February/March 2017 Writing Contests

This might be of interest to some fellow authors.

Rachel Poli

february-march-2017-writing-contestsFebruary 2017

Genre: Fiction, Nonfiction, or Poetry
Theme: Sentence starter – use the first line given
Website: The First Line
Deadline: February 1, 2017
Entry Fee: None
Prize: $25-$50 for fiction, $5-$10 for poetry, and $25 for nonfiction

Genre: Poetry
Theme: Love
Website: Don’t Talk To Me About Love
Deadline: February 14, 2017
Entry Fee: $20 for 1-3 poems
Prize: First place – $1,000

Genre: Fiction
Theme: N/A
Website: Glimmer Train
Deadline: February 28, 2017
Entry Fee: $18
Prize: First place – $2,500

Genre: Flash Fiction
Theme: N/A
Website: WOW! Women On Writing
Deadline: February 28, 2017
Entry Fee: $10
Prize: First place – $350

March 2017

Genre: Poetry
Theme: Food
Website: Literal Latte
Deadline: March 15, 2017
Entry Fee: $10 for up 6 poems or $15 for up to 12 poems
Prize: First place – $500

Genre: Fiction and Nonfiction
Theme: None
Website: Narrative Magazine
Deadline: March 31, 2017

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Dare to be Different

Today I would like to show you the new covers for my sci-fi/dystopian action adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness.

It has been a challenge to find the right design and I have gone through many covers none of which made me happy. These ones do. I’ve had some excellent feedback from people and have taken on board their comments to tweak my design.

But – it would seem there are some sci-fi writers out there who think my fonts aren’t suitable and should be more like the ones that they use. I took a look at their covers and thought, ‘No, thank you. My books aren’t anything like your books. So why would I want them to look like yours?’

Yes, I understand that I need to make the covers suggest my genre, but I will not create a book cover that does not reflect the content. The Song of Forgetfulness series of novels is a little bit different. I think that is a good thing.

I do dare to be different.

Will readers like that?

Yes, judging by the positive reviews I get.

So, I will continue to write the way I want to and be true to my art, instead of churning out generic narratives that could be written by anybody.

Rant over.

Will I sell a load of books?

Perhaps, if I get the marketing right.

Learn more about the series here:

http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com

Or go to:

http://www.oddlybooks.com

Interview with sci-fi author -Judith Rook

Hello, and welcome to another author profile. This time I would like you to meet sci-fi writer Judith Rook.

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About Judith Rook

I am a semi-retired person, and very glad of it.  A couple of times each week I’m back in the world of gainful employment, but it’s very much on my terms now.  It was not like that not very long ago.  The alarm clock was the hated tyrant of the morning and at the end of the day, I’d be thoroughly exhausted.

I should say at this point, though, that I ended my professional life as a music teacher and found enjoyment and fulfilment in the job.  It was just all the work it entailed that did me in.

However, all that came to an end.  I closed the classroom door behind me for one last time, thinking, a little sadly, that next year another teacher would check out the guitars and drum-kits for lunchtime practices.  Then I went for a sundowner with other retiring teachers, and we raised glasses to our new lives in the “goodbye to the sirens” world. (For ‘goodbye’, you may read a short and telling word, also beginning with ‘s’).

Now I write more or less full time; I live a fully creative life and consider myself to be a very fortunate person.  Although I interact enjoyably with my family, it is not on a daily basis, and sometimes I feel annoyed when my schedule tells me it is time for some exercise, or food, or some similar trivial matter.

Where Judith began to write.

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What I write

I have written four novels, two of which are straight-out Science Fiction, while the other two belong to the Space Opera genre (“Star Wars” is a space opera concept).  I have also written a novella for young adults, in preparation for a full-scale Young Adult novel, which belongs in the field of ScienceFantasy.  Then there is a rather hot Fantasy Romance, which I wrote as a sort of bet, and which I’ve published under a different name.

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My two Space Opera books (two and a half, actually) are based in a solar system where some of the planets are sentient, particularly the one called “Circe”.  They all have human populations, but Circe’s humans are slightly different from others.  At the same time, in the same solar system and beyond (other galaxies are not out of reach—this is Space Opera we’re talking about) there are non-sentient planets.  The largest and strongest of these (a sort of ‘alpha’ planet) is “First Home”.

For hundreds of years, Circe and her humans have kept themselves to themselves, but Circe has spotted a danger coming their way from far out in the cosmos.  She decides that on her own, she cannot deal with this approaching peril, so she contacts First Home and asks for help from the humans there, humans who do not believe in sentient planets.  You can imagine what happens.

Writing Influences

I choose to write my books on the grounds that I enjoy reading books with similar storylines.  I could never have become a writer if first I had not read hundreds of books.

Although I can never hope to be the stylist that he was, the influence which led me in the direction of writing was Isaac Asimov, the incredibly prolific author of ‘hard’ science fiction writing.  For some reason, I became objectively interested in the way he used the language to express his concepts, and found that I could detect technical patterns in his works.

When I began to write, the fact that a technical understanding of writing must support the unfolding of ideas was very much with me.  In fact, it is never out of my mind now, and more often than not, recognising an author’s technical ability is part of my reading enjoyment.

Research

With Science Fiction particularly, an author has to form ideas of place and existence that are not the same as the ones we come across in our everyday lives.  However, there have to be physical laws which hold any existence together, and my main type of research is in the field of popular science, and in non-scholarly books about physics.  I find a never-failing source of possibility in the videos issued by the “World Science Festival”.  As I watch the forum discussions, ideas come into my mind, ideas about things that could be.

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Writing Challenges

The biggest challenge posed by my “Circe” series was to make the idea of a “thinking” planet plausible.  I was helped by a family member who tends to refer to the whole planet Earth as “she”, as though Earth has a human personality.  Although Earth does not have a human personality, it has something.  And when one thinks about it, the planet does communicate with us.  It reacts to us and what we do, and yet at the same time it has an individually magnificent, incredibly powerful, existence that we can’t control.

So, the author in me thought about a planet whose mind has become self-aware, and whose humans follow a rule of living which provides the very best for both planet and people—and Circe appeared.

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Future Writing

I am half-way through writing the final part of the “Circe” trilogy.  It is taking longer than the first two books because I broke off to write my Young Adult novella and to begin its follow-on novel.  However, the third “Circe” story is very much on its way, and its completion will be my main writing goal .in the coming months.

Advice to Fellow Writers

I have taken on the responsibility of self-publishing.  There are a number of reasons for this, the foremost being that I would like to give other people the chance to read what I write.  This means that as well as writing, I must spend hours and hours editing and revising so that my books become polished and truly professional products which immediately engage, then keep, a reader’s attention.

Some independent-publishing authors claim to “hate” editing.  I can’t understand that position.  Editing is where a writer brings their technical skills to the fore, where they look at what they have written and, although it may be pretty good already, they set about making it better.

If there is any advice that I would offer to self-publishing authors it is: enjoy your editing hours, and be prepared to go through a book at least twice in fine detail.  If you can’t do that, then I would suggest that you either don’t publish your MS, or put it into the hands of a professional editor.  You will not regret it, and your readers will thank you for it.

Reading leads to Writing and Back

Referring again to Isaac Asimov, the scientist/writer who triggered my interest in Science Fiction, I am proud to admit that I have completely worn out the full set I had of his seven “Foundation” novels.  When they got to the stage where the paperbacks had so fallen apart that individual pages had separated from the others, I ordered a replacement set through a bookshop, some distance away from where I live.

“Get them on the internet,” I was told.  But, making the special trip to the bookshop was what I needed to do.  While I was there I browsed and came away also with other authors:  Ursula K. Le Guin,  Arthur C. Clarke,  Terry Pratchett,  C.J. Cherryh,  Julian May,  A.E. van Vogt,  Orson Scott Card.  I had ten new books to take with me, and a very special order placed.  For a Science Fiction writer, at that moment, there was little else that the world could offer.

Where Judith writes now.

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Thank you for a wonderfully in-depth interview Judith.

You can find Judith’s books  online at the links below:

“Planet Woman”     http://geni.us/p1w2

“Man of Two Planets”     http://geni.us/m1o2p

“First Steps for a Hero”     http://geni.us/Hero1

Follow and keep in touch with Judith:

On Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/JudithRookBooks/

On Twitter:     https://twitter.com/JudithRook2

Blog:     www.JudithRook.com

Author Spotlight – Bonnie Milani

Greetings everyone and a very Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start 2017 with some author interviews. I love getting to know new writers and hearing about their work, so to start off, please welcome Sci-fi author Bonnie Milani. 

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 Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m the walking definition of a masochist:  a benefits broker specializing in micro-businesses under ObamaCare who is trying to build a professional reputation as a sci fi author.

What is your book about?

Which book?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  My latest is ‘Cherry Pickers’, a teen girl’s light-hearted coming-of-age story – with spiders.  Very large, hopelessly romantic spiders.

 Why did you choose to write your book?

Y’know, I don’t think we choose our stories; I think our stories choose us.  In the case of ‘Cherry Pickers’ I’ve had one of the main characters, Sam, nested in a corner of my mind for more years than I’m willing to count.  Finally decided to let the poor guy out.  So, of course, now I’ve got another whole set of stories growing out of this one.

Cherry Pickers is only $0.99! You can grab a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-Pickers-Bonnie-Milani-ebook/dp/B01LZU1XK1

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You can read my review of Cherry Pickers at the end of this post.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve sold other stories set on Sisyphus, the world-setting for ‘Cherry Pickers’, so I’d already done the research on the basics of the world itself: size, gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, etc. I’d also researched arachnid characteristics & behaviors – which was a challenge, considering I’m a total arachnophobe. But the research led me to peacock spiders, & with that I had the ammunition I needed to work out how the Sissy culture would operate.  To give you an idea, here’s a link to the peacock spider’s mating dance: https://www.cnet.com/news/two-adorable-new-spiders-found-meet-sparklemuffin-and-skeletorus/  Just TRY not to think of John Travolta!

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Time is always my challenge.  I have at best 1 hour a day, so progress tends to be slow.  Drives me up the creative wall. But it’s proof that determination & plain ol’ stick-to-it-ness eventually wins the day.

What was the best part of writing your book?

FINALLY getting it to where I felt it was right.  I THOUGHT I had it right on maybe the 4th rewrite, so I sent it off to my editor.  Oy, was I wrong.  Oh, OUCH was I wrong!  She sent back four single-spaced pages of just where & how severely wrong I was, along with commentary in the MS itself.  Exceedingly painful experience – but very, very necessary.  The story just would not have fulfilled itself otherwise.  I realized that after I finished reworking it.

Thought I’d slip in Bonnie’s award. Wow!

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Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Oy, do I!  Perhaps the most important advice I can offer at all is to realize that posting your doc to Amazon does NOT equate to genuine self-publication, not if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer.  Agreed, simply getting a MS up on Amazon is quite enough of a chore on its own, but it’s far & away the least, last, & most malleable item in the production chain.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional writer then you simply must learn the craft and write to a professional standard.  And that’s HARD, believe me.  I can tell you from experience that fiction writing is a thousand times more difficult than non-fiction.  I was writing NON-fiction for publication back in high school.  Waaay back in my twenties I was writing feature pieces for Science Digest, Peninsula, Mankind, The Atlantic City Press, as well as  various other newspapers.  In college I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up and used by the NJ Dept. of Education for grammar school children.  All exciting, professional work – and none of it even a fraction as challenging or just plain HARD as one fiction story.

Long story short: if you’re an aspiring author, then invest the time and money in yourself and your talent to learn how to make your stories WORK.  Learn three-act structure.  Learn character development, world-building, throughlines, the works.  Have your work edited by a professional in your chosen field.  Then swallow your tears (maybe with a glass of scotch or two) when your best efforts come back bruised and beaten.  REWRITE.  Cry or swear some more.  Then send it back to be edited again.  It’s hard, and it’s not cheap, but you’ll feel it when your story is ready to stand on its own and face the world.  Mind, then you have all the mechanical posting & proofing & such to face – but by then you’ve got something you KNOW is good enough to justify the effort.

Wow, that answer kinda got away from me!  Hope your followers find it helps!

 I’m sure they will, Bonnie, thanks.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

In sci fi, it’s C.J. Cherryh, hands down.  Her tightly-plotted, women-oriented sci fi is what drew me back into writing after I’d given up for far too many years to help my husband build his business as well as starting my own insurance agency.

Outside of sci-fi, my favorites are the classic women authors: Jane Austen (‘Pride & Prejudice’ RULES!), Charlotte Bronte (‘Jane Eyre’), and of course, Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

What are your future writing plans?

I have another novella started.  After that, I plan on returning to the ‘Home World’ universe and completing the rest of the series.  Considering that universe has churned out about two generations worth of tales so far I figure that’s going to keep me busy for a lot of years to come!

Thank you Bonnie.

For more information about Bonnie and her books go to her Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Milani/e/B00IPYW4HK/

 

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My review of Cherry Pickers:

Starship Troopers meets Arachnophobia

 I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the idea of giant spiders being the main characters alongside their human counterparts. Bonnie Milani successfully makes you care about these large arachnids just as much as the human ones, as all her characters are utterly believable.

It was a fast paced read full of suspense, humour and wonderful descriptions of the alien world that made the narrative come alive.

The alien arachnids are both lovable and horrid. I hated the Sissies, but I adored Sam, the spider, he was funny and sensitive. I did feel sorry for Tsk, who’s fate was to become Kekh’s next mate. A thing he dreads, for obvious reasons.

The heroine Nikki is feisty and fun and she relates the story in a jaunty manner as she tries to sort out her role in the complex mating rituals and sinister schemes she has been drawn into. I shan’t spoil the plot, but I was hooked from the beginning to the unexpected end.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a difference.

 

New Release!!

Merry Christmas!!!

Just in time for the festive season, I have managed to finish and publish The Chronicles of Mayer – parts one and two. They are prequel stories for The Song of Forgetfulness Dystopian/Sci-fi series and give insight into how the world of NotSoGreatBritAlbion came to exist as it does in the books.

There are more stories to follow so I will be releasing them as and when I complete the manuscripts. I takes time as I have to do a lot of research into global warming, diseases, ice cap melting etc in order to get the facts right. I tell you, writing Sci-fi isn’t as easy as you might think. Creating future worlds is so creative, but I do need to male sure it is credible, hence the research.

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Here is the link and blurb for The Chronicles of Mayer:

 An Apocalyptic tale in The Song of Forgetfulness series.

A story of survival and courage in a devastated world.

When mother nature turns against mankind in the latter stages of the 21st century sending hurricanes, earthquakes, and deadly viruses to wipe out the human race, a small community of Buddhist monks and scientists are forced to evacuate Mahabharata House on the disused Lakenheath airbase, as rising waters engulf their home.

With many humans and animals drowned it is up to devotees Gopi Jnanamaya Kosha and Gopala Arjuna Bhutapanchaka, cow herds at Mahabharata, to protect the sacred bovines and take them to a safe haven in the highlands of Scotland.

During their arduous journey on foot and hoof, they meet other refugees of the catastrophic flood who join them on their mission to survive and build a sanctuary for themselves and the cows on the mountains of the Trossachs.

Tension mounts as dwindling food supplies cause friction and distrust amongst the disparate group. Their trek north becomes fraught with danger as hungry survivors clash and rogue soldiers try to butcher the holy herd.

As dangerous lightning storms, traitors and disease threaten to wreck their pilgrimage, Mayer and Arjuna must do battle not only with the elements but those who would kill to get their hands on the last remaining cattle in the ever diminishing island of Great Britain.

This is an accompaniment to The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian/Action Adventure series.

 

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful New Year!

Do you have a special place to write?

As I was typing away on my new project yesterday, it occurred to me that I need certain requirements to enable me to think, create and write. Not much to be honest, but I do have  my special place to help me channel my inspiration. I have a comfy chair with cushions, gentle lighting from the beautiful leaded light windows my husband, Martin made and my shelf of reference books ready to hand. When all that is in place I can happily delve into my fantasy world for hours.

Here is a photo of my ‘workstation’.

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Do any other authors out there have their special writing places? If so, I’d love to hear from you. If you have a picture, that would be even better.

I am currently working on a series of stories to complement my Sci-fi/Dystopian/Action Adventure books The Song of Forgetfulness.

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The idea came from several readers who contacted me after reading the books wanting to know more about the history of the world I have created. So, I thought, okay, why not?

Can of worms!

I needed to do a lot of research to make my history credible. So it has taken longer than I anticipated to write this prequel of sorts. In fact, I’m nowhere near done, but I have finished the first part, so that’s something.

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Here is a snippet from part two of The Chronicles of Mayer – out soon!

One weatherless night when quietness surrounded us and I lay snuggled against Paul, a sound awoke me. I thought at first it was just more thunder. But the thumping, rumbling noise was not coming from the sky. It was not the air echoing off a lightning bolt, but the thudding of many feet in unison. I rolled away from Paul’s sleep-twitching body and sat up. Glancing at the wet earth I noticed a puddle ripple. The cows called out. Paul stirred and Arjuna knelt beside me.

‘I was foraging for mushrooms and saw tiny lights. I climbed the branches of a tree and as the dark sky brightened to herald a new day, I saw them. Soldiers.’

‘How many.’ Fully awake, Paul stood. ‘Do they carry weapons?’

‘Guns. Some drag carts. They are coming this way.’

I rubbed my sleep-encrusted eyes. ‘That does not make sense. To travel towards the flooding? Why?

A single gunshot ricocheted through the forest. All that were in slumber jumped to their feet. Cries of puzzlement were met with a loud honking as if a nest of geese had been disturbed. Then a voice, deep and full of authority boomed out. ‘Stay perfectly still and you will not be harmed.’

If you would like more information about my books please do visit my website – Oddly Books.

www.oddlybooks.com

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6 Tips On How To Record Your Own Audiobook

I have recently finished recording my first anthology of short stories – Glimmer – for Amazon Audiobooks.

Or ACX as it is known:

 https://www.acx.com/help/about-acx/200484860

It took a while to record, but I think the finished product is professional. It helps that my husband is a musician/composer and knows his way around a recording desk.

But you don’t need to have a studio technician in order to record your audiobook. You can do it yourself, quite cheaply too. Be sure to create your account first and become acquainted with the specifications for recording your book.

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http://books2read.com/u/3LrNd1

So, here are a few tips to get you started:

Firstly – you need to deaden the room you are in, if you don’t have soundproof room. Since I don’t have a soundproof booth I had to improvise by placing a mattress against one wall, putting cushions in the windows and hanging a heavy duvet on the wall I faced. This will muffle outside noises quite effectively. As I live on a road that can be busy, I had to pause on a number of occasions whilst waiting for traffic to die down.

Secondly – you will need a good microphone, preferably one that is specifically designed for voice-over work. I used an Apogee Mic professional microphone that is suitable for Garageband, iPad, iPhone and mac. These can be pricey, but if you go to this link: http://ehomerecordingstudio.com/usb-microphones/ there is an extensive list of affordable microphones that will be more than ideal.

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Thirdly – a computer/laptop to record it on, with suitable recording software. I use an iMac that has Garageband already installed. It is very easy to use and more than adequate for audiobook requirements. If you have a PC then I am reliably told that Audacity, is the software to use. http://www.audacityteam.org/

Fourthly – make sure you are comfortable before you begin. You should place the microphone level with your mouth about 8 inches away from your face, with a pop shield attached to reduce those annoying,  heavy breathing sounds, gulps, ‘P’ pop noises and other tongue, lip sound we can’t help making on occasions.

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Once you’ve created your track and pressed record, try to pace your reading. Don’t go too fast and make sure you pronounce things clearly. The good thing about doing it yourself, is that you can re-record the bits you don’t like. You can also use headphones so that you can hear yourself as you speak.

Fifthly – when you have recorded your book, edit it to make it crisp and clean and professional sounding. This entails fiddling around with levels to make them consistent, taking out long pauses, reducing background noise, and basically making it sound the way you want it to so that it meets  with the requirements of ACX. I highly recommend that you download a sample of an audiobook to get an idea of the quality and ambiance that ACX need.

Lastly – upload to ACX and await for confirmation and acceptance before it goes for sale. It takes around 10-14 days for this this to happen. Be careful to get your details, book description and categories right before publishing as once it is, making changes isn’t easy. You have to email them and ask. Also, you don’t set the price, they do based on the length of your audio reading.

For a more detailed account of how to home record for ACX, I highly recommend Rob Dirks tutorial  – Yes, you can record you own Audiobook. Here’s how.

http://robdircks.com/yes-you-can-record-your-own-audiobook-heres-how/

 I decided  a trailer would be a good idea as a taster for my new publication. My husband very kindly made this video for me. You can view it on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/XsZCYmua4R0