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Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Top Ten Author Distractions

            I have a great series of author interviews lined up for the next several weeks and I posted a serious article on getting critical feedback on Tuesday, so I think it’s time for a little silliness here.

            How many of us are easily distracted from our writing? I am. Then again, I’m pretty easily distracted from almost everything. The problem, for me at least, is that it can be difficult to sit down and concentrate. And here is my top ten list on what distracts us:

10. Checking Twitter to see what all your peeps are doing.

9. Organizing your writing area because it will help you concentrate better.

8. Blogging so that people will know who you are so they can buy your book – if it ever gets written.

7. Checking Twitter to see if your peeps responded to your tweets about what they’re doing?

6. Checking your e-mail to see if any editors or agents have contacted you about the sheer brilliance of your writing.

 5. Food. Chocolate will help your creativity and motivation. Or is it salty foods that do that. Just keep eating until one of them triggers writer euphoria.

4. Checking Twitter again because you have an addiction to social media.

3. People. People bothering you to do something like feed the children or go to work.

2. Cruising the internet under the pretense that you’re doing research for you book.

1. Randy’s top ten list of author distractions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Critical Help

            The subject of getting critical help has been on my mind the last couple of weeks. By that I mean readers who will take a look at your work and make suggestions on how to improve it. This is available in the form of critique groups, beta readers, and editors.

            For most authors, the critique group will be their first encounter with getting critical help outside the boundaries of family and friends. These groups can take many forms; weekly, monthly, meet in person, critique online, genre based, all categories accepted, and any combination of the previously mentioned factors. They are used as the story is written and help to point out problems with plot, wordage, characterization and pretty much anything that goes into a story.

            Once an author is finished with a story the beta readers are brought in. They don’t necessarily have to be trained in writing an effective story; they just need to recognize a good story when they read one. Beta readers find logic flaws, confusing segments, awkward phrasing and their reaction to what transpires. Since they will be reading a story over a fairly short period of time they will pick out problems that a critique group missed due to reading it a chapter at a time.

            Editors have a trained eye for writing. If you’re fortunate you may find a way to gain editor feedback on your story before it’s actually submitted. In my case, I entered a first chapter contest at this years LDStorymaker conference. All of the entries were judged and the writer received an evaluation on the chapter. That may not be what they called the judging comments that were sent back to the writer, but that is what it amounted to.

            Whatever stage of writing you are currently in getting critical help will greatly improve your chances of being published and that is what this post is all about. A little research on my part netted several resources that may help you find the kind of critical help you currently need.

            Critique Groups:

Local Library - I found my first group at the city library. Obviously, the bigger and more populous the location the more likely it is that one already exists. If your library doesn’t already have a regular meeting of writers, look into starting one.

Book Stores – Some of the independent book stores act as a gathering place for local writers. Check around and see if any of them currently have a critique group that meets there. And if none of them do see if they would be willing to host a monthly meeting. That’s what my group does now. We purchase snacks from the store while we’re critiquing and then we split up afterwards and look to see what book have come in that we can’t do without.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month is about writing as much as you can on your novel in one month. As a part of this effort they do have a forum where writers can post for critiques, feedback and novel swaps.

Absolute Write – Absolute Write is a great resource for writers. In addition to publishing news and links to writer resources the forums include, among other things, a place to look for beta readers, mentors, and writing buddies.

Critique Circle – I am not a member of this site, but it is highly recommended by the Preditors and Editors website. They have a detailed FAQ that will help beginning authors to connect with other writers and start critiquing.

Critters – If you write Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror then you can connect with people in your own genre for critiques. The site is highly recommended by several sources, including Preditors and Editors.

Writer's Digest – The well-known writing magazine has a section for writing groups. It also has sections for contests, author resources, editor blogs, and of course writing articles.

The Writer Magazine – Another well-known publication for writers. While you’re here looking for a critique group you can check their Market Directory for agents, publications, contests and conferences.

* I have included links to well known and reputable organizations, but still be careful in sharing your work with others.

            Beta Readers:

Critique Group Resources – Pretty much any of the links above will provide access to both critique groups and beta readers.

Friends and Family Network – Undoubtedly, you have family members and friends who like to read. Feel free to enlist them in getting your novel beta read. As I mentioned above, they don’t have to be writers in order to know if something reads well. They just need a passion for reading.

Author Network – This is my own suggestion, but I find that the contacts I have made through blogging have given me a fairly extensive network of educated readers. If you have made some writing buddies in the blogging community they should make excellent beta readers.


Contests – A few writing contests that I’ve seen on the internet list a professional critique of your manuscript as one of the prizes. If you happen to win you can get insightful help for your novel. However, a lot of contests are judged by editors, or other professionals in the industry, and if any sort of feedback is part of the process then you can benefit just by participating.  

Workshops – If you can afford to attend a workshop, you can get a professional response to your manuscript. This method may be a bit pricey to gain input on your manuscript, but it will be accompanied by some worthwhile author training. There are several excellent workshops available including Clarion and Hatrack River.

        By no means is this a comprehensive listing of all the resources open to my fellow authors in training. If you know of a website, workshop, or contest that provides critical help for writers, please include a comment and tell us about it.


Thursday, September 22, 2011


      Here is the second challenge for the Writers Platform-Builder Campaign. You can check out
Rachael's  site and find out more about it.

     Anyway, here is my bit of micro fiction called: Imago

Kevin moved through the swamp. A stinking miasma prevented him from getting his bearings. This isn’t what had come to mind when he decided to save the world. He was a research scientist, not an adventurer. Instead of trying to overdose a monster-sized mosquito with Opium-Oscitate he should be home preening in front of a mirror for his Saturday night date.

           Something buzzed behind him.

Kevin spun around. He thought he saw a swirling of the mist.

            As spooky as this was it seemed safer than facing the small army of slaves back in town. Who’d have thought that a bug could spread a disease which would create a synchronicity among humans to defend the monster?  

            No one. But he should have.

            Movement registered out of the corner of Kevin’s eye. He turned and took aim. The dart gun accidentally discharged.      

            Kevin fumbled with the reloads in his pouch. 

            A sonorous droning filled his ears followed by a stabbing pain at the base of his neck. That would the immature larvae being inserted into the lacuna.

             As the pain subsided so did his fear. Why had he dreaded this? Now he would be part of a like-minded community. How wonderful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Worst Movies Ever

            Is there any topic more awesome that bad movies?


            In fact, the chance to write about dumpster deserving drama duds has me breaking a promise to myself to not sign up for anymore blog hops over the next two weeks. (Not that I don’t love participating in them, but I desperately need to put some time in on my WIP.)
            Don’t get me wrong; I love B-Grade movies. Some of them have a charming quality that makes them entertaining. Others are so bad that they make me laugh. However, the movies I’ve listed for this column don’t fall into either of these categories. The films included here are the ones which made me wish I could pour bleach over my brain and have all memory of them erased. These are cinematic efforts which I deserve to be paid for suffering through the entire ordeal. All of them should come with warning labels that life is too short and too precious to waste it watching this film.
            Here they are in descending order. Literally descending.  

The Toolbox Murders – It starred Cameron Mitchell. While not an A-List actor Cameron did quite a bit of work in Hollywood. But as we all know, a little bit of acting talent is usually not enough to save a poorly written and poorly directed movie.

A long time ago, Friday nights were bad movie nights. My friends and I rented a handful of clunkers, popped some corn, and enjoyed the cinematic badness. This was the movie that cured me of that particular habit. To be fair, it is probably no worse than any of the other movies we had watched during this wasted period of my life. It did just happened to be the one that cured me.

Oh, right!  You probably want to know what the movie was about.

Some guy is mad at some people and he uses all the tools in his toolbox to exact revenge on them. I guess you have to give him props for creativity.

Battlefield Earth – This is easily the worst mistake John Travolta has made so far. Seeing what they did to a great story by L. Ron Hubbard is like watching a bear maul a cute little stuffed animal.

There’s one school of thought that states that small production companies can be forgiven for turning out clunkers. In order to truly be deserving the undying scorn of film aficionados a bad movie has to come from major studio. This one fits the bill.

You don’t really need to me to tell you about this monstrosity, do you? Dang, I was hoping you’d say no.

John Travolta is an alien. They have invaded Earth; because, that’s what aliens do. Despite technological superiority they are eventually defeated by the humans. (I think that’s how it goes. I don’t really feel like wasting the effort to plumb my memories for what happened in the movie version of this story.)

Pirates of the Great Salt Lake – My wife and I made the mistake of watching this because we like Kirby Heyborne. We thought it would be funny. It wasn’t.

The plot dealt with a couple of misfits who steal a rowboat and spend all of their time roaming the Great Salt Lake acting like pirates. In the end we are given a message that is intended to be uplifting, but I understood it as: It’s okay to be a loser.

Basket Case – You don’t remember this movie? Lucky for you. I managed a small, independent movie theater at the time this monstrosity came out. In the six years I worked there, this was the only movie we were able to get First Run. It even came with cheap (really cheap) surgical masks “To keep the gore off.”

The masks were cool. People would have been better off paying us for the masks and skipping the movie.

What was it about?

Twin brothers are born. One is normal. The other is a hideously deformed creature that amounted to a head with arms. Life goes about the normal routine for them – meaning the mutant brother killed anyone who bothered his brother. Until they both fall in love with the same girl.

Skyline - Aaarrrggghhh. It hurts to remember this movie. Please, make it go away. I promise to be good.

The two people (and I use that term loosely) who put this catastrophe together had been working on Battle: LA. For whatever reason, they left and decided to do their own version of the story. I put this in the category of - Things Man Was Not Meant To See.

Aliens invade LA. People run around and get killed. (Wow. That makes the movie sound much more exciting that it really was.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's Urban Fantasy

            Why can’t blog ideas be like tap water? Your normal blogging day comes along and – pop – there’s a topic to write about. Either there are multiple ideas competing for your attention. Or you sit there with a big, fat NOTHING.

            Today I decided to put off returning to my Author In Training topics and continue working with the blog-hop stuff. Getting to know my fellow Urban Fantasy campaigners just seems more important at the moment. Earlier in the week I put out a challenge for those in the General Fiction category to tell us 10 Things About Themselves. This challenge will be a little bit different.

            For those of you in the Urban Fantasy group with me, or any of the groups if you want to participate, post a blog entry explaining the genre, why you’re drawn to it, and give us readers a description of the kind of work you do and how it fits in with the genre.

            If you want to see an example, follow this link to Miss Cole’s blog.


            Often, I have a hard time putting what I write into a category. (No, it doesn’t have anything to do with my believing that my stories belong in a category of excellence all by themselves.) It wouldn’t surprise me that Urban Fantasy isn’t my category at all. If that turns out to be the case, correct me and then enjoy the posts by all the people in my UF group that got it right.

            Urban Fantasy occurs in what initially may appear to be the mundane world. Fantastic elements transform what we are familiar with in our day-to-day lives into something much more.

            More what?

            That’s up to the author and is one of the big attractions for me to this genre. Something more could be magic; either commonplace or introduced as a new element. Something more could be fantastic creatures that belong in another setting altogether living among us. Something more could be an alternate history.

            The explanations of the genre that I’ve read indicate that it takes place in an urban environment. From there it seems to me that the distinction blurs. It might involve the arrival of aliens – isn’t that Science Fiction? It might involve mythological or paranormal creatures – isn’t that Fantasy or Horror? It might take place in the future or have a historical setting – once again, isn’t that Science Fiction or traditional Fantasy?

            It seems that the great qualifier for this genre is: “This could be us!”

            Stories in Urban Fantasy are anchored to reality. There’s a strong connection between that work of fiction and the world the readers live in. No wonder it’s such a strong category to work with. The heroes are us. Or, at least, they could be.

             For me, angels and devils make the mundane world more interesting. It’s not all I write about, but I find that a large number of my stories deal with the epic struggle between good and evil. And stuck in the middle are all of us. That is what excites me enough to write.

            My first novel dealt with a man, in hell, who enters a race to win a second chance at life. Enough of the story takes place in an urban setting that I would place it in the Urban Fantasy genre. At its heart “Hellathon” is a story about redemption. Fortunately, I put in a ton of fighting and killing and that should keep my reputation as an action writer untarnished.

            The current WIP covers the events leading up to the Second Coming. While no fantastic elements are present in the first book, the series will introduce a divine element to the events and eventually the appearance of angels.

            In May, I won the First Chapter contest at the 2011 LDStoryMakers conference, in the Science Fiction category. I need to finish it. Which means my next novel will be Sci-Fi, but going over a list of writing projects I can predict that I’ll be returning to Urban Fantasy and writing about angels and devils in some fashion. (Unless people convince me that I’m too darn funny not to be turning my talents to writing humor.)

            That’s it. Now the challenge; write about Urban Fantasy. If you do, please post a comment here that includes a link to your blog so the rest of us can check it out. Come on, you can do it. I’m not even sure I know anything about this genre and I wrote about it; just imagine what you can do with the subject.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

10 Facts About Me

            Miss Cole listed 10 things about her that people reading her blog didn’t previously know. Then she put out the challenge to everyone in her Platform Builder Campaign groups to do the same. The great thing about these challenges is how it allows everyone who participates to get to know each other better.

            Here are ten items about me that you didn’t previously know:

10. I’m a native of Arizona who married another Zonie.

9. My favorite fiction book is Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazny.

8. There is a family story about how I got named Randy. Dad says he was kidding. Mom says he was absolutely serious about it. And it starts off with . . . “Dad wanted to name you Sisque.” (Wow, don’t you wish you knew the rest of the story?)

7. I have no musical talent. Animals flee when I attempt to sing.

6. I used to rodeo and know how to shoe a horse.

5. Ice cream is my favorite food.

4. I wrestled and pole-vaulted in high-school.

3. If my research is correct, I’m descended from John Lackland; the worst king England ever had.

2. I was the third smallest boy in my eighth-grade graduating class. There were probably more than a hundred boys. 

1. I am a pioneer in my family. As an artistic type in a family of hard-working cowboys and construction workers I paved the way for the other odd-balls relatives to pursue their interests in writing and graphic arts.

            Since Miss Cole and I are already in the same Urban Fantasy group and she challenged everyone in it, I’m just going to have to put out this challenge to everyone in my Adult – All Genres category. Let’s get to know each other better.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Liebster Award

            I want to take a moment to thank everyone who was responsible for this great award: my parents, my wife, the members of the academy, and of course everyone who I bribed to make this happen.

            What award?

            The Liebster Award that Crystal Cheverie passed on to me last week. This is a great pay-it-forward opportunity for writers. According to my German dictionary, liebster means beloved.  It is given to bloggers who have under 200 followers in order to give them added exposure and build their readership.

            Now that I have been honored with the award it is up to me to pass along the opportunity for four other writers. And here they are:

Chas Hathaway   http://chas.willowrise.com/

I met Chas on Twitter and he convinced me to setup a fan page on Facebook. Hmmm . . . I wonder if we violated some morale guidelines about crossing social media borders without the appropriate paperwork / authorization. Anyway, I think Chas is just starting out as a blogger and has potential. Stop by and say hi.

Kate is pretty close to 200 followers and if you check out her blog you’ll see why. She includes some good tips on writing, has a good eye for teen fiction, and does first page critiques. This blog is well worth the visit.

Holly is participating in the Third Writer’s Platform Building Campaign with me. We’re both in the General Fiction (All Genres) group together. I have enjoyed the stories about her class that she’s shared on the blog. The flash fiction piece she created for the first challenge in the campaign was strong. I think she has a good handle on suspense.

Effy is also in the Writer’s Platform Building Campaign with me. We’re both in the Urban Fantasy group. She is also a graphic designer and it is that particular bit that made her blog stand-out for me. I feel that puts a unique perspective on writing.

            For all of my readers, stop by all of these blogs and introduce yourself. And to the award winners, please pay this forward and do the same for four writers you think are going places.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Platform Builder Challenge

           The first challenge of the Writers Platform Building Campaign is here and I have met it. The challenge was to write a story that began with "The door swung open", ended with "the door swung close", and was 200 words exactly. And this is my contribution:

            The door swung open.

            My children poured into the den.

            “We made friends with aliens from space,” said Lucy. “Can we invite them to dinner?”

            “How’d you know they’re from space?”

            “Because their ship landed in our back yard.” Max rolled his eyes.

            “And because they said so,” Lucy added.

            I scanned their faces for signs that this was a joke. No giggles. No furtive looks between them. They had to be kidding me.

            “Real space aliens could be dangerous.”

            “Not any more. We made friends with them.” Lucy smiled big.

            “Do you think it’s a good idea to have aliens in our house?”

            “It’d be cool, Dad.” Max nodded. “They have disintegrator guns.”

            “I like them,” Rick and Nick said simultaneously.

            “We’re supposed to be nice to people we meet.” Lucy reminded me. “If we’re nice to them - they’ll be nice to us.”

            I had taught them the Golden Rule. Besides, there weren’t really aliens in our back yard.

            “Sure,” I told them. “Let’s do our part to further interplanetary relations.”

            “Hooray,” they shouted.

            “Randy,” my wife called. She sounded nervous. “Look outside.”

            I reached for my children. They charged out of the room.

            The door swung shut.

           That's it. Hope you like it. Please head over to Rachelle's blog to check out all the other entries.

Rach Writes    http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com/p/writers-platform-building-crusade.html

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meme Quiz - Part II

            And here are my five questions, which I will answer and then include a list of people I’d like to hear responses from as well.

1. What is your quest?

A: Seeking out the grail is too obvious an answer. I’ll have to go with: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations and to boldly tell stories that no man has told before.

2. What is your favorite question?

A: Why? And I might go on to state that my favorite responses to that question is either “Why not?” or an incredibly long rambling that begins with “I’m glad you asked . . .”

3. Forget the ridiculous “Taco Bell” scenario someone already suggested, who really is going to win the fast food wars in the future?

A: I know they’re an underdog, but I think Cold Stone is going to sneak in a victory while Ronald and Jack are using their corporate might to destroy the restaurant countryside. I know they don’t make traditional food now, but when the grease fumes have all settled they will have changed the way America views ice cream as a valid food choice. You may call that wishful thinking on my part. I think I’ll call it campaigning for my favorite food.

4. What rock song should be your anthem?

A:  “Cheeseburger In Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet or “Blue Collar” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

5. What published book, possibly a classic, would you like to rewrite? (I decided to throw in something serious here.)

A: I think re-writing “Dick and Jane” would be hilarious, but I’m not sure I want to be responsible for turning out a whole generation of people, whose thinking is that much off-center. That’s what clones are for. Which leaves me with “Frankenstein”.  I’d write it as a comedy about two buddies who travel around the world playing practical jokes on one another. (Alright, this may have been a serious question, but that doesn’t mean I have to answer it seriously. Sheesh, you all should know me better by now.)

            Now for the exciting part of all this; I'm challenging the following writers to participate in the Meme Quiz.

Don Carey              http://donaldjcarey.com/

Jenn Johansson       http://jennjohansson.blogspot.com/

            And here are some my fellow campaigners that I don’t really know yet, but am challenging them with the Meme Quiz so I can get to know them better:

Michael Offutt     http://slckismet.blogspot.com/

Abby Fowers        http://abbyfowers.blogspot.com/

* I wouldn’t mind getting to know all my fellow campaigners better, so just because I didn’t list you here doesn’t mean I’m snubbing you. Add yourself to the challenge if you like.