It is my firm belief that writing prompts are a waste of time. If you need prompting into creating a story to write about, perhaps you should find a different hobby to occupy your time. Prompts are for people that lack the imagination to explore on their own. If you are a user of prompt, don’t hate me. I was too for numerous years as I struggled to find my voice. The interesting thing is that I stopped struggling when I stopped using prompts and stopped strangling the voice inside me and allowed it to run free. The first story I did that for was the first story I sold.
I find that often when I look at prompts, I usually think that the writer of the prompt has a vivid imagination. They did the thinking for me, now all I need to do is paint by numbers and call myself an artist. Of course, that isn’t the truth of the matter. Many great stories have been born from prompts, but my gut reaction is that anything I would write would be cliché to the point of plagiarism.
How do you avoid this pitfall? Easy. Don’t use Prompts to stimulate your writing.
For those of you that feel like this is taking a tool out of your box, rest assured, I will tool your box all up with a suitable substitute. And here’s the key: INSTEAD OF USING WRITING PROMPTS, USE A SUBMISSION CALL
There are thousands of websites, Facebook groups, and even email lists for submission calls. And here’s the real kicker. Submit the story once you are done. Submit it if you think you lost focus on the call and went on a tangent about socks. Submit it if you think the publisher is going to hate it because your story is about fairies and rainbows and the anthology is about fierce beasts from mythology. Submit it if you think you are a hack writer that couldn’t write your way out of a paper bag (the key to writing out of a paper bag is to imagine it is a box instead, and then write outside of it). No matter the reason for your insecurities, write your story and submit it. Send it to an editor first though. It’s not a blog post for the love of God.
If you would like a good list of calls for horror, science fiction, and fantasy then check out http://ralan.com/
Search around and find the market that appeals to you the most. Searching the markets is a fun alternative to Candy Crush while on the shitter. Good luck with the search.
As many of you probably know, my latest book is There Are No Zombies In America (henceforth known as TANZIA in this document) is not a zombie book. There are no zombie hordes wandering the streets… except JB’s, but that doesn’t count. There are no brutal imagery of zombies eating people… except the Youtube videos, but they don’t count. I’m getting off topic here. What I am trying to say is that this is not a zombie book.
So the problem here is zombies are mentioned in the title of the book yet it is not a traditional zombie book. Trust me, I have read hundreds of zombie books, and this is not one of them. Yet the people that generally buy zombie books will steer away from it like a steer from a slaughterhouse. And the people that generally don’t buy zombie books, they will fly from it like a fly from Mr. Miyagi’s chopsticks.
So the dilemma is such, how do I lure the steer to the slaughter house and trap the fly in the web. In short and with fewer mixed metaphors, how do I sell this damn book. One of my readers, the wonderful Stan Davis, helped me some by reading the book and posting a wonderful review. Then he sat down at his computer and designed a new cover for the book that he thought better captured the mood of the story. I am deeply grateful to him for his generosity.
But now what. Sales are still slow coming, yet the reviews have been very good. I am thinking of doing a free weekend of the kindle version, but I’m not sure it will help any. It is a book I want people to read, and I am not even concerned about the money as much. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
City is one of those Science Fiction books that has a brilliant idea, but the delivery is just muffled a bit to make it a good read but not great. I see it very much in the same mold as Asimov’s Foundation. There is a lot that can be discussed here, but all of them would involve spoilers. It is very complex and will be sure to take turns you didn’t expect. I would call it a must read for all science fiction fans, even though I do not think it is the best book by Simak. If you have read this, I would love to discuss some of the philosophical ideas and dilemmas presented. Please message me.
Christopher Minori’s anthology of short stories, Dirty Little Secrets is a fun set of stories, each one bringing classic themes of horror and speculative fiction out for a new stroll through you mind. While none of the stories offer a truly groundbreaking story, they do what they set out to do; they entertain.
Minori is from the mold of writers whose craft has been molded through thought experiments of other stories and how they can be twisted into a new tale. The results can be stale at times and brilliant at others.
My favorite stories from this anthology are Father’s Request and The Hummel Store, which is strange for me as they are also ghost stories. I generally do not prefer ghost stories, but I thought these two were Minori’s best efforts. What made these, and A Pound of Flesh, work so well is that the characters in these stories were built to a more acute angle and made whole. While other stories in the book fall short as the characters are made shallow or are cartoon parodies of real people.
While I am often a fan of satire, I think Minori’s style tends to be better when dealing with serious topics. The several comedic pieces in the book fell short for me.
All in all, this was a fun read. Elements of the old Twilight Zones lurk in these pages. Give it a shot.
Of all the Star Wars books I have read, This is my favorite. It is my favorite because it is not a fantasy like the rest of the films, or even a Space Opera or science fiction. Kenobi is a western, and Jackson even included all the old tropes of the western genre. One of my favorite aspect is the the mysterious stranger that shows up and cleans up the town is actually known to us. The Pale Rider is Obiwan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, the trainer of Anikan Skywalker, killer of Darth Maul. We have pulled the mask off the Lone Ranger, and he is one of the last Jedi. If you are a Star Wars fan, read this book. Especially now that there are talks of a movie.
Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, is not the dark wizard his father is, but he clearly has a bit of his father’s flare in him. The Fireman is a very interesting story. The initial story is pretty ridiculous, but the characters are wonderful, and the action builds to an inferno. I would give this one 3 out of 5. Worth a look if you have the time and the inclination.
Duma Key has, since it’s publication, been one of King’s most disliked books. The reasons are fairly clear. It is a book with a monster story thrown in because that is what King likes to do, but the other story of healing on a personal retreat and finding a hidden talent as a coping mechanism is the far more compelling story.
So in this mess of a story, King tells us a story that is both very human and quite personal and then ties it with a fantastical, mystical story that is far fetched and really kind of stupid. But that is what makes King the master he is. King can create characters and tell us about our lives like nobody else, and then he brings the dark.
I recommend this one. I give it a 4 out of 5. It is far from King’s best, and far from his worst too, but it is a fun ride and I enjoyed seeing the worlds of realism and abstract combine on the canvas.
Heinlein is one of those names that when I hear it I am instantly filled with a sense of respect and admiration. With the likes of Bradbury and Asimov, Heinlein has me from the outset. Unlike the others, Heinlein usually loses me in pretty short order.
This book is probably the best of the old masters that I have read, or the one that has held up the best. Heinlein is just so deeply wedged in his own ideology that his science fiction is unable to see beyond his limited scope.
I enjoyed this book. Yet I found it too often fell into the Heinlein flaws of still rejecting females as worthy characters and always having the government as the ultimate evil. In short, I am starting a campaign in my own mind to revoke Heinlein’s legend status, not because he no longer deserves it, but because he never deserved it in the first place.
Orson Scott Card may be a horrible human, but at least his books don’t show that.
There is a lot of confusion about my new book. Many people are telling me that they are bored to death with zombies, that the zombie genre has been done to death, and that there is just no way to breathe new life into the zombie story. I agree. That is not what There are No Zombies in America is about. This book is far scarier than zombies. This book is about Americans.
The basic idea of the book is that there is a zombie apocalypse is all other continents, but there are no zombies in America, hence the title. Now think about that for a second. What fractions of Americans would you hear about? The average American would likely hear the news and worry, maybe even donate to a cause that will help in one way or another, but those are not the ones you will hear about. There are eight groups.
- World Leaders: Since the book was written right after the election, or rather in response to it, Trump is at the forefront of much of what happens. He is not a character in my book, but his policies on zombie prevention are discussed at length.
- Conspiracy Theorists: Where there are world events there are conspiracy theories. And somehow these fruitcakes still manage to get their voices heard.
- Religious Wack-jobs: In my heathen eyes, they are the same as conspiracy theorists only not as up to date. Religious Wack-jobs are as American as Scientology and Mormonism. But we all know who the most dangerous of all wack-jobs are, the ones that get heard from the most: Christians. And never forget this: Jesus was a zombie.
- Militias: A well-armed militia is the only thing that separates America from the civilized world. You know damn well that if zombies were reported as true then we would see the neighborhood watch transform into the neighborhood trigger happy militia.
- Authority: By authority I mean all the different forms that work together to create the police state. I’m talking Cops, Coast Guard, USPS Postal Inspectors, Secret Service, FBI, CIA, LMNOP… Wherever there is trouble they are there, hopefully helping, but…
- Media: of course they are going to be the loudest of all, but if Trump fed the media false stories about zombies, what would happen? What would happen if Trump loudly declared that “There are no zombies in America!” How would that get spun?
- Zombie Survivalists: I truly believe that more homes in America have a zombie survival strategy than have a fire survival strategy. And every nut would come out of its shell to share their strategy.
- Rationalists: Rational thinking people that put themselves out there are often the last to be heard and usually not understood until after they are dead.
These are the driving forces of my book. As for zombies, THERE ARE NO ZOMBIES IN AMERICA! How many times must I say it?
My new book is out and getting some great feedback. Right now, I really want to just get it out there more. I want to get this book in as many hands as possible. I just don’t know how to do it. I’m not a marketing guru and I certainly not a salesman. Hell, I’m an awkward glance away from being a recluse, three inches of beard away from being a hermit. So how should I go about getting this book out there?
I’ve decided a teaser is in order. The segment below is from chapter 1 It is where I introduce Angel, perhaps my favorite character I’ve ever written about.
So Dustin, after Israel fell and the virus spread (we call it a virus, everyone does, but the general public has no clue what it is. I am a part of the clueless general public.) said to me, “We need to start preparing to protect ourselves. We need to be ready for it when it hits state side.”
I agreed whole heartedly and got up to get another Grande Skinny Caramel Macchiato with soy. When I returned, Dustin was gone. Angle was sitting where he had been. Angle is a sweet girl, but not a girl I or anybody had ever been sweet on, if you know what I mean. She is a Chinese American. Her face is Chinese (these are her words, her joke, not mine. I wouldn’t say this if it wasn’t how she described herself.), but her body was all American. Angle wasn’t round; she was a rhombus cube, like an eight-sided D&D dice. She often described herself as the square peg. Her real name was Angela, but she got the nickname Angle back when we were in college. I was pursuing a history degree, Dustin was pursuing media communications, and Angle was pursuing teaching and became a geometry teacher at a nearby high school. Now Angle has two meanings. Go figure. Irony was so much better before the zombies. Now nobody takes time to appreciate the ironic.
“Nobody takes time to appreciate the ironic anymore,” I said.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Angle can’t curse at the school, so for the first hour after arriving at the coffee shop, she is a vulgarian to make Eddie Murphy blush.
“I just told the barista that my name was Bob Upperton.”
Angle looked at me like I was dachshund pissing on her pillow. “What the fuck does that mean? Are you fucking retarded? That’s not even irony, you brainless cow fucker.” None of this was said with any malice or with any desire to offend. That’s just Angle’s way after school. She really is a sweet person.
“So how was your day?”
“Like being stuck in a colostomy bag with Gilbert Godfrey.”
That should give you a feel for the kind of story it is. Thank you for reading.