year-old webcomic).

For another, nine of those comics made it into a Logic textbook at the University of Sweden. It's not the "sexiest" thing I've been published in, but I'd like to think college students are getting a chuckle (or a groan) from some of Mr. Keegan's exploits.

Also professionally related, there was a book proposal called Fueled By Coffee & Love that was to be filled with teacher stories. I honestly didn't know what that meant, and the guidelines were so open, I wasn't sure what, or how much, to write. After the first book came out and a sequel was proposed, I was probably one of the first to submit, and "My Teaching Journey" was accepted for publication. (Side note: it reminded me how much I had to owe Tracy S. for me still being a teacher.)

But fiction writing? That has been on the back burner for the past 20-plus years. Many excuses have been made. And the few times I sat down to type and finished something, nothing came of it. That changed with a chance meeting with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, a writer, editor, and owner or eSpec Books. We're just friends, acquaintances, really, who see each other a couple times per year at sci-fi conventions.

I started reading the company blog, and I saw their first flash fiction contest. I submitted something under a thousand words long (it could have been up to twice as long) and it won! Well, it co-won. Danielle told me she liked my story because it had the most "catty-ness" of all the entries (and that was the theme).

After that, I tried to enter as often as I could, usually writing in the final days of the month. Sadly, I discovered that a story that she liked was the only entry that month. It was a little deflating, but the positive feedback helped. One story, "Cyber Where?", Danielle called the best story I'd written. I was elated to hear that. It meant I was improving, growing. Going somewhere.

This brings me to the past year or so. I tried writing flash fiction for a handful of markets out there. Not of them would pay more that twenty dollars, if that much, for 1,000 words or less. So far, I haven't been able to crack any of them.

I kept at them because I couldn't focus enough to write a short story, putting 3,000 to 5,000 words together. I was thinking in terms of scenes, and not acts.

By the time December rolled around, I had a plan of attack. A few months ago, there was a Kickstarter by Zombies Need Brains for three new anthologies. I back it for all three ebooks. Part of the plan was to have slots available for submissions. The odds aren't great, given the size of the slush pile, but a good, well-written story makes a difference.

I had ideas for two of the three anthologies. It came down to the final days, but I finished the two short stories I'd planned on, and both came in over 4,000 words. I wasn't sure that the second one would be written, but both had bounced around in my head for over a month, so I knew the acts as well as the scenes, and it wasn't just a bunch of dialogue.

I won't know until next month if either is accepted or both are rejected, but I'm happy that I got through it.

And if that wasn't enough of a high note to end the year on, there is one final note, but I can't mention it. Not that it's hush-hush or anything (then again, maybe it is), but until I see something announced, I don't know for sure that it's definite. At least not right now. But good things are coming, if I can keep at them.


Danielle Ackley-McPhail said... I know I have to poke at you more often. Congrats on the breakthrough. Good luck with the stories!



(x, why?) said...

Hey, you found my math blog! Okay, so it wasn't much of a mathy entry.

Weird that I didn't see a notification about your comment. I'll have to check on that.