"Laborotics" Published!

Laborotics published by Degen Hill
 
Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds

My short story “Laborotics” has been published on Zealot Script - Emerging Worlds! You can read it there, or download a PDF copy for free here. You can follow their Twitter @ZealotScriptUK


New Year's Resolution - Read 12 books in 2019 - DONE

Literary Submissions

Writing is the easy part. The submission process, on the other hand, is an entirely different ball game. Whether you're submitting to literary agents, a publishing house, a literary magazine, or an online journal, they're each going to have a different process and want things formatted just the way they like it.

Here's the process:

Let's say I want to submit a short story for submission. First, I need to find who publishes short stories and in what medium (some are only print, only online, or both). Then, I'll need to go through the list and first check if they are interested in publishing stories in the genre I've written. If yes, I'll find "Submissions" on their website, and the first thing I do is look at the top of the screen to check for this:

"There are currently no open calls for submissions at this time."

If that isn't on the screen, read through the criteria. Often, word count is the biggest hindrance. Also, I’ve noticed that almost every site seems to be looking for “LGBQT writers/content”. Just an observation. If you manage to meet their requirements, you then start reading how they want the story submitted. Generally, they'll want an e-mail, have an online form, or some type of submission account like Submittable.

Formatting is the biggest pain, especially when trying to find a literary agent because each agent wants a specific amount of pages in a certain format, either as an attachment or pasted into an e-mail. Short stories are easier since you're sending an entire piece of work and most follow the Shunn formatting guide. However, there are often weird requirements where you'll have to go in your document and change things. For example, some want no personal information on your work while others want everything, including an address. Some will only accept a .doc format while others want a .pdf or .rtf. Some want a single - and others want double --. Once you've managed to fiddle with your original piece according to the specifications, you can move on to the cover letter.

The cover letter is generally the body of the e-mail you send to those you're submitting to. It should include your name, title of your work, word count, genre, and previous publications. Some magazines/agents/journals want a short bio written in 3rd person, while others don't. Some want your nationality, others don't. Once you've finished with that, and attached the perfectly formatted file, recheck their site to make sure you type the e-mail subject line exactly how they want.

Once you've finally completed all of this and press send, you'll immediately be sent an automatic reply that goes something like this:

"Thanks for your submission! Due to the number of submissions we receive, we don't have time to respond to every e-mail. If you don't hear from us within 2-6 months, please consider submitting your work elsewhere."

Cheers, thanks…

Then you do this again, and again, and again. There are a lot of free submissions out there, but there are also lots that charge a “$3 reading fee” and writing contests that charge an entry fee. Sometimes, you'll get lucky and people will want to publish your work, and other times, they won't. In any case, it's worth going through such a tedious process because it gives you the possibility to share your work with a larger audience and at the end of the day, isn't that what we're all trying to do? It’s a hassle, and I’d suggest making a sheet in Excel to keep track of everything, but ultimately, it’s better than not going for it.

Just finished "Dune" by Frank Herbert

What a book. Here are my thoughts

EWU September Feature

EWU, eastern washington university, feature, book, novel, writing

Review of Contraception

Murder, Mayhem & More recently reviewed my novel, Contraception. Check out the review here

Whiz Buzz

Contraception promoted on Whiz Buzz Books

Contraception - Print Available

Print version of "Contraception", a story about overpopulation in the future, is available from Amazon and can ship worldwide! Get your copy today!

amazon.com/author/degenhill

Single Mockup - White.jpg

Contraception is Finished!

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It is with great pride that I can officially say that my novel Contraception is finally finished.

Right now, the E-book is available for sale ($2.99/¥20) on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a few other sites. 

The print version will be available on Amazon in a week and can ship world-wide! If you buy it,  please leave an honest review - I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Article on China.org

I wrote an article here about the most complicated character in the Chinese language

Microfiction

We have a section in the China Today magazine called Microfiction. To be frank, most of these articles are terrible, because a lot of meaning and symbolism gets lost in translation, leaving a bare and often confusing passage. I suggested I write one, focusing of course on China, and after I wrote it, was told that only Chinese authors could be selected. So, here on my blog (the scrapyard for rejected magazine articles) is the microfiction I wrote. 


Ming was six years old the first time he flew a kite. His grandfather had taken him to an open field on a hill, overlooking the city below them. Ming had received his kite for his birthday and flying it had been all he talked about for the entire week, until finally, on a sunny Saturday, it was time to fly his kite. 

“Hold on tight”, said his grandpa, placing the string wrapped around a piece of wood into Ming’s hand.

“On the count of 3. 1…2…” before his grandpa could finish counting, Ming took off, running across the green grass with the kite flapping behind him. Just as his grandpa had told him, he slowly let the string unwind from the piece of wood until the kite was now high above him, dancing among the blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Ming stopped running to gaze up at his red and yellow dragon-shaped kite that now soared over the city, like his own personal guardian. His grandfather walked over to him and placed his hand on his shoulder.

“Look grandpa, look how high it is!”

As his grandfather looked up at the red and yellow dragon that contrasted against the bright blue background, he smiled, thinking of the first time he had flown a kite so many years before. 

“You’re a natural,” said his grandfather, looking down at his smiling grandson who held onto the wooden stick as if it were the most important thing in the world. After a while of the kite zig-zagging in the sky, it started to falter and eventually came crashing down on the green grass of the hill. Ming looked up at his grandfather with a look of confusion and sadness. The elderly man chuckled as he knelt down on one knee to look at his grandson. 
“What’s the matter?”

“It’s over,” said the little boy quietly.

His grandpa smiled and said, “This time is over, but nothing lasts forever. We can try again in a bit. Go run over there and get your kite.” Ming raced across the grass as the wind blew against his face and picked up his dragon kite, pausing for a moment to look up at the sky from where it had came. He then ran back over to his grandpa who had already started wrapping the string around the wooden dowel.

“Sit with me for a second,” he told Ming, who sat down next to his grandpa as they both stared down at the city below them. 

“Nothing is forever,” began his grandpa, “And nothing should be.”

“But what if I like it?” asked Ming.

“New things will come, which will bring new opportunities and new experiences. A long time ago, this city was much smaller, there was no subway system, and people still road horses on the streets. But now, what do you see?”

“I see cars, and big buildings, and big signs, and people with phones, and trains.”

“That’s right,” said his grandfather. “And one day, maybe those things will be gone, and instead, there will be something better.”

The little boy smiled before asking, “Like when I tear a hole in my pants, mom buys me new, better pants?”

“Exactly. Now, why don’t you pick up that dragon and have another go. I’ll watch you from here.”

The little boy excitedly grabbed his kite in one hand and picked up the string in the other. Then, before smiling back at his grandfather, he one again raced across the hill, slowly letting out the string and releasing the kite until the wind caught it and launched it upwards. As Ming’s grandfather sat in the grass and watched his grandson chase the kite high above him, he too understood that change was not only inevitable, but beneficial. He thought of how quickly China had changed, and although he wanted to hold on to how things were, he understood that a new generation, including Ming, would be the force to drive China forward. 

“Grandpa, look! Look!” shouted Ming, as they both stared up into the sky to see the dragon hurtling past them. His grandpa smiled and nodded, knowing that the enthusiasm, curiosity, and spirit of Ming’s generation would lead China to new heights, just as each generation had done before. 

Put It Out There

For whatever reason, I've always believed that if you put something out into the universe, it will respond. I see it more as an exchange of information. People will relevant information to your request will respond in kind. As such, here goes nothing. I have finished my 93,000 word dystopian novel, Contraception, and am currently seeking representation. I have started the query process, which so far has been tedious, but I've always been a fan of busy work. It is with high hopes that I aim to find a book agent and then a publishing deal, but if all else fails - I'll self-publish. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. 

WWU - Band Life

I’ve always thought about being in a band, touring, having fans shout my lyrics, wearing a black leather jacket, you know, the usual band stuff. There’s just something so appealing about choosing that path in life and not settling for a corporate job and not having to chat about ‘invoices’ with some guy named Dave.  For musicians, people actively consume and use what they create. We all listen to music, sometimes for distraction, motivation, to find peace, or because it reminds of us a specific time in our lives. I admire creative people. They take risks and are working to create a physical representation of something they feel inside. That’s goddamn beautiful. I respect musicians or people in a band because as a group, they can create a unique sound, which will ultimately have an influence on a large part of the population. If a song on YouTube only has 50,000 views, we think, “Well that’s not very much”. I don’t think I could speak to 50,000 individual people even if I had a whole month to try to do so.


We've all seen the videos of bands performing live and there are thousands of people chanting your lyrics, and going crazy simply because the band walked onstage. What other profession can give you instant gratification like that? Movies aren't live, and even during broadway plays, the applause is saved until the end. Comedians get immediate laughs, and although comedy is an art, I don't think it's comparable to music. However, I guarantee you people lost their mind at an AC/DC concert when the opening strums to Thunderstuck were first played. Or who doesn't sing along at an Aerosmith or Blink 182 or Bon Jovi, or Imagine Dragons concert? Or what about those moments when the lead singer holds the microphone out to the audience and thousands of people sing the words that you once wrote on a piece of paper? Incredible. All I'm saying is, being in a band would be amazing, and yet, from the recent deaths within the music industry, also extremely challenging.


I think people like musicians because the risk they take is personal. They aren’t producing something for anyone else besides themselves. The music they create reflects themselves and their body of work is largely a story about themselves. Songs about relationships, breakups, heartache, adventure, and life are generally drawn from real experiences. Now this isn’t true for all music. Movie scores are created to suit a scene and intended to evoke a certain response. Other music is created based on a demand from the music label or the ‘powers that be’. Pop music is manufactured based on what the masses want. But bands, in my opinion, at least start out with pure intentions. 

When I refer to a band, I’m talking about a group of people who got together at a young age and said, “Let’s make music for us”. They had nothing to lose, no label to answer to, and no pressure besides creating something unique. I respect that. It’s hard for many people to turn down a paid job to make music without the promise of a future. It’s a risk, and as someone who was never willing to pursue my fantasy of being an actor, I salute you. 

My friend is in a band and although I hate his music, I respect that he plays shows in dirty dive bars and he gives it his all. I should clarify that he plays experimental-punk-noise-metal. It’s unexplainable; I’m struggling to describe what I’ve witnessed at the many shows I’ve been to. It’s one of those bands whereas they play, I look at the person next to me and ask, “Do you they suck or are they genius?” But that’s not the question my friend asks himself. He enjoys playing music, the people he plays with are super cool dudes, and each week they go onstage and play for the sake of playing; mostly because they only get paid in drink tickets. And regardless of my lack of enthusiasm for his music, the fact he has a full-time job, but still finds time to play in a band, that’s something I can support. 

WWU - Free from Social Media

I quit social media around 2011, and it wasn’t until I signed up for LinkedIn in 2017, to find a job, that I realized once again why I don’t like social media. On LinkedIn, I added people I knew, but then people I had gone to high school and university started to add me. Sure, I accepted their request, but now I see posts by them which, if I’m being honest, I could give a shit about. “Random High-school Friend just got promoted to Middle Management”. Congrats. It was the same with Facebook and Instagram. I don’t care that you just ate a blueberry scone at Starbucks and are living a #blessed life. 

 

I run my company’s social media, thankfully only limited to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and yes, it's a weird thing for me to do. I thought Facebook went downhill when companies started making profiles. No Coca-Cola, I don’t want to be your friend. Sorry Doritos, but I’m going pass on being your ‘fan’ on Facebook. These days, Facebook is dealing with ways to combat fake-news. What happened to it being a site where friends could catch up with friends? When did Airbnb start allowing branded businesses to have a chain of similarly designed rooms instead of renting directly from the tenant? What happened to taking a picture because you thought it was beautiful instead of taking a picture in anticipation of the likes you would get? Instagram models get paid huge sums of money to promote products or advertise for their sponsors instead of focusing on sharing creative & interesting pictures. It drives me crazy.

 

From a business perspective, I get it. The most important thing for a business is to keep growing, much like a virus, doing whatever is necessary in its path for expansion. However, at what cost? They’ve invaded social media, which used to be peer-to-peer networks. Now, people track likes, page views, clicks, and retweets like their job depends on it, and most times, for social media managers, it does. That’s the problem right there, “social media manager”. Almost every company has one and speaking as someone who does manage social media for an organization, I sort of hate myself for doing it. I’m helping promote a company I didn’t build, on a platform I don’t believe in. 

 

I think someone should make a Facebook solely for companies and businesses and let them spew their bullshit and advertisements on each other's timelines instead of muddling up the consumers'. With today’s technology, there doesn’t seem to be any safe spaces left. Even Kindles have advertising. 

 

With all that being said, I’m thankful I don’t have any social media except my blog and LinkedIn, which again, is just for finding jobs. I don’t feel inundated with all the updates and announcements. Social media, for me, is like that tv show that never ended, and its been downhill since season 8, but somehow, you keep watching. All the drama, stories, and funny moments somehow keep you addicted, even though you know there’s a better use for your time. That’s what I realized, and now, I practice the piano daily, I spend more time reading, my workouts go uninterrupted by notifications, and I feel lighter. Let’s be honest though, I knew Facebook was dead as soon as my father sent me a friend request. Will I sign up for social media in the future? Unless there’s some new universal messaging app, probably not. I’ve lost my interest for social media, allowing me to spend more time and energy on things that matter. 

WWU - Novel Writing

Writing a book is challenging. Initially, I never thought it would be possible, sort of like watching someone free-climb a rock wall and you look at them and say, ‘nope’. Well, I was tired of saying ‘nope’, so based on a conversation I had with my friend, I made an outline of major plot points for a story, researched average word length for novels, and wrote 1,000 words during work days. That’s what I did starting in July and by November, I had over 90,000 words - my starting point. I went back through it myself as it needed substantial editing. It was interesting to look back on what I had wrote at the beginning versus later on, realizing that I had a better sense of where the story was going and who my characters were as the novel progressed, obviously. When I started, anything could have happened. I was building a world and there were no plot lines to connect, yet; I was free. 

I’ve never considered myself to be a creative person, in terms of music, art, or creating something from nothing. But dammit, I wanted to write a novel. So I did it. I hired an editor who is not only making my story tighter, but is also asking me a lot of questions which while writing, never occurred to me. Rewriting is an enjoyable and yet frustrating process. If I change a plot-line in chapter 10, I need to remember what other things will be affected by it, and how to change those based on the initial change I made. It’s a delicate balance which I’m figuring out as I go. 

My editor keeps asking me how I did it, and what drove me to write it. FIrst, I had a lot of time on my hands at work. Second, I just did it. I literally wrote 1,000 words every day whether or not I wanted to. Some days were harder than others, and some days I had no idea where the story was going, but I wrote anyway. For me, it’s sort of like cooking. You can’t start unless you have the ingredients, and you can’t shape a novel without words on a page. I’ve edited, rewritten, and reorganized the words I wrote so much that even looking at my first draft would be almost unrecognizable. 

Has it been frustrating? To be honest, not really. I’ve really enjoyed writing and shaping this novel and hope one day, people will enjoy reading it. Would I do it again? For sure, as soon as the current one is completely wrapped up. I’m trying to write a short-story while still going over my novel edits and it’s difficult for me to keep 2 ‘creative’ projects going at once. I need to dive in, be involved with one creative project, and then detach before I move on to the next. I’m also aware that writing about writing is about as pretentious as it gets. Don’t worry, I haven’t started wearing a French beret and doing slam poetry yet. 

WWU - Being Selfish

Is it okay to be selfish? And what does that word even mean? What does being selfish look like? First, I think many people have varying definitions of the word, including me. So based on my opinion, I think being selfish is ok. I firmly believe the most important person in your life should be you. I understand that people say when you have a kid, you’ll love it more than you’ve loved anything in your entire life. I’m not at that point yet, so I’m my first priority.


I’ve thought about being selfish for a long time since being in Beijing. Here, in China’s capital, many people are selfish, as reflected in their public behavior. People seem to have tunnel-vision while making their way through the streets, solely focused on their destination. People bump into each other, stare at their phone while walking, and completely disregard that the right side goes up and the left goes down. I know it’s a challenging concept, but somehow, those in the capital haven’t figured out a way to follow the simple rules of being a decent human being in public. As evidence of this, babies and young children still poop and pee wherever they see fit, because hey, if they’ve got to go, everyone else should just accept that. People on scooters and bikes cross the street despite red lights, causing the turning cars to pile-up because wherever they need to be is more important than everyone else. The old man who smokes in my gym locker room RIGHT in front of the no-smoking sign, after being repeatedly told not to, because there's nothing like a cig after a good workout. Perhaps I’m blowing these incidents out of proportion, but if you have 20 million people all making small selfish decisions, you come to find the inefficient, overcrowded, and tension-filled city of Beijing. 


I think this selfish attitude of individuals in China is a large reason why the country is still developing. The country functions in a top-down approach, and as a foreigner here, it’s hard to feel a sense of unity, like everyone is working towards a common goal. There is a sense of nationalism, but it feels manufactured and largely based on the Japanese invasion in the 1930s. My point being, there isn’t a common vein of respect among the public. This can be seen by people spitting inside, making their way through public spaces haphazardly, and not lining up. This might be a small thing, but I think it speaks volumes to the amount of respect you have for your fellow citizens. 


China loves to play the victim, and people often discuss where the ‘hate’ for China comes from. It’s hard not to jump in and say, “You bring it upon yourselves.” There are many incidents of Chinese tourists abroad being selfish, such as carving their name into an ancient artifact, or destroying a shrimp buffet in Thailand. And then they wonder why other countries look down on Chinese people? My point is, if Chinese people can’t respect other Chinese people in China, how can they expect other people to respect them?


After coming back to China and telling people about Japan, the first thing everyone was said, “Tokyo is so clean, right?!” For a city with hardly any garbage cans, the cleanliness stems back to the respect Japanese people have for public spaces. They take pride in keeping their city clean, not only for themselves, but also for anyone who might visit. This is an attitude that is largely missing in Beijing. Trash is thrown on the street because disposing of it is more important to the individual than keeping the city streets clean. I've said this for a long time, but I believe Beijing is the way it is because so many people move here from other cities and provinces. When they come to Beijing, their attitude is, "It's not my city, my people don't live here, so if I act rude, or engage in poor behavior, why should that bother me?" There are almost no activities or events that brings Beijing together. The only thing I can think of are the Beijing Guoan games, but then again, the only thing  the entire crowd shouts in unison is "Dumb cunt", not the most positive bonding experience. 


Beijing is a challenging city to live in, and I feel myself becoming more negative about my outlook from being here. Yes, I'm aware that I alone am in charge of my perception of the world, but I think environment is a big influence on the way we see the world. However, and with no intention other than to gripe, I am tired of these poorly educated individuals who continue to treat the city as their personal dumpster and other people as non-existent. The challenge with these problems is the behavior stems from an ingrained belief, which is immensely difficult to change. If we take the selfish behavior of traffic for instance, what more can be done? The government has worked to establish laws, issued fines using cameras, sent out police to work at each traffic intersection, but the behavior still continues. Red lights are still a suggestion here. 


With that said, I have hope for the city. I think slowly, over the course of many years, younger generations of Chinese will realize that the current pattern of behavior is unsustainable and a shift will happen. However, in terms of my own dreams and plans, I hope I'm not here when that happens. 

WWU - Travel Thoughts

People need to travel. Too often we get caught up in our daily lives, our routine, and the comfortableness that comes from having everything figured out. Many people live lives without challenges. Struggles, for sure, but no challenges. Traveling presents a myriad of challenges, but the best part is being able to confront them and enjoy the success that comes with it. 

Language barriers, not understanding the local culture, getting confused by the subway, funky food, and “odd” behavior are all things we’ll inevitably confront when traveling. However, the exploration is the best part. We not only get to explore a new country, but also get to explore ourselves in the process. How do we respond when faced with challenges abroad? How has my perspective about life, work, or the pursuit of happiness changed since my trip? And perhaps most importantly, how have I changed as a person? 

Sure, traveling is about trying new food, relaxing, and taking pictures in front of famous monuments. But as a whole, I think it’s about opening your mind. For example, I didn’t know I liked eating cow heart until I traveled to Peru, and China is constantly making me say, "I didn't even know that was a thing available to buy". My point is, traveling is so much more than just the destination, it's about finding out who are you within that destination. I've come to learn more about myself through my travels than I ever did at school or through sports. 

I don't care if you travel, but I think you should. Understanding just how big the world really is and connecting with people from different cultural backgrounds is something I believe will make the world a better place. Too often we sit back and judge people based on stereotypes or what we see portrayed on tv or in the news. Learning firsthand what a culture and its people are like can have enormous effects on how we live our lives and the way we treat people going forward. So it's with these closing thoughts that I urge you to take a trip, even a domestic one, because life is short and there is so much waiting to be explored. 

Wednesday Write-Up

I just finished writing a 93,000 word book and it was a roller coaster of a project. However, it is far from being done. I still need to write a query letter, a synopsis, find an editor, send it out to agents & publishers; a long way to go. However, the process of writing a novel got me thinking that I should write more on this blog. This is an outlet for me to write whatever I want on whatever topic I so choose. With that being said, I have decided that every Wednesday, I will post a piece of writing. There won't be a specific topic, but I think it's important that I continue to work on my writing and perhaps give a better insight into China or my life that may not be conveyed through just pictures. 

For anyone who might read this blog, I'm open to any suggestions about topics or things that you would be interested in reading. I know my audience is small, but I'm always open to feed-back as this site is meant not only for me, but also for those who engage with it. So please, leave a comment on this post or under the Contact page, you can send me a direct message.

Side note - I'll be in Japan from December 23rd - January 2nd. The smog and monotony of spending the past two Christmases in Beijing was the primary factor in deciding to spend Christmas 2017 in Tokyo. 

Clarification

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. Over the past two months, I have been working on a novel and have aimed to write 1,000 words per day. As someone who doesn't think of himself as creative, this has been a challenging process. It's a fictitious work about a global policy that works to resolve overpopulation. Will I try to publish it? Absolutely. Do I think it will get published? Ehhh. For me, it's more about trying to do something that I never thought possible. I'm about 20,000 words away from my goal and as soon as I wrap that up, so begins the editing process. I'll continue to work on keeping my blog up to date as I'm sure the only person who reads this, my mother, is still curious about my life in China. 

In the future, I will work to post at least once per day and work on writing more. I know I've gotten lazy with simply posting a picture but you know what they say, "worth a thousand words."

Comments

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