Greetings, my inklings. It’s been too long! My health has been poor but my love for writing (and for you lot hasn’t waned in the least). My short story “MadWorm”, the winner of The Writing Piazza’s first ever writing contest, needed a new home so I’ve brought it here to our Octopus’s garden to share once more. I hope to have some new material for you soon, until then enjoy Runt and Heavy’s tech savvy adventure below and let me know what you think in the comments.
MadWorm by Robert JV Christensen
Levi was on the driveway unboxing his senior project before letting it come inside.
“Kelly is going to go nuts when she sees you, Mobo,” he whispered to the heaps of plastic and carbon fiber plating scattered around him, “Where’s your head? Ah! There you go, buddy.”
“Honey, your brother is home, aren’t you going to come see him?” their mother called up to Kelly’s window from down in the yard. An unrepentantly cheerful voice sounded from an open window on the second floor in response.
“I have my routine, Mom! Heavy can wait.”
Mom set down the magazine she had been reading and rolled her eyes before shouting back, “Don’t call him that, Kelly-”
“It’s okay, Mom. It’s a term of endearment thing,” Levi said, his hands spilling over with copper wiring, “I think.” Continue reading →
Mythris couldn’t understand how the stone had become their king in the first place, that is until hearing it decree his banishment. Its voice rumbled forth from somewhere deep inside its craggy surface and there was little room to question its sincerity.
“FOR CRIMES AGAINST THE STONES WE DECLARE YE BANISHED! IF IT IS IN THEE TO RETURN, YE WILL BE CAST INTO THE CHASM! BEGONE YE TRAITOROUS STONE CUTTER!”
The guardsmen cowered under the blast of its voice but Mythris stood tall and said nothing. One of his captors gave a hard pull at the chain around his neck, pulling him down to kneel on the stone outcropping that lead to the Royal Boulder.
“Show some respect, eh? You know It coulda been a lot harder on you,” the guard snarled.
“It’s just a rock,” Mythris hissed under his breath.
Welcome back, my inklings! Today I want to talk about competition. As much as we don’t like to look at it, competition is inherent to the craft of writing. We compete with each other in the market place and on the bookshelf. We vie for space in the imaginations of our readers.
When you put something out there, even something free, you’re engaged in the battle to take some of that limited supply of attention for yourself. At the outset of every story we write, we are asking our readers for the most valuable thing that anyone can give to us. Their time.
To find out where you stand in the marketplace of ideas, to get your name and work out there in front of people and to build an eye catching resume for yourself as an author you’ve got to prove you can win. To yourself and to everyone else.
Contests are a great measuring stick and one of the most exciting challenges you can take on as a writer.
Knowing what competitions to enter can be difficult, most have reading fees which can become pricey if you enter a lot of them. Some restrict your copyright so badly that they reserve the right to use your submission any way they please, edit it themselves without notice and not even credit you when they publish it (I excluded exactly such a contest from this list for its outrageously anti-author terms of service).
So, as a favor to you, my dear inklings, I have decided to share three upcoming free contests with deadlines in the next several weeks.
Full contest rules and submission guidelines are available at the following links
Source: Baen Books Contest: 2016 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award Entry Fee: None Word Limit: 8,000 words Call For: Short Stories in any Fantasy genre variant Deadline: Started Jan 1st, closes April 1st
Prizes: Grand Prize– Exposure! Published as featured story on Baen Books main website and paid “industry-standard rates for professional story submittals” as well as $500 worth of books.
2nd Place- $500 of free books!
3rd Place- $300 of free books!
Source: DemiCon 27 Contest: DemiCon 27 Prose and Poetry Contest Entry Fee: None Word Limit: 7,500 for Short Stories, 100 Lines for Poetry Call For: Short Stories and Poems in Sci-Fi or Fantasy genres, must contain the phrase “like a zombie” and the sentence “They always ring twice.” Deadline: March 29th, 2016
Prizes: 1st Place– Bragging rights, of course!
Also, all entries will be published on the official website after judging is completed and will be available to the attendees in print form at the convention.
Source: City of Ventura, CA Contest: Art Tales 8th Annual Writing Contest Entry Fee: None Word Limit: 500 words or less Call For: Flash Fiction or Poetry inspired by selected artworks (see website for details) Deadline: April 4th, 2016
“All winners receive a bound edition of the judges’ selection”
1st Place– $30
2nd Place– $15
I encourage all of you to enter and compete! I’d love to hear from you if you win, place or even just entered. Even if you don’t come in first you still have a new completed story and that’s a victory in itself.
Join me next week when I’ll give you some tips on writing winning entries to help guide you to the top. Until next time, stay creative!
Welcome back, my inklings, to Writamins! An article series designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get you writing with my very own brand of condensed writing nutrition.
Now we all want to write stories that pop off the page and there’s a lot that goes into it but at the very center of it all is the characters. If you want people to come along for the ride and love every minute you need characters that will provoke an emotional response. If your readers love and hate the people on the page then they’re really into it. Drawing out emotional investment from your readers is necessary to giving them the best and most exciting experience possible.
So today we’re gonna talk about characters your readers will love to hate. So start thinking villainous thoughts, everybody, cause we’re gonna take some Vitamin V!
Vitamin V: Villainous Villains: Exercise: Take your favorite character (could be your own or from a book or show you like). Come up with their antithesis, whether they have an enemy already or not. Invent the person that represents everything your favorite character stands against and write a flash fiction piece just for that villain. (Your favorite character doesn’t need to be in the story for this evil exercise.)
Now for the active ingredients of Vitamin V!
8 Quick Tips For Villainous Villains
1. Know your villain’s overall goal, what are they obsessing over when they’re off page? Their actions should push their agenda whether in secret or out in the open. People, objects and places that no longer play into the villain’s plans can be discarded callously or kept close for later usefulness depending on the villain.
2. Find the lynchpin between the hero and the villain. There must be an inescapable reason for your villain and your hero to collide. Merely having opposed ideals does not necessitate conflict. Teammates can have opposed ideals, it doesn’t make them destined foes.
Conflicting goals concerning the same person, place or thing, however, do necessitate a decisive battle. Whether it be a social conflict about how the new kid in school is being treated or a full out mounted dragon war with spears of flame to decide the fate of the Castle Whitehollow, that’s up to you!
3. Great villains strike heroes close to home. For example, when a villain comes after a hero’s school, friends or family readers respond emotionally as if they are the ones threatened.
4. A truly fantastic villain is one that would have made a wonderful hero if circumstances were different. Your villain cares about something. Find out what it is. A great villain would see himself as the hero.
5. Villains must be credible threats. If a villain constantly has their plans foiled and never makes any progress toward their goal there will be no excitement in the final climax of the story. Their loss will be a foregone conclusion.
6. Villains don’t need to kill for the threat to be real. Once a character has died they can’t change, they can’t grow, they can’t move the plot. Basically death for a fictional character is the last thing they can ever do for the story. Use death sparingly or lose its potency. Life and death should be the ultimate stakes, not just the tool to show whether or not a character is dangerous or evil.
7. Villains who capture, wound, and terrify can be more powerful at rocking the emotions than villains who merely kill.
8. Great villains are never evil just for the sake of it. Their desire for their goal must be stronger than their fear of the consequences of violating laws and social norms. If a villain feels they have nothing more to lose they can act freely. Villains with real lives, jobs and families are also fascinating because they have to go about their villainy more carefully.
A villain represents humanity unchained. Like it or not, evil and selfishness are a part of what we are. Your villain was once an ordinary person that was swallowed up by the desire for their goal.
Welcome back, my inklings, to Writamins! Your regular dose of condensed writing nutrition designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get your project in gear!
This weekend is Independence Day here in America and many of my readers will likely be spending time with friends and relatives trying not to explode while the kids survive the annual pyrotechnic ritual we affectionately call “The 4th of July”. Now how, you might ask, is an inkling supposed to get work done on their magnum opus on a holiday weekend? Take some Writamin D, of course!
Writamin D: Dialogue:
Dialogue is crucial to building believable and compelling characters Continue reading →
Welcome, my inklings, to Writamins! Writing Vitamins or “Writamins” is my new article series designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get you writing with my very own brand of condensed writing nutrition.
If you’re like me you have a million ideas for books with new ones popping up almost daily, but how do you narrow them down? It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to write an entire book, so how can you know that your concept and characters are going to excite people and really connect with your readers? Take some Vitamin S, of course! Continue reading →
Welcome back, my inklings! Here is the science fiction adventure tale “Verser” which won first place in the Constellation 6 writing contest at the beginning of May. I hope you enjoy it!
by Robert JV Christensen
Hail’s heart was pounding as he sprinted through the smoldering city streets while fire-arcs, like bolts of lightning, cascaded down around him slashing deep wounds into the ancient steel skyscrapers. He held a toddler, in his arms as he ran, sheltering him as best as he could.
“Hold on, Harp,” Hail said to him. The boy, shaking with fear, could only cry. He winced and shrieked as a loud crash let Hail know that another building was coming down nearby.
Holding Harp tightly, Hail leapt from where he stood up a few stories to the roof of a nearby parking garage. Casting a hasty glance up at the sky, he saw the sun eclipsed by an enormous flying metal structure. It was the Iron Fortress of Ageless.
Hail and Ageless were Versers. Once, there weren’t any Versers. Life was better then.
The Iron Fortress cast another deadly strike of flame down upon the city and Hail frantically looked for a path of escape. Continue reading →
In which the Octopus provides an Introduction and Tips 1 and 2
The mythical first sentence; for your book, it is the phrase that launches one hundred thousand words. For your reader, it’s almost like your book’s pick up line. You’re trying to inspire the reader into getting into a serious relationship with your story. This is about more than just making a good first impression.
The first sentence is sometimes your only chance to snatch up a potential reader’s interest and propel them headlong into your story. Write a great one and your reader will dive in and not look back. Write a bad one and, well…take a look at this: Continue reading →
Hello, my inklings! This short story is the result of my St. Patty’s day writing prompt. I highly recommend the exercise, especially randomly rolling up your combination of story elements, since it gave me the chance to practice building a plot and characters according some factors that were out of my hands. It felt great getting something worth sharing out of what started out sounding like a tall order. Write like an octopus and squeeze through any gap, my friends!
“The Last Voyage of Richard Breen”
By Robert JV Christensen
Richard Breen was a man of numbers unsuited to life at sea, but never the less there he was. The wobbly horizon rose and fell from the view of his porthole window like an indecisive painting and the rising sun cast its errant beams about the room whenever it came into view. Richard held both hands over his eyes and tried to imagine that he was anywhere on solid ground. Someone wrapped at the door. Continue reading →
Hello there my Inklings! Are you having a great Tuesday the 17th? I hope so.
Since it happens to be St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d try prompting myself with a traditional Irish folklore monster in a style and setting that I wouldn’t normally expect to find them. Feel free to try it for yourself. I chose to randomly roll up a combination using the dice roller at random.org (https://www.random.org/dice/). For traditionalists, I have included the possibility of a Fantasy story set in the Dark Ages featuring a folklore creature.
Even if you decide not to write something, I highly recommend the folklore info links below for some Irish themed St. Patty’s day reading. Continue reading →