Support Our Zines Day!

Happy Support Our Zines Day! As the proud parent of one of these ‘zines, I can’t tell you how important it is that we all (writers and non-writers alike) continue to read and financially support short story zines.  I feel a little bit like a panhandler with a Starbucks cup in downtown Chicago, trying to stand out in the crowd as the one worthy of your change, but whether you support Brain Harvest or any of the scores of other worthy zines, I hope you will do something.

Caren, Shane, and I started Brain Harvest in March of this year with nothing but a vision of the kind of weird fiction we wanted to read, an awesome website, and some change in our pockets. We’re lucky in that BH doesn’t have much overhead (as a flash fic market with no print counterpart), but it’s too expensive for us to pay for all on our own, being aspiring un- and underemployed writers ourselves. But we are adamant in our desire to provide a quality pro-rate market to our community. And so we rely on the generosity of our loyal readers to help us through.

Because of this low overhead, even a donation of $5 is huge. $10 gets you a hand-knitted mustache (by yours truly — see Paypal link on the main page. You can also send donations directly to our Paypal account at fresheyes(at)brainharvestmag(dot)com)). $25 gets you a critique by one of us (and ask our Clarion West classmates — we’re pretty damn good at critiquing). So if you like what we do and want us to keep doing it, won’t you chip in?

And while you’re at it, check out what our other comrades are producing — make a point to read and comment on at least 2 online stories today! And check out this page to see what more you can do, if donating just isn’t in the cards for you.

Long live the short fiction zine!

The cliche of loving fall.

Yup. I love fall. The trees stop producing chlorophyll, allowing their more interesting carotene and anthocyanins to show… then the leaves fall and get crunchy. It’s scarf and layers weather, rather than big bulky coat weather. Various root vegetables come into fashion. I start to think seriously about making pies. The only thing not to love about fall, as far as I’m concerned, is football. October seems to be the sharpest demarcation of this season, and it just so happens this year that several other exciting things are happening on or around October 1st as well.

1. As I’ve said before, and will probably say again because I’m self-absorbed (and hey, isn’t that what blogs are for?), I have three publications coming out on or around October 1st – in M-Brane SF #9, the final issue of Farrago’s Wainscot, and the SF queer anthology Things We Are Not. This queer anthology is going to be especially awesome. You can pre-order the book starting on 9/28!

2. My beloved Clarion West classmates and I will begin our second annual writing contest on October 1st. Spearheaded by the dashing Shane Hoversten, this contest involves a rigorous set of rules, a complex point system, and an addendum that I added yesterday which requires the competitors to good-naturedly heckle each other. The basic gist of the contest is to write as many “structurally complete” short stories or novel segments as possible between midnight October 1st and 11:59pm New Years Eve. Extra points for submitting the story to markets during the contest window.  The winner will receive the prize of his or her face on a coffee mug, which all of the participants will buy. That way everyone wins, but everyone also knows who really won. Last year, the prize was a t-shirt where the winner was depicted behind bars “in the prison of his own genius.” (Pam has some nice pictures of herself, Kira, and An in these shirts, which you can see here). Shane was the big winner last year because he cranked out an 8000 word story a day for the last week of the contest, stunning us all into silence. Not so this year! I will triumph and they will all drink out of my face!

3. To be fair, this is unrelated to fall or October 1st, but it is related to writing. On Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Jamie Grove of hownottowrite fame. He was in Chicago at a big fancy conference for his super-awesome job, and we met up at a bar downtown.  We talked about the stuff writers talk about — you know, writing — and tried to hear each other over the terrible 90s music that was blasting from the speakers. The reason I bring this up is actually two reasons. One — Jamie is awesome. Two — he just wrote an interesting  blog post about meeting other writers. It’s so easy to make connections online, and yet sometimes it feels just as hard to take that first step as it is to introduce yourself to a stranger at a bar.  I’m terrible at it, personally. But we need each other. Plus it’s no fun to toil away all alone in your dank apartment. This way, you can toil away in your dank apartment… with lots of Twitter friends. And everyone wants Twitter friends. So check out his post. And then check out my “Writers” links to meet some great writers and awesome people. Tell them I sent ya.

4. Oh, and one last thing to look forward to — as we speak, Mr. Jeff VanderMeer is making his list and checking it twice, judging who will be the winners of the Brain Harvest Mega Challenge! So keep an eyeball on the Brain Harvest page… we’ll be posting the winners very soon!!

Story successes and a short lecture about money.

I haven’t been writing here because I’ve been really trucking along in my novella — over 10,000 words in the rough draft! Technically, that’s about halfway, though this draft might be longer than that. I’m trying to be okay with the fact that I’ll have to go back and change a bunch of stuff to make the story work. All part of the revision process, right? I think my fear is that I’ll die or become a vegetable before I’m able to fix the mistakes I’ve made… but that’s something I should probably take up with a therapist.

In any case, I didn’t come here to be a sourpuss again. I came to talk about one of my most favorite things about writing — which is when stories surprise you by taking a different turn than you originally intended. I don’t know how this happens, because it means that someone who is not me (me = conscious me) is running the show and coming up with the good ideas.  This makes me feel slightly inadequate, as the not-me clearly thinks it has better ideas, and usually it is right. Nevertheless, there is something magical about sitting down to write with a relatively clear idea of what you want to say and where the story is going to go, and then having this whole other concept bubble up out of your subconscious swamp, lashing all your loose ends together and creating some awesome origami crane out of the whole thing (to mix about a million metaphors). This just happened to me, and I’m so excited to keep writing, even though it means I’ll have to go back and fix all those mistakes from earlier in the story. Barring death and/or a vegetative state.

Funny how just yesterday I was stuck in a seemingly endless rut of a scene. How does this happen? These ideas can’t come from nothing, and yet as far as my conscious thoughts go, they just didn’t exist as of a half hour ago.  How can you write a story and have no idea what it’s about… until, suddenly, it all becomes clear?  It almost makes me feel like a hack — that what I would define as “skill” has little to do with the quality of the product, since so much of it is unintentional. Or maybe I just need to redefine what this skill means.  Unless I’m the only one out here who’s just doddering around, poking at a story until it gets fed up with me and decides to make something of itself, at which point I say “Lookit what I did!” and take all the credit.

On an unrelated note, another thing I love is riding my bike to the garden and picking vegetables to use that same evening for dinner. Squash and beets were on the menu two nights ago… last night was rainbow chard. The tomatoes are starting to come in, and soon I’ll be drowning in grapes! Pictures of the garden soon, I promise. I want to be just like Pam.

Oh, so I guess the upshot of this is that I’ve been meeting my Write-a-Thon goals. This week is the last week of Clarion West and the last week of the Write-a-Thon, so if you have some pocket change to spare, go ahead and sponsor my ass. Or sponsor the rest of me, whichever you prefer. Or someone else, if you like their picture better.

And one last thing — the Brain Harvest Mega Challenge is open for submissions until August 31st! You should enter. It’s a really fun contest, and it has cash money prizes and a celebrity judge. Plus, it’s a fundraiser for Brain Harvest so we can continue to pay writers pro-rates. All of the reading fee money goes toward that and paying the prizes.  This is not a sinister plot wherein we BH editors are going to run off to Mexico with your five bucks. It’s a worthy cause, so quit your bitching, all of you that are whining about “money flowing toward the writer.” The long view is that if you want money to flow toward you, you have to make a small initial investment. How else do you think we pay for this damn magazine? Our trust funds? Hardly. So invest in your community and have a little fun doing it.

Super-quick and unimportantish

Yes yes, I’ve been remiss about posting. My humblest apologies. I will get back on that horse very soon, especially since, as of now, I have my finished fancy new site, courtesy of the most awesome 4emphasis team, my dear friends Caren Gussoff-Sumption and Chris Sumption. Lookit how cute the robot monkeys are!

Secondly, I’m well-entrenched in the first draft of a second novella for the lovely and talented Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press, which portends to be a lot of fun to write.

Thirdly, those of you who live in temperate climates probably don’t understand that summer in Chicago is incredibly hectic.   It is a narrow three-ish month window in which the weather is nice enough to actually leave the house and enjoy oneself… so there is an insane amount of pressure to be happily buzzing around doing stuff, such as beach parties, biking along the lakeshore path at night (my fave), barbecues, gardening (we have squash! And sugar snap peas!) and the most aggressive fun-having you can stand. Because by mid-September, all bets are off. We’ve had snow as early as October, for crying out loud. Is hectic fun as much fun as non-hectic fun? Probably not. But I’ll think about that come December.

Fourthly, the First Annual Brain Harvest Mega Challenge has begun! Should be a hoot.  If you haven’t submitted yet, you still have awhile, but don’t put it off ’til the very end, or you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

More thought-provoking and interesting posts to come, promise.

Today’s word count: 1913

2009 Clarion West Write-a-thon


Well, it’s better than nothing.  I’ve still got four days to catch up!

I was going to include a picture of the cool new USB microphone that I got to record Brain Harvest‘s very first podcast (and future audio projects), but I seem to have lost my camera.  Here’s a link to it.

BH readers voted for the story to be podcasted… but you’ll just have to wait and see which story won.   Hopefully I’ll have time to play around with the mic soon and learn how to use sound editing software. We’d like to get the podcast up ASAP, but I suspect there will be a bit of a learning curve so this first one might be a bit delayed. Anyone have any sound editing tips? The last time I did anything like this was in 1998, and I’m no Computer Expert, but I’ll bet things have changed since then. I’ll be using Adobe Soundbooth and/or Soundtrack Pro.