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?