Category Archives: Atlas Shagged

I know where I’m going (#SFWApro)

While I’ve been calling the current draft of Southern Discomfort my “next to last” I’ve been a little fuzzy in my head on how to make that happen, or even what exactly I meant by that. For some reason this week clarified things a lot.

Working on the rewrite for the first couple of chapters I suddenly understood exactly what I meant: I want to finish this draft ready to print it out and give it the final, hard-copy proofread every story of mine gets (though not right away, I’ll need a break so I can see it clearly). Which is a big job, but I’m ready to get this sucker done and move on.

To make it happen, I have to rewrite every chapter until I’m satisfied, no fixing it next draft. If I discover a problem, I fix it. If I realize in Chapter 10 that Chapter 2 has to change to foreshadow things, I make the change, then go on. If I come up with a “hmm, that might be neat” idea, I try it, or discard it, and keep writing. For example I’ve added one bizarre event at the start of the book that I’d kept for mid-book. If I discover a few chapters in that it raises too many problems, I fix it. Likewise, I made FBI agent Drake into Agent Dini, a guy from northern Italian stock. The north has a history of looking down on Sicilians like Maria, so that should juice up some of the FBI scenes. If it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

I got about 7,500 words on this draft done, which is good but not that amazing — the early chapters are the ones that need least editing and fixing. But I’m pleased with the results. I did not get to replotting on the remaining chapters; having taken Monday off, I only had a four-day week. I’m glad I took the break though — I felt incredibly refreshed Monday (in case you’re wondering it was a quiet weekend at home, though TYG and I did go out bicycling).

I got several more articles done for Leaf and submitted a revised proposal for the Space Invaders book. I also submitted my next Screen Rant, but as usual it’s not out yet. I started turning Atlas Shagged (which is also available via Apple Books) into a paperback, but I haven’t finished the process yet.

Once again, no short story work and also no Undead Sexist Cliches.

Still, I think I’m pretty pleased.

All rights to image remain with current holder. I Know Where I’m Going is a charming movie by the way, worth a look if you get the chance.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

The Story Behind the Story: Dark Satanic Mills (#SFWApro)

Dark Satanic Mills is the last story in Atlas Shagged to get a Story Behind the Story blog post because it’s the first one to be published. It came out in 2007 in Tales of the Talisman, and I wasn’t doing these posts back then. I didn’t even have this blog—my writing-related blog posts were still going up on MySpace (god I’m old). The first drafts came several years earlier, and in contrast to Dean Wesley Smith’s advice, they were rewritten and transformed radically by the time I finished.

As originally conceived, the story was going to be grimdark before grimdark was a word. A bleak, unflinching look at how horrible life can be and how we paper it over with comforting lies and illusions. I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to start down that road, because that’s not my usual style. Was it some particular horror that had happened in the world? Personal issues? I don’t know.

What I do know is that at one point in the story, the protagonist’s friend quotes from a magazine article that mentions in passing that every guy working in corporate America has had the experience of banging a hot coworker in the supply closet. That was something I’d seen in an actual article about dating and sleeping with coworkers and reading it just made my eyes roll (I do not for a minute believe every man has had that experience). When the friend talks about the article, the protagonist sneers that nobody has the kind of perfect lives the friend reads about in lifestyle magazines. In reality everyone’s just as miserable as they are.

Not a crucial scene, though I did enjoy venting. But then on the next draft I threw in the protagonist saying something to the effect of “I know all those articles are shit, because I used to write for those magazines.” And on the next draft followed that up with ” … which are all the tools of Satan to make us miserable!”

Suddenly it was no longer grimdark. I suppose it could have been, but over the next few drafts it mutated into a chick-lit parody. As so many chick-lit novels involved young women trying to make it in publishing (e.g., Devil Wears Prada) so my male protagonist became Cerise, a plucky Midwestern Satanist struggling to make it in Big Apple lifestyle-magazine publishing. Which is indeed all the work of Satan to make us miserable, hence articles built around Buy this $300 tie and finally get laid! or The high-sugar diet — science proves the pounds melt away!

Suffice to say, things got absurd fast. And I really love some of the little details, such as Cerise’ boss wearing clubbed-sealskin boots. Some details I did not love so much: there was some non-consensual sex offstage that made me a little uncomfortable when I reread it, so I cut that for this publication (I think it was appropriate for the setting, but it still didn’t work for me).

The title comes from an old English hymn tied to the movement against child labor, referring to England’s factories as “dark, Satanic mills.” Photo of a dark, not particularly Satanic mill comes from Diamond Environmental Ltd., all rights remain with current holder.

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The Story Behind the Story: Atlas Shagged (#SFWApro)

The roots of my Atlas Shagged collection’s title story Atlas Shagged unsurprisingly lie with Ayn Rand. Or more specifically the 2012 Atlas Shrugged Part Two film.

Not anything specific to the film, but after TYG and I saw it (she liked it a little better than I did) I joked Atlas Shagged would be a much better film. And then my brain went hmmm ….

TYG had mentioned once that when the Internet was in its infancy, the peopel working for online porn sites were considered very cool because they had the best, most advanced toys — porn sites were taking online payments long before anyone else, for instance. So I conceived of a future where “Big Johnson” Galt is a former porn star who sets out to stop the motor that runs the world — sex.

The story came of Big Johnson Galt and porn producer Ayn Randy came together pretty quickly. Then I read it to my writers’ group, who loved it, but made several suggestions for improvement. I followed them and sent Atlas Shagged out into the world.

The world sent it back. Repeatedly. Some of the responses were our old friend, “not quite right for us.” One humor magazine loved it, but worried too many people wouldn’t be familiar enough with Rand to get the joke (that’s certainly possible). Several complained that what I’d written wasn’t really a story: there was no central character, no dialog and the whole thing was written at a distance, like I was recapping an even for a history book instead of telling a story.

That last one is a valid criticism — I was writing it more like a news article summarizing events than regular fiction. But I think that still counts as a story; I’ve read a few published SF stories that did the same. At flash fiction lengths, it didn’t seem an unworkable tactic. But editors didn’t agree.

Besides which the range of markets I could submit to was smaller than usual. A number of magazines say flat out they don’t want erotica or graphic sex, and while nobody’s actually having sex on the page in Atlas Shagged, I was pretty sure it qualified.

So finally I tried rewriting it into a more conventional structure, using a minor government employee as my central character. But after getting a few pages into my first draft, I gave up. I was pretty sure reworking Atlas Shagged would lose a lot of the humor and wouldn’t gain much of anything. And it’s not as if reworking it would guarantee a quick sale — my stories never sell quickly. So why was I bothering?

Instead, the idea of just publishing it myself took root, and finally that’s the route I went. Backed up by multiple other stories, of course (as listed here). As it didn’t cost me anything except time, what have I got to lose?

So there you have it. I’ll be back tomorrow with the story behind my chick lit parody Dark Satanic Mills.

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Confounded by the Cone of Shame (#SFWApro)

I was pumped when I got up Monday morning.

Once I finished the GoBankingRates article and one for Screen Rant (the Sinister Six one) I could do personal stuff the rest of the week. Submit some stories.Rewrite two, maybe three. Finally get Atlas Shagged submitted to Draft2Digital. Work on a couple of other things.

Then TYG texted me that Plushie had been bitten, but it hadn’t broken the skin.

Then we got home and discovered it had broken the skin — Plush was bleeding on the tail. Apparently he’d run up to another dog which had responded aggressively and when Plush ran back to TYG, the other dog nipped him.

So we spent most of Monday morning at the vet, and as you can now see, Plushie’s in the cone of shame to stop him chewing on the staple in his tail. It’ll be like that until next Friday when we get it removed.

I’d never realized how awkward the cone is — it’s very hard for Plush to move through the house without snagging it on something, which he hates. He’s such a small dog even the floor can snag him if he looks down for a second. It’s also hard to eat or drink anything. This makes caring for him … challenging. And work is even more challenging. As you can see, when he lies on my lap the cone blocks my normal writing space (for various reasons the right side of me doesn’t work well either).

So suffice to say, I didn’t have the glorious work week I’d been anticipating. Plus I’m sleeping on the couch because Plush and a cone doesn’t fit comfortably into a bed with two adults and Trixie (who sleeps down with me so she doesn’t gnaw on the bite site either).

As I mentioned this morning, I did get Atlas Shagged published. I rewrote Angels Hate This Man! though the ending makes no sense. And I got those two articles done. Other than that it was just blogging (which takes relatively little concentration) and odds and ends.

Big sigh. And we’ll probably be doing this next week, though there’s a slight chance we can take the cone off earlier than Friday. That would be nice.

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I don’t quite get cover reveals but as I have a cover to reveal … (#SFWApro)

But I don’t know if it counts as a cover reveal when the book is out. Yep, Atlas Shagged (a parody) and Other Comedies, my new collection of previously published short stories (with the exception of the title story, which is new) is now available from retailers (not Amazon, but if I put it into paperback it’ll be out from CreateSpace).

The cover is from Atlas and the Hesperides by John Singer Sargent, a public domain painting (obtained courtesy of Wikicommons).

The contents:

  • Atlas Shagged. What happens when “Big Johnson” Galt stops the motor of the world — Internet porn?
  • The Wodehouse Murder Case. A mage who writes mystery novels on the side gets caught up in a real-life mystery.
  • The Sword of Darcy. When swaggering barbarian Robert Howard Darcy romances proper Englishwoman Elizabeth Bennett, will his pride and her prejudice keep them apart?
  • Dark Satanic Mills. A plucky small-town Satanist tries to make a career in the world of big-city Satanic lifestyle magazines.
  • Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Clown. From financial shark to clown in just one easy step.

Links are to Story Behind the Story blog posts from when they originally came out. Atlas Shagged and Dark Satanic Mills I’ll cover in entries next week.

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