Two New Paintings by Tylor James

Here are two new, subversive paintings for your viewing pleasure. Had a great time painting these last night. Albums I listened to while painting: Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia, The Velvet Underground, and Leonard Cohen’s Thanks for the Dance.

Title: “It’s Three A.M. Again”.

Acrylic on canvas.

Three AM Again - Tylor James

 

Title: “The Years Have Not Been Kind”

Acrylic on canvas.

The Years Have Not Been Kind - Tylor James

Badly Written Stories Are Your Friend & More —- The Writing Life!

Greetings, and welcome to The Writing Life! In this week’s article, we’ll be discussing the importance of believing in one’s self, the latest updates in my personal rejections & submissions, as well as finding value in badly written stories . . .

THE WRITING LIFE (issue #3)

It has been said that if you want to make it in the arts, you have to be mad. Whether you want to be a writer, a painter, a musician, a cartoonist, or whatever, you have to be mad.

And being mad means this: you have full confidence in your talent and abilities as a creative person and, above all else, you will turn it into a career. There isn’t any doubt in your heart that it will happen. You have complete faith in yourself and the understanding that through extreme devotion to your craft and plenty of endurance, it will only be a matter of time before the world recognizes and values your good work.

That’s what being mad means in the arts. It also means throwing aside pragmatism, throwing aside the dire warnings from family and friends about the economic fallibility of living off one’s creations, AND, ultimately, it means not listening to anybody but your own true self.

Think of the arrogance of such an attitude!

It is, nonetheless, the attitude one must cultive if one desires to make it in the arts. This is not just my opinion. It’s also the opinion of such legendary artists as Ray Bradbury and Gayon Wilson. Both men have spoken eloquently about the necessity of this outlook in lectures and interviews.

In addition to fostering one’s skills and abilities and believing in one’s self, a good bit of leg work in the way of making a career out of art is often done by sheer luck.

So, dear friends, fellow writers and artists, may you be good to the muse (that means show up and do the work, every day, relentlessly) and may the muse be good to you (that means may you get damn lucky and everything works out).

There’s plenty of room in this world for artists of all kinds and stripes, in my opinion. It isn’t a competition, or a battle for first place. There’s no need to fight over who’s the best writer or painter or dancer or singer. There’s room for all of us.

The muse is wonderously vast.

***

I GOT THEM REJECTION BLUES (My favorite segment of The Writing Life!)

It’s time for me to share the latest rejections of my stories. Every once in a great while, they can get me down, but most of the time, they make me smile. Whenever I read a rejection slip, I just say ‘Ok!’ And send out another submission straight away.

In the hope of inspiring fellow writers with the notion that rejections CAN be fun, here’s the latest:

Cast of Wonders rejects my story, Love From Another Place, a supernatural tale of love and loss. This tale is almost ashamedly adolescent in nature, BUT, hey, some people dig that. Teenage girls, for one.

87 Bedford rejects Love From Another Place as well (double your money!).

The Forge Literary Magazine rejects The Hating Game, a flash-fiction piece commenting on such contemporary topics “online trolling” and “cyber-bullying”.

The Future Fire rejects ‘Til Death Do Us Never Part, a story about a bickering married couple whose problems follow them even when they’re both six feet under! This is a comedic, philosophical horror tale, which I’ve recently adapted for the stage. There’s a good chance it may be performed live before an audience in 2020, along with two other strange tales of mine.

SUBMISSION NEWS

On the other hand, I’ve sent out:

Fish Out of Water, a strange fiction tale which merges pulp-style writing with Kafkaeque horror, to Automata Review.

I’m really proud of this tale, and I hope someone picks it up.

The Hating Game to After Dinner Conversation and Confingo Magazine.

Blue Christmas, the shortest story I’ve ever written, to 50-Word Stories! Read this one if you want to cry on Christmas.

Crash Landing, a lost-genre science-fiction story, to Planet Scumm.

LOVE the name of that last one, don’t you?

***

IN OTHER NEWS/WRITING ADVICE

I’ve had a great time tonight writing a zombie tale entitled, No Way Out. It’s got a hell of a lot of descriptive, gory passages and, what I hope are, some sympathetic characters.

First draft adds up to a little over 6,000 words. Tomorrow night I’ll be editing, re-writing and generally making it look like I knew what the hell I was doing the first time around.

NOW, time for this week’s edition of UNSOLICITED WRITING ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS— advice you never asked for, and which may or may not damage your writing career.

Today’s advice is more to do with one’s attitude than it does with the craft of writing, although it is nonetheless vital:

One ought to greatly value every lousy, bad, terrible story they’ve ever written. You know you’ve done it. Admit it! You’ve written a lousy tale or two; a story that might have germinated from a good idea, but couldn’t quite stand on its own? Even the best writers in the business have done it.

It’s not a bad thing, and here’s why: By completing a lousy, no-good story, you learn things. What you learn, especially, is what not to do the next time around. So for every lousy story you write, you are paving the way for all the good ones. You are gaining experience, and likewise, knowledge about your craft.

And that’s where I leave you: pestered and possessed by the muse. Until next time,

Your constant writer,

Tylor James.

 

 

Ode to Caffeine (poem)

When you’ve got the jitters, the best respite is poetry.

Without further ado, Ode to Caffeine:

 

Caffeine
bullet train
ripping between
alleyway neurons.

Strong cup,
keeps me up
raging at dawn
singing my own songs.

Wild brew
shooting through
a star-blown mind;
rapture in the night.

Sip, Sip
jump and skip,
alive and wired;
ecstatic mind-fire!

Heart beats!
machine gun!
stocatto fire!
A soul-rage live wire!

Black Joe,
lean and mean
keeps my soul clean
reaching ever higher.

Caffeine —
drug of choice;
Maddening muse of
Galvanizing visions!

Stained teeth
grounds-powdered
fingers stabbing
delectable keys!

Restless

jittering.

Can’t stop moving

to the rhythm of nerves!

Sunrise
bloodshot eyes
Reborn once more;
An espresso-laden embryo!

Write What You DON’T Know: This Week in . . . The Writing Life!

Greetings, friends.

It’s getting cold outside, so come on in, get cozy, and welcome, to another edition of the The Writing Life. 

Life. It is to be lived, of course, but for a writer, it is also to be written. One cannot help but write about what one goes through. It’s a part of that old cliche, vomited from the mouths of countless authors and instructors: “Write what you know.”

I agree, and I disagree.

On the one hand, if we write only about what we know, how are writers ever to branch out and create something vast and new? If we are to write only what we know, how is one to write a story about extra-terrestrials on a far away planet? Surely we know nothing about that. Or how is one to write about an alternate dimension poulated by tiny humanoids? Or a history that never happened? It is, I think, to live inside an oppressive box — writing about only what one knows.

On the other hand, as I’ve stated, one cannot help but write what one knows. What one knows seeps through the spaces between the words we write. It lingers upon every thought, like a strange odor one is never able to get rid of.

We write, ultimately, about ourselves and what we think and feel about the world. What we know. As Henry Miller so aptly said, “The writer writes in order to discover himself.”

And so it is. For example, this evening I’ve written 1700 word short story about an old, world-famous playwright. He’s terribly and morosely addicted to coffee and he obsesses over his work to the point of fatality. When I took a step back from the story, I realized I was writing about myself, and my addiction to caffeine, and my obssession with words and the work I put into my writing.

And so, although we are not always conscious of doing it, we are writing about what we know all the time. We must.

***

THEM REJECTIONS BLUES

(My Personal Favorite Segment of The Writing Life!)

Oh, boy, folks! We’ve got some exciting news in rejection emails today! Believe me — I’m not being factitious, I’m being thrilled. Here’s the low-down, for the record:

Metaphorosis (magazine) rejects my science-fiction story, Crash Landing, and my strange-pulp tale, Fish Out of Water. A nice thing about Metaphorosis is this: the editor has a quick response time, and will leave feedback, if you so select that option in your submission.

Möbius Books rejects my debut horror novel, They Dwell Beneath. This is only my second rejection of this novel, and am waiting on plenty more. I look forward to each rejection like a bite of delicious pie. The right attitude is the only way to survive in this game.

Writers Resist rejects my story, The Hating Game, a flash-fiction piece which comments on the contemporary phenomena of “online trolling”.

Asimov’s Science Fiction & Fantasy rejects Crash Landing. The editor politely advised that I submit using the standard manuscript format. I thought I’d been doing that, but, as it turns out — I haven’t! I am learning things every day, and this, ladies and gents and fellow pronouns, is a biggie. In the immortal word of Homer Simpson, “Doh!”

Not One of Us rejects my story, Johnny Bad Apple, a story I’d written in 2018, about the vicissitudes of fame and fortune in the life of a rock star.

In submission news, I’ve sent out at least ten to fifteen submissions to various magazines as of this week. Wish me luck, fellow readers and writers, as I wish all of you luck.

Yet, a quick addendum to that — as writers, we make our own luck, don’t we? With much practice and endurance — yes, that will be our luck!

***

WRITING ADVICE 

To conclude this week’s fine edition of The Writing Life, I shall disperse the usual allotment of unsolicited advice. It is this:

Write what you know AND, if you can manage it, attempt to write what you don’t know. By this I mean, quite simply, write about your loves and hates and passions (what you know), but try not to “stay safe” by not taking chances with your writing.

When you take chances, you may end up with thousands of words that fail to capture a compelling story. But, those thousands of failed words will teach you things. And the things you learn, as long as you keep reaching for the ungraspable, will lead you to bigger and better stories. And it will lead you, not least of all, to a bigger and better future. 

“Man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” — Robert Browning, English poet and playwright (1812-1889).

Until next week,

your constant writer,

Tylor James.

 

 

 

The Life of a Writer — Dec. 1st (STANGE FISH, LOWSY LUDDITES, & ENDURANCE)

Greetings, friends. It’s just another day in . . . The Life of a Writer. 

Lots of good stories underway, let me tell you.

STORY NEWS

I’ve got a science-fiction story, Crash Landing, about a man who crash lands on an unknown alien planet. It’s your typical “lost world” genre story — except this particular yarn explores the absurdity of being a total luddite in a technological world.

Note: I was not aware of the word “luddite” until earlier this year. I came across it in a Kurt Vonnegut story. For those readers whom might not know, it means: a person opposed to new technology or ways of working. 

Imagine being a luddite AND a member of a planetary exploration crew AND your space ship crashes AND you have no understanding or meaningful relation to the technology that could potentially save your life — should you know how to use it.

Crash Landing is in its second draft stage at the moment, but will be a third and final draft next week and ready for submission to the magazines.

Then there’s Fish Out of Water, even better! It’s about a gang member who gets dropped in the lake wearing cement shoes because he’s killed somebody he shouldn’t have and pissed off a lot of dangerous people. He drowns, then awakens at the bottom of the lake with slimy gills on either sides of his neck. He’s grown webbing between his fingers. He’s got scales growing on his body. And he’s hatching a plan for revenge.

Fish Out of Water is a cross-genre piece, mixing hard-boiled pulp style prose with Kafkaesque twists of fate and, oddly enough, some mysterious Christian imagery having to do with the ressurrection of Christ.

Strange fiction? You bet.

I also got a poem out last night (Ode to Caffeine), a love song written for piano (dedicated to my fiance, Tessandra), plus some blog stuff.

As for today? I’ll be focusing on some editing and re-writing. And after that, if I feel up to it, writing some new stuff.

***

REJECTED!

DOWN-TURNED STORY NEWS (oh, boy, oh, boy, my favorite segment of The Writing Life!)

Silver Pen rejects my story, “Love From Another Place”, a ghost tale of love and loss. The editor, however, was so very kind in her rejection. I always appreciate when I am not handed the standard rejection form.

Crone Girls Press rejects my story, “The Voice”, about a man who commits hit-and-run on a trick-or-treater on Halloween night. The story was intended for an upcoming horror anthology. This is my second story I’ve submitted for this anthology, and so far no luck. Perhaps you, dear reader, if you dabble in dark fiction, will give them a try and have better luck.

STAY TUNED for future rejections. They are always upcoming.

***

ACCEPTED

My first professional publication is my story, The Typewriter. It was accepted by Jolly Horror Press two months ago and will be released in a marvelous book entitled, ACCURSED: A Horror Anthology, to be released this December 10th! JHP editor Jonathan Lambert is a wonderful guy to work with, and I highly recommend fellow writers to consider submitting to JHP for future anthologies.

***

In Other News

I work in a haunted factory these days. It’s an abandoned facility located in a snowy mid-west town where the people are cracked with an abundance of alcohol, opioids, and social gaucherie. But the facility (formerly a cheese factory) is relatively quiet, except for the clanging of the overhead pipes, the pterodactyl-whine of the boiler and the rattle of the radiator.

I sit in a break room with two security monitors. I glance at them from time to time, but mostly I write. And read. And look at what deranged things my fellow bloggers are up to.

This concludes today’s edition of The Writing Life. Questions? Comments? Hurled prejoratives? Please post them in the comments section below.

Lastly, a bit of advice for fellow writers seeking to master their craft:

The key to your success as a writer is endurance. And practice, of course.

The amount of effort you put in, and how long you can keep it up. These simple things largely determine what sort of writer you will become. To keep on top of practice, some folks aim to hit a particular word count every day, or every week.

As for me? I subscribe to the Ray Bradbury Regimen. That means, simply, focus on writing ONE short story a week. After fifty two weeks, you’ll have fifty-two stories, and hell, they can’t all be bad, can they?

As the colloquial saying goes, “Hold my beer . . .”

 

Until next time,

Your constant writer,

Tylor James.

 

 

100 Subscribers – A Thank You Note. PLUS, a relaunch of my blog: “WELCOME TO MY WRITING LIFE”!

While perusing my blog stats the other day, I noticed I’ve gained exactly one hundred subscribers. Thank you to all who follow this blog, to all who read, like and comment on my posts! I hope you’ll stick around awhile, because I’ve got some exciting plans ahead.

I don’t post often, but this habit, as of this moment, is over. From now on, expect to be hearing from me on a frequent basis.

I’ve been writing like a madman this year (nearly 300,000 words written, last time I checked), and yet I’ve been posting only once in awhile. The reason is this:

I want to earn a living by writing stories (be kind, for god-sakes, and at least attempt to stiffle your giggles!), but I can’t earn an income from my stories if I post them here. Magazines will not accept work that has appeared online. And so, I must hide them away, and submit them in private.

Writing, as they say, can be a solitary gig.

This year, so far, I’ve written one novel and forty short stories — ranging from  horror to science-fiction to western to pulp to weird/uncategorizable fiction. And it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.

Are all of my stories masterpieces? Nah. But I’ve learned a lot, and out of those thousands of words, I believe I’ve spun some pretty fantastic yarns.

So, this is the plan: Although I cannot share with my subscribers my stories, I can still share with you my life. I can share with you the labors of my daily grind, the pounding of the keys, the churning of the words, the sending out of submissions tethered with eager hopes like messages in a bottle tossed to sea . . .

I can share the gargantuan amount of rejection emails I receive from editors of little- known indie magazines and famous magazines alike. I can share with you what’s it’s like to be me. My inspirations, my struggles, my hopes, my dreams, and my failures.

I know, deep down (and forgive me if this sounds the least bit arrogant) that I am a unique, special man. And I don’t want to pass from this earth being the only one who knows that.

I believe my subscribers are unique and special as well. And I want to share with you. So, please, do stick around. Get to know me, and if you comment and share your thoughts, perhaps I’ll be fortunate enough to get to know you.

Stay tuned, and welcome, to My Writing Life!

Your kind and constant scribbler,

Tylor James.

 

 

 

 

A Human Condition (Poem)

 

We all have days

When we want to hide away.

To shimmy one’s mind

Down a cozy chimney.

To turn soul into soot.

To be blackened into

The substance of the bricks.

To not be conscious of anything

Except the solidity of stone.

The scattered ash of cleansing fires.

 

We all have days

When we want to hide away.

To jump in the river

And drown.

(Goodnight, Irene.

Goodnight).

When we want to hop on a boxcar

And head to God’s land — No Where Land.

When we want to feel only

the immaculate fullness of nothing.

 

We all have days

When we want to hide away.

Because being human,

is to know the suffering

Of mortality drenched in the famine of hope.

Of the flesh’s submission to the conveyor belt of time.

Of real, painful strings attached to illusory things.

Things which will fade, like the rose or the sun

Or this withering page, drenched in a light not yet cold.

Yes, we all have days. You are not alone.

 

COPYRIGHT 2019. Tylor James.

Featured image artwork by Edward Foster: http://www.edwardfosterart.co.uk/art-work/the-human-conditions/

It Will Be Winter Soon (A Poem For the Darker Half of the Year)

It will be winter soon.

The cold has arrived, and

ominous white flakes

float the breeze,

like ash on the wind

in Pompeii.

It will be winter soon.

So suffocate your houses

with plastic sheets,

and tack on the lath.

Wrap your windows like Christmas

presents for the dead.

It will be winter soon.

It may come tomorrow,

or it may arrive in

the dead of night.

But when comes, it will be

ivory as bleached bones.

It will be winter soon.

The roads will be choked

with barrels of salt.

Better put chains on those tires.

Better keep some blankets in the back.

Lest you want to curl up with old man Winter . . .

It will be winter soon.

The barren branches stretch

and grasp at the dead white sky.

Tiny flakes drift down like

perfect feathers tickling the ground.

A snowflake is a still drop in an frozen sea.

It will be winter soon.

And the rust never sleeps.

It will eat through your cars.

It will eat through your flesh.

It will sink teeth in your lily white ankle

in December and not let go ’til Spring.

It will be winter soon.

Some of the old shall be snapped,

like a frozen-through pine.

It will put a stop to the young

with a sudden glare of black ice

shining ‘neath a frozen sun.

It will be winter soon.

Haul out the shovels,

and prepare your back for breaking.

Put up a Christmas tree, dazzle your wits

with electric lights and exclaim that they

are better than the sun.

It will be winter soon.

The stars shall shine beautiful,

yet indifferent. People will stay

in their beds and make babies.

Because if it is death outside,

We strive for life inside.

It will be winter soon.

Time for holly jolly.

Time for good cheer.

Because the weatherman says,

all clocks stop now —

Old Man Winter is here.

 

 

Copyright 2019. Tylor James.

Hallowe’en, 1933 — A Short Story

I’m rather proud of this story and happy that it was a finalist for the 2019 Halloween Writing Competition hosted by a literary magazine entitled, The Furious Gazelle.

You may read this haunting tale about two young boys pulling the ultimate Halloween trick in Gordo, Alabama, 1933. It was the time of the great depression. The tail-end of Prohibition. And a time for terror.

Note: Referring to October 31st, 1933, many newspapers of the time referred to it as the “Black Hallowe’en”.

Enjoy by clicking here.