The Unseen Labyrinth

So, the second short story for my “writing a weird story a week” patreon is just about finished. The first draft is done, and I’ll be working on edits before Saturday, when I’ll be uploading it live and ready to roll. This one has a very strange, baroque feel to it. It involves wooden androids, and ghosts.

If you want to read it when it goes live, pledge to the Patreon here:
https://www.patreon.com/pauljessup

You can pledge as little as a dollar a short story. Trust me, this one is going to be interesting.

Here’s the music I listened to while writing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9RVyEy6SKQ

First story up

So, my first short story for my Weekly Weird Shortstories is now up at Patreon for the subscribers/pledges to view and take a sneak peak at. Since a lot of magazines allow Patreon stories to be submitted, I’ll also be sending these weekly weird stories out into the great wide open, so my weirdness will be an assault on the world.

If you want to read this story (it’s called Fake Plastic Trees, and it’s about gorillas and parasites and paranoia) pitch in a buck over at Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/pauljessup

Writing a weird story every week…

So. Back when I was just starting out in the whole genre publishing scene I spent two or three years writing a short story a week. I would pump it out, submit. Put out another one, submit, etc, etc, ad infinitum. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I was able to do it, and probably sell every third story, which isn’t a bad run at all.

I did it again last year for a few months, and I’m going to start doing it again now. And if you think that’s awesome, you should head over here and pitch in so you can read each story when I’m done:

https://www.patreon.com/pauljessup

I already have one locked and loaded and ready to roll for tomorrow. It’s going to be awesome, trust me. The stories will be about a half an hour to an hours worth of reading each week, and it will be all interesting and fun and crazy stuff.

Am I insane? Perhaps. Will I go even more mad each week? Who knows! Why don’t you head on over to the patreon, pledge away and join in on the fun. I had a blast setting up the different pledging tiers. They read like surreal little vignettes of stories from fragmented worlds.

Topsy Turvy Upside Down

I haven’t blogged in quite a while. My life was inside out, all over the place. Everything was moving fast. Job changes, moving moving between states and back again. But hey, I think I’m going to start back up again. Maybe not the long essay-ish blog posts that I was testing the waters out with for awhile there. Those had some good ones, some bad ones, but it felt hard to keep up the steam, if you know what I mean.

But I feel like I need to at least ramble on at some points. And talk about things that are happening. Soon, I’m going to have a review in a Tiny Letter called Unsung Books. I’m very excited about this. Soon, I’m going to have short stories in a few magazines and podcasts, but I can’t talk about those quiet yet.

And soon, like this week, I’m going to start writing a short story a week and put it up on Patreon. Is it madness? Is he insane? Can he do it?

Well, yeah. That was my tactic the first three years I was writing- it was kind of a personal bootcamp. And I really enjoyed doing it, and feel like I should get back into doing it yet again.

I also need to update my bio and other things like crazy crazy. It’s far behind on my recent publications. Oh, and here’s a link to that mad Patreon:

https://www.patreon.com/pauljessup

These Savage Echoes

So some part of me has been meaning to talk about the time from around 2011 until now when I seemed to disappear from genre writing, though not really. It was a strange time then, I was trying different things. Some people thought I stopped writing all together.

The answer is sort of true, yet not. I was trying lots of different styles and modes of writing. I think that’s how we improve, in a way. I spent a few years focused only on poetry and nothing else. Poetry, after all, is where I got my start. My first professional publication in the 90’s were poems to various magazines and newspapers. I also wrote some plays (a one act that got locally produced, etc, and one that won some local awards but wasn’t put on), which was also where I had originally gotten my start. Plays and poems.

I also acted for awhile, also local theater stuff. I enjoyed it. It was nice to return to those strange formative years where my writing was smaller, personal, more incandescent. I also read a lot. A lot of genre theory. Some classics. I read a lot of literary fiction as well, and yes, some random bits of genre here and there. It may have seemed like I disappeared, but really I was just elsewhere doing other things.

I also worked on some novels, and had one or two short stories published. One or two new ones, that was. I had a lot of reprints through the years, most of them coming from my print collection Glass Coffin Girls (published by the amazing PS Publishing). But I did write new shortstories, just not as much as I used to. They were startlingly strange now. Moving in a different direction. Some noir, some crime fiction, some magical realism. It was a nice break. Writing poetry and plays helped in other ways, too. It helped me with sentence structure, with dialogue.

I also wrote probably the best poem I have to write. I’d spent five years writing it, maybe even longer. It said a lot of things I’ve been meaning to say in poetry. It got published in Interfictions– this was All the Houses on Sesame Street Are Haunted Houses. I realized afterwards that I had nothing else to say in poetry. That I had done it, and done it perfectly, and could not top that.

Really, I think this was an important period for me as a form of exploration. Of finding out what I liked and what I didn’t like, and how different narrative forms worked. I meddled around with podcasting again, and near the end of 2015 or so I got back into genre fiction (SF/F/H) once more.  I restarted Grendelsong magazine, and flew through the center core of it all. I got a shortstory published again in a genre market. I’m  just not the fireball of short fiction now, as I had used to be. Which, I’m okay with. Sort of. I miss being everywhere, all the time.

I move slower now, larger with my words and worlds. I tend to reach towards longer things, creating a complete immersion in the writing. Novels and novels and more novels. Hitting towards some secondary world I see just out of my sight. Novel writing is completely different in form than short stories and poems and plays. It’s length and size are gargantuan, leviathan, you could be swallowed alive inside of it.

So I’m not seen as much because of that. This focus on novels keeps me from writing a short story every week, as I had before. It keeps me from appearing all over the place, as I had before.

I can see why a lot of shortstory authors who make the jump from the lesser, intricate form of shortstories to the larger, messier, hungrier form of novels seem to evaporate and fade away. The words themselves become complex. The worlds overshadowing everything. There is a complexity, a performance and anxiety, and a fear of getting lost in the woods and devoured by the chapters. You can’t just string together stories, you can’t just try and make the shorts longer and longer, bloating them into being.

You also can’t approach plot the same way. Purpose the same way. Even characters the same way. One could propose that scenes and chapters play out as short stories, and then it’s all connected together. One could also say that a necklace is made of stardust and vinegar. It becomes a messy, incoherent shadow text. One that does not survive the fires of edits.

It is a complex thing. Moving from one station to the next. Drifting between the forms like a wraith. You experiment, you prod, you try and gather purchase. All the way, you are attempting the truth of the medium, of all fictive mediums: that voice inside of you. What are your strengths? What are you shadows? How do you pursue the best you?

Writing is an act of self-discovery. It’s one thing you don’t hear about much. You hear about gauging the market, chasing fads. How to promote yourself, create a brand of your own style. But that’s not really it, is it? It’s not the truth of it. An undertaking like constructing a novel is like building a cathedral of selfhood. It may never be completed. It may never be found all the way. It’s gigantic, it’s huge. It smothers you in your sleep.

The only way to survive is to plunge further into yourself. You need to dredge from the depths of identity the truth of the matter. It is a constant process. It shouldn’t be what plot plan am I going to follow? What structure suits this best? But rather, where am I going, and where have I been? That’s not to say you don’t need a map. Just know that all maps are unfinished things. Maybe architecture is the wrong allegory. Maybe it’s spelunking. Maybe it’s cave diving.

Maybe it’s you in the dark with a light made of words, fishing around in unexplored places. Everywhere you see bits of a mirror scattered into the shadowlands. It is yourself. Finding tiny bits of who you are in everything. That’s what makes a novel unique, important, worth reading. It is not the things you take from everywhere else, it is what you bring to it. How you build a new you out of words and phrases and paragraphs. How to construct a new you out of plots and structures and tombs. You may turn the cliche up and down. You may scavenge the works of others, and hold them up as shiny bits showing the parts of you that are savage echoes of identity.

That is what will take this work and make it spit and flicker and shine. Though the path is a rough path, I discovered. It does boil down to one thing, is it a true path? I guess so. Maybe. I’m not sure, there are still caverns down below I need to explore.

But that’s not to say there isn’t a fear here. With each construction and demolition, you wonder if this is it. The trajectory you had been on grows cool and distant. You think of all the possibilities you had let slide. Will you just become another shadow to be burned out in the dark? You look over a million Best Of books from decades ago, and realize you only recognize one or two names if any. All of these Best Of’s, all of these Amazing Writers are now gone. Footsteps in time. Metronomes lost and forgotten.

A heartbeat whispered in the dark. Do you want to be like that, lost and forgotten in the pages of some old book? Some book that will cry out and cough once and then disappear? What will be left of this all, after the dying and the dead make their way? How can I leave a mark in the dark if the lamps have been shattered?

There, a whisper again. Another new idea. Keep forging onward, keep forging inward. You need to keep going, I think that’s the truth of it. Stopping is the sickness. Stopping will never accomplish anything. Find excitement in the everyday. Avoid the annoying buzzes of the whispering flies of anxiety. Instead sacrifice all thought, push out all theory. Keep rushing forward to what only could be something…something…something.

Maybe a jigsaw of who I was in the moment of making. Piece it all back together. Keep the fire floating, the flames burning brightly. Don’t give into the panic fear of the Tent Pole books and movies and television shows. Don’t sit down and try to chase something else, something other, something they say you should chase. Stand tall with bleeding limbs and demand for something else. Something that no one knew was necessary, but there it was. Broken heart shaped puzzle pieces. Memories mapped and discarded.

Don’t let the world eat us empty and forgotten. That is for the dust and nothing else.

Nothing is more frustrating than words

Words words words damnit words. I’m in one of those moods, one of those foul moods where the words just won’t do as they’re told and instead of working together into nice sentences and paragraphs they are rebelling against me. They make messes on my page, and when I’m done with them I want to scream and throw my home laptop across the room and then maybe jump up and down on its glittering electronic insides.

Nothing will put me in a sour mood faster than when my writing isn’t taking off and singing beneath my fingers. When it’s klunky and stumbling, and everything just feels wrong. I hate that. I can’t stand it. I rewrite and rewrite and it’s still wrong. And I swear and howl and scream again and again.

I can’t seem to get those words to figure together just right. Bad jigsaw words. Terrible horrible sentences structures. After awhile sentences stop making any damned sense. How do commas work again? What is this word doing here? Why did I splice this and not split into two sentences? How many ands ands ands ands ands does this all have, does all of this have right now?

Words shouldn’t do this to me, but they do, right there, look at that. I find some perfect idea, that complete and pristine idea, and when I sit down and just start trying to type towards it shadows fall against the words. And then the words flicker, burn out, and become shadows themselves.

I tell myself to stop overthinking it, to stop rewriting it, to just let go and let it all form together. You can edit it later, just take out parts. And then I go and do that, and then that whole piece feels wooden. The writing is like cardboard characters cut out and waltzing around. It doesn’t make sense, none of this works.

I want to set the dictionary on fire and devour the ashes. Maybe then I can burn up those words in my throat and spit them out and they will be perfect words. Those words I’m looking for so much, digging down below the ground and pulling up. Maybe I need to just stop this and work on something else for a little while. Maybe. Maybe a million things.

But there are such good parts here, and when the writing works! Oh! When it works it sings! And you can see it singing! A lark, a nightingale, over in the corner of our world, singing so wonderfully. And I think to myself, yes, this is it. This is perfect.

There is no greater feeling then the writing works and everything feels right. It’s amazing. It doesn’t happen often, or even last when it does happen. Some of that shine rubs off, for certain. Buy the sheer joy of it all when it’s not a struggle? Oh, that is an amazing feeling. It’s like dancing with words on a page. You feel whole again.

Until that next time you find the struggles of the words again. And it becomes painful. Words like teeth pulled from your raw and bleeding gums. Bringing rage and pain and misery. The only way to stop it is to step away and read maybe, or work on something else.

But you know it’s waiting for you, right there, watching you as you sleep. It wants to pounce and devour you. Pushing you into the rage of all hours.