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Pseudopod Flash Contest III

Voting for the Pseudopod Flash Contest III  is officially starting this Sunday, and with 143 stories submitted, I’m thinking that it’s going to be a pretty great contest.

I’ve never been a really big fan of horror – especially the gory stuff.  One of my favorite horror movies is the old BBC version of A Woman In Black.  I guess maybe there should be a difference between a horror movie and a scary movie.  The Woman in Black is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen.

But can a book or a story be scary?  Horror seems to be divided into two main horror areas – Physical Peril, and Mental Peril.  I’m not counting Emotional Peril because it’s a byproduct of the other two – so there’s just the wet and the dry horror and on the wet side, sure it’s easy to describe lots of bloody things happening, but at least for me it doesn’t create the feeling of terror that they psychological stuff does.

I’ve had some experience with both in real life.  I’m sure people coming back from Iraq or Afganastan have seen more than their fair share of it, but for me, my only experience is seening a person get ripped apart by a semi-truck on the freeway once.

Seeing it was awful.  I watched the movie Starship Troopers shortly afterward and had to leave or I would have puked.  Stuff like that doesn’t normally bother me, but I’d just seen the real thing and I found that Starship Troopers did a pretty good job of recreating it.

But reading about it?  I dunno.  I think it’s powerful, but less powerful than Mental Peril can be – Like the Woman in Black, and like my grandfather’s ghost stories.  There wasn’t any blood or gore – just the promise that there is a lot more to the world than what we can see and not all of it is nice.

Anyway, the first group of Pseudopod stories will be added on Sunday.  Head on over to the forums and read and cast your votes.


Is it spring yet?

My computer crashed and so I’m going through the hard drive and saving the good stuff.  Here’s some pictures that make me happy.

Little fish in the creek.Little fish in the creek.


HelloSaying hello to the new calf

GuessWhatCan you guess what this is?  99% of you won’t have a clue.
The rest live on a family farm.


I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the list of rejected submissions lately at The Grinder and I’ve come to the conclusion that submitting stuff is a little bit like writing stuff.  If you don’t write something even if it’s bad, then you won’t ever write anything.  Something doesn’t come from nothing.

99 percent of the stories submitted on the list are rejected, but 100 percent of the stories that don’t get submitted are effectively rejected as well.

So I just submitted a story.  The query letter was probably terrible, and maybe the story isn’t perfect, but if I don’t ever submit it anywhere, then there’s zero chance that anyone but me will ever like it.

I’ll let you know when I get my rejection… and when I submit it somewhere else.

Poem – Poison Ivy Everywhere

Here’s something that I wrote in the summertime to remind everyone that winter doesn’t last forever.

Poison Ivy Everywhere

 I work outside on the fence all day
Cutting brush and trees away
Covered from my head to toes
With all the things that fences grow

Creepers, vines, and brushy trees
I cut them back and clear the way
Pull them back and haul them over
Drop them down into the clover
As I’m working there I see
Poison Ivy covers me
It’s on the posts and in the grass
It’s everywhere on that old fence

I’m immune, so I don’t mind
I work away under clear blue sky
Till sun is high and burning hot
I come inside to eat my lunch
Take a break and drink some punch
I hug my wife and kiss her hard
She smiles and winks then dances away
Then looking back she whispers, “Stay.”
Never knowing the price she’ll pay

Poison Ivy in my hair
Poison Ivy on my hands
Poison Ivy on my skin
On my face, on my arms, everywhere
I’m immune so I don’t mind

But my wife’s not

Poison Ivy everywhere.


A couple things for ya.

I’ve been busy, busy, busy and now January is over and it’s the beginning of February and I’m pining for warm weather and long days.  We’ve got cold weather and short days though so no use whining… at least my allergies are hibernating through the winter.  Yay.

I’ve been doing some writing and editing, but I’ll get to that in a bit – first though, I may have mentioned our sheep at some point.  Yep, we’ve got sheep.  Sheep like to pick the coldest, most miserable time of the year to have lambs, so they should be popping out any minute, but that’s not the point.   The point is sheep = wool.  Well, sheep could = mutton too I guess, but in our case our sheep have this amazing, long, fine, soft wool.  Great for spinning.  So along with our sheep we have a spinning wheel, a drum carder, a spin dryer, bags of last years wool in the shed, a four heddle floor loom and a little rigid heddle loom that I made for my daughter.

So, my wife and my daughters knit – my twelve year old can really whip stuff out.  She just finished making a really cool hat for her brother – and I haven’t had much to do with the whole fiber art stuff until my wife suggested that I make the little table top loom for my six year old.  I looked at a couple that were for sale on the internet and one that a friend had, and it didn’t look too hard, so four dollars and a couple weeks of working on it a couple hours here and there I had a nice, fully functional rigid heddle loom.  (We bought the heddle – I tried making a heddle out of string but it didn’t work so well.

Yeah – the thing cost four dollars, total.  Pretty cool, hu?  True I had some of the wood laying around and I scrounged the other pieces from an old come-along tie down, and I carved a couple pieces from Osage Orange firewood, but I only went to the store to buy dowels and they cost $4.  Maybe I’ll take a picture and post it or something.

So once I made the loom, I had to make a warping board – that wasn’t cheap because I used oak.  I probably could have done it for about $6 if I just bought the dowels again, but I bought some nice 1x4x4 oak boards.  Not so cheap.

And then once I had the warping board made, I was pretty well sunk into the project and had to warp on a bunch of cotton yarn and then warp the big floor loom and then learn how to weave twill.  I find that when I’m doing searches for stuff like this on the internet, that there are a lot of guys doing the weaving thing… so it’s not just me.  I really enjoy the mechanics of it, plus if you think about it, the first computer ever created was a loom.  I’m just going way back to my computer geeky roots.  A string on a loom is either up or down, on or off, 1 or 0.  Cool stuff.

I’m thinking it’s going to be REALLY cool to shear the wool from the sheep, wash it, spin it, warp it, and then weave it. 

Ok, enough of that – back to writing…

I’ve got a couple project I’m working on.  Pseudopod – one of the sister podcasts of Escapepod and Podcastle is having a horror flash fiction contest just like Escapepod did last summer.  The last day for submissions is February 28th and I plan to submit two stories.  I’ve got one written and I’m working on editing it, and I have another story that I’ve rewritten nine times now and I just keep getting more and more unhappy with it.  I’m thinking about ditching it and just going with a new story.  Can’t say anything about any of the stories though because my profile there links to here and I don’t want to give anything away.  If you do happen to get here from the Escape Artists web page…  Hi!

Another thing I’m working on is one of my goals for this year – to start submitting stories and actually get at least one of them published.  Can’t get anything published if you don’t submit it.  So I went for it and submitted something for the second time in my life yesterday.  The first time was when I was 18… quite a while ago, if you must know.  Only submitted it to one place, never got a rejection notice, never got anything at all back.  Gave up.  Moved on.  Got married.  Had kids.  Had dogs, cats, chickens, goats, sheep, cows, horses, ducks, pigs… etc.  And now here I am back at the beginning sort of.  Feels kind of good.  I blame it all on listening to podcasts.

And finally, I plan on writing at least 250 words a day.  I’m kind of just making this plan right now, so I have no idea if I can keep it up, but today at lunch I wrote 300 words in about twenty minutes.  And, well,  this post is getting pretty long as well.  By the time I’m done I’ll probably have about 900 words all together that I wrote at lunch time.  Cool.

So things are going well.

The one thing that I really kind of need but don’t have right now is a couple of good beta readers that I’m not related to.  My family is really pretty brutal and honest when it comes to editing, but they’re still related to me and love me and stuff.   If anyone is interested and willing, let me know.

How’s the Editing Going? – Small Robot.

Editing is going ok, but slow.  I printed out a copy of Small Robot and I’ve been going over it and marking it up with a regular pen.  I can write on my phone or my computer, but I’m terrible at editing there.  I’ve got a friend that actually goes through the trouble of printing her rough drafts in book form (like from a vanity press or something) and uses the book for editing.  I think it’s a pretty good idea for editing books – they would end up being a lot of loose papers otherwise, but for short stories just plain printing it out on the printer works fine for me. 

Small Robot is about five pages.

It’s interesting – I had my plan for how I was going to go through these phases of editing, but when I acually got out my pen and started the edits, I mostly skipped all the first stuff and went straight to word choice.  I think the main reason for this was because the problems with word choice annoyed me enough that I couldn’t get past them.  So maybe I should change the order and put word choice first and fix all of the annoying problems, and then go back to the big picture edits.  I’ll probably have to do another word choice edit after that but I think the quality will be much better.

I was listening to Mur talking about editing, and she said that the trick to editing is to take off your creative hat and put on your editing hat and to just buckle down and do it even if you don’t really feel like doing it.  Editing is an entirely different process than creating the story, but for me it’s just as creative and satisfying.  It’s kind of like learning a new piece of music.  When you play it the first time it’s kind of rough, you play wrong notes, you make timing mistakes, and hearing the rhythm of the music in your head might be difficult, but as you practice and work on it the wrong notes go away, the timing mistakes smooth out, and the rhythm becomes more natural.  That’s the way I feel with editing as well.

Editing is kind of like doing a puzzle.  You have all of the pieces there, you just need to turn them around and flip them over so that they fit together the right way.

And finally, here’s another white board crayon drawing.  My six year old requested a cherry.


Nanowrimo’s Over – What Next?

NanoEDmo. So here’s the plan… I’ve got the completed stories I worked on for Nanowrimo, a few stories waiting to be finished sitting in the wings, and more stories that I want to start. None of those stories are in any kind of shape for submitting for publication – they’re going to need a lot of editing.   So now that national novel writing month is over, it’s time to start national novel editing month.

For this, I’m not really expecting to get through all of the stories in December.  I’m thinking I want to slow things down a bit, take my time, and really do a good job.

So at most I want to have two stories ready for submission by the end of the month. I’m going to go through a number of editing phases with the stories – here’s a rough list:

Edit for plot – where I look at the overall structure of the story and decide where it needs changes, if any. This could prompt pretty major rewrites.

Edit for content – where I work on making sure the elements of the story move the plot forward.

Edit for word choice – where I remove adverbs and passive voice stuff and make the story more snappy. Good old anglo-saxon words.

Edit for grammar and spelling – where I do a final cleanup and make sure I spell everything right. No stupid mistakes. There’s no use in rushing this part. If I rush, then the story will just get rejected and I’ll end up doing the work on it anyway. Might as well do it right the first time. And now it’s time to go to work.

And one more thing – I’ve heard of nanowrimo, but not nanoDRAWmo…  I don’t think I’m going to officially do it, but here’s another white board crayon drawing for you.


Nanowrimo – The Last Day


We’ve reached the final day of Nanowrimo and I managed to screetch by with another two stories right at the end.  My goal was for seven complete short stories, and I got through the first four without any troubles, completing everything right on time.  I ran into trouble with story number five – The Tower – It ended up turning into an outline for a novel, which works good for me because it’s an idea that I’ve been rolling around in my head for a couple years now. 

Six never really got started, and seven turned into a story about a turkey that my six year old wanted me to write on Thanksgiving.  I got bogged down on that and it’s still in progress.

My plan for the last two days was going to be finishing up two partial stories that I’d started before Nanowrimo but never finished, and I’ve completed that task.

So, the completed stories so far are:

1 – Small Robot in the Woods – 2105 words
2 – Meeting Notes – 2934 words
3 – How to Build a Dimensional Boat – 2517 words
4 – Suggestions – 592 words
5 – The Dress – 2782 words
6 – Food Magic – 1869 words

Total = 12,799 words.

Unfinished stories worked on during this Nanowrimo are:

1 – The Tower
2 – Goggle Loves Glitter Glue

I may have Goggle done by the end of the day today if I can make some time to work on this, but what you don’t see in the picture of my progress bar above is the list of farm chores that I need to take care of.  If you ever decide to by an IT guy, be a farmer, be a writer, and be the parent of lots of kids, make sure you have lots of time and energy.

And finally – I was in the craft store a couple days ago picking up some new knitting needles for my wife and some watercolor paper for myself and happened to walk by the aisle that had Whiteboard Crayons in it.

Whiteboard Crayons… COOL!

So I bought them. 


Nanowrimo Update – Arg

Missed a couple days, missed a couple deadlines, fell down the deep dark Thanksgiving hole, but I’m not giving up on thingst yet.  I’m still working toward having at least seven completed short stories by the end of the month.

I’ll be completing the fifth and maybe the sixth today, and will finish the seventh tomorrow.  The story I had scheduled for my fifth story ended up being an outline for a novel instead of a short story, so that’s a pretty cool thing too.

Nose to the grindstone time.

Nanowrimo update – The Tower

Story number four was finished on time (although I’m not all the way pleased with it) and I’ve started on story number five, called The Tower.  I keep reminding myself that the object of this whole Nanowrimo thing is not to do my best work, but to give myself something to edit and then turn into my best work.

This is important for the next story I do.

The Tower is a story that takes place in a world I’ve had bouncing around in my head for at least a year, maybe more, so it’s a world I’m comfortable describing, but like a lot of my ideas, I’m having trouble moving it from an idea to a story with a plot.

I can describe the place and the people without much problem, but moving from the describing stage to the doing-things stage is hard for me.

The Tower is a fantasy story with a couple of science fiction elements in it which is different from most of the other things I write which are mostly science fiction.  It could move into epic fantasy if I let it, but normally epic fantasy doesn’t lend itself very well to short stories with only a couple characters and a limited scope.  And that’s one of the reasons I’m having problems with plot.  I really do have a plot, but it’s the plot for a much larger story.

So the trick is knowing where to start and how to squish a novel or novella size idea into a short story.

One idea is that I write a side story to the main plot arc that I’ve been thinking about, which is a good idea, but then I really have no clue what to write and this is already the second day of the four day time period that I have to write the thing.  (I spent the first day writing notes.)

Well, whatever I do, I better get going.