Friday, December 17, 2010

I Made a Song For You

Some of you know I have a band. We're called Atlas Takes Aim and we rock. No... seriously, we rock.

Not convinced? Ok, go here:
See? Told you so.

And as if that wasn't rock enough, I just posted a free song. Our rendition of "O Holy Night".

FREE. For realz. Go on, download it, share it, email it to grandma.

It's our Christmas present to you.

Mason Ian

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

KM Walton ROCKS, or, Once Again I Prove How Silly I Am

When I saw that her book was picked up by Simon & Schuster (gasp!*) I made a very danceable-yet-kooky congratulations song for KM Walton.

I sampled heavily from Mercedes M. Yardley's ode to KM Walton.

Go here to bunny trail your way to the song. (or just go straight to the music)



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Delusions vs. Dreams

Some people who think they are writers are delusional.

Sure those of us who write with the goal of being published (and maybe even earning a living at it) are all delusional in a way, but it's not a bad sort of delusional. It's more of a dreaming (with lots of hard work thrown in.) Writers are delusional in a similar way to those who want to be professional musicians or actors. It's a long-shot, but you can actually work hard and hone your craft until you get some breaks.

The short and skinny is that a person who writes, does so because they must. Nothing anyone else can say could persuade a writer not to write. The desire to create with words is a compelling force that they can't deny. It is part of their dreaming self, this need to write which makes them a writer. Getting published is a whole other ball'o'wax.

But there are also those wanna-be writers who are BAD DELUSIONAL. Run from them.

Bad delusional is the guy at the back of the bus who smells like incontinent cats and mutters about being an archangel. Bad delusional is playing slot machines as part of your investment portfolio. Bad delusional is quitting your day job before you even start your first novel because "Hey, I'll get a Stephanie Meyer deal right out the gate."

I once met a guy who claimed to be a writer. I asked him what he wrote.

"Oh, I haven't written anything yet."

Really? Well, if you were to write something, what genre or style would it be?

"Oh, I'm only going to write best-sellers. Or soemthing that would ensure my literary fame. I won't waste my time writing anything else."

And during twenty hubris-laden minutes he proceeded to tell me how terrible every best-seller was, how his would be superior and that he was studying what was hot right now and would just follow the formula of best-sellers to write his guaranteed hit novel. And yes, he told me how publishers would be throwing money at his feet when he told them he was about to write their next block buster.

I never knew people like this existed.

And if you haven't yet seen this video, stop, turn off the music, shut the door, press play and put down the beverage to avoid soaking something.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Thank You To My Readers (Friends!)

Wow, this first-ever vault into the wooly world of blogging has been incredible! And it's because of you groovy cats out there reading this.

So please allow me to offer you tangible thanks in the form of this:

Consider it my early Christmas present 'cause I couldn't wait.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Which My Writers Group is Extolled (and compared to Voltron)

So last night The Illiterati got together to talk writing and critique stuff. We also played video games.

Having a good group of writers to bounce things off of is amazing. A-mazing. You could sit in class and learn all the deft little rules about writing, but does anyone still believe that learning the rules is what makes you write compelling and meaningful words?

In a group, you're not just speaking words into an empty chamber, you are immersed together.
Their eyes and their hearts are the litmus tests for the power of your words.

Plus they tell you when you wrapped up a story too quickly. Or when you used too many adverbs. *slash!
But taking critique is hard. We feel defensive about our writing.. and honestly sometimes a member of a critique group just doesn't "get" something we wrote.

But when you LOVE the people in your group... well, that's beyond awesome. Your words are in a safe place under their editorial red pens, their critiques are meaningful--even if you don't always agree--because you know that they believe in your work, want to see you at the top of your game, and are pushing you ahead with all their editorial might along the writer's journey.

Of course, The Illiterati have one other advantage: together we form Voltron.

In short, get thee to a critique group/writers group!
A good group is worth its weight in some form of precious commodity.

Also, check out Mercedes breakdown of last night's fury:

Need help starting or finding a group?
Contact me!

P.s. I almost added "fulsomely" to the title of this blog post until I recalled that the word means offensively and insincerely flattering. What a strange morphology. Sounds like an innocuous word, but nooooooo, it's a tricksie negative. Like calling someone who talks too much a macrologist.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I'll Smack You With This Blog Post

This falls under the tag: "Stop Procrastinating Dude"

Ok, allow me to do a few laps as a chicken with no head. This has been a crazy few weeks.

I've got two kids under 3 bouncing off the walls, a house that looks as if a tornado localized in each room, people asking me to book shows for them. I have a reading to perform this weekend and I've got to organize my back-up dancers and pyrotechnics. Not to mention the writing gigs are flying my way faster than I can juggle them: from my day job (freelance technical writer), to possible journalistic endeavors, to contests, planning committee invites. And the band needs to practice for our upcoming shows, I have to find a babysitter, I've got a few recording sessions coming up, I'm trying to remember if I invoiced for the last one...

It's all enough to make a slacker like me turn to the Playstation for a coupla hours of veg time.

But NO! I'm the one who wants to pile my plate up high. Life's meant to be lived to the fullest!
Slackers don't win. Heck, they don't even finish!

So enough complaining. I'm jumping back in with both feet. Next time you hear from me it should be about the things I've accomplished!

Writing is a committment. Heck, living is a committment. You can't just quit. (Well, you could, but I don't reccommend it.)

We are writers because we write, not because we dream about writing, or tweet about writing, or blog about writing. So time to stop procrastinating and get back to the grist mill. Time waits for no man, unless that man is sucked into a gravitational anomaly... that's different.

But if I ever hear someone complain about how they don't have any time to write I'll smack them with this blog post by the estimable Mercedes M. Yardley.

For those of you wondering why Mercedes and I are always talking each other up (or talking smack) it's because we both belong to the Super Secret Order of Interdimensional Wombats, also known as The Illiterati. It's a critique group, it's a writers' group, it's a superhero convention.

If you've not found a few like-minded writers to meet up with (IRL or online) you need to get on that. If you want help or have questions, or just want to vent about some of the crazy critique group stories you have, please drop me a line!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Congrats KM Walton

Everyone go congratulate KM Walton on getting her book sold to Simon & Schuster!

Yay! Hard work, perseverance, voodoo magic!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Elvis the Zombie Hunter

It's true, not only is Elvis alive, he's a bona fide zombie hunter.

I have the proof right here, filmed by yours truly at the Las Vegas Zombie Walk.

(This video features the undead Mercedes M. Yardley)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Immortal Art of the Deal - the short story!

It's up.

My award winning short story (I can say that, ha!) "The Immortal Art of the Deal" has been published in Las Vegas Citylife.

In case you forgot, Mercedes M. Yardley also won (read more about that here)
We will both be doing a public reading on November 6th. I plan on bringing some backup dancers and pyrotechnics. (Let's see you follow that, Mercedes!)

Read it here:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don’t Wait for NaNoWriMo to Write

Dude, there's like, Viking horns!

Most of you know that November is National Novel Writing Month. (Can I get a holla from my NaNoWriMo peeps?) The main gist is to provide a kick in the proverbial seat and write a 50k (or more) novel from scratch during the month of November.

Awesome! Anything to get writers to write = wunderbar. It’s the hardest part. I’ve heard professional estimopinions that 90% of people who claim to be writers never finish a novel. Yuck!

So if NaNoWriMo is what it takes, by all means be a Nanite.

But I’m gonna be blunt here. Don’t wait for NaNoWriMo to write.

It’s not cheating to write the rest of the year. I promise. Heck, it’s not cheating to have written 6000 words of your novel from here to November. (Just make sure you hit 50k words written DURING the month to make NaNoFame)

So, enough blogging and twittering about how excited you are for NaNoWriMo, start writing… NOW!

Seriously. Open Word and start. Dude, why are you still reading this blog?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writers: Don’t Sign Your Short Story Rights Away With a Bad Contract!

You know that exciting feeling when you get that acceptance letter for the story you sent out months ago on a wing and a prayer? Excitement! You prepare your awards ceremony speech as you glance at the contract and sign it with a flourish before—wait a second! You mean you didn’t read it?

“Well Mason,” you say, “Those contracts are all pretty standard, don’t you know.”
I recently had a short story accepted by a publisher, but when I got the contract I quickly saw that it would not be in my best interests to sign it.

(As it is, I'm hoping the publisher will negotiate. It never hurts to ask, right?)
The publisher asks for exclusive publishing rights to my work for the full term of copyright.

Not content with just that, the publisher also asks for exclusive rights for the full term of copyright for every known conceivable media form. But I’d only submitted my work for a print anthology.

Like most short story writers I’d like to sell my work as a reprint to some other market one day. But in case I didn’t understand it the first time, there’s a line way down in the copyright infringement section (hidden on purpose?) that tells me that “THE AUTHOR WILL NOT SUBMIT WORK TO BE INCLUDED AND/OR PRINTED IN ANY OTHER PUBLICATION.”

I don't think they wrote an author-unfriendly contract on purpose. But contracts are naturally weighted in favor of the one with leverage.

“You want to get published, right? Sign here.”

But the contract is the final act of negotiation. It sets boundaries that protect the parties involved as they engage in business together. Just like the rest of the negotiation process, a contract can be modified until each party gets the rights, terms and conditions that best serve their interests.

And not all publishers are out to get you. Some have really fair contracts. Some contracts are simply overreaching. But there are some which are exploitative, yet are signed because writers don’t know any better!

Literary agents are great because a huge part of their job is to negotiate the best, most author-friendly contract in the universe. But agents don’t deal with the short fiction market, so us writers are left on our own.
So what’s a more author-friendly rights-granting clause?

What about granting exclusive first North American printing rights [world for stuff being published online] for a set term length? Exclusivity begins with the signing of this contract and lasts for 90 days [or 6 months, or 1 year] after the date of first publication.

Hey look, now you can resell the story as a reprint! And you’re not signing the exclusive copyright over to some little magazine forever! Wow!

But what about if the publisher wants to reprint the story in a “Best Of” compilation? Well, ideally you get paid a reprint fee. Or if you’re feeling generous you can grant them a non-exclusive right to reprint. It can be for however long you want, but I’d rather limit it to a term, say 5 years. Since it’s non-exclusive you still can sell it to other markets as a reprint and your rights aren’t bound up in the publisher who first printed the story.
Another thing to look out for are contract clauses that contradict or effect others in an author-unfriendly way—whether intentional or not.

For example, the contract I got with all the “exclusive rights forever” stuff has one little line buried way down in Article 8 that says (very casually): “ALL WORK SHALL REVERT BACK TO THE AUTHOR ONE YEAR AFTER PUBLICATION OF BOOK”

Well it seems that my fears were unfounded, they say the work shall revert after a year. But what about all the “exclusive” and “for the full term of the copyright” language contained in the Rights Granted section? Do we just throw that out? Can we safely forget about it because this one little line exists?

But take a careful look at the wording. The Work shall revert? Or the rights to the work? And why isn’t this clause part of the Rights Granted section? Not to mention that it contradicts the rights already specified.

Again, I don't think there is any malicious or sneaky intent on the publisher's part. It's just a clunky contract. Lawyers make millions on parties squabbling over such contradictory and weakly worded contracts.

So, WRITER BEWARE! Read your contracts. Know what kind of rights you are willing to grant, otherwise you’ll lose’em.

Here’s a helpful copyright and contract clause website for writers and content creators: also check out WRITER BEWARE

* Hey! Before you get all clicky on those links, why don’t you leave a comment?

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Won! Mercedes Won! We Won!

As some of you know I entered a writing contest put on by the City of Las Vegas for the 2010 Vegas Valley Book Festival being held downtown on Nov 3-7.

In fact, almost our whole writers group, The Illiterati, signed up to dominate the competition. And dominate we did.

The indomitable Mercedes M. Yardley and I tied for the $250 2nd place prize. (1st place winner was a guy we had all hit it off with before the contest, Kurt Rice so it feels like we kept the winneryness in the family.)

The judges were Andrew Kiraly of KNPR’s Desert Companion, Scott Dickensheets of the Las Vegas Sun, UNLV writing instructor and Schaeffer Fellow Alissa Nutting, and CityLife’s Mike Prevatt. Prizes were provided by the Vegas Valley Book Festival (thank you!) and my story “The Immortal Art of the Deal” will be published in Las Vegas CityLife magazine. (W00t!)

In addition I’ll be doing a reading of my story at the Vegas Valley Book Festival on Nov 6th at around 10:30am in the courtyard. I know you want to be there. I’m going to wear a cape. And add a few Bollywood dance scenes. It’ll be awesome.

But don’t forget, my fellow Illiterati critique partner, Mercedes M. Yardley also won. I decided to interview her, because every time I tried to interview myself I kept getting into fistfights and suing myself.

In order to get an interview with Mercedes I disguised myself as an intrepid journalist and caught her as she was walking into the Las Vegas Machine Gun store.


Intrepid Journalist: “Excuse me, Mercedes M. Yardley?”

Mercedes: “How did you find me? Where's my Mace? Security!”

*After the Mace has run its course and the interviewer’s eyes have stopped burning.*

Intrepid Journalist: “Ok, so Mercedes, I wanted to ask you a few questions about your surprise win at the Flash Fiction contest—and your surprise near defeat at the hands of Mason.”

Mercedes: “Well, it wasn’t near defeat. We tied. Which is awesome.”

Intrepid Mason: “Well, right. Ok. Let’s talk about you. This was a FLASH FICTION contest, limited to 500 words. I understand you have loads of experience with writing flash fiction. About how many pieces have you published?

Mercedes: “About 50 pieces. Fiction. Poetry. Nonfiction.”

Insipid Journalist: “Poetry. Like haikus?”

Mercedes *with a sharp look that threatens more Mace*: “No.” *A brief uncomfortable pause. Somewhere a dog barks, or something.* “Mason, seriously, what are you doing in that ridiculous outfit—?”

Incisor Jumblist: “Never mind that. What did you feel when we walked into the 5th street school auditorium where they were holding the contest? I felt, I mean… Mason reported that he felt like he was there to take the SAT’s all over again. Were you scared that Mason would lay the smackdown?”

Mercedes: “I was excited. Nothing gets my blood pumping like a challenge, and I was totally digging on the competitive vibe. And as for Mason? Have you seen his spindly arms? Sure, that guy can shred the guitar better than anybody I've seen, but you don't want that pantywaist to move your furniture. I wasn't afraid.”

Invader Jugglist, *looking down at his pants.* “So that’s why these underwear are so uncomfortable.”

Mercedes: “Oh, but you mean writing-wise? Maybe a little.”

*A brief interlude as Mason, I mean, interviewer does a little victory dance that involves the Pee-Wee Herman move repeated far too many times.*

Investigative Jabba-the-Huttist: “So, how much preparation did you undergo for the tie-breaker dance battle in the parkinglot?

Mercedes: “Well, I was pretty warmed up from jumping around the room and screaming, "Yeah! Finished! Booya!" after the writing contest was done. Besides that, I'd been singing "Eye of the Tiger" in my head during the entire competition, so I was pretty stoked. And who can beat this?”

*awesome dance move*

*Mason, I mean, journalist stares with wonder at the power and fractal nature of Mercedes’ dance moves.*

Implacable Burbleist: “It’s a wonder we didn’t open a time-warp nexus with our awesome dance skills. Well, back to the interview: What are some of the challenges and advantages of writing flash fic?”

Mercedes: “The challenges are that it's difficult to condense your story down to its very essence. It takes discipline to make every word count. Also, a lot of people don't take it seriously as an art form.

“But the advantages rock. Flash is great because you get to explore an idea quickly. It's satisfying to write something start-to-finish without it taking months or even years, like a novel. And it's great from a magazine's perspective because sometimes we need something short and sweet to take up a little space in the mag, and flash fits the bill. It's very versatile."

Insensitive Chupacabralist: “Wow, well there you have it. I want to thank you for taking the time to—“

Mercedes: “Hey, is that a giant wombat behind you?”

*Mason turns to look. Mercedes runs away*

[[end transmission]]

A HUGE thank you to Brian Rouff at Imagine Marketing for hosting the contest and providing a wealth of information for this blog post.

The Vegas Valley Book Festival - the largest literary event in Las Vegas - will take place Nov. 3-7. More than 100 authors participate in festival events, which include literary and art panel discussions, readings, book signings, workshops, poetry readings, spoken word performances, exhibitions and other special programs. Most events are free and open to the public.

The Vegas Valley Book Festival is produced by the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, Las Vegas Review-Journal, the local chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design; and Nevada Humanities, a festival founder.

For more information about the Vegas Valley Book Festival, call 702-229-5431 or visit

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stop Twittering About It and WRITE

Ask anyone to whom I ever talk writing and they'll tell you that I get a little crazy-eyed.

I'm a bit of an instigator. Mostly I instigate more writing. Sometimes I instigate things like the following photograph.

Back Row, Left - Right: Mason Ian, Mercedes M. Yardley, Hollan Johnson, billie "the girl" bundschuh
Front Row, with intense eyes and a sparkly tank-top of sparkliness: Battle Bunny

I'll let you look at that picture a moment longer.

Yes, I was responsible for that. These are the sorts of antics we get up to at our writers group.

The Illiterati, if you're not one of us, you've never experienced... well... just look at that photo again.

Anyhow, I'm an instigator. But more than that, I've discovered that I'm a motivator. I want to see people live their dream of becoming a writer. It excites me when I talk to other writers.

One of the things I'm always getting crazy-eyed about is: "If you want to be a writer, you've gotta write."

Sounds simple, but I can't tell you how many people I've heard say something along the lines of: "Oh, I'm a writer too, but I don't really have time to write. I used to write in high school, and my mom says it was really good. I'm just waiting until I have more time. I've been working on this novel for 10 years now. I've got a few chapters kinda done."

Among all of this I want to ask them how they have the audacity to call themselves writers.

See, writers write. NOW. Not, they used to write. Not they're thinking of writing, or telling everyone on Twitter or facebook that they write. THEY WRITE. Nothing can stop them from writing. They'd use a sharpened toothbrush and their blood for ink if they had to.

We're not talking about literary merit. That's something for the critics to argue. We're just saying, writers write. It may be dross, it may be plotless and full of Mary Sue characters, but it's been written!

*ahem. I just caught myself ranting. See? There's the proof of my crazy-eyed passion about motivating people to write.

So it was a fun treat to have my craziness quoted over at "Musings of a Scattered Mind" a blog by new friend and self-described geek chick going by the Twitter handle: Asheyna.

Let me finish by saying this: Writers write. They can talk about writing, blog about it, dream about it, and twitter about it. But they also do it.

If ever you find yourself doing more talking, blogging, dreaming or twittering about writing than actual writing, you might want to consider how serious you are about being a writer.

Also you can never ever ever complain about not having the time to write. I bet some of you would weep and gnash your teeth if you compared word-count between twitter and your WIP, or blogging and your still-unfinish-novel.

Do I walk the walk?

Heck yeah, once I click submit I'm turning off the internet and writing. Booyah!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Atmosphere and Sonic Explosions

Making music has some interesting similarities to writing fiction.

Particularly: "Where do your ideas come from?"

Honestly it's as if they came straight from the aether without preamble or consideration. You can sense the imminence of it all, the crackle of electricity in the air.

You pick up the guitar or open the notebook. The page is still blank, the notes are still hidden. But they are right there, waiting.

The shiver of purpose and meaning gaining momentum like a pressure from the air around you and suddenly you make something like this.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Plotter meets Pantser

We all know the drill, someone yells "Plotter versus Pantser, fight!" and people pick sides while many scratch their heads and say "but I do both..."

This picture has nothing to do with the post
but I thought you'd like it.
Few things in life are cut and dry. The battle lines between someone who plots out their story before writing a sentence and those who write by the seat of their pants (watching as a plot magically takes shape in the mess) are not always clear.

You hear people dismiss one or the other: "Oh, pantsers always have leaky plots" or "Plotters overthink and their writing is stiff." blah blah blah. But I say use what works.

Within my wonderful critique group, The Illiterati, the gamut is run. From our Pantser extraordinaire Mercedes M. Yardley to Mr. Plotter himself Ryan Bridger.
However, since we joined forces a few years back during the great wombat confluence, we've each learned (stolen) techniques and methods from one another.

I caught Mercedes plotting recently. Likewise Ryan decided to write a novel by the seat of his pants, just to try it.

I say: CHARGE! Because if there's one thing that is true about writing, you've got to try out different things to keep the creative mojo flowing.

Are you a pantser who keeps getting stuck a third of the way into your novel? Try plotting.
Are you a plotter who loses all your motivation to write what you just plotted out? Try setting forth a few "pole position" scenes and then write by the seat of your pants.

As for me, I tend to write by the seat of my pants once I have a vision of "the big climax". Usually about 30k words in I find that I need to plot out some elements, but I always have that "big climax" firmly stuck in my head as the destination.

But I certainly am not opposed to trying out different methods.

What about you cats? Where do you fall on the sliding scale of Pantser Plotter?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Make My Own Soundtrack

When I'm not writing, or having fun with my growing family, or reading, or getting lost on the internet, I'm playing guitar.

My wife and I have a band. We're pretty good, i suppose. I like us. Lots of other bands like us. I bet your mom likes us too. Unless she likes Justin Bieber.

That being said, I watched "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" one too many times and made this.
I'd say it's a mix between Sigur Ros and Yo Yo Ma.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Advances and Royalties De-Mushified

The publishing world is changing, but author payment schemes so far have stayed relatively the same. If you get a traditional book publishing deal you are looking at an Advance/Royalty pay structure.

I’m not going to get all technical and cover the minutiae and vagaries of how publishers account and/or abuse royalty payments. This is a De-Mushify, not de-mystify.

An author earns $0 for writing a book. He’s spent the last 5 years agonizing over scenes, characters and whether the papyrus font is cool.

He then spends countless hours trying to find an agent. If he’s lucky enough to get one, she offers to represent the manuscript for $0. (and tells the author to stick with Times New Roman font under pain of death.)

The agent then beats down the doors of publishers, pitching the book, schmoozing, calling, emailing, kibitzing, and generally working her tail off to sell this book.

No money has changed hands yet. The author and agent have done all this work for $0.

Then they find a publisher crazy enough to pick up a book about the stormy passions of two taxonomists who have discovered a new gastropod in an endangered estuary.

My cat also edits my work. (The cone is to deflect alien thought-rays)

The publisher offers the author an advance. (ooh, money!) The advance isn’t really a loan. The author doesn’t have to pay it back if the book tanks. It is the author’s to keep forever. (Or until he spends it on a plasma TV)

However, it is a loan in the sense that the author won’t see royalties until the sales of the book have recouped the advance. (There are various accounting methods that may disguise this fact, but it is a fact: the publisher recoups the advance from the author’s royalties.)

The agent takes his commission from the advance, usually 15% or so. This is how she gets paid. That’s it. 15% of the advance. If she’s a good agent, she ekes out a big advance. (Or she might negotiate a % point with the author. This is a small % of the royalties. Rare, but not unheard of.)

Now both the author and the agent have received a little bit of money for their trouble.

Then there are royalties. Every quarter, or year, or bicentennial of the Hindenburg Disaster (however the publisher computes it) the author receives a royalty check.

The amount, naturally, depends on the number of units sold during that period. But, naturally, the publisher has various obfuscating accounting methods to shake down royalties. Such things as returns, breakage, vaccinations, vacations, monkey training, cabbage farming supplies, etc.

Suffice to say, authors who get a traditional book deal usually get an advance and then royalties.

But always remember that you write for free. There is no guaranteed pay. It certainly isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Heck, it isn’t even a get-rich-slow scheme. My dad’s written something upward of 40 books, but I’ve seen his quarterly royalty statements to the tune of $5.

There is no guarantee. You have to be in it because you love it, not to win it.

*But what about cover art? Allow me to digress.

The publisher usually scoffs at an author who suggests an artist. In most cases the author is left to bite their nails as the publisher commissions an artist to make them a cover. The artist gets paid a flat fee for the art. No royalties, no kickbacks.

If they did the art for $500, and the book becomes a mega-seller, they still get only $500.

Bummer. So if you are an artist, try negotiating a smaller commission fee for a percentage point of sales (royalties). Or, you might have to forego the commission fee for a % point. It’s a risk, but royalties are nice.

If the publisher will go for it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Inside Jokes Are Fun #243 - Battle Bunny

My critique supergroup, The Illiterati, are a bunch of oddball pop-culture misfits and I'd have it no other way.

That's the only explanation you're gonna get for what happens next...

Battle Bunny

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dance Battles and Short Story Contests

Or, Is That a Flash Drive In Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

This weekend I got a chance to compete in a flash fiction contest put on by the City of Las Vegas for the Vegas Valley Book Festival.

To make it more awesome, billie the girl and Mercedes M. Yardley from my super-awesome critique group, The Illiterati, joined in and we strolled into the place like the three amigos.

It was fun to meet other writers, see some familiar faces from the local writer’s group meetup (Las Vegas Writers Group), and try to write a winning 500 word short story off a prompt for the chance at $500. (Dude, that’s a buck a word.)

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. When the 90 minutes of write time was up we had to turn in our pieces to be judged. There are many possible ways this could have been accomplished, but the way chosen was to load your story onto your own personal flash drive, turn it into the contest coordinator to keep for several weeks while they figure out the winners.

Someone offered to let everyone use their flash drive and put all the stories onto one. I suspected a sabotage attempt. Mercedes aptly dubbed it the Syphilis Drive. That made me think of someone holding out their used Kleenex and saying “Hey, anyone else need to blow? I don’t want this to go to waste.”

Flash drives. Yeah, I can picture the logistics planning meeting:

“How’re we gonna collect the contest entries?”

“Oh, I know. They can just turn in the Word files on their personal flash drives with no distinguishing personal features. I’ll give them back at some indeterminate time.”

“But… it seems that things could go a little wrong there. They might get lost; computer viruses are transmitted by flash drives; or people might have personal files or data on them…”

“Relax, we’re the government. What could go wrong?”

At least after the contest Mercedes and I had an epic Dance Battle in the parking lot. Video evidence was confiscated and destroyed in the interest of national security.

But it looked something like this:

Oh yeah, we won't know if we won for another few weeks, so stay tuned (all three of you)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Turning the WIP into a Real Draft!

I did it!

For all of you wondering where I've been (yeah, all three of you) it's been an awesomely crazy end of the summer.

There was the coolness of WriteOnCon, as far as I know the only online writing conference. I met loads of interesting people there, even if a server glitch kept me off the site for part of the time! (That's part of life on the interweb, folks.)

And then a blitzkrieg business trip to Fort Collins, CO, land flowing with beer and more beer, where I got locked out of the pilot's quarters at 2am and had to sleep on a couch in a strange house full of 10 dogs. 10. I'm a cat person. One was one of those wooly mammoth sized great danes who kept coming up and whuffing in my face as if to say, "Dude, you are so in my spot."

But then came more awesome in the form of daughter #2, aka, the Ravager, aka Cinnabun. She's a cute little bundle of joy and sleeping and pooping and eating. Daughter #2, Lil'bun, loves being a sister. Besides lack of solid sleep, all things are well on the home front.

Last is the news you've been waiting for. (again, all three of you.)
I finished the rough draft of my sci-fi novel!

Yay! Now it's time for typing the second half into the computer (did I mention I write everything out LONGHAND?) and filling in any of the spotty parts. (makes it sound like my book has the measles)

The sad truth is that a large percentage of people who want to be writers NEVER finish a manuscript. (and then there are those who finish them but never go back and revise. It's the same as.)

What about you?

You always hear people say it, but I repeat it again: turn off the internal editor and just write.

Once you get to "The End" you should do nothing but write everything that you can think of. Go on the bunny trails, write the whole backstory of each character into the narrative. Go ahead, write.

So, as I adventure through making the first draft I'll share my adventures with you. (yes, I'm benevolent)

Now, time to turn off the computer and get back to typing!

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Kan Spel Gud

Nothing says “amateur” more than egregious typos in your query letter. (Ok, maybe neon colored fonts and seizure-inducing backgrounds.)

It’s no secret that spelling errors are often seen as indications of a less-than-standard intelligence. There are an incredible amount of people who are too stupid to spell right. They call that texting (ooooh, snap! Just kidding.) However, there are plenty people who are cavalier about spelling.

Then there are those of us who are writers and who love words enough that we don’t want to mangle them. Or we’re doing the query slog and for once we’re paying attention to spelling.

No matter where we are on the spelling adventure (that is an ironic moment fyi) it’s also true that every single one of us has #spellingfail moments.

For some it’s certain words or grammar rules that we just never get right. I mean, I know the “I Before E” rule, but the word piece always causes a near meltdown. If I didn’t have spell check automatically correcting it… well, you’d be reading a lot of peice.

I have a copywriter friend who goes into foaming fits when she sees apostrophe misuse (its vs it’s). Others will tell you the grammar rule or handy mnemonic as if you hadn’t already tried to batter the typos to death with logic.

You can’t escape typos. You won’t remember every grammar rule, keep every homonym straight, you won’t always put hyphens in the right spot. So instead of beating yourself up, just make sure you do due diligence. (I said do due)

The short and skinny is: spell check first, but don’t stop there because spell check is not always trustworthy.

Have a person look it over who can spell (and who likely already corrects your grammar).

Any words or phrases you aren’t entirely ABSOLUTELY certain about check in a dictionary.

I recently learned I was misusing the word prevaricate. (Some of you have never even heard of that word, much less misused it.) I once got the meaning of preclude turned completely around in the crucial argument of a term paper.

And lastly: READ. Read a lot. (not alot, which according to Allie Brosh is a gentle creature who is much maligned by people.)

Immerse yourself in words spelled and used correctly and you’ll start correcting your typos automatically. Except peice. Piece. Crap.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Writing Dialogue: The Art of Sidestepping

Dialogue is one of the pillars of writing fiction. But we all have written our fair share of clunky dialogue to know how hard it can be to make our imaginary characters speak in a realistic and compelling way.

I want to focus on the trick called “The Sidestep.”

Simply put, “The Sidestep” is when the dialogue of one character to another is not direct to the preceding dialogue.

Let’s say a character asks a direct question. “Hey, what happened to our TV set?”
The roommate answers: “You ever get the feeling we watch too much TV?”

This is certainly more realistic than for the roommate to launch into an expository plot dump of well-thought-out narrative material. “I sold it because I was worried about our watching habits, thus I have meddlingly started a chain of conflict with you that will carry through the rest of the story.”

People rarely answer questions directly, and they rarely say what’s on their minds, and lastly, people rarely see right to the heart of the matter and say it.

Sci-Fi writers sometimes screw this one up whenever they need the science and the fiction to mesh.

“The explanation for the disappearance of the TV is this: It turns out that our living room is a warp nexus for interdimensional wombats who utilize fractal quarks to enmesh simple objects in their nefarious plans to destroy human life. Do you want a bagel?”

Using the sidestep is a great way to keep your characters from info/plot dumping in dialogue.

It is also an excellent way to add more conflict. Characters that misunderstand, mislead and miscommunicate are much more compelling than those who say what they mean.

Most humans communicate obliquely, so why aren’t your characters?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It Sounds Nice, but There’s Nothing More to It

Stephen over at had a recent post that made me sit up and shout “What he said!” (I think I scared the cat.)

The gist is that you can learn all the tricks of writing, polish and revise and caress and nudge and wipe each chapter down with a wet rag; but if your unique voice doesn’t shine through, what’s the point?

And I really started jumping up and down with frothy-mouthed exultation when I got to his solution:
When you finally do go back to your manuscript, forget the rules. Just (re)write as you hear the story in your head. You already know craft – that will come naturally now. This time, listen to your inner voice, follow it. Trust your instincts with word choice, pacing, rhythm, attitude. And here’s the real key: have fun.

Can I get an amen? Or at least a huzzah?

There is no writing advice out there that can compete with having a compelling voice. You’ve read all the plot/character/adverb-slash/pacing/revising/critiquing blogs and books. Time to just write.

All that other stuff is now in your palette; you can write like yourself now. Honest.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Punch Rejection in the Face

Rejection. It’s certainly a big part of life for writers.

We get rejection letters, for crying out loud. Think about that. (Puts junk mail in a whole new light)

I read this very honest post by author Jody Hedlund and among all the excellent facets of perspective she brought to this painful subject was:

“Rejection reminds us that pursuing publication is NOT for the faint of heart.”

Just like opening yourself up to critique, starting to put your work out there for consideration by editors and agents = lots of bruises on your ego. And maybe some broken bones.

So you have to ask yourself, “Do I really want to be published?”

Maybe you don’t. There’s no problem with writing for yourself, or your family. There have even been some incredible writers who’ve gone that route. (Emily Dickinson for starters… and there are plenty more)

But if it’s publication you’re after: There’s no prize for also-ran.

If you believe that you have something to say that the whole world ought to hear, you’re going to have to face the pain of rejection. Lots of it.

There’s no consolation for this pain except perseverance and raising the quality of your writing (and querying) until the right person finally takes notice and says: “This is it!”

But chocolate helps.

Is there anything you do to take away some of the sting? (Like a special "anti-rejection ointment" or something?)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I’m Ready Coach, Put Me on the Field

Way back when I was a lad I wanted to be a writer. And a director. And an actor. But mostly a writer. I never could understand the kids who had to act out a scene from the movie instead of making up a new storyline.

I wrote screenplays in crayon on scratch paper my dad brought back from the office, (on the flip side were ordering reports and interoffice memos) and I dragged the neighborhood kids out to our "studio lot" next to the garage. I learned firsthand that I’d never make it as a video editor.

But I learned that I loved to write. All through jr. high and high school I churned out short stories and half-written novels. Many exhibited some degree of natural talent; all were full of the melodramatic pathos of a greenhorn teen writer.

I learned a lot about storytelling, creating mood, characters, etc, etc, but I still wasn’t really a writer.

I could write, but it was frivolous, impulsive. My stories were muscled through on raw talent alone. There wasn’t a conscious honing of the craft or conceptualizing of themes and narrative arcs. I thought I was pretty good.

Then I wondered if maybe I could get published. So I started a critique group with a friend from another band. We met in a Las Vegas bar after midnight. So clandestine.

But the thing is: he challenged my writing. Actually challenged it! He didn’t immediately concede I was an unstoppable literary force who could do no wrong… No, he pointed out flaws, identified clich├ęd characters and plot points, noticed an overabundance of adverbs and descriptive purple prose. In short, he told me “You can do better.”

He was right.

Now our critique group has grown, I am privileged to meet with accomplished, dedicated writers, and we raise the literary bar every week. Now when I write I can hear their expert advice and foresee their possible critiques. “Why is the character doing that? Is that plot point strong enough? How many adverbs were you thinking of putting into that sentence?”

Each of us has a unique style. Each of us has a range of “voices” that we comfortably write in. But none of us are content to stay where we are. I want to grow as a writer, try more daring voices, experiment with style and characters and genres.

Now I feel, though I’ll always have room for improvement, that I’m ready to be a writer. Now I’m ready to get off the bench, put down the test pastiches of copying my favorite authors, not just dabble, but give it my real attention.

In short, I’m ready to write like I mean it.

Are you?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Happy Birthday to my Face

So I'm digging this shiny new blog of mine.

It is a birthday gift from my awesome wife.

Now I have to generate some content. Stay tuned.

The Mason