Archive for October, 2011

Flashathon Hour 8 Prompt: From Bud Sparhawk

The sun has gone down here on the east coast.  Dinner time has come and gone.  Here at the Casa Del Thurston we’re eating pizza.  Or Chinese.  Hard to tell, really, since I’m writing these posts last night so I have one less thing to coordinate tomorrow.

This hour is being inspired by Bud Sparhawk, which has me rather awed as he’s been publishing since before I was born.  Interesting concept we’re going to launch into here:

It’s not that complicated to conceive of robots that people love and have sex with.  What is really going to teach us about human nature is when we begin to think about what it takes to build a robot that can fall in love with people.

Alright, I’m going to try not to just sit and ponder that in a zen-like state and get to writing.  Join in with us in the comments as we ask ourselves just what is love.

Bud Sparhawk is a hard science fiction short story writer who started writing in 1975 with three sales to ANALOG. Since returning to writing his works have appeared in ANALOG, Asimovs, several anthologies as well as in other print media and on-line magazines both in the United States and Europe. He has two short story collections and one novel. He has been a three-time Nebula finalist. He lives in Annapolis, Maryland and is a frequent sailor on the Chesapeake Bay. A complete biography, lists of stories, copies of articles, and other material can be found at his web site.

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Flashathon Hour 7 Prompt: From Jennifer Brinn

Six hours down.  Six hours to go.  We’ve reached the midway point.  If you’re following along at home, you’ve likely written more words already than you will the rest of the evening.  Crazy, huh?

I’m giving this hour over to someone who has made the Flashathon as awesome as it is.  See these guest inspiration posts?  Most of them were the doing of Jennifer Brinn, going around Capclave like a woman possessed and having no qualms about asking anyone and everyone who would help us out.  So here we go:

A Blessing and a Woe:  The same event may be considered a blessing or a woe depending on the character’s circumstances, desires, and goals.  Think of something that is both.

So journey with us into the second half of Flashathon.  Comments are open for your flash pieces and progress reports.

Jennifer Brinn is the founder and facilitator of the Cat Vacuuming Society Writers Group of Northern Virginia (CVS). A graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, she has published three short stories and is currently finishing her first novel.  She is also a Networking Ninja.  You can find her online at Writing Out Loud and on Twitter as @JenBrinn.

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Flashathon Hour 6 Prompt: From A.C. Crispin

If you’d believe it, when we get to the end of this hour we’ll already be halfway through the inaugural Flashathon.  To pull back the curtain, I wrote and scheduled all these posts yesterday, so by now I might be thinking “inaugural? More like only!”  Hopefully everyone is still going strong, keep in there!

This hour’s prompt comes from A. C. Crispin.  It’s the single longest prompt of the event, I promise, so I figured setting it right in the middle would create a nice hump and let us all go downhill from here.  So let’s go!

If we’d gotten here two hours ago, this child would still be alive, Maceo thought, staring down at the small, too-still body.  Red desert clay had sifted down, filming the wide-open eyes.  They had been blue.  Maceo sighed.

Wow.  That’s dark.  But then, I love dark.  As always, use it, enjoy it, don’t use it, just create!  I’ll see you in the comments.

A. C. Crispin is the author of bestselling Star Wars novels and Star Trek novels, but her most famous genre work was the 1984 novelization of the television miniseries V. Crispin and noted fantasy author Andre Norton wrote two Witch World novels together. A.C. Crispin has been active in SFWA since soon after joining the organization in 1983. She and Victoria Strauss created SFWA’s “scam watchdog” committee, Writer Beware, in 1998. Crispin still serves as the Chair. Writer Beware warns aspiring writers about the numerous scam agents and publishers that infest the Internet these days. Crispin and Strauss have assisted law enforcement in bringing several infamous con artists to justice. Before submitting your work, visit Writer Beware. A.C. Crispin’s new book is the prequel to the mega-popular Pirates of the Caribbean films. Pirates of the Caribbean: Price of Freedom, and chronicles how Disney’s infamous film pirate first became a pirate captain. Her major science fiction undertaking is the StarBridge series, which will be reissued in omnibus editions from Meisha Merlin in 2007. Crispin’s newest work is an original fantasy trilogy for Harper/Eos, The Exiles of Boq’urain. Book one, Storms of Destiny, was released August 2005, and she is hard at work on Book 2, Winds of Vengeance. Book 3, Flames of Chaos, will be her next project. She currently teaches writing workshops at Anne Arundel Community College and Dragon*Con in Atlanta.

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Flashathon Hour 5 Prompt: from Leah Petersen

This hour we’ve got guest inspiration from Leah Petersen, the mind behind 5 Minute Fiction, a flash fiction writing challenge that directly inspired me to create Flashathon.  She has graciously provided not only a prompt, but a few words of inspiration.

She quotes physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), “Physics is like sex: sure it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”  To which she adds, “I love that not just for how applicable it is to my main character (a physicist) but how well it works if you replace ‘physics’ with ‘writing.’  Why are you doing it, anyway?”

I’m sure at this point in the flashathon some of you may be asking “why am I doing this, anyway?” but I don’t think quite in the way Leah meant.  So let’s press on with our next hour in this crazy mixed-up event with a new prompt:

“Take your pick: a cloudless blue sky or the last three seconds on the bomb timer; either way, there’s not much difference.”

Leah Petersen lives and writes in North Carolina somewhere between the day job and the wife-and-mother gig. Rather than waste her time getting fresh air and sunshine, hanging out with friends, or pursuing an actual career, she reads books, writes, knits, and games. Sometimes all at the same time.  Her first novel, Fighting Gravity, is coming in 2012 from Dragon Moon Press.  Every Tuesday at 12:30pm Eastern time, Leah Petersen runs a 5MinuteFiction contest. It’s fast and it’s furious and there’s a slight chance of injury. But it’s fun. Join us!

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Flashathon Hour 4 Prompt: From James Morrow

How’s everyone holding up?  Right about now I’m sure the reality of the situation is sinking in.  We’ve got 3 hours behind us, we’ve still got 9 ahead.  But instead on focusing on that, let’s focus on fractions.  That means we’re 1/4 of the way through.  In sixty short minutes we’ll be 1/3 of the way.

This hour is inspired by James Morrow, who really went above and beyond providing so many fantastic prompts that I refuse to choose just one of them.  In fact, he gave me five, so I’ll throw them all out and let people pick.

  1. The first time he died, Edward Truffington vowed that he would arrange things differently next time.
  2. Have I entered upon this experiment out of curiosity, or am I in thrall to some malign force for which natural philosophy does not yet have a name?
  3. Not long after I’d learned to cope with my doppelgänger, I was given to understand that my doppelgänger had a doppelgänger.
  4. It was a snarky and do-re-mi night.
  5. Midway through his seminal investigation of pea-plant genetics, Gregor Mendel found a triffid growing in his monastery garden, whereupon his work went in a new direction.

So you’ve got your choices.  Not sure if that makes things lower or higher pressure, but there we go.  Have at it!  Also, because he provided so many prompts, I’m going to spontaneously invent the James Morrow Rule!  If, during the rest of the day, you just can’t get a story going for the prompt that hour, come back here and take another one of James Morrow’s prompts and run with it instead.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James MorrowJames Morrow has been writing fiction ever since, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, he dictated “The Story of the Dog Family” to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. Morrow’s passion for storytelling continued into adulthood, enabling him to win the World Fantasy Award (twice), the Nebula Award (twice), the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Prix Utopia, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. So far the author’s best known effort is the postmodern historical epic The Last Witchfinder, praised by Janet Maslin of the New York Times for fusing “storytelling, showmanship and provocative book-club bait … into one inventive feat.” He followed it with a thematic sequel, The Philosopher’s Apprentice, which NPR called “an ingenious riff on Frankenstein.” Morrow’s most recent book is a novella, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, set in 1945 and dramatizing the U.S. Navy’s attempts to leverage a Japanese surrender via a biological weapon that strangely anticipates Godzilla.

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Flashathon Hour 3 Prompt: From Danielle Ackley-McPhail

It’s 2pm here on the east coast, 11am on the west coast, and somewhere  in between in the rest of America.  If you’re here in the Eastern Time Zone, I’m hoping you’ve had a good lunch to keep you going through the day.  If you’re west of here…eat lunch!  Keep the brain fueled, and it’ll keep churning out the creativity.

This hour’s inspiration comes from writer and anthology editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail.  It’s a little more abstract of a concept, something that might get your mind churning.  And perhaps your stomach rumbling a little.

“Dessert first” might be great once in a while, but it’s no way to live.

Life is uncertain, so get your story written!  As usual the comments are wide open for your stories, your progress reports, or anything else.

Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over a decade. Her works include the urban fantasy, Yesterday’s Dreams, and its upcoming sequel, Tomorrow’s Memories. She also has co-edited and contributed to numerous anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, and the upcoming science fiction anthologies Barbarians at the Jumpgate and Space Pirates. Her non-fiction works include a chapter on writer’s groups in The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: The Author’s Grimoire, a chapter on the vehicles of magic in the upcoming Elements of Fantasy: Magic, and a chapter on self-promotions for the upcoming Profitable Publishing. Danielle is a member of the electronic publishing organization EPIC, as well as Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres. Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats.

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Flashathon Hour 2 Prompt: From Laura Anne Gilman

I hope everyone was able to get through the first hour without too much trouble.  Just like any other online writing challenge.  Now’s where the rubber hits the road as we all turn around and do it again.

This hour’s prompt was provided by Laura Anne Gilman, providing a setting for your stories.  So let’s get down to it:

The protagonist, the antagonist, and the narrator meet at a crossroads…

Use it, have fun with it, or write something else entirely.  Just create!  And let us know what you did in the comments.

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the Cosa Nostradamus novels, including the forthcoming Tricks of the Trade (November 2011) and the Nebula award-nominated Vineart War fantasy trilogy, which began with Flesh and Fire and Weight of Stone, and concludes in October with The Shattered Vine. Her story collection, Dragon Virus, was published as a limited edition hardcover from Fairwood Press. A member of the on-line writers’ consortium BookVew Café, she writes the “Practical Meerkat” advice column for writers on their blog every Friday. Learn more at www.lauraannegilman.net or follow her on Twitter: @LAGilman.

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Flashathon Hour 1 Prompt: From DL Thurston

Aaaaaaaaand GO!

Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re seeing this post, it means Flashathon has begun!  I’ll be here for the next twelve hours, as will the other members of the Cat Vacuuming Society taking part.  Join us for as much or as little of the madness as you’d like.

Since I’m in charge around here, I thought I’d take responsibility for the first hour’s inspiration.  Since we’re warming up, I’m going to keep it easy.  Trust me, I’ve seen all the prompts (the benefit of running the event) and there are some fantastically complex ones on tap.  For this first hour, let’s just start with:

In the beginning…

There it is.  Use it, don’t use it, have fun with it, and let us know in the comments what you’ve done.  If you’d like to post your stories, you can, but if you’d prefer not, at least mention what you worked on.  Next prompt coming up at 1pm Eastern.

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Flashathon Eve, More Guest Inspiration

I was hoping to have a few more names to announce as the week went on, and as it turns out I do.  We’re still hoping to hear back from one or two people who have promised prompts and have specifically said they’re still thinking about them, so I might have one or two last-minute surprise guests announced when their prompts go live.  Again, I can’t express how amazing it’s been that people have taken the time to provide inspiration for what started as a silly idea bandied about between friends.  With just 24 hours to go, it’s starting to feel so very real.

If you missed the previous announcement, here are the other people who have been so gracious with their time.

Laura Anne Gilman: (From Capclave program) Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the Cosa Nostradamus novels, including the forthcoming Tricks of the Trade (November 2011) and the Nebula award-nominated Vineart War fantasy trilogy, which began with Flesh and Fire and Weight of Stone, and concludes in October with The Shattered Vine. Her story collection, Dragon Virus, was published as a limited edition hardcover from Fairwood Press. A member of the on-line writers’ consortium BookVew Café, she writes the “Practical Meerkat” advice column for writers on their blog every Friday. Learn more at www.lauraannegilman.net or follow her on Twitter: @LAGilman.

Leah Petersen: (From her website) Leah Petersen lives and writes in North Carolina somewhere between the day job and the wife-and-mother gig. Rather than waste her time getting fresh air and sunshine, hanging out with friends, or pursuing an actual career, she reads books, writes, knits, and games. Sometimes all at the same time.  Her first novel, Fighting Gravity, is coming in 2012 from Dragon Moon Press.  Every Tuesday at 12:30pm Eastern time, Leah Petersen runs a 5MinuteFiction contest. It’s fast and it’s furious and there’s a slight chance of injury. But it’s fun. Join us!

James Morrow: (From Capclave program) James Morrow has been writing fiction ever since, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, he dictated “The Story of the Dog Family” to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. This three-page, six-chapter fantasy is still in the author’s private archives.

Upon reaching adulthood, Morrow proceeded to write nine novels and enough short stories to fill two collections. He has won the World Fantasy Award twice, the Nebula Award twice, and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire once.

To date Morrow’s most conspicuous literary effort is a postmodern historical epic called The Last Witchfinder, praised by the New York Times for fusing “storytelling, showmanship and provocative book-club bait … into one inventive feat.” It tells of Jennet Stearne, who makes it her life’s mission to bring down the 1604 Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. The author followed this novel with a thematic sequel, The Philosopher’s Apprentice, which NPR called “an ingenious riff on Frankenstein.” Jim’s most recent book is his Sturgeon Award-winning novella, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, set in 1945 and dramatizing the U.S. Navy’s attempts to leverage a Japanese surrender via a biological weapon that strangely anticipates Godzilla.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail: (From Capclave program) Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over a decade. Her works include the urban fantasy, Yesterday’s Dreams, and its upcoming sequel, Tomorrow’s Memories. She also has co-edited and contributed to numerous anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, and the upcoming science fiction anthologies Barbarians at the Jumpgate and Space Pirates. Her non-fiction works include a chapter on writer’s groups in The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy: The Author’s Grimoire, a chapter on the vehicles of magic in the upcoming Elements of Fantasy: Magic, and a chapter on self-promotions for the upcoming Profitable Publishing. Danielle is a member of the electronic publishing organization EPIC, as well as Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres. Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats.

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#WhyIWrite

Fantastic hash tag today on Twitter, being pushed by Neil Gaiman, asking people why they write.  I gave a short answer, since that’s what Twitter is meant for, this is my longer response.

I’ve asked myself the question multiple times since I first started writing nearly a decade ago.  Except, it’s not normally phrased “why do I write?” but “why the hell am I putting myself through this?” or “why am I doing this to myself?”  Writing ain’t easy, sometimes it isn’t even fun, yet something pushes me to keep going, to keep doing it.  In the end it boils down to three things.

I write because I’ve got stories in my head.  It’s my way of getting them out.  It’s my way of seeing if other people like those stories.  It’s a release.  I’ve never liked the concept of stories insisting upon themselves, of characters who “take over” and drive a short story or novel.  Perhaps that’s just because my stories, my characters, don’t work that way.  But they are still there, running around my brain, and I think I’d go rather mad if I didn’t let them out.  Madder.  I’ve only ever lived in my own head, so I don’t know how others work.  I assume everyone has stories.  The line that some just choose to cross is writing them down.

I write because the community of writers is awesome.  I see this at Capclave every year, at the other conventions I go to.  It’s a welcoming community of friendly people who celebrate each others’ successes.  Surely that can’t be every writer, though I suspect those who don’t feel that way aren’t really go-to-conventions types anyway.  I saw it first hand in the way writers who I know and respect were willing to take a few minutes of their time to help out my silly little writing marathon on Saturday.  Because, in the end, writing is not a zero sum game.  One person’s success doesn’t have to come at the expense of everyone else.  That’s a community I want to be part of, and one day I hope I can give others the support I’ve even already received.

I write because it’s fun.  Okay, yes, that contradicts what I said earlier.  Writing is often not fun.  Editing is almost never fun.  But the end goal, that’s fun.  Having created.  Few more awesome feelings than that.  Only one I can think of is the validation that comes when I’ve had something I’ve created picked up for publication.  The idea that a complete stranger thought enough of what I produced to include it in a volume with their name on the cover as editor.  May that sensation never get old.  May I never get used to it.

So there it is.  There’s my answer as to #whyIwrite.  If you’ve got your own, share it on Twitter with the hashtag, or if you want here in the comments.  Then get back to it.

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