So what am I going to write? Short stories, novels, or what?

Up to this point in my writing career (such as it is), I’ve only written short fiction. Why?

First, and probably the primary reason, is the traditional advice that writers should start with short stories before they write novels. Whether this holds as true today as it once did, I’m not sure.

Second, I’ve never had an idea that I considered good enough for a novel. Then again, my ideas tend to be puzzle pieces — they never make a picture on their own, but must be joined with other pieces. Perhaps if I took one of my puzzle pieces and took the time to hunt down its friends, I’d prove to myself that I am capable of coming up with novel ideas.

Third, there’s the issue of time. I’ve mentioned that I still work a full-time job, which leaves me little time to write. Short stories are, well, short. A shorter, less costly investment.

But now I find myself questioning my path. I did a Google search on the topic to see what others had to say, and this led to more questions. Should I stick with the short stuff until I feel like I’m ready? Is the traditional way still the best way? Or should I try something new? Would breaking tradition unlock my potential and my future?

Hell if I know. Let’s list this out.

Why should I write novels instead of short stories?

  • My stories tend to go on long. Perhaps their core ideas aren’t enough for novels, but I think the way I write is reminiscent of long form.

  • I think I may have more of a natural instinct for longer work. I have no actual evidence of this. Just a feeling.

  • It is my final goal. Short stories are fun and all, but it’s always been about eventually working my way up to novels. Why delay the inevitable?

  • It is what I prefer to read. Ironic, perhaps, considering how I complain about lacking time, but I’ve always preferred having time to invest emotion in the fiction I consume. I like television series over movies, for instance. I prefer novels to short stories, though not necessarily a series to standalone novels. That’s a topic for another day.

  • Short fiction and long fiction are different markets, and they involve different skills. Working on short stories will not necessarily make my future novels better.

Why should I write short stories instead of novels?

  • Short and long fiction may not share all the same skills, but there is some overlap. I still need to break off the rust from the writer’s block, so short form may be good for practice.

  • Writing short fiction may make it easier to build readership. As I’ve only been published a few times (two of those only being the flashiest of flash fiction), I’m still an unknown. Especially since I’m thinking of switching the name I write under. I need readers who know me.

  • Short fiction allows for more experimental stuff. I may not be a groundbreaking pioneer, or some kind of writing rebel, but the flexibility does appeal to me in case I need it.

  • As I already mentioned, time. It always comes down to time with me. Time and money (but money is not part of this discussion).

So, I still have no answer. For now, as I have this story I’m editing, I suppose I’ll stick with the status quo.

But in the future? Who knows? Maybe I can do both at the same time. I’ve never worked on multiple projects. Perhaps it would be enough to challenge me.


Socially Awkward Guide to Greeting Customers

I thought I could use another series of posts to keep me busy, and hopefully to keep readers entertained, so here’s the first of my guides for the Socially Awkward (capitalized because it is a prestigious title).

For those in the retail game, customers are as inevitable as dropping bread butter side down or tripping over a cat in the dark. The first step to handling them is the greeting. It is a first step that itself involves many, many more steps, and god help you if you mess up even one. Okay, calm down, breathe. Just do what I say and everything will be all right. Relatively speaking. I mean, the world will keep spinning, birds will keep singing, that sort of thing. Whether you will be all right is another matter entirely.

Just…just keep reading. Trust me.

1. Spot customer approaching.

As one of the Socially Awkward, you have an uncanny sense of someone approaching you. Kind of like how a spider feels a vibration in its web to let it know a fly is trapped, except in this case, it’s you who are trapped.

2. Pray they don’t come any closer.

Some save prayer for a last resort, the Hail Mary pass. But why save the big guns for later? You never know, it could work. Best to mutter aloud so people can overhear you and look at you funny.

3. Prayer fails, offer soul pacts to any nearby demons

You may need to play some Ozzy Osbourne backwards to get their attention. Don’t bother with “Crazy Train.” That just recites a shopping list. Fun fact: Ozzy needed eggs.

4. Give up on divine/infernal intervention. Prepare for (shudder) human interaction.

Entertain thoughts about how you’d rather deal with the demon. Then again, remind yourself that the it might have wanted to make small talk. Nothing worse than a chatty demon.

5. Ten-foot rule.

When a customer is within ten feet of you, that’s usually a good distance to greet them. If they try to get closer, you could always step back or poke them with your ten-foot pole. You brought your ten-foot pole, didn’t you? Come on, this is standard equipment! You’d better have one next time I see you.

6. Debate the meaning of “ten foot”.

What are you, a tape measure? It’s hard to judge distance accurately. If they’re nine feet away, you have plausible deniability.

7. Okay, okay, they’re close enough, damn it. How else can you stall for time?

There’s a display between you? Um, that breaks the imaginary ten-foot line between you, rendering it void. Yeah, that’s a good one. They’re talking to a friend or on the phone? It’s rude to interrupt. Manners give you lots of good excuses. Oh look, those items are crooked. You’ll say hello after you fix them.

8. Stalling can only go so far. Time to do this. Say “hello.”

While a more complicated greeting gives you more opportunity for screwing up and looking like a doofus (stuttering is a classic), don’t underestimate what you can accomplish with something short and sweet. Try “hello.” Now, you have to say it right. Try this: draw out the second syllable much too long. Also, make the “o” sound more like “ew.” Helleeeewww. Nailed it. You’ll know you did it right if the customer pauses before returning your greeting, as if uncertain he heard you correctly.

9. Mission accomplished. Make just enough conversation to cover up your shame, then get the hell out of there.

Pretend you have an earpiece and you’re receiving instructions to go elsewhere. Run. Don’t look back. Don’t stop if anyone calls out for you, just run, you fool! Find one of the hiding places you’ve discovered around the store (if you haven’t found them yet, or made them if you’re an advanced student of the Awkward Art, you need to check your priorities, friend) and hunker down for awhile until your disgrace becomes bearable. If you see the customer again, pretend you don’t.

Finding the Time to Write: Getting Desperate

Oh, fartnozzles.

*coughs and waves away smoke*

Time machines are hard work, you guys. The chrono-matrix is too damn delicate. I just can’t get it to balance.

Crap-packets! *kicks things*

Why do I need a time machine? Why, to find the time to write, of course! Time is the one resource I cherish above all others, and, of course, it is a resource I cannot renew. Unless I get this piston-licking time machine to stop breaking down. Man, this is what I get for buying generic parts. When you buy a brand name, you buy a reputation for excellence.

Earthworm (Family: Megascolecidae)

Maybe I need to look into wormholes. But what do worms know about time travel? They haven’t shared their secrets with me yet. Bastards. (Photo credit: Arthur Chapman)

Since I rekindled my creative interests, almost every hard-won moment has gone towards writing. However, it is still not enough. I need more, more, more. So, in between my attempts to transcend linear time, I’ve analyzed the opportunities in my routine to find where I might wring out more time for my writing, like a sweet juice made from the rarest deep-sea fish. Mmm, time is salty and bioluminescent.

Here’s the list, with pros and cons.

Not grooming

PRO: Palpable aura will keep people away, limiting distractions.

CON: Beard may achieve sentience, given enough time and exposure to dangerous levels of funk. Could become adversarial.

Die Gartenlaube (1874) b 061

And then THIS happens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blending all meals and drinking them as nutritious shakes

PRO: Don’t have to wait until the end for dessert.

CON: The blender will drown out the screams that usually go with my meal preparation. Oh, the screams.

Bear Bones

Note to self: do bones blend? (Photo credit: Travis S.)

Not changing clothes

PRO: The crust that forms will eventually become hard enough to serve as armor, defending me against assassination attempts by rival writers.

CON: Shirt designs will fade with time. How will people know about my fandom of Go-Bots if it’s not right there on my chest?

Eschewing clothing entirely

PRO: Gives the whole world what it’s been asking for all these years.

CON: The map tattoo on my *REDACTED* would be visible to all, and the treasure it leads to would be in danger. Per the licen...

The real treasure, of course, is my glorious nudity. Not pictured (though it does gleam just like that). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Faking my own kidnapping

PRO: Could end up on news. Free publicity!

CON: Initial investment for magazines to cut out letters for ransom note. Too rich for my blood.

Micro-naps throughout the day (by blinking slightly longer) instead of sleeping all in one go

PRO: The night terrors will be much shorter now.

CON: Will have to cut up the sleeping pills into very, very small portions.

Hiring a proxy to handle conversations for me

PRO: Could probably find someone more personable (though not handsomer) than me.

CON: Trial run with hand puppet yielded unfavorable results and a lifetime ban from TGI Friday’s. Uncertain if flesh puppet (as I would call the proxy) would be an improvement.

Cheese and bacon potato skins at TGI Friday's

The truth about the potato skins had to be told, and I regret NOTHING. (Photo credit: Scorpions and Centaurs)

Constructing a robot to go to work for me
PRO: Having a synthetic son could earn me some sort of amnesty when Skynet goes online.

CON: Robot might do my job better than me, wounding my soft, squishy ego.

Cutting down on unnecessary internet time

PRO: There are no pros.

CON: It is all cons.

Cover Art Wish List

Warning: This post may be more interesting to me that anyone else. You’ve been warned.

I’ve written no novels yet. However, why let that stop me from issuing my demands — excuse me, preferences — for book cover art? I have simple tastes, but I know what I want. Might as well get thus on record now for when artists clamor for the honor of catering to my artistic whims. And there will be whims, I assure you!

In all honesty, if the time ever comes that I do write novels, I’ll be honored to have someone represent my work with his or her art. Let the record show my gratitude in advance, as well as the promise of future praise and gifts of exotic beetles. Okay, not the beetles. Those are mine.

Anyway, my book cover art wish list. In list form!

1. I’m not here to sightsee.

I care more about people (and other things that might not be considered “people”) than I do about the scenery. So, characters front and center. Since I care so little about the location, should they be floating in some kind of void or limbo? Mmm, maybe not. At least give me a lamppost or something. Or a tree. Two trees, if you’re feeling adventurous.

I want readers to meet my characters right away. So, the cover is the handshake of introduction. I don’t want my readers shaking hands with a mountain or a castle or something. That’s just crazy talk, and I will thank you not to continue this talk of human/landscape intermingling. It ain’t right.

Exceptions? Well, maybe if my story has some kind of interesting machines conveying characters around the story world, like airships or steampunk mechs or something, I wouldn’t mind seeing those. Maybe.

2. Smile, you’re on candid camera.

Is anyone reading this even going to get that reference? *frantically googles Candid Camera, praying he didn’t just make himself look old and unhip, daddy-o* Oh good, it actually made it to this millennium. Carry on, then.

How many people are just standing around, posed for dramatic effect? I mean really? Unless they’re staring into a mirror and considering growing a beard and are trying to decide the proper style and length that finds the sweet spot between hipster and Sasquatch. Heh, Sasquatch would make a funny hipster. “Clear pictures are too mainstream.” Then the Loch Ness Monster would scoff and sip his half-caff mochaccino because he was being photographed before it was cool.

Whoa, I digressed big time. Back on topic!

Standing around, posing, dramatic. No. What is this, Facebook? Instead of having characters who obviously knew the artist was watching them, let’s have them ignore the “camera lens” and do something freaking amazing, or at least not yawn-worthy. Cutting up some goblins, perhaps. Casting mad spells, yo. Riding a flying guinea pig named Sven. I could go on, but I’m afraid I’d start talking about cryptids again.

And no staring at that “camera,” characters. You’ve got more important things to do than moon for your fans, you puffed-up popinjay. Pretend you’re an actor…an actor pretending to be a character (and don’t keep that train of thought going or the paradox will melt your cerebellum). Actors do not look at the camera. You know, ignoring mockumentaries and stuff like that. Neither should you.

Exceptions? This one, while not ironclad, is at least bronzeclad. I can’t think of any “posed” cover I would find interesting — wait, I got one. If it was a scene where the character was actually posing for something, like another character painting him, or like a Civil War photograph, I suppose that’s kind of interesting. Oh, and I suppose a close-up shot of a character’s face might work, but only if that face is damn fascinating, and perhaps bloody.

3. You going to use that or are you just holding it for someone?

Too often we see characters holding a gun or a sword in a thoroughly non-dramatic way. I want that gun aimed at something, a finger squeezing that trigger. I want that sword being the only thing standing between that character and a messy end. If a character is holding a prop, can we have her using it? Especially if it’s a death ray because those make pretty lights.

Exceptions? Not sure. If anyone wants to suggest props that are better held than used, feel free to suggest them.

4. I prefer pie to cake, especially if the cake is beefy or cheesy.

I don’t want beefcake or cheesecake. I know, I know, “sex sells,” but I plan to keep all the sex appeal on the inside of the book in a section called “About the Author.” Awwwwww yeah. *waggling of eyebrows*


Why no scantily-clad people? It just seems…silly to me. Like when a female warrior is wearing impractical armor that bares her midriff. Insert sword here, it might as well say.

Exceptions? I don’t know. Barbarians? They don’t wear much by design. Let’s say that skin is allowed if the characters are blasé about it. “Oh, my muscles are glistening with sweat and hypnotizing you? Can’t think about that now, man, I’m too busy wrestling this koala bear. This DIRE koala bear!”

5. No dog poop.
No clever heading here. No explanation even needed, right? I don’t want people picking up my book and seeing a piece of doggy doo. Why am I even still talking about this one?

LIST OVER. You made it, buddy! Have a Gatorade.

So that’s it. I guess I just want book covers that are as riveting as my books (hopefully) will be.

Like this one I found by doing a Google search just now.

Check this guy out. He don't even care.

Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk. Cover art by Michael Komarck.

This is awesome. Neither character is looking into the camera. The man is crouched, but in an active way, ready to spring, ready to make with the stabbity stab with those wicked daggers. Plus there’s a freaking ghost right there. I’d be proud to have art like this.

I hope I do, someday. Guess part of that is up to me.