Monday, January 30, 2012

Writing Prompt #91

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The newest gym craze is exploding exercise bikes: stop peddling and BOOM!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Newest Published Story: Special Order

I have a new story published over at the e-zine, Go give it a look. It's called, Special Order, and it's a modern fantasy/horror story. I'd love to hear what you think, so let me know in the comments. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the read!

This Week: Back and Forward (4)

This week was a nice writing week. I wrote 5868 words, much of it on my middle-grade time travel work in progress, and I'm pretty happy with the progress of that manuscript. I didn't post a Friday Flash because the story I wrote turned out to be a little longer than 1000 words and it was a bit too graphic for what I consider appropriate for Friday Flash. But that's fine; I plan on revising it and sending it out to e-mags and such. Also this week I received a bit of good news on the short story front. One of my stories, "Special Order," has been picked up by the online magazine, You can bet I'll post more about that when it goes live. Sounds like it can happen within the next month, though I was only given a vague date with a promise they'd email me. Either way, it's exciting news for me.

This next week I plan on, of course, writing my 5000 words. That will include a new flash for Friday Flash, as well as a good chunk of the middle-grade novel. I may even be able to finish the first draft this week, which would be nice. Tomorrow (Monday), look for the next Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt, which will be number 91. I already have a blog post written, and I'll post that on Wednesday. It's about my new writing session and how it helps me get words on the page when I sit down at my desk. Maybe it can help you, too.

That's it on the writing front for now. I'll, of course, be around on Twitter and Facebook, so if you need or want anything from me, feel free to hit me up on either of those. Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Page After Page by Heather Sellers

I've finished writing and editing three manuscripts at this point in my writing life, so I know I can sit down and finish writing a book. Even so, the title and description (you can see the Amazon description here) captured my attention. In most ways, I'm thrilled I made this purchase. Ms. Sellers has some wonderful advice to get writers writing. Her favorite is, in my opinion, the best writing advice available. To paraphrase: Don't over-think it. Just sit down, shut up, and write. Of course, if she kept it there, it would be an all too-short book, probably something more for Twitter than the shelves of Barnes and Noble where I picked it up.

I found this book geared more towards people who don't have much experience writing. Many of the tips, however, can be used by writers of any level. The book is broken up into three parts: Part 1: Blank Pages: Creating a New Writing Self; Part 2: Turning Pages: How to Maintain Your Commitment to Writing; and Part 3: New Pages: Finding Your Place in the World of Writing. I really enjoyed part one. Many of the tips presented were great ideas, sure-fire ways to get words on the page. I particularly enjoyed her advice about a writing journal, something I know I should carry with me, but rarely actually do. She says writers should always carry one with them, but there is no need to actually write in it every day. It's only necessary to write when you find something worthy of writing down. If a week goes by without jotting a not in the journal, it's not a big deal as long as you've had it ready to write in. I tend to agree, and now I don't feel bad about not writing in one every day like some advice says to do.

Unfortunately, there was much about this book I didn't like. Honestly, I thought Ms. Sellers came off as a real MFA Creative Writing snob. Judging from comments she made throughout the book, I know she'd look down on the things I write since I'm a genre writer. I've never had an interest in pursuing a Master's Degree in Creative Writing, and this book reminded me continuously of this fact. Along those same lines, parts two and three of the book didn't really speak to me. I'm glad I read through them as there were a few gems sprinkled in, but overall the feeling of those last two parts seemed to be directed at the type of writer who would be glad to go after such academic goals.

Overall, if you're the type of writer who occasionally needs a nudge to get to your writing desk, I'd say this book is worth a read. Many of the tips that fill part one are well worth remembering. You might want to simply skim the rest of the book, though.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Writing Prompt #90

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A new bottled water on the market doesn't exactly contain water.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Week: Back and Forward (3)

Last week I was all hot to trot on writing a novel in one month (my own personal NaNoWriMo), but if you follow this blog, you'll see that this didn't last long. Instead I discovered something about my writing preference (you can read all about it here if you'd like). So now I'm back to simply writing 5000 words a week, which I accomplished this past week with about 5500 words. I wrote the first draft of a short story that I'll be revising in the next couple of weeks to send out to magazines for publication, so that was nice. I hadn't written a short story other than a flash fiction piece for Friday Flash in quite a while. I also sent out quite a few of mys stories that were sitting on my hard drive. And much to my pleasure, one of them has been accepted! It's from the online magazine Short-Story.Me, and I'll have much more on that when it gets published. Even though I'm proud of every story I send out to publishers, it's always a nice surprise when one gets picked up. I'm hoping for more from this batch.

As for this next week, I'm not yet sure what I want to accomplish. I have options, so I'll get it figured out later today. I have a middle grade novel that I'm in the middle of writing, as well as an adult paranormal/horror story. I also have a few ideas for short stories that I may start writing instead. In addition to these actual writing projects that will get me words towards my goal of 5000, I will also begin planning another novel or two. Busy, busy, busy!

As for this blog, you can expect a new Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt tomorrow (Monday). Wednesday will bring a book review blog post, and Friday will bring another Friday Flash. Have a good week, everyone!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


by Eric J. Krause

Becca stared down at Geoff's body--the body of her husband, lover, best friend--and tried to scream. It wouldn't come, but babbling words, murmured in a low whisper, pushed up her throat and out her mouth. "Wake up, Geoff, not funny, not funny at all, open your eyes and start breathing, the joke's over, you aren't dead, you can't be."

But it wasn't a prank. Her Geoff, her beloved Geoff, lay dead. She'd left him on the bed, quite satisfied and very much alive after a vigorous love-making session, to take a quick shower. As she dried off, she felt that frisky itch and headed to the bedroom to initiate round two. Instead she found him like this.

Now that scream threatened to tear through her, but she couldn't afford to lose it. 9-1-1. Yes, that's who she had to call, and she couldn't be hysterical during it or the operator wouldn't understand. Calm, cool, and collected, that's what she needed to be.

Before she grabbed the phone, she reached for Geoff. He'd had a physical for work just last week. The doctor pronounced him in excellent shape for a man of 43. Maybe a bit too much of a bulge around the middle, but his cholesterol and blood pressure were at acceptable levels, and his heart was strong. No sign of any diseases or defects. Keep it up, the doctor said. So how was he laying here like this?

Becca had often heard the term "dead weight," but never having handled a dead body bigger than a hamster, she'd not grasped the concept. She struggled to roll him to his side, and once she succeeded, a gasp escaped her lips and she leapt back. Geoff flopped face-down on her side of the bed. A small pool of blood, about the size of a quarter, congealed on his pillow. On the back of his neck was a small round wound, already festering. But that was impossible. She might not be in the medical profession, was, in fact, merely the manager of an independently-owned games and hobbies shop (The Game Room--"we cover all your gaming needs"), but she knew there was no way either the wound or the blood should look like that. Not yet. It hadn't been there before her shower. She'd wrapped her hands around the back of his neck during their intimate act, and they'd come back clean. No, as inexplicable as it was, this happened while she was in the shower.

Which meant, among other things . . .

Terror replaced her grief, and she lunged for the phone. Dead. As dead as poor Geoff. That almost brought down the dam holding the tears back, but somehow she managed to keep herself in check. Hysteria could, would, come later, but for now she had to keep her head so she could survive. Someone was in the house, and he was dangerous, deadly.

She tried to ascertain if there'd been a struggle on the bed, but she knew very well there had been--quite a pleasurable one that she'd been involved in. Other than that, besides the spot of already congealed blood, she couldn't tell. Should she dash out and run for the neighbors, or was unknown death waiting for her? The window? This was the second story, and her two landing options were rose bushes or concrete. She preferred neither choice. No, she'd sneak downstairs and bolt out either the front or back door, whichever proved safer.

Nothing seemed disturbed in the upstairs hallway. She tiptoed to the stairs and stood silent for a few seconds, listening for anything out of the ordinary. When only the regular sounds of her house came back--the ticking of clocks, the whir of the dishwasher, the hum of the computer--she hurried down the stairs. Once at the bottom, she had a clear path to the front door, to freedom, and took it. She twisted the handle and pulled, but it didn't budge. Damn deadbolt.

As she moved her hand to unlock the door, something thudded behind her. She whirled around and finally allowed herself to scream. Geoff stumbled towards her, no life existing in his eyes. But that wasn't the worst part, not by a long shot. The worst stood at the top of the stairs behind him. His new puppet master pulled the strings, and it wanted her in its collection.

No Pantsing For Me

At the end of last week, I'd just finished reading a book by the founder of National Novel Writing Month, and I was set to write my own novel with no advanced knowledge of the plot, characters, or anything else. All I had was an idea. The adrenaline rush was supposed to drive me to average 1667 words a day for 30 days. It sounded like fun. I was up for the challenge.

Bear in mind that I've attempted to write novels without outlines before. It's never ended well. I get a few chapters in and the creativity runs dry. It's frustrating to sit at my desk and not know what's coming next. I know many writers love that feeling, but it sucks the fun out of the process for me. And I believe there should be fun in the process. After all, if you, as an author, hate writing the novel, why should a reader enjoy reading it? That level of passion (or lack thereof, in this case) will shine through.

Now, a week after telling myself that this time will be different--this time I'd zip through the story, discovering everything as I go, and have a blast while doing it--reality has set in. The blank page mocks me. My pen sits in my hand, spitting out taunting thoughts, informing me the only ink that will come out will take my story, my characters, and everything about the process, in an entirely wrong direction. It's not fun, and I'm sure my prose back that up. So I'm calling a halt to my personal NaNoWriMo quest.

Do I feel like a failure? Maybe a tiny bit, but to tell you the truth, I feel more victorious than anything. Why? I've discovered, without a shadow of a doubt, what works best for me. I can't write anything longer than a short story from the seat of my pants, but that's okay. I've crafted three novel-length manuscripts using outlines, and I'm proud of all three. I think they're each quite good. (*Massive self-promotion break* You can judge for yourself on one of them--I've self-published Way Over the Line, and you can click here to get it and see if my pride is deserved or not. *Self-promotion break over--you may return to the regularly-scheduled blog post*)

So what's next? I believe in this story that I started, so I'm going to stop writing it and stat plotting. I'm going to flesh out the characters so they'll begin to speak to me. Then, when I can see where everything is going, I'm going to put the words down on paper. And this time I'm going to have fun doing it.

"Nice story," you might be saying. "Thanks for the insight into your writing life, but so what? What does it have to do with me?" No worries, I can tell you what it has to do with you. Learn where your comfort zone is. Discover if you're a plotter or a pantser (or a healthy mix in between). Discover how you write best. Because when it's all said and done, no matter what writing books and your peers say, one way of writing is not superior to any other. The best way to write is whatever works best for you. Try both ways and a combination of both. You'll swing and miss a few times, but once you find the sweet spot, you'll bring joy into your writing. And that's what it's all about. Have fun with the process, and your readers will see that.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No Post Today--Screw Censorship

I'm taking a cue from other authors and Internet content providers and not posting my regularly scheduled post today. Check back tomorrow instead. Check Wikipedia for more information on why.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing Prompt #89

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

The light from a sun in a distant solar system has strange effects on a crew of astronauts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This Week: Back and Forward (2)

This past week, I read a book called No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month. I'm not going to get into the book here, as I'll devote a blog post to it sometime later this year, but I will say that it inspired me. I've attempted to write books without the benefit of an outline before, and it never ends well. Reading Mr. Baty's tips and encouragement, however, excited me to give it another go, in 30 days, no less! Yes, my own personal NaNoWriMo. I started writing a Young Adult horror story about a demonic Magic 8-Ball (that's all you get about it for now, though), and after two days am almost on pace. My goal each day is 1667 words, which will make 50,000 words in 30 days (50,010 words if your nasty). I wrote 1364 on Friday and 1885 yesterday, leaving me just 85 words shy of pace so far. But I'm not worried--the book also gave me a tip on writing time that I think will work wonders for word count once I get into it. I'll see if it works for me this week, and report back on it if it does.

I'm still shooting for 5000 words each week, which should be no problem these next few weeks with my NaNoWriMo experiment. Ended up with 5449 last week. Didn't quite make up for my slow first week, but, as I said, I'm not too worried about that. It'll all even out. I was happy about my social media experience this week--I was on Twitter quite a bit, tweeting and retweeting my writer buns off. I'm still giving thought to how I'm going to handle my author page on Facebook, but I think I've got it figured out. Last week I wrote a few health tips and a writing tip. I think I'll continue that a couple times or more a week. I looked through my Google Reader account each day, and even commented on some blog posts, which I need to do more of. I didn't use Google+ much, and I doubt that'll change. It simply feels redundant to Twitter and Facebook. I'll change my tune if necessary, but I'm not going to worry about it now. I did post my links to my blog posts, and I'll continue doing that.

This coming week will be a busy writing week with my personal NaNo. I also will have a new Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt on Monday, a blog post on Wednesday (a book review of Page After Page by Heather Sellers), and I'll do my best to have a Friday Flash on, you guessed it, Friday (though, honestly, I usually post them in the late evening on Thursday). That's it for now. I'll have another one of these looks back and forward next Sunday. I hope everyone has a productive writing week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Writing Break (My Writing Depression)

I didn't write much in December. I wasn't sure why at the time, but the spark just wasn't there. Part of it was that my wife had a good chunk of the first part of the month off from work, and we spent a lot of time together doing fun things and getting ready for the holidays, but there was something else under the surface that I couldn't quite put my finger on. As the month went on, the itch to write started to get to me, but I had no problem telling myself to wait until the beginning of the year to start off right. This made perfect sense to me.

Though it shouldn't have, and I didn't know why.

Then I figured it out. I'd let myself become a bit depressed with writing because of the novel I was sending out to agents. I wasn't even getting a "let me see more," and though I know it's all a part of the game, especially with the way the business is nowadays, it still got to me. It sucked the joy out of writing, and since I didn't diagnose it, the depression with the business festered inside of me until I didn't want to work on anything. Luckily (or unluckily), I had that magic mark of "The New Year" coming up. I can't help wondering if this depression had hit me in, say, July, if I would have either not waited so long to start writing, or if I would have stopped for a much longer time.

Anyway, I did figure out what was wrong. I've always told myself to not take anything in this business personal when it came to submissions; if someone doesn't want the story, try someone else. I let my guard down, though, and it seized me, freezing my writing life for a month. Now that I'm back in the game, I'm feeling stronger about my writing life, and I also feel confident I won't let that depression sneak up on me again. I know the signs now and can confront them head on. I plan big things for myself this year, and I don't want to self-sabotage.

So why am I sharing this? I want to remind everyone to not take rejection so personally. I know it's hard, but if you let it get to you, it can sabotage all of your writing, not just the project that is not earning the praise you believe it should. Yes, it's okay to feel bad for a bit when you get that rejection letter, but know that you're doing it so you can keep it in check and move on after that initial wallow in pity. Human nature sometimes makes it hard, but to make it in this business, it's a necessity. I just hope I've learned my lesson.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing Prompt #88

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A rabbit-eared television set can control time and space.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This Week: Back and Forward (1)

This past week, I wanted to write 5000 words, as well as be more of a presence on social media sites. I did not hit my weekly word goal, but, honestly, I didn't expect to. I basically took December off from writing (part of the reason why will be addressed in this week's coming blog post; look for it on Wednesday), so I didn't expect the words to flow. That's okay. I knew it going in, and I also know I'll make up for it over the course of the year. As for my social media presence, I feel I did fine. I've been on Twitter quite a bit, and I feel like I've reconnected with some people I've largely lost track of in the past several months, as well as meeting some nice new people. I also posted daily on my Facebook author site, something I've decided to keep up throughout the year. Some days will be me pointing out links to this blog or other type things, while other days will be quick writing tips. I also plan to post exercise and nutrition tips, since this is often (from listening to complaints by writers on Twitter and Facebook) that many of us can use reminders of every once in a while. I feel I'm qualified enough to make these occasional tips--I lost 60 pounds last year, dropping my pants size from a 44 to a 34. So these exercise and nutrition tips are proven to work!

This next week I pretty much have the same writing goals. 5000 words and keeping a strong profile on Twitter and Facebook (Google+ needs to be addressed, too, but not sure if that'll be this week or not). I will be getting back into writing the first draft of a middle grade novel I started last year, so hopefully that'll pile up the words. If you're looking forward to my blog posts, I'll have a new Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt on Monday, and a post on Wednesday about why I didn't write in December. There will likely be no Friday Flash story on Friday as I don't think I'm going to carve out the time that weekend to read the story of other authors, and I dislike posting my own story if I can't read others.

That's a look back at last week and a look forward at this coming one. I'll be posting these updates each Sunday to keep myself honest.

Friday, January 6, 2012

#FridayFlash--Writer's Block

Writer's Block
by Eric J. Krause

He sat down and stared at the blank page. No ideas flooded his mind, but he didn't worry. Inspiration would come; it always did. Besides, he could dig up a writing prompt on the web, listen to a song, or simply freewrite. He'd been through this before. The words would come.

A minute. Two. Five. Ten.


Fine. He stood and headed to his computer, ready to bring in the big guns. A writing prompt. This mini-bout of writer's block wouldn't stand a chance. He had a few sites bookmarked that had served him well in the past, and a few keystrokes later, he'd printed out a dozen prompts that were sure to get him through.

He dove into the first, finished a paragraph, and stopped. No, this one was a good freewriting exercise, but it wasn't leading to a story. The next one proved the same. And the next. And the next. And the next.

The pen smacked onto his desk when he dropped it. This was no good. It wasn't a traditional writing prompt night, or, for that matter, a freewriting type of night. Maybe a song would jar a story out of him.

The iPod went to random, and he stared at the display. The name of the first song would be the title of his story. "The Price of Pain." Perfect. That could go in a hundred different directions.

Except it didn't. The page remained blank, and his pen stayed silent. He started to get up to take a mind-clearing walk when the pain hit. His chest burned and his arm tingled. He plopped back into his chair and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, everything went back to normal. Damn heartburn.

As he picked up his pen, something about it caught his eye. For the first time, he examined the writing instrument. It was clear plastic, the kind where you can see right to the ink. Except that wasn't ink in there. Ink didn't move like that, not any kind he'd ever seen. It swirled and bubbled and dripped and rose and changed from black to blue to green to yellow to red and back to black to start it all over again.

Where had this pen come from? He couldn't remember. Had it been a gift, part of a pack he'd purchased, or had he grabbed it as a freebie somewhere? No matter how much he thought about it, the answer wouldn't come.

He dipped the tip onto the paper. He'd done it plenty of times in the past hour in his attempts at the writing prompts, but this time the ink came out different. It swirled on the page as it had inside the pen. Hypnotic. Multi-colored. Moving where no movement should be possible. And it wasn't just the ink. Now his words flowed, given new life by the dancing print.

He filled one blank page. Then another. And another. He had no idea how much time had passed, but it felt like mere seconds. And these words were gold. He hadn't gone over them yet, but he knew. He'd sell this story and plenty of subsequent ones based on it. This was his key to success in the business, and it was all due to whatever was in this strange pen.

Four more pages in, he finally jotted those two magic words: The End. As fast and furious as his pen had travelled over the paper, he couldn't believe his hands hadn't cramped up. As he set it down, he massaged his fingers, but it was unnecessary. They didn't even tingle. He stood up, intent on heading to the kitchen for a bottle of celebratory beer, and had to stifle a scream.

He hadn't actually written anything at all. His dead body lay slumped over the still blank pages, and the pen, which proved to be one of those plain, run-of-the-mill jobs from an office supply store, had rolled off the desk and bounced a few feet away. The ink was clearly black and definitely not swirling.

Cries of sorrow, frustration, and downright anger stopped in his throat. A bright light behind him melted away those negative emotions and left only a peaceful aura around him. What else could he do? There was nothing here for him anymore. He turned and stepped into the light.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012 Writing Goals

With the new year upon us, I decided it was time to publish my writing goals for 2012. I decided I need to write much more this year, so my main goal is to get at least 5000 words down on page each week. That will equal 260,000 words for the year when all is said and done. The plan is to work on a few novels (YA speculative fiction still being the main thrust, though I'd like to throw an adult horror story in, as well), write short stories for publication, and publish Friday Flash stories (more on that last one later). I've also made myself a deal when it comes to editing and plotting--each hour I spend doing one or the other counts as 250 words. This way, as long as I'm working on a novel or short story, it'll count towards my goal. I think that this goal will do well to getting me closer to where I want to be as a writer.

In addition, I need to put more focus into marketing and social media. These are weak areas for me. I'm very sporadic on Twitter, only really post goofy stuff for my friends on Facebook, and largely ignore Google+. This needs to change. I will be more of a presence on Twitter, will make more use of my writing account on Facebook, and will actually use Google+ this year. Also, I will be more on top of submitting short stories and query letters, as well as other marketing areas that I'm not very good at. I hate that part of the writing game, but I know it needs to be done. I will also comment on other writers blog posts in an attempt to get my name out there more often (and to show others how much I appreciate the hard work they put into everything, since I know how much time it all takes).

This blog will also benefit from my wanting to be a better all-around writer this year. I need to post more often, and I have some ideas to make this happen. I will continue to publish Speculative Fiction Writing Prompts each Monday (or at least most Mondays). As I said in the first paragraph, I also want to publish Friday Flash stories on, you guessed it, Fridays. I won't do this every week, but my goal in this area is to aim for at least a couple times a month. So if you're a fan of my flash fiction, keep an eye on that coming soon. I also will do my best to post an article on writing every Wednesday. These may be my thoughts on certain writing topics, book reviews on writing books, occasional movie or television show reviews, or any other topic that pertains to writing. I'm not going to promise that there will be one every single Wednesday, but I will post most weeks. I'm also considering posting a review of what I've done, writing-wise, each weekend, be it Saturday or Sunday, and maybe a preview of what I plan to do in the coming week. If I do this, I doubt I'll advertise much about it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or wherever else might be appropriate. That post will be mostly for me to keep myself accountable. Of course, anyone will be free to read it and leave me comments. I always love to see comments on any blog post.

So there you have it: my writing goals for 2012. I'm hoping this will be a breakthrough year for me, as I'm in the middle of an agent search. With the output I hope to produce, there will also be further agent and publication searches down the line. All in all, I hope this is my best writing year yet!

2012 Reading Challenge

Last year I attempted the Outdo Yourself Challenge at The Book Vixen's blog, and while I came close to my goal, I fell just a book short. Hopefully I can do a bit better this year. My goal this year (as it was last year) is to read 50 books. I hit 49 last year, so I only need one additional book this year. I can do it! I will list which books I've completed below. If you'd like to join in this challenge, click this sentence or the picture below.

2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

If you'd like to read my review of any or all of the books I read this year, check out my reviews on Goodreads. Feel free to friend me while you're there, if you'd like!

Now, onto the books:
1. Feed by M.T. Anderson
2. Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
3. Other Kingdoms by Richard Matheson
4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
5. The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
6. The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer
7. Tirfo Thuin by Andrew Butterworth
8. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
9. The Dark Yergall by Jason Sullivan
10. The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
11. Devil's Hand by M.E. Patterson
12. Time's Daughter by Anya Breton
13. Witch Hunt by K.C. Blake
14. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Monday, January 2, 2012

Writing Prompt #87

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A radical environmental group starts assassinating smokers.