Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Funny: Reggie Watts

There is a freak of nature running around out there going by the name Reggie Watts.

This dude has more musical talent in his afro than the combined artists and bands you hear on the radio on any given day.
Also he wins the award for best use of “Jazz Hands” ever.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Super Duper Flash Writing Contest Winning Tips

I’m pretty stoked. Last month I entered 2 flash fiction contests and won both of them. In fact, I've won 3 out of the 5 flash fiction contests I've ever entered (the KillerCon Creative Fiction Contest in 2012, and the Vegas Valley Book Fest Flash Fiction Contest in 2010 and 2012).

(self aggrandizement alert!)

If you don’t know, flash fiction is a short short story, usually under 1000 words in length, sometimes under 500. They are stories that get in, do their story magic, and get out. They even have micro fiction which is roughly around tweet size.
(my own example):
She watched the dinner guests leave. They never asked where Greg was and she of course didn’t show them the blood and mess in the kitchen.

So naturally Flash Fiction Contests are when a group of caffeine-hazed writers are given a prompt and a short amount of time (20 minutes at KillerCon, 90 minutes at Vegas Valley Book Fest). When the buzzer goes off, you stop writing, just like a test, and then you are at the mercy of the judges.

But let’s get back to me winning. (I need to start that #arrogant twitter hashtag Mercedes[[[]]] and I joke about…)

I thought to myself, “Self,” I says, “You seem to be awesome at these things. Do you have any super-duper tips for winning?”

Well, nothing super-duper. In truth, I’d say 60% of winning at flash fiction is how far you can take your imagination and writing chops. And 20% is being able to perform under deadline. Perform coherently, I might add.

Almost all of that falls under the same writing advice you can find anywhere. (No really, most other people give way more useful writing advice than me, because I don’t really know how I do it…)

But that last little 10% leaves room for a few handy tips and tricks. Nothing fancy, mind you, but this is how I do it and maybe it will work for you. (Or at least free you up to just charge blindly ahead!)

Tip #1: Write the most compelling first line you can think of, right off the top of your head. Then come up with the story behind it.

Don’t construct an elaborate plot. Don’t try to focus on the theme, because by simply hearing it and stewing on it while waiting for someone to shout “Go” the theme is already part of your consciousness.

Make that first line sing. Don't worry about where the story will go. Just write something that can't be ignored.

Mine was "The hardest part was not killing the kids, but cutting them up to fit in the furnace."

Where it came from, I don't know, but it had to be answered. I had to find out what happened next, thus I had to write it.

Tip #2: Don’t cheat and show up at the contest with a full plot or story you already wrote in your head, or worse, already wrote which you will try to recreate.

Don't do this.

It not only smells like cheating but it can backfire on you. Particularly with themes and/or key words or phrases you must use in the story. The elaborate western romance you cooked up will get hosed when the key phrase they give you is "The spaceship docked on the dark side of the moon." Hosed!

(Unless you’re Joss Whedon, in which case, carry on.)

Speaking of key words and phrases, "How do you deal with any key words, or phrases they make you put into the story?" (you ask) “How do you place a word like ‘zither’ and ‘mongoose’ in a space-cowboy drama?” (you ask so many questions)

Tip #3: Love words.
Love words,  love how words sound, love language so deeply that you don’t just cram in obtrusive words like ‘chartreuse’ with a wink at the audience. Actually use them.

I read the dictionary for fun. I have this giant unabridged one that I like to turn to random pages (it also makes a great kid booster seat!) Words are your fundamental tools, even the awkward words.

What if you don’t know the meaning of the word? Ask. You might feel like a goober asking what a zither is, but you'll feel like a Hefty-bag of shame when you write it into your steamy romance mistakenly thinking it means a clothes fastening device.

Tip #4 Economy of words.

The opposite of this blog post.

I am very grateful to the estimable judges of the Vegas Valley Book Festival, and the KillerCon Creative Fiction Contest: Jack Ketchum and Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, Don D'Auria from Samhain Publishing, and Roy Robbins from Bad Moon Books.
I won... booze?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mercedes Yardley BEAUTIFUL SORROWS Blog Tour

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing (once again) my dear friend and member of my crazy writer's group: Mercedes M. Yardley.

Knives and other weapons not shown
First of all, let me say a hearty congratulations to you! Your first collection, Beautiful Sorrows, just came out from Shock Totem Publications and I have to say that the title describes the contents perfectly.

Which leads me to my first question...

Mercedes, you’ve really perfected the art of beautiful sorrow, or as you once put it to me “whimsical horror”. How did you develop your unique “ethereal, yet horrific” voice?

It was a lot of trial and error. You’ve read some of my old pieces, and you can see tiny slivers of this voice emerging, but it really wasn’t until I wrote the novel my agent is currently shopping that I felt it come out in full force.  My writing was always a touch dark, but also fairly pretty.  That’s how I’d explain it.  Prettily horrific.

And you’ve always written?

When did you first have the inkling that other people might want to read your work?
I wrote a lot as a kid, and my third grade teacher asked me to read some of my stories aloud to the class.  It was scary, but cool, and it just seemed like the thing to do, you know?  Write something and share it. Then I was in a couple of great magazines and anthologies, and I figured that people were buying them because of the other authors in there. I was just along for the ride, and loving every minute of it.  But now that Beautiful Sorrows has come out, I’m just floored that people are buying it. I mean, it’s my book, a book of just me, and people are still choosing to spend their money on it.  It’s extremely humbling, but so delightful! I’m so excited.

What was the tipping point for you to stop just “dabbling” as a writer and start submitting things for publication?

I was quite literally going mad. We had just moved to Las Vegas, my husband was gone all of the time with a new job, and I had a baby boy at home.  It was too hot to go outside and we were trapped inside of the apartment. I thought, “This isn’t the life that I want for myself!”  I was so lonely and so desperate for a creative outlet.  I joined up with the local NaNoWriMo group, wrote my first novel, and loved it. It was daunting to start submitting short stories and poems to magazines, but that was my next step.  I always wanted to be a writer, but I lacked the motivation and confidence.  I was intimidated.  But I grit my teeth and started forward.

You’re in a writers’ group with me. Admit it.
The Illiterati. We are a very serious writers group.
No comment, lest I incriminate myself.

Our writer’s group is pretty hardcore, but I can’t tell you how much I’ve grown as a writer because of being in a group with you, Mercedes. I think we’re awesome! Have all of your writers’ group experiences been as awesome?

The Illiterati is unique because we like each other, in and outside of the group as well.  We’re all creative, we have a great work ethic, and especially in the case of you and I, we spur each other on with friendly but gritty competition.

That reminds me. Congratulations on beating my measly 4th place in the Las Vegas Valley Flash Fiction contest! I owe you a video extolling your virtues.

That’s right, I won 1st place! I’m looking forward to that video. Bwahaha! And thank you for spurring me to write with excellence. I ascribe my win to our Illiterati power. But what works for us might not work for everyone. Would you recommend finding a writers’ group to others, and do you have any tips for finding the right one?

I think everybody needs some type of group. Even if it’s a loose collection of betas who only read your stuff once.  In our case, we’re an uber-intensive, three hours a week writer’s group where we tear each other’s work to shreds. But that’s because we respect each other and we’ve earned that respect.

I’d say that if you don’t jive with a person, you’re not going to respect what they have to say about your work. And if you don’t value their opinion, they shouldn’t be looking at your work anyway.  It’s just a waste of everybody’s time.  And time is such a precious commodity.

Ok, random question: I hear you had something to do with the sinking of the Titanic.

Let’s just say that [James Cameron’s TITANIC] movie portrayal of [First Officer] William McMaster Murdoch as a money-grubbing murderer has been contested by friends and family.  Apparently somebody involved with the movie ending up paying the family for defamation of character, or whatnot.

Let me also add that Murdock Luck is a real thing.  You definitely don’t want to stand next to me in a lightning storm.

What energizes you as a writer?

Goals.  Making strides. The success of another writer that I enjoy. Illiterati meetings.  I love the rush of moving forward, even when it’s difficult. But then, it seems that it’s always difficult.  One or another of us is always slogging through the literary mud.  It helps to hold hands and run together.

What would you like to see more or less of in fiction?

I’m done with zombies. Totally done. I’d like to see more ghost stories, but that’s because I love them so much.  Ooh, and more voodoo stories!  You can’t have enough ghost and voodoo stories.

Thank you Mercedes for stopping by my little corner of the universe. Any parting shots?

You may have won this contest round, but I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Can’t wait to see you on Tuesday to shoot the literary breeze.  I’m sure we’ll go head to head on something, as usual.

Sounds like a challenge! Accepted. :)

Make sure you pick up a copy of BEAUTIFUL SORROWS from Shock Totem or

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Science Fiction Overload

I enjoy science fiction.


The parts I don't like is when the fiction is merely a thin veneer for overblown science.

I like science alright. I mean, blowing up chunks of sodium in Mr. Bigelow's class was pretty awesome. But if I want to get all science-robot-technical I can just wander around Wikipedia's quantum vacuum page for a few hours.

So for the past few weeks you can imagine my misery as I edit and re-edit and chop and rewrite and cut into the sci-fi horror novella I've promised to an editor.

Hey look! A Feynman diagram, don't put this in your book.
I put too much science in, and now I gotta cut it out. Or else the story isn't as cool. (Not cool enough for me to send to the editor... not yet)

I mean, I don't really need to convince the reader that quantum foam conditions theoretically could really honestly create wormholes... I can just tell you that the character magically did it with some new particle accelerator, wow suspend your disbelief!

Le sigh.

What about you? Have you ever found that your epic worldbuilding sometimes leaks a bit too much onto the page?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Funny: Darth Vader in Love

I think these guys need to do a full-length.

Epic costumes, epic sets, epic casting.

This is 10,000x better than the prequels.

Watch and be amazed: Darth Vader in Love...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Funny: Guy on a Buffalo

There are a few things in this world which you would be a lesser person for having never seen.

I desire to bring these gems of majesty to you. The internet is a vast place of great waste-itude, all the awesome doesn't just fall into your lap. That is, unless you subscribe to this blog.

So, without any further ado, watch Guy on a Buffalo. (this goes out to Mercedes M. Yardley)


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

KillerCon 2012 Debriefed

So this year I got to be the official Volunteer Wrangler at KillerCon 4 (2012) writer's convention held here in Las Vegas, NV.

First, the good stuff: I won the 2012 KillerCon Creative Fiction Contest. Yowzah. I was up against some stiff competition, and the judges were all world class authors and editors (including Mr. Jack Ketchum and Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty).

And it was very great to hang out with so many talented and incredibly delightful writers, many of whom I’ve met several times over the past few years of convention going as a professional writer. Seriously, everyone thinks that horror writers must be maladroit and grim all the time, but I find them to be the most wonderfully-odd-in-the-right-way sorts. We’re all a little weird around here. But delightfully so.

Speaking of weird, it was really awesome to meet the whole crew of Shock Totem. Those cats get A++ in raditude.
My writers' group, the Illiterati, and our baby

And certainly not the least of the awesome of KillerCon weekend was the release of my dear friend Mercedes M. Yardley’s first book, BEAUTIFUL SORROWS. You need to buy it now, because the first run already sold out. Yes it’s that good. Possibly one of my favorite stories ever is in it (“Luna e Volk”).

Now for some of the bad: That darn Stratosphere really made life difficult. The hospitality suite was as far from the convention across the hotel as humanly possible. And you’d think they’d populate the rooms surrounding the “party room” with KillerCon attendees, right? No, they booked them with normal guests who actually wanted to sleep at 2am in Las Vegas. The audacity.

And then there was the outright odd. I had no room. That would not normally be a problem because my house is about 15 minutes away. But I kept forgetting I didn’t have the car. So I couch surfed the whole time. No, I am only telling half the truth. I had to share a bed with my new friend (very close friends now, thank you very much) Matt C. He was a gentleman and didn’t inadvertently snuggle me. I don’t think.

But, what I am thinking would make next year’s KillerCon level up is 1) a better venue. 2) Having more interesting panels and running them two at a time with one Keynote panel in a large room towards end of day. Oh, and 3) having a designated "dinner break" hour. People are sheep, we like being told "go eat now, you have an hour".

Those are my suggestions. Oh, and 4) showgirls.

Yes, I'm big beardin it. Take a closer look, go on... touch it, I dare you.