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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!