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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNo Completo

I know it's December 1st and NaNoWriMo 2010 is almost 24 full hours behind us, literally yesterday's news. Rest assured, I completed the 50,000 word goal within the month. The 50,000th-ish word crossed the finish line at approximately 22:29 EST on 11/29. Plenty of time!

It's awesome to know that I accomplished something I'd set out to do. It's even cooler to know that thousands of people out there did the same thing and that some of those novels will be published some day soon! But not too soon...

A common misconception about NaNoWriMo is that once you've hit your 50,000 words, you magically have a complete novel. That couldn't be further from the truth. In some cases, people's stories may in fact be finished. But rushing through 50,000 words in a month means you will have a heap of editing and revising to do. Around the end of NaNoWriMo, agents start adding "Do not submit this year's NaNoWriMo until at least six months from now" clauses for that very reason.

Others, such as myself, might not even be done with their story at 50,000 words. A ballpark figure for fiction novels out on the shelves right now is 70,000-90,000 words. "Indigo" will end up somewhere around there. And for the record, I'm having an awesome time writing it! The characters are almost writing their own back-stories, dialogue and action scenes now. They've gotten a lot more interesting over the past month!

So will I attempt it again next year? I don't know. November happened to be one of the busiest months ever and I don't know where I'll be writing-wise next year. If I have a few projects that are begging to be written and nothing else pressing, then sure!

In the meantime, I have one more novel to finish (Indigo) and two to revise (Crawl, Blackwatch). Maybe early in 2011, one (or both) of them will find their way onto a shelf near you!

Happy belated Thanksgiving and congrats to anyone who attempted NaNoWriMo!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Let's Talk About Deadlines

It's half-way through November, which means I should be half-way through "Indigo," right? Right. And half-way means 25,000 words, right? Right.

Here's the problem...

I'm about 5,000 behind! How did that even happen? For two weeks I had been diligently keeping ahead of the 1,667 words a day pace. So what changed?

Oh, just a little thing called life. I'm way over-extended this month and have already cut back on some things I had planned just to squeeze in writing time. Unfortunately I now have to play catch up. I'm literally only writing this because I have another obligation in about 15 minutes and that simply does not give me enough time to dive back into the story. Let's hope said obligations do not take forever tonight because it's only Monday and I'm exhausted. sigh...

In other news, Miss Snark's First Victim is running a mega-awesome contest! If you have a project that's ready for submission, check this out!

I had fully intended on entering and was genuinely excited about it. But "Blackwatch" is nowhere near ready for it and I won't take the spot away from someone else who deserves it more. Besides, one less thing on my plate right now will be a glorious thing...

15 days and counting, 20,000 words and climbing.


Friday, November 5, 2010

The 5th of November

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and plot.
I know of no reason the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot."

~ V for Vendetta

I'm not just posting this because it's the fifth of November, or even because it's a kickass movie that I'm probably going to watch during a writing break tonight. I'm posting it because the film had a huge influence on my current project, "Indigo."

This being the 5th full day of November, I thought I'd let you know that as I write this I've put over 14,000 words into my NaNoWriMo story so far. Not bad. I'm above the pace of 1,667 words a day and I'd like to keep it this way. And I'll share a little secret with you...

This NaNo thing?


It's pretty awesome! I'm having a blast dedicating hours of each day to JUST WRITING. It's freeing and frustrating and exciting and depressing all at the same time. And I'm only like a sixth of the way through the month!

But if you're more interested in what my story is actually about, well...I can't tell you. But I can share some more influential media with you, as follows:

Movies: V for Vendetta, Blade Runner
TV Shows: Big O (an anime series about giant robots in domed cities)
Games: Heavy Rain
Books: Hunger Games trilogy, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, We - sensing a controlling governmental overtone yet? Close, but not exactly
Music: Volbeat, Rise Against, Deadmau5

If you like any of the above slices of media, I'm sure you'll find at least something interesting about my current project. Look for an update same time next week and good luck to you other NaNo's out there! Keep it up!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Go NaNo!

And so begins the 30-day marathon of writing! I'm tired already...

Good luck to all the other participants!


Friday, October 22, 2010

The Results Are In!

After weeks of INTENSE voting, it's time to tally up the scores!

As it stands now, "Undead Delivery" is in first place with 3 votes, while "Indigo" was a close second with 2 votes and "Romero Strain" made it a race with 1 vote. But wait a minute...what's this...

Much like in Harry Potter where Gryffindor House is woefully behind in the standings, some last minute changes have occurred.

There has been the aforementioned "Mom can't work the internet" vote: Indigo +1
A co-worker vote: Indigo and Business of Murder +1 each
And finally, a split vote from the comments: Indigo and The Romero Strain +1 each

So, if we tally the votes again:
"Dark Rebellion" and "Crock" have zero votes (sad face)
"Business of Murder" has 1
"The Romero Strain" has 2
"Undead Delivery" has 3
and the winner, with 5 votes, is.....................................................
"Indigo!" (Take that, Slytherins!)

Thanks to everyone for voting and for your interest in my NaNoWriMo project! To be honest, I was hoping it would be "Indigo." The other ideas are all things I could work with, but "Indigo" has been keeping me up nights. I've been getting bursts of plot, dialogue and scenes out of literally nowhere. I'll need that creative energy to burn through the month of November and frankly, the other projects just don't have it at the moment.

So thanks again! I'll update you on "Indigo"'s progress throughout the month.

Oh! And I know I mentioned a contest earlier this month, but I had to scrap it. Not quite enough time to finish up "Blackwatch" and get "Crawl" properly edited. So much to do and so little time!

Have a great weekend!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Truer Words

Do yourself a favor and read this short post by guest blogger Christine Fonseca.

If you're a creative type, it'll remind you that you're not alone when you start to question the quality of your work.

If you're not a creative type, it'll help you understand your friends that are, ie "why we freak out a lot." :-)


Friday, October 15, 2010


That poster has little to do with today's post, but who can resist a platypus playing the key-tar?!

Now for my own little Venn diagram:

So, yeah, the basic idea is that I'm smack in the middle of three projects at the moment. One I just finished and am currently awaiting feedback. Another I'm pulling off the dusty shelf and seeing just how much work I still have to put into it. And the last is awaiting a final vote by you helpful bloggy-type people! Right now I'm deadlocked at 3-3 for "Indigo" and "Undead Delivery." Yes I know the poll doesn't reflect it, but there's an uncounted "Mom vote." She still has trouble with the internets so this will be a hanging chad of sorts.

Just wanted to keep you posted. Please vote if you haven't yet! Only two weeks until November and NaNoWriMo! If you're participating, please let me know in the comments!

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Excitement is Contagious

Came across this vlog post today and had to share it:


Go wish her a congratulations on her book and upcoming publication!

I'll sit here and plan how I will share the news when I:
- get an agent
- get a book deal
- get an ARC shipped to me
- get published
- take the literary world by storm


Monday, October 11, 2010


No writer is perfect. A great writer of dialogue may struggle with conveying action. A master of description could have issues with pacing. One person's strength could be another's weakness.

My weakness is openings. Well, particularly, first chapters. I'm all right with hooks and first lines. But I fall into the trap of "setting up" the rest of the book in that very important first chapter. They tend to be fact-heavy and reek of backstory. I dress it up with heavy doses of characterization and I introduce some of the more vibrant elements of the story. But overall, it's my weak point.

And I'm sure my beta-readers will point that out very soon. Oh, haven't you heard? My first copies of "Blackwatch" should be printing/shipping as we speak. As soon as they arrive I'll get them into the hands of my readers and start sweating bullets while I wait for their opinions. Maybe while I wait, I'll work on revising that pesky first chapter.

Nathan Bransford's guest blog post has given me some good pointers for doing just that. I'd suggest checking it out if you have the same difficulties as I do!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Finalists

As promised, here are the final six story ideas I'm considering for National Novel Writers Month in November! Please take a look at the brief descriptions and vote for which one captures your interest the most! Any comments you have will be most helpful.

Dark Rebellion (fantasy):
A young orc, banished from his homeland and left to survive in the wilderness, finds unlikely hospitality in a band of woodland elves. In the midst of a war, he must return home and choose sides: his family who abandoned him or his elven friends, whose human allies have enslaved his people.

Indigo (sci-fi):
Detective Umber must work with fellow agents of SPECTRUM, a privatized police force, in order to solve the mass kidnapping of children who are rumored to have psychic abilities.

The Business of Murder (thriller):
Junior follows in his father’s footsteps when he starts an internship at the Academy, the world’s foremost corporation for assassins. Their business is murder. Business is good.

The Romero Strain (horror):
A scientist wages a personal war against a deadly virus that has turned 90% of the world into the living dead, but his research suggests their salvation may lie in the creation of an even worse abomination.

Undead Delivery [horror/humor(?)]:
Finding a summer job is infinitely more difficult when your neighborhood is overrun by zombies. Luckily, the pizza delivery guys are still hiring and they just so happen to be the best zombie killers around.

Crock (literary):
Twelve-year-old Finn goes in search of the legendary pot of gold at the end of a rainbow in order to save his family’s farm, while aging train-robbers return to claim their long-buried loot. Finn encounters Irish fairy folk along the way as he and the robbers inch inevitably closer to the treasure they all seek.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Will a fire, once rekindled,
sustain a man one winter more?
Or should he seek the firestarter
on some distant southern shore?


The Phantom Tollbooth was where I first learned of a term to describe that sleepy, no-energy, depressed feeling: the doldrums. We call it a lot of other things: the blues, the mopes, seasonal affective disorder, depression, apathy. Whatever you call it, the feeling ranges from acute to clinical. It could occur because of a gray, rainy Monday morning (welcome to Pittsburgh) or even during a bright summer day at a picnic surrounded by friends. It's funny that way.

And for writers it tends to be more prevalent. Do we experience the doldrums because we're so tuned into everything and experience intense emotions on both sides of the mood meter? Or do we gravitate to writing to escape these feelings?

How do you deal with them when they arise? Do you tough it out? Crank the melodramatic emo music? Binge on food or shopping to take your mind off of it? Or is it when you're at your writerly best?

My problem is silencing that little voice that, for some ungodly reason, tries to convince you that everything you're doing is wrong. This can come up in your writing or just your daily life. How do you get rid of it?

From 's Blog comes a new approach. It's a bit new-agey and touchy-feely, but at least it's a more active way to defeat the inner-critic. And to address it, they've brought in the big guns:

Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD writes fantasy, scifi, and nonfiction. She loves helping writers "get their psych right" in their stories, and her book on the same topic, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior
Here is Part 1 and Part 2

I need to try this out as I've been in a bit of a slump lately. Let me know if it works for you. Good luck escaping the doldrums and silencing that critical voice!


Friday, October 1, 2010


Happy first day of October! I love everything about this month: autumn colors, piles of leaves, football, cool nights, football, hayrides, pumpkins, apple cider, jack o'lanterns, football, HALLOWEEN, and contests!

*The Oatmeal sums up the stages of Trick 'r Treating quite nicely
*Somewhat offensive language/themes, ie not for kids

But what was that I said about contests? Well I'll have more info on that (hopefully) this weekend. I'm thinking of running a very-short-story contest based off of a prompt. Mostly for fun, yes, but there will be a prize...of sorts.

My previous project, after which this blog is named, was a horror story entitled "Crawl." Some of you have read it, most of you have not, but any of you could win an autographed copy!
*"Crawl" is also pretty adult in nature with some offensive language/themes/scenes. Maybe it'll make it onto a banned booklist someday!

Like I said, more details to come...and I should probably get to revising "Crawl" and printing some copies so I actually have something to GIVE the winner!

Now, quit reading and go rake some leaves!


Friday, September 24, 2010


Some quick news bits today:

1) I narrowed down my list of potential projects from a very daunting 17 to a moderately more manageable 6. I really feel like I have enough substance and excitement to take any one of these 6 to completion. In no particular order, here are the (potential) titles and genres of the final six:

Dark Rebellion (fantasy)
Indigo (sci-fi)
The Business of Murder (thriller)
The Romero Strain (horror)
Undead Delivery [horror/humor(?)]
Crock (literary)

More info to come over the next couple of weeks!

2) Since the theme of this post is "Celebrations!" it's only appropriate to mention that it's NATIONAL PUNCTUATION DAY! Celebrate as you will. I prefer to go to happy hour and shout things like "Pilcrow!" and "Interrobang!" to unsuspecting passersby.

3) And for those in the dating game who also happen to be writers, had this link: "Myths About Dating Writers" which I find hilarious and all too true. Makes me appreciate those who were drawn in by the mystique and driven away by the craziness. An ex-girlfriend once told me she was petrified of sounding stupid on AIM (does anyone remember/still use that?) because I "spoke" so well, so she used to triple-check her chats before she sent them. My insanity drives other people insane apparently.

While insanity is a terrible transition for this next comment, the dating portion is kind of appropriate. Only because a very good and bestest friend of mine quite recently became engaged! (That's kind of a weird way to say it, almost like she's currently in a heated battle or something...but no, it was the nice, pleasant "we're going to get married" kind of engaged.)

So, 4) Congratulations to Anonymous Best Friend and Anonymous Best Friend's Fiance! Stop working and go celebrate! I'll have a drink for the both of you! INTERROBANG!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Community vs Contest

While I love NBC's "Community," this post is not about the show. Rather, it's about the community of writers, bloggers, agents, published and represented authors that form a supportive network across the interwebs. Interestingly enough, I've found that the most helpful, talented and altruistic people tend to shine through during a contest.

A contest!

Think about that for a second. Here we have a competition among many worthy adversaries for a coveted prize. In any other community, be it other arts, sports, business, people would be clamoring over each other for attention and trying their damnedest to out-do the next guy.

But not with writers. Writers support each other and offer their praise, criticism and unwavering encouragement. For every author gaining representation, for every book sold at auction, for every project opted for multiple sequels and movies, the writing community grows stronger. This is one case where competition really does improve the craft of everyone involved, if you're open to criticism and change.

I'm posting this today because I was lucky to be a finalist in a recent contest at the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog. While I didn't place in the top 3 winners, I wasn't disappointed. The critiques I gathered on my pitch and query from other authors and contestants were invaluable. I've already used it to strengthen my delivery and see what works and what doesn't.

And to be honest, as soon as I read the pitch for the winning entry, I knew it was special. Something about it just clicked. I'm assuming this is what agents look for in their slush piles. Meagan Spooner's "The Iron Wood" sounds absolutely amazing. Click through to read her full query, but here's a snippet:

When Lark develops abilities that doom her to life as a magical battery, she must escape her energy-starved city and fight to survive in the monster-infested wilderness beyond long enough to find others like her, and the key to her own powers.

And it was very cool to watch her pitch/query grow in strength over the weeks. Congratulations to Meagan on a well-deserved win!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Disney Finds a Match

I came across this bit of news today and just had to share it!

How cool is that?! The first installment in the trilogy isn't even available to read until November, but Disney had to outbid Paramount for film rights. That has GOT to feel amazing for the author (no pressure!)

Though the article is a tad on the cynical side (to be expected when you combine the Disney-machine with Twilight references), I see this as an incredible achievement. Having a book not only be published, but turned into a movie is something that I can only dream of at this point. Congratulations to Ally Condie!

And only slightly less awesome is the experience of wandering through a bookstore and seeing familiar covers jumping out at you. During a recent excursion to my local Barnes & Noble store, I came across the following novels written by authors whose blogs I happen to follow online. Check em out!

The Hollow
and The Haunting by Jessica Verday

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...

Have you ever suddenly woken up from a bad dream? Probably.

Have you ever combined something going on in real life into your dream? Like, say a thunderstorm or an alarm clock or a ringing phone? Sure, who hasn't?

Have you ever laughed yourself awake? Erm...maybe?

Ok, well have you ever woken yourself up purely from an idea?

I had that experience the other night. Yes there was a thunderstorm and yes 90% of the dream made less sense than 50% of Inception. But the core idea of the story was just way too cool to pass up! At least I thought it was...

Then I realized the coffin nail (so to speak) of this particular idea: vampires.

"It's alright," I thought to myself, "no one's done vampires in a while, right?"

So the idea got noted in a far flung corner of a random notebook in the apartment. It'll probably rot there until the next round of blood-sucker mania sweeps the nation. It's not to say that the idea wouldn't be good enough or that I couldn't write the story well enough to get sold.

But at this point, I feel like it's just another strike against me before I even start. And that's not meant to sound self-defeating, but rather it's a fact. A project started today probably won't be ready for submission for another year. Factor in maybe another year until that (hopefully) gets picked up, then at least a year after that before it hits the shelves. Are people still going to be craving vampires in 3 years? Some will, probably not going to be as big as it is now.

So the vampire-idea (which, incidentally combines "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"...sorta) will remain in the notebook for a later time. Now I just have to wait for a vivid dream about steam-powered robots and time-jumping samurai!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Good Idea vs Bad Idea

If only decisions were as simple as they appeared in cartoons. Alas, life is not so black and white. Case in point, my current problem: what project to focus on next?

I've narrowed it down to 17. Yes, I said "narrowed down to," from a pool of God knows how many ideas. Some were cut because I just didn't feel that spark of interest that I had when I originally jotted it down. Some were thrown out due to lack of substance for a full length novel. Still others were rejected because they were sequels to previously written works or were in a genre too close to a recent work.

So after all that searching through old notes and refreshing of my memory (did I really write that? really?) I've come up with a list of 17 potential projects. For what you ask?

National Novel Writing Month! This November, as in Novembers past, authors all over the world will embark of a 30-day marathon of words, quips, beats and turns-of-phrase. The objective? Write a 50,000 word novel by midnight on November 30th, 2010! The prize? Your very own 50,000 word novel!

For those of you who prefer figures over phrases, that's:
1,667 words a day
70 words an hour
or a little over 1 word a minute

Seems reasonable. Though 1,667 words is about 6-7 pages. (Remember when a 10 page term paper seemed like a nightmare?) So that's 6-7 pages a day, every day. Factor in workdays, sick days, holidays (oh hi Thanksgiving!) and that number probably gets bumped up pretty quick. It's no wonder that about half of the people who start this marathon don't quite finish in time.

But that's not really the point. The point is to try, to write your tail off and see what you get. The point is to suffer through the ordeal with other writers all over the world. The point is DEFINITELY NOT to submit your freshly finished NaNoWriMo novel to an agent or publisher until after St. Patrick's Day 2011! Don't even think about it!

Anyway, back to the decision. This is where you, my favorite people, get to play a part! Like I said, I have 17 projects, spanning various genres. I'll be working on a logline (basically a TV Guide style blurb about the book) for each project, which I will post here in a poll. You guys can feel free to vote and leave comments on which sounds the most interesting to you and I'll take your opinions into consideration on the final decision!

Check back within the next few weeks to vote in the poll. And let me know if you've got your own NaNoWriMo project in the works!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Death of Books

So the Kindle might not be the end of books as we know it, but this device very well could be.

Straight from the website itself, the company admits that "reading would be more fun with pictures, sounds, interactivity and your child's favorite characters."

Now, maybe it's just me, but I interpret that as: "Here is a chance to schlock out more of the same old commercial product to further line our pockets. Rather than encouraging kids to use their imaginations, we feel it's best to reinforce the images we choose for them to see. And we can sell it all under the guise of 'reading.'"

I like eReaders. I like the idea of using them to get kids to read at an earlier age. Books evolving to eReaders makes sense. Books degrading to hyper-interactive, flashy, noisy distraction machines (oh hi, iPad!) is an unsettling possibility.

And is this just another step at replacing parents with computers? Some of my favorite memories as a kid were when my dad would read stories to me. The characters were done in his voice with his accents and told at his pacing. Then, when I read to my little brother, I made the stories my own. The vReader seems like just another device that would erase those memories.

Sure it's fun, sure it's flashy and is it even that different from the deluge of movies and video games with kid's characters today? Not really. But it's trying to replace books. Books! The last bastion of entertainment that lets you, the reader, interpret what you're experiencing in a uniquely personal way.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm just getting old (damn whippersnappers and their eReaders! back in my day, books were made of paper!). But something about this toy just feels wrong, all wrong.


I am having an affair...

with my Kindle!

It's so pretty and sleek and functional. The days of books overflowing my shelves and weighing down my luggage are now behind me. And they know it...

I swear that since I received my Kindle, my other books have been out to get me. I had one fall off my bookcase and hit me in the head as I walked by. Another ended up under my feet and almost tripped me (possibly because I was holding my Kindle and reading while walking). And, just last night, I woke up covered in paper-cuts... Eerie stuff.

Anyway, as if my new found Kindle love isn't obvious yet, then let me just say it outright: I love my Kindle!

I had some reservations about it and held off on buying it for a long time. It's a little dangerous just how quickly I can buy books on this thing. The only thing that prevented me from spending an entire paycheck on books before was the pseudo-necessary drive to the bookstore. Now, it's a simple button click and POOF! instant book. And the prices are far.

My first purchase was Hunger Games, part of Suzanne Collins' trilogy. I devoured it in two days and have already purchased the second book, Catching Fire. Before I start on the second book, however, I'll turn my attention to Cinders, by Michelle Davidson Argyle. I was very happy to purchase this novella from an author whose blog I follow. It's a pretty cool feeling to support up and coming authors, and for 3 bucks, you can't beat it!

So, in summation, Kindle excels at:
- space saving
- money saving (sorta...)
- back saving
- self-published author support!
- nifty plastic device gizmotronics! Robot revolution!

And some day soon, I hope to self-pub my own little Kindle masterpiece. Stay tuned, you'll surely be the first to know. And do yourself a favor, buy a Kindle and get to readin'!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The internets are all atwitter about the release of "Mockingjay," the third and final installment in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. While I have yet to read any of the books (still waiting for my blasted Kindle...) I can't help but get excited at the anticipation surrounding the release.

And I wonder why that is...

What makes some books/trilogies/septologies into obsessions? What drives people to dress up as fictional characters or speak in made up languages?

Yes, the story has to be good/marketable and the writing has to be engaging, but for every Harry Potter there seem to be a dozen or more Artemis Fowl's and Charlie Bone's. There are scores of fantasy books and series that will never be turned into a multiple-Oscar winning trilogy like "Lord of the Rings." And "Twilight" copies still abound, without a fraction of the attention. Even the "Hunger Games Trilogy" doesn't seem to catch fire (pardon the pun) as easily as others.

I ask this question without being able to provide an answer. If I knew the secret, you'd better believe I'd be writing the next billion-dollar franchise instead of a blog post! I think it all comes down to hard work. Sure there is the necessary requirement of talent and a healthy bit of luck never hurts anyone. But persistence and tenacity must pay off in the long run, even if you never achieve over a million books in one printing.

I'll admit, I'm still obsessed with "Harry Potter." It was the reason I started writing (and I confess, the first book I ever wrote was a direct rip-off!). But I adore the series not only for the story, but for JK Rowling's story of her life. I just watched her the interview during the time that she was finishing up "The Deathly Hallows." It's inspiring, emotional and uplifting and I can't express how much I enjoy watching it.

And speaking of obsession, with the final Harry Potter movie coming up this fall ( summer?) I've decided to re-read the entire septology. It's as brilliant as ever and I can watch Rowling's progress and confidence grow as a writer with each installment. It's my life's ambition to write something as good as that series, not necessarily as well received, financially successful or as cult-inducing mind you, but just a work that in my mind is "as good as."

When that day arrives, I'll be sure to let you know!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Feelin' Lucky Friday!

And now..............champagne!

Nah, just contests. Here we go!

Flash fiction contest at Janet Reid's blog.
Prize: 101 Things I Learned in Film School and 101 Things I Learned in Business School
You've got until midnight tonight to submit!

More contests than you can possibly enter over at Adventures in Children's Publishing

And if you're more interested in submitting finished works, here is a list of deadlines:

For the literary types,
Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers
- Deadline: 8/31

For the, erm, cowboy types (?) The Moonlight Mesa Associates Cowboy Up Contest. Deadline: 9/1, pardner.

For the environmentally inclined, The Bear Deluxe Magazine presents the 2010 Doug Fir Fiction Award. Deadline: 9/8

Bartleby Snopes is running their 2nd Annual "Dialogue Only" writing contest. Deadline: 9/12

And I wouldn't want to leave the poets out: The Greensboro Review is taking submissions for the 2011 Robert Watson Literary Prize. Deadline: 9/15

Happy hunting!

Post Delayed Due to Beer

Yes, yes, I know. I was supposed to put a new entry up yesterday. Well, I had a good reason not to: I was drinking.

Not just drinking for drinking's sake thought! I attended an event at Pittsburgh's Toonseum called "Toons & Brews."

The toons were everywhere: cells from TV shows, hand-drawn renderings of beloved characters, signed comic strips with editorial comments and a run of episodes from Warner Bros classic Looney Tunes (which I could watch all friggin day).

The brews were provided by Pittsburgh's very own Church Brew Works. This brewpub is built within an old cathedral and cranks out some very tasty beer. On tap last night were their very tasty Brown Ale and a special seasonal called Ambrosia that was incredible. They also had their award winning IPA in bottles. (I'm also an amateur homebrewer for those who are keeping track/want to enroll me in a 12 step program)

The beer was provided to loosen up people's inhibitions. Why, you ask? Because we would all be drawing in front of each other. With permanent markers. (Yeah our instructor took away the trusty pencil and eraser that I depend so heavily upon)

Drawing and writing have a lot in common when it comes to embarrassing uncertainty. And I love both arts, I even want to write/ink my own comic book someday, or maybe even start a web comic. The real trick to both of them is to, in the immortal words of Allen Iverson:

Practice! People are born with different levels of talent, that's for sure. That much was evident from the room full of different interpretations of the instructor's drawing. My friend who accompanied me seemed to draw things as seen through the eyes of a meth addict.

But practice and persistence is what pays off in the end. Regrettably I stopped practicing my drawing years ago. I was decent at drawing from a stock image, but I got frustrated at my inability to draw the things I could visualize in my head. And I quit.

Though last night I did win two prizes (more out of pity than skill, and more because they amused the judges than anything else), the most important thing was the rekindling of my love of drawing. And, any time you do something slightly out of your comfort zone, especially something creative, it sorta opens up your mind a little more. Since I'm mired in my writerly revisions, taking a step outside to do some goofy drawings was exactly what I needed.

Now I'm refreshed and ready to dig back into editing. If you have a local cartoonist offering booze and drawing lessons, I'd highly recommend attending. If not, just crack a cold one and get that doodlepad out.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Punctuation Celebration: Pilcrow!

As I am currently knee-deep in red ink from my first revision of Blackwatch, I thought it would be prudent to recruit some help. I've got 60,000+ words to sort through, multiple characters that may or may not be essential to the story, not to mention some truly awful dialogue.

Every time I try to cut a character, they convince me that it's better to keep them in. Some of them guilt me into submission while others threaten me with bodily harm. I started out having total control over this manuscript, but now, well it's taken on a life of its own!

For my own safety, I've enlisted a troop of hardened characters, or 'marks' if you will. This crew has been around for centuries, helping authors sort through the jumble of misspelled words and hackneyed dialogue. They cut and bump and interject wherever they see a need.

I found the ringleader of my little gang while he was working as a bouncer at a shabby jazz club in New Orleans. The place was a mess. Some of the foulest words I've ever seen were sitting at the bar, doing shots of ink and graphite. A pair of parentheses kept trying to get on either side of a word, trying to lead him over to a dollar sign with gold teeth. This was the type of place where young words could earn their capital letters.

I watched as a pair of <'s tried to get in the club, though they were clearly not old enough. The bouncer turned them aside. An @ sign and an ampersand in the club tried to tell him that they were with them. Words were exchanged, asterisks were thrown and when the dust settled, only the bouncer remained standing.

"What's your name?" I asked him. He shoved the trouble-making words and characters out of the way, shifting the entire line that had formed outside.

"Pilcrow," he said deeply. He was top-heavy and only ever faced in the direction of those words that needed a nudge. He was unafraid to throw his weight around, knowing that he could move sentences, paragraphs, whole chapters if he had to. Woe betide the careless writer who did not properly format his page settings, lest the mighty Pilcrow shift the whole manuscript out of whack. Such a powerful character, I had yet to encounter.

"Well, Pilcrow," I says, "How'd you like to do some real editing done? Some red-work? Get out of this hell-hole of flash fiction and get into something with some substance."

It was an easy sell. Now Pilcrow is on my side and my characters have stopped their bickering. If they thought I was simply going to shift their appearances around, they're sorely mistaken. Pilcrow introduced me to some other characters he knows, some more ruthless than him.

Stay tuned next week to see who else has joined my Revisionist gang!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Who would you rather hang out with:
Clark Kent or Superman?
Peter Parker or Spider-Man?
Bruce Wayne or Batman?

With the exception of that last one, I'd always go with the superhuman. (A billionaire's party beats brooding in a bat-cave any day.) Why? They're just more fun! They get to do things that ordinary people don't, or can't. Even though each of them is fully capable of handling himself in a fight, his alter-ego/public identity is often as mild and vulnerable as the meekest of us. What does this have to do with books you ask?

Well, let me ask this:
Would you read a book by Stephenie Meyer that had nothing to do with vampires?
How about a Stephen King book about baseball?
Or a football story by John Grisham?
Maybe you'd read J.K. Rowling's next project even if it had nothing to do with Harry Potter?

My point is that most famous authors are known for a specific character or series or genre. Is it that they have no interest in writing different types of stories? Is it that the authors are most comfortable in that given style? Is it that the publishers/readers would refuse to step outside what they perceive is the author's identity?

One benefit an unpublished author (such as myself) has over the big names is that we can experiment. We can find what style and genre and length of story works for us. Someone who starts off writing literary poetry can end up cranking out kid's picture books or nonfiction how-to's, or vice versa.

The difficulty is in knowing when you've hit your stride. Was my first foray into writing, a YA fantasy similar to Harry Potter, the style I'll end up in? Was my second novel, an adult horror story, more my calling? Or will I find a home in YA sci-fi, as with my current project?

And in this day and age of e-reading and e-publishing, is it necessary to limit one's self to a particular series or genre or style? I appreciate Stephen King's novels, but I absolutely love his short story collections and The Green Mile series. I wasn't a fan of Meyer's "Twilight" series, but tried "The Host" just to see if it was better (it wasn't, in my opinion). I'd read anything ever written by Rowling, literally anything.

In other words, I'm still searching for my identity. But along the way, I'm enjoying the freedom of playing around in a variety of different worlds. Here, sea monsters are as real as abusive parents, time control is as possible and effortless as wireless communication and elves, orcs and dwarves party up right alongside aliens and cyborgs.

Is there really anything better than that?


Monday, August 9, 2010


I planned on setting up automatic posts for this week, but the weekend got a little crazy. I'll be out of town in the swamps of Loo'siana for the next few days. So as long as I don't end up gator-bait, I'll see you all next week!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Feelin' Lucky Friday!

Ashley over at "Books Obsessions" made my Friday a lot easier by posting a few book giveaways. Check it out!

And "Adventures in Children's Publishing" has a nice Contest & Giveaways section on this exhaustive wrap-up post.

Last, but certainly not least, is a massive query critique contest sponsored graciously by Joanne Volpe as part of WriteOnCon next week! Should be an amazing couple of days!

Good luck and have a great weekend!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Crazy-Filled Center of My Brain

People often ask me where I come up with my ideas, or how I have so many ideas, or what the hell is that crazy idea all about?

The truth is, I don't know. Sometimes it's just a spark from an environmental clue. A couple of posts ago I talked about an evening spent observing people at a mechanic's shop and letting those observations work their ways into a cohesive story. My current WIP was completely kickstarted by an ad for a watch that had no second, minute or hour hands. It just had a metal ball that rolled around a circular groove to tell time. From that simple advertisement, an entire parallel world was born, complete with characters that sprung out of my head like a Greek god.

Sometimes, like today, I just get odd thoughts. I was sitting in a meeting at work (and let me just say: the more boring the activity, the freer the creative mind!) and I got this sudden feeling. The feeling was "Fall" or "Autumn" if you prefer. I don't know any other way to put it. One minute we're discussing a production order and the next, my mind is full of footballs and raked piles of leaves and tailgates and crisp breezes and jack o'lanterns and earthy tones. No idea where it came from, but it was very pleasant.

I'm sure you've all had cravings and yearnings. They come out of nowhere! It could be chocolate or pickles, maybe it's that favorite movie you haven't seen in years or it's a friend you suddenly have to call. Cravings tend to be food related. Yearnings tend to be people related. (Am I missing any others?) So I thought, what could I call the feeling of Fall? Why, a Seasoning of course!

After I'd experienced my first ever "seasoning" (and once I stopped laughing at the name I'd given it) my brain rolled into full-ahead creative mode. Long story short, I ended up with a title of "Drive-By Seasonings," a story about a motorcycle-riding Grandma who shows up unannounced to salvage last minute culinary disasters. I pictured a Thanksgiving meltdown worthy of a National Lampoon spin-off movie, saved by a "Mrs. Doubtfire meets Gordon Ramsey" character.

Bizarre, right? And it'll probably never in a million years be written to completion. But I never know, so I write it down. It doesn't hurt to write down your craziest ideas. One of them might be the one to hit it big. Or, years later when I look back over my scattered pages of random story ideas/notes, I'll just laugh and wonder what the hell I was thinking!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Punctuation Celebration: Ze Umlaut!

So you've probably heard about or seen or maybe even read Stieg Larrson's "Millennium Trilogy." (It's definitely on my "to be read" list.) If you're familiar with it, then you've probably seen this fella around: ö

"Is that a surprised omg emoticon?" you ask. No! It's an example of today's Punctuation Celebration! Mr. Umlaut was kind enough to stop by the office and answer a few questions, with the assistance of his interpreter.
*The following should be read in a stereotypical Swedish-ish accent:

I know you're very busy with your world tour, but do you think you could answer a few questions?
Ya, that would be just fine.

Should I call you Herr Diaeresis or Trema or do you prefer something else?
Herr Diaresis is my father. I've tried to get away from that name all my life, sounds like an intestinal disorder. Just call me Umlaut.

OK Umlaut, so tell us a little bit about yourself?
Oh alright. Well I was born in Germany. I lived there for a while but eventually traveled all over the world. Everywhere I go people treat me just wonderfully. Except the Americans, they threw me out of their language and insist on pronouncing me with a terrible German accent.

Well I apologize for that.
It's quite alright. I've found a lovely home in Sweden. They try to work me into every single one of their words.

Speaking of Sweden, how is the Millennium Trilogy tour going?
Oh it's just wonderful. Mr. Larrson's books have been great for my popularity. Over 30 million copies sold! Just think, there are billions of little Umlauts just like me out there all over the world!

Umlaut, do you think I could have your autograph?
Of course, here ¨

Is that it? It looks like a vampire bite...
I know! It's wonderful, the Twilight kiddies just love it. I'm the most popular punctuation in the world!

Well I don't want to hold you up any longer. Mind if I ask a few closing questions?
Go right ahead.

What's your favorite brand of ice cream?
Häagen-Dazs, obviously.

Oh, of course. And your favorite band?
It's a toss up between Mötley Crüe and Spıal Tap.

How are things with your ex-wife, Schwa?
We don't get along very well. We're in a custody battle for the kids... [mumbles to interpreter] We have no comment on that at this time.

Well, thank you very much for visiting with us today. Good luck on the rest of your tour!
Adjö så länge.

*If you giggled at this, then check out Nora Ephron's "The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut" in the New Yorker!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The People You Meet

Inspiration can strike anywhere. I'm amazed by people who have true writer's block, because I've never gone a day without experiencing some sort of inspiration. It could be passing a strange billboard or something that annoys me during the commute or just the way a person is dressed or talking that day. It's all around us!

So yesterday as I was sitting at my local Pep Boys for some unscheduled vehicular maintenance, I had little else to do but wait and be inspired. And boy was I!

Nothing spectacular happened, just those day to day events that people take for granted, the countless little interactions among people that no one pays attention to. The way the guy at the counter answered the phone and talked with customers, the way the mechanics talked to each other, the customers interacting with everyone else, pretty interesting stuff if you ask me.

Then, while I was getting some awful fake Mexican food at the Qdoba across the street, this random guy started talking to me. Turns out his car was in the shop too and he'd also come over to kill time and his taste buds. Guy's name was Terry. In the few minutes that I talked to him, I learned that he bought a Volvo (the one that was in the shop) after a car accident wrecked his other vehicle, that the Volvo had 220,000 miles on it, that he served in Vietnam for 2 yrs teaching soldiers who couldn't read, which got him interested in education. So Terry did his undergrad at Penn St and his grad work at Pitt. Then he worked at a prison in Ohio and started an accredited program for inmates there. Then he took up pottery and ended up finding work doing terra cotta restoration for buildings in Pittsburgh. (This is why I remember him as Terry "Potter" or the Terry cotta warrior...)

You can probably tell that Terry was a talker and was really interested in telling his story (not so much listening to mine. And he was probably trying to pick me up, which failed for a vast number of reasons.)

Point is, the night would have been far less interesting without these interactions, especially the conversation with Terry. Last night's events may find their way into a short piece of fiction, possibly submitted by myself to Glimmer Train's upcoming round. Hopefully they'll find Terra Cotta Terry as interesting as I did!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Urgent Message from Author Erica Orloff

Came across this post on "In Search of Giants" and thought it needed immediate re-posting. If I'm lucky enough to place in the Clarity of Night contest, I'll be donating the prize to the cause. If not, I'll find another way!



Adventures in Children's Publishing has the usual weekly wrap-up of writerly goodies.

Pimp My Novel has an extra special MONTHLY review, featuring July, the summeriest of months.

And Nathan Bransford's usual weekly summary. Lots of exciting e-pub/e-book/e-reader/e-verything news lately. Plus a second helping of Jane Austen's Fight Club, even though I'm not supposed to talk about it...

Finally, we're only about a week out from WriteOnCon so get familiar!


Friday, July 30, 2010

For your own amusement

I've entered a short fiction contest over at Clarity of Night. If you're interested, check it out!
Feel free to read and comment, but voting is only for those who have submitted. Sorry!


Feelin Lucky Friday!

Contests abound this week friends, so let's get to it!

The folks at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management got swept up by World Cup craziness a while ago. They decided to have a tournament to determine which country will hold the title of "World's Best Book." Cast your vote here!

If you want a ton of swag and about a billion ways to get it, head on over to The Misadventures in Candyland. Or click the banner tag to the right. Hurry up! You've only got a day left!

Corrine Jackson is celebrating her 1-Year Blogiversary by offering up a blog makeover to the winner! Enter by tonight!

Harley May is sponsoring a photo contest in celebration of the much-buzzed-about "Numb" by Sean Ferrell. Three of you can win a signed copy! Details here.

Fiction for Dessert is celebrating her birthday with a short story contest. Win a $25 Amazon gift card and get your story published on her blog! Enter by August 31st.

Books Obsession is having a pre-order YA paranormal romance (yowza) contest! Enter by August 18th! Click the link or the contest button on the right!

The deadline for The Adirondack Review's Fulton Prize for short fiction is tomorrow! Past winners include the above mentioned Sean Ferrell.

And for those of you with discriminating tastes, I'm happy to announce that Blizzard Entertainment (creators of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo) are once again hosting a creative fiction contest! The story must take place in one of these worlds. So dust off your fan fiction and get to submittin'!

Good luck and go win something!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Joe Konrath has been quoted as saying:
"There's a word for a writer who never gives up: published."

I love this quote for its simplicity and it never fails to encourage me. In this day and age, there are so many avenues to get yourself published. You can go the traditional route and query agents, who will shop to publishers and so on. You can write for magazines or anthologies, paper or electronic. Hell, you can even self-publish (again, physical or e-book), and that's worked very well for Mr. Konrath.

No matter the road you choose to take, there will be bumps, dead ends and maybe even a washed-out bridge that you didn't see until the last second and went careening over the edge into the drink. It happens. But how do you know when to say "enough is enough?"

If writing is really in your blood and bones, the answer is simply, never. Sure you'll be bruised and battered along the way, but eventually your work will be published SOMEWHERE! I've been writing for about five years now and I've yet to see anything I've written published anywhere. But I also know that these first five years have been 99% learning the ropes.

So for someone like Jodi Meadows (who I naively thought was published long ago), who has done everything right along the way, it's particularly difficult to keep struggling. That's why I'm reposting this admission of hers, about how she nearly quit. I've seen it posted on Kelly Hashway's blog and Miss Snark's First Victim, but the original post is at Corrine Jackson.

Read it. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Persevere.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Punctuation Celebration: The Period

Where would we writers be without punctuation confused for one thing everything we write would simply run together have you read the famous Ulysses novel by James Joyce there are at least two instances of stream of consciousness without any defining punctuation if you haven't read that then this introduction should give you an idea of just how frustrating it can be

See? Isn't this much nicer? Question marks, commas, and periods. Periods!How could we survive without them? They let us know when to stop /stop/ Otherwise we'd still be talking like they did in the days of the telegraph /stop/ And I'd imagine that would get pretty frustrating /comma/ not to mention wasting a lot of ink

So today begins the first in a weekly series to celebrate our oft overlooked companions: punctuation, equally as important as letters, words and the sentences they provide structure for. For our first installment, I present: Period's Perspective.

I'm the king of punctuation.

When I say "stop," they stop. When I say "jump," they say "That doesn't make sense, we're letters on a page," but even if they ask "How high?" they still need me.

Take a closer look. You think question marks are just as important as I am? I'm a PART of them! Without me, a question mark is just an awkward squiggly line. You need me for emphasis! A question mark is nothing but me thinking really hard about the answer so that a curl of smoke escapes my head.

And don't get me started on exclamation points. That's just me holding a sword! A sword that's four times as big as I am so you know I mean business.

A comma? Me with a beard!

Colon? Me and a buddy playing Chicken Fight.

Ellipses? Me and two friends at the movies, waiting for the previews to be over...

I'm everywhere. You cannot stop me.

Oh, you just had to go and bring that up didn't you? Yes, I know that I'm another name for a lady's "time of the month." Can I help it that my British cousin "Full Stop" has a cooler name than me? No, I'm not bitter at all.

You want me to stop? Well guess what! We don't stop until I say so, because that's what I do!

I'm a period. And I own you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Writer is a Liar

A common piece of advice among writerly folk goes something like this:
"Write with honesty and clarity so that the reader trusts that she is in capable hands."

While I get what that's supposed to mean (in other words, make sure your writing is tight and don't yank the rug out from under your reader) , I'd take the advice a step further:
"Be the best liar you can be."

When you stop to think about it, the stories we read are nothing more than big intricate webs of lies. The more expertly woven a plot is, the more we are willing to buy into it (literally). The crazier the lie, the better the writing has to be to achieve suspension of disbelief.

There are no wizards (sadly), no Jedi (say it ain't so!) and no sparkly vampires (thank God). These are billion dollar lies. And we love them.

Think about your circle of friends. You probably have one or two that try to tell a story and it just falls flat. And you probably have at least one who lives an incredible life and always has a crazy story from the night before because the weirdest stuff happens to her. While, yes, some people have more exciting lives than others, it's all in how you tell the story.

Say your two friends tell the same story at a party. One of them sticks to the facts while the other embellishes at just the right parts. Which one of them will gather the bigger crowd around her? Which one will make new connections from telling that story, who in turn drag her to meet another circle of friends to retell that same story? How often have you been listening to someone's tall tale only to stop and tell them, point blank, that there's no way what they're saying ever happened? And then what? You encourage them to go on because you have to know how the story ends!

Stand-up comics, singers, politicians, marketing execs and writers. We're all liars. The best among us can lie right to your face and keep you coming back for more. So what's the secret?

I've always told lies based on the "Three C's" ( I honestly just made these up off the top of my head): Creativity, Consistency and Confidence

Creativity - Obviously as a writer this is a biggie. You take mundane events and jazz them up until they're actually interesting to read about. Say you had a best friend in third grade: that's reality. Then maybe, she happens to be an orphan and a bit of a social misfit. Turns out, your best friend actually possesses telepathy that she uses to pass her tests and charm her teachers. Oh and she gets that ability from her parents, one of whom is an alien and the other is a vampire (why not?) That's escalation from reality. That's creativity (it can be argued.)

Consistency - The easiest way to spot a lie is when the liar flubs the facts. If you got beat up by a guy who was 6' tall and 200lbs one minute, don't change him to 6'8'', 300lbs the next (unless he has a very severe pituitary problem.) While a little bit of embellishment will get their attention, if it's too inconsistent you'll lose them pretty quickly.

Confidence - Every bit as big as the first two, maybe the most important. Stick by your facts and categorically deny that it happened differently. Usage of the phrases "I swear!," "It happened just like that!" and "I know right?" tend to be thrown in for dramatic effect. In written work, having your in-scene characters react to a particularly crazy situation in a realistic way will show that you're confident in handling your own lie. I happen to enjoy it when said characters remark on how ridiculous a certain event is, all the while going through with the business at hand.

So practice the "Three C's." Lie to your friends, family and loved ones. See what lies work, see where embellishment helps and where it goes too far and see how they react in each situation.
In summary, if you want to be a better writer, lie your ass off!


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Distillation

Since our multitude of writerly news congealed (it's all about word choice) so well last Monday, I'm going to make it a regular thing. To know what people are talking about THIS week, you need to know what happened LAST week, especially when half the people are griping about Amazon while the other half are praising them.

As always, I'll start with Nathan Bransford who starts off our wrap-up by sifting out all the Amazon shenanigans. Sprinkled in the post are snippets from across the web, a plug for his upcoming debut children's book and an Old Spice commercial. You know the ones:

Now you're probably asking yourself: Self, what do Hemmingway, The Situation and prison literature have to do with each other?

Well, if you check out Pimp My Novel's Weekly Round-Up, your self can answer...yourself. (By the way, it pains me...PAINS me to ever post any "Jersey Shore" related news, especially when it concerns a book deal. Ugh, mortal wound.)

And finally, a wrap-up that uses the entire English alphabet an astonishing 1 trillion times in a single post, I give you the Best Articles This Week for Writers! If you can't find one thing in there that grabs your attention, then what the heck are you even doing on my blog?

Stay thirsty my friends,

Friday, July 23, 2010


When presented with the opportunity, always always always take the Mystery Box:

Er, maybe just stick with the boat. And if you're ever given the choice of picking a numbered door, curtain or box, always follow this equation: (Highest number) / (number of choices) = WINNER!

Outside of "Let's Make a Deal" or "The Price is Right," my next favorite games of chance are writing contests. There are some great ones out there that are run by agents, publishers and authors alike. Prizes vary from cash money to signed copies of books to manuscript critiques! You could even win a boat!*

Let's roll the dice:

Over at "The Clarity of Night" there's a writing contest to win cold hard (Amazon gift card) cash and a signed copy of Stephen Parrish's "The Tavernier Stones." I plan on entering this one, so back off!

For the mere price of a kindly comment, author Michelle Davidson Argyle is offering a slew of prizes in her contest. Check out the upcoming release of her novella, "Cinders."

The folks over at The Literary Lab are taking submissions for their 2nd annual literary contest, Notes From Underground. If you like to write things like:

"The seven cardboard mushrooms struggled out of orange jumpsuits" or can spell five pages of a story entirely in numbers or maybe you like to put different shoeprints on pieces of paper and fill in the empty spaces with a story (that's not a bad idea come to think of it...), then this contest is for you!

Follow the link or click the graphic on the side. Also, I believe their "Genre Wars Anthology" is still for sale with all proceeds going to a non-profit writing group!

Anna Staniszewski (debut author of the MG novel "My Un-Fairy Tale Life") is sponsoring a contest that ends tonight! Get crackin'!

And finally, celebrating her first query being sent out into the world (and the ensuing ability to finally find enough time to feed her cat), Jayne Ferst is holding a contest with prizes that are decidedly vintage.

Good luck and have a great weekend!


*No boats can be won in any of the above-mentioned contests.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Utopia? More like a Fruitopia.

Today's little rant that's occupying my mind: dystopian vs utopian fiction. The blog post title, paraphrased from Stephen Hawking's appearance on an episode of "The Simpsons," illustrates that not all things are as good as they might appear on first blush. At least, that's how utopias are portrayed in the literary world.

Let's take H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine." Time traveler ends up way in the future in a seemingly utopian (to some people) world. Everyone appears young, the weather is beautiful, food is plentiful, naptime is encouraged as is random "coupling." What could be wrong with this world?
Um, the attractive young people are hunted and eaten by hideous and strong humanoid creatures that live below ground. BAM! Utopia to dystopia in a blink.

Or how about Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World?" The future exists as a World State with a finite population, well oiled work force, bountiful resources and general peace. All at the cost of having your future dictated by chemical control, your daily life moderated by your social standing and your humanity stifled and debased. Utopia is in the eye of the beholder.

So it appears that "dystopian" is the way to go, even if you mask it with a false-utopia. I can rattle off dystopian works (Hunger Games, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Children of Men, The Running Man, The Passage, The Road, Logan's Run, Lord of the Flies, etc, etc.) but how many true Utopian novels are there? I couldn't name any. Amazon lists Edward Bellamy's "Looking Back" and Huxley's "Island" as utopian, but I'll have to put them on my reading list. (Also, someone please argue for "Dinotopia" because I would live there in a heartbeat!)

The point is, why are we so interested in dystopia instead of utopia? Is it as simple as not enjoying a world where everything is perfect? Or is it more about wanting a story so full of misery that it forces the characters (and us as readers) to find something to hope for? Do we just like to watch people suffer and struggle? Does it give us a glimpse of our potential future, forcing us to ask ourselves "Could I survive that?"

Personally, I dig dystopian. There's so much ruination and an overhanging sense of dread in those novels; they're just saturated with depression and angst. And yes, it's fun to see our heroes succeed (or not, Brave New World?) in the end. Perhaps it's the social commentary that's inherent in dystopian works that keeps people coming back for more. Let's face it, societies will always be too liberal or too conservative, governments too ineffectual or too militaristic. Masses of humanity are always described as mindless, toothless sheep that follow the status quo and our heroes are inevitably those who buck the system.

What about a true utopia? (Please feel free to comment on what this means to you, since that interpretation varies widely, I'm sure. Maybe that's why "utopia" as a genre doesn't do well across the board.) Imagine a world that is, in a word, paradise: every life is revered, every mouth fed and ailment cured; a place that exists in perfect harmony between technology and nature; a land that is self-sufficient from the production of food, to the distribution of resources, to the recycling of wastes; a place where education and free-thinking are paramount, contributing to fresh new ideas and inventions, schools of thought and discoveries on every academic level. Imagine a world where competition exists only for the betterment of everyone and at the expense of none. Imagine a system with no currency because there is no need.

Maybe it's the idealist in me or just an overactive imagination (good thing for a writer to have I'd say). But, I can see this world. Do I think we'll ever achieve it? Of course not. The human condition as it stands today will not allow it. But that doesn't mean one couldn't write a book about it. Though, in a perfect world, that book would write itself!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010


As is usually the case with new movies/books/albums/concerts or any form of artwork I get exposed to, my brain starts rolling. In this case the inspiration happens to be Christopher Nolan's film "Inception."

{{following post contains SPOILERS so if you'd rather not have this fantastic movie ruined, STOP READING HERE}}

Now, I've been a fan of Nolan since 2000's "Memento," which still ranks as one of my favorite mind-bending movies. And 99% of people are familiar with his work, "The Dark Knight." If you're not, stop reading and go get familiar with it now. Then, go see "Inception."

Though I was expecting my perception of reality (as defined in the movie) to be tweaked (as it was in "The Matrix"), that wasn't necessarily the case. The cast (which is fantastic, every role is spot on) lays out the rules and the consequences of breaking them. Then they go about the business of applying said rules to get their results, and breaking them with disastrous effects.

While "Inception" is nearly three hours long, the pacing is perfect. It's taut throughout, a big part of that due to its layers and depth and usage of perceived time (brilliant). Visually, it's stunning. Not "Avatar" stunning, because of 3D technology or the latest in computer generated graphics. It's beautiful because it feels real. The sets are solid and highly interactive while accomplishing things that have never been seen in quite this way (Joseph Gordon Levitt's fight scene is epic).

Now, a few little nitpicks:
- the score: while incredibly moving, it overpowered some scenes and dialogue was almost unintelligible.
- Ken Watanabe: great actor, but better suited for limited English lines. His dialogue gets lost in his bass, mumbling accent.

On to the good stuff, the brain candy:

Peter Hall at Cinematical wraps it up better than I could, but I'll give you my interpretation.

I believe the whole movie is a glimpse of Cobb's dream state. The rules that are laid down are for the projections or other cast members, but Cobb continually breaks all of them. The scheme is always run by him and, invariably, ruined by his own lack of control over his subconscious. How does Mal keep creeping in if it's not Cobb's overall dream to begin with? There are no long lost loves or daddy issues or past regrets creeping in from any other character. With the exception of Cobb, they have no depth at all. Why? Because they are infinitely small portions of his own consciousness. They're archetypes, defined by their names and titles.

I could go on and on, but I'd rather have a discussion about it. And truthfully I'd like to see it again (without a handrail obscuring part of my view...I mean honestly? Sold out on a Monday night?)

Things to watch for:
the kids...are they exactly the same at the end as they are throughout the movie?
the totems...if the rules Cobb establishes are important, why doesn't he have his OWN totem, rather than Mal's? Keep an eye on his wedding band!
the escalation...things get crazier the further we go and we're told that it's because Fisher/Fischer's mind has been trained to defend itself. But Arthur never knew that. The whole crew never knew that. However, Cobb's mind knows that the rest of the crew is there to keep him in the dream/game, and can go after Cobb as a way to wake him up. However, since one cannot truly die in one's own dream, Cobb's projections can't force himself to wake up. There we have our paradox, as is so nicely threaded into the story.

So much to discuss! So much more to watch! Highly recommended, please check it out so I have someone to talk to!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


For those of you who read my weekend post, you knew I was up to my elbows in ink and paper over the last few days. But it was well worth it!

"Blackwatch: Order and Chaos" is complete! Sorta!

While the pen & paper work is done, I have about half of the story to actually type up. This is a chore in itself, but it's an extra editing step that lets me hear how well the story is (or isn't) flowing. I'll add or tweak or change the word choice or expand dialogue or liven up some scenes.

There are things that are easier for me to do with pen & paper (quick edits, notes, additions for points earlier in the story or ideas for separate stories altogether) and things that are easier on the computer (editing whole sections, getting a feel for how much space a certain scene takes up).

While I was greatly enjoying rushing through the writing to get it all down on paper, now the hard work really starts. A round of editing and revisions before sending it out to my beta readers (you know who you are so expect a book soon!), then another round of editing/revisions based on their feedback. Gamma-readings (does anyone really do that or call it that?) and then maybe once it's polished up, off to the agents.

Keep checking here for updates!


Monday, July 19, 2010


Rather than give a daily recap of publishing/writing industry blogs, I'll recap the recap.


Every Friday, there are some very very good summaries of posts from that week. So I'll summarize the summaries, list the lists and condense the condensations, creating a one stop shop for all your writerly needs!

1) Nathan Bransford's weekly wrap-up featuring the Double Rainbow song (which I listen to pretty much every day)

2) Over at Adventures in Children's Publishing, way more articles than I could get through in a week, let alone a weekend

3) And Pimp My Novel has a little something for everyone, including 'Watchmen' creator Alan Moore saying he's done with superheroes. Say it isn't so!


Friday, July 16, 2010


What are your plans this weekend?

Whenever I'm asked this question, my response is usually the same: writing. Most people don't really know what all that entails but rather boil it down to a boring waste of a weekend spent being a hermit, with nose in a notebook or fingers on the keyboard. Actually, that's pretty much what I'll be doing.

63 hours until I have to be back here on Monday morning. A third of that will probably be spent sleeping, so that leaves roughly 42 hours left to write. Minus eating/exercising/errands/general hygiene. Maybe I'll have about 24 hours of actual writing time left.

Think that's enough time to finish the rough draft? Think I should maybe tell you what the heck it is I'm writing?!

"Blackwatch: Order and Chaos" is a YA sci-fi about a teenage boy who finds a watch in his Uncle's pawn shop that lets him control time, once his best friend fixes it that is. Mayhem ensues when he accidentally pauses the world and as a result, the city burns, two heroes die and scores of monsters are allowed to run rampant. The only way that order can be restored is to hunt these creatures down and send them home, the hard way.

The end is in sight and I'm really anxious to get to a few specific scenes. We'll see if I cross the finish line this weekend!

Have a great one!


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Daily Distillation

News from the Publishing World brought to you in bite-size chunks:

From The Rejectionist comes a fun distraction that analyzes a sample of your writing and compares it to the style of famous writers! Apparently I blog like William Gibson (which is awesome!) and I write like Dan Brown (which is...well I don't know how to take that one really)

One of my new favorite blogs to follow, The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut, YA, dystopian authors. They feature not only themselves, but YA dystopian works throughout the ages and encourage blog followers to read a "Book of the Month" selection for a monthly discussion. Along the way they dole out helpful advice and tidbits from their experiences.

As accessible an agent you will ever find, Nathan Bransford gives writers a daily helping of querying tips, conversation starters to discuss in his forums and other news from an agent/writer's perspective. Not to mention, he takes time once a week to critique a random query letter or first page of a work in progress.

And speaking of critiques and contests, I'd be remiss if I didn't post a link to Miss Snark's First Victim, a blog for aspiring authors. Both the moderator and the community are fantastic! Because of a "First 25 words" critique post, I managed to snag the interest of a literary agent! Every little connection helps!

Last but not least, check out Collider. The site has nothing to do with writing, but rather is focused on movie news. There's just too much fun/awesome stuff there NOT to post about it!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mind Eraser

This is driving me crazy! Have you ever had an idea that at the time you thought was brilliant, but you didn't write it down and now you have no clue what it was?

As a writer, this happens all the time. I usually have notebooks, post-its, scraps of envelopes or random pieces of papery trash laying around to scribble down these little gifts from the muse. And last night, I was just too tired/lazy to drag myself out of bed and write it down.

Sometimes, if the idea was actually good enough, it'll come back around again and I'll have forgotten that I already thought it up once, thus tricking me into thinking I'm cleverer than I really am. Other times, it's gone into the ether forever. Or, it's off traveling into some other writer's brain who will make millions off of it. Oh well.

An example of late night (usually while I'm trying to fall asleep) ideas:
Red Eye - a photographer's camera captures the soul of the person in the frame, turning the polaroid into a modern day voodoo doll

Creepy! And it'll probably never be written by me, but I get a little OCD about not jotting these little ideas down. This particular one reminds me of R. L. Stine's Goosebumps book(s) "Say Cheese and Die." He was definitely one of my favorite writers growing up and a big reason I turned out the way I did (for better or worse)

If you're not familiar with his work, go be a kid again and pick up literally any of the Goosebumps series. My favorite is probably "The Werewolf of Fever Swamp" but they're all uniquely awesome!

Or maybe DVDs are more your speed? Good news! Some of his stories-turned-movies are being released later this year!


Happy New Year!

Happy 2010 everyone!

What? You're's July already? When did that happen?!

Well as you may have noticed, I've been pretty lax in my updates (as in, none so far this year!) One of my resolutions is to fix that!

"Shouldn't you be writing? Isn't that more important?" I'm glad you asked!

1) Blogging IS writing! These short, snappy entries help with efficiency and clarity. Plus it's good exercise for the phalanges.

2) Platform is paramount: agents/publishers want authors who have a presence in their local community and are readily accessible on the interwebs. So when my 4 followers (you're the best!) turn to a few hundred thousand, that translates to sales (hopefully!)

3) Fun! This is an outlet for my creative ramblings and a place to connect with other writers/readers. (For those of you who had been following along with my serial sci-fi story on this blog, I DO intend on continuing it!)

In the future, I will make a whole-hearted attempt to make a daily post. This may include such tantalizing tidbits as:
*Round-ups from posts of my favorite blogs that I follow
*Chapters of the sci-fi serial "SY:1"
*Short stories
*Random thoughts/ideas/rants from yours truly
*Guest posts!
*News from the world of publishing (and movies, because I love them and honestly, how many movies lately have NOT been based on a book or some other original work?)

In the meantime, check out my friend Sean's blog at since he actually updates it and is always entertaining. Plus, he's a ginger, so he needs friends!