Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sensory Deprivation Short Story Contest!

FINAL UPDATE: Contest is closed.

Here are the official rules:

1. UPDATE (Something I forgot to put in here the first time around): Entries must be devoid of the senses of Sight and Sound.  This is Sensory Deprivation.  The goal is to stretch as writers and put together a scene with only Touch, Taste, and Smell.  And entries must be no MORE than 400 words.  I'm limiting it for the sake of consistency among the competitors.

2. Entries must be e-mailed to me.  The entry must be EMBEDDED IN THE BODY OF THE E-MAIL.  Attachments will be deleted.  Send the e-mails here [link removed].  Put Sensory Submission in the subject line.

3. Previously published stories are ineligible.  HOWEVER, as soon as the winners are announced, feel free to do whatever you like with your story. With one exception...

4. The Winners will have their stories featured on this blog, both in the post-of-the-day and alongside other short stories that will be posted in their own, separate pages.  The Winners (and all other entrants) agree that I do NOT own the intellectual property, but all entrants acknowledge that the Winners (and only the Winners) are giving me full permission to post their story on this blog for no LESS than 30 days.  After 30 days, stories will ONLY be pulled down at the author 's request.  Unless the blog shutters, gets lost, or an unforeseeable event forces me to remove it.  The winner also agrees to refrain from publishing the story on their own sight until the next post is published on this blog.  (Example: if the winning entry is published on Friday, the Winner will wait until Monday to put the story up on their own site.  If it's Monday, it can go up elsewhere Wednesday, and if Wednesday, then it can get published on Friday.)

5. The entry period begins at 12:00am MDT, September 1, 2012.  There will be a limit of 20 entrants.  I know that's not very many, but this is to ensure that all entries will be read and winners selected in a reasonable amount of time.  When the 20th entry is received, the entry period will be closed, this post will be updated, and the e-mail address will be removed.  If fewer than 20 entries have been received, the entry period will close at 11:59pm MDT, September 30, 2012.

6. There will be three winners.  One grande prize winner and two first prize winners.  All winners will have their stories featured on this blog (as stated above).  The grande prize winner will get their choice of a $25 dollar gift card to Amazon, iBooks, OR Nook (winner decides); OR a ten-page critique from me.  First prize winners may select a $10 gift card to ONE of the sites listed above, OR a first page critique, OR a query letter critique.

Now remember that I'll be writing a story as well, to be featured here while I judge the entries.  As some of you may remember, I said this is limited to U.S. Residents.  I'm going to amend that to say that ANYONE can enter AS LONG AS you have a mailing address in the United States where I can send the gift card.  If you prefer the critique, then this is a moot point because that'll be done over the internet.

I ask that any questions you may have be posted in the comments.  Please use the e-mail only for entries.  Thank you, and I'm looking forward to your stories!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Intimidating

As some of you know, I brewed my first batch of beer a few months ago.  It was a lot of fun, but after the process, I realized that as easy as it is, it's very intimidating for me.  I can cook.  And I can cook pretty well (not professionally well, but for a home cook, I can bust out some tasty recipes).  But with beer, I feel like there's NO way I'll be able to wrap my head around it.

You see, beer is complicated.  Very complicated.  I do beer the easy way.  And by that I mean I buy an extract kit, boil water, add the extract and hops, then dump it in a bucket with yeast.  But once you get to the all-grain level, there's so much more to it.  First, it adds several hours to the brewing process, plus sanitation before the brewing, and then cleanup after.  And sanitation is HUGE.

More than that, there's so much that can go wrong.  If the equipment isn't properly sanitized, you can spoil your beer and have "off flavors."  If you don't boil the wort properly, it can be too thick or too watery.  When you get into all grain, mashing improperly, changing the grains, mashing too long or too short can all change the flavor of the beer.  If the wort isn't COOLED quickly enough, you can ALSO spoil it and create "off flavors."

Then there's the yeast.  If the wort is too hot, you can kill the yeast.  Or get it too excited which will change the flavor of the beer.  Possibly ruin it.  If it's too cold, the yeast won't wake up, which means the wort won't ferment, and you don't get beer.

And don't get me STARTED about packaging, either kegging or bottling.

My point, though, is that I'm going to stick with this.  I want to learn the ins and outs of brewing.  It's much like how I felt when I finished writing my first book.  When I was convinced that it was ready to query, I felt completely overwhelmed.  I blogged now and then, but I didn't know how to promote my blog.  I didn't know ANY of the readers who stop by here regularly, and I CERTAINLY didn't know the first thing about researching agents and formulating a proper query for them.

But I stuck with it!  And while I may not be an expert, I'm not intimidated anymore.  Some day I'll grasp brewing, just like I understand how to make an awesome Roast Lamb with Jalapenos and Cherries.  And when I learn new tricks about writing, I'll try to make sure I share them with all of you :D

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fun Stuff for September!

I'm excited for some of the stuff I have going on next month.  Including the contest that will begin at some point (announcement on Friday).  We have a new charity that will be up on Monday (next week), and I'm going to start writing the manuscript for a new book!  My sci-fi short inspired me to write a spin-off novel, and I'm almost done outlining that.  I'm going to jump back and forth between two WiPs at this point.  That should keep me pretty busy :D.

Next week, The Wifey and I will be brewing our second ever batch of beer!  And I'm selling my snowboard to buy new equipment for this hobby.  (Honestly, I'd love to go snowboarding again, but it's just way too expensive, especially since I'd have to take time away from writing AND my day job.  So brewing will be my new hobby.)

I also have a writing conference next weekend.  And that's SUPER exciting.  I met some awesome people there last year, and I signed up to have an editor critique the first ten pages of The Dragon's Nephew.  I'm nervous about that, and it may force me to make some tough decisions, but I'm ready to learn from the experience!  I'm also going to pitch to an agent (not sure who, just yet, but they're all great agents!).

I can't remember what I have going on later in the month, but I'm sure it'll be great.  And I'm looking forward to reading submissions for the contest!

Have a great week.  Let me know if you have something fun lined up in the near future.  I'll see you Wednesday!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Consistency?

I've had some very good discussions with other writers in the last few weeks.  One of the conclusions I reached is that, even when life gets in the way, it's important to get up and write again.  This is something I struggled with over the last year, and even though I consistently got work done, it wasn't on a daily basis.

The reason I couldn't get a blog post up yesterday is because my work day got really busy!  I planned on putting a post together when I got home, but completely spaced it between making dinner, trying to relax, and finally passing out at 9:45pm.  But I believe in consistency!  Today is going to be a chill day.  After a tour of a local brewery, I'm going to get some work done on my outline.  I have to do some small rewrites because the story wasn't going the direction I wanted it to, but that's why I outline first :).

And then tomorrow I'm going to start looking into getting that writing contest going.  In fact, I'm going to say definitively that the Official-Official announcement will be up on Friday, August 31.  There will be deadlines, of course, and at least one prize, even though I'm considering a grande prize and two "first" prizes.  (BTW, if any of you have ideas as to what a great prize would be, feel free to let me know and I'll consider it.  I have some ideas, but I'd love to hear what you'd like to win.  A critique? A POP figurines like Batman or Iron Man? Kid-robot toys?  Kindle/iBooks gift-cards?)

Anyway, for the sake of consistency, I'm going to get some work done at the Day Job now, and then I'm going to go home and get some outlining done.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bacon!

I know bacon is kind of a big deal on the internet, and it has been for quite some time.  I know talking about it is as cliche as a cowboy with a shiny belt-buckle.  But I LOVE bacon!

The other day, I even had a bacon maple beer from Rogue Brewing out in Oregon.  And I kinda liked it.  It was tasty, and unique, and if you like interesting flavors and new experiences, I recommend trying it.  But try it with a friend.  Or three.  I couldn't drink more than a quarter of a bottle (it was a 22oz.).  It was flavorfully rich, and not at all what I'm used to from beer.  I don't know that I'll drink it again, either.  But it still satisfied my desire for bacon!  Even made me want pancakes.

What do you love that other people are obsessed with?  And what do you love that other people seem to hate?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Small Change of Direction

I have to be honest: I really enjoyed writing The Senator's Daughter.  I hope all of you enjoyed reading it, too.  I enjoyed it so much that I've decided to set aside the fantasy WiP that I've been working on to focus on a novel based in the sci-fi universe I created for that short story.

I'm excited to work on this new book.  To the point where I'm laughing out loud when I come up with ideas for the next part of the outline!  I think the last time I was THIS excited for a story I was starting up the Chris Drake novel.  And I think excitement is important.  I think a writer SHOULD enjoy what they're working on, and when there's no contract involved, those are the best projects to pursue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Looking For Ideas

For those of you who are familiar with some of my previous posts, you know I have a hard time staying active in writing forums.  I've always felt that if I don't have anything significant to add to a conversation, I might as well stay out of it.  On top of that, I don't have a lot of free time to spend going back and forth to the forums to respond to the things people say in regards to a topic to which I CAN contribute.  The same goes for most blogs.  I'd love to go back and forth to the dozen or so blogs that I follow and discuss topics in the comments, but I barely have time to respond to the comments I receive here.

So I'm looking for more ideas on ways to connect with other writers and potential readers.  I'm open to many things, even if that means my blogging suffers.  I'm MAKING more time for my writing because I'm tired of wasting my time in front of the TV.  But I don't want my WRITING to suffer because I'm performing tasks RELATED to writing.  That doesn't mean that I'm going to be querying less, in fact,  I need to do that more.  I don't want to blog less, but I don't have enough to say to justify blogging more often (and for the few of you who were here when I blogged five days a week, remember how boring that got?).

The point I'm driving at is I want to spend more time pursuing my career so that I can eventually quit my job.  I have no illusions about how difficult that will be.  I don't expect it to happen in the next five years, even if I get a traditional publishing contract in that time.  But what do you, my fellow writers and my readers think?  Again, I don't want to put up ads, and I don't want a paypal button.  But should I, perhaps, create a new blog where I provide more serious writing content and short stories and sell ad space?  Should I buy ad space?  Or should I perhaps start offering to go in to schools to teach some writing seminars?  Should I put together some instructional videos?  Offer critiques?

I know I'm asking a lot of questions, but if you drop by here, I'm interested in hearing what you'd like to see on this blog.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Importance of a Solid Conclusion

Warning, there are spoilers in this blog.  I'm discussing The Bourne Legacy.  So if you don't want the movie ruined, turn away... NOW!

My wife and I went to The Bourne Legacy on Saturday, and I was excited to see it.  I loved the first three movies, and I enjoyed the simple, formulaic plot.  It's a simple formula: Bourne discovers there are people after him for one reason or another, he finds out why, takes the battle to their home-turf, and then wins.  (NOTE: I HATE it when people say "This movie sucked because it didn't do what other movies do" when those movies are based off of books and follow the books very closely.  The Hunger Games got a lot of complaints because idiots who never read the books thought it was a stupid movie.  With that said, I never read the Bourne books.  I don't know how accurate the movies are in comparison to those movies, but I loved the movies based on Ludlum's work.  This criticism is EXCLUSIVELY about the plot of the films, and it's relevant in light of any books that new authors might be writing.)

The Bourne Legacy COMPLETELY turned away from that formula.  I know Ludlum didn't write the book this movie is based on, but a formula existed, and it worked!  The tension was great, acting was entertaining, Aaron Cross (the protagonist) wasn't a copy of Bourne, in fact he was a VERY different character, and quite engaging in my opinion.  But after Cross learned people were trying to kill him, he came up with a solution to survive, to get away from the bad guy, and then he disappeared.  He didn't confront the bad guy, he didn't really FIGHT the bad guy.  He ran away, throwing punches at people who got in his way, but never CONFRONTING THEM!

The movie was incomplete.  The final confrontation is crucial to a solid conclusion.  Without that conclusion, the audience feels (justifiably) cheated.  I was invested in the character, his struggle, and I was looking forward to a final fight between Cross and the bad guy.  I was even expecting to sit in the theater for another hour to get it.  But then the movie ended.  And I had no resolution.

Remember that when you sit down to plot out your book.  Your conclusion MUST tie up the loose ends.  At least enough of them to make the reader willing to come back for more.  If you leave ALL of the loose ends open and floating, the audience will abandon you very quickly.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Crazy, Crazy.

Life got REALLY crazy over the last two weeks.  I finally got my new glasses, but my eyes are having trouble adjusting.  Apparently there's this new technology called "digital lenses."  I have NO idea what that means, but I DO know that I've been getting eye strain.  So I'm working on that.

The Day Job took up almost ALL of my energy last week, and this week when I haven't been dealing with the Day Job and my glasses, I've been focusing on my new WiP.  As a result, this is about all I have for you today.  But Part 6 of The Senator's Daughter will be up on Friday!

See you then.

Monday, August 06, 2012

New Beginnings to Replace Old Beginnings

Rewriting is part of the writing process.  In fact, it's one of the most important parts of the writing process.  Last week I labored through two and a half pages of my new WiP.  It took me five days to get 600 words on the page.  Last night, eager to spend my alone-time in a productive manner, I sat down to see what I could do with this story that excites me but apparently needs some motivation to get out of my brain.  I took one look at what I'd written and threw it out.

Starting over isn't a big deal.  Chances are I'll scrap THIS chapter, too, and create at least four or five different renditions of "Chapter 1."  That's just how it's worked for me in the past.  But I HAVE to get the story rolling.  And in two days I got almost 600 words on the page that are FAR better than what I fought to get up all last week.

What about you?  Do you struggle with beginnings the way I seem to?  How do you deal with that?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Charity of the Month: Your Home

For a long time I've believed that charity doesn't stop at far-off organizations that take my money to communities I may never see.  I think charity should start with the people I care about.  I have a friend who is struggling in this economy, and there aren't any organizations that can help him out of his current situation.

That gave me the idea for this month's charity: your home.  I want to encourage all of you to find someone in your neighborhood, maybe where you work, or somewhere you spend a lot of time.  If there's anything you can do to ease their struggles, please do it.  It may not fix their problems, but I've seen how much a little kindness can help someone in need.  And a little bit goes a very long way!