Archive for category Contests

#OneOffFlash Week: Only

Here it is, the stand-in contest to fill the void with so many other flash fiction contests taking the week off.  Your goal, if you choose to accept it, is to write and post up to 500 words, one of which must be the word below.  The contest will close at 8pm Eastern Time (5pm Pacific), at which point I’ll read through the stories and decide on one to be the big winner of the first, last, and only One Off Flashfiction contest.  That winner will walk away knowing that no one else will ever equal his or her accomplishment, as I never intend to run this contest again!

Sound simple enough?  Good.

Then lets go.

Your theme word is…RESOLVE

There are 16 definitions available for the word on dictionary.com, 12 as a noun, 4 as a verb.  I’m just asking you to use one of those.

Good luck, and good writing.

And don’t forget your Twitter handle!

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Why I #HumpDayChallenge

Anyone who reads this blog can tell you I tend to be wordy.  Anyone who has been a beta reader for my fiction can tell you that’s doubly true.  And you know what?  I’m not going to apologize for that.

But then a new challenge came along, the Hump Day Challenge, run on Tracy Hansen’s blog Will Write For Food.  The challenge?  Take 5 provided words, combine them with no more than 95 of your own words, and try to make the best damn story you can out of them, all genres and all writers welcome.  That’s not a lot of space, but that’s the power of the challenge.  Through practice, trial, and error the forced economy of words that comes out of the challenge is starting to bleed over into my fiction.

Clearly not everything should be written with such restriction in place.  100 words isn’t a lot of room for plot, nor does it allow for scene setting, characterization, or any of the other necessities of good fiction, but it is enough words to really set a strong scene, and with a few cheats and short cuts can be just enough words to assemble a full thought.  Even for someone as wordy as myself.

So if the idea of writing just 100 words of fiction terrifies the hell out of you, it might be just the right challenge for you to undertake.  Don’t expect to be able to tell a full story, but do expect to set a scene, tell a joke, make a point, and if you keep going, learn how best to use words economically both within the challenge and then within your longer stories.  The lessons are surprisingly transmutable.

Come on and join the fun this Wednesday!

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The Barrel of a Shogun

For those of you who don’t know the story, “barrel of a shogun” was perhaps my single most infamous typos.  In part because it was so persistent.  It survived not just edits of the story that spawned it, but even the transition from a short story to a short teleplay.  The word was meant to be shotgun, but because I am my own worst editor, and Word never thought to mark it with one of the red squiggly lines I overuse as a crutch, it just kept thriving.

I tell that story not to provide a cautionary tale about editing, or warning about reliance on spell checkers that can’t necessarily understand context, but more as a distraction to myself as I realize what phase my writing career is about to enter.  It did so gradually, without me being aware of it, which is probably how it’s supposed to happen.  I realized this weekend that I already have two stories out for consideration, two in progress that will go out between now and July 15, and another story that just got rejected and will likely head back out again soon.

Depending on response times for the three stories for anthologies with June 30th deadlines, I may soon have five stories simultaneously out for consideration.  And all in the month when my first short story publication is supposed to drop.

Madness.  Absolute madness.  And yet, it’s a point where I needed to get to, that point where I get over the jitters of submitting and have a solid stable of stories ready to venture forth into the world.  Most of them even have secondary or tertiary destinations if they miss their primary targets.  But I will say with confidence: one of the five will hit.  I’ve been told for years that as an author one shouldn’t set goals that are outside of one’s influence.  Which is to say never set “publication” as a goal.  But I’m feeling just that good about where I am now that I see limbs and I want to walk out on them.  So that’s my limb.  One story.  20% success rate.  If it was a major league hitter he’d be sent down to the minors, but for a starting out writer it’s probably hoping for far too much.

But if it weren’t for optimism, I wouldn’t be sending out stories at all.

So out on the branch I go.  Just watch out for me, cause if I miss and go zero for five, this branch is just high enough for a noose.

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The Week That Is

Just some updates. First, got a rejection from Mammoth Book on Vampires of Mars. Cry cry, depressed, move on. The story is already back out the door and winging its way towards Writers of the Future. This is a story I really believe in, so I’m going to keep it in heavy circulation with its next several stops already well planned out. This is actually going to be a good week for me submission-wise as I send two stories out the door. Other one is for an anthology with a July 1 deadline, but the story is ready and I don’t want it hanging over my head. Especially since there’s another July 1 anthology I’m going out for that I’ve only got a few hundred words written towards. Eep.

Continuing to be told July on the publication of Steam Works, so I’m still hoping that anthology actually does happen.

The bigger news is about Rust. Several months ago I put Rust out for the Kindle and on Smashwords, largely to explore the process and see how it works for a series of posts over on Unleaded. I left it out there because, what the hell, why not? Well, I recently got my first review on Amazon. Two stars. Ouch. And that started the wheels in motion for eventually pulling it back offline. This isn’t a petulant “someone didn’t like my book so I’m taking my ball and going home” move, but rather one that I’ve always sort of planned. The review drove home that Rust isn’t necessarily the best public face for myself. It was a Nanowrimo project with a plot that’s disjointed at times, a bizarre conclusion, and probably less editing than I would have really liked to do. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t throw out a completely unedited Nano project, I gave it several passes. But in part that’s the problem: I gave it several passes. And I’m really not the world’s best editor.

So Rust will probably come down before the publication of Steam Works.  It won’t be today, but it’ll probably be in the next month or so, and likely without notice.  Anyone who still wants a copy is still free to grab one, just remember to keep your expectations low.  I know, that’s the hard sell right there, isn’t it?

I’m likely talking to some new readers.  At least I hope I am.  I’ve been participating in 5 Minute Fiction the last two weeks (if you’re reading this on the morning it was posted, it’s not too late to vote for my story to help me move from a distant last to merely a distant 4th place) and have seen the readership of my blog spike both Tuesdays and stay higher-than-usual in between.  It’s been a hell of a lot of fun doing these pieces the last two weeks, and plan to keep going and evangelize it to other writers as I can.  It’s all the fun of Nanowrimo with just 1/10800th the time commitment!

Finally, I’ve been talked into Balticon, though will likely only be attending one day of the event.  It’s going to be my first attempt at attending a con semi-professionally.  Yes, I’m going to actually meet people and not shyly wander around and not ask questions in panels.  Fortunately I’ll be guided by much more extroverted friends towards the right people to meet and talk to.

So there’s the week that is for me.  It’s Wednesday, which means I’ll also be posting over on Unleaded today, just as soon as I figure out what I’m going to talk about.  No.  Seriously.  I haven’t a clue right now.

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Out the door!

I hope there will be a point in my writing career when sending out a submission feels less like an event and more like just part of the job.  For now, though, it’s still the former.  Especially when sending something off to a (gasp) pro-rate anthology.  Best of luck, little story.

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State of the Writer: March

Time again for my monthly look at where I stand, and where I’m going.  Really, this is a bit of recap since I already made a post declaring March as short story editing month.  February saw no news on submitted stories, nor any new stories submitted.  March should see two going out, one that needs and edit, and one that I’m frantically trying to finish for an April 1 deadline but haven’t yet finished the first draft.

Calendars can be scary things.

February was one of my more productive months in far too long.  I’ve always been a momentum writer and I lost a lot of that momentum for most of 2010.  I think this blog is helping me stage the comeback, because even though readership is light according to Google Analytics, it still forces me to look in a mirror occasionally and say “what are you doing if you want to keep calling yourself a writer?”

I was looking for a good anthology to be my next challenge, and can’t seem to find one that really calls to me.  Okay, that’s a lie, I found one that interested me, but I can’t get behind “exposure is your payment” type things.  Sorry, exposure doesn’t get me closer to SFWA membership.  And really, exposure-as-payment deals typically don’t have all that much of the former and thus lack even more in the latter.  So that’ll probably be even more incentive for March to be an editing month.

And who knows, maybe if I get both stories where I like them, even doing some Capsule work.

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Abandoning Ship

This image is overdramatic for the content of this post.

I was originally going to call this post something along the lines of “how not to run an anthology,” but that feels like something I throw around a bit too much without having any actual standing.  In the end it’s more about how not to approach an anthology, and how a story can die.

For a few weeks I’ve mentioned the Primogeniture anthology.  It was an interesting concept for an anthology, looking at life for the average resident on board a generation ship that was just far enough out from earth that people are starting to realize that this shit is real.  It couldn’t have aliens.  Your character couldn’t be the captain.  Or even someone that talks to the captain.  It was entirely the day to day life in such a circumstance (yes, this ties nicely with my mundane in the alien post).  When it was posted originally, there were very few additional details.  The ship was named the Primogeniture.  It had a captain and first officer.  It launched in 2111 and the stories were supposed to take place in the first few years of a 400 year trip.  The ship had 5000 people with an expectation of 10,000 upon arrival.

So I came up with a story about stowaways on the ship, and the implications when they’re discovered by a member of the maintenance crew.  It was, I felt, right on the edge of what they might consider for the anthology, but with so few rules to play with I went for a wide berth.  It is perhaps my own mistake that I didn’t contact the editors of the anthology before forging ahead with the idea.

What happened instead was I went ahead with the story.  Then when I realized I needed to name drop the captain, I went back to the anthology call for submissions to discover the rules had changed.  There was now a wider band of story lengths allowed, the stories could now be at any point in the 400 year trip, and there were more data points about how the ship operated, including dimensions and dispute resolution rules.  None of these was in direct contradiction to my story, so I shrugged my shoulders and pressed on.  Should I have written?  Yes.

Well, this week I went to the site again, and found there were now more rules about ship life.  Including, apparently, rather strict rules about birth control that include mandatory vasectomies, birth licenses, and strict birth limits.  I now no longer feel like my story can work within the rules as presented.  And…well, the rules have also now gotten self contradictory, as there is now a two-children-per-couple rule that doesn’t mesh with the anticipation of doubling population in 400 years.

So I do have my frustrations with the process, especially with the way the rules kept changing as the anthology went along.  I was worried from the beginning that submitters were expected to read the minds of the editors, less they break a ship rule that they didn’t know about.  Or, at least, write in and verify stuff.  And that is a lesson learned for me in all of this.  But it also just rubs me the wrong way how the goalposts for the anthology kept changing, and in some fairly major ways as the word count range and allowed settings both changed quite drastically after the original story call.

So could the editors have approached this anthology better?  Yes.  Could I have approached writing my story better?  Yes.  These are the kinds of lessons that must be learned by an aspiring writer, I suppose.

In the end, I’m forced to walk away from the story as a submission for the anthology, and may in the future rework it to remove the Primogeniture name from the ship and submit it somewhere that I can define the rules of the ship.  Might even work it into a novel length plot or a screenplay.  But for now I need to let it be.  It is a completed rough draft, and thus it will probably stay for awhile as I shift my attention towards Bad-Ass Faeries and the Mammoth Book of Steampunk.

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State of the Writer: February 2011

People tend to like to really look at themselves at the beginning of every year, making resolutions and the like.  As part of pushing myself to be in more direct touch with my writing, I’m going to start these state of the writer posts every month.  I make them public largely just to make myself do them.  You hear me, five people that Google Analytics says visited my site yesterday, I need to be kept honest.

Novels in Progress:

  • Capsule.
  • End of the Line.

Short Stories in Progress:

  • Back Half.  For the Primogeniture anthology.  Rough draft completed.  Due date April 7th.
  • The Luchador.  For Bad-Ass Faeries 4.  Proposal accepted, and rough draft in progress.  Due date June 2011.

Short Stories Sold:

  • The Rustler.  Woot.

Short Stories Out:

  • Sleep

Short Stories Doing Nothing.  Bad Writer.

  • !Div0
  • Queen of Belmeth

I’ve been falling down on my goal of keeping a certain number of stories circulating at any one time.  In part this is because I lucked out and sold one of my main circulators, but also in part because I’ve been falling down on Duotroping.  On the other hand, my goal of 6 stories written for specific anthologies is doing well, as I’ve got two in progress, even if I’m starting to back off on the notion of sending one to its intended destination.  I’ve been frustrated about the way Primogeniture keeps adding details to the ship, which is really reinforcing my initial fear that submitters had to somehow correctly guess how the editors always planned the ship to operate.  However, it’s still a fun generation ship story that I might clean up and send to anthologies that don’t have nearly so many rules about how a generation ship should work.  I’ll probably give one more try, but if the goalposts move again and make it even harder to tell my story on their ship, then I’ll have to go on my own.

I haven’t forgotten Capsule.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of mental outlining that needs to turn into physical outlining to get me from where I am to where I know this act ends.  There’s a few key scenes, I just need to make sure there’s no more.

People who’ve known my writing for awhile will notice an old favorite on my Novels In Progress list: End of the Line.  I feel like something needs to happen fast with it, since the whole conceit of the story is based around the five lines of what will soon be a six-line DC Metro system.  I’ve had multiple suggestions made, from ignoring the sixth line to inventing a sixth horseman of the apocalypse (I feel like adding a fifth is about the most I can do to stretch that particular concept), to setting the novel in a given pre-Silver Line year.  None of them strikes me as all that fulfilling of an option, with the third the most appealing of an unappealing lot.  So I think instead I’m going to push to get something done with it, even if it ends up on Smashwords (my emergency fallback point to be sure).

I’ve been happy with the first two installments of the Fortnightcap project.  It’s going to keep going for now.

In all, I’m satisfied but not thrilled.  I’m certainly ramping back up from my lost 2010.  I’d probably be doing better if Altair and Ezio didn’t need nearly so much help assassinating people.

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Noodling feels good.

I’ve been doing something I haven’t done in too long: noodling on a new plot concept.  Thanks to bouncing some ideas off of my wife and favorite noodling partner last night I’m about halfway to what I think is a plot I’d really enjoy writing for the Primogeniture contest I highlighted over in Unleaded.  It may mean that Capsule gets put on a back burner for a little while, but I also find that a rising tide lifts all ships when it comes to me getting my brain into the writing mode.  The working title for the new story is The Back Half (and when I saw working title, I can’t recall the last time I changed a working title to a “final” one).  Hopefully I’ll start putting words in documents before the new year.

In general, it’s a process that I enjoy.  She’s good at asking the right kind of questions to get me over such speed bumps as “well, I have a tone and characters, but what are they actually doing?”  Which turns out to be one of those really important questions when it comes to writing.  I’ve done some research on the subject, and apparently more competent writers than I call this a “plot”.  One day hopefully that’s the kind of thing I’d be able to come up with on my own.  Or maybe not.  It’s not like collaboration is such a dirty word.

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Cruise plot?

Over on Unleaded today I posted a trio of anthologies that I found in my last wander through Duotrope.  It didn’t occur to me until after I posted that one of the three might make for a fantastic outlet for my planned cruise story.  I leave it as an exercise to the reader which of queer-theme Steampunk, the end of the world, or a generation ship recently departed earth I see as the closest analogy to a cruise ship.  And I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense.  What other industry that exists today is often charged with keeping entertained several thousand people living in an enclosed space with no option for leaving?

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