Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Fiction Writing: A Brief History

Several years and millions of words ago, an idea was borne from thought to reality by the efforts of handful of writers who believe in their craft: a place where people serious about the craft of fiction writing could gather and discuss issues close to their heart and relevant to their work.

As every good idea does, it needed a home in a place where writers and books and the people who love to read them would gather.

It began as a group in a quiet corner of a busy thoroughfare on the Goodreads platform.

On Fiction Writing

In this group, we discuss storytelling and the hazardous road to publication in its many guises from the standpoint of craft and technique. This group is not a showcase or an arena to promote our particular works. We seek to debate how we research, structure, plot, draft, edit, write, and rewrite our novels. How we format, condense, and prepare synopsis, proposals, blurbs, and hooks. And how we plan our assault to the seemingly impregnable fortress of the establishment: agents and publishers.

Our founder, a quiet ...stop laughing, please!.. but serious man of letters, author Carlos J Cortes.

Exceeding hopes, the group grew, and best of all: it acquired as member a group of writers who were serious about their craft.

From this humble beginning came first the 2009 anthology, Ménage à 20: Tales with A Hook (Twenty Goodreads Authors).

A 2010 anthology release had been planned, but what with one thing and another and the vagaries of the publishing world, it did not happen.

Meanwhile, Carlos and Renee Miller, another of the writer/moderators of OFW had been having other ideas. They wanted to write a book on fiction writing.  Not just another book, but a definitive work on the state-of-the-art of fiction writing, from the germ of an ide to getting published, in todays changing world of publishing.  

What came of that effort was ‘the writers best friend’, The Writers Companion, published in 2011.

Now, follow-your-heart and all other platitudes aside, writing is a serious business. 

It was obvious from the beginning of OFW that to attract serious writers to a place where they could not only discuss and work at their craft but also be rewarded for their effort, one needed to provide a platform, one that would be able to provide and sustain dynamic content.

And so, after much hard work, profanity, sweat sleepless nights and alcohol … 

Beginning January 2012, On Fiction Writing will have a new home:

We hope to see you there in the new year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Another Year, Another Novel

Tomorrow is the official end to NaNoWriMo 2011. For me, it's another year nearly over and another novel begun.
It takes a lot more than thirty days of writerly abandon to write a novel, but it's a good start. There will be months of hard writing and editing ahead, but the hard part is done.
The first draft looks and reads more like a chapter-by-chapter plot outline with chunks of dialogue, place and character descriptions and a few action scenes plugged in here and there as sign-posts.
The opening lines that were so casually written, erased and rewritten in the margins of my outline will probably find their way to the cutting room floor in the editing room in my mind, but for now they stand as a sign that the planning stage is over and real work of writing has begun.
There will be days of nearly blank pages, of using more red-ink than black before it is done. There will lost ideas and poorly constructed paragraphs, missing punctuation, mindless meddling with perfectly good sentences ... and adverbs looking for a place to hide.
Right now it's time to brew another pot of coffee, grab another plate of seasonal cookies and get back to writing.
So, so long NaNoWriMo. It's been fun.  Bon Voyage, and we'll see you next year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I Hate First Drafts

I freely admit it! I Hate First Drafts... because they suck! 

Whether it's your first or your fiftieth novel or novelette or short story or... It makes no difference. When you're busy writing it, you'll think its the most brilliant and original thing you've done to-date.

... but when the ink dries and you've taken a deep breath, you realise upon re-reading your literary masterpiece just how much it sucks.

But guess what?

I believe that in the grand scheme of things, its supposed to. 

Believe-it-or-not, this is a good thing

By admitting this and giving yourself permission to suck, it allows you to get all the worst of the bad ideas for your novel/screenplay/short story/etc... out of your system. 
  • Regardless of the hours spent in research, character development and world-building. 
  • Regardless of the outline, the storyboard or all the fiddly bits you thought out and planned to put into it.
When you begin the first draft, don't worry about them or the gaps and gaffes and obvious nonsense. Play freely with all the little flights of fancy.

... And ignore the person with the red pen behind the little green screen in your mind.

Because the process of writing doesn't really begin until after the first draft is done. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Passing of A Legend: Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, a wonderfully prolific author of great science fiction, fantasy, and romance novels, passed away today. She was 85.

Anne was born in 1926 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College. After graduation she embarked upon a career in the theatre, acting in operas and operettas.

Anne ended her career on the stage ten years later and began writing fiction. Her first story, “Freedom of the Race,” was published in the Science Fiction Plus Magazine in October 1953, and her first novel, Restoree, in September 1967. 

I began reading her work in the late fifties when The Ship That Sang first appeared as a short story in the Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. I have been a devoted fan ever since.

We love you Anne, and you will be missed. Rest in peace.

P.S. For those unfamiliar with her work, I include a link to a bibliography page here. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This post is brought to you by the letter ...

is for November, the month soon to be upon us. It is also the beginning of: 

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

Writers from all over the world will rise once again to the challenge of writing a 50K-word novel in the space of 30 days (the month of November). Last year 200,000 people took part - writing a total of over 2.8 billion words! 

Want to give it a try? Click on the link below for details.

  Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Saying YES to Gay YA

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.
So begins a journey for two authors who decide to stand up and fight for what they know is right.
Say Yes to Gay YA,  is an article written by authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. It is featured on the Genreville Blog at Publishers  Weekly.
I believe this is an important issue that we as writers need to address.
I encourage all of you to read the article in its entirety and join the discussion.
Gwen McIntyre

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lion Mail: To POP or APOP, That Is The Question

The process of migrating eMail from OS X SnowLeopard to Lion has not been quite as simple from some as it might be.

The migration of our Earthlink POP Accounts was straight forward.

The system recognised the configuration properly and the accounts were good to go, so I assumed the other ISP we used would be as well.

Well, we all know that to assume makes an ass out of you and me.

The other ISP uses the same address for both the outbound and inbound mail service... mail.providername.netand does not use an POP/APOP Authorisation, but instead requires Username & Password authorisation, which means that you have to configure the outgoing mail server manually.

 ..and TaDa! Success!

All of which we determined by trial and error because, like many ISP's, their on-line support documentation does not match the actual current service configuration.

... and there are several other possible configuration permutations, depending upon which service you're using. 

If you're migrating IMAP accounts... that's a-whole-nother-story

But, the moral of the story? 

The Bottom Line?

Instead of wasting time swearing at the software or cursing  the developers, call your service provider's help-desk and ask for HELP.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In Passing: William Warner Sleator III

I am sad to note that William Sleator, author of over 30 young adult books, including "Interstellar Pig", "The Green Futures of Tycho", "House of Stairs", "Strange Attractors", "The Spirit House". and many others, passed away on August 3rd, 2011

He was a profile writer, accomplished composer and musician.

Follow the link to learn more about the man, his books and his music. .

Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Can it be that another year has passed? 

Well, it has, and the results of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been posted.

For the benefit of those of you who are new to this scrumptious literary novelty, allow me to explain.

Each year the English department at San Jose State University sponsors the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, a writing competition which pays homage to Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the man responsible for one of the hackiest opening lines in literature: “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The idea is to create an awful opening line for a fake work of fiction.

This year’s overall winner was University of Wisconsin Oshkosh professor Sue Fondrie, who submitted the following: “Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”

Notably, it is the shortest winner in the contest’s 29 year history.

Click the link above to read all of the winning … and losing, groan-inducing entires.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Man Booker Prize 2011 Long-list Announced

The longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction - the ‘Man Booker Dozen' - was announced today. It includes four first time novelists.

The chosen are;

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail - Profile)
Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)
A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic)
Alison Pick Far to Go (Headline Review)
Jane Rogers The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Sandstone Press)
D.J. Taylor Derby Day (Chatto & Windus - Random House)

The titles were chosen by a panel of five judges chaired by author and former Director-General of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington.
A total of one hundred thirty eight books were submitted, seven of which were called in by the judges, to be considered for the ‘Man Booker Dozen' long list. 

The four first time novelists on the list are Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvvette Edwards and Patrick McGuinness. 
The list also includes three publishers new to the prize: Oneworld, Sandstone Press and Seren Books.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Play For Pay: Harry Potter & The Hypocrisy of the Church

An article in today's Columbus Dispatch by Meredith Heagney trumpets,

                             Faith leaders forgive Harry Potter  

"It wasn't so long ago that an orphan boy with a lightning-bolt scar was considered a danger to America's children, at least by some Muggles. Conservative Christians blasted the Harry Potter books and movies as promoting witchcraft and black magic.

"But years have passed, and Harry has grown up to become a mainstay in pop culture. Ahead of next Friday's release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the eighth and final movie in the series, religious critics are largely absent."

As glad as I am to see that the faithful have finally come to their senses, signalling what we all hope is the end of religious persecution of a group of fictional characters, I have to wonder why. 

It seems to me that the reason is obvious; the religious institutions that were here-to-fore persecuting the author and her books have finally figured out how to play them in a different light.


"In fact, many voices of faith are trumpeting the morals and values of the series, which they say can teach timeless truths about love, courage and sacrifice."

They still do not like the witchcraft and wizardry, which is the magic that makes the Harry Potter series what it is... a compelling coming-of-age tale of good-versus-evil set in a fantasy world.

Meanwhile, back-at-the-ranch, these same religious leaders continues to demonise other fantasy writers for committing the same sins that author J.K Rowling supposedly committed.

The real meaning of all this I'll leave to you, the reader to decide, but I know where I'd place my bets.

 You can read the the entire Columbus Dispatch article here

Looking For A Daily Dose Of Great Science Fiction & Fantasy ?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's Short Story Month

To Celebrate, we invite you to come read some really great short stories by a group of talented newcomers!

The Unlocked Project - Unlocked: Ten "Key" Tales

Ménage à 20 (Twenty Goodreads Authors) 

And the best part? They're Free! 

So, come read us, then, and let us know how we're doing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Happy Children's Book Week

 Be a sponsor, be a friend. Click on the image above and donate to CBW.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chapter 1: Redo Fphen, ScriptMistress.

The ScriptMistress sat back in her chair with a sigh of relief. At long last, the editing of the manuscript from the nether regions was done. 
She gave the cockoo clock in the corner a scathing glare at is began to chirp the hour. The job had consumed most of her time for the past three weeks. 
She looked longingly out the window of her tower, watching with envy the white flakes of snow drifting down upon the city. Outside it was Christmas Eve. Her friends would be making Merry at the Pig-In-A-Poke Ale House and she wished to be there with them.
She gave a forlorn look at the stack of menus in the corner. A proper meal would be most welcome, but it was too late to dine; the eating establishments would all be closed, and thanks to her brother Hubbard, who was staying over "longer than planned due to unforeseen circumstances," the cupboard at home was bare. For most of the month she'd been subsisting on out-takes from The Hock-of-Ham Beanery and Feng Shui's Chopsuey house. 
Well, tonight she would have a pint or two of The Pigs best, then go home to rest. Tomorrow she would feat with friends at His Majesty's expense at the annual Kings Feast. 
Buoyed by the thought, she reached for a small piece of foolscap, lifted her quill from its well and wrote;
'Invoice enclosed. Please Pay Promptly.'
She inked her initials in broad, stylised strokes.
Wrapping the manuscript carefully, she placed it inside one of her patented 'Revisions-In-A-Fortnight' (TM) messenger cases and locked it with the client’s private code. Standing, she stretched, feeling her age and found it depressing. 
Despite this, she yanked the bell-pull and waited until the runner appeared in her doorway. As she handed him the case she asked, "All has been quiet?"
"Aye ScriptMistress, it has, although there is still that bunch at the door. I tol' 'em you'd now't be seeing others today, but most look like lambs who has lost their way.'
She shook her head. Poor fools, some of them penniless; they congregated at the scriptorium door and would read aloud whenever someone came to enter or exit the establishment, hoping against hope that one of the ScriptMaster's would find it in their hearts to pass favourable judgements on their often equally penniless clients all too meagre efforts.
The ScriptMistress sighed and gathered her cloak and dagger, swirling it around and over her shoulders, then settling and smoothing it before reaching into her locked box and removing her most prised possession. 
After a last look about the room, she left it for the boy to clean up, pausing only to dim the mage lights before stepping carefully down the circular staircase and reaching for the door key. 
Stepping outside, she paused to turn and lock the door before turning to face the small crowd.
Standing amongst them, grinning like a ferret, one man began to read loudly. She begged him halt, then looked at him. LInus Hockingscript was a pirate, wanted in several lands for his adulterations of well-known manuscripts, which he sometimes successfully passed off as original works.
"Have not I warned thee not to darken my doorstep, Master Thief?"
He began to protest, speaking again from the now snow covered pages, upon which she could see clearly his careless scribbling.  
Redo Fphen sighed, then reached into the soft, supple, golden leather pouch at her waist and drew her Smith&Wesson bolt action quill and dropped in a cartridge.
Too late, Linus looked up from the pages to see her take aim. He tried to make a hasty 'exit, stage left' but instead fell though the black hole she'd quickly inked in his path.
Returning the weapon to her pouch, she looked upon the now withdrawing crowd. 
"Get thee gone, for it is Christmas Eve, and I am of no mind to suffer fools this night. Next time, make an appointment."
With that, she strode off, stopping to roll up the black hole, lest someone else  step in it.
Reaching the doors of the Pig, she calmed as she heard those within laughing and listening to the Carols of Christmas sing their latest hit tunes. Inside, she felt the warmth envelope her as she made her way to the bar.
Will 'Shakes' Spearion, the owner, gave her a friendly wave and slid a cold pint into her hands before pointing her toward a table by the fire. She hesitated, as one of the chairs was already occupied, but continued on when she saw him to be an old friend.
"Greetings of the season, Red, "said The Shadow, raising his glass in a toast.
A turn of the glass passed quickly as other friends wandered by to speak their greetings while Yancy 'Yellin' Yolan, an orator of dubious repute stood in the corner, trying to convince others that the noise he'd heard on his roof the past Christmas Eve was the great man himself... and not, as all well knew, a couple of drunks trying to get into the wrong house.
All was going well until just a quarter of the hour of midnight.  Red was shooting darts against a pair 'o docs from the local E.R. when the front door of The Pig slammed open and the blowing snow followed three darkly dressed strangers in from the night. 
Red turned to look and blanched white as snow the moment she saw them. 
These were outlaws of the worst sort, wanted by the crown for unimaginable crimes of heresy.
Will chose that moment to sidle over to her. "I want no trouble in here. Those witches last year were bad enough."
Redo shook her head.
"This is much worse," was all she could utter.
She knew them, only too well. She had avoided being implicated for her involvement with them years before. The last thing she needed now was to be identified in public by one of them. 
At the very least it would mean the end of her career. She'd be back-listed by the guilds for the rest of her life. At the worst, the crown would put her away for a very long time.
Taking care to seem as if she were heading to the W.C., she slipped her cloak off the back of the chair and headed toward the rear of the pub.
'Shakes' caught up with her just at the door.
"Who are they, Red?"
"The worst kind, Will."
As she slipped outside, she turned to face him.
"They're Anthologists."