S.G. Browne

The Writing Life: Tales of Rejection

Back in the early 1990’s I was a fledgling horror writer, penning supernatural horror stories about alternate realities and Nintendo gods and things that go bump in the night and sending them off to magazines with names like Deathrealm and Pulphouse and Haunts, among others.  Lots of others.

Naturally, I felt my stories were worth being published, otherwise I wouldn’t have sent them out. To be honest, looking back on those first stories, they weren’t particularly good.  I wouldn’t ever want to publish them in a collection as an example of my writing abilities.  More as an example of how you can eventually get from A to Z.

But in spite of my current perspective on my past writing, I did get published for the first time ever in a digest sized horror and dark fantasy magazine called Redcat Magazine in the Spring of 1994.

“Wish You Were Here” was a simple little tale about an airplane that crashes and the thrill-seeking passenger who is doomed to experience the last moments of his life over and over.  Just a month earlier the same story had been rejected by the editors at Deathrealm for being too sophomoric.  Which it probably was.  But Redcat loved it, bought it, and published it a few months later for $5 and a half dozen author copies.


At that time, I’d only been writing for a few years and I figured I’d get more short stories published and would find representation for my first novel that I’d just written and be on my way to publishing glory.  The fact that the next four stories I wrote got accepted for publication only added to my optimism.

Instead, those four short stories never saw print because the magazines that accepted them went out of business. After that, I hit a solid rejection streak that lasted five years until I published another short story.  And it would be another ten years after that until I published my first novel, Breathers, which was actually my fourth novel.

All in all, from 1992 to 2002, I submitted my short stories and my first three novels to more than five hundred magazines and agents and editors.  I eventually wound up with sixteen acceptances and ten short stories published, which comes to an acceptance rate of about 3%.  Which means I got rejected 97% of the time.

Try taking that success rate into a singles bar and see what that does for your self-esteem.

Filed under: The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 7:31 am

Movie Review Monday – Mystery Men

I don’t know many people who saw this film when it came out in 1999, which is reflected by it’s meager box office take. But just because a movie doesn’t make any money at the theaters doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing. Most of the movies on my Top 10 List of All Time Favorite Films weren’t considered box office successes. And while Mystery Men isn’t on that list, if you enjoy fun characters and riffs on the superhero films, then you’ll enjoy this one.

Champion City has been virtually cleansed of criminals by the corporate-logo-clad Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear), who is frustrated because his publicist can’t get him anything better than a battle with The Red Eyes at an old age home. It doesn’t help that Pepsi has just dropped him as a sponsor and that he’s in danger of losing his other endorsement deals. So Captain Amazing’s alter ego, billionaire Lance Hunt, decides to help argue for the parole of his nemesis, Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), so he can position himself for maintaining his sponsors and status. Unfortunately, Captain Amazing’s plan backfires and he’s captured by Casanova Frankenstein.

In the meantime, a trio of less-than-glamorous crime fighters – Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), The Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the fork-flinging Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) – find themselves struggling for notoriety and respect. To improve their standing and help them to rescue Captain Amazing, they enlist the help of The Spleen (Paul Reubens), The Bowler (Janeane Garofalo), and Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell).

With the help of the terribly mysterious and wisdom espousing The Sphinx (“He who questions training only trains himself at asking questions”), the group of ragtag superheroes takes on Captain Casanova and attempts to rescue Champion City’s superhero.

The dialogue is excellent, the casting pitch-perfect, and the art direction outstanding. Yes, the premise is somewhat silly and there are several minor plot issues but you’re not watching this film for it’s credibility or social commentary.

Put it on your Netflix queue.

Filed under: Movie Review Mondays,Movies and Books — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 8:52 am

Fiction Friday – The History of Love

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is a poignant, touching, heart-breaking, and funny work of art. There. That’s all you need to know. Now go out and read it. What? You need a little more to convince you? Okay, fine.

“When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT.”

So begins The History of Love, a literary novel told in alternating chapters from the POV of octogenarian Leo Gursky, teenager Alma Singer, and, to a lesser extent, Alma’s would-be Messiah younger brother Bird and a tormented writer named Zvi Litvinoff.

The beauty of the novel lies not only in the prose but in the deft manner in which Krauss seamlessly weaves together the story lines of her characters. You feel for them. You root for them. You imagine running into them on the street. And in the end, you’re sad to see them go.

If you’re looking for plot and action and are one of those readers who needs to have something happening by page 50, you’re not going to get that here.  What happens is what transpires as you get to know the characters and you discover what they’ve loved and what they’ve lost and how they go about trying to get it back.

Without giving too much away, The History of Love is about a book within a book. It’s about what that book meant to the people who read it and the person who wrote it.  It’s about love and relationships and what people mean to one another.  And it’s about finding what you need, even if it’s not what you set out to find.

Filed under: Fiction Fridays,Movies and Books — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 9:21 am

Wild Card Wednesday – Play It Again, Sam

Welcome to Wild Card Wednesdays, where there aren’t really any rules as to what I can blog about, though I’ll tend to focus on something to do with writing. Sometimes I’ll blog about what I’m working on.  Sometimes I’ll blog about the business of writing.  Sometimes I’ll ask you what you want me to blog about.  And sometimes, I’m just going to be plain lazy and regurgitate a post for old times sake.  And this is one of those times.

In September of 2008, I posted an entry about my now defunct Tuesday night writers group.  We would start off each workshop with a 5-10 minute writing exercise that would change from meeting to meeting.  Sometimes it would be on a certain subject.  Sometimes it would be a certain setting.  Sometimes it would focus on character development or dialogue or description.

At this workshop, the exercise was to write the opening to a story that incorporated five different elements:

A setting.  An musical instrument.  A profession.  An animal.  And a mythical creature.

I asked each of the other five members in attendance to provide a suggestion for one of the elements above.  Those elements turned out to be:

A hair salon. A sousaphone. A nurse. A gerbil. And a leprechaun.

We all wrote our own story openings using those elements.  Below is what I came up with for my opening scene:

One day at the hair salon, I’m giving a simple cut and wash to my third Thursday three o’clock, when in walks a leprechaun with a sousaphone.

“Mind if I play?” says the leprechaun.

I look at the leprechaun, all three feet of him, staring up at me over the lip of the tuba, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s a bad idea to say “no.”

“Sure, whatever,” I say, figuring it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The woman in the chair, my third Thursday three o’clock, looks at me in the mirror and says, “That’s strange.”

I figure she’s talking about the leprechaun, who’s standing by the hair driers playing the opening notes of “The Girl From Ipanema,” when in walks a nurse with a gerbil on a leash.

And I’m thinking that this looks like trouble…

Next post: Fiction Friday – The History of Love

Filed under: Random Fiction,Wild Card Wednesdays — S.G. Browne @ 8:30 am

Movie Review Monday – Black Swan

So we’re kicking off Movie Review Mondays with Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) and starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.

The first thing I’ll say is that I found the acting to be excellent. I love Natalie Portman and found her portrayal of a fragile ballet dancer who wins the coveted lead role in her company’s production of Swan Lake both believable and heartbreaking. I’m also a fan of Mila Kunis, who brings a dark, playful sexuality to her role as Portman’s would be saboteur. And Barbara Hershey channels Faye Dunaway in Mommy Dearest as Portman’s controlling and resentful mother.

Without giving away any spoilers, the movie is a mix of fantasy and reality that ultimately becomes a tragic horror film. An odd mix, sure, but you have to remember we’re talking about the same director who helmed Pi and Requiem for a Dream. If you’re expecting a serious, mainstream film, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s more of a surreal art house film with psychological horror tendencies.

The negative reviews for the film have generally described it as over the top, campy, and descending into ridiculousness.  While there are moments of dark humor where the entire audience laughed and made me wonder if that’s the reaction Aronofsky was hoping to get, I was compelled by the tragedy of watching Portman’s character descend into a madness brought on by the pressure of her success. You know it probably won’t end well for her and while you aren’t emotionally invested in any of the characters, it’s still sad to watch.

Next post: Wild Card Wednesday

Filed under: Movie Review Mondays,Movies and Books — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 8:26 am