Another Writing Contest

Well…I really had meant to write about something other than a writing contest, but this particular one came to my attention, and given the due dates, I think it’s worth mentioning. Authors First is in the middle of a contest that is accepting both novel and short story entries. The company is a conference space and educational site for writers, but winners of the contest will have their work published through The Story Plant, an independent publishing company. Novelists can look forward to a book contract while short story writers will have their work featured in an anthology.

The contest closes on September 30th, so unless you want to go NaNoWriMo-Hulk-Smash on your novel (and somehow also manage time to edit it into something coherent before submitting), this probably isn’t that great an opportunity, unless you already have something written. For short story writers, I think a month plus is a more than manageable time frame to put together something good.

There doesn’t seem to be any mention of genre in the contest description, but it seems that The Story Plant focuses more on literary fiction or thriller style fiction. However, if there isn’t a listed restriction, I see no harm in trying to submit things in other genres (and I will admit my research into their works is rather cursory). If this sounds like a contest you’d be interested in, you can check out the contest page over at Authors First.

Short Story Call for Lurking in the Deep

After a weekend spent drafting fantasy football teams and dealing with obnoxious computer issues, I haven’t managed to cobble together a lot of time for an extensive blog post, so we’re gonna kick off this week of posts with another place for all your writers out there to submit some stories. I mean, this is a writing blog, and that’s why you’re here…right?

Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing (or CHBB Publishing) putting together an anthology of short stories called Lurking in the Deep, and they have an open call to any authors who want to submit. The stories must focus on the theme of fear of deep sea creatures, mythological or real. Stories submitted can be in any genre other than erotica, and they must be between 2K and 10K words.

The deadline for the submission call is February 28th, 2015. That’s a fair chunk of time to get a story together, but don’t wait on it too long! It will sneak up on you before you know it. If you’re interested in this, you can check out the post on the Juniper Grove blog that gives all the details.

Personally I’m a huge fan of sharks, which are my favorite animal. I actually wanted to be a marine biologist when I was much younger largely due to my interest in the creatures. I will definitely be trying my hand at an aquatic story of swashbuckling and terror from the deep…or something like that. If nothing else, I imagine it will be fun to write a story involving the deep sea. I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted something like that before.

Spark’s Monsters and Marvels Competition

Looking for some upcoming writing competitions? Spark: A Creative Anthology is hosting a competition called “Monsters and Marvels” that challenges writers to create a story involving both a monster and a marvel, or perhaps come up with a story element that is a little bit of both.

The prizes include monetary compensation for the top three finishers ($500 for first place) with a variety of other interesting perks like subscriptions to Duotrope, Scribophile, American Poetry Review, and, of course, Spark. Writers can enter either poetry or prose that is less than 300 lines or 12,000 words, respectively. Prose writing is divided into fiction and nonfiction categories, but outside of that any genre can be entered into either category. There is also an art segment of this competition for those who wish to compete in that.

Entries can be submitted between September 15th and October 1st, so you have well over a month to create that drawing, craft that poem, or write that story. It is worth noting that there is no charge to enter the competition.

If you’re looking for a spot to submit some work, a chance to maybe get published and add something to your writer’s resume, or simply looking to warm up your writing skills for this year’s NaNoWriMo, Spark’s competition may be for you. Check out the competition page for more details and see if you want to throw your hat in the ring.

“A Second Chance at Sarah” Hitting Stores Today

How far would you go for love? It’s the question at the heart of the newly released comic A Second Chance At Sarah. The protagonist, John, makes a deal with a demon to save the life of his dying wife Sarah. His quest sends him back to his high school where he will have one day to stop his now-future wife from selling her soul to the devil.

The art for the series is provided by Joysuke Wong, and it is written by Neil Druckmann who is perhaps more notable for his work in the video game industry, specifically on the Uncharted series and The Last Of Us. To me the story is a great take on the Young Adult genre. Druckmann takes a tragedy that is occurring between two adults and then brings the story into a high school setting with YA age protagonists. I think the stakes bring a bit of added gravity that can sometimes be hard to capture in a YA work, and the theme of love and loss is a strong and universal one that can touch any reader.

If you’re curious about the series or are still on the fence as to whether it might be for you, Dark Horse is providing a preview for it so that you can check out the first few pages for yourself. The story has definitely caught my eye, and I look forward to reading it soon.

Explaining Cthulu to Grandma on Kickstarter

Alex Shvartsman is probably best known in the writing world as the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects (or UFO) anthologies. Funded through Kickstarter, the anthologies have given writers of comedic sci-fi and fantasy a place to share their stories. But Shvartsman is not just an editor; he is a writer who has written a great many short stories that have been published across a variety of magazines, and now he is working to put together a collection of these works in his personal anthology Explaining Cthulu to Grandma and Other Stories.

Already being a Kickstarter veteran, I think that crowdfunding the project makes sense, but having interned at a writing agency, I can also tell you that agents and publishers are not particularly fond of short story anthologies. I read queries for several, and for many of them the work was quite good, but the only time the publishing world is really interested in that kind of work is when the author has already had some success as a novelist. The thinking is that people who enjoy the writer’s novels will be willing to spend money on their short story anthology, but that people aren’t interested in buying the short works of an author they don’t know as well.

As I’ve said many times before, I enjoy crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter because they give rise to projects that might not otherwise exist. Shvartsman is a fairly well known name in the SFF authorial community (well known enough that award winning SFF author Ken Liu will be writing the introduction to the anthology), so it is possible that a publisher might be interested in his short works, but I think funding the collection on his own ensures that it will be made without having to go through the hassle of querying a lot of agents to see if one bites.

The project has reached its funding goal, but as always there are stretch goals to unlock as well as goodies that will likely be either exclusive or reduced in price through the Kickstarter campaign. If you’re interested in looking into Shvartsman’s project or his work, you can check out his campaign’s page.

Bonus! You can check out Shvartsman speaking about his experience as an SFF editor on this panel of editors featured by Kickstarter: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fiction Editors Speak.

The Flash Fiction Challenge

Do you like writing flash fiction? Are you up for a challenge? Then you’ll probably want to enter the Flash Fiction Challenge of 2014. For its sixth year running the competition pits writers against each other to create the best pieces of flash fiction (stories of 1000 words or less) in several rounds of short story writing until someone is crowned the victor. Writers are broken into groups and given prompts, and the author who is able to create the best story from that prompt advances out of the group to the next round.

I’ve never been great at writing flash fiction, since most of the ideas I have are for stories that take a much greater number of pages to fully develop. However, I do think that flash fiction is, at the very least, a useful tool for writers and something we should all practice at some point or another. Delivering your scenes, dialogue, messages, ideas, etc. in as concise a way as possible is a valuable thing to know how to do, and it is certainly something that could be helpful to a lot of writers who are looking at their 500,000 word first draft and trying to figure out where to make cuts. If nothing else, maybe this competition is a chance to explore a style of writing you haven’t before.

There is an entry fee, so if that’s something you can’t afford or is of concern for you, then you should be aware of that. This is also the last day to sign up for the event, so check it out now while you still have time!

Bonus! If you want some tips on writing flash fiction, particularly of the sci-fi variety, here’s a random blog post I found that might be helpful: helpful link here

The Tale of the Mittani: A Review of EVE True Stories

For those of you who don’t know, EVE Online is an MMO game. What makes it unique from many other games is that it is a sandbox game, meaning that it is almost entirely player driven. There isn’t a storyline to follow, nor are there quests or some sort of competitive framework to guide the player’s actions. People are basically allowed to do what they want and because of this there are some great stories that have come out of the game, many of them involving intricate Ponzi schemes, masterful corporate espionage plots, and even all-out space battles.

However, though the action in the game is player determined, EVE is still an impressive space opera setting with well thought out technology, factions, ships, and a rich setting. While the fictional aspects of the story don’t generally interfere with the player experience, there is a lot of cool world building that went into the game and adds to its depth.

So, when EVE: True Stories was first announced I was hugely excited. I thought it was great that CCP, the game’s creator, was going to go to its player base for some storyline inspiration. I also thought it would be awesome to see more stories developing the EVE fictional universe that were derived from real player experiences that make up the backbone of the game. Sadly the finished product fell well short of my expectations.

When I heard about the project, I thought that the writers for the story would be taking the players’ stories as inspiration for their work and adapting them to better bring the EVE universe to life. Instead, they simply retold the tale as it happened (or as it was related by the player The Mittani) over the course of the comic book.

Personally I didn’t think this method was particularly effective, as it largely felt like the story was just being retold with pictures and the “authority” of being an officially published work by a known comic book publisher (and Dark Horse has some great properties that I’ve enjoyed in the past). There is very little exploration of the EVE setting, for instance how the corporations (which are the player-made groups in the game) relate to the different government factions or how this conflict affected them.

Worse still, there isn’t a lot of time spent developing any of the characters who seem to appear largely to convey their part in the plot. The writers also don’t change the names of the corporations from their in-game titles, and I found it hard to engage with the story when they were asking me to think of corporations with names like “Band Of Brothers”, “Tin Foil” and “Goonswarm” as serious entities.

Perhaps I have a harsher view of this story than it deserves because I expected more, but ultimately I was rather disappointed. Players of EVE Online might find this enjoyable, as they can easily relate to the events that took place and are likely familiar with the corporations mentioned. However, for the casual reader, I can’t recommend this book. If you want to learn about some of the crazy things that have happened in the game, I’m sure a Google search will yield you a lot of stories, and you can imagine your own visuals accompanying them.