What’s Kickin’

If I tickled her cheek, do you think she'd pour the coffee on her face?

If I tickled her cheek, do you think she’d pour the coffee on her face?

The Bolthole Writers’ Fair is still ongoing. I’ve spent more time writing for submissions, searching for publishers and pushing out emails to keep people motivated.

This is the ‘rut’ phase of the fair. I think the first weekend is always the hardest to get through. Maybe you spent the first work week actually getting into the habit. Then the weekend comes and anything related to work, which includes writing.

Even I screwed up and forgot to send an email yesterday. I quickly sent one today and created a draft of one for tomorrow. But I still have 22 more days to push the guys to keep writing.

I got back the first wave of interview questions from two publishers. I have to review them and fire back more specialized questions to keep the conversation flowing and get a little more juice out of them before I write the articles. I intend to write the articles with a few journalistic practices: photos of the people, a few key phrases picked out and make big so people get curious enough to read.

Well, progress is progress. A lot of my points with the BWF have been guidelines. Guys were encouraged to write short stories and flash fiction. Some, perhaps half, have decided to focus more on their novels. As long as they’re writing, I’m pleased.

I’ll close with the speech I gave on the first day of the BWF. I rather liked it…

The best speeches are short and sweet, and stay focused on what’s important. With that in mind… what do you write for?

Friends? Family? Gratification from strangers? C’mon, at this point there is only one person you’re writing and you know who that person is. Not enough strangers read your work. Your friends are busy writing as well. And there’s no way your writing earns you enough to support your family. At least not yet.

In the words of Jules Renard, “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.”

Between now and success, there is a time where writing is about you. When it’s about the conversation your mind has with a blank page. That moment where you spin yarns and create worlds, there’s a tiny act of godhood in every sentence.

There’s no shame in writing for yourself. Because it’s the world that should be fortunate enough to read your work.

The Bolthole Writers’ Fair

Keurig coffee just does not count. It really doesn’t. But now that I’ve had real coffee, I’m making an announcement for all you fellow writer-type people. Drum roll please…

The Bolthole Writers’ Fair

What’s it about? Every year, novice writers tell themselves that this is the year they’ll be focusing more on their writing career. And like a New Year’s Resolution, they cling to it for about a week until the job, kids and friends drag them back into the abyss of a “normal life.”

The horror.

Simply put, it’s a challenge to help get yourself out there. For the never-been-published, this is the chance to try. For those who want to expand their meager bibliography, this is definitely for you. This is not really for people who intend to write for self gratification or to fill Amazon with self-published yarns, but those who want to be published by their peers.

The BWF starts on May 1st. Rules are pretty basic:

1) Take 10 to 15 minutes a day to browse the internet for announcements of new submission windows. If you find any, share them on the Bolthole.

2) Pick a publisher you want from the list and write. Write 1,000 new words a day, focusing on flash fiction or short stories. Thus you should pump out roughly 5 to 6 new short stories before the month’s up.

3) You can proof during the fair, but it doesn’t count towards your 1,000 words a day. If there’s time, you should leave proofing until after May.

4) Don’t submit crap. This is not a race or NaNoWriMo. Finish your drafts, then proof and submit according to the publisher guidelines after the BWF. If the due date is during May, prioritize it, but don’t fall behind on doing your new 1,000 words a day.

What do you get for participating? Well, you craft a few new short stories and will have publishers you can submit against. We’ll also be hosting a short series of interviews of various small print editors and publishers to help you pick out what they’re looking for. You can also sign up to receive a daily boot up the ass email to help you stay focused.

So sign up at the Bolthole today! Just become a member and leave your email.

The Bolthole Anthology (Part I)

A bit more than a month back, I mentioned something I jokingly called Project X. But anyone who has been reading the blogs of my fellow Bolthole writers would have noticed some of them talking and discussing an upcoming anthology.

It should come as no surprise that this is “project X” but the plot twist is, I’m managing it.

It’s true. Not only do we have a growing stack of stories completed, edited, reviewed and ready, but we’ve reached out to the talented Forjador to develop a cover which you can see here.

To nip any questions in the bud, this anthology is an original horror anthology, with twelve authors. Besides serving as a writer and editor, it has been my responsibility to answer questions, take care of legal agreements, arrange the online accounts for sales and assist with creative direction whenever an author asks.

I must expound that last point. In the pages of Valve Software’s handbook:

When you’re an entertainment company that’s spent the last decade going out of its way to recruit the most intelligent, innovative, talented people on Earth, telling them to sit at a desk and do what they’re told obliterates 99 percent of their value.

The distinction this kind of management takes from, say, the direction of being a student or that first job you had flipping burgers as a fast food joint is pretty profound. The major difference is that fact that you trust your colleagues to finish their assignments. This project is only possible because of a group of talent people who decided to cooperate rather than compete.

When I sat down and discussed the anthology with my fellow editors and one or two of the writers, I decided to try a few things different from most short story anthologies. Here’s a break down of our business approach so future editor/managers can learn from our mistakes and take from our ideas.

One critical difference we had compared to many regular publishing companies is that ours was primarily open to members of the Bolthole. This limited the pool of available writers. We also decided to allow only a certain number of writers in, reserving slots. The writers submitted plot synopsis of about 100 words, an idea we borrowed from the Black Library submissions.

“Sell me the plot like the back of a book, in 100 words or less,” I said.

It turned out to be a great idea. This approach let the writers swiftly plan the backbone of their story in a minimal amount of time.

However, we started transitioning away from the “reserved slots” anthology method, going back to the better known “submit and wait” approach just about every author and wannabe author knows. One reserved writer had to be dropped after being unresponsive for three weeks. Others had voiced concern about being able to find the time. So we announced the change and reopened our anthology for more people.

We’ve left plenty of time in our schedule for the transition. But anyone relying on a “reserved slot” approach is flirting with trouble.

Editing, I know/rediscovered, is a tremendous amount of work. From the get go, I knew it would be easy to be overrun with stories to edit. In response, I requested two editors to work alongside me. Two editors would review the first draft and return it with comments and corrections. The author would redraft and return the final version, which passed muster beneath the third editor.

There were pluses and minuses to this system. On the plus side, I feel that passing three sets of eyes increases the quality of the final product. Since this is the Bolthole’s flagship business project, I felt the need for strong quality control was paramount.

Another point is that we have limited available writers, so it’s necessary to demand their more quintessential work. Rather than pick and choose the best from hundreds of stories made available from the general public, we have little more than a dozen interested authors. This meant that instead of cherry picking the best quality stories from a large quantity, we have to squeeze the best elements from a small pool of talent.

There are also downsides to this approach. Three editors means up to three fold in lost time during editing. It also increases frustration upon authors when they face conflicting opinions about changes. There are very, very different qualities of editing.

Choosing the right editors is important: Once, almost a year ago, I asked for help from a guy who had performed professional editing. When I saw some of his changes though, I realized I made a mistake. The guy had been shortened and simplifying too much. Then I remembered that his experience came from writing political speeches, which focus more on writing for the sake of being spoken. Very different from fictional writing indeed.

The Future…
I’ll be talking more about the anthology’s development as time goes on. There are others things to discuss such as scheduling, but I want to see how well our methods work before I openly talk about them.

But recognize this. A huge part of learning is experimentation. Theories are not always going to work out. Some methods just work better than others. Sometimes you just got to dive in and find out the hard way.

In the words of Gandalf, “The burned hand teaches best.”

Go For! …Silver…

Bad news, it's all I got. Good news, silver is a weakness of werewolves and germs. Take that, Gold Ticketers!

Bad news, it's all I got. Good news, silver is a weakness of werewolves and germs. Take that, Gold Ticketers!

It has been an interesting weekend.

Let’s start with Friday. I was very prepared to purchase a Gold Ticket for the Black Library Weekender. I set an alarm for 8 pm GMT and left the Shoutbox open so the guys could talk about it. I set up a long distance plan for a day with Verizon and made sure that my finances were in order.

And everything still went wrong.

About 3 pm EST, a recruiter called. The phone interview went well, but I wasn’t paying attention to other things. For starters, 3 pm EST is 8 pm GMT; I got bad information from a website.

Of course, the guys were yelling about this on the Shoutbox. But I was on the phone, pacing about and not paying a moment of attention. When I was finished, it was too late. The Gold Tickets had sold out. I had missed my chance.

I settled for a Silver Ticket. Yeah, it’s not what I wanted. But it might be a good thing in the end. I’ve never been to the UK or Europe. The spare $295, the price difference of the two ticket grades, can be blown on staying for another couple of days to see London. Perhaps I can even start my vacation in Germany and make my way towards London before going to Nottingham, and leaving on Sunday night.

Hell, another day and night in Europe would be great. I already set aside some time and money to see at least London, but settling for the Silver can really be more of a blessing than a curse. There’s so much more I can do. So much more to see. One opportunity might be lost, but it just creates another.

There’s plenty to do. I have to get my passport. I have to figure out exactly where I’m going, and the best time to buy plane tickets. If I intend to go to Germany, I should strengthen my German skills. I have to figure out the money conversion, research travel arrangements and lodging reservations.

In other news, the idea for what maybe my first novel has popped up in my head. I’ve jotted down some ideas and know some of the themes I want to use. But there’s plenty of research to be done first. I also have to finish my short stories and prepare for the next Black Library submission window.

Interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday, by the way. Ahhh, where does the time go…

100 Horrors

Ahhh, reminds me of watching Nickelodeon as a kid...

Ahhh, reminds me of watching Nickelodeon as a kid...

Jumping on the same wagon as Raziel4707 and Tyrant have before me, I too am being published. My flash fiction will appear alongside theirs in 100 Horrors, edited by Kevin G. Bufton. The release date is set for February 20th of this year.

Bufton has been a joy to work with. He has kept us writers up to date about every change or piece of news that comes through, as tedious as it might be to coordinate between 100 individual authors and one terrific cover artist. What started as an e-book became more when he told us our work would be in print as well. That was welcomed news to me, as I’ve always wanted to see my name in print before all fiction is moved onto Kindles, Nooks and e-readers.

But for me personally and for the writers at the Bolthole, it’s red letter day. 5% of the stories being published are from Bolthole writers, the other two being Lord Lucan and Mister Ed. Both of whom I will be bugging to write blog posts about this event.

Now, although I’ve been notified that I’m being published for a few months now, I’ve only decided to mention it openly now. Why? Because I’m mentally prepared for bad news at all times. Maybe the anthology doesn’t get published. Maybe things didn’t work out, or a crucial contract didn’t get signed in time. Promising ventures can and do fall apart easily.

Since writers get rejected all the time, the last thing I wanted to do was discuss the bitter taste of false hope. So close and yet so far. But I believe we’re passed that fear now. No, now we have something else to fear. Not just a fear, but terror. 100 terrors of 100 words by 100 authors.

Look for 100 Horrors on February 20th, folks. And take it easy, as one’s heart can only take so much.

The Dilly

Laundry. That's what's up.

Laundry. That's what's up.

I got distracted again.

If you have to ask why, it was because Dark Moon Books sent me an email for an alternative history anthology. Before long, this ended up in the email in-boxes of several Boltholers.

Before you knew it, we all agreed to write for it. So my own personal ebook anthology got pushed off. Again.

Out of a 6,000 word maximum limit, I already have 2,000 words written. I hope to be done by Tuesday at the earliest and Wednesday at the latest with the first draft. By then, I will need a break to step back and stop being so attached to my own writing. I have to kill my pride.

Then I’ll proof my story before turning it to a history expert and to the rest of the Boltholers for proofing. Why am I doing this instead of my own anthology? There was some discussion on the Bolthole about the value of self-publishing against being published by a company.

It seems more valuable, at least early on, to be published by another company as it indicates a degree of professionalism; working within deadlines, working with other people. It’s also technically cheaper (if accepted) because editing and the cover artist are covered by the company.

It’s frustrating to jump on every chance that comes along and continue to push off my own project. But getting published by full companies is far more valuable. So off we go again…

Pre-New Years Week

Just because I wasn’t updating doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing.

There’s no such thing as a holiday when innovation and inspiration alike strike. So I’ve been stockpiling a few reviews for this week, and putting aside a few thoughts to develop into story stoking theories. But first, a little news.

So last month, I put down the starting ideas for a new novel for the Black Library submission window that opens in the coming year. We have approximately five months before it opens and eight before it closes. That seems like a lot of time, but the best proof readers don’t normally read up about the Imperium. So we’re stuck with the tricky task of ensuring our writing fits the canon and background as well as proofing and editing, often by ourselves.

Laying the foundation for a novel is no easy task. We need a well thought out chapter outline no more than six pages, and three superbly written starting chapters of at least 10,000 words. That could easily run a tab of around 20,000 words, about the length of four to six short stories (or more if flash fiction).

That is a tremendous exertion of writing effort. Not only because of the sheer quantity of words, but also because the stories are not reusable. The setting of the Imperium cannot be taken to another publisher. So we boltholers are better off developing one hell of a great story, instead of stringing together dozens of piddly ones that end up rejected anyway.

That’s why many of us crazy folks have been working on the next submission window since the last one ended. Although I have the makings of a Warhammer 40,000 short story and novel set aside, I’d like to contribute at least one Warhammer fantasy short story.

Which brings us to subject two. I had taken to writing my own original work to try and craft an ebook anthology of three sword and sorcery pieces. I’ve looked up two editors I can trust and am looking for a cover artist. But this is moot if I don’t finish the tales in time. As excited as I am for the Black Library window, this takes priority.

One of the three stories is nearly finished. I have some other pieces I am considering for the second slot. But I’ll likely create two new stories to fill this anthology.

Next bit.  Thanks to Lord Lucan, I got suckered into writing for a horror/western anthology for the Naked Snake Press, delaying me even further. Thankfully though, I’ve already finished and proofed the story. I’m having a few more eyes glance over it before I submit it.

Finally, as my last story for Every Day Fiction was rejected, I’ve started and finished a new one.

I’m going to update my publishers lists with a few new links now.

Hammer Holidays 2011 Competition

Twas the night before Christmas and somewhere in the hab
A warrior roared, clad in a red stained rag
Behind him were the bodies of an Imperial Guard squad
And he screamed at his victims, “BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!”

You don't wanna know what happens to the naughty children. Click to view on DakkaDakka!

You don't wanna know what Santa Marine does to the naughty children. Click to view and rate on DakkaDakka!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays folks!

This month, we’re hosting another competition with prizes. First place winner will receive a free normally priced novel from the Black Library (or any other novel from Amazon if nothing else interests them). Second place winner gets a copy of Hammer & Bolter magazine.

The winner will be announce just before New Years.

But we have a unique theme! You see, many cultures have holidays around this season. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etcetera. So rather than trying to fit a Warhammer story around Christmas (which makes no sense), you are going to invent a holiday for us! Try to imagine a Dwarven style winter holiday, or devise an Eldar style holiday for example. Be creative, interesting or funny as you want. And don’t worry about canon, just have fun!

A few rules:
1) The deadline will be December 25th so the judges will have time to review.
2) The word limit is around 2,000 words. We’ll make some allowances for going over this limit but please only go crazy with the quality of the words and not the quantity.
3) One entry per person.
4) Warhammer, Warhammer 40k and all fictional stories are welcome.
5) All other regular Bolthole rules apply.
6) To enter, just paste your story on the forum post. If you posted some story elsewhere, just copy and paste it on the forum so we can keep track of it.
7) Once the entries are in, LordLucan, He2etic and a mystery judge will figure out which stories are the winners. We hope to announce the winner right before New Years.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! And good luck writers!

Some Improvements

This is how American's celebrate good news!

This is how Americans celebrate good news!

Lots of small updates.

First thing I want to do is give a slightly delayed welcome to Lord Lucan to the blogosphere. You can find a link to his freshly created blog both with this link and on the Hip Cats section to the right.

I will be helping him over the next few days improve his blog’s technical and visual aspects.

Second, a new blog is up at the Bloghole written by yours truly, dealing with how to come up with ideas for writing. Check it out!

Third, the Publisher section has been updated, as I promised, with two new publishers. In this case, they’re both horror publishers, but more for all genres are on their way.

Fourth is that the Sample Writing section has been updated with a new general fiction story, The Office Warrior. Check it out for a chuckle.

Fifth and finally final, a new story writing competition will be going up this afternoon. Keep you posted.

Anxiety and a New Writing Competition

Unlike its scarlet counter part, the white letter A represents the shame of alcoholism. As in, drunk enough to wear those tights.

Unlike its scarlet counter part, the white letter A represents the shame of alcoholism. As in, drunk enough to wear those tights.

With every day, I begin to realize that the rapid rejection letter that Clarkesworld sent to me was, by far, the most merciful thing a publisher can do.

The waiting is getting to me. I have submitted now eight stories (a combination of shorts and flash) to various publishers. I deal with it by simply writing more, talking with the gents over at the Bolthole’s Shoutbox, or reading The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. When I finish that, I will be writing a book review of it. No, it’s not Warhammer related, but there’s more to me than slobbering over products by the Black Library.

Moving along, I am probably going to host another writing competition for the holiday season. Figuring a proper theme for it will be interesting as not everyone celebrates Christmas (I have a few international readers who celebrate other things). I’ll probably go for a very open but seasonal theme, as in anything winter related, Christmas or any other major holidays, Emperor’s Day (A 40k term for Christmas), or just New Years.

Also, I’ll probably host dual prizes. At first, I considered  it being a basic novel from the Black Library for the winner, while the second place would receive a copy of Hammer & Bolter. But I realized that if I want to include non-Warhammer fans, the prizes have to be more diverse. Therefore, this will probably be the last contest involving strictly Black Library prizes.

Had a short break before publishing this and came back with the perfect idea for the writing competition. Stay tuned.