Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Clarity of Night - "Elements" Contest *Update* Results are in!

The Clarity of Night Contest is over. Congratulations to Darby Krenshaw, who won with the story called "RIF"

My piece called "After", didn't place, but, I did qualify for "The Forties Club". If you've been involved with one of these contests before, you'll know that that in itself is pretty damned cool. (Quickly, for those who don't - stories are scored out of 50 on technical merits and writing skill, anything over 40 gets into "the club".)

Thanks go to Jason Evans for running such a great contest. Some other authors who have enjoyed his hospitality and contests through the years have set up an "afterparty" blog to thank Mr. Evans for his generousity of time and money in setting up this, and other contests. If you've been a fan of the Clarity of Night contests (or will soon become one... ;)  ) go on over and drop Jason a line.

Now that the contest is over, I'm happy to bring my entry over here and share it with you.  It turned out more or less how I hoped it would. (I've been saying that a lot recently - I think this "trying harder" thing might have something to it.)


After



Grace jerked awake, gasping for air. In her dream, she'd been trapped in a burning house and acrid smoke had choked off her breath.

She started coughing. Coughing became retching. The air in the living room was a stinking red miasma, swirling along the floor in unwholesome eddies. It smelled of metal, and something else – something familiar.

Cupping a hand to her mouth, Grace took a tiny sip of air. Again her body rejected the vapour as useless. Her chest began to throb. It was like being under water with no view to the surface. The fog was oppressively humid, but she was shivering.


The ceiling track lights had become hectic yellow beacons in the mist. Grace stood up on the sofa, following their glow. The cloud was a little thinner away from the floor.

She inhaled again, coughed again. Still no good. Her lungs were a throbbing blue agony. Grey and purple sparks danced before her eyes. Up ahead, the living room door swam into view. With lurching, desperate steps, Grace charged for the blackness.

She stumbled through the door and the mist was gone. With a single, painful whoop, Grace filled her lungs. The swampy, fetid air tasted awful, and wonderful.

When she looked back into the room, through its curtain of red, the air escaped her in rush.

Memories flooded in to take its place: Alan, accusations, tears, screaming, and finally, the shotgun.

After one final moment, Grace turned, and stepped gratefully into the welcoming dark.
 
 
***LAST THING***
 
As of this post, there's about 2 hours left to enter Lily Childs' Friday Prediction. I'll be sending my winner's picks to her tonight. Check out her site tomorrow for the results.*CLICK*

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Lessons" and Lily's Friday Prediction

Got some great news Thursday - my entry "Lessons" into Lily Childs' weekly "Prediction" Challenge came up #1.

Not only is this amazing, in that I managed to squeak out a whole lot of amazing stories, but this week's win brought an additional laurel - I'll be your humble (?) judge for this week's go.

The words are: Slur, Invisible, Moat.  Give me your best shot (in 100 words or less.)

Here - if you missed it, is "Lessons" (featuring a character I'm probably not done with yet.)

Lessons

Molly stood atop the spire, and watched the little demons play. There was such volatility in the young, and so little subtlety. They roamed about seducing or assaulting at their whim.

It came, after all, to just one more bloodless sheep in an alleyway.

She straightened her legs, and went en pointe on the tip of the copper cross. It was showy, but she was feeling precocious.

A moment later, Molly dropped heavily to the street. She applied emerald lipgloss, and smiled. Tonight, she would teach. Her new playmates would learn what it was to hunt.

They smelled delicious.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quick Writes

Nothing fancy today - just a note that Jason Evans' Clarity of Night contest is open for business.

Write 250 words, using the given photo as a prompt. Check it out here.

There's prizes!  I'm going to be throwing something in for this one, as I continue to finish up a few shorts in preparation for throwing all my effort behind the novel soon.

I just had some excellent feedback from another writer on one of the stories, and tried to do the same for them in return - though it's always a somewhat prickly situation to offer critique to another writer - especially if they're a friend. My own critical style comes from the way I was critiqued during a recent college creative writing course. It's a little blunt at times, but I found that it helped me immeasureable.

Hopefully, if an excellent story comes of it, then it's all worth it.

Keep writing.

Chris

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's the World's Oldest Part of Speech?

Thesaurus.

Yes, I just said that.  

(Please don't leave.)

The question I've got today is this - when do you decide to dig into the literary china cabinet and break out "the good words?"

I've heard two sides to this story. There's one argument that says that using one precise word for what you mean can be so much more effective than three words that bring about almost the same idea.

E.g. 
1.  Edward walked with slow, even steps toward Bella. She waited at the bar, sharpened stake in hand.  He'd come home smelling like wolf for the last time.

2. Edward ambled toward Bella.  She lingered at the bar, fondling a sharpened stake. He'd come home smelling like wolf for the last time.

Not necessarily the perfect example - but I think the word "ambled" in the second scenario adds a little something. There are associations with the word "ambled" that "walking with slow steps" doesn't really touch.

Now - the other side of the story is - pretentious. This is the thinking that if you don't "own" the word, don't use it. (And for heaven's sake don't just go through randomly swapping 50 cent words for the 3 dollar variety. You'll come off sounding faker than a ... yeah.

E.g. #2

1. The killer drew near. His blade caught the moonlight, and in the yellow-white glare, Sarah saw madness.
2. The homicidal psychopath impended. His bodkin shimmered in the moonlight, and in the saffron luminescence, Sarah beheld dementia.

I'm being deliberately overwrought here, but you can see how easy it is to get carried away.

So - what I've come to is this - the thesaurus is definitely a tool for the editing room, and can certainly help tighten up some of those unwieldy sentences - and give you "ambled" or "sauntered" where you had a very matter-of-fact action.

But.

I think you do need to somewhat "own" the words you use. The thesaurus should remind you of words you've already read before. You need to be able to look at that chunk of synonyms and know which one you mean by what you've written.

A little while ago, I mentioned that I'm working on editing a story where the ending took off on me, and I'm just about done the second write. The process is incredibly slow this time around, but part of that is that I find myself being so much more careful this time around. I really am trying to grow my craft with everything I write, and what I'm finding is that I've been writing on a sort of plateau, and to get to the next level, I've got to work a little harder than I'm used to. Growing pains, I guess. But I'm trying, which may also explain some of my navel gazing of late.

As always, you should let your story and characters be your guide. But it never hurts to pick up and play with some of the tools in your kit from time to time.

Back to the editing room* I go.


Keep writin'.

C

*By the way - if anyone's in the mood, and has the time to offer a word of advice on this beast, I'd be more than happy to share.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

"Until Dead, Dead, Dead."

U.D.D.D.


Memories come unbidden in percussive flashes.

A girl.

A note.

A gun.

Red light blooms in an optic flood behind dehydrated eyelids. Tom's neck itches.

In the blinding light a man is standing. The pose says authority, the gun on his hip is unnecessary. The running is done.
"Your sentence ..." the man begins. The only word that matters is treason. Tom shuts his eyes.

E-mails.

Stolen files.

A girl.


On his right, something creaks - something long unused.

There is just one crime left here that warrants death.

This one.

A girl.

Falling.

Black.
____________________

This is my 100 word entry into this weeks "Friday Prediction" at Lily Childs' Feardom. The prompt words were: "optic", "treason", and "pose". What can you do with these? You have until Thursday at 9 p.m. (UK Time). Give it a go!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Eight Days of Madness - 200 Downloads! (and a "What's Happening" update)

I've been out of the loop for a little bit - on holiday with the family.  It's actually been amazing to almost completely unplug for going on a week now.  Last night I picked up paper and pen and felt the words come pretty easily.  There's a backlog of stuff I want to write, but I'm coming to understand that that's okay. It'll happen.

Some of the stuff I'm working through in my non-writer life has yet to resolve, but the rest and change of scenery (in a cabin on Lake Winnipeg) has been excellent.

Now - a big, fat WOO-HOO:


Eight Days of Madness just hit 200 downloads. That's 200 people that have now been exposed to the phenomenal writing of Laurita Miller, Richard Godwin, Benjamin Sobieck, Angel Zapata, Sean Patrick Reardon, Erin Cole and Lily Childs.  I'm so proud of this collection and of all the authors who gave stories to it.

Today is a good day.