Friday, February 29, 2008

Hate to Write a "Me" blog entry

but I am feeling somewhat frustrated by where to go next. Can I really keep turning out stories that most of the zines that are active right now don't quite like. Almost all of them want a fairly high-degree of violence and bedlam in their stories. You only have to look at the names of the zines to see this.

I love to write stories where a crime takes place or where the protagonist is a marginal character but I can't always amph up the action to the necessary degree. Sometimes it's about what's going on behind the scenes or in the guy's head that interests me. This is not complaint about any of the zines. Most have published a story of mine along the way and I am very grateful. This is my purely my frustration with what to do next.

I could start a second novel, but until I hear from more than one agent who's read it, this seems premature. Maybe I don't have what it takes to write a novel. Better to find out before starting another one. And how long should I expect an agent to keep it? One has had it for five weeks. At this rate, I will 107 before I go through the list.

I could return to writing literary fiction. I just had a story published in Bayou Magazine. As far as I know, no one will ever read it there though because it's in print. I like the zines because I think people do read stories on zines. I can write literary stories forever and not become part of any community, which I did for five years. I like being part of a writing community. I liked knowing who Stephen Blackmoore and Greg Bardsley are when I read their stories in PWG. I like this little blogosphere we have here.

I almost had a story accepted this week in Ellery Queen. They asked me to send another story along. But guess what? All my other stories are too violent for them probably because I've been trying to write for the crime zines. Maybe I can drain a story of its more violent aspects. Have you ever done that? Made it more or less violent for a publication. I wrote that story specifically for them-using a stack of EQMM that Bill Crider sent me to gauge the kind of story they liked.

Can I send that story to Alfred Hitchcock or is that not done?

This is going to be one of those blog entries that sits all alone out there because its whiny and narcissistic. Sorry. It's snowing again in Detroit, I discovered my new treadmill makes my back hurt and even now it hovers over me, silent and scolding at the same time. So too does my Dell.


Bill Crider said...

EQMM and AHMM are separate entities, and it's perfectly okay to send a story to both editors. Not at the same time, of course.

sandra seamans said...

Maybe it's because I've never had any expectations for my writing, that I just write whatever comes to me. Once the story's down, then I hunt for a market. Sometimes I tone the language down, but rarely do I ramp it up. There are markets I'd love to break into ( Thuglit, PWG ) but I've come to realize that as a woman on the very shady side of 50 I have a different mind set from the "boys" running the zines and our ideas of what makes a good story might never mesh. What I have found though is that many of "horror zines" are open to dark crime stories and with these markets they've gone past wanting the splatter and the obscene and want stories that look deeper into the characters. Just some idle thoughts to consider.

We're supposed to get snow tonight. I'll be glad when spring gets here this year.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'm definitely more interested in the quality of the writing than essential violent ingredients. Some of the stuff for the Spring/Summer issue... wow. And even from the last issue, stories like Damien Seaman's COMING UP ROSES... (I just did an audio recording of it, so it's fresh in my head.)

I think the online community favours the dark, the hardboiled/noir. I'm not sure why that is, but there doesn't seem to be the same nexus for cozies, or mainstream offerings, police procedurals or much else.

Here's the good news: as of the fall issue, Spinetingler will pay $25 per story. It's still not a lot, but I think we'll be one of the highest paying crime zines out there.

The better news? Well... we just might be moving into print next year. Negotiations are underway.

But I'm not being too terribly vocal about it all, because there will be an inevitable deluge of submissions.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There are a few notable exceptions--like Spinetingler, Shred of Evidence and MystericalE. But I wish I had the techie skills to do a zine that took a really broad range of stories.
Thanks, Bill and thanks again for the EQMM. I will try AHMM. I am going to try horror and I also have a few romance.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, the problem is, they're the exceptions. The field has been traditionally dominated by the grittier side of the equation.

You might also try this site Patti:

You don't have to be local to be published in it, and they seem pretty open-minded about what they take.

Todd Mason said...


Goodness. Someone is telling you, perhaps with good reason, to put up with these obnoxious agents, but when Janet Hutchings asks you to send along some more fiction, That Means Something. Send along a best story or two, and let her decide if they're too violent, or tone them down a bit as you suggest, but Don't ignore encouragement from someone who has enough aspirants coming at her that she presumably doesn't have time to specifically encourage everyone who submits a story.

And, as Bill has noted, Linda Landrigan is not Janet Hutchings...they get to make up their own minds about what goes into their respective magazines.

And I must admit that the only reason I might read a webzine story over a magazine story is that I'd have to be able to find the magazine and choose to afford it. Otherwise, I read a Lot more fiction out of magazines than off screens.

And don't forget THE STRAND for stories that soft-pedal the violent aspects, particularly if there's detection (and a certain tone) to the story. And do try CRIMEWAVE, which has been reaching for little-magazine cf at least as assiduously as MURDALAND.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The Strand always seems closed to submissions. And doesn't it have to be classic stories--like set in the early 20th century?
In all the years I published print stories (about five) and more than 25 stories, only one person ever emailed me to say they enjoyed it. It felt very anonymous. Now if I had reached the top tier, it may have been different.
Don't mind me, just one of those horrible days in Detroit. But I am going to think of something great to say about Detroit by Monday.
Goodbye Quarterlife. I hardly knew ye.

tM said...

Yeah, I can see how a magazine as infrequent as THE STRAND would be closed a lot. And by "tone" I did mean at least as neo-Edwardian as Rumpole.

Well, you can watch the shortform of QUARTERLIFE on the web, and continue to see the longform episodes, apparently, on Bravo, the NBC/Universal cable channel.

Josephine Damian said...

Patti: I'd check the EQ website/submission guidelines. I'm not sure if Bill C. is right.

EQ is a crime writer's dream - the equivalent of the New Yorker. If you were almost there, I'd right a new story for them that was similar in tone to the first.

In some ways, I'm in the same boat as you but with a different mind-set. I've written two extreme violence stories and got them accepted to the mags that like and want that kind of stuff. I'm now planning a third lurid shocker.

After that, I'm pretty much done with that type of story. I don't want to get pigeon-holed as just an extreme violent writer (although that type of writing comes easily to me). I want to write more main-stream crime stories and get into EQ or AH mags.

I'm not a short story writer by nature - I find them difficult to do - but I see them as a stepping stone to publication and perhaps agent interest a means to an end and nothing more.

Five weeks? That's like five minutes to an agent. I'd say give it one more week and send a follow up email. Still, it could take months (I ain't no kid either, but I recognize the biz operates at a snail's pace). I say keep working on getting into EQ - that alone could put you on the fast track to agent.

Off topic: Did you see Nancy Pelosi on Charlie Rose last night? Most impressive. She came across as quietly confident and comfortable in her own skin - Hillary could learn a thing or two from Nancy.

Megan Powell said...

Re: the second novel, a lot of writers have nice anecdotes about smoothly handing over a second novel after getting an agent, because the agent search process took so long. Potential benefit, if there's another novel you want to write.

But that is great news from EQ. If you've received encouraging words, then by all means follow up.

Re: starting a zine of your own, don't worry about the technical angle. That part's easy to deal with (or at least, it's easy to deal with that part well enough).

pattinase (abbott) said...

Megan-Bryon told me he spends days getting the stories downloaded onto Demolition so that scared me off. I can barely navigate this site. Do you see how boring it is?
Thanks for the advice Josephine. I did manage to get one story into most of those zines but it seems the ante has been upped for most of them. Every time a new one--like Out of the Gutters and Pulppuser comes along, it makes the others want to rev their engines. Anyway, I'm sitting here reading my romance stories and thinking maybe that's the way to go. (Only kidding, they're not nearly romantic enough. Someone always pulls out a gun or hammer.)

Gerald So said...

At Thrilling Detective, our only hard and fast rule is the protag must have professional investigative training. We've accepted stories featuring ex-cops and "troubleshooters" not formally identified as private investigators, for example. The tone of our stories has varied widely.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, it was typewritten but it finished by saying that she hoped I would send another story. So it's between an outright rejection with a little tidbit of hope. Nothing like I'm waiting for that story on pins and needles. I have gotten rejected more soundly in the past. Thing is, it was a nice story-not much violence, a real heads up guy. I'll have to write another one cause it's an anomally. I wrote it just for their market.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Well I immediately thought of The Thrilling Detective but the protag is a sheriff and I thought he had to be a private investigator. He's being a sheriff is central to the story.

Todd Mason said...

Hutchings doesn't spend her time writing notes to people she doesn't want to see more work from, Patti...and do send that one along to Landrigan. You might get another query.

TM said...

...if not a sale, a I meant to append!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Not a note. Just a final typewritten line. Not nearly as inviting as you think. Probably just the second from the bottom is a series of possible rejections.
You are far too kind (and optimistic).

Anonymous said...

Patti: Todd Mason is spot-on about Janet H. @ EQMM--if she sends a handwritten note asking to see more work then she's tossing you the keys to the car. Start it up! [And please attach a snow plow to the front of it; god I hate Michigan winters.]
John McAuley

Todd Mason said...

Argh, Patti. Even with first readers, she's getting hundreds of mss. a week...she's not going to customize the standard rejection slip by even one line if she didn't want to encourage you. No, don't assume you'll be the next Ed Hoch there, but do take the hint.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

Agents and editors take forever to respond. I hope you're doing multiple submissions. It's fine to do that. I don't agree that you should wait a week and send an email. What good would that do except to put you in the pain in the ass category. Have patience.

If you feel like writing a novel do so. You have to write for you. You can't second guess what some agent or editor of a magazine wants.

Gerald So said...

Your protag's being currently employed as a sheriff does disqualify it for Thrilling, but do try other zines or e-zines.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm going to end this me, me, me whine with a picture that cheered me up today. Well, yes it is me but only remotely. Thanks to all of you.

Keith Raffel said...

What Sandra said about agents. Simultaneous submissions to agents!

Sarah Weinman said...

Dear god yes, simultaneous submission to agents. Exclusives should be outlawed.