Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Here's Where I Ask for Your Help in Achieving a Lifelong Goal

It’s hard to believe that three weeks from now the contest will be over. Now I know you know which contest I’m talking about because I feel like I’m in repeat mode right about now. Fresh Blood. Fresh Blood. Fresh Blood. FreshBloodFreshBloodFreshBloodFreshBloodFreshBlood. And oh, by the way, did I mention Fresh Blood?

(For those of you who might be stopping by for the first time, my unpublished novel, Heart of the City, is one of two novels competing in the finals of Dorchester Publishing’s Fresh Blood contest and the grand prize is a publishing contract with Dorchester's Leisure Horror imprint.)

Anyway, I promise I’ll get back to my regularly-scheduled writing blog soon, but I’m hoping you’ll humor me for a little while longer because this is, after all, my dream, my ambition, my life-long goal, and I know--even at the risk of being a pest--that I have to give it all I’ve got. Otherwise I wouldn’t be being true to myself.

So I’m asking for your help…

If you could take just a moment to vote in the contest, I’d be so grateful. Voting only takes a few seconds. It’s as simple as sending a blank email to freshblood@chizinepub.com with Fresh Blood Vote - Heart of the City in the subject line.

They will accept one vote per unique email address. Voting is open until July 14th at midnight EST.

If you’re interested, you can visit the contest page, where you can learn more about the novels competing, read chapters and excerpts, and see comments from the judges.

And if anyone would be so kind as to give a shout-out for the contest on their blog (or any other social media you use), I would be especially grateful.

I also want to say thank you. Thank you to everybody who’s supported me with votes, encouraging words, and simply by putting up with the fact that the contest has taken over my life.

Thank you most of all for taking a minute out of your own busy lives to help me move one step further toward making my dream come true. One vote could make the difference.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Little Novel that Could!

Once upon a time there was a novel. It was a humble novel that had no great literary aspirations other than to entertain. Its author very nearly filed it away forever, until, on a strange little whim she polished it up and sent it off to a little contest known as ABNA 2009.

And the little novel moved through the rounds of ABNA. And the little novel made it all the way to semifinalist and got some really positive feedback. And its author was surprised and gladdened at this.

After ABNA, the little novel got another revision and off it went again to yet another contest, the Fresh Blood contest sponsored by a whole bunch of great folks with some really great prizes. The little novel could be published by Leisure Horror if by some major miracle it could win!

Okay, so I’ll stop being cutesy, but the upshot…

The little novel that could is now in the final round of the Fresh Blood contest. I got the news just Wednesday that Heart of the City (the much maligned title, I admit) is one of two novels remaining that will compete this month for the grand prize: a publishing contract with both Leisure Horror (mass market) and ChiZine Publications (limited hardcover run).

Thank you all so much for supporting me through this. I know it gets tedious hearing my plea for help month after month, but please know that I appreciate every single vote you cast and every single word of encouragement that’s come my way.

And I’m going to ask once again this month for your help…for your vote.

To vote, you need only send an email to freshblood@chizinepub.com and in the subject header be sure to put Fresh Blood Vote - Heart of the City. Voting will be open until July 14th at midnight Eastern Time.

For more information on the two remaining novels (first chapters, cover copy, author bios, etc.) and comments from the judges, please visit Chizine.

And of course, if you visit the site and decide you’d prefer to vote for my competitor, I’ll understand and completely respect your right to do so.

Thank you all so much for your support. The blogging community has been so welcoming and wonderful. I’m so glad I’m not a part of it!

Monday, June 14, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regularly-Scheduled Writing Blog...

...to introduce my new four-legged friend, Kali. And for the moment, writing is the furthest thing from my mind!




Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One Week and Counting...

A month seems like such a long time, doesn't it? Thirty whole days, give or take a few depending on the month. And then suddenly we're turning another page on the calendar and wondering--at least if you're like me--where the last month went.

Despite no turning of the calendar page, today it occurred to me that there's a week left until I find out whether my novel has made it into the Top 2 in the Fresh Blood contest. A week. How did that happen?

It's a strange feeling, one that I can't quite put into words, knowing that there's a possibility, no matter how small, that next week at this time I could be one of two authors competing in the final round of the competition for that coveted prize of an actual publishing contract, particularly for a novel that came very close to landing in the good old round file. It's exciting, definitely. And flattering.

If I'm honest, it's also terrifying.

And here's my confession for the day... It's not the idea of losing that I find frightening. It's the possibility of winning.

Losing a contest doesn't bother me. A contest like this is a wonderful opportunity, for which I'm always grateful. But contests don't come with guarantees. And when my time is up in a contest, I only take it as a sign to move on to the next opportunity. And in this case, the truth is that I've come way beyond the point I ever imagined getting to in the contest.

Of course I'd love to win the contest. It would be a dream come true. But when I think about the possibility, my mind races to the inevitable place it always loves to go... Is the novel good enough?

Win or lose, I hope my novel is good enough, because come next Tuesday, if I don't find a place in the Top 2, you can bet I'll be gearing up to start shopping it around.

And if I do find a place in the top 2? Well you can believe that I'll be doing my damnedest to promote the contest and the wonderful people at Dorchester, Chizine and Rue Morgue who've sponsored it.

But Speaking of Promotion

You know, I read a post a week or so ago about contests. It was a wonderful, helpful post about winning contests. For me, it was a very timely post as well. But reading through the comments, I was dismayed at how many people expressed such strong displeasure about an author in a contest trying to promote his or herself.

Now don't get me wrong. I admire their idealism, their belief that a contest should be won on merit. I'll also admit that the responses gave me pause, for one because the strong reaction surprised me and for another because I've always been glad to help out a fellow author if I could.

And I do have some thoughts on the subject...

While I understand the belief that a contest should be purely based on merit, I think there is a point behind the public vote portion. In those contests where the prize is a publishing contract, I'd suspect that the publishers sponsoring the contest are looking to see how well authors promote themselves, which is a big factor in publishing these days. If you're willing and able to promote yourself prior to publication, then it bodes well for promoting your book after publication.

Also, most of the popular-vote-based contests are not, in fact, exclusively based on popular vote. For example, in the contest I'm in, a panel of judges (editors and published authors in the genre) determined the finalists up to the top 5. It was only at that point that it became vote-driven.

I think most authors are reticent about asking people for support in these contests. I know, for me, it's been, at times, painful. But it's also been a great learning experience and a chance to network and meet some wonderful people that I will consider friends long after the contest closes. I also believe that most authors don't actually expect anyone to vote for them in any contest (save for family and closest friends). Support in a contest is a gift, not an obligation.

It's hard to ask for votes. But while it would be nice to think that the masses will be drawn to the contest sites to vote based purely on their like or dislike of an entry, it isn't realistic. An author participating in such a contest must realize that their competitors are out there seeking votes, so to sit back and hope for people to just find the contest site and vote is pretty much assuring yourself a loss. It's nice to be idealistic, but the bottom line--at least for me--is that often there's something very big at stake in these contests and I don't think it's wrong to pursue that as hard as one possibly can.

Anyway those are just some of my thoughts on hte subject. I hope you'll all forgive my little personal ramble this morning.

So Thank You! (And Voting Information)

To those of you who've supported me in the contest this month (or in past months), I thank you with my whole heart.

And if you haven't voted yet this month, please drop by Fresh Blood and cast a vote.

I would love to have your support for my novel, Heart of the City, but if you find another novel you'd prefer to vote for, I certainly understand.

And for those who want the quick version of how to vote: please email your vote to freshblood@chizinepub.com. In the email's subject line put: Fresh Blood Vote: Heart of the City. The information must be in the header for the vote won’t count! One vote per email address is allowed.

Thank you all so much for bearing with me today. For better or worse, I'll let you know how I make out next week!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Post at your Own Risk

It's funny how things happen.

As one of the senior employees in the department and also the department trainer of the company where I used to work, I always tried to keep one ear tuned to what was happening around me, particularly when our boss was away. I did it mostly to make sure there was no imminent crisis brewing, something that might inevitably require my attention.

One day, I noticed a flurry of activity in the next row of cubicles. Several of my co-workers were hovering together, looking at something. I glanced over, but they didn't seem to need my attention. Since I was pretty busy at the time, I just went back to the task at hand.

The activity continued, people in various combinations bending their heads together, remarking over something. There were several bursts of laughter, a few exclamations, and a whole bunch of chatter.

As expected, only a few moments later I heard my name. I stopped what I was doing, and looked up to find one co-worker gesturing for me to come over. I got up and walked around to them.

"You need to look at this," she said, thrusting a single piece of paper toward me.

Let me stop my story here and ask you this: Have you ever experienced a moment so surreal that you seriously questioned whether you were awake? Has the very weirdness of something ever made you think that the entire day leading up to that point must have been a dream? Well, that's how I felt at that moment.

I took the piece of paper and looked at it. There, staring back at me, was a poem I'd written at least a year before. It was a poem comparing my place of employment to Dante's ninth circle of Hell.

"Have you ever seen this before?" my co-worker asked. "This is really weird. I wonder who did this."

Staring at the poem, I wondered if someone had slipped a hallucinogenic into my bottled water that morning. How could someone have found the poem? Yes, it was posted on Writing.com, but nobody in my office knew the link to my portfolio. Hell, nobody knew I even had an online portfolio. Further, few people there even knew that I was a writer.

So, silently, I continued staring at the offending poem, my mind spinning faster than a top. This couldn't be happening.

What were the odds of someone finding something buried so deeply in my portfolio? Even if they'd stumbled onto my portfolio, what was the likelihood they've have found that particular poem? (Yeah, I know...Hello, Dummy, have you heard of a thing called Google??)

"I wonder who could have done this," one co-worker said, over and over.

A little bit of time must have passed, because eventually, I realized that several sets of eyes were focused on me.

In spite of myself, I felt my mouth lifting into a grin. I tried to keep my face hidden, tried to keep my reaction from showing, but it was useless.

"You wrote it!" the co-worker who'd called me over said finally.

I started to shake my head in a No. I opened my mouth to protest, and instead I found myself laughing.

"You wrote it," she said again, and in spite of my better judgment, I nodded.

My co-workers, of course, were simply delighted with this revelation, delighted that a member of their own department had written the incriminating item.

I came to find out that a woman who works in another department did an Internet search on Google. For keywords, she used our company's name (which I'd used in my poem--and who'd ever see it, I thought, when I wrote it way back when--and the word "Hell."

Sure enough, my little poem had popped up right at the top of the search results.

By that afternoon, most of the 200+ people in our office had read my poem. Throughout the day, I passed by groups of people chuckling over a copy. In the break room, people were quoting lines from the poem. They were loving it. And I was famous--or maybe infamous would be the better choice of words--all because I'd posted something on the Internet.

I'm fairly computer literate. I should have known better. I should have considered the possibility, but at the time I'd written the poem, it had seemed so incredibly remote. Hardly worth worrying about. I'd never even imagined someone finding it through an Internet search.

Admittedly, I did find the whole thing pretty hilarious. After all, I'd entertained nearly the entire staff, and only a few people knew the true identity of the piece's author. I trusted the people who knew not to give me up to the authorities.

Of course, the truth is that if executive management had seen it, and if they'd been able to trace it back to me, I would have gotten fired for it and it would have been completely justified. I don't think the chief operating officer of our company would have taken too kindly to being likened to a demon from the pits of hell (even if it did sort of fit).

My ex-husband tells me I have a knack for finding new and unusual ways of getting myself in trouble.

My mother, upon hearing the story, told me. "You never learn, do you? Using the name of your company in a poem. Not too bright."

The bottom line is that we all take inspiration from our lives. Sometimes it's themes. Loss. Injustice. Revenge. Other times, as with this poem, it takes on a more concrete representation. Real people, whether we admit to it or not, often populate our pages. We're writers. Words are our tools, our weapons, our shields.

And we speculative fiction writers sometimes take it a step farther. That waitress who spilled coffee all over you and wasn't even apologetic about it...how satisfying would it be to write her into your latest story, only to have her eaten by giant, mutant squirrels? Your boss, who belittles you at every turn...well, what marvelous fates can be cooked up for him?

It's harmless, mostly, but sometimes--as I found out--it can come back to bite you.

I don't believe in censoring. As long as you aren't causing harm to anyone, I believe you have the right to write whatever you desire. Still, as writers who sometimes post our writing publicly, it's a good idea to use discretion.

Luckily for me, there were never any repercussions from this little debacle--though if there had been, I suspect I would have laughed myself silly all the way to the unemployment office because boy, what a way to go!--but though I blocked the poem from public view and changed the company name within the poem, for the rest of my stint with the company, I never knew when a copy would resurface and do me in.

Besides, it could have been much, much worse. Rather than the poem, someone could have discovered the short story I wrote where the company's COO meets with a most unsavory end!

(Since I'm doing a novel-in-a-month challenge this month, this is a post that originally appeared in a Writing.com newsletter back when I was one of the editors. Since it's one of my favorite writing-related stories to tell, I thought I'd recycle it in my blog!)