The First Time I Was Paid for It by Fraser Sherman

The first time I was paid for it.

Until I began thinking about “origins,” the topic for this month’s blog tour, I’d forgotten all about the first time I sold any of my writing.

It was 1980 or 1981, right after I’d graduated college and begun making my living as a writer … Except that having returned to the small town where I’d grown up, there weren’t many opportunities for me to do that.

Then my thoughts turned to the local paper, named at the time the Playground Daily News. I had no reporting experience, and no intention of becoming one—I wanted to write fiction, not news—but something prompted me to call and ask the editor if he’d take a column for the editorial page.

At least part of the impulse came from my years of reading comic books. The super-heroic code was embedded in my brain: I had an obligation to use my er, great powers, for good and since writing was the closest thing I had to a power, I decided to use it.
At the time, the religious right was just taking shape as a political force, one that opposed a great many things I cared about (freedom of speech, freedom of religion, women’s rights …). Writing a column critiquing some of Jerry Falwell’s statements—at that time, he was the movement’s best known front man—seemed like a way to do good and make money at the same time.

Over the next few weeks, I sold four columns, about $10 apiece, and had the satisfaction of being told by outraged local conservatives that my opinions were anti-God (not that I want to be anti-God, but I certainly wanted to be anti the right-wing God). Then the editor informed me that the paper couldn’t pay me any more; being extremely shy, I didn’t have the nerve to ask why or try to negotiate him out of that decision.

It was a blow. $10 was a lot to me at the time, and landing what I’d hoped would be a regular writing gig was an emotional boost too. Mindful of my super-heroic duty, however, I continued sending in columns and letters for nothing; if I hadn’t become a reporter and columnist for another paper, I’d be doing it still (you can check out my day-job political blog).

I think the standard line is that nothing compares to the thrill of that first sale, but my first short story and magazine article (both a couple of years later) were more exciting then and mean a lot more to me now.

Still, I’m glad writing this essay gave me the incentive to remember my first writing success.

Ilona Andrews and the Paragraph Project

Ilona Andrews is one half of the mastermind duo behind the Kate Daniels books and the upcoming The Edge series.

Responding to frustration on her Live Journal friends list from eager, unpublished writers, Ilona began a paragraph editing project. For one day, writers were invited to submit a single paragraph, and Ilona would pull it apart for them. In response, Ilona received 44 paragraphs.

Each paragraph dissection is a mini-lesson for both the writer who produced it and other writers who visit Ilona’s journal. While a paragraph doesn’t seem like a lot, Ilona suggests, “Sometimes a single paragraph can indicate wider issues. For example, point of view shifts from sentence to sentence or a tendency to over-explain. These kinds of problems affect the entire narrative.”

The paragraph project reveals Ilona to be a skilled editor and a patient teacher. Ilona is too busy producing new books and stories to apply her skills to more than the paragraphs already in hand.

As a college professor, I recognize a good lesson when I see it. With Ilona’s permission, this post links you to the current 21 posts in the paragraph project. There will be updates.

Continue reading “Ilona Andrews and the Paragraph Project”

It’s the Little Things

Getting ready to go out of town can really ramp up the amount of things you have to do at work. Doubly so, as I’ve got a two day work week next week.

So, pertinent to writing…

1. Wrote a piece to be posted at John Rosenman’s on Saturday. I’ll see you there.
2. Updated Blood is Thicker than Water.
3. Corrected (for the final time) that paper on Japanese senmon gakko and World Englishes.

My hopes for the rest of my pre-travel week…

4. Shooting an introductory paragraph on to an interviewee.
5. Tightening up and revising Mark Twain’s Daughter for the reading at Marscon.

I hope you are all well. If any of you want to check a stack of Huck Finn papers, say the word. 😉


Drollerie Blog Tour Post

February 28th, the Drollerie authors will be at it again on tour. This time around, Writer Tamago will be happy to host Fraser Sherman

Fraser has written several short stories. Right now you can find his short story “One Hand Washes the Other” at Abyss and Apex. His short story “Red Moon Rising” is due out from Drollerie this year. He’s also written an unusual catalog about The Wizard of Oz.

Be here, one week from today, to hear Fraser talk about Origin Stories.

Where will I be? I’ll be over here at John Rosenman’s place virtually. Physically, I’ll be at the CCID conference in Florida.


Drops of Crimson YA Issue/Check’s in the Mail

First, for all you horror/YA writers:

Drops of Crimson: June’s issue will be YA. If you’ve got a YA story you’d like to submit, send it to editor @ The deadline is May 15th. For submission details go to Drops of Crimson.

I like Drops of Crimson! Check them out! They were number 4 on the Preditor and Editors Electronic ‘zine list, so apparently I’m not alone.


I have my hotel room reserved, and my membership form filled out for World Fantasy. Check’s in the mail!

I’m not opposed to roommates (2 double beds) provided they come with references from people I know, or are people I know. I get to see Julie Rose and meet Chris Kastensmidt, who is coming all the way from Brazil!

How about you? Are you going to World Fantasy?


Cartime Stories

Do you read out loud? To your kids? To someone? Do you share stories with others?

Bryon and I occasionally get a hankering to share a literary experience together. We read the Harry Potter books together, mostly me reading and him listening, but sometimes the reverse. It became a shared experience for us. We read Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody books together. I enjoy giving the characters fun voices. I suppose listening to someone else read a book on tape is similar. There’s less laughing at goofy mistakes, but it’s still the oral/aural tradition.

Bryon and I have decided to read Terry Pratchett’s Disc World series on the commute. Pratchett’s prose trips me up a wee bit, as his sentences tend to lead one way, but wander actually another. I’ve read the books that feature Granny Weatherwax and her adventures. No surprise there. I also have enjoyed the Tiffany Aching books he’s done, where Pratchett’s sentences know exactly where they’re going. I guess that’s the difference 26 years of writing makes–from 1983, when he wrote Color of Magic to 2009.

I look forward to reading all the books as another shared experience with Bryon. I’d be happy to hear about your experiences in the oral/aural tradition.


Workarious Thoughtopolis

Today work was workarious, a new blended word meaning working and precarious. Like that. I won’t go into details, but I was in high gear as coordinator today, escorting students to the Dean of Students, fielding phone calls, and nonchalantly not getting projects done that are due by Friday. Oh yeah. This used to make my chest tighten before the new meds.


Overwhelmed I am, by the nice people in my lives who are helping me out with David’s assignment. I thank you all. Deeply.


Yes, I *have* received my first advance, thank you very much.

The edits for Hulk Hercules really look pretty doable. Most of it is taking what I already have, and either making it more of same, or playing with clarity. As soon as I have completed my prep for CCID and Marscon, both of which should be done by the end of the weekend, I’m on it, so Sonya can move onto the magical things she does on her end.


I watched the Dead Like Me movie. Fans, you’ll want to see it, but it’s not the series. Fake Daisy doesn’t work. Some of the writing is flimsy. It’s worth it to see George and Reggie finally meet up, to enjoy sane Joy, and to miss Rube. I wouldn’t call it good, but it has its fine moments.


Still, the burning question of what to read at Marscon? I’m down to a section of Mark Twain’s Daughter or a piece of The Empty Horizon.

Grappling, then, with the big issues,


Writing as Therapy

Writing solves all the major problems in the world. It can solve yours too.

Let me tell you about this project my counsellor wants me to work on to combat my depression. It’s a great idea. He wants me to approach the people I know, ask them to write about themselves, how they know me, and what they think of me. And then, I take all this, and think about it and write about my life now, rather than reflect on the crummy life I had then.

In the end I will have this wonderful book full of wonderful things from people who care about me, another weapon in the arsenal against depression.

Most of you I only know at a writerly level, professionally. If you feel so moved, however, I’m taking stories at my email address. I just wanted to share what I thought was a very good idea, mostly so, if you ever find yourself in the same place, you can use the technique.

David. My counsellor. He knows what he’s doing.


The Empty Horizon

I’ve converted the old manuscript to Scrivener. There’s a surprising amount here–about 119 pages, or

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
50,298 / 100,000

I really believe that it will be longer than 100K, as I have to add in the magic, and I need to add in Edmond’s pieces, as well as flesh out the pieces I already have, and add more. Today’s vocabulary word could be unwieldy.

At least I’ve gotten started. This and Hulk Hercules will be my projects for a bit, as well as getting ready for the reading at Marscon.