Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

On NOT winning the Gigabyte challenge

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

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It is said that one learns more from one failure than from a thousand victories.

It was the first writer’s competition that I’ve entered, and frankly, I’d have been baffled to have won it. Not that I thought the story that did win was too terrible, it’s just, different than mine. Very different. Cute, it was cute. Mine was, well, not. It started with someone getting stabbed and ended with someone dying. Not cute at all.

At first I was taken aback. I believed in that story, I believed that it was good. I believed that it was a winner. But it didn’t win. Disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow, but not an unknown one. What did I expect?

Thinking about it now with a little distance, it is not surprising that it did not win. Even if I moved every one of the judges emotionally, the story simply did not fit the audience. They wanted Sci-Fi set in South Africa to be published in a Tech/Gaming magazine read by youngish tech minded people. I gave them dark Dystopian with Sci-Fi elements set in South Africa. Never mind that the story that did win was actually a subverted cutesy humorous take on the Paranormal Horror genre with zero Sci-Fi to be seen. The winner wrote something that the magazine’s audience would find enjoyable, and that was what the judges picked. Stupidly, I tried to go deep on a light entertainment platform. Cute and humor will win over super serious in that arena at all times.

What I learned was that I need to be cognizant of what story would best be matched with the publishing platform’s goals and expectations. If I could write a new story for that competition then I would take more time to get the lay of the land and match up my concepts with that knowledge.

I’m still looking for a home for that short story, and it could do with some expanding if I am granted a little more lenient word count, so I’m not looking to publish it online just yet.

On to the next writing competition!

Techsmart gigabyte sci-fi short story competition

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

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I’ve been of a mind to enter as many writing competitions that I could manage. Strange as it may be, this one caught my eye. This is the pitch: 

“All aspiring writers, if you have a science-fiction short story in you, it’s time to put fingers to keyboard and send it to us. Why? Well you could have the opportunity to have your story published in TechSmart. Good enough some might say, but more importantly, there’s an amazing Gigabyte U2440N notebook up for grabs for our overall winner, worth R10 000!

There’s a little twist though; all sci-fi stories must have a South African angle. Whether it’s Jabraltians invading Jozi, Cape Town stuck in a Cerebral Time Vortex, or Durban doppelgangers poisoning prime-ministers – get Mzanzi in there!

So, if you think you are the next Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Herbert or Heinlein, start writing today!”

A South African angle to a sci-fi story? We’ve had quite a bit of that recently with all Neill Blomkamp’s latest films, so I thought why not? I looked at the rules. The first one caught my eye:

“Stories must be no longer than 700 words (excluding title) or they will not be accepted. ”

That’s not a short story, as the first to comment on their post pointed out, this is flash fiction. Okay, I can do that. Many writing competitions have flash fic as a format, so this is a good place to start. Previously, I’ve attempted a horror flash fiction with a 500 scene called Cats Eyes which I’m still attempting to cut down to 500 words. Extraneous words notwithstanding, I was quite pleased with the result. As soon as I find a horror flash fic competition, that’s where it will go.

Now, on to the task of creating a sci-fi story set in South Africa using less words than what is usually needed to describe the first location of a sci-fi setting. I was teasing about an idea of what would happen to good ol’ Mzanzi should a momentous scientific discovery be made elsewhere in the world. Something like fusion power, or wormhole time-travel, something that will change the way humans relate to each other.

What I went with is the development of the universal immunity system chip. A choice that seems a bit counter-intuitive for such a narrow word count now. Can I explain the Sci-Fi concept of such a chip in less than 700 words? (Well, you see, it’s a chip that hijacks your auto-immune functions and optimizes the fight against foreign bodies, like diseases. 17 words. Maybe I should have included this bit as lazy exposition) What I was hoping for was to be able to describe the function of such a device when left in the hands of our mostly lawless, racially divided, multiculture of mistrust.

Will I succeed? Well, we’ll find out when I am updating this site from a brand new Gigabyte laptop.

Storm Anthology book signing

Friday, June 27th, 2014

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Tomorrow is the book signing for the STORM Anthology at Rooihuiskraal Library in Centurion. I’ve been asked to read a portion of A Girl Called Storm. Good thing there will be sherry.

This is a bit of a first for me. I’ve done some public appearance gigs in the past (including performing as a front man for a band for a glorious year) so I won’t be nervous about the public speaking part, but I do have some reservations with regards to reading out loud something I’ve written. We’ll see how it goes, the show must go on, right?

As I often mention, all authors feel paradoxical about their work at any time. On the one hand, you really love your work and what you’ve accomplished, because you know how much work went into it. On the other hand, you are convinced that this piece of… writing is the worst atrocity committed to the English language and must be purged from human conscience. What will happen if the only remnant of our doomed civilization that is found by alien archaeologists in the distant future is your writing? Writers feel both those feeling about their writing simultaneously, I can assure you.

A Girl Called Storm review

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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I’ve been informed that A Girl Called Storm got a great review on Goodreads, so I hopped over there and had a look. It was more than a great review, it was unbelievable! It’s not often that you get a five star review, but this one had relevant analysis in it. This is a great compliment to the piece in that, firstly, she read it and then liked it, and secondly, she liked it enough to go through the trouble of analyzing it.

This, to me, means that the reader has a reasonable background in literature and is in the habit of providing concise but in depth insight to authors and prospective readers. This is the most valuable input a reviewer can give to a piece or to an author, because it encourages the growth of the entire industry as a whole. An author that receives such a review would be encouraged to write more, the reader will be encouraged by the review and buy more. This turn of events also encourages writers to write more again, and so forth, thus causing an upward spiral for everyone involved. All because a reviewer showed her enthusiasm for literature.

I don’t know the reviewer. Apparently she lives in Cape Town or Durban, somewhere coastal anyway. I have had a peek around the web to see if she’s hanging around the public domain, she’s not, so that precludes my endeavors to return the favor. Alas, I’d have to settle for taking on her review style and post some reviews of my own on the relevant sites, to also be a part of the upward spiral.

I’ve not received a negative review on the piece as of yet, but have received plenty of that in the past on other works. Negative feedback is still valuable feedback, but wouldn’t it be nice if it was as constructively written as this review had been? Even the one and two star reviews that I’ve received was valuable to me as the author, but how many people can look at naked criticism day in and day out and have the will to continue creating art? I understand that many authors just do not look at reviews at all, especially the ones from Internet based outlets, and that’s fair enough. I am personally finding it hard enough to squeeze enough time out of a day to get everything that I need to get done, done and have time to write. Where will I find time to scrutinize someone’s opinion on the online forum?  I do it. I do it because I care. I care about my work and I care about my readership. If they are unhappy about a facet of my writing I’d like to know about it in order for me to improve.

So here’s to the crux of the matter. I thank that reviewer for the glowing review. I will endeavor to pay it forward by reviewing the books that I appreciated as constructively as you did for the good of the industry. One good turn deserves another. Even if I am disappointed in the book, I will endeavor to review it constructively. I will use this method to learn about the craft of writing from those authors, by looking at what works and what doesn’t.

All in all, it falls to the readership and the authors to foster and grow the industry of literature. By loving books, we can help more great books to appear.

STORM Anthology

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

storm cover Recently, I’ve completed a short story for publication in the Pretoria Writer’s Group’s STORM Anthology. It’s due to come out next month, as far as I’m aware. I will keep this site posted.

I’ve also done two interviews with regard to this anthology, and will link them to this site as well. Their questions made me think quite a lot regarding the craft of writing, and my perceptions on writing. I’ve not considered writing short stories with any seriousness before, but found myself liking the format. I could experiment with story ideas that I felt were not strong enough to carry a novel, but still warranted the story treatment. I also learned quite a bit, and found the process as a whole beneficial.

I am already committed to at least one more short story for a fellow Pretoria Writer’s Group member, Natalie Rivener, and will definitely be writing and publishing a few more.