Category Archives: Jesse’s World

Oscillating between forms of expression

I finally told myself that it’s okay to have nice guitars and equipment for playing and recording music. My gift to myself these holidays was two electric and one acoustic guitar, rebuilding what I had before I moved across the country and felt it necessary to sell all my guitars about eight years ago. I don’t play every day, but it is nice to have another form of expression that I can turn to when I need to move my writing into my subconsciousness for a while.

Any form of expression can and will help other forms of expression. Some people who write like to paint or to draw, even though they think they’re not any good at it. I have been writing music for well over 20 years, and it’s only been recently that I decided to tell myself that it’s okay to have nice guitars even if music isn’t my main drive. For years I was convinced that I couldn’t play nice instruments because I didn’t give my music the same attention I gave my writing. I’m really glad I’m finally over that.


We launched Proton Reader a little earlier than the new year, which is something we both wanted to do anyway. The “professional” inside me wanted to plan out a whole campaign to generate buzz, but at the end of the day we are doing this as our own art project and to use our resources to provide another venue for folks who write like us to be published, so we opted for a soft launch and will be done with it. Sami is going to be taking care of all submissions and I’ll be taking care of, well, everything else–including designing the cover!

Our first issue will be going out April 1st, 2022, and will be Issue #1 (April, May, June). Our aim is to publish no less frequently than every quarter, and even without counting contributions from sales, we should be able to increase our per-word rate steadily over the next three years. I’m very excited to do this, as I’ve always had a foot in publishing and running this kind of enterprise. That both my wife and I care deeply enough about this genre and this practice that we are fine with this being a not-for-profit thing we do together is icing on the cake.


I’ve got several stories in the works at the moment, and updating this site throughout the month has taken a backseat in terms of priorities. I actually think that’s a good thing. During months were I have more time off of my work obligations, my brain shifts over to writer mode and I can focus on my fiction and storytelling. When I’m working 40+ hours per week, this place serves as a kind of transitory experience for my subconsciousness to allow me to write without having the pressures of storytelling. For this reason, I highly recommend that other writers do what I do here: commit yourself to writing a blog/online journal, publishing no more or less frequently than once per month.

In January I’m looking forward to finishing two more short stories and getting them in the submission grinder. I’ve got three completed ones that I’m not too thrilled about, that I will probably end up just releasing here on this site for free. On the other hand, there might be value is me keeping them to myself as “trunk” stories, reminding me of how far I’ve grown as a writer just in these past few years of dedicating myself more to the craft.

-J

The one where I was submitting for six months before my first acceptance in a SFWA market

I was looking back at my posts and noticed that I’ve passed the six-month mark for posting one post on the first of each month. Neat! It serves as evidence for my personal hypothesis that small, easily achievable goals help to build discipline and confidence. I tell myself that I will publish at least one paragraph here on the first of each month, and since starting a little over half of a year ago, I’ve managed to stick to that goal.

A couple weeks ago I got my first acceptance letter from a SFWA market for a short story I wrote. Whereas all my other stories making their ways through the submission grinder have accrued a handful of rejections each, this one was only rejected once. Interesting! You just never know which ones will shine and which ones will fade into the background. What I really am enjoying about writing short stories is that they are self-contained units of expression and, even if they don’t get picked up, I can still be proud of myself that I finished them and ultimately package them up into an anthology.

When I first started writing, I thought I would have to make huge space operas with dozens of characters and multiple competing plot lines. I did that with Burrow, and wrote about 75% of the sequel before I realized something about myself: my brain moves so quickly from topic to topic that it’s hard for me to want to stick with the same story for more than a few months. With children, a house full of plants, a dynamic life, and a full-time job, it’s hard to keep coming back to the same story over and over again for months on end when my brain wants to ebb and flow through different emotions and expressions. Short stories have given me that vessel. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.


Sometimes I like to do the thing I’m not supposed to do and go reading through the critical reviews on my books. One aspect of Amazon reviews in particular that I enjoy is how they put your most positive and most critical reviews side-by-side right at the top of the review section. I like doing this because it forces me to reconcile with the fact that there will always be people who don’t like the way I write or what I write about. In the end, the only thing that matters is that I enjoy doing what I do, otherwise I don’t truly love doing it. Otherwise, what’s the point in writing when I could be doing something else that makes me feel fulfilled?

I’ll often think back to a project I was working on called Coping with Creativity, in which I largely do the same thing that I’m doing here. Maybe this place is the next iteration of that energy. Maybe this is Chapter 2 of a Volume of my Life entitled, “The Outward Expression of Non-Perceivable Inner Vibrations.” I’m not really sure. What I do know is that I’ve managed to stick to posting here once per month so far, and in doing so, I’ve been able to consistently add new words to stories yet to be published. That’s really exciting for me, because it’s taken a lot of big changes in my mental and emotional life to get to where I am right now at the moment I am typing this.

I have my head down and my nose to the grindstone (does anyone still say that, anymore?), and I can feel this momentum building and sustaining, but I’m so afraid that if I stop to recognize it for just a moment that I will have missed an opportunity to solidify it even more. Maybe growing up is learning how to admit to yourself that you’ll never be able to do everything you want to do, so it’s important to spend time doing something you want to do.


This whole month has been one of change. I suppose every month can be said to be that. When I started this month’s post (the first section) I was frustrated with where two novel projects of mine had gone–specifically, nowhere–and was finding comfort back in the clear limits of my short stories. The truth of the matter is that I am not done writing novels, it’s just that, for now, I have an enormous amount of short story ideas I need to get out before I can get back into the rigorous plotting and design of a good novel.

When I finished Evolved, I was really proud of myself for getting to a state where I can say the book is “done.” The story isn’t done, though, which was by design; the Special Projects and Intelligence Division Emergency Response (SPIDER) Unit was built around this idea of “monster-of-the-week”-style storytelling, with overarching “season” plots with weaving narrative arcs inspired by Doctor Who and all the other stories I grew up with. The second book is ready for a Big Rewrite (the second stage of a book after Loosely Put Together Draft™), but I needed a break from the confines of action-oriented writing to explore some more cerebral literary expressions of the stories in my head.

What I’m really excited about is how these new muscles will make writing my longer works different. Writing–and, I can’t emphasize this enough, finishing short stories 2k – 20k in length) has fundamentally changed my approach to writing. Whereas before I was constantly feeling like I was falling behind and unable to catch up to some arbitrary and self-imposed measure of “doneness,” feeling that closure that comes from completing a good story well told over and over again helps to emphasize that this is not about the destination. This is about the journey. I forget that sometimes.

I love that all writing advice can be distilled to two words: writers write. Everything I have ever read about how to write a story, how to create a compelling plot, how to construct a good story and then tell it well, and how to be a “writer” has all boiled down to just writing words. It’s ridiculous how simple the formula is, but that’s the truth of the matter. Of course you need to feed your imagination, and you do that by consuming and analyzing other art, but the primary directive remains the same:

If you want to be a writer, you have to write one word, then another, and then another, and so on and so forth until you are done being a writer.

This year I sold my first short story to a SFWA market, and have completed half of a dozen other stories. Not bad for having only really taken this seriously for half a year. I’m excited to see what 2022 brings.

And hey, you should be, too.

-Jesse

The Constants of the Universe

Sometimes I think about variables and constants in existence. What changes—always—and what stays the same? Ironically, the most important constant I’ve ever come across happens to be change.

This month, things are changing for me. The last few years of existential reflection and stumbling are coming to a natural milestone—not one that I can articulate, but one that I can feel, deep inside my bones and what makes me me. With proper light and warmth and water, I’ve felt a whole life underground begin to stall and new parts of me forming, parts that seem so much more me than the parts that have formed so far. Whereas these tough roots fit for extreme conditions have been all that I was, it turns out that there have been shoots that emerged—some that have stayed, others that have died off—and the ones that survived the harsh climate of this reality are now ready to take over and begin growing whatever I am into the being I need to become.

I like using plants as metaphors for human existence. There’s something about slow they are naturally, yet how quickly they can surprise you when you stop paying attention for a few weeks. Some can go for a while without water or light, others need it constantly. Some develop rich networks of roots, others want to push out leaves as fast as they can. Look, they shout, I am a plant. This is me.

I can feel a part of me dying off like early leaves that are yellowing and starting to wilt. These were the leaves that helped me survive, the ones that I worked on first. The oldest ones. A part of me is sad to see them go, not because I cannot exist without them, but because they are a reminder that all of my leaves will eventually wilt and die because that’s what all plants do. Eventually.

It probably doesn’t make sense to worry about which leaves are yellowing and which ones are healthy anymore. The roots are established and the environment is finally one that is stable and nurturing. The adult leaves are out, healthy, green. My energy doesn’t need to be in reproducing or rooting anymore; I can focus on my leaves, making them bigger, more vibrant, adding more color and energy to this reality for as long as I’m here.


There’s a natural ebb and flow of submitting fiction. I was walking with my wife the other day and we were talking about that process. You clean up your manuscript, save it appropriately, then get it submitted out to the next market and log it in your tracking system (I just use a spreadsheet). It can be a lot of work of your creatively discursive like me; I try out new ideas, new endings, new beginnings, cut out sections and rewrite whole pages before packaging up a story and getting it sent out again. This process is time consuming and feels like walking across broken glass just to get to the end of a trail where I can touch the sign that says, “Congratulations, writer. You’ve made it. Now walk back across.”

Perhaps it’s my upbringing that has conditioned me to consider the painful aspects of a journey as the ones I ought to focus on. I don’t really know. What I do know is that I have three books published (let’s not talk about how many unpublished ones I have) and about a dozen short stories now that are making their ways through the submission grinder (the circumstance, not the service), so I get to have some say into what being a writer means for me. And for me, writing is work. Constant, unending work. It’s second-guessing yourself. It’s throwing away pages and replacing them with two sentences. It’s finding something you wrote and feeling like an imposter. Did I write this? Was this really me?

Imposter syndrome is real—and it didn’t get any better once I had some well-received stories out there. The pressure to not disappoint readers is constant. (Really, to not disappoint people), and somehow it has become a driving force in my life. I want my stories to be good, so I let them simmer on the backburner after they’re done and several weeks later pick up the lid to see what’s going on. I’ll add things, scoop things out, and put the lid back on for a while. This has, so far, produced some perfectly fine home-cooked meals. And in the end, what is the goal here? To feed imaginations. To give me something to spend my time on and be proud of myself. So as long as I’m cooking good imagination food, and people are feeling sated from the stories (including myself), I’d call that a good day.


I came here to schedule this for publication tomorrow. Usually I’ll schedule these to go out the first time I start it for the month. This month, though, has been really hard. I can’t stop thinking about my dog that we put down back in December. An old friend of mine who had been there for me (along with that same dog) right after a suicide attempt had a heart attack and died. I left a toxic work environment. I’ve come to terms with the depressive effects of the pandemic and that I have no control over how it has changed everyone’s emotional lives. I’m slowly coming to terms with what may be clinical depression and not just overworking my body and mind.

There are lights at the end of this tunnel. The new workplace I’ve found myself in is indescribably safe and welcoming. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am so incredibly grateful and appreciative to now have. When I can turn off my thoughts for just a moment, I can see that my wife and I have never been more close. My kids are growing up and I feel like I’m finally starting to connect with them. And the icing on it all has been an acceptance letter for one of my short stories.

So maybe it’s bereavement. Maybe it’s the change of jobs from a toxic environment to the polar opposite of toxic. Maybe it’s something else. What I know is that I feel grounded in getting stories finished, not just writing for the sake of writing, and I’m looking forward to continuing down this path of taking myself seriously and, above all, taking my writing seriously.

Inaugural Documents, More Short Stories, and the Needlessness of Words

Sometime in October of this year we’ll be filing articles of incorporation for our company. We’re in California, which means we have an enormous $800 annual franchise tax bill even if we lose money that year. I wish this state would consider waiving any franchise tax fees for businesses that make less than minimum wage, because it feels like it stifles the idea of the American Dream™ when you have to pay-to-play.


By far the most frustrating part about my writing process is that so much of it relies on a word processor–and that, by the end of the day, I am so sick of staring at a computer screen that it’s very hard for me to find the energy to want to keep my reading glasses on and continue squinting at a monitor past 12 hours straight. I do try to take regular breaks to focus on things far away, but the reality of my job is that 100% of working from home involves staring at a screen in some way, shape, or form. Thankfully my roots as a longhander has ensured that my writing momentum continues mostly unabated, but I would be much more productive all around if I could just stick to using a word processor most of the time.

There’s a cognitive element of writing stories of paper. When my brain interacts with a computer, more of it becomes “involved” than if I were to simply lay on the floor with a pen and paper. But even then, I can feel all the creative parts of my mind activating, and they do so in ways that are rarely possible with the slew of distractions at my fingertips on a computer. So it would be more accurate to say that pen and paper facilitates a different kind of creative process than the computer–which, admittedly, may be more of a reflection of my lack of discipline than anything else.

I need to do something different, though. I wrote about my process in last month’s post, and it’s hard to change a process like that–especially when it has served me so well. I can do a first draft on a computer, but rarely can I finish one on a computer. Maybe I just need to try more.


Today is the 12th, and we’re about to embark on our first family vacation in over two years. the pandemic disrupted our annual plans to get everyone away from our locale for a while, and the only real “time off” we had was some extended weekends of sitting around the house and balancing the familiar comfort of air conditioning with the depressing reality of wildfire smoke and heat. We decided that this year we’ll head to the beach and not plan on anything else; if we can go to the aquarium or the zoo those will be bonuses, but our focus is primarily sitting down on the beach and just existing by the ocean for a few days.

I spent a few nights collecting all the feedback for my Rust tutorial and, finally, getting all the changes incorporated. It’s now a lot more polished and a lot easier to read, and my foray back into the Rust language has left me with many ideas for a follow-up version of this tutorial. Technical writing like this is something I’ve been doing since the first time I learned about programming; I taught myself C with a book I checked out from the public library during my freshman year of high school, and have been an autodidact in the field of computer science and programming ever since. Technical writing will always be something near and dear to my heart since I’ve yet to find a better combination of my passion for being a strong generalist across a bunch of technologies and languages, my interests in programming language theory and tool-building, and writing.


I have a backlog of stories ready to publish that don’t quite fit the needs of existing publishers. This situation has been going on for quite a while; when I was writing one particular story, I had the idea to break up each section across a whole collection of short stories. The creative goal here is to provide a set of rails for the thematic elements of each story to coast on toward the end of the collection, not necessarily tying things together, but perhaps maybe instead as a means of convincing our subconsciousness of the ultimate immutability of our own narratives. I’m not quite sure, but I do know there’s something going on there.

One thing I’ve come to accept as I’ve gotten older is that my writing doesn’t always have to be so thoroughly planned out that it makes absolute sense no matter how much you dig in and analyze it. With more life experience, I’m noticing that my writing tends to reflect life in a way that invites my imagination to the table more often than it had been with my earlier works. This feels a lot more like how life can be; if you peel back the onion layers of our experiences I rarely find simple causal relationships that I can follow from one end to the other. Maybe this is what draws me so much to speculative fiction as both a genre to read and also an art form to explore. Cast off the moorings of our imagination for a bit, then remind ourselves that this particular experience is still anchored in the fact that it’s fiction — and invite our imaginations after the fact to consider how the story might continue, change, or exist beyond the last word.


I told myself that this would not be a place where I write about my non-fiction/technical writing, but the truth is I cannot separate the forces inside me that want to write fiction form the ones that want to write tutorials and documentation. These energies coalesce naturally, and there is great discord and tension when I try to separate the two. It’s why my old mailing list just for data science and machine learning never felt quite right, and also why my strictly fiction mailing list always felt like it was missing something. I wonder if Past Me had any clue as to what Present Me was feeling when they were making Coping with Creativity. As I’ve crested the middle of my 30’s, I’m noticing that the audience for whom my work around creativity and self-expression was intended is actually not correct. I wasn’t trying to help others understand how to cope with creativity; I was trying to convince myself that it was okay to create for myself.

I wish it hadn’t taken a decade of self-reflection to figure that out, but Past Me is dead and Present Me dies at the end of every day. All I can do is try to get back on the rails so that Future Me has the opportunity to explore the train cars.


I don’t feel compelled to write here at all, but I do wonder if I would get more actual words written if I did. Interestingly, forcing me to commit to a once-monthly blog post has really made me focus on my fiction more. Not because I feel compelled to write about my life, but because knowing that there will be a new post due at the end of whatever month I’m in forces me to remind myself that I’m a writer. And writers write.

I have about a dozen short stories that are in various states of “done.” I’m excited to start sharing them with the world in the coming months.

-Jesse

The Next Four Months & Thoughts On Anthologies

This summer, my wife and I realized that we’re making enough from book sales that we can start using that money to fund new creative projects. One of those ideas that I’ve been cooking up for the past year or so was building a modern publishing company for other sci-fi/speculative fiction authors like me. So that’s what we’re setting out to do: we’re building Proton Reader. Our first submission window will begin January 1st, 2022, and our first anthology is set to hit the digital bookshelves just in time for summer.

We went back and forth a lot about whether we should start a zine or a book company, and in the end settled on a sort of hybrid of each. When we considered only a magazine, we ran into roadblocks like distribution challenges, the fact that a print version would likely not be justified in the sales revenue, and our collective lack of business experience around magazine markets. When we considered only books, our collective publishing experience gave us the confidence to map out a production and marketing strategy that is tried and tested (and the product of multiple sequential past failures on my part), and all that was left was to figure out a development cadence.

We decided to go with short stories because that’s what we both like to read and write, and we decided to go with anthologies because out of all the books we read together, anthologies are the ones that bring us together the most–both anthologies compiled by others and the ones I put together with my own stories. And so Proton Reader shall be a publishing company of short speculative fiction stories that delight and wonder, a home for my own fiction as well as fiction by other authors from all walks of life who are excited to be part of a new publishing space that puts authors front and center. I’ll be writing more about what we’re building and sharing how you can be part of it in the coming months.


The first time I was exposed to a science fiction anthology was Harlan Ellison’s (1972) Again, Dangerous Visions. I remember this book in hardback, curled up at night in my bed around six or seven years old, reading about how some guy was on some kind of acid trip and holding on to his erection to feel safe. It was such a shock to my tiny brain that it kickstarted a whole bunch of weird stories about shape-shifting monsters, trees that grew people, and a man who killed people and put on their skin and lived their lives until he killed again. I wrote a lot of stories that creeped people out when I was younger, but I never really understood what an anthology was until I was an adult and started getting back into fiction.

Recently I finished Escape Pod anthology has been my favorite as of lately.


I really miss game development. I love designing gameplay mechanics and goofing around with editors and code. When I learned about Unreal Engine’s blueprints system, I had an existential crisis about my chosen career path. It was so easy to whip up an idea, to prototype a whole game from start to finish in a weekend that actually looked really polished, that I began looking for jobs as a gameplay developer. (I learned more about the culture at game development companies, and decided that I would only go that route in life if I could control the company, because I would never let a toxic environment like that exist for my creative family; that is such a violation of their trust in you as a leader that it makes me sick).

Isn’t it interesting how when we think back fondly on the parts of our relationship with development that there’s always something about it that gives us the opportunity to reimagine ourselves as having followed a different path. For me that’s game development. It was the first thing I learned to do on a computer, and it was how I got started tinkering with computers. I wanted to create games. To do that, I had to learn how to code. When I learned how to code, I abandoned it to join the military. It’s funny how being poor ensures you only have a few good options to keep a roof over your head.


Over the next four months that are the end of 2021 I have a feeling that life is going to be changing quite a bit. Stay tuned!

Notes from the Grindstone

August is a special month for me because all three of my kids have birthdays. It’s also when they go back to school, which, if you haven’t been paying attention, is going to be a bittersweet moment for a lot of parents because of how the pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives. My kids had to finish a school year online, were quarantined most of the summer, and then had to do their entire last school year over Zoom. We ended up bringing them back for the last week and a half, which turned out to be extremely helpful for their (and our) mental health. From there, summer school helped to rekindle their need for social interaction — something I hope we all can recognize as an important component to child development that was taken away from a whole generation of kids old and young — and now we’re all looking forward to returning to some semblance of normalcy where kids can be kids around other kids.

I say it’s bittersweet because the pandemic has provided a lot of folks with some time to evaluate their priorities in life and realize how much time we spend on trivial nonsense when the answers to everything are most often right in front of us. This past year I’ve been able to connect with my kids more. I’ve taken a WFH job with a statewide startup that is very demanding, forcing me to reflect on what work/life balance means in my world. My kids have fell in love with books and reading and art and creative self-expression. And my wife and I feel more close than ever.

Whether quarantine is a prison or not may largely be a product of socioeconomic circumstances, and I fully admit that I have the privilege of seeing the lockdowns as an opportunity to focus on me. I’m thankful for the immediacy of my time to myself because it really did force me to quickly pursue a daily cadence that avoided nervous breakdown and mitigated the effects of anxiety and regret — the two things that prevent us from appreciating the moments around us.

As a speculative fiction writer, it’s difficult to live “in the moment,” but for me daydreaming about my stories and possible futures is different from anxieties about the future or regrets about the past. It took me a long time to figure that out but now that I’m here, I’m glad I put in the work; I had a podcast called Coping with Creativity that was a kind of self-reflection in the open, different from what I’m doing here by a long shot, which allowed me to flesh out what I need to flesh out so that I could give myself permission to make creative expression a priority in my life. Whether you’re trying to live in the moment more or not, knowing where your limits are when it comes to work/life balance and — and here’s the important part — enforcing those limits by holding yourself accountable to them is the key to surviving the day to day of this reality.


I got a pass on one of my stories that I really like, and although the letter was canned it did eat away at me (as rejection letters tend to do sometimes because we’re only human) in that I felt like there was a better way to tell the story. In this particular case, it actually went one step further: I felt there was a better story to be told in there.

I’ve noticed that, for some stories, it feels like they’re complete after a few rounds of rewriting and polishing and so I submit them. Then later, after I’ve ostensibly moved on to other stories, I’m laying in bed at night thinking about what I could have done differently and how I might change the outcome of the story altogether. Am I writing a different story, or am I improving an existing story? What is improving, anyway? Isn’t that subjective? (And whose subjectivity, if it’s me tossing and turning about a story that I wrote not long ago?)

It’s that regret & anxiety problem creeping up again. Regret keeps us living in the past, and anxiety keeps us living in hypothetical futures.


My writing process goes like this: I generally draft an idea on paper, then move it to a word processor. After tinkering with it and fleshing it out a bit, I’ll set the page to have a large right margin and then print the story out for a hand pass.

Here’s what that looks like:

I do it this way because I feel like my brain gets too distracted when working on a computer. I finished my second novel by hand while on jury duty during all the pre-trial waiting around time. That experience taught me two things: my brain can get into and stay in the flow of writing much easier if I’m using pen and paper, and my personal process of drafting is cyclical and labor-intensive. To each their own, I guess.

I have adopted a system that helps me feel productive, even though this system makes it slower to churn out stories. For me, being a productive writer means making progress toward a story being finished in a way that makes sense to me. I can’t just write in a word processor because my brain can’t reason about a story’s state unless that story goes through various iterations that I can touch and hold with my hands. By doing a first draft by hand, then entering it into a word processor, then printing it out and doing another hand pass, then finally entering it back into the word processor again, I force myself to walk my story through the revision process over and over again. This is incredibly helpful for my brain, and is something that helps me personally feel productive.

To illustrate, here’s the process that Evolved went through:

  • For each chapter, I wrote the first draft by hand.
  • Transpiling the chapter from notebook to word processor gave me my first revision pass.
  • I tinkered with the words a bit more, then printed out the chapters with a large right margin.
  • I did a hand-pass on these chapters, which amounts to a second revision.
  • I then transpiled the hand-pass chapters from notebook to word processor, giving me a third revision process.

Generally at this point, I don’t print it out or do anything by hand anymore. Everything is in the word processor — unless significant changes are going to be made to the story. For example, there’s one story I’m working on that has a small chapter that connects the first part of the story to the denoument, and this is one that I have rewritten over and over again in both a word processor and on paper. I find myself going back to pen and paper when I’ve spent longer than a few days trying to decide how to revise something; I try not to get too hung up on mental planning, and instead focus on the creativity that comes when I am in a deep flow state.

Even though I’ve grown up with computers my whole life, deep flow on a computer puts me in “tinker” mode. I have always enjoyed learning new languages and building little tools and automations. In the last decade I’ve been studying programming language theory and building toy compilers and languages as a means of relaxing while still scratching that itch of needing to tinker. My writing suffers from this mentality, though. Tinkering is great when I am designing a language or an automation, but that mindset lends itself to multiple equally fascinating paths that my stories can take. I think this has something to do with how quickly my thoughts and ideas can be transcribed at the keyboard into tangible words and expressions of those ideas. On paper, my brain is forced to slow down, and in that deliberate slowing down of thought transcription there must be something in my brain that turns the set of nominal ideas into a set of ordinal ones.


The last thing I wanted to mention was all my work I’m doing on a mom & pop fiction startup called Proton Reader. My wife and I are going to be compiling anthologies of short stories into digest-esque books to help broaden the market for anthologies of short stories (speculative fiction, specifically), and I have two side projects that involve periodicals: Proton Magazine, which may be a digital-only webzine, and an unnamed (at this time) flash fiction periodical. Weighing the pros and cons of digital-only or print-and-digital takes up a lot of my planning time at this phase, but the gist of things is that we’ll be paying competitive rates to authors and ensuring a strong royalty structure for our publishing artifacts. Be on the lookout for more on these fronts in the coming months as we eye January of 2022 as our official launch date.

I hope you have a great month, and I look forward to both of us completing some of the goals we have on our to-accomplish list.

-Jesse

The Submissions Begin

Lately and Briefly

After much consideration, I have decided to bite the bullet and just submit to magazines instead of packaging up my stories into an anthology. There are two motivating factors for this:

First, I need to get past the hesitation of submitting my work to places that may result in a lot of future pressure on the creation of my art. There’s a scene in Back to the Future that always resonated with me, in which Marty is talking to his young dad and imploring him to get his work published. His dad’s response is very relatable:

When I say “future pressure,” I include not only the pressure that comes with critical acclaim, but also the pressure that comes with rejection. I wrote a whole essay on why I self-published by debut novel, which can be summarized as follows: I wasn’t confident that anyone would want to sell my work (literary agents).

Over time–and through the successes and failures I’ve faced in self-publishing–I’ve come to realize that the real reason I haven’t gone the traditional route nor submitted to any magazines is out of fear of the unknown. Will my stories be well-received? Will they be rejected, over and over again? In the end, why does it even matter?

If the production of my work is satisfying to me, then it doesn’t really matter whether someone else likes it enough to want to print it. Maybe that’s my way of rationalizing away the work involved with packaging up stories and getting them sent out. It’s one of those things that, at 35 years old now, I need to stop worrying about and just do the work.

When I was younger it was easy for me to write off submitting stories to magazines. What if they told me that I was no good? I guess that would be pretty hard for somebody to understand. Now that I’m older and I’m more confident in who I am as a person (which is to say that I value myself purely because I am an individual, which should have always been good enough but it took me a decade of self-reflection to figure myself out), I don’t see submitting to magazines as an exercise in measuring my worth or the value of my work, but rather, one of a multitude of opportunities to share my stories with more people. Nothing more.

-Jesse

P.S. I ended up finding my first-ever published story. I wrote it freshman year of high school (and you can really tell), and, thanks to archive.org, it’s still available to read

Recommendations

  • Axiomatic, by Greg Egan. A collection of short stories.
  • Escape Pod, edited by S.B. Divya and Mur Lafferty. A collection of short stories.

The myth of the distraction-free writing environment/software/tool/thing

We’ll never find a truly distraction-free thing to write in because the distractions are not coming from the computer, they’re coming from inside our mind.

Instead of framing the problem as needing to repel something, I am trying to frame the problem as needing to be more disciplined. Without discipline there is no output, and without output there are no stories (despite my crowded mind assuring me otherwise).

I have to come to terms with the fact that distractions are an external factor and discipline is an internal one. We often cannot control the external, but we are in absolute control of the internal.

So in short: there will never be such a thing as a distraction-free writing experience. Even if you’re writing in the quietest room on Earth, you will still have the worst distraction of all.

Your own mind.

-Jesse

The Inaugural Post

Welcome to the first ever issue of Jesse’s World aka the blog on this site that I have created to make sure I stop focusing on things that aren’t important to me and instead focus on my fiction! (Don’t worry, that’s the longest sentence of mine you’ll read… I think). I’m excited to get back into the habit of sending out updates directly to folks who are interested. Let’s get started!

Last month I finalized all the stories I want to include in my upcoming anthology The Man in the Moon & Others. Half of them will go straight into the anthology while the other half are going out to SFWA markets. Fingers crossed! The first time I was ever published by a magazine was back in high school, when I submitted a sad story called the Leaves of Summer to SFF.net. While scouring online to find it, I learned that SFF.net is no longer in operation. It looks like I’ll never find that sad story after all. 

But onward to new horizons! This month, I’ll be finalizing a few of the longer mini-novellas for the anthology. While a great many of the stories will be on the shorter side (<5,000 words), several will be in the 10-15k range. I enjoy a good mix of lengths when I’m reading an anthology, and am hoping to provide an experience with ups, downs, lefts, rights, and a mix of excitement and expectation. My goal is to have this anthology complete by the end of the year. I don’t want to make any promises yet, but I do have Christmas 2021 in my sights. I would say “fingers crossed,” but we all know that the only thing we need is some dedicated writing time. 

For those of you who also write, the piece of advice I would like to share is one that I wish I had heard a long time ago: finish your story, get it out there, then get it closed. You have to move on; there are so many stories that need to be written, and we can’t always get hung up on the ones that are already complete. Do a good job, of course, but know when to call the job done and get going on your next project. 

  • Jesse

Recommendations

  • The Forward collection (link). A handful of short stories.
  • Ted Chiang’s Exhalation (link) and Stories of your Life and Others (link). Both are anthologies.