Gather Contest: Bad Fairy

I entered a contest at Gather.com back on February 13.  It was called “First Chapters” and novelists with a completed manuscript were allowed to enter and possibly win a publishing contract.  I figured I had nothing to lose, but the experience was pretty terrible.  Because whoever came up with the rules for the contest must have been smoking something toxic.

Contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries.

The “points” everyone was getting were visible to everyone, with the site adjusting the top entries to always be at the beginning.  (This was not only unfair, but it encouraged people to vote down whoever was in the lead.)

The reviews were visible for every entry.  This was especially bad because Gather was bribing people to offer reviews by saying star reviewers would be chosen to receive $500 in store credit to Borders, and you were supposed to be able to win by being “insightful,” so having the previous reviews visible to readers obviously influences the opinion AND gives reviewers tips on what to say for their own review.

Can I just say again that contestants were allowed to vote on each other’s entries?  And that the rules specifically said they were allowed to do so as long as they did it “in the spirit of the competition”?

A vote-decided competition absolutely cannot have its participants voting on each other.  I was appalled.  Especially since every single entry in the contest had a 3 or 4 out of 10 by the time the voting closed because of all the really determined serial downvoters.

And yet, without addressing these issues whatsoever, Gather announced their 20 winners—one of whom was a guy whose profile page said he was a paid contributor for Gather—and opened the next round with all the same rules.  (I wasn’t picked, but that doesn’t surprise me.  My entry was regularly on the front page of highest-rated entries, and then it would get attacked with downvotes and disappear, and then it would appear again every time I got a good review.)

Anyway, I also got some grumpy guy telling me I was obviously ripping off Wicked—yeah, man, that’s likely, since I wrote the story before I’d heard of it, and after all Gregory Maguire invented the concept of a retelling, right?  And then some other snotty reviewer tried to tear me a new one claiming I’d contradicted myself because I suggested it’s possible to be original while still telling a technically derivative story (like a fairy tale retelling).  “Well if it’s derived from another story then it can’t really be original then CAN IT??”  Uh, I sure hope there’s a degree program in Missing the Point, because that guy’s got a Bachelor’s.  I’m pretty certain nobody who reads Bad Fairy is going to come out of it thinking what a copycat piece of crap it is.

So . . . yeah, good riddance to THAT contest.

Completed New Short Story: “Wind”

Finished a new short story called “Wind.”  But it’s more of a novella than a short story, like most of my stuff seems to be.  It’s about 20,000 words.  Modern fantasy romance.  With a lot of sass.

Thomas, alone on Christmas Eve and missing his recently deceased mother (and her cookies!), is startled out of his funk by a knock at the door. Enter the mysterious Windy, a beautiful and apparently magical girl who claims to be Thomas’s personal fairy.

Windy enters Thomas’s life in a big way and becomes a special part of it even as he tries to figure out where she fits and whether she’s really what she says she is. But Thomas isn’t the only one struggling; Windy has some doubts and confusions regarding her existence as well. After realizing how they feel about each other, they have to figure out what to do to make being together possible. But can magic fit into Thomas’s life? And how real is she anyway? They might just have to pull away to find out how close they are.

I might eventually try to publish this, but it’s kinda long.

 

Completed New Short Story: “Just Like Stephen”

Finished a new short story called “Just Like Stephen.” Genre: Modern fantasy.  Word count: About 7,000 words.

In the society in which the protagonist lives, magic is a rare but real part of life, cropping up somewhat randomly among the population. Unfortunately, admitting to having magic is a one-way ticket to a government-run institution where officials channel the magical people’s powers into controlled projects. The government basically considers having magic the same as having a sickness, and it’s true that it can cause insanity, so they claim to be helping the magical people by institutionalizing them and training them.

The protagonist’s older brother Stephen developed magic one day, and suddenly everything was different—he had to be taken away, and no one seemed to care but him. Before leaving, Stephen urges his brother to try to hide his magic if he develops it later, which they both suspect he will. And in the present, the protagonist, now nineteen, has taken his brother’s advice and has hidden his magic for four years. Unfortunately, magic has a way of deciding when it’s going to be used, and this is a story of how he answers that call without letting anyone else hear him.

I’ll be pursuing publication for this.  Eventually.

Wendy West Saves the World

I thought I’d share this.  I found my first short story, written when I was eleven years old, in fifth grade: March 15, 1989. It was written in pencil in a preteen’s careful cursive. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation has been left untouched.  It’s called “Wendy West Saves the World.”

Wendy West was an explorer who had shiny black hair and light purple eyes. She could see farther than a million telescopes put together could see.

One day Wendy West was exploring a hole in Sudan, Africa. She heard some screeching inside the hole and a laser beam shot out of it, narrowly missing Wendy. It hit a tree and the tree evaporated into thin air.

Wendy was shocked at this. She looked into the deep hole. It seemed endless, so she used her special vision to peer deep into the hole. At the bottom, there was a huge group of tall, blue men! They shot lasers at her. They missed. She ran to a nearby police station.

The police were on coffee break. Wendy got a police man to come to the hole. He looked inside the hole. “Is this your idea of a joke? I don’t see anything,” Said the police man. “No,” said Wendy. She shined a flashlight down in the deep hole. Sure enough, nothing was there. She used her special vision to look around in Africa, then in Europe. When she got to China, there were the blue men, shooting huge buildings down.

The police sent helicopters to China, after Wendy West reported her story. They disposed of the aliens, and then they had a party for Wendy and proclaimed that day a holiday called “Alien day!”

Completed New Short Story: “The Curse”

Finished a new short story called “The Curse.”  This one’s a very peculiar story and it’s on the long side—about 10,000 words.  Speculative fiction, coming of age.

Half of the story is dedicated to detailing the effects of “the Curse,” a change that suddenly and without warning or explanation was visited upon everyone on the planet. Suddenly everyone’s vision has shifted to include other input.

The progression of humanity’s acceptance of the Curse is one plot, and the activities of Balthazar—Zarry to his friends—make up the other plot, interspersed with the first in a switching pattern. Zarry’s mission is to remove the Curse from mankind, which ultimately involves his intellectual battle with the Keeper of the Sight.

It’s really more of a commentary on human nature than anything else, but I dunno who’s gonna get it.  I’ll see if any magazines want it.

Completed New Short Story: “Uncle Avery’s Garden”

Finished a new short story called “Uncle Avery’s Garden.”  It’s actually on the short side, at about 1,400 words.  Sentimental fiction.

A college girl debates over whether to spend her hundred-dollar bill that was given to her as a child by her departed Uncle Avery. She wonders whether it will be disrespectful to do so, even though she really needs the money, because she promised not to and has managed to hold out so long. A dream she has helps her clarify the importance of the gift.

Probably will not try to publish this.  I think it’s kinda sappy. But maybe someone will think it’s also kinda sweet?

 

Completed New Short Story: “The Escape”

Finished a new short story called “The Escape.”  It’s about 85% autobiographical—realistic fiction about childhood, about 3,000 words.

Kelly is disturbed by the idea of growing up. Her friends’ eagerness to act more adult bothers her, and she reminisces in a bowling alley about their past together and how she’d rather move across the country (which she will be doing) and totally lose touch with them than have to see them grow up.

Probably won’t be looking for a place to publish this, but I had to get it out.

Completed New Short Story: “Bloom”

Finished a new short story called “Bloom.”  It’s really long, though, more of a novella.  About 20,000 words, YA coming-of-age fantasy, first person/present tense.

Kamber is concerned about her inability to make her doll dance, which is a sign of becoming mature in the Kinfolk culture. She does not know what to do to make this doll dance, and the only two girls who are Kin from her school make fun of her because she hasn’t done it yet. Because of this abuse and the fact that another girl, Joanne, shows interest in learning about her, she stops eating lunch with them.

Through the story she learns to harness her natural energy, a Goddess-given gift, to demonstrate magical abilities such as calling butterflies and controlling fire and wind. Unfortunately she seems to be demonstrating competence in the so-called “male” elements rather than the “female” elements of earth and water. This and the fact that her doll hasn’t danced are distressing to her, and she attempts to find enlightenment through talking to her grandmother, talking to Joanne, and soul-searching while talking to her Goddess.

She feels like a failure until her grandmother picks up on signs that she has not noticed that show Kamber is growing up. She is given a very important role in a festival for Bloom Day and finds she has much more potential than she thought—and that it has nothing to do with whether she can make a doll dance.

Maybe one day this will be a novel, since there’s no way in heck I’m going to have an easy time finding a magazine that’d want something this long?

Completed New Short Story: “Protector Cat”

Finished a new short story called “Protector Cat.”  Sort of surreal fiction, at about 2,500 words.  Science fiction, experimental fiction, something.

Cat lives in a sort of communal building with his gang. He has no idea how he got to be living there, why he lives there, or even who he lives with. He has problems with his memory; he doesn’t seem to be able to remember even things that happened just a few minutes ago, much less hours or days. It makes his life sort of a moment-to-moment experience, and his one comfort is his girlfriend Bonne, whom he remembers more vividly than anyone else. Cat also seems to have some kind of ability or special power but he is unaware of what it is. He uses it to protect his gang but doesn’t know what it is he is doing to be “special.” This story is just a typical day in his life.

The story has a lot of foul language and a sort of meandering style of storytelling, but maybe it’s publishable.  I based it on a weird dream I had.

Completed New Short Story: “Baby Talk”

Finished a new short story called “Baby Talk.”  Shortest story I’ve ever written, at 650 words.

A baby plays with “baby toys” while wishing she was allowed to play with her mother’s “toy,” the telephone. Basic record of her thought process as she tries to tell her mother she wants to play with the phone instead of her own toys.  Inspired by my child development class.