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" Creation Myths | 2008 | Over the Moon "

02.28.08 11:20 a.m.

I have always been pushed by the negative. The apparent failure of a play sends me back to my typewriter that very night, before the reviews are out. I am more compelled to get back to work than if I had a success.  

-Tennessee Williams


Cave Drawing

I sent Melanie a story I had submitted into a magazine seeking fantasy stories. It is something that I have toyed around with since my freshman year in college, though I'd only submitted it to one magazine before, which replied that it was "too precious for its own good" and therefore would not be used. I edited it heavily to remove what preciousness I could while keeping the narrative voice. When Melanie returned it from her corrections and suggestions, there seemed to be almost more red revisions than original text. I asked if she liked the story at all.
No, tell me what you really think

This is going to sting. Honestly, no. It's an old, tired subject, that I'm guilty of having exploited myself, and the little burst of understanding at the end isn't enough to redeem the fact that there is very little character development. So... what is there to hook the reader? Arielle is pretty ambiguous, especially since she doesn't really conform to the whole biblical theme, because she doesn't have an allegorical equivalent. I mean, I see what you're trying to do, but I think you'd have a better shot if you focused on characters that are more approachable. Of course, you could be my teacher, so I have no right to say any of this. But it's what I think... the whole underground rave/drug culture thing is alluring and so forth, but (this is something I've told Ritchie, and she agreed with me) it's a place for people who are in transition. They started elsewhere, and unless they die of it, they're headed elsewhere, too. That's why it's hard to have characters who reside in the dark... we won't know who they are unless we get them, literally and figuratively, into the light.

I withdrew immediately and told her that I was not upset with her for sharing her honest opinion of this work, but that also did not mean that I was not upset. I instantly felt fraudulent calling myself a writer because the truth was that I couldn't really disagree with a single point she introduced. This story was dreck and likely will never be anything more without expanding and inflating it, neither of which is seems to deserve.

After literally crying over the feelings her criticism awoke in me, I worked on justification. These entries tend to garner genuine praise on a variety of sites, so my non-fiction is at least passably good. I receive fan mail and requests for my novels a few times a month, so my longer fiction is at least competent (though Melanie has been quite clear that We Shadows needs professional editing and revising before she can imagine someone publishing it, though I don't know how much of it she has yet read). She looked at another short piece of realistic fiction from when I tried to make the collaborative fiction project Vale Falls and, aside from her feeling it was a bit smarmy and my feeling that it was dialogue heavy, she liked it well enough. So I should at least persist a bit longer before giving up my literary aspirations based on a bad review of one story.

Most important in my justification was that others consider me a writer enough to offer me jobs. Weeks ago, I received a call from a friend at Cave Drawing Ink, talking to me about their next graphic novel. (Pardon the secrecy. He has a job at a major comic company that owns his talent unto his death. I wouldn't care to hurt his career by naming him so publicly.) He said that he had recommended me for this compilation set against the backdrop of an alien invasion, in fact claiming I was one of the best writers collaborating on this project. I opted for the comic relief, thinking that this was closest to my talents. I won't go into too many details, since that would spoil the surprise when you (of course) buy several copies of the anthology, but it is a unique take on the sci-fi mythos that should garner some interest.

Soon, I will be legitimately published. My work, along with that of a handful of other writers and artists, will be available where finer comic books are sold (and on the web) by late April. It will be sold at comic conventions. It will be real, physical, and my name will be on it. It will be something I can note when people dismissively ask if I am a real writer with actual publications under my belt. Melanie says she thinks it is so hot that she is dating a writer (even a writer who occasionally produces a flop), though I think she felt this way before she knew of the comic. It is this achievement that makes me feel legitimate, second only to finishing We Shadows.

While researching this entry, I googled my name. Well, while researching this entry and being usually self-absorbed. To my surprise and amused dismay, I noticed the first chapter of my book on the Penn State website, where I had not put it. It was still credited to me, so it wasn't quite plagiarism, but it was at least copyright infringement on some level. I wrote to the concerned parties at the university and asked them either to remove it or add a link back to my site, because it has been drilled into my head that one had to defend one's copyright if one wishes to keep it. I took no serious offense that someone had done this for an assignment and was actually flattered that, in the whole of the internet, this person chose to pilfer my work for a grade. I hope that he got a decent grade for my work.

I have heard the hollow encouragement that one becomes a writer purely through persisting in writing, not by being published, and perhaps that is true on some level. I am on email lists with dozens of people who insist that they write purely for the pleasure of doing so and they have no interest in ever being published (although, if a representative from Harper-Collins happened to be reading their statement of professional ethics, they are more than willing to go on a publishing tour around the world at a moment's notice). This isn't me. If what I am writing is not being read and further disseminated, if the viral load of my words isn't spreading its meme infection, I am not a writer. That means that I have to be published by paying markets, ideally in a format one can actually touch.

Today, Cave Drawing Ink. Tomorrow, if the aliens don't obliterate it, the world.

Soon in Xenology: Crash.

last watched: Tampopo
reading: Dune
listening: Still Alive

" Creation Myths | 2008 | Over the Moon "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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