Category Archives: Writing

The Casual Gamer

Those of you who have been subjected to my gaming-related posts here can breathe a sigh of relief – I’ve got a new gaming column called “The Casual Gamer”:http://www.differenceinopinion.com/category/columns/the-casual-gamer/ over at Difference In Opinion, so most of my gaming-related essays will probably appear there almost exclusively. Now, Difference in Opinion is a website built by a friend of mine that contains reviews, news, writeups, etc., of various video games, movies, and other forms of entertainment. The site has just recently undergone a redesign featuring columns from several contributors. Feel free to head over there and check things out.

New FoS Stories

This is what happens when you don’t receive submissions for awhile. You neglect to check for new entries, and so you end up with a couple in the queue that you didn’t know about. But it also means is that “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com has two new stories up today – one from new contributor Linda Courtland about a kidnapping, and another from veteran FoS contributor Rod Drake about a secret mission of Sherlock Holmes. Go read, and leave a few comments for the authors!

Book Reviews for an Alien

“Check it out”:http://www.apexdigest.com/Online/review071203.shtml – my first set of book reviews for someone other than myself. Awhile back, Jason Sizemore, the editor-in-chief of “Apex Digest”:http://www.apexdigest.com put out a call for a part-time book reviewer. I responded, gave him some past samples of a couple of books reviews I’ve done here, and then he shipped a book to me. It scored a bonus because it was actually one of those two-books-in-one deals. The results of that can now be seen at the link above. Hopefully, this will work out well on a monthly basis. I enjoyed reading the books and writing the reviews, so I’m looking forward to doing more of them in the near future.

He/She/It vs. They/Them

“Irregular Webcomic”:http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/1769.html has a funny strip up today that’s doubly amusing for writers. I’ve always known that using ‘they’ or ‘them’ as a pronoun to refer back to an (indeterminate) individual is _technically_ bad grammar, but as is pointed out in the notes that follow the strip, doing so is the best of the options available to the English language and, as such, is becoming more and more accepted in the common vernacular. The only other ‘best’ option is to coin a new term to refer back to an individual of unknown gender, but that route leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve actually read a couple of fantasy short stories where someone used _zie_ in this manner, and I ended up having to re-read sections two and three times until I figured out what they were trying to accomplish. I originally thought they were creating a new set of words exclusively for their story’s setting and only later learned of the movement to coin a gender-indefinite pronoun. It’s just always made more sense to me use ‘they’ or ‘them’ for this purpose, particularly because culture itself has driven the change. It’s effective and concise and everyone knows immediately what you mean.

Gotta love that head of a multiverse-spanning supernatural organisation.

Apex Digest and Clarity of Night

A couple of items of note:

* “Apex Digest”:http://apexdigest.com is running a subscription drive. They need more subscribers in order to be able to raise the pay rate for contributing writers. If you like science fiction and horror, then I highly recommend this publication. Go order a subscription or three!
* Jason Evans at “The Clarity of Night”:http://clarityofnight.blogspot.com has opened his seventh short fiction contest. Go to his blog to see the writing prompt and rules and then send him your 250-word or less story!

Writing Prompt #2

Kuksi Macabre

As promised here’s this week’s writing prompt. I’m even going to try to find time to whip up a story for it myself. Remember to keep the story at 1000 words or less. Comment here with a link back to your story, and at the end of the week, I’ll compile all the links into a single entry.

(Source: “Boing Boing”:http://www.boingboing.net/2007/10/29/kris-kuksis-fantasti.html)

Flashes of Speculation – Relaunch Examined

“Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com has been awake again for less than 24 hours, and already I’m very happy with things. I’ve had a handful of past contributors declare their excitement at its revival, and I’ve had three new stories posted already, accomplished through new registrations and stories submitted for review. That system already seems to work more smoothly than the previous one. I’ve also had three stories submitted in the last week or so, which spurred, in part, my own expediency at getting the site back in motion. I can only hope that things continue to progress so well a week from now and even a month from now.

I love the new theme – “Trevilian Way”:http://thedesigncanopy.com/downloads/trevilian-way/. I had originally planned to design a new theme for the site myself, but then I saw this one and decided there was no need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak. Trevilian Way already does just about everything I’d wanted, anyway, and I have this thing about designers and coders who keep re-inventing the wheel. Sure, there’s something extremely satisfying about displaying your own work, but I also have no problem using someone else’s theme when it meets my needs. And I must say – Trevilian Way _is_ pretty.

Tag CloudI changed some of the more subtle elements of FoS’s archiving system. For starters, I dropped all the author categories and merged them into a single Stories category. My intention is to mirror the same type of archive system I use here – use categories as the Table of Contents and tags as the index. That said, I set up Trevilian Way’s wide left sidebar with a tag cloud by going through each story and tagging it with, at minimum, the story author’s name and the genre or genres into which the story fits. Select stories were also tagged with additional terms, such as vampires, demons, etc., for common elements that readers might be interested in. Many of the stories were more difficult to classify and index and so did not receive any additional tags beyond author and genre.

ArchivesCategory and Archive lists have also been pushed into a drop-down dialogue in one of the sidebars. This will hopefully help prevent the sidebar area from expanding into a 3-headed hydra, about which you may have heard. I expect it will still fluff out a bit as we add more tags, so that tag cloud will likely be limited in number and an actual Site Index built from a tag cloud will be added as a Page.

I’ve had a request for a small banner graphic for FoS, as well, that contributors and fans can use on their own blogs to advertise. I’d meant to play around in Photoshop a little last night and just never quite made it that far. I hope to produce something on that front in the next day or two.

There are some as-yet ephemeral ideas in my brain about ways to make FoS more community-friendly – contests, giveaways, etc. – but nothing I’ve given much thought to yet. I also want to make more of an effort to solicit flash fiction from writers, which is going to mean my finding good speculative flash fiction writers. I’ve got a few flash fiction sites on my radar that I want to browse through again – it’s been quite some time since I gave much thought at all to such sites – so it’s just a matter of tracking those down again and catching up on what’s new.

I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed working with FoS, so it’s good to have it up and running again. I’m curious to see if I can make a better go at it than on its first tour. It will, of course, demand a fair bit of pro-action from myself, but it will also rely heavily on the excitement of the contributors, since FoS is in place largely for them as a venue to display some samples of their writing.

This is all very exciting.

Flashes of Speculation Open Once Again

After a six-month hiatus, “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com is once more open for business. With the site’s re-launch comes an upgrade to WordPress 2.3 and a new, magazine-style theme, courtesy of “The Design Canopy”:http://thedesigncanopy.com/. I am looking for contributions to the site, stories that are no longer than 1000 words and fall into any or all of the sub-genres of speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate history, etc.

Additionally, contributors are now able to register at Flashes of Speculation and use the WordPress Dashboard to submit their stories. These contributions will then be reviewed before being published in order to ensure proper formatting and quality as well as to prevent spammers. Hopefully, this will take a bit more of the load off me in getting new contributions published, as well as make Flashes of Speculation a little more of the community project I’ve always intended it to be.

I encourage you to go check out the site again and contribute stories if you’d like. I would also be very appreciative of any and all publicity you are willing to give to Flashes of Speculation through your blogs and websites.

Writing Prompt #1

I’d like to try something new – but it’s going to require a bit of reader participation. I know I don’t really have the time to sit down and do a lot of fiction writing right now, and I suspect there are a lot of others in the same boat. But I do know that the only way to get better at writing is to do a little of it on a regular basis. So, I’ve started compiling some visual prompts that spur the creative process. Here’s what I’d like to do:

Once a week, most likely on Fridays, I’ll post up a picture that I’ve either found on the web or is a photograph that I’ve taken. From there, you use that image as the basis for a short story. It can as short as a drabble (100 words exactly) or as long as a short story, but let’s not exceed 1500 words, for the sake of keeping the stories easily readable in a short period of time. Write your story, post it on your own blog, and then make sure there is a comment or trackback here pointing to your story. I’ll then compile all the links into a new entry on the following Thursday and post up a new writing prompt on Friday.

I’m going to need help with this, though, aside from needing people to write stories. I’d also appreciate as much word-of-mouth as I can get, so even if you don’t participate by writing stories, if folks could help by advertising these writing prompts on their own blogs and send people this way, that would help immensely to create a fun writing environment for everyone.

So, without further ado, here’s the first writing prompt:

vault.gif

Write a story based on this image that is no longer than 1500 words. Then leave a comment or trackback to this entry linking to your story so I can add it to the list.