Get Into Jim’s Shorts: October Edition

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CC 2008 Luis2402

It’s Rocktober! Which means it’s time for a new short story, this time with a Halloween theme (and maybe even the Day of the Dead, which takes place on November 1.) If last month’s contained hints of the setting for Holland Bay, this month’s story actually takes place in the titular neighborhood.

Entitled “Trick or Treat,” three diminutive gangsta wannabes get in touch with their inner Omar Little. (Remember him from The Wire?) Two minor characters from Holland Bay put in an appearance. They also drop hints about the novel’s storyline.

If you like the story, feel free to drop a line in the comments section. Enjoy.

The Short Challenge

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CC 2008 Luis2402

A few weeks back, I announced my plans to offer a new short story monthly and to release a quarterly magazine called Winter’s Quarterly. All the while doing this, I’m writing novellas leading into the SF novel and writing short stories to send to science fiction markets, all under the name I refer to here as “Dick.” I’ve also been asked to revise Holland Bay and need to plan its follow-up. A lot of work on top of a day job and college, right?

Already, I devote my early mornings to writing original material. Get 500 words written, and I’m off to work. But Winter’s Quarterly and the page Get Into Jim’s Shorts will need material, too. So I issued myself a challenge.

Last time I sketched out potential shorts to write, I came up with three potential crime stories for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The challenge? Start one story each weekend and finish the first draft in that weekend. When those three are written, come up with three more stories. And so on. And so on.

Part of this will be to come up with original material for the first few Winter’s Quarterly. The stories, including “Trick or Treat” that was finished this past weekend, are timed for the season, so I’d rather they be held back until next fall when they’ll be more timely. So the first Winter’s Quarterly in January will be have mostly new material never before published.

There’s another component to this. As I do more and more around writing, I have to be able to keep up the pace of creating new material. It’s a frequent complaint among writers I know that it’s hard to move on after the first draft of a novel is finished. “What do I do next?” they complain. One publishing maven whom I was friendly with for several years said she would come down with some sort of bug every time she finished. Plus, I’m being two writers: Jim and Dick, who will have his coming out very soon. So I need to be in a mode where I can shift gears from short to long work, from crime to science fiction, from Jim to Dick. The challenge of writing every weekend will make this easier to manage. If I stockpile enough stories, I can devote more time to long work without worrying about an empty pipeline.

Perfect? Nothing is perfect. Anyone who says there’s a perfect way is lying or in for a shock.

Mind you, it took me a long time to reach this point. Just as writing a novel is a learned skill, so is writing a high amount of material and writing it well. That second part of equation is very important. Because you don’t shoot for quality, there’s no point to quantity.

Get Into Jim’s Shorts!

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CC 2008 Luis2402

Starting today, I will be posting a new short story on this site. For free.

Gratis.

My gift to you. Just click the tab labeled “Get Into Jim’s Shorts” and enjoy!

Why? A couple of reasons. First, there is an absolute dearth of paying crime fiction markets out there. Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock are the two biggies, and getting into them is harder than getting cheap seats for the Super Bowl when it’s not held in a cold weather venue. The other three require stories longer than I am willing to write. Things are moving on Holland Bay, and I also have to go be my own Richard Bachman (whose science fiction has a much bigger field of paying markets for collecting rejection slips.) Besides, with the exception of one, the pay is lousy. So if I’m going to work for free, why not pay myself to do it? I can afford that salary.

“Well, gee, Jim, if you’re griping about payment, why post stories for free?”

Glad you asked that. It’s all part of Homie’s master plan to… Whoops. That’s Damon Wayans. I’ll find another plan to bop the man. Actually, I have two more Kepler books to put out, Gypsy’s Kiss and The Kepler Omnibus. And that will be it for Nick Kepler. Maybe. Who knows what happens to him after he rides off into the sunset?

But beyond that? I plan to take the previous three month’s stories posted here and compile them into Winter’s Quarterly. Hey, if Dean Wesley Smith can do it, why can’t I? Winter’s Quarterly will appear early next year with three stories culled from the previous six months, maybe more. Maybe less. Who knows? It’s something to play around with, and something I think readers can have a little more input in creating.

The shorts begin today with “Violet,” about a girl trapped in a life of prostitution. Ripped from the headlines? Well, actually, I got the idea from a former coworker whose husband, a Cincinnati cop, has worked several operations against prostitution rings where the girls work as literal slaves. And if you pay close attention, you might get a hint about what’s inside Holland Bay.

Short Work

After finishing the latest draft of Holland Bay, I dove into short stories. I split my time between crime and SF, using the SF shorts to lay the foundation for the world I’m building for the novel.

The funny thing is that the crime shorts are usually over and done with in 3000-4000 words. The first SF short now making rounds checks in at under 6000 words. The second one, which I packed off to my new writing group, is about 4600. The SF writing is a lot tighter than it was when I made my first attempts early last year, but world-building is a wordy business.

In some ways, it’s quite satisfying to finish a first draft in a week to ten days. It’s also satisfying to have three works out making rounds in less than six weeks. Not only will a new Kepler appear in an anthology this fall, but there’s a second one, this one featuring Elaine, in the can.

Since restarting Holland Bay, I’ve had to keep writing. What happens a lot of writers is that they lose momentum after a novel, then when it comes time for the next project, it’s hard to get started. That happened to me a couple of times before. But there is an adjustment. A novel, whether it is written in first person or third, has room for a large cast of characters, multiple subplots, and lots of dialog and description. Short stories?

You have to narrow the focus. You can have only a handful of characters, often only two or three at most. Most markets want less than 5000 words. SF markets are more forgiving, though it’s not wise for an unknown or a newcomer to test those limits beyond 6000 words or so.

By the time this posts, I’ll be back into novel mode, my alter-ego working on an science fiction book. If it goes smoothly, I’ll be back into shorts by the end of the year. If it doesn’t…

Well, I’ll be hear whining that novels are just so damn long!

You Need More Pulp In Your Diet

Pulp Metal Magazine, the nasty noir web zine from Jason Michel, is back with its Spring 2012 edition. I bring this up because yours truly has written a tale of two drug lords who discover their supplier is not only bat shit insane, but is giving their federal nemeses a bad hair day. “Joey Tran” tells the tale of why organized crime should avoid taking a play from al Qaeda’s book when they need to solve a problem.

Also, new fiction by Katy O’Dowd, KA Laity, UV Ray, Daniel Mkiwa, Ben Renner, AJ Savage, Craig Wallwork, Melanie Browne, Michael Keenaghan, Colin Graham, Samantha Traina, Rob Bliss, Jaime Grefe, Craig Caudill, Richard Shiers, Dr. Mel Waldman, Stephen Cooper, and CR Fausset.

Coming Soon: Winter The Ebook!

No, I’m not going to sell Northcoast Shakedown or Road Rules on Kindle.  The rights to Northcoast are only available for an obscene amount no one will ever pay.  It’s all part of Homey’s master plan to keep that abomination out of print forever.  Road Rules was not intended to be sold, though my agent got a few good looks trying to do just that.  Unless someone makes an offer, that will continue to be a freebie.

Instead, I’ve decided not to try and sell short stories individually.  Too many writers are putting their book-length work on Kindle for barely a dollar.  With the market flooded with dollar books, who’s going to pay that for a single short story?

So instead, I will be putting together a collection of what I’ve written so far.  Look for The Compleat Winter soon, compleat with a really cool cover.