Short Story Contest at Indie Book Trailers & More, Sponsored by Funds for Writers

Think Jekyll and Hyde; The Shining; Spock and Captain Kirk.  And let’s not forget about The Incredible Hulk.

Duality. That’s the theme for the Indie Book Trailers & More Summer Short Story Contest. Light and dark, big and little, sun and moon, good and bad, happy and sad, yin and yang, etc…

Get more information about the writing contest at the website. Only ten entrants will qualify, so hurry and get your story submitted. $10 entry fee, $150 prize, plus publication of the story on the website.

It’s not a big contest, but it is focused and worth your time. The contest is sponsored by Indie Book Trailers, and Funds for Writers, websites with much to offer. FFW is a credible and long-standing website with 40,000 subscribers. A mention on this site is valuable in and of itself. IBT has just recently launched and is on the grow, and honored to have the support of FFW.

The deadline to enter your short story (2,500 words or less) is July 20th, 2017. The winner will be announced on August 21st.

So, why enter writing contests? Here’s a link to an article on Writer’s Digest that discusses the pros and cons. The obvious reasons are to win money, to be published, and to have bragging rights. The worries the WD article gives are valid; You should make sure the contest is on the up and up. I am the owner of IBT&M, G. M. Barlean, a published author and a member of The Nebraska Writers Guild which supports ethics and good business practices. The contest sponsor, Funds for Writers, has a time-honored website run by a well-respected author, C. Hope Clark.

As judge of the competition, you should know I have participated in many critique groups and done critique and beta reading for many authors including those who are both traditionally and independently published. But, most importantly, I’m a reader. Readers are your market. Will the average reader like your story? Buy it? Review it? One thing you can be sure of: this reader will Blog about it, tweet about it, and post it on FaceBook.

The Summer Indie Book Trailers & More, Short Story Contest, may be just the boost your writing career needs this summer. Keep honing your writing blade. Compete. Keep your work sharp and get your name out there! See you on the website, and best of luck to those who enter!

 

THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN I’D ORIGINALLY THOUGHT

For the past week, I’ve had the urge to opine at length in a blog post, but, I’ve let my blogging wane to almost nothing, so I’ve hesitated.

When I began blogging, I was excited to write. The concept of dropping my ideas in a well and seeing what kind of echo came back was terribly appealing. I didn’t do it because I thought what I had to say was fascinating. I didn’t do it because I believed my opinions to be more accurate than others. I was just telling stories about myself, and I realize it was an exercise in developing my writing style and maybe, in getting to know myself.

I had also wanted to build a platform in hopes of gaining potential readers for my books. In that regard, I do believe blogging has been useful, but not to the same degree as the time it took me to study blogging, learn how to create websites, and figuring out what to say and how to say it.

In the dawn of my blog, my vision of writing was far different from it is now. If anything, I’d say it was cringe-worthy. I essentially clung to the theory of let-it-rip-writing. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar be damned.

I willingly admit, I’m not naturally good at spelling, punctuation, or grammar. It completely eludes me. I have to work very, very hard to write well. My husband tells me he can just see how things are supposed to be spelled. I cannot. Others have told me they just know, almost instinctively, how to punctuate. I do not. Writing has become something I desperately want to do, but almost fear. I’m sure I’ll get over this malaise, but for now, I’ve got writing fever and ague. Give me time. I’m bound to recuperate.

And so, I go about my craft in this new way: I write a sentence. Dissect the sentence. Rearrange the sentence. Then delete the sentence. I’ve turned into my own worst enemy and critique.

Although I may cringe at mistakes in memes, emails, or Facebook posts, I don’t judge—yet, they do irritate me. So, I guess I’m becoming a very different writer than I used to be. Different… and yet, I can almost promise the second after I hit publish on this post, I’ll see a mistake in my writing. Maybe you’ll point it out to me. It’s part of being a writer—humbly accepting criticism because we know it helps us grow.

This is why I attend writing conferences. This weekend is the Spring Conference for the Nebraska Writers Guild. If you’re a writer in this region, or want to be one, you should consider attending. I go to learn about the craft of writing, as well as business, marketing and promotion. I also go to visit with others who are wiser and smarter than I, to make friends, and to network with like minds. It’s always great to see the people I’ve come to think of as family, and I usually go home with pages-worth of ideas, some of which I actually implement.

If you’re interested in attending the NWG Spring Conference, go to the website to sign up today. http://www.nebraskawriters.org/. I’ll see you there!

LET THE JUDGING BEGIN!

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ALL ENTRIES ARE IN!

The “About a Nebraska Town” short story contest to promote Nebraska Writers Guild authors has received eleven entries: six women and five men. I could not be more excited about the quality of the stories and applicants.

To those who entered stories… judges have until March 1st to read, make comments, and select the winner by a point system. Best of luck to all. I can’t wait to read them, and I know the other judges are just as excited!

 

Below are reminders of the rules of this competition. Judges should keep these factors in mind when judging the stories:

  • This competition is NOT sponsored or run by The Nebraska Writers Guild.
  • Stories entered are no longer than 5,000 words.
  • Stories are fictional, original, and submitted by the author.
  • Stories must be set in a Nebraska town and reflect the feel of a Nebraska town.
  • There is no fee for this competition. It is FREE, privately run, and specifically for Nebraska Writers Guild Members.
  • Your story may be dark, light, humorous, sci-fi, mystery, romance, horror, fantasy… whatever, as long as it’s set in a Nebraska town (small town, big town, real or fictional town, etc.) Not mentioning Nebraska would decrease the story’s odds of winning.
  • Enter stories written for an adult audience. No children’s stories for this competition. (Maybe in the future.)
  • Only twenty-five entries accepted, first come, first serve. (We had 11 and I’m thrilled with that number.)

DEADLINES:

  • The deadline for submission to this competition is January 1st. No more entries accepted at this time.
  • The award for the winner of this competition will be March 1st.

JUDGING:

  • There will be four judges, myself, Victorine E. Lieske, and Kim Stokely and Delores Schmidt.
  • I will announce the winner here on this website and on other social media outlets.

PRIZE:

  • I will publish the winning entry here on my blog, as well as on my Facebook Author Site.
  • The winner will receive a Winner Badge to put on their website or social media pages.
  • All entrants will receive feedback about their story from the judges.
  • The winner will own all gloating rights for winning this competition and can brag as loudly as tolerated by their friends and neighbors.

Judging Notes:

  • Stories which include explicit sex (erotica) or any descriptive scenes of abuse of women, children, or animals, will possibly be excluded. If a story is turned away, the author will privately be given the reasons, but let it be known this is a private business website and I am careful of what content I associate my writing career with.
  • IF your story does include romantic scenes or excessive or harsh swearing and wins, a notice for readers at the time of publication on this site will accompany the story.
  • I and the other judges agree not to use any part of any of the entrants’ stories for personal or business use. By entering your story, we do not own the rights to it, and cannot publish any portion or full extent of it, except for the winner’s here on this blog one time.

 

THE MAGIC OF PLACE

Today’s blog is written by C. Hope Clark, an author friend of mine from South Carolina. I’m so proud to know her and call her friend. She’s a smart, strong woman and a fiercely good writer who is both Traditionally and independently published. I asked her to tell my readers about her Edisto book series. This is what she has to say…

Echoes of Edisto

I love a strong sense of place in my stories, as writer or reader, so when given the opportunity for a new mystery series, I leaped onto the chance to place my mysteries on Edisto Beach in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

The hardest of hearts and the saddest of souls can find peace on the sand, waves lapping at their toes. How many stories have been written and movies made about the ocean, and how people have used that ebb and flow, soft breezy environment to get away, seek answers, and let go of life’s burdens if even for a few days?

In my Edisto Mystery Series, I take a broken main character running from an eroded law enforcement career, and help her escape to the beach where she hopes to heal. But of course I do not let that happen, and what was supposed to be a long-term retreat for Callie Jean Morgan turns into death, injury, mental anguish, and a vicious cycle of life-threatening events. Amidst the waves, gulls, swaying palmettos and salty balmy wind, danger abounds. And in the newest in the series, Echoes of Edisto, just when Callie thinks her life is finding a new norm in the island paradise, death rears its head as she loses someone close. And the deeper she delves, the nastier the facts she learns about people she trusted.

Callie is often her own worst enemy, and since she operated in Boston for years, she views the beach from a detective’s eye, so even where island residents don’t see danger, she does. Without that juxtaposition of locations – big city rubbing against beach village – the magic wouldn’t happen nearly as well.

From another angle, she is Southern, reared in a political family in a mid-sized town about forty miles from the coast. Forever clashing with her socialist mother and ladder-climbing father, she graduates from a South Carolina college and takes a job up North, a smack in the face of any deep Southern family. She marries a Bostonian, but then I kill him off, forcing her to almost lose her mind and retreat to her roots. The class of place appears here as well. I make her life a yoyo, with setting often holding the string.

Setting can often assume the role of a character. When a tale can’t be told better anywhere else, setting has morphed into a player. Frankly, that’s my preference in reading material – those stories where even the very ground the character stands on has an impact on the plot.

But the beach . . . especially one as secluded as the real Edisto Beach . . . is romantic, magnetic, and beckoning. Who doesn’t enjoy the salt and surf. Add to it the signature marsh, oak trees dripping with moss, loggerhead turtles and pelican vees gliding two feet above the wave crests at dusk. It’s relaxation clashing with melancholy, peace going up against crime, the joy of endless waves versus the pain of no one to share it with.

Imagine Sherlock Holmes in other than England. Or Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum in other than New Jersey. Or Tony Hillerman’s western mysteries without the Navajo west? There are many mysteries that could happen in any urban setting, or any rural setting, or any country, for that matter. But doesn’t it enrich the storytelling so much more to know that where the players fight, love, live and die impacts how the tale all turns out?

Edisto March 3BIO

  1. Hope Clark inserts strong setting in both her award-winning Carolina Slade Mysteries and Edisto Island Mysteries, all set in rural South Carolina. Her newest release is Echoes of Edisto, book three in the Edisto series, available August 5 wherever books are sold. When she isn’t writing mysteries, she is editor of FundsforWriters.com, an award-winning site to aid professional writers in their careers. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central SC when she isn’t walking the coast of Edisto Beach. www.chopeclark.com

Casting Stones

cross coverBack in 2009 I decided I’d try my hand at writing. This is how addictions begin, folks. Some things dare not be tasted.
My first book, like a first love, is a wonderful memory. I dove into it like a wild child into a dark blue lake, without a worry if the water was deep enough, or even if I could swim. There’s something to be said for that kind of naïveté. It’s a thrill ride—a new discovery at every turn; every sentence surprised and delighted me. Commas be damned.
I’ve now written eight books and my writing has become a whole different animal. It’s no longer a kitten, springing from couch to chair, pouncing on every loose speck of fuzz. It’s now a cat who saunters into a room and sits down in a pool of sunshine to groom.
And it’s this constant grooming that takes a little something away from the sparkle of writing. Still addictive, yet now it comes with a hangover, perhaps. The sentence, first written with relish, is then dissected and fussed over until it’s finally cut completely from the page. Those ideas, first thought to be golden, ultimately deemed useless.
But it’s all good. Casting Stones began as a wild fling. After I’d had my way with it, I shoved it out the door like we’d broken up. Not everyone loved the story and I began to second guess my desire to write about emotions and ideas. Who did I think I was, playing with literary fiction? A novelist?
I slipped on something more comfortable. Thrillers and mysteries. Some say anyone can write these, but I disagree. A good story can’t be yesterday’s supper regurgitated. The line cook who griddles a great burger is just as knowing about creating that meal as a skilled French chef who makes a fine Coq au Vin.
I made Coq au Vin once. Took two days. My husband and son picked at it. They’d have rather had a burger.
Having said that, Casting Stones is still my favorite book. I like what it has to say. I like that it offers the reader something to think about. Although the message is simple… don’t judge… it’s also complicated… if you loathe me for being judgmental, which of us is standing in the deeper mud? And, of course, the underlying theme asks who is the real sinner? The character who is so easy to hate—the obvious villain? Are you sure? Could it be you?
It’s for the reader to decide. The book provokes thoughts, but doesn’t hand out answers. I’ve always liked that kind of story. I’m not one who enjoys being spoon fed. So, although it was the first book I wrote, it’s still my favorite.
Have you read it? Would you please? I’d love to know what you think.

Welcome to Catching

So, I’m writing a new book. The title is, Welcome to Catching. Maybe if I can get my act together, it will be done by the end of the year, and I’ll be ready to publish next spring. We’ll see. I’m not going to rush it.
Thanks to a workshop I took on how to structure a novel, I am writing this book differently than I have done in the past. My usual modus-operandi is what writers call “Pantsing.” Writing by the seat of your pants. Just let it rip. That’s kind of my general personality, so it’s really no wonder I lean that direction.
Some very fun things happen when you just write and let the characters go where they want to go and say what they want to say, but to make that work, I really need to get deep into the story and characters—absorb them and become them. So, yeah… that’s a little weird, right? But it is cool. Because people who are avid readers know they get lost in a really good book and even mourn when characters die or the story ends. It’s why some people love to read long-running series; the places and people can stay in their lives and the reader can live in that world.
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When structuring a novel, though, we look at things like plot points, midpoint, inciting incidents, points of no return, dark moments, and climax. We write the story to get to those places. And if a writer is really good (my constant goal) a writer does this at very specific points in the story. See the picture at the top of the page.
So, with this new book, I’ve plotted it out. I’ve created the three act structure and know what my first plot point is, where the midpoint is and what the second plot point is. I know what’s going to happen at the climax and how it will end. This is really kind of new for me. I visited with a book club last night and told them that when I wrote Thorns of Rosewood, I didn’t know the very ending until the fourth rewrite and about three chapters prior to writing the last chapter. I actually discover the story as I’m writing it.
So, we’ll see if this works, this organization thing. Hey, Aristotle invented it. It’s withstood the test of time. What’s not good about that, right?
Oh, what’s Welcome to Catching about? It’s about the relationship of a father and daughter, and their fight to save a small town that’s dying. Why is it dying? Because the town’s young people go off to college and then move away to live in bigger cities. A town needs young blood to keep it alive? And Catching is way past due for a meal.
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Dogs are “HE” and Cats are “SHE.” Or, are they?

 

I’ve recently found myself in conversations with other writers about male vs. female wording in writing. We’ve discussed what dialogue or point of view narrative sounds male and what sounds female.

I have a female “voice,” and so my male characters suffer with gender identity. I’m working on it. I’m also a little fussed by it because part of me doesn’t want to profile males or females that way. I think women can think in clipped, unemotional, factual ways. I believe men can be emotional, feeling, and long winded. I could look up poems by Longfellow and Frost or Nebraska’s own Kooser, and it would point out nicely how emotional a fellow can be.

kooser11But I’d only prove myself wrong. Read Ted Kooser’s Tattoo. http://www.tedkooser.net/excerpts/tattoo.html See if this doesn’t make the point for men writing like men even when they write with feeling and emotion.

I got thinking this morning about cats and dogs. I do this every day because they surround me. I have many theories about how these two species and their personalities, quirks, and little lives can so often be compared to our own.

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I’m one of those people who have always identified cats as female and dogs as male. But, upon deeper thought this morning over my bowl of cereal, I decided for lo these many years, I’ve been wrong.

You see, I think most men seem to be born with some kind of inborn confidence and inner respect for themselves. They lean to the understanding they must be right. They believe they can solve the issue at hand (that they have the ability). Even when they end up being wrong, they don’t beat themselves up about it. They shrug it off. Say it probably wasn’t their fault. Fault doesn’t seem to be a part of their DNA.

I don’t think this is the case with most women. We doubt ourselves. Constantly. It’s as though we’re born apologizing. We assume we have a lot to learn, and we mix emotions in with every issue, complicating things. Fault is innate. Thanks a lot, Eve.

Of course, this is just my humble opinion and could be right or wrong and only applies to some and not all… (Not something a man would say, I suspect.) I’ll just go ahead and take this moment to apologize. (I’m guessing you expected me to say those things, but I could be wrong. Sorry again.)

This is my new take on the issue of cats and dogs and what gender pronouns I should be giving them.

Cats are actually far more like men than dogs. Cats don’t seem to have guilt or remorse. You can’t shame a cat. I can shake my finger and speak sternly to my cats when they knock over a glass of water or dump a potted plant on the floor or dismantle an entire Christmas tree. All they do as I scold them is lay on the floor with a smug expression as they twitch their tail. They then raise a leg and lick their private parts in comment… “Yeah, Lady. This is what I think about what you’re sayin’.”

If a dog made a mess, he’d (note the gender pronoun I chose there?) be hiding under the table with the most regretful expression. All you would have to say is, “Did you do this?” I know my dog would avert his eyes in humiliation. He’d probably hide under the bed all day just thinking about what he’d done.

So, from now on when choosing a pronoun to describe cats and dogs, cats will be “he” and dogs will be “she.” I will try to think more like a cat when I’m writing my male characters. Or I could just ask my husband, “What would you say in this situation?” That would work, too.

 

FALL IS FOR WRITING

FallIt’s October 22nd and 60 degrees outside with a little wind. I normally run hot, but today I’ve got the shivers. Probably because the sky is gray, and it reminds me of days to come when hats and gloves and winter coats will become a necessity. It’s a soup day, to be sure. A day for my cat to cuddle on my lap and for me to keep a blanket nearby. Hard to believe, but last Saturday it was almost 100 degrees. That’s Nebraska for you.

But it’s still the Autumn season, even though it appears to be nearing its end. From my window, I can see a wall of golden cornstalks, shaking in the wind. Soon, the roar of a combine will cut the wall down and, once again, I’ll see across the field as it lays cold and barren. The little Ash tree just beside the patio has merely a handful of leaves clinging to the spindly branches. They’ll lose their fight and drop to the still-green grass, joining the hundreds of others already there.

The weather changes on a dime here in the Cornhusker state, so we could very well be bringing back out our shorts and tank tops yet again before real winter erases the fall. But this day is for purring cats, an extra cup of coffee, and writing.

For me, autumn and winter mean writing, and that puts a smile on my face. I give myself permission to cozy up with my laptop and tap out scenes and dialogue and fuss over sentence structure. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll squeak out some decent chapters to finally take to my writing groups. It’s been a while.

Even though the land is about to be gleaned of its harvest, the trees bare of their leaves, and the grass a dull shade of brown—in terms of writing, for me, it’s spring. Ideas are growing and the time is upon me to plant the stories I’ve been tinkering with in my mind. Wish me luck. It’s not easy typing with cats laying on my keyboard, but they sure do stare at the computer screen with great interest. I’ll take their loud purring as encouragement and type on.Photo on 10-22-15 at 2.41 PM #2

BOOKBUB PROMOTION RESULTS

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Thorns of Rosewood Amazon Review

If you click the link above, it takes you to the Amazon page where a reader gives me a 5-star review and says this about my book, Thorns of Rosewood:

“This woman can write!! And tell a great story too. I wish I could give it more stars. The characters all come across as very real people with their own joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. Great reading.”

The person who left the review, I only know as, Kindle Customer. It could be a guy or a gal, an older person or a younger person, someone from the little Nebraska town next to mine, or someone from across the world. I don’t know, and I probably never will. It’s exciting to get reviews from complete strangers. Especially positive ones. So far, since the ad for my book, Thorns of Rosewood, ran last week on BookBub, I’ve received eighteen new reviews, and all but one were four and five stars.

To everyone who picked up Thorns of Rosewood free (59,978 of you!), I say THANK YOU SO MUCH!! To those who after the free day was over, bought the book (216 of you!) I say THANK YOU EVEN MORE!! To the 594 people who bought Book 2 in the Rosewood series, Flames of Rosewood, I am ever so grateful!! And my reader stats show that 97,224 pages of Thorns have been read since the promotion. Wow.

To all the writers out there who are thinking about buying a BookBub ad, I’d encourage you to keep trying until they accept you. I’ve earned three times what I paid for it. But, oh, for the new readers—that is the true benefit! What a joy. My thoughts are running through their minds as they read. That’s quite a connection, now, isn’t it?!

Oh, and just for the fun of it, here is a screen shot of my ranking on Amazon during the promotion. For a little moment in time, I was number 1!

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THORNS OF ROSEWOOD ON BOOKBUB

TODAY’S THE DAY!! I’m trying a new form of promotion. So far, so good. I’ve sold around 100 books so far and given away 37,000. That number keeps climbing. More readers are a wonderful thing!

Thorns-smallerThere is a book promotion site called BookBub. Check out the link. Join. It’s free. I love it because depending on how you set it up, you’ll be notified about discounted books, and not books just anyone can put up there, either. I’ve tried three times to get a BookBub ad and was just now accepted for it. If you’re a reader, sign up so you can learn about good discounted ebooks. If you’re an author, read the rules and apply knowing it may take a year before they accept you.Oh, and it’s not just unknown authors using BookBub for promos. I just picked up Stephan Cobert’s book, Beyond Truthiness, from a BookBub ad.

BookBub is promoting my book, Thorns of Rosewood, today, Thursday, September 17th. I am offering Thorns of Rosewood FREE. It’s normally priced at $2.99. If you happen to pick up Thorns on Thursday for free, I hope you’ll go on to buy Flames of Rosewood at it’s already low price of $1.99. (Hey, you just saved $2.99… you can afford it now!)

So go. Join BookBub. Get Thorns free on Thursday. Buy Flames with the money you saved on Thorns. You’ll thank me later. And authors, check into BookBub. It might be a new way for you to promote your book. I’ll let you know if I find it to be a good business decision.

Oh, and if you want to help me out, you can forward the link for this blog to any readers you know. I’d appreciate the support.