You’re old enough now to have enough experience to “know better” and have gone through enough tribulations that you’ve come out the other side of some difficulty; but at the same time, still young enough to be referred to as “a kid in their 20’s.” In a lot of ways, it’s kind of having the best of both worlds: enough years under your belt to claim experience and authority in some situations, but just enough green to claim ignorance and get away with it most of the time.
It’s also tricky, because I want to introduce a story with “when I was a young man,” or “when I was younger,” they both feel a little disingenuous because I mean, like, five years ago.
So, when I was a young(er) rapscallion, I was delusional about my prowess in hand-to-hand combat. Like we discussed way back in “Fight Club: Fringe League,” I’m way more cognisant of those limits nowadays. I know that I don’t know the correct way to uncork a punch. I’m aware I don’t have a trained poise for rolling with or absorbing punches and kicks. I have some idea of how hard it is to control yourself or another human while in a wrestling scramble. But a few years ago, that wasn’t the case at all.
I argued with friends and coworkers, pretty vehemently mind you, that I could handle myself in a fight with a mountain lion. I was convinced that as the cat would leap at me, I could sidestep it, pop it in the mouth, and leave it dazed and confused on the dirt. I had a whole technique that was 100% foolproof (emphasis on “fool,” here) wherein my thumbs would hook the corners of its mouth and my forearms would block the claws just below the paw, rendering me completely safe from its assault.
I realized later that, as a cat in that situation, it would still have hind legs with sharp-ass claws that it would use to deftly carve open my soft-ass torso, disemboweling me in maybe a few seconds.
And while I’m ranting about this, another thing. I saw a YouTube video some years ago (I tried finding it, but to no avail – so allow me to paint the scene) featuring a zoo enclosure somewhere in southeast Asia, I believe. Unlike the enclosures we have here in the U.S., it’s the massive open expanse, and the feed isn’t a slab of steak through a door, but a live feeding. Meaning, they dump a live cow or goat in the middle of this field, peel out, and the – in this case – tigers jump all over it, giving them some semblance of a hunt.
It was in this particular video that they were fed in this way a single large cow who, after being dropped in this field, naturally tried to make a break for it. To humans, do you know how f***ing strong a cow is? A cow could level an average person without even meaning to. Well, four tigers swarm this ole gal and just one of them brings her to the ground with minimal – and I mean MINIMAL – effort. Three just start going to town, tearing into the soft bits, and the cow is…well, being loud about it. The fourth tiger is calmly watching its siblings fill their tummies when it decides to saunter over, grip the cow’s neck with its teeth, and snap it like a cracker.
Y’all, it mercy-killed that bovine with the same energy I use to take a sip of coffee. And that monster was the kind of thing I thought I could “K.O. if I had the chance, bro.”
Anyway, another book with my name on it came out this month! Bards & Sages Publishing has their “Society of Misfit Stories Presents…” vol.III issue out now on Amazon for those looking for a paperback, and for the e-readers among us, Smashwords is doing their thing and offering a 20% off discount through the end of the year if you use the code PC74V at checkout. Look for my contribution to the collection, “High Noon,” which follows a Canadian kid who tries to hike the Pacific Crest Trail but gets…caught up as he takes on a mysterious guest. And that’s kind of sweet.
So, last time, I mentioned that I had a background project in the works that involved some of the most ridiculous math I’d ever done, right? Cool, well, some backstory.
Our current living situation is a little weird. Mandy (girlfriend extraordinaire) and I share a house with technically two other roommates and a gaggle of children. The children are present because, during weekdays, the house also operates as a nursery or daycare run by one of the aforementioned roommates. That meant that while I was home for a while between work seasons, there were nursery workers running around and the need for ice breakers arose. It’s an oldie but a goodie, meaning I resort to it often, but I enjoy asking, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?” I’m sure we’ve all given or answered that one once or twice in our own time. And it worked!
It also started a trend. So, every now and then while things were slow at the nursery (ie our house), I’d pop in with another dorky, speculative question. After a few of these, we arrived at a particularly juicy one: “If you had to choose, would you rather make all cats in the world the size of ants, or all ants in the world the size of cats?” I urge you to think on it too, in fact. Go on, I’ll wait…
Have your answer?
Sweet. Well, then you should also know that if you picked ants becoming the size of cats, you’re painfully, horrendously, ineffably, woefully, deliriously incorrect.
She, quite sensibly, choose to make all cats on the planet the size of ants. A sizeable loss for the cat-lovers among us, no doubt, but at the cost of saving the planet. Since I thought it was funny, I brought the question to Mandy, who said the above horrible answer AND tried to justify it. “Aww, but what will the anteaters eat?” was one point, that still thoroughly vexes me.
Anyway, I got so wrapped up in debating with her just how awful a sudden influx of cat-sized ants would be to the planet that I resorted to doing math. Like, actual hardcore arithmetic. Y’all, I wound up doing (and am still doing) more math in my free time than I ever have in my whole academic life. So, if I may, I’m going to present just some of the preliminary findings in my research and calculations.
As it turns out, there are an estimated 1 Quadrillion ants (1,000,000,000,000,000) on the planet right at this very moment, while there are a far more modest estimated 600 Million cats (600,000,000) at present. That means, there are about one and two-thirds millions times as many ants as there are cats on the planet right now. (# of Ants = # of Cats x 1,666,666.67)
The first thought I had when considering this is all we’re covering here today, which was: What would the seismic impact be of a sudden weight shift like that be? Like, forgetting ecological, topographical, geological, societal, and all the other -al’s, just the strain of all the suddenly added weight. What would that do to the planet’s tectonic plates?
The ultimate answer is: I’m not sure, but it would likely lead to some earthquakes in the short term; and I’d imagine, even more in the long term. As I’ve found, studies have been done on this sort of thing regarding shifting waters linked to rains and monsoon seasons, and have concluded that those seasonal occurrences lead to seismic activity (albeit small). For example, the study observes that monsoon season affects quake frequency around the Himalayas, so I did some math.
To calculate the weight of a monsoon, feasibly the amount of weight/pressure that reliably affects seismic activity, I took the given land area of India (3,287,263 sq. km), used the upper limit of expected rain fall over a monsoon season (300 mm), and ran those numbers through a rain fall calculator. The result showed a total deposit of 986,178,900,000,000 liters of water hitting the ground, which weighs roughly 21,741,523,121,299 lbs.
So, if the weight of a monsoon affects seismic activity to a noticeable degree, and we have that, then we know the amount of weight needed to affect seismic activity is somewhere around twenty-two trillion pounds (21,741,523,121,299 lbs).
Ants weigh anywhere between 1mg and 5mg, so we’ll call their average 3mg.
Cats, feral and domestic, on average, weigh between 8lbs and 10lbs. So we’ll call their average 9lbs.
For perspective, to have the equivalent to one pound, it takes 453,592mg; which means that the average cat weighs the same as 1,360,776 average ants. To put it another way, your average cat weighs x1,360,776 that of your average ant. To put it ANOTHER way, every ant that becomes the size of a cat means an increase in weigh of 136,077,600%
Finally, taking the estimates on how many ants there are and how many cats there are on the planet today, and knowing their average weights per individual ant or cat, we know that there are roughly 6,138,000,000 lbs of ants on the planet right now, and approximately 5,400,000,000 lbs of cats on the planet right now; meaning that if one were to make all the ants on the planet instantaneously the size of cats, that would mean a sudden addition of almost eight and a half Quadrillion pounds (8,352,436,950,000,000lbs) to the planet’s surface.
If it takes 22 Trillion pounds to start seismic activity, then to be clear, to be very frank…<ahem>…the sudden weight of ants WOULD SHIT ON THAT NUMBER.
8,352,436,950,000,000 / 21,737,365,862,331 = 384.24 [I shaved some decimals off of the result there because it does not at all matter. What matters is…]
The weight of ants after the switch is over three hundred and eighty TIMES what it takes to cause noticeable seismic activity; not to even mention that the weight change would be instantaneous rather than over the course of a month like with monsoon seasons. Trying to figure out THAT angle of the impact might mean learning how to calculate Newtons and Joules, which will take someone smarter than me to figure out, but let’s all safely assume that before the ants would even be able to tear our cities, infrastructure, and eco systems apart, their arrival alone would probably be equivalent to several million nuclear bombs…
I also have an anthology with Bards & Sages Publishing coming out this month, which is pretty rad. So stay tuned for that. It’s a story I’m pretty fond of.
So, I’m working. A lot. Both in a day-job sense, and on something special for here. I’ve also got a number of fiction publications on the way that I’ll get to bug you about when they hit the market (which is rad), so stay tuned n’ such.
I’ve also been working on…calculations? Yeah, I think that’s the simplest and most accurate way to describe that. I’ll put up a preview soon, but in a nutshell: it’s the most bro-science, but legitimately hardcore math I’ve done in a long time.
In the meantime, a note: A lot of people think it’s annoying to talk about your diet, which is true. But mine’s, like, 50% hummus, and I think that’s interesting.
Woof, back so soon! Been rainy near these parts, so I’m stuck inside, which means I get to chain myself to my desk and rattle away on here. Livin’ the dream.
Brief thought experiment before diving into The Goods here today: Without googling it, and be honest, how many ants would you guess are there estimated on the surface of the planet? Don’t be surprised if it’s way more than you think, or weirdly way less than you’d imagine. Either way, it’s part of an essay-project I’ve had brewing, and I don’t think I’ve ever done so much math in my life.
Just…stay tuned for that.
Anyway, if you forgot how this works or are just getting started, the little ditty to follow comes from a premise generator from a book that I got at a yard sale some time back. It gives a circumstance, a character, and an action (and all usually pretty weird ones). So, getting on with it…
Where Are They Now?
Winston Turtledove closed his eyes tightly, gritted his teeth, and rubbed his temples. The noise was getting to be hard to handle.
…I hope there’s leftover lasagna in the fridge. That hot sauce ain’t gonna use itself.…
…if I can return these pants for store credit, and if they let me use that coupon since it only expired yesterday, then those new shoes will only be five dollars, or three if I scuff up the edges while they’re…
…those cards better show up in the mail today. Tracking said two to four days, but they’re usually early and the shipping update was pretty fast, so then maybe…
“…just call my name, I’ll be there in a hurry, you don’t have to worry, ’cause baby there AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIIIIGH ENOUGH, AIN’T NO VALLEY LOOOOW ENOUGH, AIN’T NO RIVER WIIIIIDE ENOUGH, to keep me from…”
…wasn’t he the one from ‘Three-Ring?’ Little Andy?‘ Aw, he used to be so cute.…
The voices started about a week ago. At first, he thought he was insane, his personality fragmenting into different shades, but now he was just concerned about being driven to madness. As it turned out, through magic, a curse, solar winds, or a cosmic joke, he was hearing other people’s thoughts all of a sudden. At first, he thought it was cool. He’d listen in on neighbors, other patrons at coffee shops, and rather enjoyed the new dimension given to his people-watching hobby.
But the voices kept piling on and piling on, and he couldn’t shut them off. It’s fun to listen in one at a time, but when you’re never alone and have a crowd in your head at near all times, it was enough to mill one’s sanity.
It had also been a disappointing revelation to have, too. He caught passersby occasionally recognize him from his childhood role as Little Andy on ABC’s hit comedy ‘Three-Ring Circus,’ and he’d always like to imagine subtle awestricken ripples at his minor celebrity, but now he knew what mostly occupied their reaction was how old he’d gotten. Not shyness at asking for a picture, not fondness over the show, just pity for how he was now.
So he sat on his usual park bench, now a grumpy man in his early-fifties, and watched the birds whose thoughts were blessedly one-note enough to meditate out the other visitors of the park: “Coo? Coo. Coo? Coo? Coo? Cooooo. Coo.”
That’s when he saw old Harold, a man in his eighties who came to the same park regularly. Winston hadn’t seen Harold since his newfound powers had taken root. And the intrigue at some familiar thoughts pulled him from his meditating on the pigeons. It took some time, but as the light crowds of joggers, babysitters, and dog-walkers began to clear out, he found he was able to focus in on Harold’s thoughts.
“…some day. With Martha gone, a man would think the guilt would have gone away some day. But nope. Sure, everyone has their theories. They’ve sold their books, their movies, their crack-pot bits, and TV specials, but holding onto the secret truth? Outliving all the others and being the last one holding onto the secret. Now that…that’s a real Magic Bullet. Shit. Why do I even still come here? Is it the knoll? Maybe. I think the lake helps keep the images out. Killin’ a man, an important one…fuck. And poor Jacky, never got to…”
Winston blinked his eyes in disbelief, sitting on a bench in a park outside Missoula, Montana, with the man who might have assassinated JFK…
After a few minutes, Winston simply shrugged.
We never know where life will take us, do we?
So, I’ll be real, wasn’t entirely sure how to end this one, which might be pretty evident in the text itself. The attributes this time were as follows: “Suddenly able to hear others’ thoughts, // a former child television star // discovers who really killed JFK.” And full confession, the first mixture had the last part as “steals a baby,” but I wasn’t totally sure how to work with that one. The JFK thing at least worked with the telepathy, and besides, it was that or he “grows at extra arm.”
Anyway, hope all is well, take it easy, much love, and see you next time.
Mmm, yeah, we have time for this- oh! And to clarify, not “random” to me, exactly. What I’m about to thought-vomit on is a topic I’ve spent a weird amount of time fixating on every now and again; but I should be random to you.
If it’s not, then, well, that has certain…I guess, existential implications to it. Or we’re just on the same psychic wavelength, which I guess is always possible given how many people there are in the world- Anyway!
Do me a favor and look at your hands. Palms flat, fingers extended and straight. First off, take a moment to note any scars, callouses, wrinkles, and so forth. They’re all kind of a cool road map of your history, what you’ve done with these two little collections of meat tentacles.
But the reason we’re here today, look at your fingerprints. Not even actually caring about how unique they are to every person, have you ever noticed how, if you stare at them long enough, you can start to see the ways in which those tiny grooves are almost runic? Just, the texture of the skin on your palm and fingers has a pattern like stylish filigree. And to the smart guy out there who’s maybe googled “where fingerprints come from” or whatever: 1) I haven’t, and 2) that’s not the point, really.
At the end of the day, I like to think of the pattern’s presence as a little reminder that we’re all works of art, and that’s a trait we all share.
I guess, unless you’re a spy or something and have had your fingerprints smoothed over for work. But I think we should agree that’s pretty unique.
Anyway, something to chew on. Happy weekend, y’all.
Happy Sunday, everyone (or whatever day it is when you give this a read).
Also, Happy Dia de los Muertos, everyone!
I’m not Latin by blood or heritage, but orbit this holiday a lot through my mother. For as long as I’ve been old enough to pay attention, she’s loved everything about this holiday, from the aesthetic and colors, to traditional dances and rituals, and the spirit the day encapsulates and represents.
There’s a local museum in our city that hosts events and exhibits surrounding Dia de los Muertos’ history and cultural art that we make sure to attend every year they’ve done so, and this year will be no exception (safely, of course).
A bit cross-cultural, but in the spirit of the holiday, I figured I’d share a few haiku I put together some months ago that center around the ideas of the day. I hope you like ’em and maybe find something in them that resonates. Mm’wah!
Death Stories deserve ends Beautiful incarnations, return among dreams.
Memories Precious currency Echoes which reflect values Hum, eternal bones
Being Sudden miracle Awareness behind the thought Phenomenal spark
Anyhoozle, take care everyone. Give somebody a hug while you’re at it.
Did you know there’s a saying that goes a person’s fate can be read on the wings of a butterfly? That’s what makes fate so hard to know, because the little creatures that carry it rarely stop fluttering long enough to read their wings. I’m sure that’s also what makes them so naturally mystifying, what we don’t realize draws our eye whenever they pass us by, bobbing through the air just out of reach.
They’re with me wherever I go. And wherever I might be, they find me. They are beautiful little things. Gentle, innocent, fragile, small.
Something else not many people know is that butterflies love salt, and a common place they find it is the remains of a dead animal. Flesh, devoid of life and giving way to nature and time – they love it.
I think that’s why they follow me. Like cats that know what doors leave out bowls of water or scraps of food, they’ve caught on to where they can get their salt fix. It’s invisible to us, but maybe their eyes see power over death like a color in the air, a magenta dust on the wind.
It’s a tale as old as time, really; and always the same motivation. A loved one who’s died, their memory growing more distant with each passing day, or one who’s sick and will know death shortly. I was different. I just…wanted to know.
Is it like everyone seems to think, something to be scared of and staved off? Is it “just a part of life,” or is that something we tell ourselves to assuage the anxiety of uncertainty? Is it sleep, or is it just…nothing? Are we just our bodies, our minds, or is there really a spark that drives the whole thing that remains eternal? After all, everyone in history has done it, so it can’t be that hard. It’s the biggest mystery of our time, and always has been.
Anyway, yeah, I think that’s why they follow me. And maybe I misspoke earlier. It isn’t a power over death, because everything that lives dies. That’s an immutable law of existence: everything that is, once was not; and everything that is, will not be again. So, not over death, but a power with it.
And the little buggers can’t get enough.
(Hey guys. The astute among us might note the date on this post, that on the one prior, and the distance between the two. Like with all of us, life has had a lot of moving parts lately. Plus, I just haven’t had a lot to say, I guess. But this little ditty came to mind while on a walk earlier today, and it seemed like a good time to post again. I haven’t been quiet that this is just a place to work out for me: run thought experiments, shout into the void, practice, blah, blah, blah. Feeling now, though, that there might be a good time of creative productivity on the way; a breath of air amidst all the chaos, if you will. So, yeah, get ready to see more o’ me. This’ll be cool. Peace, everybody.)
I wish I could say this was inspired by something more monumental, like a big life event or existential epiphany, but the truth is far simpler: The Ghost of Tsushima is just that great.
In every way, the game is an (A+) work of art. While the duels among cherry blossoms and battles amid flames are thrilling in their own right, I’m in it for picking flowers, petting foxes, writing poems. If it weren’t for all the swinging massive razors and duty-bound murder parties, I’d HELLUV been a samurai. But since those things are kind of a package deal…oh well.
May I present, some amateurish poetry…
Haiku Pause, breath, and reflect. Flower on a windy cliff, breathe and be nourished.
Moon A light amid dark Silent, blossoming brilliance Gate to the cosmos
Supper Food in my belly Warmth spreading through my body. This is just the best
Can I lead up at the top that I appreciate you? Whoever you are, though I don’t know your name, your voice, your favorite food, or whether you prefer high-five’s or fist-bumps – I think you’re pretty great.
Out in California, right now we’re all collectively preparing for fire season. Mostly that means expecting power outages, preparing (at least mentally) go-bags we can quickly pack or grab in the event of an evacuation, and taking stock of what things are important enough to warrant inventory space and which might need to be committed to flames (worse case scenario, obviously).
Most of us have an idea of what we’d bring, and what that does is highlight what matters to us. It also usually highlights how many things of ours are…just things. And when that happens, it leads to a deeper appreciation for what we have. This could lead into a never-ending rant about how Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and how I think it suffers the incredible irony of being severely underappreciated whilst getting crushed under the stampeding boots of Christmas shoppers- BUT we’ll leave that for another day.
In a largely roundabout way, what I mean to center on is that it’s a common thing for most go-bags to include a small stack of a person’s favorite books. Now, while fiction is my first love, and my treasured collection of Witcher novels would need to be pried out of my cold, dead hands, another that would need to come with me is Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.”
Enormously controversial in its day, I’m sure it could still be seen that way nowadays. In short, Paine describes it simply as his thoughts on religion. No wonder why then, in the mid-eighteenth century, the book landed him in some pretty hot water (and, actually, totally in jail). The second half of the book was written from prison, and it’s essentially his dissection of the Bible and the reasons why, in his view, it’s complete cockamamie nonsense.
I don’t love it for its second half. I love it for the first half.
The first sixty-eight pages (of my edition, anyway) are Paine outlining his own personal form of Deism – deism being a viewpoint that sees the universe as having a supreme, creating intelligence, but one that is separate from and does not intervene in the material world (Creation).
And while I want to, I’m not going to quote anything here – because I insist you read it yourself (found easily enough as a pdf right here —> Here!); and if you do, scroll down to pages thirty-three and thirty-four to get a taste of the root of his outlook.
In brief, he doesn’t see God necessarily as being a big bald-headed man in the clouds with a big floofy beard. Whatever name you want to give the force greater than understanding, more universal and common but as mysterious as consciousness itself, doesn’t matter so much.
But what is important is that the worship is in seeing. It’s in listening. In feeling. In smelling. In tasting. Taking in the world around us, trying to comprehend it, but above that – appreciating it.
Not to get too ‘woo-woo’ on us, but do you ever take a moment to recognize that you exist?
Just the fact that you, the awareness behind the eyes, inside the body, and behind the thoughts of whoever you are – are real. For no discernible point or purpose, from a mysterious some-say-unknowable origin, as a cosmic phenomenon…you exist. AND you’re able to contemplate that fact. Cogito, ergo sum, after all.
Worship is in appreciating what’s in front of you. What’s in you. What’s happened, or all the unknowable things that will happen. All of the heart-breakingly beautiful shapes and creatures on the planet, or those things our astronomers have shown us out in the cosmos.
It’s such a warping thought to know it’s so large that to even try comprehending the full breadth of it is unimaginable from the start.
Anyway, I’m feeling lost in the weeds now. We’re FULL rant. But…gah, things to think about right?
TL;DR – I appreciate you, things are awesome, good to think on that sometimes, woo-woo.
First things first: it bugs me to no end that often times spellcheck will give the little red squiggle to “axe” if you spell it with an ‘e’ at the end, but “ax” is perfectly fine even though “axe” is already perfectly fine.
That was stupid.
What’s up everybody?
I’m not sure what reminded me the other day of the following story, but I’m glad whatever it was did. Back in 2016 was when I tried submitting my first-ever piece of fiction to an outlet. I didn’t know how to format it, hadn’t really tried writing like that ever before, never tried researching a market before, or had any practice addressing editors – I just went for it. You know who the outlet was?
For the uninitiated – they’re big; at the very least much, much, much, MUCH bigger than a kid trying his first EVER tale had right to reach for. But they were cool, polite, and cordial when they dutifully rejected the piece I rushed to compile for their submission window.
But I thought that was how you did it. I thought you went for the big fish. Adjusting my approach (still incorrectly), I then thought it was about thoroughly researching a market, tooling a piece of fiction tailored to them specifically, and spending months finely polishing it for them before perfectly and carefully crafting the impeccable cover letter to whet their appetite for the fruits of your labor; like a sniper lining up for a half-mile bullseye: check the wind, curvature, your breathing, your trigger discipline, time it between beats of your heart.
Turns out, a better approach is a lot more like laying down on the trigger of an uzi. Spray and pray, til you’re empty, reload, rinse, repeat. Tenaciously.
There’s a publisher called DreamForge that’s pretty great, and on their site they have an essay that attempts to outline why a story submitted to them might be rejected. And the answer in a nutshell is thus: any of a million reasons.
It could be that they find it poorly written; could be too many typos; could be they didn’t understand it; could be they didn’t care for the expression of the stated genre; could be they find it doesn’t fit their project’s theme tightly enough; could be word count conflicts with their budget; or it could be that it’s well written, but the editor wasn’t quite in the mood the day they read yours; or they love your story about kickass ninja vampires fighting ogre assassins on the moon, but they just happened to read and accept another story in their stack about kickass ninja vampires fighting ogre assassins on the moon right before finding yours.
The point is that it’s sort of a lottery, if you’re an independent writer starting out. Making sure your work is well-written, cleanly done, strong in concept, and appropriate for the market you’re submitting it to are all the right ways to increase your chances, but in the end you’re still competing with an unknown amount of other writers, of unknown quality, against unknown standards and tastes – a gamble.
Captain Picard said it best:
This tortuously long preamble brings us to a few summers ago in 2018. I was working in an optics lab at the time, preparing to leave that job for a writing sabbatical. I was feeling burnt out, tired of my day-to-day, and wanted to embrace the daydreams I kept cooking up. The budget I wrote up figured I had about a year to do that before reality would come calling. (Reality would catch up way quicker than that, and I’d find myself caring for my ailing mother two weeks after leaving my job – but we’ve talked about that life-asteroid to death already.)
About a month before leaving my job, Mandy and I were at a friend’s birthday party. Also present was a young woman we’ll call Delilah. Before I say anything moving forward, I want it clearer than crystal that I’ve nothing but fondness, respect, and best wishes for her, for reasons we’ll lay out here and in great part for the lesson my encounters with her taught me.
Turned out, Delilah was also going into writing freelance at about the same time, or had started about a month or so before. She talked about how (I believe I’m getting this right) she was a housewife at the time, and wanted to pursue it while she had the time. She went to an event or workshop of some sort down in San Francisco, delivered a stand-up set she’d prepared, met an editor, and snagged a gig for a that outlet.
On the one hand, easy-peasy; two weeks into freelance writing and you’ve bagged a job and a contact. On the other, it takes guts and no lack of panache to do what she did.
So she shares this with us and while the group dissolves a little into its various chat circles, I overhear Mandy and Delilah talking. Mandy’s sharing that I had an intent to pursue something similar, and Delilah’s asking questions. I’d wandered away, but was told later than Delilah’s response was more or less: “Oh…that’s his plan? I wouldn’t, if I were him.”
Even though it was just birthday party hearsay, probably said off-hand, it was a little dismissive remark that stuck with me. It bit me with this sort of stinking moral superiority that would gnaw at me for months later. The first five months of my sabbatical were literally nothing but hardship and rejection; and every time, I would think of Delilah’s quick-won success and her “I wouldn’t if I were him,” remark.
And every time, I would close my eyes, tell myself to shut up, and get back to it. I didn’t have a network, hadn’t made contacts, was learning through trial and error, had a lot outside of writing work on my plate, but dammit I would make it work out.
Then, luck struck, and I had my first story picked up. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck twice and I had a second acceptance, which came with being an interview on the podcast where the story aired (as well as a follow-up appearance later to talk movies). And since, I have had three more fiction sales, some traction in fiction contests, and been fortunate enough to work for a few local papers and magazines. It’s been hard-won, organic, independent, and with large amounts of tenacity and dumb luck.
A year after that party, the birthday boy had another (as is usually the case with birthdays), and we bumped into Delilah again. We caught up around a little campfire circle and naturally were each asked about how well writing was going. Delilah recounted how it was going well, but [paraphrasing] “her editor had relocated to a different outlet and gone radio silent, so that was dead now and a bummer; and while she was going to produce a podcast with a partner, said partner was being a c*** and so hadn’t come to fruition yet.”
When the question came to me, the host of the party (birthday boy’s wife) did me one of the greatest compliments/blessings I’ve received in my life.
“And you were going to be a writer too, right?” came Delilah’s question. And the host interjected with, “He’s been published, in fact,” then motioned for me to explain.
Doing me that honor, saving me that modesty, and acknowledging that achievement all in one swoop has been, to date, one of the deftest moves in etiquette I’ve witnessed in person; and I was thrilled to be its subject.
I did my best to continue that modesty through my explanation, but I’m sure some pride leaked through. I give myself a pass, though, because the truth is I was proud of it, and especially in that moment I felt vindicated. The slow, steady, organic grind of failed attempt after failed attempt after failed attempt finally becoming a small success triumphing over – at least as was the way my mind viewed it – over the model of quick but fleeting satisfaction…felt great.
But in that was also a lesson. And the markets and guidelines I’ve seen all point to an average acceptance rate of somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3%; but usually it can be more like 1%. That means, if you do everything right, you can hope for or expect one success for every one hundred attempts.
So, try one hundred times. And after that, try a hundred more. So on and so forth until you can begin to count your successes. And be okay with them being small, they’ll get bigger.
At least, this is what I tell myself. But I will say that the math checks out.
My plan was to join the California Writers’ Club after my third independent fiction sale, and while I still plan on it because I’m eager to see what opportunities that might afford, the struggle of the independent author has been one I’ve come to enjoy the fruits of.
Ah, I just remembered what kicked this all off, actually. The other day, I was looking on my body of work (which feels hilarious to say, given how tiny it is) and feeling unsatisfied where I used to feel proud. And so mentally running back through the journey of the past couple of years was a good chance to review, take stock, and realize the accomplishment it is; especially as any beginning writer would likely agree, five months is actually a startlingly turnaround for one’s first printing. So I recognize the element of luck in this experience.
In the end, the message doesn’t really change. Help or not, friends or not, network or not: keep swinging the axe, keep trying.