Monday, July 18, 2011

dejection about rejection?

I went to duotrope.com - an excellent writer's resource, for discovering markets and keeping track of your submissions - and counted my rejections since March of this year. A few other writers do this, namely Deanna Knippling and Court Merrigan, and I like the idea. Others may say don't share your rejections, but rejections are a big part of being a writer.

I don't like the glamour flung over writing like a sparkly shawl. It is hard work, and getting published is another thing entirely. You daydream, you brainstorm, you write, you revise, you polish, you ponder, you polish some more. Then you submit, wait, and often get a form letter saying "Sorry, you must be "this good" to ride the published-coaster. And you don't measure up."

That's not how I look at it.

Think of it like this. Every day an editor has to buy 13 donuts for his bosses. We bake those donuts. There are hundreds of us offering them a bite. Now, if you've practiced your craft and let the giddy feeling of "ooh ooh I just wrote something! it's like mah baby!!" pass, and judge your work critically, you have probably made a passable donut. But everyone likes different donuts. And they all start to taste pretty good, so you can't say "whoa, a jelly donut... gimme 13 of those." No, they have to pick the best 13 damn donuts they can find. Sometimes they've had too many chocolate glazed, and yours is a really good chocolate donut, but... they don't know if they can eat another one just now. Or they say, "hey, this is a bagel. We like donuts. But try those guys over in engineering, they love bagels. They might even like this one you made, with anchovies and squirrels in it."

Not to get all gooey feely, but think of them as passes not rejections. They usually say "I'm gonna pass on this one" if they write a personal note, not "I doth hereby reject you, your claims of talent, and everything you stand for. I also micturate upon your Froot Loops, when you are not looking, and then post video of you eating it on youtube." (Except one editor, who wrote exactly that. Her name is Erin, and I gave her a poop donut as revenge.) 

So don't let them get you down. I just got my 16th rejection in 4 months. That's actually not a bad ratio. I've had 13 acceptances, and I have 11 stories awaiting response. Yes, I wrote 32 stories this year. The longest a story has sat unsubmitted is a month or so, because I am waiting for Needle magazine to open up. Normally I find another market within 24 hours. I learned that from Lawrence Block, in his excellent writer's manual, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit. Always be submitting.

You'll get rejected more often, which will make it seem like less of a eagle claw punch to the crotch. And you might even get accepted, and dance the dance of joy.


© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fiction Weekly

Some good reviews over at Fiction Weekly, where Matt Funk liked my honky tonk werewolf tale, "There's a Bad Moon Rising" at Flashes in the Dark. Matt's quite the writer himself, so his reviews mean a lot to me. Check out his website for some good fiction, and he's got a hell of a tale in Speedloader, the first e-book by Snubnose Press (only 99 cents- and 5 more kickass stories come with it).

I've also been chosen a few times for genre pick of the day, for "Van Candy" and "Hijinks Ensue".

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Friday, July 15, 2011

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday.

I'm proud to announce that I've been inducted as a moderator at the weekly writing site Flash Fiction Friday, run by Ron Earl Phillips. Along with Doc Shaw and Flannery Alden, I'll be submitting writing cues once a month. This month's is based on a photo I took on the subway. Come join us! It's good writing exercise, keeps the brain limber.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: The End of Everything: A Novel


The End of Everything: A NovelThe End of Everything: A Novel by Megan Abbott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book was not what I expected. Coming from the excellent, but far more standard thriller The Last Child by John Hart, I was surprised and even disturbed at the depths of brutal honesty our narrator, 13 year old Lizzie, will go. Her best friend and near twin Evie disappears one day after school. Lizzie thinks she saw a car. Soon she is investigating on her own, but this is not the story of a young gumshoe. As she inserts herself into the grieving family of her friend, we learn that not everything is what it seems... or even what Lizzie thinks it seems. A profoundly disturbing look at the dangers young women face on the verge of womanhood, and a story that will defy your attempts to predict its outcome.




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Target, Focus, Execute

McGu, SEAL Team Six Commander Dick Marcinko, and Fat Me
I met former SEAL Team Six Commander "Big" Dick Marcinko at a book signing in the late '90s for his motivational business book Leadership Secrets of the Rogue Warrior. He signed it, "Tom: Find your target, aim, and execute." It sat on a shelf for years. I was 28.


By the time I'd turned 30, I had plunged into debt, become morbidly obese, and given up writing.
I had a decent idea for a P.I. series about a guy named Phil, a heroin addict vaguely based on the alcoholics in recovery by my literary heroes Lawrence Block and James Lee Burke. I might have gotten it published, if I'd tried. Phil was gonna hunt down someone's daughter and follow her to New Orleans, get mixed up with a female cop, and find out the girl was running for good reason. Nothing new, but House of the Rising Sun might have gotten published, if I'd had the self-confidence to complete it. I'd gotten my first publication, "We're All Guys Here," in Blue Murder, a now defunct online mystery mag, after Pulphouse folded. Pulphouse was hot stuff at the time, and when Dean Wesley Smith accepted "Guys," I was thrilled. And heartbroken when the zine closed before it made print. But I found it a new home... and then gave up. I was a fat nothing. What did I know? Hey, I sure like Everquest. I bet there's a raid tonight...

When I turned 33, my "Jesus year," as they call it, I had a sudden epiphany.
I wanted to lose weight.
I wanted to get out of debt.
I wanted to stop chasing unattainable, selfish and damaged women.
I have a lot of issues with my father, but he had died over 5 years ago. I had long ago internalized the belittlement and bullying and had taken to doing it to myself. Calling myself fat-ass. Berating my every failure. Every misstep, every procrastination. I was a complete failure, except for having a decent job.

My epiphany was realizing my self-flagellation was counterproductive.

I remembered what Big Dick said.

I became obsessed with one thing at a time. What made me most miserable? My weight. I went on Atkins, and 18 months later I'd lost 140lbs. I began walking 20 minutes every night, then 40, then an hour. Then I took martial arts and began lifting weights. I'd been beaten up by three wrestlers in high school, and my "tough guy" father never taught me how to fight. He expected it to be natural. So I learned to fight. I'm not that good, but I've taken punches from 6'4" 260lb boxers, and returned the favor.

I did not write.

When that goal was in sight, I tackled my debt. I owned all sorts of junk I had bought for fleeting enjoyment, to distract from my self-loathing. Books I bought, but would never read. I still have shelves of those. I stopped buying books for five years, reading what I had. And I still have many, many more. I became the eBay master. I bought only food and necessities. I didn't go on vacation. I stayed home on weekends.

I did not write.

Seeing myself beat a lifelong battle with lard and dig myself out of debt gave me the self confidence to seek a relationship. I hit the dating sites. But most importantly, I let friends know I was looking, and soon I was set up as the wingman for someone's cousin, and ended up with the girl. We respected each other and didn't hurt each other when we were upset. She is someone I love and deserve, a few years later I married her.

I did not write.

My job let me blog all day without any personal reward or appreciation. I could have written, but I was surrounded with negativity. I found another job where I was valued.

I began to write.

A friend told me about NaNoWriMo, and I wrote a 115,000 word novel in two months. It was crap, but it was liberating. I could write. It was just too big. So I wrote flash. I compressed stories into 700 words. Then 1000. Then 1500. Then 2500, 3500, 4500.

That 700 word story was "The Last Sacrament," which was published in Shotgun Honey a few months ago. Before that, I worked on an even shorter piece, a bit of humor called "Punk Dad Manifesto." It was rejected, so I tried elsewhere. A few days before my wedding, it was published in The Morning News. And they even paid for it.

What changed? My image of myself.
My image changed from a gullible, clumsy, pot-bellied kid who embarrassed his father to someone who could focus on a goal and chase it down like a vengeful water buffalo bent on goring the hunter who'd shot off its left butt cheek. I started small and focused on one thing at a time.

Big Dick had been right.

You don't "Change your life." That's a monumental task. You focus on one duck at a time, and knock the little feathered bastards down. Eventually, you'll find your life has changed. You've become a duck slaughterer. People will ask how you find the time. The motivation. The energy, to put the damn game controller down and DO IT.

Walk tall, and carry a Big Dick.

Target, focus, execute.


I'm not writing this to brag. A good friend of mine is plagued with similar self-doubt and feels the quicksand of many problems holding them back, so I wrote this on their blog. And it felt like something worth sharing. Another good friend repeated the adage that 99% of life is showing up. I mocked it at first, but when opportunity knocks, you'd best be answering.

Hey, there's a writing contest. Join it.
Hey, there's an open call (in my case it was the Munchmobile) ... show up.
Get busy livin' or get busy dyin', like Red says.



© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Sunday, July 10, 2011

someone's about to get...Beat to a Pulp


My story "A Glutton for Punishment" appears today in the great BEAT TO A PULP magazine. Very proud to be among the many great writers David Cranmer and crew have chosen to appear there. I'd also like to thank my friend Peter V. Dell'Orto, whose first Shooto match I attended, and my friend and teacher Phil Dunlap of Advanced Fighting Systems for inadvertently assisting with this story.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

good press!

I got my first review today... at least one that wasn't in the comments section. R. Thomas Brown is a writer who also reviews pulp and crime fiction on his blog here. Today he reviewed "Bless her Heart," my short story of roses and revenge that appeared on Thrillers, Killers 'n Chillers last week (link is to the right, if you missed it).
Check out Mr. Brown's blog, he's been reviewing the Beat to a Pulp Round One collection and the Collateral Damage e-book by the writers of Do Some Damage. If you've been on the fence about either, he'll give you the skinny on each individual story. He also writes stories of his own: Amazon author page.
If you read the review, you'll see he doesn't pull any punches... he says whatever the pluck he wants!
I'm glad he liked the story, I didn't get as many comments as I hoped from, TKnC's large readership, who might have not realized how chilling old ladies can be.

© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Out There Bad

Out There BadOut There Bad by Josh Stallings

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


More from the king of bad-ass. I enjoyed Stallings' first novel, Beautiful, Naked & Dead but the sequel tops it in every way. Moses McGuire is in more trouble, has more firepower, more friends, and a lot more on the line. Stallings always takes us places no one would walk alone, but this time he goes further and shows us the naked truth of strip club life. Ex-con Marine Mo McGuire drags us kicking and screaming to the dark side and pays back the scum who've hurt his friends. This is one you won't be putting down until it's done.



View all my reviews


Disclaimer: I'm friends with Josh on twitter, but this book really impressed me. His first, Beautiful Naked & Dead, was a balls-out thrill ride, but in this one he's raised the bar considerably. Moses McGuire fleshes out beyond a bad-ass and goes places we never expect the hero of a suspense novel to go. Josh makes a moral stand that makes me compare him admirably to my hero Andrew Vachss, and does it with art and panache. I told readers to get in on the ground floor when I read his first book, that he is going places, and less than a year later Josh is there, and climbing higher.








© 2011 Thomas Pluck

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thrilled, Killed 'n Chilled

My short story "Bless Her Heart" appears in Thrillers, Killers 'n Chillers today. Drop by and check out this classic blog full of... thrills, kills and chills! Crime, suspense, horror. They got it all. Thanks to Col Bury for liking the story. He's quite the writer himself.



© 2011 Thomas Pluck

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All writing © 2011 Thomas Pluck and may only be reprinted with express written permission of the author. You may link to pages at will. If you wish to repost anything on your website you must contact Thomas Pluck using the contact form. Thank you for your cooperation. -Robocop