Sweet Rejections & So… What’s Next?

I woke up to a short story rejection today. Even after my ongoing 40+ rejection streak, it doesn’t get much easier to open those emails. I’ve learned that in the preview copy in my inbox, rejections often start with “Thank you for your submission…” The bad news is buried somewhere after the preview, which gives writers just enough hope to think that the future is not set, Fate isn’t real, and Destiny isn’t predetermined. That maybe this click to open will be different…

Today’s rejection came with a bit of a surprise though. Usually I’ll get the typical “Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately…” Today, however, the editor was kind enough to include a line indicating that they actually liked the piece! That’s always nice to hear, and it’s encouraging. That means there is hope yet!

This most recent piece that I’ve been shopping around is one I’ve been mulling over since last fall, but I didn’t want to devote time to it until I finished my novel manuscript. I’m trying to get better at ordering ideas into a to-do list these days, so I sat on it up until a month or two ago.

Speaking of the novel, the manuscript is out for consideration but no bites yet.

I’m not a fan of the waiting game, and I’ve often found that shortly after finishing any piece, when that sense of satisfaction and “new car smell” begins to fade, the need for the next hit starts gnawing at the back of the brain.

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2020 Special: My 24-Hour Holiday Movie Marathon

It’s the first year in a long time where I’m actually excited for the holidays. Weird, right? I’m actively seeking out that holiday cheer to counteract all the B-A-D bad this year. Hand to God, I played Christmas tunes on Spotify this year, cuing those jams up of my own free will. No pressure, and no forced smiles. I even went out of my way to bake bread and cookies.

In years past, I would just look forward to a break from the hum-drum of the day-to-day. I’d lazily skip putting up the decorations in lieu of finding a quiet spot at home to curl up with a book. But we, as proud Americans, have killed the magic this year. All of it. Seized hostage by a ceaseless pandemic, we further entrenched ourselves into two main camps and lobbed barrages of polarizing soundbites and threats at one another. It was exhausting, and in the fog and desiccation of a world starved of joy, I realized how hungry I was for flights of fantasy and magic.

And I can’t count on streaming platforms to entertain me these days…. My Netflix and HBO feeds are all serious dramas all the time. Which is why I’ve put together a holiday watchlist, one that can be viewed in the span of 24 hours (with about 10-15 minutes free for bathroom breaks).

It’s a recharge, a way to imbue my spirit with creative energy needed for 2021. Before you ask, no, Die Hard is not on this list. I love Die Hard. It’s terrific, but it’s not a film I feel like watching around Christmas. These picks are… different, mostly.

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Vacationing During a Pandemic


It sounds counterproductive, and zealots would probably label it as immoral and selfish, but vacationing during a pandemic was the best decision I could have made this year.

With everything going on, with the violence, the unrest, the lockdowns, the battle over the validity of the virus, the wildfires, and the isolation, the world weighs heavier this year. That’s a universal statement, and for many, the isolation isn’t something we’re used to. Paired with the ceaseless bombardment of the world’s ills on social media and through news outlets, it’s enough to fuel a deep level of despair.

In my own case, I often found myself grappling with a sense of nihilism before the pandemic broke out. I would wake up every now and then with an overwhelming sense of futility, as if nothing mattered. I would find myself disinterested in my own continued existence, waiting for my time to be served. Self-quarantining amplified these bouts of nihilism. I worked on my robot novel, which helped filter and relieve some of these feelings, but I needed more.

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Quarantine Catch-Up!

 

Like the rest of the world, my wife and I have been holed up in our apartment since March 21st when the stay-at-home order in Illinois first went into effect.

Overall, we’ve been fine. We wear masks when we venture out into the greater Chicagoland area for groceries and supplies. We order food from local mom and pop restaurants we love, and I’ve been keeping my favorite comic book shop afloat by buying trades in bulk every week. My to-read pile right now is insane.

Plus, I work from home full-time now (and for the foreseeable future). Oddly enough, even though I don’t have to worry about a two-hour commute everyday, I find I’m working harder and longer than I ever did when I was in the office. Part of it is the nature of the Internet right now. Everybody is online more, and since I work for a digital publisher, site traffic and email engagement is through the roof! To add to this, I was promoted around the end of December / early January of this year. I’m now working more in the Marketing Analyst department, running our big-picture email subscriber campaigns. What this means is, I now answer to the marketing director and the president of the company, so I have to throw everything I have at our campaigns every week because I’ll be presenting on it before the powers that be. Frequently. It’s stressful but fun.

In other news, Illinois’ governor plans to extend our stay-at-home order through May 30th. The announcement just came out today, and while I have been busying myself with work, articles for TheBatmanUniverse.net, and finishing another round of editing for my WIP “Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone,” I realized I hadn’t taken the time in the last couple of months to update this blog space.

First off, my apologies. I feel like a neglectful parent, and it’s not because I don’t like this blog or web space. The very act of writing on this platform brings me joy in a way that more conventional story-writing can’t. I can write more off-the-cuff and conversational on this platform. I don’t need to edit as intensively or beat myself up as much for sentences that don’t sound stellar on reread. It’s a terrific way to turn those creative gears and relieve stress. In a word, it embodies the idea of play, and play is what many of us need right now.

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Rejected Piece: Hey Taco Bell, The Illuminati is Not a Frivolous Subject

Illuminati

“Hey Taco Bell, The Illuminati is not a frivolous subject.” 

At approximately 9:32 PM on January 8, 2018, Charlie Daniels, of the famed Charlie Daniels Band, fired that tweet out into the ether. I like to think that at the time, then 81-year-old Charlie was flustered, having been pushed over the edge by one Taco “Belluminati” ad too many, sandwiched between his diet of far-right conservative news and QVC (I’m guessing). 

Old Charlie was angry, scared, and spiteful at a conglomerate that he, assumedly, viewed as upholding the status quo. In his eyes, Taco Bell was part of the problem. It was a fast food chain serving as one of many pillars of the all-seeing eye that subjected the masses and force-fed them into a blind stupor. 

And it was true. Taco Bell fed the stuporous into the wee hours of the morning. Around 1 or 2 AM on weekends, drive-thru lane traffic would extend around the parking lot and out into the street at Taco Bells across America. One could assume that the unseen Illuminati masters were pleased at such a turnout, at such a blind eye given to the real evils that plagued the world beyond the enticing glow of a warm, crisp Chalupa. The ad campaign was tribalism at its finest. 

“How do you get into a secret society where enlightened people are enjoying all of this decadence?” Taco Bell CMO Marisa Thalberg told AdWeek in an interview shortly after the campaign launched. “Well, entry is a dollar, admission is a dollar, so it’s a not-so-secret society.”

According to Thalberg, the point of the Belluminati campaign was to bring awareness to Taco Bell’s value menu alongside fostering a community foodie fans. 

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Talking Myself Off a Ledge About Humanity

Warning: The following post contains absolutely zero facts. It is pure conjecture. Take it with many grains of salt. 

My smart, thoughtful, social worker wife tells me it’s confirmation bias. She tells me that people are overlooking the plainly stated and burying themselves in the nuggets of information that confirm their perspectives. More importantly, she informs me that it’s so very human.

But yet…

I can’t help but watch that video, the latest in a daily stream of videos and bizarre Twitter rants, and think about all of the people in my life who support this man, who consider him some sort of Mensa-level genius playing some master game against The Illuminati.

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Final issue of Literary Orphans (And Where I’m Going From Here)

DominoIt’s been an insanely long time since I last wrote on the blog (over a year). Since then, I’ve been winding down from duties at Literary Orphans. My last issue as editor in chief came out at the end of January. You can read my farewell “Letter From the Editor” here.

In the last year, I reached critical mass. Life outside of writing and Literary Orphans had grown incredibly busy. Work in the digital marketing realm was picking up, demanding more of my creativity and time. I was offered more freelance writing/editing gigs (boring contracts… but still.. MONEY). My wife, Deanna, started her Master’s program, which meant that she would be spending much less time at home and more time at school,  while juggling her full-time job and an internship. Everyday errands we used to split down the middle became mine to maintain.

On top of these life changes, I spent about 10-15 hours per week working on Literary Orphans. I loved the journal, but there was increasingly less time to step away and relax or work on my own projects.

I’m sure every writer, poet, artist, or any other type of creator out there will echo the sentiment that part of the drive to create is a sense of fulfillment at having birthed something out into the world, at the journey of creating from nothing. This is a sentiment I also share, and with all of these extra tasks added to my plate, I found myself putting off my personal writing time and again.

The robot book? I’d edit part of a chapter once a month. That short story I wanted to write? I’d write a couple of paragraphs every few weeks. My many tasks gave me excuses to put off working on the things that, like glue, held me together.

I love Literary Orphans to my core. It’s introduced me to so many wonderful writers and artists, and reading submissions taught me so much about the world and what people are going through. At the same time, it was also the most sensible task on my regular to-do list to cut.

It was not easy, and I mulled over the decision to step down from Literary Orphans for a couple of months before I finally pulled the trigger. I will miss reading weekly batches of submissions and emailing back and forth with the writing community, but stepping down allowed me to reorganize and restructure my life.

Since stepping down, I’ve completed a handful of short stories I am currently shopping around for a (hopeful) publication. I’ve also dug back into that robot book and started editing it again. We often forget that when we step away from a project for a while, the project stays the same, but we, as humans, grow. When we come back, we aren’t who we are when we left, and we find so much more we want to say/change/edit.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of months. Right now, I’m taking it slow and hoping for the best. I know I want to play exclusively within the realms of scifi and horror. I also know that my end goal, perhaps years from now, is to write Batman for DC Comics.

Saying that last line so plainly sounds silly, but I mean every word. I want to wear the mantle and do for the next generation what my heroes have done for me.

Until next time…

We’re all in this together,

Scott

Wild at Heart is Dishonest, so is my Writing

My wife and I watched Wild at Heart recently on a recommendation from my past self. I remembered liking this film so many years ago, when I had first discovered the world of David Lynch. It was weird, surreal, and sardonic. A ride that pleased me but for which I had little recollection of.

On rewatch, however, this was not my experience, and I was a little embarrassed at having talked up this film to my wife. Wild at Heart is all over the place tonally. It zigzags from scene to scene, scatter-brained and without purpose. Many of the ideas in Wild at Heart are perfected in later Lynchian works, but in this package, they’re lost and half-formed.

The end of the film is supposed to tie an idea together, but it feels tacked on and cheap. This wasn’t the whimsical, Lynchian romp with Wizard of Oz themes I vaguely remembered. It was dishonest trash.

When I opened the draft of my robot novel the next day, I was taken aback at how unenthusiastic I was for my project. This wasn’t the whimsical science fiction romp with real-world themes I remembered. It read like drivel. The plot meandered. Certain scenes felt hokey and old-timey in a silent film slapstick sort of way. Sure, there were moments of brilliance, but these moments were rare.

Like Wild at Heart, my work-in-progress felt like cutting room floor tidbids I Frankensteined together. It was dishonest, and I couldn’t find myself staring back at me from the computer screen. I was a little embarrassed. This is what I had been spending so much time on?

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2017 in Retrospect: My Top 5 Theater Experiences

A theater, a good theater, has just an attractive enough marquee to draw us in, and its atmosphere is both rich in character and antiquated. Like any palace, there’s a regality that keeps us alert, so when the lights dim and the show overwhelms us, we’re awake for every second of the ride. The experience is intimate and overpowering, a rush of emotions drowning connecting us while a simultaneous veil of darkness isolates us from the rest of the audience.

It’s a distinct experience you can’t get at home (and not just because the screen is larger). Theaters have a carefully blended aroma of spilled soda, popcorn, and candy. The seats are slightly less comfortable, and you dare not lounge too freely in fear that you might catch the plague from whoever sat in that chair before you. And the sound!

For my 2017 yearly wrap-up, I decided to list my top 5 theater experiences. These are the ones that moved me.

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What I’ve Been Spending So Much Time On: Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone

For months now, I’ve been slowly writing another book. The working title is “Rocket & H.I. 97 Destroy Everyone”, and it’s meant to be as kitschy and weird as it sounds. My aim is to create something expansive and unique that people can have fun with. I love science fiction. I love its unique ideas, its bizarre flights of fantasy, and the pulpy, dime-store novel nature that’s been associated with the genre. Science fiction is freeing. You can go places without having to worry about being grounded, and if you’re lucky, other people will want to tag along.

With this latest project, I’ve been writing by hand once again, so the process has been long and meditative. I really like writing by hand. It forces the brain to slow down and adjust to the physical, mechanical nature of writing, making my brain hang on every idea, plot device, or character description. Frequently I’ll plan out part of the narrative weeks in advance, and when my hand finally reaches that point, it’s not what was originally envisioned weeks before. The structure’s changed. It’s embedded itself deeper in this world.

I’ve talked about my obsession with robots previously. Since that time, I’ve put together a completed draft of the book and have enclosed just a taste below. Fair warning, this “taste” is still a work-in-progress pulled from a second draft. It may not reflect the finished product at all.

Having said that, I hope you enjoy it, and I welcome any comments you may have.

 


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