Archive for writing

I Am A Fraud

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 28, 2010 by Jaym Gates

This is a joint post with Don Pizarro. His take on feeling like a fraud can be found at (link will be added when he WAKES UP!)

I’m a fraud. I don’t deserve to be here.

Those were the thoughts, on repeat, in my head as I left the bar. It was Friday night, Boston, my first ReaderCon. I’d been drinking with friends, old and new, discussing writing, music, fandom, relationships.

Normal-people stuff.

Apparently, no one guessed that I’d been so afraid to walk into the room that I’d paused outside, literally too sick with fear to move. But the group was filled with genuinely wonderful people, and I at least stopped cuddling my wine so closely.

After a while, Don Pizarro and I, in desperate need of coffee, took our leave of the group to venture into the depths of Cambridge. By this time, my hands were trembling, my voice was trembling, my heart was trembling too.

Silence reigned for a few moments, and then we both let out a deep breath. One of us made a comment about being a fraud. Suddenly, words couldn’t come fast enough. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were both breathing a little better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been crippled by these fears. I hate it, having lost out on opportunities because of it. I tell myself, other people tell me, that I’m talented, that I deserve to be here.

But, when you’re standing in a room of some of the best writers and editors in ‘the business’, it suddenly crashes down. “I haven’t done all that much.” “I don’t deserve to be here.” “I’m not worth talking to.” “Ooo, I like this corner. No one will trip over me here.”

I have an excuse, in a way. Words are my life, my love, my perspective on life.

If I have a religion, it is a religion of the mind. I worship the weird, the jagged, the extreme and tortured and shocking. Not for the shock value itself, but because of their courage in looking at the fringe.

I’m a synesthete. Reading The Scar was emotional, physical. Words are experience, touch, taste, scent, sound. I am there. I am there because someone went there first, led me by the hand into a world only they could imagine.

So when you are standing in a room of your idols and heroes and role models, it’s hard to keep perspective. I was raised with a keen understanding of my own inadequacy, and the respect and distance awarded to age, experience and talent. Added to that, my personal devotion to their work, and the pedestal has soared perilously close to the ceiling, and I’ve forgotten that they are just like the rest of us, award-winning or not.

We raise them on too high a pedestal. Not that they aren’t that good, not that they aren’t worthy of respect, admiration or perhaps a little awe, but because they are not gods, but humans.

I’ve talked to many authors, many people I respect. From each, I hear a variation on the same tale. Their path was no different from ours. They have struggled, and failed. Picked themselves back up, dusted off, taken another run at the next hurdle. They have collapsed beside the trail and cried, and wailed, and berated their gods for callous indifference.

They have felt like frauds, like failures. They have made stupid mistakes. They have stood up, squared their shoulders, and kept going.

That emphasis is necessary. Too many of us shamble through life, afraid that our incompetence will show, that someone will realize we didn’t come through the same door that everyone else did.

But we did all come through that door. We just couldn’t see it because of all the people blocking our view of the empty door, and the sign over it, saying The Right Way.

It isn’t a matter of success or failure, of genuine talent or hackery. It is a matter of honesty, within as much as without.

You will never succeed because someone else believes in you.

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Bestiary: Shep-Sin

Posted in writing with tags , , on November 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Shep-Sin: A creature of myth. Vampiric, it feeds on human flesh and blood of people it kills. Only targets people that are not known to be dead. A particularly gruesome creature… it assumes the form of the victim and slips into the victim’s family, where it kills as many as it can. As long as it can kill, it maintains form. When there is no more blood kin, it has to go out and kill again.

Feeding is done by gutting the victim and feeding on the heart, brain, reproductive organs, eyes, tongue, liver and stomach. Steals bits of hair, teeth and nails to keep in a pouch around neck. This ties the ghosts to the beast. These will be slowly melded together until another Shep-Sin is created. These are the ones who do not have to be summoned, but they are weaker and cannot procreate.

Shep-Sin is a name also given to outcasts or lost kin. If someone has been gone for more than a believable amount of time, they are automatically assumed to be a Shep-Sin, and are never allowed into the family again. Such people, if they are Shep-Sin, are usually either killed on sight or simply waste away because the community bands together to starve the creature out of existence.

Chatter and Excerpt: Nightmare

Posted in Excerpts, novels, writing with tags , , , on November 7, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Alright, so I don’t have a title for this yet. So, for the moment, the working title is Nightmare.

Also, I’m keeping a fairly simple naming structure for the story, at least for now. I think that the story isn’t ‘big’ enough to need fancy names. So we have the following:

Mask
Penchant
Dream
Chance
Death

Since I’m using a simpler terminology for the monsters and such too, it just seems right. We’ll see, and feel free to leave feedback.

So far, the monsters I have include:

Haven

Behemoths
Breeders
Skinwalkers
Blurrymen

As-Yet-Unnamed-Outside-Country-Financing-Rebellion

Bloodybones
Greenteeth
Soulskins

I started Nightmare on November 3, and am, as of November 7, at 5500 words. My goal is to hit 60,000 words by January 1. No, I’m not doing NaNo. I don’t have time, energy, nor the desire to produce such crap as such a schedule would have me produce. I USED to write 5000 a day, and burned out. 1500 a day is do-able.

That leaves me two months to edit to 80,000 words, a month to polish, and then start the submissions as soon as I have an address in Oregon.

Sooo…there’s the gist of the project. Now for the part you actually wanted to see! It is a very rough draft, so read for content, not quality, please?? Pretty please?

Mask and her brother stared at the house. “We’re supposed to live here?” Mask asked.
“You’ll live where the Queen tells ya,” the Guard snapped. “Now get in there wench.”
Mask shook her head, confused and disoriented by the sudden change. Three days ago, she had had her womanhood ceremony, along with about a dozen other girls. Then the soldiers had come, and chosen five women and five men. Three days later, they were standing in a ghost village, looking down a perfectly-kept street.
Cows still grazed on the town common. Ducks waddled past, quacking. Flowers bloomed in the windowboxes. But no one was around.
She opened the door, noted the slight squeak, and froze on the doorstep.
“This was someone’s house,” she said, her voice quivering.
“Well, it’s your house now,” said the Guard, and walked away, taking her brother with him.
“Wait!” she cried, reaching for Penchant. “Doesn’t he get to stay here?”
“Not unless you want to be breeding with him,” said the Guard, leering.
Shocked, she could only watch as her brother was led to another house.
“Mommy?” said a quivering little voice. “Mommy?”
A little boy, no more than two years old, stood in the doorway, his hand held firmly by an older woman. Mask stared at him.
“This is your mommy now,” said the older woman, her eyes wide.
“What’s going on?” asked Mask, as the little boy yelled “Not my mommy!”
“Hush!” snapped the woman, and thrust him against Mask. “He’s yours now child, best you keep him silent and obedient, or you’ll both end up on the commons, eating grass.”
“Wha–?”
“No questions!” said the woman, and shooed the rest of the children down the road. Mask could see two other women doing the same thing. Maybe ten children, all under the age of three.
“What’s your name honey?” she asked, dropping to her knees by the boy.
He shrugged, sullen. “Want mommy.”
“Mommy’s gonna come back, but let’s go have lunch while we wait, yes?”
He looked up, his face changing, and she thought he really was a handsome enough boy, all shaggy brown curls and smudges of dirt.
“Food,” he said, and ran into the house.
Mask followed slowly, her head spinning.
Three days after her womanhood ceremony, and she had a two-year-old son, someone else’s house, and a mystery.
She’d have liked all of them, but something told her the mommy wasn’t coming back, and she wouldn’t like the mystery.

Third Time’s a Charm?

Posted in novels, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , on November 6, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I know, I know. I’ve said about ten other projects I was getting started on. But I’ve been in a funk, and none of them clicked.

So, after a fruitless day with absolutely no writing done, I turned on the Industrial music and sat down late at night.

Within 40 minutes, I had 1500 words of the nastiest story I’ve ever written. Human monsters based on folklore monsters. Sin and purity.

My goal is a completed rough draft by Jan. 1. Since this is horror, I think I can keep it shorter. So the target is a 60,000 rough draft, which I can reach by hitting 1400 words a day. Which means sticking to my goals.

I’m obsessed with this story. Don’t let me slack off!

It’s a Job, Not a Reward

Posted in Rants, Theories and Thoughts, work, writing with tags , , , on November 4, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Well then, that was special. The happy-happy about where I live is that some moron decided to put the cable box right at the entrance to our subdivision. Right at the side of a very busy road. A very busy road that has many, many accidents right at the entrance to our subdivision.

Seeing the pattern here? Yeah. There was an accident this afternoon apparently, so I’ve been without internet for four hours.

Of course, I did all the non-internet stuff early this morning…when I still had internet. And since half of what I needed to do today was ONLINE…it hasn’t been quite as productive a day as I was hoping.

Oh well.

I guess this means (since at the time of writing, I STILL don’t have internet…) that I might as well write a nice long post.

About…hmm. Nothing springs to mind.

Ooo, I know, a rant. Yes, a rant.

See, I’ve seen a lot of questions basically saying ‘how do I get published?’ ‘how do I write a query letter?’ etc etc etc. Those are all good questions, right?

Well, kinda. But the problem is, a lot of the time, it’s pretty obvious that they want the easy answer. Most of these questions are easily answered by a quick Google search.

And you know what? That’s how I found out all my answers. Every time I answer someone’s questions about something related to writing or publishing, I swear they say ‘wow, you know so much!’.

Behold the power of Google. There are literally hundreds of blogs, ‘ask the agent’ and Q&A sites. Agents and publishers have Twitter too, where they talk about the daily problems associated with publishing and give lots and lots of hints and tips. And, to top off the deal, there are writer’s forums, where you can go read, ask and learn.

“But there’s so much! How do I know what’s real?”

This is actually a really valid question. There must be a dozen ‘how to write a query letter’ sites out there…at least. I stumbled all over those for a while before I figured it out. It can be hard sometimes, to figure out what is valid and up-to-date.

That’s where reading the articles on agency sites, and SFWA can be so useful. They tend to keep up pretty well with what you need to send.

Reading the blogs of newly-published authors is useful too. A lot of the time, these people are going to be talking about what it’s like, how they did it, what they have to do. This is not only good, but priceless.

What you don’t want to do is go around asking ‘how do I get published? How do I write a cover letter?’
Every successful author, agent, editor and publisher has gone through years of research, experience, study and confusion. Do you really expect to bypass all that? That’s what classes and seminars are for. Agent and writers get paid to do those. It’s part of how they make money. Shelling out advice for free is nice and some people will do it, but they get dozens of those questions every day, and the best you’ll probably get is a ‘go research’.

If you do get that answer, don’t get pissed. That’s virtual suicide. The publishing world is a small, tightly-knit one. Everyone has lunch with everyone else. So if you do go off about how unhelpful someone is, chances are, you won’t be all that welcome any more. It’s not rudeness. It’s you have your job, they have their job.

And that’s really what it boils down to. You have your job. Consider the research to be schoolwork. Read, study, do your homework. Writing is a job. No one’s going to do it for you.

So next time you have a question, Google it. There’s a lot of stuff out there to find.

Tomorrow I’ll post some of those resources. After all, it is always nice to get a bit of a headstart from someone!

*edit* Apparently, it’s just me that got lucky. No internet at all, and something seems to be broken. So I’m offline until at least tomorrow night. Gotta love it.

Places to Write About

Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Any time you write fantasy or science fiction, the question of setting comes up. It’s pretty easy to make purple trees and pink people, but there are times when a little reality is nice. And there are places on earth that are more weird and fantastic than any fantasy world.

I’ll do a couple of posts, and get some guest posts in here, but for now… Some from a trip I took a long time ago, a cluster of parks that simply overwhelm the senses.

Zion National Park is where I want to die, so I can haunt it for eternity. No, seriously. It is that breathtaking. I went here about six years ago, and I’ll love this place till the day I die. Maybe beyond.

This is the place that most directly influences Inherent’s Jastu. The paga and baltza are lifted straight from Zion’s peaks and valleys.

Places of note: Angel’s Landing. 4000 feet high, Angel’s Crest is a monolith that you can climb. But it’s not for the faint of heart, because part of the trail is so narrow that you can look down on either side of you to see the valley, 4000 feet below. angels-landing-p_jpg

There really isn’t a picture that does Bryce National Park justice. I went there during the early spring, when there was still a lot of snow on the ground. The white against the sunset-red rocks, the evergreens, the sky…the colors are almost painful. The natural formations are dizzying, and on such a grand scale that it’s impossible not to feel tiny.

Places of Note: Sunset Point is one of the places we went, a natural outlook over the canyon. Show up in time to catch sunrise or sunset, but be sure to bring a coat: it’s cold even in June. BRYCE-NP-SUNRISE-H.

Speaking of stone and color, Arches National Park is as spectacular as anywhere you can find. It’s much more open than Bryce or Zion, vast distances broken by the most unearthly of natural sculptures. Arches National Park

Anywhere in Moab, Utah. My uncle is an avid mountain biker, so I got exposed to lots of places from the viewpoint of someone who knows them well. Moab is a beautiful, lonely, desolate drive. utah-moab

Speaking of Utah… I’ll probably never find images of it. But there’s a point where you leave the highlands of the western part of the state and descend down onto the flat lands. It’s absolutely breathtaking: an absolutely flat plain hundreds of feet beneath you, broken with little towers of eroded rock here and there. And the only way down is on a dirt switch-back. Never, EVER, do this in a motorhome. There’s a reason I have gray hair… Utah friends, help me out here with where this would be?

Hellfire!

Posted in short stories, Stories-Thunder Songs, writing with tags , , , , , , on October 6, 2009 by Jaym Gates

From Wikipedia:

The Aztecs believed that the dead traveled to Mictlán, a neutral place found far to the north. There was also a legend of a place of white flowers, which was always dark, and was home to the gods of death, particularly Mictlantecutli and his spouse Mictlantecihuatl, which means literally “lords of Mictlán”. The journey to Mictlán took four years, and the travelers had to overcome difficult tests, such as passing a mountain range where the mountains crashed into each other, a field where the wind carried flesh-scraping knives, and a river of blood with fearsome jaguars.

Whoa. And we think Christians have a mean Hell.

I think it says something about me as a person and a writer that I have Wikipedia’s page on Hell saved as a favorite.

However, I have an excuse: I’m going to write 9 short stories over the few months or so, tentatively titled Alighieri and the Songs of Sheol. Yes, it’s a bit of a mix, so the title will probably change. However, it will be stories set in the various cultural interpretations of Hell, so the mishmash might work. In addition, I will try and write one of them as hypertext fiction, which will be an adventure…

Why this, why now? Because a main premise of The Red Sun Rises is the travel of the hero through a hundred hells. However, I realize now that I didn’t know that much about different interpretations of hell. So this is partly research.

But, it is also because I like to have a big project over the winter. Something shorter than a book, longer than a short story. Last year, it was New Name.

So, as soon as I finish Prometheus this week, I’ll start on the stories. They should include horror, romance, adventure, steampunk, cyberpunk and fantasy. The realms tentatively planned on are Mictlan, Gathas, Diyu, Sheol, Xibalba, Aralu, Peklo, and two original hells.

I am looking forward to this!