Writing Opportunity – Machine of Death

Surfing around the Internet yesterday, I found another great writing opportunity at a website called Machine of Death. Harsh title aside, this is a really great idea. First of all, they have written an idea for a story and are looking for writers to give their take on it. The idea is really interesting and similar to an idea for a story I never wrote. The idea is as such: A machine has been invented that can tell from a sample of blood how a person is going to die. It doesn’t tell a date or time, just how it happens. The catch is that the predictions are vague and usually have a twist. For example, if it tells you that you will die of “Old Age” that could simply mean you are run over by a car driven by an old person.

Submissions of any length are being accepted from now until April 30, 2007, though they recommend submitting before March 31, 2007. They are paying $45 for each story selected for publication. Here is a writeup from their site:


Machine of Death is an upcoming published anthology of short stories edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !, inspired by this episode of Ryan’s Dinosaur Comics.

We are actively soliciting short story submissions for the book. Submissions are free and open to everybody. Ryan, Matt and David ! will choose their favorite stories from all submissions, and each contributor will receive $45 USD for each story selected for publication.

The book will be available through Amazon or any other retailer. We are also trying to work it out so that each contributor will have the right to purchase copies of the book at cost (with no retail markup), and will be free to resell the book however they like and keep their profits.

The manuscript will also be placed online, in PDF form, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike 2.5 license. That means people will be able to read, copy, and distribute your story for free, which we hope will expose more readers to the material, and which has proven to be a good method of building awareness and even driving physical sales. There may also be an audiobook version created, which will be placed for free on Podiobooks.com.

Finally, any eventual profits made by Ryan, Matt and David ! will be turned back around into the project, helping to promote and publicize your work.

I am very excited for this one and will surely submit something. I have already written a few ideas in my notebook for use after I finish my pirate story. I actually have a pretty full writing schedule now. Here is my list of writing priorities in order:

  1. The Pirate Story (almost complete)
  2. The contest at The Moon Topples
  3. Machine of Death

As always, I would be interested to hear who will be submitting their work to Machine of Death. Good luck!

The Flogometer – A Site to Improve Your Writing

Writer Unboxed had an interesting article today about feedback in general and the site Flogging the Quill specifically. According to the article, Ray (of Flogging the Quill) has developed something he is calling the Flogometer in which he accepts the first two pages of readers’ novels and then does two things: first, he rips your hook apart; second, he asks himself if he’s compelled to turn the page and read further. This does sound scary and I’m not sure if my frail ego is yet ready to receive this type of feedback.

The beauty of the system is that he posts excerpts and his responses on his site so you can read other writer’s work and his feedback. This is helpful for me in that I can see the types of things that are considered “bad” in the pieces and hopefully eliminate them from my writing. Here is a link to Flogometer #1, which opened my eyes to some problems I have encountered in my own writing.  I urge you all to check out the Writer Unboxed article as well as the Flogometer. You may learn something. I did.

Shimmer Magazine Deadline Change

It was just posted on Shimmer Magazine’s website that they have moved the deadline for submissions for their Pirate Issue to February 28th.  So, you all have a month to write a short story about pirates and submit it to Shimmer.

As for my own story, I am very close to completion, but this deadline change should really help me.  I did a read through of my story last night, and my inner critic told me  it was crap, even though I have received positive feedback from my wife and parents.  I like the story (i.e. plot) I have constructed, but the “writing” needs some work. Still, I hope to be finished with this story this week, so I can move on to other projects.

Warm, Squishy Feeling followed by Bitter Cold

Warm, Squishy Feeling

Last night was the first time since I have began my current work-in-progress (the Pirate story) that someone other than myself has read my story. I felt I finally had something to show off, and I let my wife read it, stressing I was less concerned with grammar than if the story was entertaining. I would have let the baby read the story, too, but she was napping. Overall, my wife enjoyed the story, laughing at the parts she was supposed to and even asking some helpful questions. The icing on the cake, though, was when she told me that I was developing a certain voice in my writing, something that let her know the story was mine. This was always one of my worries, that I didn’t have a style of my own.

After she read the story, I let my wife know that I still had some more writing left on the story. She was surprised because the story as it read left off at a pretty cool cliffhanger. She asked me where the story would go from there, and I quickly came up with an idea that we both felt would work well. It was at that point, I felt really excited inside, the first time I have really thought that I might have a good story on my hands. Man, I love that feeling. At this point, it will be a race to see if I can finish this thing by Jan. 31.

Bitter Cold

This morning I woke up and got ready for work as usual. It seemed a little colder in my house, but I figured this was no big deal as it is always cold in my house in the morning (I turn the thermostat to 60 degrees at night). As I stepped outside, I recognized it was cold, but no big deal. Into my wife’s Beetle I went and started it up. It was at that point I tried to change the channel on the XM Radio and the radio said,”You know what, you left me here in the cold all night and I don’t think I wanna change channels. Oh, and by the way, don’t bother with the volume either”. I glanced at the temperature reading above my head and it said 9 degrees. Ouch! About ten minutes into the commute the heat finally kicked on and the radio eventually cooperated. I had been waiting for a while for the cold and snow to finally hit us in Pennsylvania, and now that it has I am realizing it might not have been such a great idea. 🙂

Writing Contest Judged by John Grisham

O.K., one more quick contest link. I found this one at the blog Charlottesville Words while skimming “Tag Surfer” in wordpress. This contest is pretty impressive as it will be judged by John Grisham. The contest itself is being sponsored by the weekly newspaper The Hook. As for contest details, submissions are due February 13th and are to be under 3,500 words. There is a submission fee of $5 per entry. Here is some text from the site regarding Prizes:

Prizes and such

Surely the idea that one of the world’s top-selling authors wants to read your work should be incentive enough to enter, but there’s also the $1,000 in cash prizes.

The grand-prize winner receives $700, and there’s $200 for second place and $100 for third.

Next comes the fame. The grand prize-winning story will be published in the Hook in late March when lots of literary types are in town for the Virginia Festival of the Book.

In addition, all three winners will be officially saluted at the opening event of this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book (vabook.org) on Wednesday, March 21. This year’s Festival hotshots (besides you, of course) include Lee Smith, Hal Crowther, Doug Marlette, and Earl Hamner.

I will not be entering this one, as I am already committed to enough projects. It is a pretty good opportunity, though.

Agent to the Stars – John Scalzi (Read This)

As I have mentioned here before, I read Hugo Award-nominated author John Scalzi‘s blog Whatever every day. On this very entertaining blog he writes about anything from politics, to writing, to everyday stuff. One of the best features of the site is that he interviews various up and coming authors (actually posted on his other blog, but linked on Whatever) which is a nice way to learn about books you would normally not hear about as well as to read different author’s advice on writing. Anyhow, check out Whatever when you get the chance.a2scover2.jpg

The purpose of this post, however, is not to trumped Scalzi’s blog. Rather, I would like to bring to your attention Scalzi’s novel, Agent to the Stars, which he has posted on-line entirely for free. The neat part about the novel is that he wrote it as a challenge to himself – he wanted to see if he could do it. Then, once it was written he tried to sell it, but could not find any takers. So, he decided to release it on-line and asked people to send some money if they liked it. It turns out they did like the novel and he received about $4000, but not only that he credits his experience with Agent to the Stars in helping him sell his next novel. You can read more about this process in his Introduction to Agent to the Stars.

This is all well and good, but you may be asking me, “Is it any good?”. The answer to that would be a resounding “yes!”. I am really enjoying this novel and I wish I had a hard copy to read at home. The novel is funny and well written and though I am on Chapter 11, it has not lost my interest. The plot of the novel involves an up-and-coming agent who finds himself having to represent an alien species who have an “image problem” and who would like to be sold to the Earth public. My discription does not give the story justice, so just check it out and let me know what you think. I think you will enjoy it.

A Book, a Contest, and a Death?

I just thought I would point you all to some cool stuff I have seen on the internet today, since my brain still thinks it’s Monday.

The Book

Boing Boing had a link to an interesting book titled Talk the Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures. Here is a quote from Cory Doctorow about the book:

“It’s a collection of glossaries of the slang of 65 American subcultures, from skinheads to hookers, puppeteers to ren faire habituees, con artists to Antarctic researchers, truckers to prisoners. Every page contains a surprise. “

This sounds to me like a pretty cool reference book for any writer who would like to write realistic sounding dialog with correct slang usage.

The Contest

Pretty Good on Paper had a link to a writing contest on the blog The Moon Topples. The contest has some pretty good prizes, including several $20 Amazon gift certificates. Submissions will be no more than 500 words on a topic that will be announced Feb. 1. Check out the link above for more details.

The Death

Lee Carlon has a serial story he has been posting to his web site.  Yesterday he had a post offering readers a chance to die in the story.   Check out the post for more details and while you are at it, read the story.

1984 as a Web Comic

I just saw on Boing Boing that George Orwell’s novel 1984 is being done on the web as a web comic. I checked it out and it is pretty well done so far. I read 1984 for the first time a couple years ago on Project Gutenberg and really enjoyed that novel. 1984 is the only book I can remember reading that really got to me emotionally. Anyhow, check out the comic and let me know if you think it is faithful to the book.

Check back here later for a larger blog post, possibly a “What if Monday” post.  It’s Monday and I’m having trouble forming complete thoughts.

Shimmer Magazine Submission Guidelines

Since I know a few of you are planning on submitting stories to Shimmer Magazine for their Pirate issue, I thought I should point out a few things that may give you a better shot at being published.  First of all, here is a link to their submission guidelines.  On that page is also a link to their template, which you can use properly format your submission.  Finally, they have a link to What They Want, which helped me when coming up with a story idea.  Good luck!