#1linerWeds – Being First Isn’t Everything

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Image Credit: Zinneke at lb.wikipedia.org. Reprinted under a CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Luxembourg license.

“I’ve never placed second to anyone,” Victor told the executioner, “and I don’t intend to start now.”

Author’s Note: This is part of the wonderful and amazing Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday writing prompt. Click the link to find more one-liners, and then maybe try your own!


Grimm News: 10 Reimagined Fairy Tales Now Available

Photo credit: Suzanne Flynn.

I just got my copy of A Grimm Imagination: Reimaginings of the Brothers Grimm Saturday, a collection of short stories I contributed to. They arrived early, a very pleasant surprise. My story is fourth in the collection. The full reality didn’t set in until I heard a copy of the book was also going to be put into circulation at 2 of the public libraries in Madison County.

It was a fun collaboration as part of the Downtown Writers Group to put together this collection. Some of the stories are weird, some witty, and some of them are sure to delight. I am grateful to the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library for hosting the group and for the honor of being able to contribute.

The stories cover genres from science fiction to western (and even a detective story). I contributed a whimsical steampunk adventure. If you’re interested in any of it, or in reimagined fairy tales, click the link above to order the book on Amazon. It’s ten bucks, and the proceeds will help the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library system. They’re a pretty fantastic organization – and they’ve been doing their good work for almost two centuries.

Right now, the book is available in paperback only. For some reason, Amazon isn’t making it available everywhere; just in the US, Canada, and their EU sites. As soon as I hear word of it in e-book format, I’ll put up a link to that as well.

Playing With Power

No, this isn’t a Fight Club reference.
Image courtesy of Stockvault.

As a fan of different kinds of stuff – books, movies, television, etc. – one thing that’s always rubbed me the wrong way is the deliberately vague misuse of the word “power.” It’s all over the place in the television shows I watched as a kid, as well as modern media too. In fact, it was a recent conversation about this that brought this post about.

I was chatting with my friend Bugsy about this (he writes My Little Pony fanfiction – you can find him here), and I was lamenting how one video game company always resorts to vague expressions of power. You might have heard of them. And if you’ve played any of that company’s games, you’ve probably run into the tired plot line of villain X is getting too powerful or hero Y is just not powerful enough.

It’s quite tedious.

Fortunately Bugsy had an answer for this problem. Instead of just going along with such lazy storytelling, there ought to be a default assumption whenever a storyteller tells instead of shows how oh, so powerful a villain is: power refers to smell. That’s right. If someone doesn’t specify the kind of power the evil overlord has accumulated, that overlord now has a new body odor problem.

It also helps when trying to write. Protagonists and antagonists can be powerful, but that power needs to be defined. Regardless of whether it’s an evil empire or a lone rebel, their power must have a given form. Otherwise, someone might think your character needs soap.

#1linerWeds : The Modern Exorcist

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Normally Father Montalban used more conventional means in his exorcisms, but all he had at the moment was a fork and an electrical outlet.

Author’s Note: This is part of the one and only Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday writing prompt. Click the link to find more one-liners, and maybe try your hand at one too! Oh, and please do not stick forks in electrical outlets. It’s dangerous.

Ankle Deep In NaNoWriMo

To the few people who might not know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). It’s an exercise in masochism creativity for any person who aspires to write at least 50,000 words of story in a single month. Some people make it – some don’t – but the overall goal is to push yourself to your writing limits.

Most people reading this probably already know about NaNoWriMo. Whether it’s your first time or you’re a WriMo of many seasons, my proverbial hat is off to you. It takes guts, grit, and determination to do this challenge. Not everyone might support it, but I think you’re aces.

As for me, I’m dipping my toe into NaNoWriMo this year. Part of this is because I’m trying out the option of working on a manuscript I haven’t touched since November of last year. It doesn’t have the “new novel” smell to it. Still, I like being a WriMo, because there’s written creativity in the air. It smells like coffee.

To everyone who is doing NaNo this year, good luck! If you know someone who is doing it, give them some encouragement (or coffee; or coffee in a mug that has encouragement written on it). Also, the folks who do NaNoWriMo are a pretty decent organization who help kids practice their writing, so maybe click the link and give them a buck or two. Regardless, I hope your November goes by smoothly!

Now stop procrastinating and get back to your novel!

Writing #ShortStories

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After working on a project for the Madison County Public Library, I’ve been reminded of how great short stories can be. They’re longer than flash fiction, shorter than novellas, and difficult to do well. Everything that works and needs to happen in a novel has no place in a short story. It was incredibly fun to work on this, so much so that I wrote another one (a horror story) to try to get published.

I don’t know if it will get picked up. To be honest, I’m surprised I completed it at all. Most of my energy has been devoted to finishing my novel or prepping for NaNoWriMo this year. But I found the time to work on a short story, and I had a blast.

This might be something I’ll do more of in the future. I can’t describe how enjoyable the process has been. It’s something I didn’t expect. The only thing that would make this better is if a magazine accepts it for publication, and people get to enjoy reading it as much as I have writing it. That would be some fitting icing on the cake.

However, my expectations are realistic. Fiction magazines get a lot of submissions, and editors have to find ways to sort through them all to pick out the gems. Mine might not make the cut, and that’s okay.

All I know is that I’m getting reacquainted with short fiction, like visiting an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever. These stories are so much fun to read, and they’re even more fun to write. Hopefully other people might give them a chance too.

It’s Time to Wake This Back Up

This is my interwebs machine where I make my posts from scratch.
Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I’ve taken an extended break from this blog because I really had no idea what I was going to do with it. Writing posts became a chore, and I lost motivation quickly. Although I like meeting people and kibitzing about all things writing-related, it was getting in the way of other productivity.

What I didn’t realize was that sometimes logging into a blog and doing posts was good for my overall writing health. I was taking too much time editing and rewriting my own work, and I didn’t spend enough time actually creating anything else. So, this has been a learning experience for me. Sometimes writing just has to happen.

With NaNoWriMo looming next month, I’ve finally gotten motivated enough to come back here and dust off the cobwebs. I’m looking forward to it, especially since most of my writing group will be joining in the pain with me as well. Misery loves company, and I will have company. Just as an aside, I’ll probably put my NaNo handle up here in case anyone wants to friend me there. Well, after I update my profile and everything.

In better news, my local writing group put together some short stories for the library that sponsors us. It’s a collection of retold Grimm’s fairy tales. The process of getting these together has been kind of hectic, but it’s worth it. They’ll be giving me a free copy I can put on my shelf, and this will be my first short story published. Proceeds for the collection will go to the Madison County Public Library system (Madison County, Alabama, that is).

With any luck, the book will be out by the end of November, just in time to show it off to the other WriMos. The group I’m part of started there, so it’ll be nice to give people something tangible to show that your writing can mean something. Also, I’m bringing a sharpie to sign copies.

I have to admit the idea’s pretty freaking awesome.

Do You Ever Save Earlier Drafts?

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I’ve been toying with the idea of saving earlier drafts of stories I write. It’s an opportunity to take a look at how I draft a story, and a look at how ideas change over time. Of course, there’s an unhealthy side of this: part of me always likes looking at my mistakes.

With other media, people get a chance to look behind the scenes and see what goes into making that thing work. Movies have extra features, TV shows do the same, and there are plenty of documentaries detailing other work. Writing doesn’t get that treatment, because the magic happens with fingers hacking away at a keyboard or with a ink-splattered hand scribbling across paper. Well, not the latter for me, because nobody can read my handwriting – including me.

Good writing involves cultivating those serendipitous moments into a coherent whole. Nobody gets to see it happening before their eyes, which is a shame. Even when I’m writing, sometimes it takes me going back over a passage to really appreciate what I’ve got. The closest I’ll ever get is to compare an earlier draft with a later one, but that still quite doesn’t capture the magic of telling a story.

Still, I wish I had the presence of mind to save some earlier drafts that I liked but ended up not going with. I think if people truly realized some of the stuff writers go through in delivering a story, they might get appreciated more. Or maybe it’s just a chance to share more than what’s on the page.

What do you think?

Putting the Social Back in Social Media

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Talking is something I generally like to do. I will find any excuse to chat with people at any time. Writing – to me at least – is just a more permanent form of chatting with people. However, all of this changes when I’m focused on a project, because I do not multitask very well.

In today’s day and age, we’re able to be more connected to each other via technology. Selling books relies heavily on this, and writers are supposed to be heavily invested in social media. Personally, I don’t mind spending entire days reading blog posts and conversing with people. Since it gets in the way of my writing, I can’t afford to do it as much as I’d like.

At times this can be incredibly frustrating, because I feel antisocial. Naturally it’s in my head (along with a lot of other things competing for my attention). Rather than let it get me down, I try to turn it into something to look forward to. Right now I can’t spend as much time here and on other media as I want.

Soon, I hope to spend more time visiting all the wonderful places I’ve found over the past few months. For the moment, I have to settle for just quietly hitting the like button.

Self-Published Books Are Real Books Too

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If you don’t follow the amazing Linda G. Hill, check out this post about a Facebook discussion she was privy to. I was going to comment, but I ended up writing a rant of my own. Some people in person have expressed similar opinions that trash self-publishing as prone to errors. It’s not really fair to self-published authors. Below is the comment I wanted to add (but ended up getting away from me).

I can’t think of any work I’ve read that didn’t have some typo, error, or mistake. Writers juggle hundreds of thousands of words (that’s including the ones that make it and the ones written down and then deleted). One, two, or even ten mistakes out of thousands of opportunities isn’t a good reason to trash a book. This happens no matter how the book gets published, because the writing process is different from the publishing process.

Even the quality of self-published books gets a bad rap. Other publishers used to publish crap all the time. For example, meet Tanaka Tom, the Six-Gun Samurai from Georgia. Here is its Goodreads review. I’ve read some of it, and suffice it to say I didn’t like it. Despite my personal tastes, there are some people who actually like the story. Different people have different tastes in entertainment, and books are no exception.

For people who are skeptical of self-published books, remember that there are thousands of new writers putting stuff out there. This volume of work means that even companies which sell these books cannot always read a reader’s mind. It takes readers to actually find and recommend good writers and books to others. If one typo is enough to make you put down a book, that’s fine. Just please do not assume that everyone else has the same attitude towards good books.

Self-published books are just as good as their traditionally published counterparts. If anything, they highlight the difficulty in writers putting together a story good enough for many different people to enjoy. I’ve been told that on average, a self-published book will sell 10 copies. Beat that average, and you’re a success. Unfortunately, 10 books means a writer gets paid a pittance for many hours of labor. In traditional publishing the sales are higher, but that’s only because writers need it to earn back their advance. Thus, writing only gets done because writers love telling stories.