Friday, April 9, 2010

in this installment, james delves the archives

So while I was researching the soon-to-be-HBO-series of my favorite fantasy novel(s)--Kathy, they're great, check them out--I stumbled on the author's blog ... still written on LiveJournal?

From college until 2008, LiveJournal was thriving with friends, a protozoic Facebook wonderland of meet-ups, silly videos, and ludicrous GIFs.

Now, it's dead, a skeleton of another life, different friends ...

I was poking around my archives and found this little gem dated Sept. 7th, 2007:

Meeting Mark Z. Danielewski (Daniel-EFSKI! as Poe would yell from the back of the crowd) was absolutely incredible.

He read three excerpts from Only Revolutions, and one section of House of Leaves that he realized, only recently, he was actually ABOUT Only Revolutions, even though he hadn't started his second novel yet.

Questions were good. Sam and Hailey were based on two homeless punk rockers he ran across on a street corner.

I asked him how hands on he was in the final layout of his books and he laughed and said, "what do you think?" after an evening of proving his OCD-like perfectionism.

"Let me rephrase," I said. "It was your first novel, did they laugh at you?"

He then told the story of how the publisher wanted to print House of Leaves in its original format which, since MZD only has Word to work with, was in basic block text form. He begged them, but they were dubious. So his sister, Poe, said "just fly out there."

He said, "I'm already $35,000 in debt."

She said, "So what's 400 more? Buy a ticket!"

And he did, and he lives in the Random House copy room, learning all their software, and did the ENTIRE layout of House of Leaves himself. (For those not in the know, House of Leaves has a bizarre, intricate layout that forces you to twist, turn, flip, and hold the book to a mirror in order to read certain passages.)

How cool is that?

So I bought a paperback edition of Only Revolutions, stood in line to have him sign it, and he asked me about writing, I told him about Edgewood (my endlessly "in the works" novel), and he shook my hand and said, "don't stop til it's finished. It's what you have to do."

And I wilted like a Victorian hand maiden if Hugh Grant had gone back in time and learned their vernacular.

Is there such thing as a Victorian hand maiden?

Reading this was a bit discouraging in somes ways. On the one hand, Edgewood is unfinished and, at the time I wrote this, I was furiously digging into the second act. It's been sitting frozen at 40,000 words for quite a while now.

But, in that time I've co-founded a magazine, produced handful of short stories and short scripts, co-written a full length screenplay, and got married. So, you know what? This novel will be finished. One day. In the meantime, I have life to live. And more Danielewski books to read.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

in this installment, james gets married!

For all those of you that couldn't make it, enjoy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

in this installment, james gets rejected ... and likes it.

I just got the best rejection letter of my life.

Why should this make me happy? Because a writer's life is filled with form rejections, little slips of paper or single-paragraph emails, as immovable as brick walls.

But a personal rejection, one that proves the slush reader ACTUALLY read your work and, best of all, understood it and liked it (though not enough to publish it) is the greatest response a writer can ask for. Except for the ones that come with a paycheck.

Without further ado, I present my rejection from the anthology Triangulation: End of the Rainbow.

Dear Mr. Roland:

This is an interesting flash piece, but we're going to pass on it. While it's a different take on the theme, we felt the story was not as sharp as it needs to be. Primarily, we need a stronger sense of identification with this character - the background info is interesting, serving as part of the metaphor for our loss of innocent fantasy in the age of Islamic terror - but we don't feel her anxiety about the train bomb, nor do we get close enough to her to viscerally care about her demise. The pieces of this situation need a tighter connection and I suspect the key to that connection is through the character.

Unfortunately, we're not certain a rewrite will solve this problem for us. You're welcome to try a revision and resubmit before the March 30 deadline if you like, but we don't want to offer false hope. Feel free to submit another story if you prefer.

Steve Ramey, Assistant Editor

So, yes, technically I have the option to resubmit. Seeing as I have no other stories that match their theme, I might just try again.

For those of you wondering, yes, his critiques are valid. Though (and this is why feedback is so important) my instincts have never been able to articulate these issues. I wrote this piece on commission for an anthology that was never published, a book of one-page stories based on the visual art of Pyropainter. The word restriction (I have over 500 words to play with and still be considered flash fiction) and visual description (I was describing a creature in a painting) really confined my story, but if I let these things go than who knows who or what I'll find on the page.

I'm excited to give it another go and I'll let you all know what they think about it!

Also, for those interested, this editor keeps a blog where he posts his thoughts on his slush pile and offers great insights into WHY he rejects. Take a read: Ramey Writes

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

in this installment, james opens pandora's box

Awesome gifts from our friends over at Cedar Pond! Thanks so much you guys!