Full Circle

photo by Michal Dzierza

Five years ago tomorrow, 9/18/2009, I submitted my very first piece of short fiction to my very first market: Black Static by TTA Press, a British horror magazine that dominated the field with its exquisite fiction and high-quality publication (they still do). Back then it was snail mail submissions, and I went through quite a bit of trouble figuring out how to get an IRC (international reply coupon) so they could send me a response from overseas. The fact that I had the gumption to send my first story to the top market pretty much sums up my career; aim small, miss small. Top down. Shoot, as they say, for the stars. Needless to say, my story got a form rejection.

[Some of you might be confused, because I’ve said before that I started writing in 2007. I spent that whole year on my first novel. I took 2008 pretty much off to deal with my dad’s estate. So I didn’t try my hand at short-form fiction until 2009, when I joined my critique group.]

Why am I telling you this? Because today I have a story accepted to Black Static.

I’ve pinched myself several times, but it’s still true. In fact, editor Andy Cox even added me to The List! It’s officially official; my flash fiction story “Hide” will be published in issue 43 of Black Static this November. I’m going to try really hard not to explode before then.

It’s hard to explain how this feels. I’m ecstatic. I’m honored. I’m deeply, incredibly grateful. And yes, I’m pretty freakin’ proud, too. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had other stories accepted to some truly fantastic markets, and I don’t mean to downplay them – but there’s something undeniably nostalgic and fulfilling in coming full-circle right at the five-year anniversary of my short fiction beginnings. And the news has come at a time when I desperately needed a win. I really, truly needed affirmation that hard work and perseverance pay off. Obviously, they do.

Black Static, y’all. Black Static.

*explodes*

Posted in Updates & Announcements | 35 Comments

How to Remove the Label Residue from your Demon Bottles

If you’re like me, the approaching fall season fills you with the desire to get crafty. If you’re like me, you’ve also been saving things all year (like empty iced coffee jars) just in case you can use them for something crafty later. There are tons of neat projects you can do with cool-looking jars and bottles, so I always save the ones I like. (I recycle the ugly ones that have brand names embedded in the glass, etc.) Example: Jack-o’-lantern jars!

Obviously, an expert craftologist like myself is well-versed in the removing of labels – or so I thought until I came into contact with the preternatural adhesive used on Starbucks iced coffee bottles. I peeled them off, but the glue left behind wouldn’t budge. I tried the old standby of letting them soak in a sink full of hot, soapy water. I tried scrubbing. I tried Goo Gone.

But when even the Goo Gone didn’t work, I knew I was dealing with something more. Something bigger. Something… other. Demon bottles! What else is a girl to do when backed into a crafting corner but take it to the Twitterverse?

Pam Carlson (‏@pcarlson001) suggested rubbing alcohol, and June Weiss ‏(@BijouxIce) a razor blade. Michelle Collins ‏(@EmCeeCollins) said she had some previous success with cooking oil, and Paige Duke ‏(@ThePaigeDuke) vouched for lemon essential oil, which I don’t have. Finally, Michael McMullen ‏(@mimcmullen) said it came down to calling an exorcist or giving up. Guess what, folks? I never give up.

I’ve boiled, I’ve troubled, I’ve scrubbed and bubbled. I’ve found the secret sacred combination to remove the adhesive, and now I’m sharing it with you in case you want to overcome some demons of your own. Enjoy!

~*~

Supplies:

demon bottle (empty iced coffee jars)
an unbreakable will
cooking oil spray (I used Pam)
glass scraper (flat razor blade)
dish soap
dish brush or scrubbing sponge
cleaning cloths or paper towels
rubbing alcohol
holy item of your choosing
priest (optional)

0

One thing that I didn’t think to add was rubber gloves. If your skin is as sensitive as mine, those would be good. My hands were so red by the end of this I had to put a blue filter on the photos, so my apologies if you’re a filter hater.

Step 1

1

Enjoy your delicious beverage while you can. Try not to think about the fact that you’re succumbing to a demon’s sweet temptation. Suggested: fantasize about what cute things you can do with this bottle later.

Step 2

2

Wash out your empty bottle and peel off the labels.

Step 3

3

Stare in frustration at the odd residue left behind.

Step 4

4

Perform a brief exorcism. If you’re wary of such things, invite a holy person to assist. If your faith is exceptionally strong, skip to step 9.

Step 5

5

Coat the residue with cooking oil. A bottle of spray is convenient, but if you don’t have spray, rubbing a liquid on with your fingers would probably work too.

Step 6

6

Use a glass scraper to tediously loosen the residue. Pro tip: scrape away from the hand holding the bottle. Also, scrape “vertically,” not “around.” Razor blades and round surfaces don’t mix well; be careful.

Step 7

7

Rinse the bottle, then add dish soap and scrub the entire surface of the bottle with a dish brush. I mean really scrub the hell out of it. Rinse again.

Step 8

8

Dry the bottle surface. By now the glass should be mostly clean and smooth, but just to be safe – and to make sure the glass is as clean as possible pre-craft – use a folded paper towel or cleaning cloth to rub the adhesive areas with rubbing alcohol. Again, put some elbow grease into it.

Step 9

9

Let dry fully. Give thanks to any assisting deities, holy persons, and/or kindly spirits. You’re ready to begin the fun part.

~*~

Congratulations! You’ve just gone to extensive lengths to fulfill a relatively frivolous desire. Happy crafting! ;)

Posted in DIY | 19 Comments

All Gifts

Today I’m going to share with you one of my poems. “All Gifts” was first published in A Texas Garden of Verses, the Poetry Society of Texas 2013 summer conference anthology. Enjoy!

All Gifts

“And speech [Hephaestus]
the herald of the gods put in, and named the maid
Pandora, since all those who hold Olympian homes
had given gifts to her, sorrows for hard-working men.”
           –Hesiod, Works and Days

He hunches over his work,
shoulders bunched
with surprising power,
feels sweat drip from his
straight Greek nose,
hears it sizzle as a drop hits the fire.

Made of gifts.

He drags his leg
irregularly behind him
as he moves
from fire to water,
dipping hot metal frame
to solidify shape.

She will be perfect.

When the fire of creation
has cooled,
he plumps her up
with fresh earth,
a shell of clay,
a robe of skin.

Sent as punishment.
 
The breath of life
washes warmly
from his misshapen lips,
mild with stutter,
gentled by fear.

She… She will be perfect.

And then he must give her up.

© Annie Neugebauer, 2011.
All rights reserved.

Posted in My Works | 16 Comments

My Advice to My Newbie Writer Self: 20 Things I Wish I’d Known 7 Years Ago

1. Get on Twitter and into the blogosphere as soon as possible. Don’t worry about numbers, retweets, or “building a platform.” You don’t even have to actually blog. Just follow all the experts you can find and begin learning. Knowledgeable people share tips in these places that they don’t say anywhere else.

2. Use WordPress to build your blog. Just… trust me.

3. Don’t believe what Wikipedia has to say about word counts. Look up acceptable lengths according to actual industry professionals before starting your first novel. (For example, 40,000 words is much too short while 150,000 is far too long.)

4. Never promote someone you don’t want to be associated with. People take your suggestions seriously. Back-scratching isn’t worth tainting your professional reputation with negative connections.

5. There are teachers everywhere. Find them, learn from them, and never be too proud to take knowledge from someone with more experience than you. Or for that matter, from someone with less experience than you. Knowledge is knowledge.

6. Never feed the trolls. Get negative people and influences out of your life as quickly as possible and as fully as possible. When that’s not an option, kill them with kindness. When that doesn’t work, ignore them.

7. Don’t expect your family and friends to read everything you write. Not even your blog. It’s not personal. Promise.

8. Listen to your internal voice; if you’re tempted to send or publish something petty, controversial, personal, or combative… put it in the incubator. This goes for emails, tweets, blog posts, and Facebook statuses. If you still want to do it after three days, go ahead. (But you won’t.)

9. Don’t post information about your submission process online. Don’t blog about your query stages. Don’t tweet about going on submission. Don’t announce on Facebook when you get a manuscript request. Agents and editors google potential clients, and you never know what will put them off. Realizing you’ve already been querying for two years doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. And realizing they must be your 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th-string choice isn’t flattering.

10. Learn to drop the defenses. If you receive critique that hurts, take a few days to recover, but then go back to it. That’s probably the feedback you most need to hear.

11. Think very hard before paying anyone for any service or information. For example, why pay a company to help you find good agents to query when Agent Query and Query Tracker are free?

12. Learn your market. Seriously. Read every book you can get your hands on. Classics that paved the way. Staples that changed the road. New releases creating buzz. Read them all. Read them now. Learn everything you can about what’s successful and why. Reading will not “drain your creative energy.” It won’t “bias your ideas” either. It will teach you techniques, familiarize you with your market, and make you that much more adept and professional in your fields. Reading is part of your job now. (And doesn’t that rock?)

13. Listen to praise. Learn your strengths. There’s no merit badge for ignoring compliments. Knowing your strong suits can help you utilize them fully; being aware of strengths makes you a better and more well-equipped writer.

14. Don’t let people convince you that you need a “thicker skin.” Your skin is just fine. You should feel passionately about the things you’ve created, and it should hurt when someone rejects that. The important thing is to separate self from work. They aren’t rejecting you; they’re rejecting a particular project. For one thing, that’s subjective. For another, you can always create more projects. Accept the hurt, but then move past it. (It does get easier — usually.)

15. Flex that patience muscle. The waiting never goes away; learn to implement productive distractions. (I.e.: Start writing the next thing. Always.)

16. Give back to the community as much as possible while still remaining productive and focused. Don’t be greedy with your time, but also learn to say no.

17. Writing is important, yes, but so is submitting. You’re prolific enough that you’ll never catch up with your short story and poetry submissions, so submit the best ones as you go. This, too, is a part of the job. No one can read your creations if you don’t put yourself out there.

18. Never be ashamed of your early work. Learn from your mistakes and keep growing.

19. Trust your gut. Arm yourself with knowledge and consider all the options, but trust your gut. It usually knows what’s up.

20. Never give up. But of course, you know that, or you wouldn’t be here now.

Posted in Advice for Writers | 38 Comments