My first attempt at some sort of traditional publication has ended in rejection, sadly. I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story entitled When The Last Soul is Claimed about the Grim Reaper’s fate after she claims the final soul on earth and submitted it to Tor, the short fiction imprint. After about three months of waiting I received a reply yesterday:

Dear Mx. Stocking,

  Thanks so much for submitting to, and for your patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, “When The Last Soul is Claimed” is not quite right for us. I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Best, Submissions Staff

I’m fairly certain the “Mx” was a typo.

Admittedly, I was somewhat confident that my short story was good enough, and due to the volume of submissions they get I’m quite sure they really aren’t able to provide any feedback. That being said, I still kept the idea of rejections as a prevalent outcome of this endeavor, and I’m certain that’s one of the reasons why receiving the email wasn’t soul crushing, nor was it painful. In fact, it provided me with a surprising amount of inspiration to get back to it, to move on, and shop my story around elsewhere. I made significant work on Wasteland Gods yesterday, and even surprised myself when one of my favorite characters met an untimely demise.

I’m ultimately surprised at my reaction to my first rejection, and I’m somewhat excited to hang the letter above my desk where I have no doubt others will join it. Rejection is an inevitable part of this business, and while self-publishing has reduced both the amount and severity of rejection I’ve received–so far, anyway–I’m confident that I’ll be able to land something somewhere as I work on transitioning to more traditional publication attempts.

Classics Kick


Since my declaration of decreased social media, I’ve decided that I need to read some more classics. The only real exposure I’ve had to them is what we were required to read in high school, and most of the time I didn’t do the required reading. I think there comes a certain level of reading maturity that we have to hit before we can appreciate certain books, and I just hadn’t hit it then. But now I’m more eager than ever to read them.

I have mixed feelings about the classics from a writing standpoint, one of which being that in order for us to keep up as much as possible with current writing trends, reading something as old as the classics won’t really keep our writing current. However, there is so much to be learned from reading the classics.

Classics teach us the tricks of the trade. They show us such exemplary fundamentals of writing, themes, and characters, and they often touch on such important topics that I think are often overlooked in today’s fiction of vampire romances. (On a side note, it’s interesting that, for me at least, comparing something to vampire romance books seems to be becoming a cliche.)

So, to start off my classics kick, I read Of Mice and Men, which was one of the books I think I read most of in high school, in its entirety Monday. One of the things I especially enjoy about classic books is that many of them have interesting introductions by professors and people of literature who briefly analyze and provide some insights into the book, which are fun to look for while reading.

Along the Erie Canal.

Along the Erie Canal.

That leaves me with yesterday’s read. It was unusually warm, and the wind had been especially strong, but I couldn’t just sit in my apartment. Across the street, over a narrow trail line by two rows of trees, is the Erie Canal. Since my wife and I moved here in February, I’ve taken many walks alongside the Canal, weather permitting. There are paths on either side of it with benches and picnic tables and grills, so it’s really a nice spot that doesn’t get a ridiculous amount of traffic. I enjoy sitting and watching the boats, and oftentimes there are ducks passing by, so it’s really a peaceful spot to sit and, most recently, read.

So, yesterday, I went out and began my next classic read, The Scarlet Letter, which I’m enjoying. I’m told, mostly from the back cover, that it reveals a lot about the influence of New England’s past on American attitudes, which is something I recently got into. It’s interesting to see how the past influences the present, and can sometimes show the origins of present behaviors. Also, from what I read in the preface, this book was fueled by the death of Hawthorne’s mother, which apparently gave him a new sort of look at writing, and it launched him into an inspirational sprint unlike any he’d had before, since he’d somewhat unsuccessfully relied on writing short fiction.

Now comes the part where you can help! I’ve got my stack of classics, and I’d like for you guys to either recommend which book I read next and/or tell me which ones I need to get–as I know I’m really lacking good, classic books.


The book on the very bottom is a biography of Emma Goldman that I had to read for an old college history class but would like to re-read. I just happened to grab it with the rest of the classics collection.

The list includes:

  • Of Mice and Men
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Wuthering Heights
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Which classics are your favorite? Do you think classic books are still relevant in today’s constantly changing book marketplace?

It’s Time For A Little Less Social With My Media


Social media itself is a revolution. It’s a medium for knowledge and ideas. It’s a place to share anything and everything.

However, it is also a haven for negativity, narcissism, and hate. Generally speaking, it doesn’t do much to enrich our lives. It’s an entertainment vehicle full of selfies, lists generalizing us by telling us what we should be doing with our lives, (Every twenty-something should be doing these ten things or you’re a failure!), and political, racial, and religious hate. It’s full of generalizations and stereotypes as well as what people had for breakfast, what time they have to be to work, and for how long they’ll be working.

I don’t say this to attempt to bring down social media. As with anything, there are positives and negatives, and I’m tired of the negatives. I’m tired of seeing the photos of random strangers with text on them saying how someone hurt someone else, or someone passed some law, without providing any proof. I’m tired of people sharing articles from The Onion or Empire News as fact, and I’m tired of the photos telling me that if I don’t share and comment on some photo professing some sort of religious zeal then I’ll be banished to hell–as if any religious deity would be monitoring Facebook to make sure people are properly sharing his or her likeness.

I’m also tired of being told not to vaccinate my children. I’m tired of the posts saying that the government has taken away all my freedoms, when I still have them and actively use them. And I’m tired of being told that the police are going to beat and arrest every minority on the street.

I’m tired of so much expression of hate just because someone has a different view or belief.

This isn’t to say that any of the people who do any of these things are bad or wrong. It’s no secret that the internet provides everyone with a certain anonymity that allows them to say almost anything without consequences, and sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed in certain situations. Sometimes it helps bring situations to light that would otherwise be pushed away. Social media is also a fantastic tool for networking. For bringing people together. It allows us to reach out to people from different states, and even from different cultures. It allows us to keep up with our family and friends who may or may not be a long distance away. And it exposes us to a lot of good things that we might otherwise not experience. However, a lot of the good gets hidden in the looming shadows of negativity. Of the scandals, the celebrity culture, and the hate. And none of that matters.

So what does matter?

My family matters.

Current events matter: What’s happening in the world, why, and is it going to change my way of life?

Reading and writing matter: Stories, other ways of life, things seen through the eyes of those experiencing it.

These are all things that matter, that affect me, and that are most important in my life.

With that being said, I will be spending more time away from social media. It used to be the first thing I did in the morning was scroll through my Facebook feed only to see the same thing. Instead, I’ll be scrolling through news headlines. I’ll be focusing more on raising my family. On making sure I play a major part in my son’s life. And I’ll be focusing more on my writing. On telling a good story, and on doing something that matters and can really bring forth some kind of change.

Some of this may seem blunt, and it may seem as if it’s bringing people down, but I can assure you that is not my aim. This is an effort to improve my own life, to become an informed citizen, and to make sure I’m here for the people who matter most to me.

F@%#!*$ S*!#: Why I Don’t Censor my Writing (And You Shouldn’t Either)


Photo credit: Rebecca Barray via WANA Commons

Censorship has played a large role in every part of the media we consume for some time now. Between banning books and the creation of the FCC, what we’re exposed to and how is constantly regulated. I believe that there are certain audiences requiring censorship and others that are capable of comprehending and processing these things–i.e. violence, sex, vulgar language.

When I began writing in middle school, I really had no concept of censorship in books or on television. I just knew what I liked and that’s what I read and watched. Some of that transferred into my writing, but at such a young age I wasn’t really exposed to vulgar language or violence that much. However, it wasn’t until recently–the past year, or even couple of months–I’ve really stepped up my game when it comes to content. I’ve stopped holding back when it comes to violence and language and how characters act, and I believe I have good reasons for doing so:

The things most worth understanding sometimes aren’t pleasant

The world is full of a lot of bad things, as much as many of us don’t want to believe that. There is violence, terror, and hate in abundance anywhere you go. This isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of good out there, because there is. But we live in a culture that often focuses on the negative, and it’s good to understand and explore those negatives. One of the best ways to explore them is to view those actions through the eyes of the characters performing them or being subjected to them. How can we really understand hate until we see it from these points of views? How can we understand violence and intolerance if we don’t look at it head on and question it? There are reasons these things happen. There are motivations and emotions that are worth exploring to understand why people feel the way they do, and possibly a way to combat all the negatives.

That’s mainly why I don’t censor my writing anymore. My characters are just as likely to tell someone to “fuck off” as they are give them a bouquet of flowers. My characters give and take hate and live in hate-filled, intolerant worlds because that’s the kind of world we live in, and if I’m going to live in it I want to explore it. I want to understand it. I want to know why people steal and kill and are so intolerant.

That being said, I try to write with meaning. I try to ensure that the violence, the vulgar language, and the hate aren’t senseless. They have to have meaning, and there has to be a logical reason for the hate, otherwise what is there to gain from it? What is there to learn from? And why do we read and write if not to explore and learn?

Censoring writing deprives us from knowledge. It deprives us from watching chaos from a safe environment, and doesn’t allow us to gain other perspectives. And how can we become tolerant and accepting if we can’t see where other people come from, how they got to where they are, and what resulted from it? How can we expect to learn and grow by shoving away everything that has foul language and violence in it? That’s the place we live in right now, every single day. And if we’re going to combat it; if we’re going to try and fight the things that make the world as negative as it is, we need to let the people see the world as it is.

I Write to…


“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon

I write to create.
I write to expand my knowledge of people, of culture, and of existence.
I write to study emotions.
I write to revisit past lives and feelings.
I write to be someone else.
I write to strengthen myself.
I write to attempt to strengthen others.
I write to reveal the flaws of life.
I write to learn the problems of the world.
I write to portray horror, terror, greed, and failure.
I write to teach.
I write to gain perspective.
I write to show the outcome of our hatred.
I write because I don’t know what will happen if I stop.

All it Takes is the Right Story (Oh, and a Ton of Hard Work)


I’ve been told on several occasions that all it takes to “hit it big” is to tell the right story.

“All you need is the right story and you’ll be famous,” they tell me.

“All you need is the right story and they’ll make it into a movie,” they said. “Then you’ll be rich and famous.”

As if it’s just that easy. Bang out the “right” story and you’re golden. No, literally. You could have a gold statue of yourself made because you’re rolling in book and movie money.

That has me wondering: what is the “right” story? I mean, I’ve published several novels and no one has offered me butt loads of money or a movie deal, so does that mean I’m writing the wrong stories? Does that mean my stories aren’t good? My characters are weak? My themes are rotten?

You know what? It’s beginning to sound like this writing thing has a bit more to it than just telling the “right” story. It sounds a bit like it takes time and effort to carefully craft brilliant characters, a perfect story line, suspense, action, adventure, romance, danger. And, in the end, you may only end up selling ten copies. It’s perfectly plausible that you may write the “right” story and still end up on your ass with no money.

In fact, sometimes–and I really do mean sometimes–it seems like you will inevitably end up on your ass with no money, no matter how hard you worked on that book.

Before I became a writer, I would read a book and have no idea how much work went into it. How many months–sometimes years–went into the writing, editing, revision, publishing, and marketing process. I just read the words, enjoyed the book, or not, and went on my way. Granted, I’d done my fair share of writing. But I’d never completed a book, nor had I looked into what sort of process it took to create a finished product and distribute it to the masses. As far as I knew, the author just hammered it out, gave it a once over, and off it went to the world.

I was one of those people who believed you just wrote it, and if it was good you were set for life. I understand where people are coming from when they think all it takes is the “right” story to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. And yet that still doesn’t make it any easier when people say it to me now. Maybe it’s just the human condition to get aggravated when someone makes light of the writing process–of my dream career–or maybe it makes perfect sense. Whatever the reason, I understand that it takes really getting into the craft of something to fully understand how it works, and the complexity of every part of it.

People are so quick to generalize something or write it off because people are successful at it. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world. When in reality it takes much more hard work than people think, and even after all that hard work it seems as if luck plays the biggest role out of all of it. Sometimes it takes the right person seeing it, the right cover, or the right description. But I believe that “right” stories are written all the time. Just as “right” covers, descriptions, and people play roles in the book process and even then sometimes nothing, or very little, may come of it. But it’s become clear over the years that writers don’t write for the fame or the money, they write because they have to. Because they don’t want to stop, no matter how many terrible reviews they get or how famous it makes them. Writing is fun. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It makes me want to scream. But I love looking at my bookshelf and seeing my name in print next to so many others, and it just further reminds me why I keep at it.

Clemens’ Quotes: Truth-Seekers


Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Twain. Specifically, I just finished reading his essay/story What is Man? which is a conversation between a young man and an old man. Based upon the description on Goodreads, apparently this was Twain’s prized essay. His own bible of sorts that he kept hidden away for some time. I can only imagine he did this because of the things about which he wrote, touching upon how a person’s mind functions. Ideas such as free will and religion. Things that people, especially during that time, were likely to take as an insult, or as a mockery of people’s way of life.

As I read this, I began highlighting (on my Kindle, of course) some excellent quotes within What is Man? and I thought it might be fun to explore these quotes and perhaps see how much they relate to contemporary society. I’m planning for this to be a weekly piece as I continue to explore more of Twain’s writing.

The quote I’d like to take a look at comes from the section where the Old Man and the Young Man are discussing “Truth-Seekers.” The Old Man says:

“I told you that there are none but temporary Truth-Seekers; that a permanent one is a human impossibility; that as soon as the Seeker finds what he is thoroughly convinced is the Truth, he seeks no further, but gives the rest of his days to hunting junk to patch it and caulk it and prop it with, and make it weather-proof and keep it from caving in on him.”

This concept couldn’t be any more relevant to contemporary culture. The idea that there is no such thing as a permanent Truth-Seeker is absolutely true. In my experiences I’ve found that we spend our time searching for what we believe to be the truth, and when we find that answer–an answer we believe to be absolutely, 100% fault proof–we stop searching. We store that answer as confirmation that the truth has been located, and continue to use our time to find ways to solidify the truth we discovered. We search for ways to shut out contradictions and prove them wrong.

This can be seen in significant force on social media. Social media allows us to completely submerge ourselves in our own points of view. We’re able to see what we want from whatever viewpoint we want, and we have the power to make anything we want to be true, or at least seem that way. We can create graphics and upload them without having to provide source material or defend our way of thinking. We can add to any argument without validating our points of view, and it can be assumed that others take it at face value and then find truth themselves, using that particular graphic or comment as their defense for the truth.

Take, for example, the issue of gun control in America. Those who believe that there should be no restrictions on guns believe that to be the truth and therefor use such things as the second amendment to make that truth, as Twain said, “weather-proof.” They no longer continue searching to see if restrictions on gun control are needed in America. They’ve searched for their truth, found it, and now are set on finding evidence to back up that truth.

The same can be said for the opposite side of the argument. Those who believe that there should be restrictions on guns have found their truth. They’ve completed what research was required to come to the belief that guns should be regulated, and now they’re searching for ways to make their argument stronger.

Both groups have gone through their temporary stage of truth seeking and have moved on to backing up their truth. Twain has, essentially, redefined “truth” within this context. The former definition: “The quality or state of being true” has been altered to a state of “what the individual believes to be true.” In terms of religion, people believe it as truth that he or she will go to Heaven when they die while others believe that he or she may be reincarnated, or some believe it as truth that no one actually knows what will happen when we die.

I believe it to be true that Twain is absolutely correct in this theory. I have no need to further investigate this because I’ve done my searching–my research by examining cultural examples–and have confirmed that I believe it to be something that I am “thoroughly convinced is the Truth.”

What do you think? Do you think there is such a thing as a “permanent Truth-Seeker?” Is there anything you absolutely believe to be true and now search for ways to strengthen your argument for that particular idea?