Tag Archives: novel

Inception: $250 for Prose, Poetry, or Art Opening

Beginnings have the power to spark passion or curiosity. They might immediately connect a specific place and time with an emotional tone. The best offer a feeling, atmosphere, action, or image that is gripping.

Too often in commercially driven industries, this results in sensationalism. But meaning, thoughtfulness, emotions, or shadings of tone…that is, connection…are the impulses that draw audiences into the moment. A poem handles this differently than a flash piece, which handles an opening differently than a novel. The first photo, painting or frame presented in a gallery, series, or collection strives for the same intent. Openings contain a spark that promises to continue to burn.

For Sunspot Lit’s 2020 Inception contest, send your best opening. There are no restrictions on theme, category, or the length of the piece or collection from which the beginning comes. Word limit is 250 for prose, 25 words for poetry. Graphic novel entries should be the first page (unlimited number of panels on that page) with a maximum of 250 words…so, cut the number of panels in order to meet the word count, if needed. Visual art entries should be the first in a series, the first in a gallery lineup, the first photo in a themed collection, etc. Entries are limited to one image with up to 250 words to describe the series, lineup or collection.

For 2020, the entry fee has been reduced due to COVID’s economic impact.

Close: September 31, 2020

Prize: $250 cash, publication for the winner, publication offered to runners-up and finalists.

In addition to receiving the cash prize, the winner will be published. Select finalists will have the chance to be published. Sunspot asks for first rights only; all rights revert to the contributor after publication. Works, along with the creators’ bylines, are published in the next quarterly digital edition an average of one month after contest completion as well as the annual fall print edition.

Works should be unpublished except on a personal blog or website. Artists offered publication may display their pieces in galleries, festivals or shows throughout the publication contract period.

Enter as many times as you like through Submittable, but only one piece per submission. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but please withdraw your piece if it is published elsewhere before the winner is selected.

Open Call Ends August 31, 2020

Sunspot Literary Journal is dedicated to amplifying diverse multinational voices. We offer an Editor’s Prize of $50 for the annual edition. Artwork selected for a cover will be paid $20. Visit SunspotLit.com to download digital editions for free.

All types of prose from flash fiction and poetry to stories and essays, including scripts and screenplays, are welcome. We also accept long-form, novelette, and novella length works up to 49,000 words. Translations welcome, especially with access to the piece in the author’s original language.

One piece per prose submission; two works of visual art per submission.

Use the correct form according to the length of your prose and poetry. Works longer than allowed by the form used will be declined unread.

The Fast Flux options offer a two-week turnaround, with most responses going out within one week.

All submissions must be unpublished (except on a personal blog). Simultaneous submissions welcome. Submit as many times as you like.

Submissions must be sent through Sunspot’s Submittable page.

Author Interview & Free Book

On August 11, this blog will post a review of Secure the Shadow, the latest novel from Marion Grace Woolley. Author of such deliciously dark tales as Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran, Woolley is offering a few free copies through this blog. The free copies will be available to the first five people who contact the blog during the days after the review posts. Today, the author joins us for an interview about her work.

Tell us something about yourself and how you became an author. 

Hi, sure.

I’ve always been an avid reader, and enjoyed writing stories growing up, but it wasn’t until I moved to Rwanda as a sign language researcher in 2007 that I made a serious attempt at writing a novel. Back then, books were quite hard to find, I didn’t have a telly or a radio, and the internet was too slow to stream movies. There really wasn’t much to do in the evenings, so I thought I’d take a shot at writing a novel, just to see whether I could make the word count. Once I discovered that I could, it became a bit of an addiction, and I’ve been writing ever since.

I still live in Rwanda, where I currently work with organisations helping those who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and in my spare time I’m trying to build the first Rwandan piano with my friend Désiré.

I now have a bookshelf and the internet is fast enough to stream movies, but I continue to write novels now and then.

Which books stand out for you as a reader? 

As a very young child, I think Puddle Lane took the prize. They were short fairy tales that had a page for the adult to read and then a short sentence for the kid to read. My dad always made me read out loud before he’d turn the page. So, I have fond memories of learning to read with him.

In my teens, I was a Fighting Fantasy, Terry Pratchett and horror buff. I loved Shaun Hutson, Stephen King, anything with blood and gore.

Nowadays, I read a lot more non-fiction. Yuval Noah Harari, Peter Frankopan and Bill Bryson, but also a lot of fiction, usually more on the literary side like Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Madeline Miller, but also some silly stuff like Yahtzee Croshaw. He wrote an entertaining story about the world being taken over by man-eating strawberry jam.

Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? 

Not so much. I feel like I know what I’m doing nowadays. I’ve kind of got to that stage where I realise the things that bug me, and I find difficult, are mostly the same things all writers struggle with. There really isn’t a magic answer to a lot of things, like character development and plot block, we’re all just stumbling through it the best we can.

I’ve been very lucky in that my family used to take me to the Cheltenham Literature Festival most years, so I got to sit and listen to a lot of the greats, like Ken Follet, Philip Pullman, Lionel Shriver and Ian McEwan. I was able to hear a lot of their advice first-hand.

A lot of other writers have made their brains freely available to pick, or at least leaf through. Aristotle, Stephen King, Adrian Magson and many others have written books on writing. In Stephen King’s case, literally On Writing.

Being a writer is pretty solitary. You’re the only one who can hear those imaginary voices in your head and tell the story you dreamed up. Sure, you can discuss it with people, but that doesn’t get it written any quicker. You sort of learn to become quite self-reliant.

If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?

I’ve been rather smitten with Alicia Gris from Labyrinth of the Spirits recently, but I’m not sure how much tea we’d get drunk. Just a very dark and enjoyable character. I’d like to see her perform her fountain pen trick on a buttered scone.

Anybody a little bit magical would be entertaining company. Howl, if I could pluck him from his moving castle, or Chrestomanci. I’m a sucker for a smoking jacket.

There are just too many to choose from.

Do you have some writing rituals or habits?

No. I’m useless at routine, and whenever I try to stick to one, the universe usually has other ideas. Writing is a chaotic process, so I prefer to embrace the chaos.

Where do you come up with your ideas? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉

Neil Gaiman did a good interview where he said, ‘never ask a writer where they get their ideas.’ Honestly, I don’t know. You can have an idea any time of the day or night. Riding on the bus, walking across a park, staring at your navel. There are hundreds of ideas all over the place. The question is, which one is going to make it to 100,000 words?

That’s always the issue. Not every idea has the longevity to be interesting for more than a couple of pages. Most stories are a hotchpotch of lots of different ideas, and when you start to run thin on ink, it’s time to throw another idea in there and keep writing. Usually, you need a collection of ideas to produce a full-length novel.

But many of those ideas come to you once you start writing. Stories are fluid. Half the fun is discovering the story as you’re writing it, which means new ideas can ambush you along the way.

If I were a memoirist, I’d write about people I know, but as I write fiction, I’m wholly devoted to those I make up. For me, fiction is escapism, I’d hate to pollute it with reality.

Can you offer any tips for writers?

Nothing more than other, much more famous, writers have said: read a lot, read as widely as you can, expect the first few stories you write to be dreadful, but learn from them.

To paraphrase Labyrinth of the Spirits: ‘Writing is a profession that has to be learnt, but it’s impossible to teach.’

Grammar can be taught, sentence structure and plot construction can be taught, but what makes a story work – that’s more art than science, and it just takes time.

What are your future plans?

I’m currently working with a fantastic group of actors to turn my epic The Children of Lir into an audiobook. It’s been wonderfully creative and a real treat to be part of something so collaborative. I’m also self-narrating The Tangled Forest, a collection of dark fairy tales I wrote a few years back. That’s proving more of a challenge. Despite having written the book, I’m actually finding it pretty tricky to read out loud. In between, I’m doing a little light research for another novel, set in ancient Akkad. So, lots of fun things on the go at the moment.

Excerpt from Secure the Shadow

Reuben took a piece of white paper and a brush, painting its surface with silver nitrate. Then he placed the silhouette over the top and took it into the hallway, exposing it to the full force of a carbon arc lamp. As he did so, the paper began to darken until it was the same black as the silhouette. He peeled the top layer away to reveal Bella and Archie, their outline wedding-white like fallen snow.

“A photogram,” Reuben explained. “The earliest form of photography. From photo, meaning light, and gram, meaning drawing. A light drawing.”

“But why did you choose to make one of–”

“Watch.”

As they stood looking at the simple play of shadow on sun, the white image began to fade. At first, just the edges started to fray. Then, piece by piece, the entire picture began to turn black. Archie and Bella, and their archway of ribbons, darkened until there was nothing left of them.

“Gone,” Reuben whispered, looking down at her. “How do you feel?”

“Better, I think.”

“A life that might have been, but never was. Captured for a moment, then returned to history.”

“A clever trick.”

He kissed her gently on the cheek.

Why authors and artists in developing countries are so disadvantaged

Marion Grace Woolley, author and piano maker, lives in Rwanda. She’s posted an interesting commentary on YouTube.

Why authors and artists in developing countries are so disadvantaged

Link here to view, comment, and learn.

Closing Soon: Open Call from Sunspot Lit

Since launching in January of 2019, Sunspot has amplified multinational voices from around the world. The pSLJFrontublication is accepting fiction, poetry, nonfiction, scripts, screenplays, photography, and art until November 30. Translations and extremely long-form pieces are accepted. Submit here or visit the website here.

Reedsy Selects Inception as 2019 Best Writing Contest

Reedsy Best ContestReedsy, a huge freelancer’s site, selected Inception: $250 for the Best Opening as one of the Best Contests of 2019. Check it out before it closes October 31.

Sunspot Issue 3 Free Download

Once Sunspot Lit opened up to even longer works than before, writers sent in spectacular stories ranging from flash up to novella length. So, just in time for fall, the digital edition has doubled in size over the first two quarters. Thanks to all our creative contributors for making that happen!

Our dedication to opening up the journal to worldwide audiences continues with two special dual-language presentations.

First up is a story called “Other People’s Land.” Originally produced by a Tahitian publisher, here it’s presented in Fench and as an English translation. Both the author Claudine Jacques and translator Patricia Worth were instrumental in pulling together both versions as well as arranging permission from Au vent des îles.

Second is our first nonfiction piece in the form of an interview. Opwonya Innocent was born in a time of great civil unrest in Uganda. Abducted at the age of ten, he was forced to become a child soldier in a rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. Coauthor Kevin McLaughlin facilitated a conversation between Sunspot and Opwonya. The interview is presented in English and the Luo language of Opwonya’s people.

Visit Sunspot’s website to download the free edition. You can also leave a tip to help keep art alive through the Paypal link of the primary funding source, or through the Submittable tip jar.

New Multi-genre Writing Contest

SunspotSunspot Literary Journal wants your best fiction, nonfiction, or poetry opening. No restrictions on theme, category, or length of the piece from which the beginning is excerpted.

Length for the entry: Up to 250 words for prose. Up to 25 words for poetry. 

First place winner will be published, and finalists will be offered the opportunity to be published. Enter as many times as you like. Simultaneous submissions accepted. Work can have won other awards without being disqualified.

Cash award of $250 for the winner.

Link here to submit today. 

Closing October 31, 2019. 

Inception: $250 for the Best Opening

Sunspot Literary Journal wants your best fiction, nonfiction, or poetry opening. No restrictions on theme, category, or length of the piece from which the beginning is excerpted.

Length for the entry: Up to 250 words for prose. Up to 25 words for poetry. 

First place winner and finalists will be published. Enter as many times as you like. One piece per submission. Pieces must be unpublished except on a personal blog or website. Simultaneous submissions accepted. Work can have won other awards without being disqualified.

Cash award of $250 for the winner.

Link here for details and to enter. Good luck!

Soulful Book Offering Gifts from the Ocean

Sweet LifeI’ve been following the journey of a particular book called The Sweet Life from creation through to its final version. The book, which offers up gifts that originate deep within the ocean, is fascinating.

It started years ago when a group of women were called to travel to various places around the world. They set up sacred stone circles in many places, and the sites can be visited by readers who want to experience the journey themselves.

The book is now available on Amazon for those who want to hear from the very special beings who protect our planet and all humans on it. Guaranteed to be a deeply moving read, and perfect for book clubs.

Tin House to Close; Sunspot to Open

books-2158737_1920June of 2019 will see the last Tin House literary magazine roll off the presses. After twenty years publishing original fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Tin House is saying goodbye.

The move was done in the face of mounting costs associated with print publishing. Rob Spillman, the co-founder and editor, is moving on to other areas. The closing brings an end to a very long stretch of quality contributions to the literary arena.

While some new works will still be published on Tin House’s website, the loss of yet another print publication is difficult for writers. Much of the industry still gives more weight to credits in print publications, so the loss of even one magazine can be bad news.

There is a bright spot, however. Sunspot Literary Magazine is launching in January of 2019. For the first year, one print edition will be published. The magazine hopes to add additional print editions in subsequent years.

Meanwhile, digital editions are scheduled for every quarter. The founder is also considering adding frequent special editions that focus on a single author or a single category.

The magazine’s mission is to “change the world through words,” and is open to new and established authors and artists. Submissions of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, essays, art, interviews, and reviews of books, movies and galleries are being accepted through Sunspot’s Submittable portal.

This is an excellent opportunity to be heard and to enact the change you want to see.

Parisian Indie Bookstore Shakespeare and Company

IMG_20180713_120738On Friday, I took advantage of a fourteen-hour layover in Paris, France. With so much time to spend, I headed into the city for a quick look around.

The indie bookstore Shakespeare and Company was on my list. The shop is on a street known for the vendors who set up book stalls along the Seine River. Their location is near Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Louvre.

Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookstore in the heart of Paris. The building was originally constructed as a monastery. An old tradition held that one monk was assigned the duty of lighting the lamps at nightfall. The bookstore’s founder, George Whitman, cast himself as that monk when he began operating a store that would provide light through literature.

Author Interview: Mark Noce

Mark NoceLast week, I posted a book review for the second title in a historical series by Mark Noce. The first two titles are Between Two Fires and Dark Winds Rising. Both feature Queen Branwen of Wales, an original empowered woman!

Today the author has been kind enough to answer a few questions. So, here we go!

MC: Hi Laine, and thanks so much for having me here!

How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?

Hmm. My advice would be…don’t take too much advice. I’m not saying that there isn’t a lot of good advice out there, but it’s crucial for each author to find what works for them, and what doesn’t. Experiment, trying things, learn the hard way. It’s what I do. Try writer’s conferences, creative writing groups, online forums, and see what speaks to you.

As for the writing itself, I adhere to Ray Bradbury’s advice to write a lot and often, otherwise, “if you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”

When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?

I dream about writing (seriously I do), so I’m not sure that I ever really do take a break. Writers are readers, so if you feel you need a break, make sure to plug your time with as much reading as you can. It’s grist for the mill, and there’s so much good stuff out there to enjoy. Writing’s work, but it’s fun too. So long as you keep it fun, you won’t want a break from it.

From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?

There are plenty of challenges, but it wouldn’t be worthwhile if it was easy either. One of the big challenges is simply getting your message heard through all the white noise that fills everyone’s everyday lives. When you promote a book or even get your novel into someone’s hands you probably still don’t have their full attention, i.e. the TV is on, they’re multitasking at work, their kids are interrupting them, etc. All you can really do is try to connect with them right from the get go with those first few lines so that they make the conscious choice to dive into your story. It’s part skill, part luck, part faith.

What books are you currently reading?

Everything! There’s nothing I won’t read. I try to read about 3-4 books a week (and during the summer I try to reread some of my favorites). I’ve been diving into history books lately, fiction and nonfiction. Stuff by James Jones, George Orwell, and even Katharine Hepburn (yes, you read that last part right).

Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why? (The authors do not have to be living.)

It’s difficult to say, as you never know what books are being loved in people’s homes across the world, but aren’t bestsellers. I’m a big Lawrence Durrell fan, so if you haven’t read Justine or any of the Alexandrian quartet, you’re in for a treat.

Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?

One book that really blew me away this year was Cherie Reich’s stories entitled People of Foxwick. If you enjoy fantasy, check it out. When I read it, I was shocked that a major press hadn’t picked it up yet, it’s that good.

Finding the discipline to keep writing can be tough. Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?

Everyone is different. If you do something 60 days in a row though, it typically becomes a habit. Then you simply do it without thinking. Also, it’s key to develop your own regimen. For me, I write on weekdays, but give myself weekends off to read and absorb life. By Monday I’m always chomping at the bit to get writing again.

Dark Winds RisingCan you give us a sneak peek into your current project?

Sure, I’ve got lots. The sequel in my Queen Branwen series, Dark Winds Rising, came out this month, but I’ve got two manuscripts for two different series already with my agent. One is set during the Viking age and another in WWII London. They both feature female protagonists, and I’m really excited to get these out there with publishers.

Do feel free to tell me anything else you think people should know about you, the book, the writing lifestyle, or your process.

I love writing, especially historical fiction. I work by day as a tech writer in Silicon Valley, and when I’m not writing, I’m with my wife raising my kids. My little redheads are great, but looking after them makes writing and the corporate world look easy by comparison. 😉

I hope you enjoy Dark Winds Rising, and I look forward to connecting with all of you. Please feel free to drop me a line at marknoce.com any time. Thanks!

Book Review: Dark Winds Rising by Mark Noce

Dark Winds Rising by Mark Noce. St. Martin’s Press, December 2017.

DarkWindRising_FBCover_onsaleFinally, finally, the wait is over! You can–if you haven’t already–get a copy of Dark Winds Rising, the second in the epic historical series about a Welsh queen who stepped into her power in order to help her people.

The first book in the series is Between Two Fires. That work shows Queen Branwen’s strength of intellect and the strength of her heart as she accepts that the man she married is not her true love.

Now, in Dark Winds Rising, she must face the Queen of the Picts when raiders land on the shores of Wales. A mysterious assassin intent on killing her young son haunts her trail as she moves between different areas. The leaders of various areas would rather maintain their petty feuds with each other than join forces against the enemy, so the queen has her hands full.

Oh, and by the way, she’s pregnant. Provides a whole new angle on that modern mom thing, right? Even though sometimes young kids make it feel like Pictish raiders are marauding through your home!

Well, Queen Branwen never shirks her duty to her people or her country. Although taking her son with her on the road exposes them both to additional dangers, the assassin leaves her no choice.

The scenes in camp between her and her husband, Artagan, are some of the best in this book. They show the real dynamics between men and women during the medieval times while providing Branwen with enough room to move in her own direction.Dark Winds Rising

 

Plus, the touching moments with the family are heightened outside stone walls. Readers participate in very warm and moving interactions between parents and children. And yet the tension never gives way, which of course gives those intimate scenes all the more impact.

This second title in the series is pitch perfect from front to back. You won’t a single place where you lose interest or where you feel lost. You will be thoroughly immersed in Branwen’s world, her time, and the rugged beauty of Wales.

 

Book Trailers That Turn Heads

Today I want to introduce you (again) to an individual who is a fantastic resource for every author who is serious about selling their books.

TFMODustFrontCover (1)Aleksandar Tomov has done several videos for my books. Two are traditional trailer videos that focus on the books. The first novel, The Family Made of Dust, won two national awards and was shortlisted for a third honor.

Dust was rejected by the big publishers because they didn’t believe people would be interested in the journey of a biracial man who searches the Australian Outback for a missing friend. It’s an adventure/family drama/diverse tale that one reader, after finishing the book, said, “Well, I’ll be damned,” and then turned back to the first page to read it again!

The trailer Tomov created for this one is on my YouTube channel here. The videos he pulled together blend Aboriginal traditions, Outback vistas, and a darkening music track to really capture the flavor of The Family Made of Dust. The trailer, like the book, makes you want to travel to Australia and experience the Outback for yourself.

The year after Dust came out, many readers had asked for more information about Aboriginal lives and their cultures. Readers were very interested in how the protagonist had applied his traditions to solve the issues he faced in his life, so I pulled together a collection of Aboriginal folktales that could help modern people around the world.

SSFrontB&WIn Seven Sisters: Spiritual Messages from Aboriginal Australia, essays describe how traditional people used these stories, and how that wisdom applies today. The book is very popular with fans of The Secret, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, and readers of Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, and Paul Coelho.

The video Tomov put together for this book is very different. In fact, it doesn’t look much like a book trailer at all. The fact that individuals can share this video simply for the beauty of the images and the message of women’s empowerment means that it has been shared widely.

The video, available here, is longer than a book trailer, too, because the song needs it to be. That hasn’t stopped people from watching, sharing, and sending me messages about it! Trailers can help your Google rankings, too.

ReparationEbook

My next two novels, Beloved and Reparationare dark tales that mix the fantasy elements of Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and China Mieville (The Kraken) with the literary sensibility of Ursula Le Guin (the Earthsea series, The Left Hand of Darkness, and many, many others).

The trailer Tomov provided for Reparation is spectacular. It’s the creepiest one, and really captures the darkness of the story.Check it out here, and then connect with Tomov here! His rates are truly affordable at only 120 euros. At today’s conversion rate, that’s under $140. At that rate, a book trailer could be one of the least expensive promos you’ve ever bought!