Whew! 10 years. Wow.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around it.
Today celebrates 10 years of this blog, “Inside the Writer’s Mind.” And it’s time to celebrate!
It all began back in 2012. Remember that time? I don’t, not really. (With the pandemic and political turbulence it seems like a century ago!) But apparently, early that year I was just starting to write again(!) and wondering if it would really stick this time. Mostly I was wondering if I would stick to it, if I would sell ANYTHING, heck, if anyone would read ANYTHING I wrote.
And here we are ten years later. Wow.
First things, first. Here is a repost of that very first blog post. (My blog actually started over at Goodreads and then migrated here a few months later).
[Published July 20, 2012]
Well, here goes nothing.
Please take the time to leave a review. And a big thank you to all of you who have already got it and are reading it.
“Well, here goes nothing!” indeed. Since then, there have been consistently more readers year-over-year. I was thinking of tallying the top blog posts over the past years. But let me just say you guys seem to be very into: Edgar Allen Poe, Lovecraft and Christopher Marlowe. In that order.
Also, I would like to point out the increasing international readership of the blog. For example, just today readers have come from: the U.S.A., India and China. And here are the 20 top readers as grouped by country for this year so far:
4. United Kingdom
14. South Korea
(The U.S. is far, far ahead in readership compared to the others which makes sense to me, being a writer who writes in English and is based here.)
Finally, I want to highlight one more thing: the name change of this blog. About 2016 or so, five years in, the blog was still named “A Writer Begins.” A friend pointed out that after five years that that title was getting a bit stale and inaccurate. So, I changed it to something more evergreen: “Inside the Writer’s Mind” because that seemed to capture what I want to do here: give readers an insight into how a fiction writer creates, makes decisions, and tries to further their career. Hope this has been useful to all of you!
With all that said, here are the seven big achievements these last ten years of writing have brought me.
Self-Publishing a Novel and Novella
Often the first challenge a writer faces is … themselves.
You new writers out there know this. For those of you who are veterans (please remember the old days!) and those of you who aren’t writers—this might seem odd. But I distinctly remember telling myself the mantra “No critic…No critic…No critic” as I started to write. It’s something I still sometimes have to do (but much less so lately).
You see, in those early days, the real challenge was simply FINISHING. Finishing a first draft, finishing revisions, finishing Beta Reader edits, finishing proofing. You get the idea. So, it was no small triumph to finish my first piece of long fiction, The Library of Lost Books. And since that was the time of self-publishing and it was a new, exciting option, I decided to publish it on Amazon as a book. A friend did the Cover Design, I hired a proofer, and an e-book formatter and then, as I got more and more nervous, I pushed the “Publish” button on Amazon and…it was out in the world!
[Pro tip: I published my novel first, then started my blog. This is the WRONG way to do this, newbie writer out there! Start your blog NOW, build your community NOW…Then, start publishing stories and books!]
After that, I published a historical fiction novella, The Man Who Ran from God. The experience of publishing (and finishing!) these two pieces and the few positive reviews they received, gave me the confidence to think: “Maybe I can do this. Maybe I can write stories and makes this work. Maybe I…”
Selling My First Story
So, there I was thinking, “Maybe…” And somehow, this idea about a spider crept into my mind. My wife (Thanks, B—! Love you!) mentioned that many female spiders were much larger (or smaller) than the male of the species. And that sometimes (in an event that seems to contradict Darwinism, but doesn’t if you ponder it) the female spider will consume the male after mating. Well, in my dark mind, this led to a story about the human world and a distant planet with an ancient culture which had degraded. I brought in a visitor to the planet to be the narrator and started to write, “The Hatchlings.”
I submitted it. It got rejected. Ouch. That first submission was the worst! Was I a failure? Should I quit? Who was I kidding with this “Spider story”? No! No! “Turn off the negative voices, Darius! Do it! Keep going!”
And I silenced them. Completely. Utterly. And I resubmitted it.
And it got rejected.
And I resubmitted. And it got rejected. And I resubmitted it. And it got rejected. And I resubmitted it… Well, you get the idea.
And then…one day…It got accepted.
The editor loved it! Loved the “Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars” vibe it had. So, it came out, in August 2013, in Fiction Vortex.
And you know what?
The story won 3rd place in Fiction Vortex’s Readers’ Choice Award that month. And I got my first (non-Amazon) fee for my writing. I was, in some sense, a Pro Writer!
My First “Professional” Sale
Now, it’s a funny thing. The speculative writing community (whatever that is!), doesn’t consider “The Hatchlings” sale a “professional sale.” Let me explain…Quickly.
There are, sort of, three tiers in speculative (SciFi, fantasy, Horror) magazines: Amateur, Semi-Pro and Pro. Amateur magazines often do not pay anything or offer a free copy of the magazine. Semi-Pro offer small cash payments. Pro offer “pro-rates,” that is, basically more money. If you write, you know these Pro Mags: Clarkesworld, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s, etc.
Well, Strange Horizons is one of those Pro Mags. And one day, I somehow, fell into writing haiku. And somehow, sent the haiku out to friends to peruse (there’s some “No Critic” for you!), incorporated their feedback, and searched for a “tough, good” poetry market. Strange Horizons was the first to come up and I decided to send the poem “The King Becomes a Star” to them.
To my shock, the editor loved it and wanted to send a contract. So, I did what any sane person would do. I said “Hell yeah!” and signed the contract.
And so, “The King Becomes a Star” became BOTH the first poem I ever published AND my first professional sale!
I was high on life for a week.
My First Audio Sale
I love radio. I love radio music, love radio drama. One my favorite things to do lately is to hunt down old-time radio performances of Orson Welles. I’m particularly hooked on his work on “The Shadow” serial in the late 30s. You’ve heard of actors “chewing up a scene” a la Alan Rickman in, well, everything Alan Rickman was ever in? Well, Orson chews up the microphone. You KNOW it’s him on the other end of the mic, and Boy!, does he LET YOU KNOW.
So, again on a whim and after some encouragement on reprints from fellow writer Jason Maddux (Thanks, Jason!) I decided I should try to resell some of my print stories to audio markets.
“I know!” I thought, “I’ll send ‘The Hatchlings’ to The No Sleep Podcast and see what they think!”
Well, it was my second submission there (my first was rejected!) and they accepted! Bam! I was ecstatic! The whole “Zakir” ritual I had imagined would be recreated in a Podcast (radio drama). And boy! Did they nail it! The creepy music! The sound effects! The screams!
Something from inside my head had been turned into a radio drama!
I was a published Podcast writer!
A definite highlight and one you can listen to here (for $1.99)!
The Discovery of Poetry
Another highlight, and this one is harder to feel and touch, but no less real…is my discovery of poetry.
Let me explain…For a time I was loathe to admit it, but I love poetry. I have books and books of poetry in my library. I can go smoothly or HACK my way through reading poetry in four languages: English, Russian, Spanish, Italian (more like limping through on that last one). BESIDES these, I have books from poets I admire in Japanese, Chinese, ancient Egyptian, Latin, Greek, Portuguese, Persian and Hindi. I did not realize this until AFTER I had written “The King Becomes a Star.” But there it is.
And out of this love, this something more than infatuation, something grew. And something changed. I put down my pen after writing “The King” and decided, “Well, I should write more poetry.” So, I tried a little here and a little there.
And then I decided to count how many poems I had written. It was nine. Nine! Then, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of them. And I wrote more and more.
And you know what? Not only have I learned I have some talent at it, but I also enjoy the experience of writing poetry. It’s lyrical. I find it more demanding, but also somehow, more enjoyable than prose writing. I have said this before and I will say it again: “Prose is something you do, poetry is something that happens to you.” I stand by that, 100 percent, though I can’t really explain it. You see, it’s me writing poetry and the same time “not me.” Strange, I know, but hey! That’s poets for you!
Anyway, discovery my love of WRITING poetry has been one of the highlights of this 10 year journey. I’m going to keep at it!
I Became a Member of the HWA and the SFWA
Some writers, say that peer recognition doesn’t matter to them. Don’t believe them!
We writers can be an introverted and even misanthropic lot. But you know what? Pssst! Come closer! We LOVE recognition! I hate to say that, but it’s true. Secretly, we crave it. And one of the toughest things to sort out is how to stay true to your vision without succumbing to what you know will sell or that the crowd will like.
So, it was with no small joy that I was accepted, earlier this year, into the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. These acceptances were due to my poem “The King Becomes…” appearing in Strange Horizons and the audio acceptance by No Sleep Podcast.
Getting to put those acronyms on every letter I send out to editors is alone worth the price of membership! I encourage everyone who might be eligible to apply!
PS: The SFWA has recently updated its Membership requirements and many more can qualify. So check it out!
My biggest accomplishment over the last 10 years? That’s easy!
Not quitting writing. Not quitting writing this blog. Not quitting on what I’m supposed to do.
It hasn’t always been easy. Quitting is always the easiest option. Always. And putting in the work is always hard, always takes focus and effort. So, inertia would naturally guide you to quit, to stop. To give up and walk away.
But week after week, month after month, writing day after writing day…I’ve picked up the pen, tuned out the negative voices and put in the work. And that’s how you get all the flashy stuff in the other big accomplishments listed here. But generally, people, just want to focus on the flash.
To indulge in sport’s metaphor…They want to see the scoreboard, the dunk at the end of the championship, the party bus strolling down Main Street. They want to forget the guy sweating in the cold gym on weekend mornings while everybody else is home sleeping.
But you know, In the end, it’s that hidden stuff that makes champions. Whether it’s wind sprints on a gym floor or a guy tapping at his keyboard (or smartphone) in the dead of night. So, in the end, that’s why not quitting (or keeping going!) is my number accomplishment these last 10 years.
And boy, am I proud of it!
New Poem to Be Published
If my math’s right (and it’s usually not!) 10 years is 120 months. And 120 months of writing, editing, submitting, it has been. In only a few of those months have I been able to celebrate with an acceptance—and this is one of them!
A new, short poem of my mine “The Darkness” will be published in Star*Line Magazine later this year. It’s the official magazine of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. The editor liked it and decided to pick it up. I will have more details here on my “About” Page and on my Twitter feed when it’s published!
It’s a poem about darkness, but also light. The hidden light around and within us. Because that’s what poets write about!
It seems a fine little capstone to 10 years of writing. A new piece published in (for me) a new medium!