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.

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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!

Bolt-Horror Reviews

There's no rule against the undead submitting stories, buuuuuuuut....

There's no rule against the undead submitting stories, buuuuuuuut....

The Bolt-Horror 2011 Writing Competition is complete. In the future, I will settle for a shorter name for the tournament.

Still, four writers submitted stories which you can read if you would like. They are Mauthos, LordLucan, greywulf and YeOldeGrandma. I will be reviewing their work here and now.

I thought long and hard about how I was going to do the review process. I did it by three ways

First, I put on some creepy music. Specifically, Nox Arcana and Behold the Darkness by Medwyn Goodall, great music for their creepy tones and lack of lyrics to make the reading easier.

Second, as I read the stories, I took down my favorite parts into a separate text file. I did this in order to review my favorite parts from each of the stories after I finished reading them all. You see, I think it’s common for people to really pump up a story after finishing it because of some sense of accomplishment. I sometimes feel that book ratings on Amazon tend to get pushed up by book lovers who become euphoric after they finish reading almost anything.

And third, I focused chiefly on only one thing: How much the stories creep me out. I let minor grammar and spelling issues go as long as they do not horribly weaken the story. They are, after all, stories of only 2,000 words in length and written in a period of a week.

Let us begin.

Untitled by Mauthos

Am I not loveable, mortal?

Am I not loveable, mortal?

As I read this piece by Mauthos, a few things struck me. First, I liked his ability to devise a setting in a concise manner. He had expended about a paragraph of words, and in the process had succeeded in setting up the stage for his story to be told upon. The setting is carefully maintained and cultivated as the story continues, suggesting that stage design is probably Mauthos best writing strength if this tale is anything to go by.

A few things about his writing style proved distracting, chiefly his use of run on sentences. There were a few portions which could have been broken down and apart to tell the story a little better. Second was that sometimes he got caught up in his descriptive words, as he sometimes tripped over them. One paragraph dealt with silence, and then mentioned rain, thunder and lightning. I also caught several homophones that were wrong. Headless over heedless, heal over heel.

These problems were markedly reduced towards the end as Mauthos seemed to hit a “groove.” The story picked up and took itself towards the climax, giving an explanation of how the main character was placed in such a desperation situation. The tale was satisfying, but Mauthos himself admitted that the story did not hit the theme of horror particularly well. If I were in Mauthos’ shoes with this idea, I would have taken this story and mixed a touch of the original Alien into it. I would have kept the setting but focused on the concept of knowing what your foe is and trying to come to grips with the terror it causes.

Little Harkan’s Adventure Behind the Mirror by LordLucan

Right from the start, LordLucan hits the nail on the head with a point some writers have been making for years. A fairy tale is really just a horror story for children and adults who don’t like horror. And doing a story this way immediately contrasts it with all the other tales.

LordLucan’s method is character dependent. Telling the story as though it were told to a child is both a blessing and a curse. It sacrifices details and plot for story and characters, but a fairy tale approach is more clever use of 2,000 words than a regular story in some ways. He doesn’t create the setting, but uses the cast to explain the stage for those who are Warhammer baptized. The story will ring clear as a bell for anyone who knows the Imperium and basic Eldar lore. For the uninitiated, this story would be confusing. Even I had to reread a few parts once or twice to make sure I understood the context.

But the creep factor for LordLucan’s work was undoubtedly there. As the story came to its conclusion, I felt a touch of nausea as to the fate of the protagonist. LordLucan was tasked with a horror story and sure enough, he delivered.

Residue by greywulf

First person perspective is misleading at times. Sometimes, the reader reasons that since the character is also the narrator, he or she will survive what happens. After all, if the narrator dies, the story is usually over. The beauty of FPP however is that things tend to feel a bit more graphic. It’s kind of a psychological trick. For example, a reader reads:

“Even though I was pulling against the black tendrils seeping from my fingers, the rope of bubbling pitch relentlessly dragging me.”

And in reading this, I have to fight down the thought that this is happening to me and not the protagonist.

Greywulf’s piece starts with a degree of creepiness that magnifies over time. From the get go, it capitalizes on claustrophobic fears and a subtle, slow sense of “something is wrong.” The writing style is stronger than some of the earlier entries with shorter sentences and simpler choices in words. This, both in setting and writing style, make it more accessible for general readers.

It was hard to find any particular flaw in greywulf’s work as I read and reread it a few times. And it slowly struck me. It was a well written piece overall and there are no weaknesses, but there aren’t any strengths either. There aren’t really any moments about it that captivate me. The story is a slow, chilling murmur where others are a shock or a scream.

It is Said by YeOldeGrandma

Forget characters and plot, let’s do a ghost story.

From the start, it was hard to stop reading the tale by YeOldeGrandma. It was short and sweet, the kind of story that isn’t meant to be read but rather heard over a camp fire. The repetition was tiring on the eyes when read, but when spoken allowed is meant to captivate the audience. And I know from experience that was exactly what it would do.

Rather than a description of the monsters outside, YeOldeGrandma cleverly left the monsters unseen and without explanation or detail. Doing so plays upon the word “monster” in our minds, conjuring an image of our own imagination. It’s a classic tactic, where the greatest motivation of our fears is our own design. YeOldeGrandma is merely exploiting our own over thinking minds against us.

Weaknesses? A few. With a few extra words to explain what Morrslieb and Drakwald are, I could recommend this story to anyone, Warhammer fan or not. And second, I have to pause and do some soul searching on it. It is a ghost story, but it feels like one that is meant to be told orally. It’s easy to forget that not all story tellers are writers. Is it a good story? Absolutely.

But is it a good written tale? I’ll dwell on it for a while.