Too Much Information: Book 1 of the #Tagged Series

Only Jessica sees the hashtags that might get her killed…

Eyes

Chapter 3: A Bit Squishier still featured on The Write Launch.

Advertisements

Duck-Face for the Deceased

There have been a few losses, lately, around my life and community. Trusted mentors and benefactors have passed away: some peacefully and some painfully, and one even in a light plane crash. Some had lived a longer life than statistics would predict. Others were far too young to go.

DuckFace

Not the best face for expressing sympathy

Still, they all had one thing in common: the overwhelming response on Facebook.

Yes, profile photos taken to impress friends and attract mates scrolled past the bereaved by the dozen, offering peace-signs and fiesta filters and memories of drunken nights out. More than a fair few were even making Duck-Face while expressing their sympathies. Some called it a fitting tribute. Others called it an outpouring of genuine grief. I call it a disgrace.

Yes, I understand that profile photos, handles and taglines are permanently affixed to a Facebook account. I know that nobody put them there out of disrespect. It just feels, in this age of Tweet-Booking everything, like we aren’t making the same effort to show respect anymore.

Flowers

Try this, instead

Imagine yourself at a funeral, or even a wake, dressed in the Lycra you use for workouts, or in the dress that gets you the most attention in nightclubs. You wouldn’t arrive dressed that way, would you? You know it would be disrespectful, so you would put on something else. We even have a verb for that.

You would change.

Well, guess what, Faceboknians? Content on your account can be changed, too, including your profile photo. How about taking the pig-snout off your JPEG before telling me how sorry you are for my loss? Maybe you could cover your six-pack and stop flexing for the few days following someone’s death. Maybe it’s even OK to stop sucking in your cheeks; you don’t look that much sexier, anyway.

Or, better yet: let’s not use Facebook for everything. As a writer, I’m told by most industry professionals that social media is my only hope of getting published, and that my ability to write has almost nothing to do with it. After nearly a year grinning smugly about how silly that sounded, I came to accept that it is the new world’s truth. While I still don’t have a book for my own face, I can appreciate that social media has become the oxygen most people breathe… but condolences? Can’t we even use grief as a motivation to write out something more significant to family and friends? Can’t we find a more sombre venue to express our feelings about significant losses? Behind our screens, after all, we are still human beings.

Do we have to face everything like a duck would?

Time for some Shopping

Christmas is over, so I’m off to do some shopping. I’ll never leave my chair, of course—the idea of going out to shop has become almost laughable—but there are a few books waiting for me to buy, a few more almost certain to be discovered, and an Android e-reader that supports enough apps to overcome even Amazon’s false Kindle barrier.

In other words, while I struggle to do any writing, I might as well do some reading.

NeverTooLateMy first stop is to pick up B. Lynn Goodwin’s newly released memoir, Never Too Late. If you’ve read any of Lynn’s articles, coaching or other missives over at Writer Advice, you’ll already know that her style will grip you, but that’s not what appeals to me most about the samples of this book. What appeals to me most is that it’s written by someone who remembers when meeting people had to be done without the help of billion-dollar apps, and when the photos that strangers saw of you were too expensive to be reposed or retouched. It’s written by someone who understands that the person in our mirror may not be the person we remember being, and that Craig’s List may be as brave a foray as some are willing to make into social media. It’s written by someone who’s learned that humanity is a fleeting treasure.

Continue reading

Don’t Tee, ‘Kay?

CROPPED_superpower_tokelau

You have to know how to register your free domain from Tokelau

Where do you go when you want free stuff? The samples at Costco aren’t free; you have to pay an annual membership. Your free birthday meal at Denny’s costs you for anything you order to go with your Grand Slam, and the free entertainment on Cavill Avenue comes at the expense of dealing with three hundred drunks in Surfers Paradise. It’s getting so that a sign reading ‘Free’ is just shorthand for, Warning: you are about to be harangued over something unrelated.

So it is with a free website URL from Tokelau.

Continue reading

Runner Up

WOWWell, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? If dust could collect on a blog, I’d be having allergy attacks now.

After a busy few months teaching, and travelling, and just basically keeping life afloat, I thought I would check in once in awhile to see what’s happening in the old neighbourhood. Most of the blogs I follow have been very busy, so I’ll only take a moment now to post a link to my Flash Fiction piece that earned runner-up status, also a few months ago. The story, No Chocolate for Gerald, explores the tragic compromises that even the most devout Animal Rights activist might have to make.

Angela and the WOW team have recently begun hosting a creative nonfiction competition, in addition to their Flash comp. A more supportive community you will never find, so I highly recommend that any author visit their website, read their blog, and put them on your list of readers.

It’s good to see so many authors still hammering out their inspirations. We could all use a little of that.

 

Pick Your Comps

gas-mask-in-shadow-1485193083bdG

Anyone who has ever written knows the value of story competitions. They are places to send your writing where we can test waters without too much risk of drowning; where we can read the winners to see what others, with dreams just like ours, are writing alongside us. They are places where someone is guaranteed to read what you’ve written.

But how does one choose the best competition among the hundreds screaming “look at me?” Some charge high entry fees for a chance of hefty prizes, while others offer the chance to be in a print magazine—which is still the Holy Grail, for authors like me. One factor that nobody ever seems to consider, though, is the feedback a competition offers… and it’s no wonder, since most offer, at best, the same form-lettered pat on the back that they send to everyone else who enters.

Not so over at Writer Advice. Before my flash story, The Cold and The Dutiful, recently won second place there, managing editor B. Lynn Goodwin did what she does so very well; she gave me insights into the strengths, weaknesses and points of confusion for later editing. If this was even before winning a prize, you might imagine how much more feedback I got when the competition was over… and your instincts would be right. Lynn’s judges also took the trouble to select insightful comments to help me continue working to my strengths, and to improve… you know… that other stuff.

This is what we should all seek in a competition: an experience that is thoroughly rewarding, without necessarily needing to “win.” The last two years have taught me a lot about which communities will take the trouble to support and encourage me as a writer—WOW and Writer Advice now among them—and hopefully, should I return to writing next year, I can wield that knowledge for more years to come. Writing competitions may be the best means available to promote our short fiction to the world…

…but make sure you pick your comp.

(Oh, and read The Cold and the Dutiful!)

 

Four Ways to Choose an Editor (and why we all need one)

This is an expanded version of a post that first appeared on The Muffin.
editor

Too many definitions

There’s only so long, isn’t there? There’s only so long writers can tell ourselves that it’s just an unlucky streak, or that our preferred genre just isn’t popular right now. When that moment comes… when ‘so long’ becomes ‘too long’… it’s time to just do it. Just pack up the draft that came screaming out of you like offspring, work out the Velcro on your wallet, and hire yourself an editor. Someone to help seal up your plot and tone down your hyperbole.

That’s what I did after a few millennia of rejections, and I haven’t regretted it for a microsecond. I am writing again.

Continue reading