Following the journey of award winning author, Alex Azar, as he travels the publishing world and all things interesting. To reproduce or publish any material found within this blog, please contact me at

Friday, June 29, 2012

Free Thoughts 6/29

When I started doing these Free Thoughts I said I wanted to do at least one a week, and now it's Friday and I haven't done one yet.  Thing is I don't even have a prompt for me to go into a tangent about.  Not knowing what to write, but still putting words down on paper (or in this case the screen) can easily turn into ramblings of a long digression.  That's what makes picking a certain topic a great tool for these kinds of things.

It's also  a great practice in regular prose writing.  When I find myself stuck on where a story should go I typically begin writing random things about a main character.  This fleshes out the character in a way you, as the author, don't plan ahead of time.

In the book I'm working on now, in just such a moment I spent numerous paragraphs detailing the character's morning routine when getting ready for late after waking up early, which led into overly descriptive paragraph of his belt-buckle and socks.  Reading this description of those descriptions undoubtedly leads to disbelief of the entertainment value of reading such explanations but those few short paragraphs dig deeper into the character than any average fundamental paragraph would.

The reader comes away with a better understanding of the character and makes them more vested in the outcome of his story, however it's a delicate balance of enjoyable deviation and tedious diatribe.  Furthermore, if it is a successful exposition, as an author, you have to refrain from using this tool to explain every detail.  Too much of this informative digression slows the progression of the story and your words end up like reading a dictionary.

Another useful tool, one that I'm just really getting into using after switching from short stories to a novel, is section breaks, not to be confused with chapters.  This also take a balancing act to use properly.  Too many breaks and you're once again slowing down the narrative, not letting scenes develop fully.  Not using enough, or any, can make a story feel too rushed, or the reader can feel they're being bombarded with too much information and not enough time to muse over it all.

When writing any scene know where you want to go with it and how it should end.  Begin writing that, and obviously changes will happen during the process, but once you get to the desired end scene... section break.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rejection 13: "Skullkickers"

The below rejection is for a writing contest for a comic.  I'm an avid comic reader spending way too much money and time on them, but I hope to one day write comics as well as the prose being published now.  With that said, I had never read this particular comic, "Skullkickers", prior to hearing about the contest.  I knew enough about it to come up with a pitch and entry, but decided to read some of the previous issues to see what I was actually submitting for.  Turned out my submission was right in line with what the comic was doing, at least in my opinion, and I had come up with several other ideas for submissions (the contest was open for multiple submissions, I sent in 6 essentially making this six rejections in one).

I wanted to get in contact with you about your Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest Entry. Although it didn't win, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you taking the time to enter the contest.

With over 250 writing pitches for short stories, it was excruciatingly difficult picking a winner. With so much competition, way more than we expected, it was tough to choose.

Thanks so much for submitting your story idea. I wish you good luck with your own creative projects.

Thanks also for your enthusiasm for Skullkickers. That kind of fan support means a lot to creator-owned comic titles like ours.

All the best,

I find this interesting because while it seems like a personalized rejection just for me, I know that can't be the case.  There's no greeting whatsoever, it actually had started with my submission email, and he even states he received over 250 submissions, I could never image a working comic author to reply to 250 different submissions.  Additionally, he didn't even mention all the other submissions I sent in, if he were speaking to me, he shouldn't have been using the singular.  All in all, I'm not that big of a fan of what I read of the comic, but I'll definitely be picking up the issue the contest was for; I've got to see how much better my story would have been.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Free Thoughts 6/20

The countdown has begun and in two months I'll be turning 30, which got me thinking about my legacy. I know this is a topic everyone has talked about from comedians, politicians, to philosophers, but I've got something I'd like to share, a story in fact:

It was my 21st birthday and while most people would go to a bar or club for the first time legally, the majority of my friends were a year younger so instead I had a party at a friend's "frat" house at Rutgers.  It was a great time, I drank plenty of shots, drank plenty of beers, drank plenty of pretty much anything put in front of me, as any good 'twenty firster' should. Needless to say I got pretty drunk, and unsurprisingly don't remember some of that night.  However, after blacking out, I came to around 3am and had a moment of clarity while watching everyone around me.  I had seen a group of Hispanic people talking in a group, my white friends talking together, even the 2 black people at the party were together.  Suddenly my drunken Arab ass felt out of place at my own party (this is probably the only birthday I've ever spent without any family), so I decided to look for Arabs and walked out and away from the house.  If you know anything about Rutgers, the first place you go for Arabs is the grease trucks spot.  This is a parking lot filled with more than a handful of food trucks specializing in 'fat' sandwiches in which you can pretty much put whatever you'd like in it.  Most, if not all, of the cooks/drivers of the grease trucks are Arabic, but they're not open at 3am.   Now, I'm not sure when they close I know full well they wouldn't be open that late.

Feeling completely dejected I sat down (while I remember more of this night than I probably should, I can't recall if I sat on a bench, grass, or in the middle of the parking lot) and thought to myself for some time.  Eventually, I looked at the building in front of me and saw it to be the "Asian Culture Studies Building" or some such name, and thought Well Arabs are technically Asians, maybe there's some Arab's there. Again time held no meaning to me at this point.

Speaking of which, at this point in reading you may be wondering what this has to do with legacy, trust me I promise this digression is building towards that.

Heading towards the building I was actually facing the back of it, and tried the rear door, but unsurprisingly it was locked.  Refusing to be deterred, I went around to the front, and while the lights in the lobby were on, the doors were...locked. On the verge of giving up on my epic quest (yes it was epic and only gets better) I once again sat down, this time I do recall there being a bench that faced the lobby doors.  After a couple minutes, a janitor walked by the doors. I will still fight to this day that he was in fact a janitor despite the building being locked, the fact he was wearing a black t-shirt and jeans, and had no giant ring of keys, simply because he was pushing a rolling garbage can.  In any case, upon seeing him, I asked for him to open the door, and after a quizzical look he obliged, and I finally entered the building.

I searched throughout the ground floor which consisted mostly of lecture halls and no Arabs.  I had systematically searched each floor (not seeing the janitor again) without seeing anyone else.  While on the 4th (and top floor) the alcohol had begun taking over more than just my brain and I needed to urinate.  Deciding now would be the most opportune time to use a females bathroom, I did so.  Now the reason for mentioning this is to validate while surely moronic, I am not insane as a friend was able to verify the layout of the building  (a building I had never entered before or since) I described including the leaky faucet in the restroom.

With all that said and done I had still not found what I was looking for so I decided to head back to the party. And what greeted me as I exited the building? Cops. Now I had no idea what they were there for, but  in my inebriated state it had to be for me, and couldn't be good.  So I did what any irrational drunk would do, I ran.  Thankfully, they were still in the squad car, and I was running through the quad. I believe I was able to lose them through some bushes that exited at a dimly lit side street which I promptly ran up.

Running as fast as I could, which is quicker than my body shape would imply, I made good distance until I came to a small building that resembled a large house, but what stopped me was a statue standing on the lawn. I have no idea who the statue was of, and that could be because he was an obscure campus figure, or I was too drunk to read the plaque/ recognize the face.  All I did know at that moment is that I wanted to do something in my lifetime to deserve a statue. I became lost in speculation of what this man did to deserve a statue (again for all I know the statue could have been of George Washington or Batman, the two most deserving men on statues, but that's not the point) and that contemplating led me to reflect on what I had done in my life.  Granted at the time I had just turned 21, and life hasn't expected much of me, but here I was drunk in a town I don't know being chased by the cops.  That realization reminded me that there were cops after me, and I began my dash for freedom again.

Moments after literally being thrown into the house, the cops drove by with their lights flashing and sirens blaring.  I spent the rest of the early morning hours sleeping in a bathtub, which was just fine for me at the time.

9 years later and I remember details to that story that truly are irrelevant but I still have the desire... nay the NEED to have a statue of myself commissioned and constructed, it doesn't even have to be gold, I'll settle for bronze.

What's your legacy going to be? And how do you want it immortalized?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Free thoughts 6/13

Earlier in the year I began working on a novel and it's coming along pretty well, although at this point there's no real end in sight.  But because of this I don't have the chance to write and publish short stories like I've been over the past year, depriving you (my reading fans?) the opportunity to read more of my writing.  So I decided every little bit, at least once a week I'm going to write free thought on this blog.  It'll give you (still there?) a chance to see part of my writing process, learn some of my motivations for writing, and basically hone my skills.  Speaking of skills, this isn't an exercise in proper grammar, so if I forget a comma or the like don't worry, that's what editors are for.

As you may, or not, know I'm a big comic book collector, but I had recently decided that I wanted a new hobby to collect, something I could display.  I first chose to get a painting anywhere I visit, but after missed chance in New Orleans added to the fact I don't really travel too much, I decided against that.  Next, I thought about getting wooden death masks, and while I still really like that idea I've settled on something even better.  For each of the stories I have published I'm going to buy something that represents an important scene within it.  I'll freely admit that this idea occurred to me while watching an Oddities marathon (can't wait for Oddities San Fran)   Right now I have nine stories published and I'm working on ideas for the different things to get.  If you have a favorite story, or a good idea for me to get, comment below.

What'll be interesting is when the two stories that I have accepted but are waiting to be published are finally published they're going to be in the same book.  Depending on what the items will be it'll be interesting to see how I'll display them, or if I can find one item that fits both stories, but that seems unlikely.

These two stories are in an antho with a 'spring fever' theme, basically anything spring related.  Ironically both of them are apart of my alphabet project.  The first one was accepted over a year ago so technically the rights have reverted back to me, but the second is newer and still under contract with the publisher.  I'm thinking if by next March the antho still hasn't been published I'm going to pull both my stories out, I never liked the idea of breaking up the Alphabet Project.  I feel like it'll work best as a book in itself, and even better if it's the first time any of the stories have been published.  I like the publisher that they're currently under contract with, but it's a non-paying market, and I feel as a whole the alphabet project deserves more than that.

This publisher in particular has put out 4 of 9 of my stories but I've relegated them to a back up from other paying publishers for works that I can't find a home for elsewhere.

Thanks for letting me ramble, and remember to keep reading!

Alex Azar