Characters need to smell the roses too

It’s not enough for characters in fiction to see their enemies, hear gunshots, taste arsenic and feel the fine blade of a dagger at their throats.  Onomatopoeias ( fancy word for spelling out sounds like meow or thwunk) are terrific, but characters, and readers, also need to smell the roses.  And saltpeter. And rotting corpses and the fishmongers down at the wharf and cheap perfume.

Dead Rose

I spent several hours today adding the sense of smell to several characters across several stories. Duncan and the hickory log in his old wood stove. Geira and the sweet smell of bat guano. Lasse and the not so sweet smell of his own boot burning in the fires of Muspelheim. And Buddy and the phantom scent of his murdered wife’s roses.

Overdoing smells of course also has risk–in the middle of battle a swordmaiden is unlikely to ponder if that tinge in the night air is lavender or milkweed.  But still evoking all 5 senses helps the reader put themselves in the story, not just reading it.

And yes I am also a big fan of twunk.  As in an ax blade sinking into a wall.  Or a neck.  Fictionally, of course.

CR Hodges

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Updated list of paying spec fiction short story markets: February 2015

Too cold to do anything (well, almost anything) but write. In between shovelling snow and my day job running and product design firm, I’ve actually been making good progress on a couple of novellas and also two new short stories, including  a new story about life as a ghost. Here are some new / updated paying spec fiction short story markets, as of February 22, 2015.  Stay warm everyone.

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And if you do find this list useful, come say hi on Facebook, I’m C.R.Hodges.Author.

Updates:

The following markets have been added:

Unfortunately, some have already temporarily closed (seems to be more now to have short reading periods)

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • Bad Dream Entertainment
  • Stupefying Stories
  • Uncanny
  • Space Suits and Sixguns
  • See the Elephant
  • Nightscript
  • Shock Totem
  • Dark Fuse

The following markets have permanently closed

  • Science Fiction Trails

Other

  • Grievous Angel has new submission guidelines
  • Cosmos   has new submission guidelines
  • Shock Totem is open for novella submissions but on a royalty only basis.

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

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Good rejections

Writers are accustomed to rejection. Even superstar writers often earned many a rejection slip in their early days.  Stephen King’s first novel was rejected dozens of times; Ray Bradbury had 1000s of short stories rejected. While I am not in either of those esteemed writers’ class, I’ve personally amassed almost 300 short story rejections (along with 16 wins, but that’s not what this post is about).Rejected2

 

Most rejections these days are form emails, sometimes with an attempt to sound personal “we appreciated the opportunity to read your work, but…” A few rejections are personalized, typically these are the really close but types.  And a few markets seem to provide at least a few words of feedback.  And it is precisely this feedback that we writer’s crave far more than kind words.

As many of you know, I keep a growing list (well over 100 now) of paying spec fiction markets for short stories, including ones I have submitted to as well as may more.  A few markets stand out in terms of providing feedback either in terms of personalized notes and / or some level of tiering (“you made it past the first round but lost in the finals” or some such). The feedback is not always positive: one memorable rejection letter savaged my piece as promoting civil disorder, but any feedback has value.

As a way of saying Thanks to these markets, here are some short story markets that I have received multiple instances of useable feedback from. No guarantees of course.

Keep on writin’!

CR Hodges

 

 

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For whom the bell knells, redux

This is an update of a post a few years back on words that mix us writers up.

If only Hemingway had used that for his title, maybe I wouldn’t have had a character knelling to pray in a finished manuscript submitted to a prestigious contest.  I got got of course, and I won’t (probably) make that mistake again, but then again, maybe I will.  It’s not exactly a homonym, but it’s one of those close-enough-that-spell-check-lets-it-pass nyms.

Recently a fellow writer pointed out that I’ve been using discrete for discreet for decades, highly embarrassing.  Hopefully my errors were so discreet that no one noticed.

As writers, we try really hard to not let our bares bare arms in their bear arms, and we make little checklists of these homonyms (and other nyms):

  • “There, there, they’re there,” said their father
  • You bear arms in bare arms
  • “Nell, pleas kneel when the bell knells,” said Neal
  • It’s its…
  • Hear here
  • The deserter ate dessert in the desert
  • The cavalry never arrived at Calvary
  • “Yea, I said yeah,”  (or is it “Yeah, I said yea”?)
  • Who’s is whose?
  • In order not to err, the heir came up for air
  • Please be discreet about the discrete errors I’ve made
  • Do you hale from a land with lots of hail?
  • A writer must be hardy to endure the hearty laughs at his or her errors
  • Some writers flaunt their flouting of rules
  • I’m writing a book about the soft petals of roses that I intend to soft pedal to publishers (not really)
  • It is not an everyday occurrence to use everyday instead of every day

Been burned on more than a few of these. When I was writing “The Cavalryman’s Saber,” I looked up  cavalry vs Calvary a dozen times , since the cavalryman was not a Calvaryman.

As for whom the bell knells, it knells for The.

Feel free to post your personal nemeses (which is indeed the plural of nemesis, I just double checked)

CR Hodges

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Setting stories

Where do writers get their inspirations for where a story will be set, be it an epic novel or microflash?  It’s easiest to set it in the writer’s own backyard: New Yorkers tend to write about the Big Apple, Texans might opt for the Alamo.  I must admit to doing this sometimes–I’ve written several short stories set in Colorado (“Walking with Great Uncle,” “Along Sand Creek,” and  Gho). But I like variety and I rather deliberately seek out different locales, often from my business travels (yet another reason not to quit my day job (shameless plug, at Zebulon Solutions, a really cool product development company).

The setting for my published short story, “Queen Méabh,”  was based on a trip I took to Ireland with one of my daughters a few years back, where we spent virtually the entire trip searching out five-millennia-old passage tombs.  I’m working on an expanded version, tentatively titled “The Queens of Ireland” and also have a couple more short stories set in Ireland in the works.

Chuck finds a 6000 year old passage tomb

I set “How a Valkyrie Flies” in Australia while I was commuting back and forth to Sydney;

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And Ragnarök Willie, my other great-but-not-yet-really-finished novel is set in Sweden where I lived and worked for a couple of years. I just returned from a trip to Scandinavia, fresh with even more ideas about stories with valkyries and frost giants.

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Of course physical presence is not required, else I, nor countless other Sci Fi authors ranging from Arthur C. Clarke to Robert Heinlein, Andy Weir to Kim Stanley Robinson, could write about Mars (see “Three-Quarters Martian” for my modest entry into that illustrious club.

For more inspirations for story settings, see my Pinterest board on the subject.

CR Hodges

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Excerpt of the week: Life as a Ghost

Finally got in a good writing weekend, cut 5000 words from a draft short story and wrote 2000 new words.  The old wording wasn’t bad, but the story that I was trying to tell had run away from me–I had a dragon and the Chollima (big nasty flying red horse from Korean mythology)  and corporate espionage and maybe world war III going on in a piece that I really wanted to make about life as a ghost.

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Which is not to say that an action story about a ghost, a ninja, a dragon and the Chollima won’t get written someday–through the miracle of hard disks that whole action-packed segment is just waiting to be turned into a campy story, but I wanted to write the ghost’s side of a story.

The idea actually came to me last year when I was interviewed on another author’s blog (shout out to Diana Jackson, she writes historical mysteries on the other side of the pond) about my novella, Gho. While I had written most of that story from the POV of two living characters, I had ended it from the POV of the young ghost.  As I thought about it, pretty much every ghost story out there is about people who see a ghost.

But what is being a ghost like?  Is it scary? Lonely? Frustrating beyond all comprehension?

So here’s an excerpt from what is still an early draft about a lonely, frustrated, possibly even slightly deranged ghost, Hildi, on the occasion of her 21st birthday. Still very much a work in progress, including the working title.

Excerpt:

Life as a Ghost

C.R. Hodges

Hildi Schreiber had been sixteen for exactly five years now, a difficult age under normal circumstances, and being a ghost hardly qualified as normal. The prospect of a twenty-first birthday party at a bar with giggling friends, downing shots and trying to figure out which boy—man—to flirt with was not to be hers. Nishi would take her to the comic book store, the one with real paper version of manga, and then maybe a drink at Sven O’Donovan’s.  A drink for Nishi at least—ghosts couldn’t imbibe even if it was legal

“Hildi, uh, I’ve got a problem,” Nishi Flanagan said, as she tossed her keys into the forest green salad bowl that functioned as the catchall, perched on a corner of the tiny kitchen counter.

“You have a hot date and you’re out of extra-large condoms?”

Nishi blushed. “Not this week.”

Not any week. “Maybe a dozen orcs are threatening to destroy the world, or at least Colorado, and you’re the only super heroine who can stop them, and you need a good ghost spy to learn their plans or they’ll turn you into a toad.”

“There are no such creatures as orcs, and a dog followed me home.”

“You’ve only told me that a gazillion times and Here Doggie, Doggie.” Hildi jumped off of the mantel, her favorite perch, and zipped through the wall of the A-frame cabin in the foothills above Boulder. “Hey, it’s not a Doggie, it’s a Splotch.”

She plopped down cross-legged on the tiny, weed-infested lawn in front of the dog, off-white with patches of grayish brown. Splotch sat on the lawn substitute, panting slightly, staring her in the eye. Singular, for the dog had only one.

CR Hodges

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Updated list of paying spec fiction short story markets: January 2015

January 12, 2015: Minor update, added Bastion Science Fiction and Diodati

As a new year’s gift to all of us writers, I’ve added 20+ new markets to  my list of paying spec fiction short story markets, as of January 5, 2015.  Happy New Year everyone.

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And if you do find this list useful, come say hi on Facebook, I’m C.R.Hodges.Author.

Updates:

A slew of updates for the new year. I’m now over 130 paying markets. Good for writers; better for readers.

The following markets have been added:

The following markets have temporarily closed:

  • Urban Fantasy
  • Uncanny
  • Pedestal

The following markets have permanently closed

  • Penumbra

Other

Keep on writing everyone.

CR Hodges

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