Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Save the Short Story (Short Fiction Review)

Jungle Statue (c) 2009 by Jason Zampol
If you've read this blog much, then you know how much I love short fiction, and I don't want to see it become and endangered species. So today, may I present ResAliens print magazine, Issue #5!

ResAliens editor, Lyn Perry, promises to bring us "spiritually-infused" fiction. What does that term mean to you. In the introduction to this issue, Perry says: Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean that each story is “spiritual” (what some might call, “religious”) or has a certain moral to it. Not that there isn’t a place for specifically religious material. You’ll read what some would term “Christian” fiction within the pages and web pages of ResAliens. But for me, it is a mindset with which I approach almost every song, film, or book. I  embrace the arts – and literature in particular – from a spiritual perspective. That is, I come to a story ready to engage the transcendent or eternal message or theme within that work of art.

So, does ResAliens fulfill this promise? Yes, it does. The seven stories inside are all well-written, interesting, and possess a certain lyrical quality that I found compelling. Yet each story also contains a thread of darkness that leaves you thinking about what you've just experienced.

"Where the Sun Don't Shine" by Jeff Parish starts the issue. I have to admit, I was hard-pressed to find anything spiritual in this story, however I did find it a fun read--in a kind of grown-up, macabre Captain Underpants sort of way. (Sure hope I am never infested with butt pirates!)

"Not Your Kind of Heathen" by Erin M. Kinch brings us an exciting story of a strong and yet vulnerable hunter of the creatures of the dark.

"The Noble Experiment" by Pat. R. Steiner is a beautifully written tale of a summertime story shared between Grandson and Grandfather, and even features an appearance by the infamous Al Capone!

"Rockets Over Eireann" by Kristen Lee Knapp shocking and yet moving portrayal of violence and terrorism, and was my favorite in this issue.

"A Heroine's Death" by Billy Wong brings us a heroine so amazing not even death can conquer her. But is that really for the best? A nice tale of love and sacrifice.

"Azerieran: Lokxenthuul" by Christopher Heath is a dark story of a twisted, evil dwarf, and leaves you to ponder justice and revenge.

"Protein" by Gustavo Bondoni, another of my favorites in here, is a truly chilling tale addresses some important issues.

Also in the issue, you'll find an interview with cover artist Jason Zampol (Isn't it a beautiful cover?), and an anthology review. You can order issue #5, and the other print issues, as well as enjoy more great fiction, on the ResAliens website.

If you love short stories like I do, or if you just want a great read, ResAliens is well worth your time.

From the editor: Already 20% off at $8.00 for a print issue. Now purchase ResAliens Issue 5 and save an additional 15% off with coupon code: FIRESIDE305 (good through Feb 15, 2011).

*I received a free e-copy of the magazine, which I chose to review for you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Great Idea Deserves Great Writing

I think it's true that great writing can carry a humdrum, cliched or just plain dumb idea, but it doesn't work the other way around. A great idea cannot save terrible writing. I see this often when reading submissions. The idea of the story is interesting, different or intriguing. But the story itself just isn't so great. Maybe the characters are too cliched. Maybe the plot comes to a weak resolution. Maybe there are just too many passive sentences and adverbs. Whatever the reason, the idea itself cannot carry the weak writing.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that you have most likely come up with a wonderful story to tell. It's all yours. It means something to you. It's exciting and speaks to you. Well, then, give it your best! Your great idea deserves to be written well, and you can do it. Be bold. Don't hold back. Don't be satisfied with what's easy. Go to workshops and learn. Get critiqued and give critiques. Revise, revise, revise, and don't give up.

Your great idea is worth the effort it takes to write it well. Now get out there and do it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Reasons to Smile =)

300 followers! Wow. I never dreamed so many people would take an interest in my blog. Thanks so much to all of you. I appreciate your comments and your support and your friendship. I sincerely hope I'll have something to say here at the Writing Chair that will be valuable to you.

Two new hats!

Aren't they cute? I needed something to chase away the January blahs.

I wrote yesterday! Only for half an hour and only one page, but it was one page more than I've written on any other day this week, and I actually felt good about what came out of me. Perhaps the end of writer's block is in sight.

And something that's got me really happy dancing:

Registration is now open for Life, the Universe, and Everything (aka LTUE)! February 17-19, 2011 at the Harman Conference center on the BYU campus.

But the part that really has me all giddy is that if you click on the schedule, you'll see my name there. I am on four panels. Two of them with the amazing Dave Wolverton/Farland. I have been waiting for this day for something like fifteen years! I'm really excited. And nervous.

In case you're going to be there (and all you local folks, I sure hope you are!) and are interested, here are my panels (subject to change):

Thursday, 4pm  The Writing Life (How to set and keep goals, prioritize, etc.)

Friday, 10am  How to Write a Good Short Story

Friday, 1pm  Dialog Tags and Speech Patterns

Saturday 9am  Religion in Science Fiction: How to Make it Work

So, what are you smiling about today?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Once upon a time, I became a writer

Once upon a time, I became a writer. For eight long and often discouraging years I wrote and submitted stuff. Mostly short stories. I dreamed and hoped and prayed of one day getting published. I gathered rejection after rejection after rejection. I cried and banged my head on the desk and kept writing and kept submitting.

Then one day I opened my email to find an acceptance letter. Somebody wanted to buy one of my stories! I almost couldn't believe it was true. I cried again for happiness. I danced and celebrated.

But the weeks started to go by and the time the editor said he'd contact me again passed. The website hadn't been updated in a while. I started to worry. I saw the magazine on a list of dead markets. I emailed the editor. He said sorry. He'd hoped to publish the rest of his inventory, but it wasn't happening. I was free to submit the story elsewhere.

I was crushed. Heartbroken. I wanted to give up.

I didn't. I submitted that story and all the others again and again and again. A few months later another magazine bought the story and in July 2003, I finally got to see myself in print. With an illustration even. And reviewers who'd never even met me said nice things about my story. Joy. =)

I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. Maybe it's just to remind myself how far I've come already. Because, frankly, this whole last week I have felt like giving up. Like it just isn't worth the effort.

But it is.

Today, I read this in the January 2011 Ensign (a magazine for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):

"Sometimes we try hard to achieve something, but our own efforts, however great, are insufficient for the task. I know Heavenly Father can bless us for our faith and obedience with even greater blessings than we hoped for initially...My toil will not have been in vain."

And in another article: "You are here on earth at this time for a reason. You have what it takes. You have skills, knowledge, and natural talents given to you from God...Take these things that are yours and have a great life!"

And I read this blog post. It really hit home for me.

So, thank you, Lord for your tender mercies today. Tomorrow I'm going to jump back into this with both feet!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Way I See It

Elana's confession post today got me thinking about how we envision the books we read. What's it like for you? Do you see the book in your head as if it were a movie with all the characters up on the screen of your mind? Do you see it in cartoon form like Elana? Do you see it more like real life? Do you see it at all, or is it just words?

I really hadn't given much thought to how I'm actually seeing a book that I'm reading, but after pondering it this morning, I realized that I see it as if I were in the scene myself. As if I were the viewpoint character with all of the stuff happening to me. No wonder I don't like reading stuff with no clear POV. I don't feel involved at all. It's the same with what I write. I put myself in the character's shoes and see the story in my head as if I were the character. That can get pretty intense sometimes. But that's one of the joys of writing, I think.

What about you? How do you see the story you're reading? The one you're writing? Does it make a difference in your approach to writing?

Interesting things to think about.

P.S. Ali Cross is having a 300 follower blog party. Go become a follower if you aren't already. She's giving away two $25 Amazon gift certificate to old and new followers. =) Check it out!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Do You Doodle?

I used to be doodler. When I started writing everything by hand (I did originally use a computer, but switched after a while), I doodled all over the margins of the notebook all the time. I could usually tell which parts of the story I had struggled with the most by which pages had the most doodles. I considered it a weakness that I was forever doodling instead of concentrating on writing.

Then, when I had my big turning point just over two years ago, about when I started this blog, something strange happened. The doodling stopped. It didn't trickle out or gradually lessen. I just stopped doodling all together. I looked in the notebook I was using at the time. You can see where I suddenly stopped doodling. I am inordinately pleased with the fact that in both five subject notebooks I filled up with The Ransomed Returning there is not one single doodle in the margin.

So, last night when I was brainstorming in my planning notebook and found that I was doodling--not just in the margins, but over the whole page, I was sort of shocked. I don't want to be falling back into that old habit. It's okay, though. It's only the planning notebook, and it's only because I am totally lost on where to go with this novella. I have decided to start over (for the second time), but with a different POV character. I think this one will work. I hope.

If not, I may be looking at a notebook full of margin doodles again!