Big Goals, Little Goals (Yes, I Forgot the Goals Bloghop)

Do You Have Goals bannerThis ought to have been my post for the Do You Have Goals/Five Year Project Bloghop. And I was really gonna do it on time this past Friday. But, well…. stuff.

Sometimes it’s easier to set a big goal: ‘I’m going to be an NFL quarterback’, or ‘I’m going to be a rock star’ or ‘I’m going to be a best-selling author like Stephen King or Lawrence Block or St. Luke’. Because when you set a big goal like that you don’t always think about all the little goals you will have to complete to get to where the big goal is even a remote possibility.

And it’s not always easy to find out what YOU will have to do to meet your goal. I mean, I can read about what Lawrence Block and Stephen King did in their early writing days. Only things have changed in the writing world since then. Lawrence Block made a decent living for a number of years writing short stories for the many magazines that were paying markets for such things in those years. Nearly all of those magazines are gone now, and even a great short story writer can’t pay the bills by writing short stories for the one-or-two magazines that are left.

Orson Scott Card won the Hugo and Nebula awards two years in a row, and people knew he was a Mormon who hadn’t rejected his faith. But these days, I doubt a writer who was not fully on board with gay marriage and abortion would have a shot at major awards— even Orson Scott Card is routinely cursed as a ‘homophobe’ and a ‘hater’ in spite of the fact that he’s written a highly sympathetic gay male character in one of his novel series.

Looking at the big goal too much can make us crazy. Or make us believe the writing scams out there that the current way to writing success is to pay big bucks to the latest iteration of the vanity press.

I think for now I’m going to look at my little goals— the little things I have to do RIGHT NOW to take a step forward in my writing. At the moment it’s a short story/novella called ‘Rigord Trails’, a story set on a distant planet, but a story with a bit of a western feel— it’s set on a cattle drive, only the role of cattle is being played by lizardy things called ‘rigords’. And my next step is to find some names for my main characters, and some place names and odd words. So that’s my little goal— for today.

Writing with Scrivener

scrivenerNot long ago I got a tip from an internet friend that the writing software ‘Scrivener’ was on sale at Amazon.com. Since it was at a good price and for a change I had a bit of money I didn’t absolutely need for survival, I picked it up. And now I have to learn Scrivener.

I have owned writing software before. Some of them turned out to be some would-be writing teacher’s method of teaching you how to write the One Correct Way. Even if such software had worked for me, I doubt I’d want to go through that process for each book I wrote.

Scrivener, as I understand it, has a reputation of being useful to real, published writers, no matter what working methods they happen to be using.

I have been watching YouTube videos that purport to explain how to use Scrivener, and I’ve read an ebook on the subject from Amazon.com. I’m beginning to pick up some ideas on how I can use Scrivener in a way that’s compatible with how my mind works.

I’m doing an experimental short story using Scrivener. Well, I don’t know that it’s going to end up a short story. I’ve heard that once Stephen King sat down to write a short story and ended up writing one of his longer novels. I’ve done something similar. Attempting to write a haiku, what I ended up writing was a sijo (a Korean style of poem, longer than a haiku).

Today’s writing work was mainly setting up some background. The story is set on a colonized planet, and the central group of characters are ‘rigeros’— ‘cowboys’ who herd large lizardish animals called ‘rigords’ (REE-gourds).

Getting the rigords to market at the right time in order to bring back needed supplies to get their people through the coming winter is essential. But when the rigeros discover some women and children abandoned in the dust prairies, they must either leave these innocents to die, or not get their animals to market in time to get supplies to their people before winter.

While the setting for this world is taken from a ‘Terran Empire’ setting I’ve used before, this particular planet and the cultures of the main characters in it are wholly new, and so much needs to be created from scratch.

I’m hoping to keep this story to short-story length— but since I have to do a good bit of worldbuilding for this one story, I kind of suspect that ultimately a novel will result. But I’m hoping to keep THIS story at short-story length (under 7,500 words) or at least novelette/novella length. The full novel can result when I’ve written an additional short story–>novella featuring the same main character dealing with the problems created by solving the problem of the first story.

If there is any interest in this blog post, I might share some of the specifics on how I happen to be using it for my story creation process. I think I’ve got some ideas that even less-weird writers might be able to use.

 

Red State and Blue State in the Zombie Apocalypse

neeta-lifeHow will the zombie apocalypse affect American political life? (And don’t let’s get nasty and accuse ‘the other party’ of already being zombies. That’s just unkind.) I believe that the two major political parties here in the US will be affected differently by the zombie apocalypse— partly on a geographical basis, and partly because of differing policies preferred by the parties which would have survival consequences when the zombie apocalypse comes.

First, let’s deal with the geographical. Did you ever see one of those US maps showing the votes in a recent Presidential election in the different states and regions? The reds of the Democrat party, represented by the color blue, are thin little strips on the east and west coasts, while the true-blue Republicans, represented by the color red, dominate the rest of the country.

What the map means is that blue-staters are powerful in major urban areas, while red-staters are powerful in rural and small-town America. In the zombie apocalypse, this has survival consequences in two ways.

The first is that population density means death. The more people, the more zombies, and the less space there is to get away from them. Major urban centers will be death traps. If public transportation goes down as it almost certainly will, if the roads get blocked with fleeing urbanites, most city dwellers will be trapped in the zombie-dominated city.

In rural areas, there will be fewer zombies because there are fewer people, and these smaller number of zombies will be more easily killed or placed in quarantine. A much more survivable environment will result.

The second factor is the fact that food supplies come from the rural areas. When transportation systems to the urban areas break down, the food will stop coming. And the fact is that grocery stores don’t carry months worth of food. That’s why when a hurricane is coming the store shelves are stripped in a couple of hours of panic buying. Stores carry what they think they can sell in the time before the next resupply truck comes. People in urban areas who survive the zombies will face starvation.

In the rural areas, many people who are not farmers grow some of their own food in gardens, keep chickens or a milk goat. Or they have neighbors that do. There are feed mills that can be raided for corn and other grains which can be used for human consumption. The big farming operations may not be able to continue as they were because of lack of fuel delivery, lack of electricity for dairying equipment— but they still are in the farming and people-feeding business. Dairy farmers can start to graze their herds on nearby lands, can butcher those cows that are lower-level producers and share out or barter away the meat. If the milk trucks stop coming to pick up fluid milk, they can start an on-farm cheese making operation to preserve some of the milk for later use. So in the rural areas, people will continue to be able to eat.

In addition to the urban/rural divide, there are policy differences that make a difference. The number one difference is that of weapons bans— not just gun bans (‘gun control’) since laws against large knives and machetes are also in effect. Blue staters are more likely to live in weapons-ban zones, red staters are more likely to live somewhere that supports the right to bear arms and are ALSO more likely to be hunters and gun owners themselves. The more accessible survival weaponry is, the higher your chance of surviving the zombie apocalypse.

The other major policy difference with survival consequences is the big government/small government divide. People on the one side tend to look to the federal government to solve their problems. They expect things to be more centralized. And when Washington DC and other big urban areas come to a crashing end, many people may die waiting for the feds to rescue them, or to tell them how to rescue themselves. People on the small government/self-sufficiency side of things are more likely to do for themselves and their neighbors right from the start, and worry about what the federal government, if any, wants later on.

Now, in this area the difference between parties is not so sharp in actuality. Blue staters may talk of centralized solutions a lot but may still act locally, while red staters may talk small government but want a federal government solution to their really big problems. So this factor alone would not have shifted the balance of power without the aid of those factors previously mentioned.

SO— once the shock of the zombie apocalypse has waned and we start trying to put together a national government again, we will find a radical political shift has occurred mainly because of the differing¬† survival rates of urban/blue state areas versus rural/red state areas. Even with the best will in the world, this will cause some unrest. Surviving blue-stater politicians might get blamed for the low survival rate in their areas, while red-stater politicians who were equally ineffectual will crow about the higher survival rates in red-state areas.

But the saving grace is that the trauma of the zombie apocalypse will have turned politics into a far more local affair. Elections of village presidents and other highly local leaders will quite rightly be seen as having more impact than electing some far-away person to the White House— if the White House is still in shape to be used.

Illustration is the cover of Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator by Karina Fabian. I’ve read that book and its sequel and highly recommend both.

dangerous waters/Getting Poetry Published

Strugglecov

dangerous waters

shark people

wear shark clothes

drive shark cars

 

they

circle

round+round+round+round+round+round+round

 

shark people

got shark jobs

live in shark zones

 

they

hunt

in packs

 

if you get cut

don’t let them smell your blood

Published in Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature, Winter 1989/90

This poem is part of a group of five I submitted to ‘Struggle’— one of my first submissions of my poems anywhere. All five were accepted and published in that issue.

If you are seeking publication for your poems, do what I did then and pick up a copy of the current ‘Poet’s Market’ magazine. But for goodness’ sake don’t start sending your poems out to any markets in the book willy-nilly. Carefully select a few that seem to be publishing the kind of poems you write. Buy a sample copy of the selected magazines and read through them. And be sure that what you send out is among your best finished and polished pieces.

The poetry-writing world has changed since the long-ago days when dangerous waters was published, largely because of the internet. On the positive side, you can look up the markets listed in ‘Poet’s Market’ and get the most up-to-date information on whether they are currently accepting submissions. Some even have online editions of their magazine so you can read some of what they published. Others accept submissions by email, saving you some postage money— important, if you have a poet’s level income.

But the downside is that many of the publications that you may most want to write for don’t published ‘previously published’ poems, and they may explicitly include poems that you have put up on your blog. Now that I’ve started submitting poems again, it’s frustrating to find that some of my best recent poems are ineligible for the markets I most want to send them off to.

As a result of that consideration, my poems for ‘Poetry Pantry’ in the next little while are going to be some of my older, already-published poems. Afterwards, I will have to limit it to poems that I’m not planning on submitting anywhere, or at least not to markets that are that strict about previously published poems.

The poem itself.

At the time I wrote dangerous waters, I had been dabbling in radical political ideas, and been writing poems expressing such views. dangerous waters was not one of those poems, and the ‘shark people’ mentioned in the poem had nothing to do with the standard villains of proletarian ideology. It was more an observation-of-life poem that had nothing to do with politics when written. It is perhaps that factor that makes it the strongest of the five poems I sent in to ‘Struggle’ at that time.

The problem with political poems— or any political writing— is that no matter how bad your work you will get praise from some folks just because they like the political viewpoints expressed. That can be a bad thing for a poet in need of some feedback. I would suggest, if you are an angry young political poet, that you make a point of writing many apolitical poems and submitting them to non-political markets.

To my fellow poets.

If you have been writing poetry a while, and sharing some online and getting good reactions, I’d suggest that you take the next step and try submitting some of your best work to a few carefully selected, appropriate markets. You won’t ever get rich as a published poet— they pay in contributor’s copies, and you will be spending more money buying sample copies and on postage for those markets who don’t accept email submissions. But having a few published poems to your credit is the next step in your poetic career. Go for it!

Shared on Poets United: Poetry Pantry #206

 

Writing an Author Bio: Oh, the Horror!!!

IM001118

My Official Author Photo

I’m about to submit some poems to a publisher for the first time in years— this particular publisher, I submitted poems to about 24 years ago. And now that I’m submitting again, for some markets I need to have an official Author Bio. And, well, I’m working on it.

The author bio from the back of my book ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’ was the first place I looked. I corrected it from first person to third:

Nissa Annakindt is a crazy cat lady from the state of Upper Michigan. Want a kitten? No, you can’t have that one. No, not that one either. And don’t even think about that one there— the one that hisses and bites everybody. That’s Nissa’s favorite.

Nissa’s hobbies are world domination, Doctor Who fandom, having an autism spectrum disorder (guess which one?), and collecting organized crime ties.

This is what I had on the back cover of ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’ as an author bio. It needs work, I’m thinking of replacing ‘Doctor Who fandom’ with ‘zombie hunting’. By ‘collecting organized crime ties’ I’m referring to neckties, which I can’t actually afford to collect.

I then read up on writing author bios and came up with some good advice even though one is from (gasp!) Huffington Press:

Ten Tips on How to Write an Author Bio

Writing an Author Bio

How to Write an Author Bio when You Don’t Feel Like an Author…. Yet

Armed with the information in these articles, my computer, and my new purple Uzi (just in case), I came up with my Version 2 author bio:

Nissa Annakindt is a published poet, impoverished sheep farmer, and person with an autism spectrum disorder. Her poems were first published in ‘Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature’ in the Winter 1989/90 issue and her work has appeared since in ‘Social Anarchism’, ‘HEATHENzine’ and a fair number of outhouse walls. She lives on the land— well, on a house on the land— in Menominee county, in the state of Upper Michigan, USA, with her 35 or so barn cats— Umberto, Consubstantial, Scylla, Charybdis…. and her pet turkey Imelda.

This one is slightly more informative though it keeps up the weird-and-quirky author persona I’m going for. I don’t really like the phrase ‘person with an autism spectrum disorder’ but just putting ‘autistic’ would lead people to believe I had low-functioning autism and overcame that which isn’t true. I would have put ‘Asperger Syndrome’ but that’s been abolished by the government I think. (I want to include that factor because of the weird-and-quirky thing, and also because it gives me credit as a ‘minority’— disabled person— with the kind of people to whom that is important.)

For cases where I need an Even More Serious short bio, here is the stripped down and boring-ized version of the above:

Nissa Annakindt is a published poet and person with an autism spectrum disorder who lives on a small farm in Upper Michigan, USA. Since 1989 her poems have been published in various magazines including ‘Above the Bridge’ and ‘Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature’. She has cats.

Anyway, I’d appreciate any advice on my new bio, which I shall likely ignore in favor of including more weird cat names.

Remembering My Very First Published Poems

Strugglecov

 

It was 1989, and I’d been writing poetry furiously for about a year, and I started to think about that oh-so-scary topic, publication. Since I was in my Youthful Marxist Phase at the time, the entry for ‘Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature’ really intrigued me. I picked out a batch of my angriest socialist poetic rantings and sent them off.

I did not have high hopes. I’d send out a few other poems and been rejected. But this time I got word back that my poems— all I sent for that batch, I think— had been accepted and would be published in the Winter 1989-90 issue.

StruggleTOCWhen my two contributor’s copies came it was exciting to see my name in the Table of Contents, and the cool communist propaganda art on the cover. I enjoyed reading my five poems in the magazine just as if I hadn’t read them loads of times before.

The poems were:

Democracy (R) USA

Panama’s Child, Christmas Eve 1989

The Parttiming Minimumwaging Blues

Dangerous Waters

And What this Country Needs Is a Good 5 Cent Revolution

Most of these poems I know realize are not the best even from among the works I was producing at the time. But I worked hard on them and I worked hard on getting the poems out there to potential publishers, and it paid off.

I honestly think that ANYONE who writes poetry who keeps on writing poetry, and reading poetry, and trying to improve the level of their work and is willing to send out poems regularly to appropriate markets, will in time get at least a poem or two published. You may not be the most talented poet in the world, but you have an excellent chance to get published SOMEWHERE. So don’t give up. You can do it!

 

StruggleInt

 

Aside: since there are so many would-be poets out there, I’ve been thinking of offering poetry critiques/reactions of short poems to interested aspiring poets. I would ask about $5 for a critique (or if you have some recent poetry magazines like Poetry or Scifaiquest or Chiron Review lying around I’d accept a copy in payment).¬† I thought that way I could critique a few poems and get a little money for buying those all-important sample copies of poetry magazines.

A Very Resistable Force meets a Immovable Duckly Object

IM001205

I’ve been getting my gardening-and-poultry house in order, late as it is, and that involves a lot of moving of poultry pens and the poultry that lives there.

My current project is to move my 3 Ancona ducks (rare breed) from the large pen into a smaller pen. Only there’s one problem. One of my ducks went broody, built a nest and is sitting on it rather fiercely.

And my best duck book says that unlike chicken hens, broody ducks CANNOT be moved or they will quit brooding. And I want my ducks to hatch out some of their own eggs!

I can’t keep the ducks in the bigger pen, because I need that to move my plowing poultry into now that they are done clearing some garden space for me.

So— the drake (boy ‘duck’) and the non-broody duck will go into the new pen, and I will take my old, tiny pen and drop it over the duck and her nest, and hope that works out.

The broody duck, by the way, doesn’t have a name yet. But if she brings off the hatch, I’ll give her a name and an extra leg band so I’ll know who she is. My named poultry currently is down to one, a turkey named Imelda. Other named poultry from my past included geese Albert and Victoria, tom turkey Corinthos, and my original chickens, Henry the rooster and his many wives named Catherine.

So, I’m open to suggestions on duck names. Got any?