Thursday, October 8, 2015

Online Writing Resources

What are your favorite online resources for writers, and why do you find them effective, inspiring, etc.?

Frank Edler: I always like to run my work through very helpful at picking out complicated sentences, over use of adverbs and extra wording in general.

James Bojaciuk: The two resources I use the most are on the extreme opposite ends of the sliding scale between "professionally austere" and "likely designed by a teenage girl."

For the professional in all of us, you owe it to yourself to check out Celtx. It's not the most useful thing for the novelist, but if you find yourself hard at work on anything from a script to a comic book to a audio drama, Celtx is invaluable. Thankfully, it's also free.

For the corner of your soul that's in love with Disney sitcoms, there's Written? Kitten! It's like Write or Die, except rewarding you with fluffy balls of purrs instead of deleting your work. The keen thing about this site, though, is that you can immediately edit it to reward you with whatever you'd like. Dinosaurs, explosions, Arnold Schwarzenegger, you name it.

Gordon Dymowski: For writing drafts, I use LibreOffice Writer. (LibreOffice is a free, open source alternative to Word). I like the fact that Writer is a little old-school, no frills, and allows me to concentrate on drafts before performing a final polish. (I do have Microsoft Office, but I tend to use that for freelance work documents, and LibreOffice helps liberate me creatively.

For motivational reading, the blog Write to Done. It's a little bit more professionally-oriented (meaning that it can sound a bit spammy), but contains some great pieces of advice on moving through difficult pieces, focusing on efforts, etc.

Great podcasts on writing include both Perry Constantine's EXPLODING TYPEWRITER and WRITING EXCUSES. The latter can be a bit too dry, and feels much more lecture-oriented, but it's short enough (20 minutes) that it's more of a diversion. Exploding Typewriter' goes into greater depth and contains more "practical" advice on writing.

Rebekah McAuliffe:
It really it depends on what kind of writing you're doing. For nonfiction, I definitely recommend Purdue OWL -- Online Writing Lab. It has everything you need from structure to citation. But for fiction, personally I just go with the flow. The resources I use are mainly research based. For example, when researching ALPHA, I used everything from my university's library to YouTube.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

[Link] Why Have Digital Books Stopped Evolving?

by Craig Mod

From 2009 to 2013, every book I read, I read on a screen. And then I stopped. You could call my four years of devout screen‑reading an experiment. I felt a duty – not to anyone or anything specifically, but more vaguely to the idea of ‘books’. I wanted to understand how their boundaries were changing and being affected by technology. Committing myself to the screen felt like the best way to do it.

2009, it was impossible to ignore the Kindle. Released in 2007, its first version was a curiosity. It was unwieldy, with a split keyboard and an asymmetrical layout that favoured only the right hand. It was a strange and strangely compelling object. Its ad-hoc angles and bland beige colour conjured a 1960s sci-fi futurism. It looked exactly like its patent drawing. (Patent drawings are often abstractions of the final product.) It felt like it had arrived both by time machine and worm hole; not of our era but composed of our technology.

And it felt that way for good reason: you could trace elements of that first Kindle – its shape, design, philosophy – back 70 years. It evoked the Memex machine that the American inventor Vannevar Bush wrote about in ‘As We May Think’ (1945), a path-breaking essay for The Atlantic. It went some way toward vindicating Marshall McLuhan’s prediction that ‘all the books in the world can be put on a single desktop.’ It was a near‑direct copy of a device called the Dynabook that the early computer pioneer Alan Kay sketched and cardboard‑prototyped in 1968. It was a cultural descendant of the infinitely paged Book of Sand from a short story of the same name by Jorge Luis Borges published in 1975. And it was something of a free-standing version of the ideas of intertwingularity and hypertext that Ted Nelson first posited in 1974 and Tim Berners-Lee championed in the 1990s.

The Kindle was all of that and more. Neatly bundled up. I was in love.

Read the full article:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Want Free Books?

Seventh Star Press Read to Review Program

It’s not easy being a publisher in a world where there are all sorts of cheaters swelling their review counts with fake reviews, shell accounts, buying reviews, and other unethical methods.  Nevertheless, it is very important to have a growing body of reviews, but we feel they must come from genuine readers.

Honest reviews.  Honest feedback.

Lots of readers enjoy a particular book, but are not always able to take the time to leave a review.  That’s where the SSP Read to Review Program comes in.  We want to make it a little easier for those readers willing to take some time out to give their honest feedback and assessment of a book.

It’s easy to sign-up and participate.  Here’s how it works.

1. Once you sign up on the form below, we will drop you a note to confirm that we have your information.

2. Pick any title you want out of our entire catalog.  Any novel, anthology, novella.  Anything you’d like to read.  We will send it to your in the format of your choice, for Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo, etc.

3.  Read the book on your own time, no deadlines, and leave an honest review.  And we mean honest.  If the book didn’t connect, it didn’t connect.  We understand that.  We want to make it clear that we are asking for your honest response.  If you enjoyed it, then wonderful!  But leave a review at and at least one other location (Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc.).  That’s it, just 2 places, including, and let us know you are finished. We will simply check to make sure the reviews are there.

4. Send in your request for the next title you would like to read. Any title you’d like out of our catalog. We will send you that title in the format of your choice.  We will also send you occasional emails to notify you of what new releases are out so you know of all the options you have.

That’s it!  Absolutely no cost to you. You read the books you want to read.  No time limits or deadlines.  All we ask is honest feedback through a review on Amazon and one other site.  Easy enough?

Sign up:

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #333 -- Collaborating With Other Writers

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

Why, yes. Several times, as a matter of fact.

The first was when during my days at Shooting Star Comics when John Morgan Neal and I collaborated on the first crossover between characters in the SSC anthology. We worked together to establish a starting, cut-off, and ending point, then I wrote the opening chapter, and he wrote the closing one. Two parts. That's all. Easy peasy.

The next time was more in the creation of the character. Bobby Nash and I met over dinner to flesh out the story bible for a character we created together for Airship 27 -- Rick Ruby (The Ruby Files). We didn't actually craft any stories together during that one though, just the main overall story for the characters that should be reflected and kept in mind for all stories written in Rick Ruby's world.

The most recent has been my collaborations with my new comic book writing partner, Ashton Adams. We initially started working in one way (I write the plots, then he turns them into scripts), but we've recently begun plotting and creating together, then having him do the actually scripting for the most part and me putting the "polish" on them.

But as you can tell, each time is a different animal.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Rock and Roll Pulp/Noir Anthology Looking for Submissions

See, even Gene Autry gets it!
A Pulp/Noir (yes, there’s a difference) Anthology
Edited by Sean Taylor (yep, your friendly, neighborhood blogmaster is editing a new book)

I was driving home last night listening to some music, and it hit me that Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" would be a great starting point for a 1950s jazz noir story. Poor musician has to sell his guitar while his girl works in a diner, all the while trying to salvage their strained relationship. Then they get caught up in a local kidnapping with ties to the mob (okay, it takes a turn there...).

Which only made my mind wander into this territory: What other great rock and roll songs would make equally great pulp or noir tales if recast to some time between the 1920s and 1960s? 

We’re looking for stories set in a historic noir or pulp mood and tone between the 1920s and 1960s. No fantasy. No sci-fi unless it’s clearly pulp or noir in tone (a la Blade Runner). Horror is fine as long as it doesn’t go too far into elements of the fantastic (hinted supernatural is fine, but don’t have imps and devils and monsters running around New York or Chicago; think a Lovecraftian story inspired by "Hotel California," for example).

Do not simply retell the story of the song. The song must serve as a “jumping off” point to create your story. If you have questions about what that means, just ask.

The key word here is CLASSIC. It must be a known song, no obscure indie “hits” only hipsters know. And we’re talking about rock and roll, not so underground, so alternative it doesn’t even sound like music anymore stuff. Deep cuts are welcome, as long as they’re from a classic album.

MOST IMPORTANT DETAIL: Do not quote the song lyrics in your title or your story. That would constitute copyright infringement. Each story will begin with a line that reads:

Inspired by Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”

And each will close with a line that reads:

“Living on a Prayer” written by Desmond Child, Jon Bon Jovi, and Richard Sambora.
© Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Aggressive Music, Bon Jovi Publishing, Universal Polygram Int. Publishing Inc., Polygram Int. Publishing Inc., Universal Polygram International Publishing.

Word Count:
We’re looking for a pretty solid 6,000 words per story.

March 31, 2016 for final draft versions of stories.
Proposed publishing date of June 1, 2016.

Royalties will be paid to all contributors.

What to do if you’re interested:

1. Send your paragraph synopsis to, and tell me clearly which song you’re using as inspiration.
2. That’s it. I’ll get back to you within a week to let you know if you’re in or if I need changes or alternate suggestions.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finding Your Tribe -- Writers on Writers Groups

What are you views on writers groups? Productive or unhelpful? "Love me and my work" clubs? Vital to beginning writers? What say thee, my writer friends?

Percival Constantine: Writers groups are only as good as the participants. There are some that really care more about the social aspect and talking about being a writer than actually doing the work. But I'm part of a few groups that have been very helpful. We encourage each other, critique each other, exchange tips, and participate in writing sprints together where we'll all write for a set amount of time and then report our total word count.

You have to consider what you want to get out of a writing group and what the others want out of the group. If your group gets together and just chats about writing at the local coffee shop, that's a waste of time. But if they're actually encouraging you to be more productive and to improve your work, then that's the kind of group you want to find.

Aaron Smith: Personally, I have no use for writers' groups, but that's just me. If it works for others, that's fine too. For me, writing is a private, solitary activity, and I don't feel right showing a story to anyone else until I feel it's ready to go to an editor or publisher. On the rare occasion that I do feel the need to talk with someone about my writing while the work is in progress, I would much rather contact one friend or editor than make it the focus of a group discussion.

Ralph L Angelo Jr.: I think writers groups are good to bounce things off of one another for story ideas and cover suggestions. They are also good to just to talk to others who do what you do. I don't have an issue with bouncing ideas off of one another in that format. I actually like talking to others to get their opinion on what I'm doing or proposing. I mostly self publish at this point so I'm an army of one. On the flip side of the coin I'm very selective who I speak to about what I'm doing and only confide in a few people, most of whom I've known for years. That being said, there's only one real writers group that I fully participate in. The rest I basically skim through or occasionally join a discussion within. Writers group have their uses, but like Aaron said, for the most part writing is a solitary business.

Paul Bishop: I mentor a monthly group and we have a blast. Our biggest regular event is having somebody else read your work aloud (five pages tops). The glitches become very clear very quick. Three of the members have had their first novels published while in the group...Fun, progress, published...What's not to like...

Robert Krog: I do find that bouncing ideas off of other writers is sometimes helpful, and I certainly enjoy discussions with writers about writing most of the time.

Amanda Niehaus-Hard: “Finding your tribe,” seems to be the main focus of the live writing groups I’ve encountered. While this is a great idea in theory, I’ve haven’t seen it actually play out successfully in practice.

The upside to the writing group is having someone to commiserate with when the going gets tough. If you’re participating in something like NaNoWriMo, I fully understand the desire to be around other like-minded crazy folks who have the goal of pushing out 50,000 words in one month. That support can keep you going. After a series of rejections, the encouragement of your “tribe” can be enough to push you to revise and resubmit.

Some groups offer critiques, which can be helpful if you aren’t using an online critique group. Some give you the opportunity to listen to and participate in live readings. Some are tied into university writing programs, or offer educational opportunities. The benefits to resources like these — if you use them — can be incredible.

But just as often, writing groups are more socially-oriented. And this is where they usually lose me. While I love sipping coffee and celebrating the success of my friends as much as anybody, simply “talking” about writing is somewhat counterproductive for me.

I’ve been in groups where the participants would outline in detail their latest, unwritten, novel. (Maybe I’m superstitious, but if I tried this, it would take some of the “magic” away from the writing process. If I talk about the book, I no longer want to write it.) Talking about craft is one thing. Explaining away a book, especially a book I haven’t finished or haven’t even started — that’s something different, and not something I think is particularly useful.

The dirty little secret of some people who join writing groups is that they’re really subconsciously looking for an excuse to NOT write. Because let’s face it: writing is hard! It’s hard work, it’s time-consuming, it’s infinitely frustrating, and it’s a solitary pursuit. Nobody can “help you” write your novel. Sure, other people can give you advice and suggestions and they can help you work out a complicated plot line, but ultimately, it’s just you and your keyboard, banging out letter after letter, sentence after sentence.

Talking about writing isn’t writing. But it kind of feels like it, you know? Some people find that talking about their work-in-progress makes them feel as though they’re making some kind of progress on it. It’s an illusion, really. Yes, I know we’ve all had the coffee or tequila conversation wherein we’ve managed to work out everything that was bothering us about that story. Or we’ve been chatting with a friend and suddenly resolved the perfect ending to that trilogy. But how often does that really happen? And when does it happen? Does it happen in a writing group, or does it happen during a period of relaxation and distance from the manuscript?

Writing, as we’ve all discovered, is hard work. When I haven’t worked for a few days or a week or so, it can be kind of shadenfreud-nice to hear that other people aren’t working either. If a couple of other people in my writing group are self-described “slackers” then it takes the pressure off me to work, right? I mean, if they’re not doing it either, it’s normal, right? This kind of thinking is common in writing groups, but it’s poisonous. Writing isn’t about what other people are doing. It’s about YOU and what YOU need to say on the page.

Since writing is really a singular activity, whether or not a writing group is “useful” really depends on the individual and what he or she hopes to get out of it. A local group near me exists for the sole purpose of self-publishing anthologies of member stories and poems. I’ve long ago gotten over the ecstatic thrill of seeing my name in print, so this isn’t a big draw for me. Another local group is strictly interested in critiques, and another is simply a social group. I tried a few and they just weren’t for me.

I found my “tribe” on the internet, teaming up with other spec-fic and lit-fic writers who challenge and push me, both in terms of craft and subject matter. You all are here when I need you, but you’re also polite enough to “go away” when I’m working.

Marian Allen: A good critique group is invaluable. I'm in one (The Southern Indiana Writers Group) that's been together, meeting every week, for over twenty years. Our main rule is: The critique is about the work, not the person. And the second is like unto the first: The critique is about making THAT work as strong as IT can be, not about making it sound just like something YOU would write.

Bobby Nash: Writers groups may not make you write more, but I found that reading aloud to a group helped me in other ways. The Bobby who first started writing wouldn't be able to do panels the way I do them now. Too shy. Reading to that group helped alleviate that fear. It also taught me good dialogue structure from reading it aloud.

Lisa M. Collins: I have been involved with four writers groups, president of two, and as a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo.

When I first started writing fiction (2008), what I was looking for was a support group. I needed to meet other writers and have a place where I could show my work to others in a safe environment. I choose my first group, Lost Genre Guild, because they were online and wrote the same things I loved to write and read. It was behind the wall of Internet anonymity where I learned how writers’ groups worked and how to deal with criticism without getting upset (aka: furious as a wet hen in winter). The online group helped me have the courage to look for a local group. I still maintain ties to this group, today.

Also during this time frame (Fall 2008), I completed my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote a fantasy novel that came in around 53K word mark. Every year since, I have attempted to do NaNo again. Sometime I make the 50K cut off sometimes I don’t, but each year I learn more about myself as a writer. NaNo is where I learned how to hear my voice and where I test drive various styles. I was a Municipal Liaison (ML) for the White County NaNo group for several years 2010-2013. We had several write-in’s at the Library in Searcy, AR. And I must say if you haven’t been in a group where you all write together in the same physical space—do this! The energy and excitement of hearing other writers around you create stories is amazing. 

My second writers group was the White County Creative Writers (Fall 2009). This group was the place where I started feeling my way toward writing professionally. The WCCW was made up of an original core of people who founded the organization, locals who needed a night out of the house, and a handful of professional writers who dropped in from time-to-time. The reason I choose this group because they had been around for over a decade when I joined (will be celebrating 20 currently) and had a yearly writer’s conference at a local college. The con was the real draw for me. It said to me these guys are organized and will give me the chance to rub elbows with a larger group of local writers. To keep a long story short, I ended up president of this group after less than a year of membership. I think the other members who were willing to serve were just glad that there was new meat. I learned a lot from this group and also how to lead an organization, how to put on a convention, but mostly how to stand on my own two feet as writer and test the boundaries of what I was capable of doing with my work.

Before I quit going to WCCW I was invited to another group. This one was a professional organization called, American Christian Fiction Writers, or ACFW. This group was so different from the others I had belonged to in the past. This group was nationally organized and held many conferences, workshops, talks, and retreats. I maintained my membership in this organization for two years learning as much as I could. The national conventions are expensive to attend, but every talk and worksheet is saved and recorded. So you can get the full con for much less. One thing about the convention that made me take notice. With ACFW they bring the publishing houses and agents to you. Included in the con fee were several appointments you could make to do your book pitches directly to the publishers and agents you choose.

I was president of the local chapter for two years. Why did I leave, what sounds like an awesome org? My genre is Science Fiction/Fantasy. Although ACFW has a small group of sff writers and publishers the slots are open to the narrow threshold Christian publishers are willing to produce. I am a Christian who is a writer, but what they are looking for is Writers who write Christian specific stories. They are a great organization for new and established writers. Most of what I know about the book writing/ publishing industry I learned from ACFW

My fourth writers group is really a critique partnership. My good friend Bonnie J. Sterling and I have unofficially been critique partners for several years. Together we make each other’s writing better. We each see different sides of the same coin. I think that is the key to getting a great partnership—you can’t be exact copies of each other or your writing won’t evolve.

Writing groups can be wonderful experiences or they can be hell. I guess that is true of any group of people who congregate together. Look for people who are open and honest about their own writing and aren’t too proud to admit when they need help. You want a writing group experience to make you feel excited to get back to your work. Remember as your writing evolves, you change as a person. Joining a writers group doesn’t mean you are making a lifelong commitment. If you don’t feel uplifted when you leave meetings, please take it from me, it is time to  move along home. 

Nikki Nelson-Hicks: Whoo, boy. I’ve been on both sides of the table.

I’m a founding member of the Nashville Writers’ Group. When we started in 2004, it was five people sitting on a rainy porch at Café Coco. Now, the meetup group boasts a membership of over two thousand people. Not that we have thousands of people at a group meeting…God, that would be Hell. No, we have a healthy, active membership of about 100 or so people who actually come to the meetings. We have published three anthologies (I was the editor the horror anthology, Comfort Foods) and have a booth at the Southern Festival of Books where we sell our members books.

The Pros of our writing group:

I have met so many people who are now my dearest friends that I would NEVER have met if it wasn’t for the NWG. I look back and realize that I never would be where I am today if it weren’t for these people. It is an excellent networking system.

We have so many people who join the NWG because they need a place to say, “Hey, I’m a writer and I want to grow.” It’s sad but people need a place where they can simply be creative. It is a place where you can come, share your stories and get feedback from people who want to help you become the best writer you can. It is the biggest high for me watch a writer blossom as they get more and more confident in the craft. I’m not going to lie; I’ve had people bring stories that I thought , “Ugh…yeah…this isn’t going anywhere.” And they proved me wrong. Nothing makes me happier.

In my group, I hold a strict policy of constructive criticism. We’re not a “Pet The Pretty Pony” group but I won’t stand there and watch someone being eviscerated. The reason for this group is for people of all levels of writing skills to meet and help each other. If you want to be a Supreme Ego Driven DICK that has come only to show off your fucking MFA, there is the door. Thanks for playing. Buh-Bye.

The Dark Side:

Hooo-boy. Because the NWG is a public group, we get a few whackos. I’ve had people bring hand written manuscripts they said were “transmissions from Nostradamus that were delivered through the living room curtains” (TRUE STORY). Once, I had a guy that when I knew he was coming, I made sure Mickey or Vincent, two of my biggest guy writer buds, would be there because he scared me so much. He was a schizophrenic that didn’t take  his meds (his wife warned me in a five page email).

I had a woman once slam her fists at on the table and scream at me, “You’re not helping me! I want to know how to write a story! What is the formula! WHAT IS THE FORMULA!” When I told her there was no formula, that every story was different, and if she could explain to me what her story was about then maybe we could help her, she then got in my face and said, “You just want to steal my ideas. Get in my head and take my words!”

When people bring their NANOWRIMO novels. Oh, GAWD….

People think we are a publishing house. Once during an Assistant Organizer’s group where we met to discuss the plans for the next year, some dude burst in and yelled at us because all we did was critique. We weren’t meeting his needs. What he really wanted from the NWG was to get him published. What?!?! When we asked him what groups he went to, he said he couldn’t remember as he had only gone to two and then only two times. REALLY, MOTHERFUCKER??? They guy really pissed me off. What the hell did he expect from us? I don’t get paid to do this. Yes, we have a few anthologies under our belt but that does make us a publishing house.

And, of course, the egos. It happens.

The thing we advise all of our members is that the NWG is just a starting place. It is here you meet others that you connect with (your tribe, as it were) and form your own writing groups outside the NWG. I find groups of 3-5 most effective. It works and I’m proud of the people that we’ve helped.

I was also a member of another group, The Quill and Dagger, for a few years. It was a very diverse group of 7 people who wrote murder mysteries. We had the entire spectrum. From Cozies to Procedurals to Paranormal. We met every two weeks and it was a wonderful experience but as we all began to publish in our different genres, we simply ran out of time to get together and the group died. It’s a shame.

So, to recap, would I advise writers, especially people new to the craft, to join a group? Hell, yes! But be careful. Remember that it is their opinions and, in the end, it is YOUR story. It’s something I stress to many of the people who come to my SpecFic group.
For me, I have a story that I use as my litmus test. It is called Coon Hunt. (Self Promotional Plug: Coon Hunt won the Jack Mawhinney Fiction First Prize in 2015)  If the people in that group don’t get the story, they won’t get me. It has never failed. It has saved my ass SO many times.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nugget #61 -- Sweet Opportunity

Opportunity is that sweet spot where effective networking
and careful honing of the writing craft meet.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

[Link] No, e-book sales are not falling, despite what publishers say

by  Mathew Ingram
A recent piece in the New York Times about a decline in e-book sales had more than a whiff of anti-digital Schadenfreude about it. The story, which was based on sales figures from the Association of American Publishers, implied that much of the hype around e-books had evaporated — with sales falling by 10% in the first half of this year — while good old printed books were doing better than everyone expected.

This was celebrated by many as evidence that e-books aren’t all they are cracked up to be, and that consumers are swinging back to printed books. But is that an accurate reflection of what’s actually taking place in the book-publishing or book-buying market? Not really, as it turns out.

When I first saw the story, I thought it raised two important questions, neither of which was really answered conclusively in the piece (although the second was hinted at). Namely: 1) Are e-book sales as a whole dropping, or just the sales of the publishers who are members of the AAP? And 2) Isn’t a drop in sales just a natural outcome of the publishers’ move to keep e-book prices high?

Read the full article:

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #332 -- Writers Groups

What do you think about writers groups?

I think groups of writers working together to help each other grow, to help edit each others' work, and to be honest with each other are one of the best ideas to come along in the writing life.

It's the best way to overcome the solitude that often accompanies being a writer.

But, for my experience, I have yet to find a single writers group that really wants to accomplish those ideals. More often, what I find is a group of Facebook-esque folks who are looking for "likes" for their latest masterpieces. I find folks who get upset with honesty and prefer false praise, or who react to it either defensively or with the classic "Well, you just don't understand the genre/style that I write, but I'm sure that's valid for your genre/style."

Maybe I just want too much from a writers group. What I tend to find instead of amateurs wanting to become pros through hard work is amateurs wanting to be honored for their amateur work.

That might sound harsh, but it's been my experience.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Inaugural “Write This Speculative Fiction Novel” Contest!

Realmwalker Publishing Group is now accepting applications for their Inaugural “Write This Speculative Fiction Novel” Contest! The contest takes a story ripped out of today’s headlines and challenges writers from all over the world to write a speculative fiction story based upon it. We look to something potentially horrific to launch this contest in this article about the discovery of “pandoraviruses” being found in the Siberian permafrost.

Here is a link to the article found on CNN:

One lucky winner will be selected to not only have their novel published by Realmwalker Publishing Group in 2016, but they will also earn a $5000 advance for the novel, plus a three book deal worth up to an additional $5000 in advances.

Here are the contest details:

Submission period: September 15th, 2015 – March 15th, 2016 11:59pm

Send Submissions To:

Ten Finalists Announced: April 15th, 2016

Winner Announced: June 15th, 2016

Target Publishing Date: September 13th, 2016

Minimum Manuscript Length: 80,000+ words

Any genre or sub-genre will be accepted, and it does not even have to be Earth upon which this story is developed, BUT the story linked above must be used as the inspiration for the story presented. So the novel could be a mystery, or a hard science sci-fi thriller. It could be a fantasy set in a world threatened with global extinction or a horror novel. Whatever it is, write it!

All of the entries will be reviewed by a panel of literary judges once the submission period has ended on March 15th, 2016, The top 10 finalists will be announced on April 15th, 2016, and the winner of the contest to be determined and announced on June 15th, 2016.

In entering the contest, the contestant authorizes Realmwalker Publishing Group the right to use their name, the title of their entry, and excerpts not to exceed 5,000 words from the submitted work for promotional purposes during the contest period.

Only original, unpublished (including self-publishing) manuscripts will be accepted for consideration to this contest. Manuscripts developed or shared through free services and workshops such as Wattpad or NaNoWriMo, ARE acceptable as long as it was developed specifically for this year’s contest. Additionally, novels developed from existing short stories or other work previously created by the author are acceptable as long as the source material has not been published, self-published, or previously submitted for consideration to a publisher, magazine, or website.

Current employees, authors, artists, and support personnel of Realmwalker Publishing Group and their immediate family members, are not eligible for this contest.

All authors will retain copyright on the works submitted, and will be free to submit their works to other publishers for consideration, or self-published upon elimination from the contest. Realmwalker Publishing Group will hold exclusive, worldwide publishing rights for the manuscript selected as the winner of the contest, for the length of the publishing contract signed by the author.

Get the full scoop:

Friday, September 25, 2015




Author James R. Tuck, creator of Deacon Chalk and co-author of Titan Books’ new occult Robin Hood series, recently launched his Hollow Earth series with Champion of Hollow Earth from Pro Se Productions. Now publisher and author announce an open call for the next volume in the series, an anthology of stories set in Tuck’s Hyperborea.  Heroes of Hollow Earth is now open for proposals and submissions.

“When you have a creator,” says Tommy Hancock, Editor in Chief of Pro Se Productions, “like James R. Tuck crafting an entire world, it’s a truly awesome thing.  What makes it even better is the chance to let others throw themselves into it, to see what they can manufacture from the magick and madness of Hollow Earth.  Tuck has set a fantastic canvas for the best in Genre Fiction today to carve words into. This is literally a collection I can hardly wait to read.”

Heroes of Hollow Earth will be a multi-author anthology chronicling the struggle to survive in Hyperborea, a land that exists inside a Hollow Earth. It is a war-torn place where humans fight to live against the unstoppable Kurg, a race of Nazi Lizard men, and their bloodthirsty Reptile Reich. Only the final spell of Hyperborea's greatest wizard offers a glimmer of hope. His dying breath calls a Champion. But, also in that breath, others are summoned, gateways across space and time are opened bringing other potential warriors to Hollow Earth.  And each of these accidental travelers will have their own tales to hack and slice out of the war torn land of danger and wonder, as do the citizens of Hollow Earth, and even the venomous Kurg.  Tales to be told in Heroes of Hollow Earth.

Stories for Heroes of Hollow Earth must be no less than 4,000 and no more than 6,000 words and can deal with those who live in Hyperborea or those yanked into the new world. Tales may even focus on the Kurg. This is a work for hire assignment and payment will be a split of royalties among accepted authors.  Authors interested in submitting a story proposal should send an email expressing said interest and requesting the Hollow Earth Bible to by October 15th.  There are 10 story slots available in this anthology and if all 10 are filled prior to October 15th, then the call will close.

If a writer’s proposal is accepted, then the completed story must be submitted to on or before January 1, 2016 for final review and approval.  No extensions will be given as this book is scheduled for publication in March 2016

Any questions concerning this call for submissions should be directed to To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to Like Pro Se on Facebook at

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Listen to Your Characters... But How?

We hear it all the time. Listen to you characters. Let them tell your story for you. But what does that really mean?

Nancy Hansen: When I get deep enough into a writing project that I can hear the character voices, feel what that individual's reactions would be, and my mind can walk around in their world, that's when the character is telling at least part of the story. I'm still in the driver's seat, because I'm making the decisions, but I'm not afraid to take directions from that unconscious part of my mind that knows better where this thing has to go. I think the idea of letting the character tell her/his own story is just kind of an awkward way of saying, let yourself dig deep and pretend to be someone else for a while. Writers are about the only people in this world who can follow the promptings of the voices in their heads without getting locked up.

Mike Schneider: Avoid excessive narration and exposition. If a piece of information isn't introduced by the characters, then it probably isn't that relevant or necessary to following the story.

Paul Bishop: Saying the characters tell the story is simply a writer's creative flare in expressing the more mundane statement that your subconscious wanting to take the story in another direction...When I'm struggling with a story, it's usually my subconscious (labeled 'my characteristics') letting me know I'm not being true to the characters I've created and I need to back up and find the right direction for the story...

Rebekah McAuliffe: You may feel like the story is heading in one direction, but suddenly, the "wild girls will take you," as my high school English teacher once put it. It's just this feeling in your gut that leads you to where the story is supposed to go.

Bill Craig: I put my characters into a situation, and then they kind of take over, reacting and acting on the situation. I have a rough idea of where I want to go, but the journey to get there is largely through the characters and how they deal with not only the initial situation but with the ripples that their actions create and then they have to deal with those and whatever other rocks I drop into the creative pond. I do my best to make my characters as real as possible and have them react in a real and human fashion. Sometimes they stumble and fall, other times they rise and overcome. Not all my endings are happy ones, just like real life. A good example is in Marlow: Mango Run, sure Marlow solves the case, but another character that he is emotionally attached too takes her own life, leaving him devastated when he learns of it. When I had started that particular book, I had no idea that event was going to happen, but her mental and emotional decline began about the middle of the book and just picked up momentum and it turned into a major event that had repercussions not only for Marlow but for several other characters as well. It was totally a character driven moment, but it became a crucial event in that book and for the next two that followed it.

Charles Hearn: I always felt that it means you need to get into each character's head and try to see how they would perceive and handle the situations you've presented them with.
However, if your characters are actually talking to you, then you need to up your meds.

Aaron Smith: A writer's mind never stops working. I write all the time even if my fingers aren't tapping on the keyboard at that moment. We're considering our ideas 24/7, often when we're not even consciously thinking about it. Of course our characters don't write themselves. We, as writers, do all the work, but we're not always intentionally producing the details of a story. Important plot points or bits of dialogue come to us in dreams or seemingly out of nowhere, not just when we're intentionally considering what's going to happen next. They don't write themselves, but it sometimes seems they do.

Rose Streif: I look at it like this: even though my characters are created by me, filtered through me, and on a level even *are* me, I think of them as actual separate people living in a world, persons who are completely different. And so they become their own people, and behave less like toys that are being knocked together, or puppets mouthing my personal beliefs. They take on a life of their own, even though it's illusory. And I let that illusion carry me forward to the end of the tale.

Robert Krog: Because I'm not crazy, like some fiction writers I know, I don't believe that my characters take over and write the book, or have conversations with me, argue with me, or what have you. That being said, I do write them as consistent individuals basing their actions upon their characteristics. I don't find any conflict between a story being plot driven or character driven. If I start out with a specific plot in mind, I write characters who make that plot come true. If I should come to a point at which I find that I have made a character inconsistent, it is no problem to rework the character or throw him out and replace him with one better suited to make the plot work. There have been occasions in which I have found that I liked what the character did to the plot more than I liked the original plot, and that is fine too. I don't marry plots, either. If I start out with a specific character in mind for whom I have to find a story, I throw that character into an interesting situation and extrapolate. Listening to a character, I think, is writing the character with a consistent personality and not having that character, for the sake of the plot, perform actions inconsistent with that personality. Of course, sometimes, the character has to listen to the author and get rewritten to stay consistent. None of these options is a biggie. I write to tell a good story, sometimes one option is better than the other(s). That is all. It is very important to note that one is unlikely to find a story to be good unless it contains good characters, people we might like to meet in real life, or admire, fear, love, love to hate, what have you. Good characters are true to life, exhibiting consistent and believable personalities, making decisions that people we know of the same types might make, growing in ways that are believable as well. They don't suddenly, for the sake of filling a plot hole, develop powers, personality traits, knowledge, that the reader would find improbable. In that regard, I "listen to my characters" and write them in such a way that they stay as real as possible, sometimes that involves writing them out, sometimes it involves changing the plot, and sometimes it involves finding a plot in which to place them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Nugget #60 -- Dialog

 I love writing dialog. For my money, nothing moves a story along 
like good dialog. Until it doesn't any longer. Then no matter 
how much I love writing dialog, I have to stop.

The Black Bat and Me (And the Golden Amazon too)

Hey, everybody! When you are looking through Previews this month, don't miss page 374 (Moonstone Books). My newest work will appear in The Black Bat Returns anthology listed there. Be sure to pre-order your copy!

Features my story, "The Blood of Gordon Pruett," which features the first and only (I believe) team-up between the Black Bat and the Golden Amazon.

But don't wait too long. Orders must be placed by September 25!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

First Publishing Experience

By Ray Dean

Short Story: Fire in the Sky
Anthology: Shanghai Steam with EDGE Publishing

I like it when a trip down memory lane brings me a smile instead of a wince or a sigh. Going back to remember my first publishing experience is one of those happy moments. I was fresh from my first rejection, and while the comments from the editor wasn’t exactly what I’d call encouraging, I knew that it wasn’t a matter of giving up. I was going to keep going because as I only half-joke, it’s crowded in my head. And to keep the noise down I have to write.

So a notice popped up on a Steampunk site that I was a part of, looking for stories that had Steampunk and Wuxia as a part of it. Wuxia. I had to look that term up, do my research on the genre. Wuxia is a genre that originated in Chinese literature. Translated into English, it means ‘Martial Hero’  and includes elements of the common man/underdog, martial arts, superhuman feats. I have also seen magic or wizardry used in explanations of the genre.

This idea really struck a chord in me, a tremor of excitement. As a girl I would stay up LATE. Not just past my bedtime late, but Holy Cow I should be sleeping because I have Saturday morning dance classes but I don’t care LATE. Because, Friday night on Channel 13 had Black Belt Kung Fu Theater. I already watched Channel 13 because it also played the Samurai films that I loved so much, but the amazing choreography of Kung Fu movies was so very different from the Samurai films/tv shows. Samurai films centered around the Bushido, the rules and lifestyle of a swordsman in Japan and Kung Fu films would use any number of weapons, or none at all. The stunning choreography was something that I really appreciated. 

The next step was to find a story/setting that I felt would fit the genre. My first instinct was to go ‘West.’ Not just in direction by setting. I wrote my story set in Tombstone, AZ. Having been a frequent visitor to the “Town Too Tough to Die,” I knew quite a bit about the Chinese immigrants in Hop Town and thought a story centered around the mining claims would be fun to write, including the action sequences that were an integral part of Wuxia.

With my heart in my throat I sent off that story.

The email that came back a little later was a surprise, but not an immediate cause of full-out celebration. They liked my story, thought it was good… but not quite right for the anthology.

Yes, I was still breathing. Barely. Okay, there was more to the email, so I continued reading.

Did I have anything else that might fit?

I hope I don’t sound too much like a newbie, but there was no way that I was going to say no to that question. But before I could do anything I asked them if they wouldn’t mind telling me how the first story didn’t fit. I did when I sent it in, otherwise I wouldn’t have submitted it in the first place.

When the reply came back they gave me a quick overview of what didn’t seem to match the anthology and I was able to brainstorm another story. I gave her a quick summary of my idea, she gave me a time frame and I was off… writing… not in my head.

The second story was based on an article that I read in my son’s World History textbook. A letter written to the Queen of England by a scholar in China asking England not to import opium into China. The letter discussed the many ills of the drug and asked that the country stop shipping the product into China in payment for trade goods instead of silver. The ‘twisted mind’ in my head said ‘okay, we won’t bring it into your ports, but airships don’t need the harbor…’ How would the people of town react to the heavy handed actions of the British and their ‘end run’ around the law. Who would stand up to them and how?

Once the second story was completed and officially accepted for the anthology I received a contract in my email and things went on from there. A few rounds of minor edits back and forth, starting with the editor that made that first contact with me. From there the other editors weighed in and there were a few moments when we had short discussions about elements in the story. Part of the fun of working on a story set in a historical… but not so historical era in speculative fiction, is discovering possibilities and then making sure the world lives and breathes. There is also a certain amount of discovery, capitalizing on the strengths of everyone involved.

Once the edits were done, we got down to the business of setting up promotion for the release of the anthology. A Facebook page, a blog tour, and more. I wasn’t able to participate in the ‘live readings’ as I was so very far away from Canada, but I was able to see the pictures and read the recaps of all the action! 

As another part of our ‘release’ activities, we had a group post here on “Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action." It took a bit of organization to get it all together, but I really enjoyed the different answers. It was a chance to get to know the other authors as well.

The anthology was later nominated for an award and mentioned in Orson Scott Card’s book “Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: How to Create Out-of-This-World Novels and Short Stories.”

I learned so much about submissions and editing from the folks at EDGE. And I’d like to add a huge thanks to Sean Taylor for having me write about my first publishing experience.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now #331 -- Convention Cons (and Pros)

Do you find conventions helpful for your brand as a writer, or do they get in the way of actual writing?

The simple answer is yes, I find them helpful to building my brand as a writer.

And yes, I find they do often get in the way of actual writing.

But if I peel back the veneer and look deeper into those responses...

1. While they are helpful in building awareness of me as a writer, I have to do a better job of varying the locations and building a better cycle of con appearances so that I'm not always hitting the same cons and seeing the same people. Reinforcing my brand is important, but it's not the same thing as introducing my work to new people in new areas I haven't been.

2. I often get new work at conventions. Talking with fellow writers and publishers frequently gets me invited into other anthologies I wouldn't have known about otherwise. Also, they get me invited to pitch longer works to publishers for whom I haven't written yet.

3. While they get in the way of writing, I can never forget that at least half (some would say more) of my work as a writer is NETWORKING so that I always have my next few jobs lined up.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

[Link] Writing Begins With Forgiveness: Why One of the Most Common Pieces of Writing Advice Is Wrong

by Daniel José Older

Writing advice blogs say it. Your favorite writers say it. MFA programs say it.

Write every single day.

It’s one of the most common pieces of writing advice and it’s wildly off base. I get it: The idea is to stay on your grind no matter what, don’t get discouraged, don’t slow down even when the muse isn’t cooperating and non-writing life tugs at your sleeve. In this convoluted, simplified version of the truly complex nature of creativity, missing a day is tantamount to giving up, the gateway drug to joining the masses of non-writing slouches.


Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

Every writer has their rhythm. It seems basic, but clearly it must be said: There is no one way. Finding our path through the complex landscape of craft, process, and different versions of success is a deeply personal, often painful journey. It is a very real example of making the road by walking. Mentors and fellow travelers can point you towards new possibilities, challenge you and expand your imagination, but no one can tell you how to manage your writing process. I’ve been writing steadily since 2009 and I’m still figuring mine out. I probably will be for the rest of my life. It’s a growing, organic, frustrating, inspiring, messy adventure, and it’s all mine.

Two years ago, while I was finishing Half-Resurrection Blues and Shadowshaper, I was also in grad school, editing Long Hidden, working full time on a 911 ambulance, and teaching a group of teenage girls. And those are the things that go easily on paper. I was also being a boyfriend, son, friend, god brother, mentor, and living, breathing, loving, healing human being. None of which can be simply given up because I’d taken on the responsibility of writing.

You can be damn sure I wasn’t writing every day.

Continue reading:

Friday, September 18, 2015

[Link] Editorius Rex

by Paul Bishop

First four words about editors and mentors…They are not God…

Now a few more words…Working with editors and mentors (E/Ms) can be confusing and on occasion filled with frustration. I’ve worked with good and bad E/Ms, and – thankfully – one great E/M.

Good E/Ms are the most common of the genus éditorus rex. These, generally kind examples of the species, understand what you are trying to accomplish with your novel/story, but only work with you if your manuscript is – short of a copy edit – publication ready. They are pleasant enough, but harried and easily distracted by their own problems or workload. They are like parents who raise free-range children, allowing them to run wild, hoping they will eventually turn out okay.

Bad E/Ms are like weeds in the flower beds of your prose. They are noxious, prevalent, and can choke the life out of your manuscript. Sometimes, you can feel as if this species of E/M is reveling in picking your manuscript apart, insisting on changes from left field, and they can leave you having no idea what they are talking about (I did mention frustration above). In general, these sour individuals are simply not a good match for your particular manuscript.

Continue reading:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nugget #59 -- New Pulp, New Rules

I'd say New Pulp can be whatever you want it to be. 
We're making the rules as we write. I think gone are the 
days when a book must follow the Doc Savage model or 
the Shadow model or the Insert Your Favorite Character 
model. This is a whole new territory.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Crafting a Believable Mystery

by Gordon Dymowski

I’ve always loved mysteries – there’s something about the process of answering a question and figuring out details that intrigues me. (Perhaps it’s growing up with a dad who was a lawyer who also loved Sherlock Holmes). As a reader, mysteries provide an engaging, entertaining read.

That’s why I love writing mysteries: at their best, they combine a strong puzzle-based plot with capable characters (including a sleuth) and great atmosphere. But making sure they’re believable can be tricky….so here are a few things that I find work when crafting a mystery.

  • This rule above all else: Play Fair - At the heart of every mystery, clues are laid out gradually, allowing the reader to discover them along with the detective. (Want good examples? Hunt down anything written by Ellery Queen). The last minute twist/revelation….well, it doesn’t really help. In fact, it can hurt - the reader wants to figure it out. That’s part of why people read mysteries. And along those lines….
  • What’s In It For Your Detective? - Writing a believable mystery often means knowing why your detective wants to solve the case. For Sherlock Holmes, “the work is its own reward’; for Mike Hammer in I, The Jury, it’s the opportunity to solve a case and avenge his friend’s death. Every mystery must have stakes for its lead character, even if those stakes are simple. (How many detectives get paid just so solve a crime?).
  • Crime is simple; motives are messy - Most crimes are simple: someone dies at another’s hand, things are stolen, people are hurt - and it’s easy to plan elaborate crimes. (Even heists are relatively simple, if planned well enough). But motives complicate matters, and that’s where the crux of your storytelling lies. In Robert B. Parker’s Early Autumn, Spenser solves the quandry of what to do with a boy in a dysfunctional family by “taking him in.” (I’m not doing the book justice - you need to read it yourself). This is probably not the time to make your killer a variation of Snidely Whiplash - in fact, complicated motives often can serve as great storytelling devices.
  • Plotters may do better than pantsers - You know the old adage about starting from the killer and working backwards? That’s not a cliche - having some idea of the outcome will help shape the overall arc of your book. (You can still leave room for surprises to happen, but having a logical arc will help). Because after all….
  • Even mysteries have some structure: Don’t believe me? Read what Raymond Chandler, SS Van Dine, and R Austin Freeman have to say about the mystery story. (And if you’re looking for help about how to formulate a mystery, think of it as an extended argument….and view this video which is used in many philosophy classes. Seriously).
  • Do some research, but don’t get too elaborate - Knowing the law, police procedure & structure, and other aspects of your story are worth researching to give it a bit of authenticity...but don’t make your story about the research. Think of it as a way to provide small details into the overall arc: you don’t need to be a cop to write a police procedural; you just need to know enough to sound convincing.
  • Keep your crimes simple: As stated above, it may be tempting to crank out an elaborate crime - one which a high-tech CSI-style team might study. However, I can tell you from personal experience: waiting for lab results makes for boring reading. Keeping your crimes simple, your puzzles solvable, but your motives complicated provide greater engagement for your reader because the focus is on character, not mechanics. Finally….
  • Read/watch some great mysteries: Check out Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories for how it’s done (and Dover’s Detection by Gaslight for other Victorian-era sleuths). Read Ellery Queen for great “fair play” mysteries. Read Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler & Mickey Spillane for some hard-boiled reads. If you’re a “visual learner”, I suggest watching the first five seasons of Columbo, the two-volume Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (available via Acorn Media), and The Ellery Queen Mysteries. (Many of these shows are available streaming as well).
Crafting a believable mystery can mean the difference between providing a good read….and taking the reader on a journey. Knowing some preliminary steps can strengthen your storytelling.

Now, start writing!

Gordon Dymowski has written several tales, including “Crossing McCausland” for Tall Pulp and “When Angels Fall” for Dreamer’s Syndrome: New World Navigation, and will be appearing in an upcoming Black Bat Mystery anthology for Airship 27. When not writing, he’s working with small businesses and non-profits to amplify and enhance their communication strategies. For more information, check out Gordon’s home page at, his blog at, or his Amazon Author page. And if you know any publisher that’s reviving the Three Investigators, please drop him a line.