Books You’d Like To See In Print One Day


woman using computerMost writers beyond the beginning stage understand the value of feedback, especially informed feedback. That’s why they join critique groups and snag writing partners and look for beta readers.

Occasionally there are contests such as the one Spec Faith held some time ago in which writers could post their first 250 words and receive feedback from visitors. All these methods of receiving feedback are valuable, but what all writers crave is constructive criticism from an industry professional–a published author or better still, an agent or an editor.

Once upon a time there was a secret industry insider who called herself Miss Snark who gave selected writers a beatdown helpful insights about their work. She was pretty blunt and yet incredibly helpful.

When she hung up her snark hat, the writer who first received her biting assessment took up the mantle and began a site called Miss Snark’s First Victim. She’s expanded the purpose of the site to include contests that can put winners in touch with agents and editors.

Starting today she is running her 2013 Bakers Dozen Agent Auction. She held a submissions period during which she selected 60 entries, 35 YA or middle grade stories and 25 adult. For the next few days anyone can read the blurbs and openings of these stories and offer their critique, but two published authors and two agents or editors are guaranteed to critique. As many others as wish to join in may do so.

Then Tuesday, December 3 the actual auction begins. The cool thing is, the agents’ bids are the number of pages they would like to read, up to the entire manuscript (which is obviously the highest bid–and I’m assuming the first agent to make that bid “wins” that manuscript).

Anyway, I thought that would be a fun thing for readers to take part in. I’ve already looked over a handful of the entries and I’m impressed with the quality. One or two, I wish I could read more.

Here’s the link if you’d like to join in the fun: WELCOME TO THE 2013 BAKER’S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION! By the way, you might consider starting with the entry #1 which appears last since it seems most people start at the top with #60. And of course you get to pick and choose which you want to read and which, if any, you want to critique.

Just for fun, make note of the number of fantasy entries. It’s still the hottest genre going, it would seem. 😉

Published in: on November 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm  Comments Off on Books You’d Like To See In Print One Day  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Residential Aliens, Day 3


Part 1 of Jeff Chapman's story in Residential Aliens

In my last post, I mentioned my plans, in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour of the zine Residential Aliens, to do a review, but left the subject of such, up in the air. For a moment I was tempted to turn the table and review the blog participants! 😀 Now that could have resulted in some interesting discussion, don’t you think?

I also considered doing a review of one of the stories, but Bruce Hennigan, Jeff Chapman, and our newest member, Dean Hardy, among others, gave excellent reviews in their posts.

I considered giving a review of editor extraordinaire Lyn Perry himself, but Fred Warren beat me to that one and did a much better job than I could have, by far.

Well, there’s the obvious — a review Residential Aliens as a whole. Yep, you guessed it: on Monday Sarah Sawyer posted an article taking a critical look at the site.

So here’s what I decided after reading Shannon McDermott‘s post giving a thorough overview of Residential Aliens: I’m going to review the short story. Not a short story — the genre, short story.

Early in my writing career, I read that learning to write the short story was so unique and different from writing a novel that it required its own set of skills. That was enough to scare me off. I had my hands full trying to learn what I needed for my novel.

Then along came a little short story contest held by World Magazine. They wanted stories written from a Christian worldview, and they posted the submissions on line, allowing others to comment or critique.

Well, that was interesting. The upshot was, I decided writing short stories looked like a lot more fun than I’d imagined. And doable.

Not long after, Bethany House editor Dave Long began to hold short story contests which I entered. And I had the bug.

I’m not sure if it was the short story bug or the contest bug (probably the latter), but one thing I discovered — short stories afforded me the opportunity to experiment with voice, point of view, story structure, and whatever else I wanted to play with. In short, I discovered that short stories are a great boon to a writer.

Not only did they help me learn my craft, I actually sold a couple stories and had some modest success in a couple contests. That feedback was encouraging.

Now I’d recommend to any writer starting out to begin with short stories.

But what about for readers? I rarely read short stories these days. And yet, I find myself eighty pages into an anthology of G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, and I love them.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that I don’t shy away from short stories as much as they shy away from me. Magazines don’t carry them any more (even Writer’s Digest which used to publish the winner of their Short, Short Story Competition, now puts it online, not in their magazine). I don’t get a Sunday school paper as I used to — those were always good for a story or two. And I’m no longer subscribed to the one or two magazines that may still carry short stories.

I have to say, I’m not fond of reading stories on the computer. I tend to think of reading as a chance to settle back and enjoy, not sit at a desk. Consequently free ezines hold less appeal to me than novels.

But then I see that Residential Aliens has multiple formats available, and I think, here’s an editor/publisher who understands the transitional world in which we live. One day, I suspect, everyone except the rare book collector will be reading from eReaders of some sort. But today we are in flux, and the more formats offered, the better the chance that readers of one stripe or another will find the stories.

May that be true of those Residential Aliens has published.

Contests, Contests, Contests


The voting for the first ever Readers’ Choice – Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction is over. All that’s left is the counting. Meanwhile, two other contests are still underway. One is the November CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award I’ve mentioned already.

The other is a contest run by Jeff Gerke and Marcher Lord Press to select a book that will be published in the Spring 2010 Marcher Lord Press line.

I received a press release announcing this contest and calling for entries some time ago. The problem is, I never got word that the actual voting had started. Come to find out, the first two phases of the contest are over. Happily, however, anyone can still participate in phases three and four.

The contest was structured to be a kind of American Idol of Christian speculative fiction, with the winner receiving a publishing contract from Marcher Lord Press. Well, actually there are two contests. It is the “Main Contest” that will bring the winner a contract. The other, the “Premise Contest,” will earn the winner an invitation to submit a complete manuscript to Marcher Lord Press.

In Phase One of the Main Contest, voters were presented with the title, subgenre, word count, premise, backcover blurb, and synopsis of 36 entries. Each voter was required to vote for at least three entries. After the votes were in, 18 entries advanced to Phase Two.

At this juncture, potential voters could download the first 500 words of each novel. Voters were instructed to choose between 3 and 6 entries based primarily on whether or not they would want to keep reading the book or perhaps buy it. In many respects this reminds me of the Miss Snark’s First Victim’s Secret Agent contest except the entries receiving the most votes were the ones to advance (rather than a Secret Agent making the determination).

Voting in Phase Two ended Monday. The entries that are advancing to Phase Three, in alphabetical order, are

  • Altar
  • Chase the Shadows
  • H2O
  • The Last Apostle
  • The Sending
  • The Sword of the Patron
  • This Side of Eden
  • Vinnie’s Diner

Apparently there will be a poll once Phase Three goes live. I couldn’t find the information just now, but I read that this phase will be based on a number of pages (found it—first thirty pages) with three finalists being chosen. Phase Four will be sixty pages, I believe, with the winner being the selection with the most votes.

Sounds like fun. I wish I would have known when the contest part actually started. I also wish the instructions were clearer. I found it hard to uncover the information I needed to become a participant. At the Marcher Lord Press site, there’s only a small announcement about the contest, with a link, in the upper right hand corner of the home page, under Latest News.

First, it’s helpful to know that the contest is called Marcher Lord Select. Second, the contest is being conducted at the WhereTheMapEnds forums, called The Anomaly , which is where the link in the announcement takes you. This is the part I found off-putting. I expected to go to a site telling me about the contest but found myself at a forum with threads that did not refer to “Contest.” Third, participation requires registration in the forum, a simple, five minute procedure.

I still haven’t found the polls, but I’m guessing the phase one and two polls were taken down once the deadline passed. In the next few days I’ll look for a Sub-Board called Phase 3—Main Contest (I don’t have time to participate in that and in the Premise Contest).

At any rate, Jeff is trying to decide if there will be a two or three week period before the next vote. I’m guessing he soon will post the link to the download that allows access to the Phase Three entries. I went ahead and downloaded the Phase Two selections and will read the winning entries so I’ll be ready when Phase Three goes live.

Why not jump in and participate? Contests are fun!

Free Books and Such


If you’ve thought The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice sounds like the perfect book for your daughter or niece or granddaughter or for a prize for the Sunday school class you teach or for the classroom of your teacher friend, I have good news. You can win a free copy. A number of bloggers in the recent Children’s Book Blog Tour are holding drawings and the links are available at Kidz Book Buzz.

And if you’ve followed the tour, you might consider voting for the Best Blogger of the tour (see the poll in the left sidebar).

Speaking of polls, today is the last day for you to vote for the CSFF February Top Blogger Award because it’s scheduled to close Saturday at 8:00 AM (Pacific time? I’m not sure, so to be safe, don’t wait). The one exception would be another tie as we had last month.

starfireBack to free books, by participating in Stuart Vaughn Stockton’s contest introducing his upcoming release, Starfire, you’ll be eligible to win a set of Brandilyn Collins books, a copy of Stuart’s book, a copy of By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson (see my review at Speculative Faith), and more.

By the way, Volume 3, Issue 2 of Latest In Spec is now available. If you would rather not wait or would rather receive a copy sent to you via email, subscribe by leaving a comment here or at the LIS site.

Back to contests. I’m thinking we’re overdue for another version of The Fantasy Challenge. I’ll need to contact a few authors and see what prizes might be offered. The challenge is going to center on you telling others about the 2008 or 2009 Christian fantasies you think are worthy of some buzz, so let me know what books you’d like to have on the list.

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