Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

MECHANICAL FAILURE Launches Tomorrow!

Hi everyone!

I've been a bit out of touch lately gearing up for the launch as well as a billion other things going on in my multiple careers that all seemed to happen at the same time.

Can you believe MECHANICAL FAILURE launches tomorrow? I've heard reports that copies have already made their way onto shelves at Barnes and Nobles and other booksellers, so I may go roving tonight and see if I can't sign some stock.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, you are cordially invited to attend my launch party, tomorrow, June 14th, at Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica. The address is 1201 3rd Street and the event starts at 7 PM. I expect it to last about an hour, perhaps a little longer. 

We will be having a tweeting/instagram contest, so bring your phones to take pictures! You could win a FREE COPY of the audiobook and some other stuff I've got planned.

The event hashtag is #MechanicalFailure. You can of course tweet straight at me on Twitter, too. 

If you still want to get your hands on a copy of the book but won't be at the launch party, you can order it here: http://amzn.to/1PpBOPd

I am SO EXCITED to get some humorous Sci-Fi out there in the world. I hope you can join me tomorrow! Please keep your eyeballs on the events list for a signing near you.

[EXPLETIVE!] (you'll get that joke tomorrow)

MECHANICAL FAILURE Voiceover Mad Libs Contest Extended

Hi everyone!

I've gotten some amazing responses on the Mechanical Failure Voiceover Mad Libs contest. So much so that I'm extending it for one more week!

If you're not familiar, head back to the original blog post for the rules and prizes, as well as links to how to submit your entry! Don't forget that by pre-ordering your book and tweeting with the #MechanicalFailure hashtag (and including my name so I can see it, @JoeZieja) you're eligible to submit in BOTH categories.

The entries I've already produced are up in full here but here are a couple samples embedded in the post below.

CONTEST ENDS MAY 24th. Winners will be announced by Friday that week.

Come join the fun!

MECHANICAL FAILURE Contest: Voiceover Mad Libs!

UPDATE! Everyone is having so much fun that I'm extending the contest. You can see current submissions here.

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Hi everyone! I'm still super excited about my role as Fox McCloud, but I'm switching gears here for a minute. We have less than 45 days until the debut of my novel, MECHANICAL FAILURE. To celebrate and promote the release, we're merging the two major career paths of my life - voiceover and writing - to create what I'm calling the "Voiceover Mad Libs" contest. Since I'm a military veteran, we'll go ahead and create the acronym VML for brevity's sake.

Here are the basics of the VML contest. YOU, my readers, get to fill in the blanks of one of two different voiceover scripts that I've created - a romantic comedy trailer or an infomercial. I will actually get in the booth and record and produce them to make them sound like ACTUAL voiceover spots, and then publish them to a page on SoundCloud for everyone to listen, download and laugh. You will get an actual produced copy of your spot if you enter. 

What will they sound like? AWESOME.

Here is a sample of the TRAILER spot. 

Here is a sample of the INFOMERCIAL spot. 

After two weeks, I'll close entries and me and my team of lab rats and minions (it'll pretty much be me and my agent Sam) will decide on the funniest entry, one for the TRAILER category and one for the INFOMERCIAL category. No purchase is required for a single entry.

Prizes will be awarded as follows:

1st Place: Signed hardback copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE and I will professionally narrate your voicemail message in any requested style or character in my repertoire. You write the script!

2nd Place: My literary agent, Sam Morgan, will read and critique a short excerpt of one of your novels. If you don't write, he will critique a picture of your face. If you don't have a face, I will professionally narrate your voicemail message in any requested style or character in my repertoire.

3rd Place: A free e-book of MECHANICAL FAILURE to read or give as a gift, and I will professionally narrate your failure to achieve first or second place.

BUT I AM HILARIOUS AND WANT TO SUBMIT ONE SCRIPT IN EACH CATEGORY you say? Well, you can do that if you pre-order a copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE and tweet a screenshot of your order to @JoeZieja with the #MechanicalFailure hashtag. Once we see that, I'll go ahead and read both of your submissions. A Twitter follow and a Facebook like wouldn't hurt, either. Also cookies (oatmeal raisin gets your entry deleted though so choose wisely).

What are you waiting for? Enter now via the typeforms below!

Click here to submit your TRAILER script.

Click here to submit your INFOMERCIAL script.

Click here for a FREE, EARLY copy of MECHANICAL FAILURE! 

*** A couple of notes before you go. First, if the spot doesn't conform to reasonable language standards or length of phrasing, I reserve the right to edit it. Feel free to include profanity, but it MAY get censored. Honestly, sometimes it's funnier when it gets beeped out. But when writing your entry, try to conform to standards of common decency.***

SHATTERED SHIELDS: An Anthology That Will Totally Have Me In It

I’ve had to sit on this piece of news for a while now as the machinations of the publishing world worked their magic and connected dots and all sorts of other jargon.  But I am pleased to announce that my short story, “A Cup of Wisdom,” will be featured in SHATTERED SHIELDS, an anthology published by Baen Books in fall 2014 and edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt and Jennifer Brozek. From the Goodreads description:

High fantasy and mighty conflicts go hand-in-hand. In great wars, armies rise to fight evil hordes and heroes struggle to push beyond their imperfections and save the day. These stories include more than just epic landscapes and characters…but also epic battles.

My story is about a mouse wizard who uses magic to clean a house with a mop and bucket, but then everything goes horribly wrong. No, I’m just kidding.  My story is about epic battles.  Other members of the table of contents include:

Introduction by Jennifer Brozek and Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Ashes and Starlight (Runelords) by David Farland

The Fixed Stars (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire

The Keeper of Names by Larry Corriea

The Smaller We Are by John Helfers

Invictus by Annie Bellett

Rising Above by Sarah A. Hoyt

A Cup of Wisdom by Joseph Zieja  ß  LOOK!  That’s ME!  That’s ME!

Words of Power by Wendy N. Wagner

Lightweaver in Shadow by Gray Rinehart

Hoofsore and Weary by Cat Rambo

Vengeance (Frost) by Robin Wayne Bailey

Deadfall by Nancy Fulda

Yael of the Strings by John R. Fultz

The Gleaners by Dave Gross Bonded Men by James L.

Sutter Bone Candy (Black Company) by Glen Cook

First Blood (Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon

You’ll be able to find SHATTERED SHIELDS at bookstores everywhere starting November 4th, 2014.  If you have trouble finding it, look for me doing something like this:

Many thanks to Brian and Jennifer for the generous invite to participate.

I've Been Agented: JABberwocky Literary Agency Acquires DEATH BEAR AND THE SNUGGLE OF DOOM

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wouldn’t be participating in NaNoWriMo this year due to some super secret news that I’d be sharing eventually.  Well, I’m finally able to tell you all.

My screwball fantasy (I’m coining this term) novel, DEATH BEAR AND THE SNUGGLE OF DOOM, has been picked up by JABberwocky literary agency and is currently on its way out to publishing houses for submission.

What does this mean?  For those of you not familiar with the publication process, it means I have agency representation as an author.  They act as intermediaries on my behalf to sell my novel to publishing houses (like Penguin Random House, Tor, Harper Collins, etc).  Most publishing houses will not consider manuscripts unless represented by an agent.

Who is JABberwocky?  If you’ve heard of Brandon Sanderson (MISTBORN, WHEEL OF TIME), Myke Cole (SHADOW OPS), Peter V. Brett (THE WARDED MAN), or Charlaine Harris (TRUE BLOOD/SOUTHERN VAMPIRE MYSTERIES), you’ve heard of JABberwocky literary agency.  They are a small group of the finest and most respected agents in the science fiction and fantasy genre, representing many New York Times Bestsellers – and now, me!

What the f@#^ is a DEATH BEAR?  DEATH BEAR AND THE SNUGGLE OF DOOM is a story about an Evil Lord (certified under the Evil Lord’s Union) who is bested by the Six Wizards of Wobbleton in an epic battle over the city.  The result?  His soul gets stuffed into a teddy bear, and a six year old girl who believes him to be the reincarnation of her dead grandfather absolutely loooovvvessss him.  To get his body (and his powers) back, he’ll have to contend with clowns, wizards, pancake chefs and tea parties.   And believe me; that's not easy.

To be honest with you, I’m still feeling a little bit dazed over this whole thing. Joshua Bilmes, the president, and I met at WORLDCON 2012, and since then we’ve been in contact.  I’d only passed one manuscript to him previously, but the unique story behind this acquisition is that Joshua isn’t the one who read DEATH BEAR.  He emailed the book to another agent, Sam Morgan, with instructions to convert it so that Joshua could read it on the kindle.  Sam looked at the pitch and said “to hell with that, I’M reading it.”   And now we’re here.

As to where we’re headed...I have no idea.  But I sure as hell am excited about it.  Many thanks to all my cheerleaders and beta readers!  Next time I post about this book, hopefully it’ll be about when it’ll be on the shelves.

Renaissance Man Studio, LLC!

How to Terrify Yourself, by Joseph Zieja

Step 1:  Start your own business.

Step 2:  Post a blog entry about it.

Step 3:  ...Profit!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present my new website and new business:

Renaissance Man Studio, LLC!

I feel obliged to tell you how I arrived here, but you can just go ahead and click the above link to skip my bullshit and see the glory that is my new website.

When I was 15, I got one of my first "on-the-books" jobs as a telemarketer for a sales company --  Put down that knife!  There's a point to this story, and I promise I only did it for one summer and I never called you at dinner.  I came across some very, um, colorful personalities (and strange last names), one of which was clearly a woman of African descent who began very enthusiastically praising the timbre of my voice.  Instead of buying what I was selling (damn her), she began raving about how nice my voice was and did I sing in a choir and oh what a sweet young man I was!  I hung up and promptly forgot about the conversation for thirteen years.

Then, this year, I decided to try my hand at the voiceover business.  By that I mean: all those commercials and whiteboard animation videos and cartoons and video games have to get their voice talent from somewhere, right?  Well, now, they (or at least a small percentage of them) get it from me.  My recording studio was pretty ideal for giving this a shot, and since February of 2013 I've amassed over 50 clients and starred as a cartoon panda speaking Arabic for a children's game (I know, right?).   It's proving to be very successful for me and a lot of fun.

Then, with the sudden boom I've been experiencing on OverClocked Remix, I thought - hey, why not include music in this gig too?  So I started offering custom music services to my voice clients, some of whom took me up on the offer.  And then I started getting contracts for independent video games and stuff too (visit the new site's blog for more info).  It seemed like the pieces were all coming together.

So I thought I would create the Trifecta of the Starving Artist:  making a career out of three horrifically non-lucrative professions all at once.  I could be a starving author, a starving musician, and a starving voiceover artist all from the comfort of my home.

And so here I am.  A certifiably insane business owner with a bunch of guitars and apparently a pretty good Arabic panda voice.  I'm very excited, very nervous, and maybe I'm clinging to my day job a bit.

This site, josephzieja.com, will continue to remain active as the main conduit for my author career, and will also continue to be my personal blog where I'll post random musings, news, and other such things.  But now I get to manage TWO sites with TWO blogs and TWO Facebook accounts and TWO Twitter accounts.  I feel like a monkey who has just been given a whole new row of shiny red buttons to press.

Many thanks to PJ Icasas  who helped me conceptualize and organize the site, as well as to my wife who came up with the awesome idea for the Da Vinci logo.

Go check out www.renmanstudio.com !

A Smooth and Natural Transition

So, a few weeks ago in mid March I finally finshed the first draft of the longest book I've ever written.  I still don't have a good title for it yet, but the series that it kicks off is called the Deicide Saga.  The easiest way to explain the plot is a mash up of Greek and Hindu mythological principles in which you have a deal-with-the-devil type of story, lots of magic, a gigantic world, and protagonists that you might not always root for.  I wrote "The End" at just over 250,000 words, and now it is definitely in hibernation. 

It was, by far, the hardest book I've ever written.  I so enjoyed writing In the Shadow of Legends that I expected this book to be as free-flowing and easy - In the Shadow of Legends took me a full month less to write, and it was just about the same amount of words.  And when I go back and read it, I like it.  This book was like pulling teeth all the way through, and I haven't quite figured out why, yet.  I really, really hope I do figure it out, and I hope it's not because the book is awful.  The thought of spending November 2012-March 2013 writing a 250k word book and then throwing it out is painful.

And, honestly, that might be why it was so hard to write, since that's exactly what I did last year.  In the Shadow of Legends was rejected by the agent that I really want to land (Brandon Sanderson's agent).  That normally wouldn't be the end of a book for me, but the rejection was caveated with a "but I want to see more from you," and thereafter he seemed genuinely interested in representing me.  That means  I have to trade the chances of In the Shadow of Legends ever seeing a bookshelf for a chance to have a king-maker as my agent.   Seems like an easy choice, but it wasn't.  My grandfather died shortly after I completed the book that was, in a very strange way, inspired by him.  It's tough to let something like that go for the sake of something that you're not even sure really exists.

Wow, that got a little deeper than I wanted it to.  Reset.  Chin up.  Make a pun about socks.  Anyway, I was excited to finish the first book in the Deicide Saga so I could move on to something new.  Because it was such an epic fantasy book - serious, gritty a little depressing - I really felt like I wanted to freewheel something and write something very light and easy.  So, the title of my next book?

"Death Bear and the Snuggle of Doom."

I started writing it immediately after the other book after brainstorming with a friend for a few days, who helped give me the idea, and I'm somehow already 25,000 words into it.  I won't give you any hints except that it's going to be ridiculous and about half the length of my other books.  It'll be part of a very loosely structured wizard world that I've come up with over the last few years (like a Discworld, in a way) and it's full of I-Don't-Give-A-Shit.  For those of you not familiar with the technical term, it's when you're not quite freewriting (writing without an outline) but you're not really paranoid about the actual content. You're just writing.  So far, my two professional sales to Daily Science Fiction have been full of that - each one was written in about 20 minutes and not edited.  I'm hoping I can achieve that level of greatness (?) with this book by doing something similar.  If it works, then maybe I'll adopt this posture for future novels. 

So, a smooth and natural transition from heavy, deep, slightly depressing epic fantasy to Terry Pratchett.  I don't think there's anything wrong with me at all... 

 

 

A Writer's Manifesto

Listen.  I woke up at 3:00 AM this morning for some inexplicable reason, and I'm 44,000 words into my NaNoWriMo novel - still on track for DOUBLEWRIMO, mind you. But I found out late last week that Daily Science Fiction is going to be releasing "The Most Important Man in the Universe" tomorrow, and that invariably brings people over to my site.  I wanted to have something up that wasn't a.) a month old or b.) another post about NaNoWriMo.  Then I remembered the writer's manifesto I wrote when I first decided that I wanted to do something with this writing gig, and I realized that I had never actually posted it.  Sure, I had it up there in a teeny tiny button, but I wanted to make sure it got out there to do its job.  So, as a replacement for what could have been an interesting blog post inspired by being awake for 40 of the last 48 hours, I give you, in its original, unedited glory, A Writer's Manifesto.

 

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Ever since I was a little boy I was destined to be a nerd.  I embraced it.  I never denied it for an instant.  I sat transfixed in front of the television as Transformers and Voltron fought glorious battles against evil across the screen.  I played my thumbs raw on the earliest manifestations of the Final Fantasy series when I was in second grade – I graciously beat it for my friend – and was sucked in by the story.  I lapped greedily at the great pools from which dragons drank and sweat with blacksmiths as they forged the Unbreakable Sword.  I roared on the playground, an imaginary battleaxe clenched in my fist as I vanquished monsters and won the heart of the beautiful maiden (though that came a bit later).  I was a Power Ranger.  A paladin.  A dark knight.  A warlock.  I summoned creatures in Magic: The Gathering and conquered text-based demons in online Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs).

I even LARPed.  Once.

It goes without saying, then, that speculative fiction as a genre drew me in from the earliest days of reading as I gobbled hungrily through Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Robin McKinley, and so on.  I even grabbed The Gift of the Magi once because I thought it was about wizards.  I will read just about anything if it is good, but fantasy and science fiction have always had my heart.  I doubt they’ll ever let it go.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  Every once in a while my parents will attempt to embarrass me by showing me one of my earliest stories from first or second grade.  Invariably they will mention the Questionable Rabbit (not the actual title of the story), an illustrated piece by me in which the drawings were so terrible that I actually had to explain to them where the rabbit was and what it was doing.  To this day I still can’t recognize the gray blob on the page that was supposed to be my pet bunny, Cuddles.  I wrote down fantastic adventures of me and my friends through uncharted lands, utilizing a magic system largely ripped off from Quest for Glory, my favorite game series at the time.   It was great fun, if not great fiction.

I started my first book when I was thirteen.  It was a verbose first-person about an assassin going around and, you guessed it, killing people for money.  It clocked in over the next couple of years at 150,000 words.  You will never read this book.  The point is that writing was sneakily consistent throughout all of my life, and it took me just under 26 years to realize it.  Pay attention, because this will come into play later on.

These stories – the ones I read, the ones I wrote, the movies I watched, the role-playing games I played – largely shaped my view of the world around me.   They made me want something out of life, something a bit more glorious, adventurous.  So, when I was fourteen, I walked downstairs and told my mom I was going to go to the United States Air Force Academy for college.  Neither of us have any idea why I did such a thing.  I didn’t have much of a family military history, and none of it was in the Air Force.  It was just something I came down one morning and said I was going to do.  Didn’t even know where the place was.

I’ll skip the boring parts in between then and now – a good chunk of years, mind you – and tell you that it wasn’t quite all I thought it was going to be.  I’ve served a higher cause, I think, but it was never like the stories.  And there’s the rub.  I grew up wanting to live in one of those stories, wanting to be the hero, to slay the dragon.  But It’s. Never. Like. The. Stories.  Reality is a tricky, terrible-smelling demon that follows you around and taints everything you do, the bastard.  And so where I went looking for adventure I found the necessity of routine.  Where I went looking for glory I found Powerpoint presentations.  And it got me to thinking:  Maybe it’s okay that it’s not like the stories.  Life is a beautiful, wonderful thing, in which can be found a great many things to be happy about.  It took me a long time to come around to that realization, to understand that life isn’t a Final Fantasy game, but I’ve since recovered from the shock.  I understand, now, that I can’t live one of those stories.

But maybe I can write it.

- Joseph Zieja

"Two Stories About Death" Available

Hi Everyone,

I've just released a two-for-one pair of short stories on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  It's called "Two Stories About Death", which should be pretty self explanatory.  The two stories are modeled off the Machine of Death concept, which wonders: what if there was a machine that could, by a simple blood test, tell you how you were going to die?

In it you'll find THUNDERBOLT, a whimsical journey that takes the concept and applies it to the Greek gods, and WITH ME, a morose look at the possibility of such a machine developing a conscience.

It costs 99 cents, and is available today.  Please help support me by buying, reviewing, and sharing the short story wherever your own social network may take you.

Get it on AMAZON

Get it on NOOK

Enjoy!

Joe

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*Expect a Military in Fiction article to be released tomorrow!  Now, to figure out which one...

Do You Like Video Game Music? Then You'll LOVE This.

Two of my passions sort of emerged as one throughout my life:  music and video games.  The first songs I ever plunked out on a piano were from the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack, I've been to live video game concerts, and now I'm a part of...

OverClocked Remix is this insane community of nerds that, with our powers combined, create modern, strange, creatively interpretive arrangements of video game music.  The community has existed since 1999, and since then a completely volunteer force of select musicians have contributed over 2,000 remixes.  These aren't just MIDI arrangements thrown on a website, these are professional-quality pieces from musicians all over the world, including those that have worked on video games like Mass Effect 2.

I got involved early this year with a bluegrass remix of a Final Fantasy VII tune, and since then I've been invited to work on some sub-community projects, all volunteer, all non-profit.   I'm tremendously excited to be sharing my passions with such a great group of musicians, and our newest project is something worth paying attention to.

This four-CD compilation will be available FREE for download sometime in the next 6-8 months.  Right now, we're running a Kickstarter to try and get some funds for the production costs, which includes printing, organization, and studio time/studio musicians.  This is the project for which I won the remix competition with my Django-style arrangement of Phantom Train.

I invite you to check out the community and the Kickstarter for an opportunity to contribute and receive some really sweet bonus content like physical copies of the album and some of the previous albums released on OCRemix.  Below is an introduction from one of the co-directors of the project, Andrew Aversa (remix handle Zircon).  Come join the fun!

Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin KICKSTARTER

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If you haven't yet taken the opportunity, I currently have two short stories available for purchase on Amazon.  The links are available on the right hand sidebar of the page, where you can also follow my blog, like me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter.  The more you support me as an author, the more I can create more work as a writer AND a musician, in all of my nerd glory.

New Short Story on Amazon

"A Bit of Sparkle," by Joseph Zieja

"Hoodwinked" meets ancient Israel!

In this humorous biblical parody of the book of 2 Samuel, Joab's unlucky wife Mara isn't feeling appreciated. As King David's finest confidant and general, Joab is always off fetching Philistine foreskins, punishing Amalekites, or trying to prevent one of David's sons from staging a coup d'etat.

Well, Mara has had enough. She wants the attentions of her husband, and she wants them now. And she'll do anything to get it.

This story is available on Amazon.com - click the link at the top of the page to buy.  Please share with as many people as you can!  My last story was a great success, and it was all thanks to the willing participation of lots of my friends and fans.

I hope you enjoy "A Bit of Sparkle"!  I invite you to follow me on Facebook or twitter, and subscribe to my blog for the latest updates on the flailing-arms career of a new author.

First Self-Published Short Story ON SALE NOW

I did it!

I finally released one of my short stories as a self-published work on several e-book mediums.  I am outrageously excited about getting my work out there.  For those of you visiting my blog for the first time, I do want to say that I'm not a total newbie.  I've had works published in professional magazines in-print and on the web, and this isn't just me self-publishing my work because nobody else will buy it :)

If you own a KINDLE you can purchase it at Amazon.

If you own a NOOK you can purchase it at Barnes and Noble.

If you own NEITHER, you can purchase it at Smashwords in a variety of formats.

Aside from buying the short story ($0.99  and free electronic shipping), the best thing you can do is PASS IT ON.  Tell people about the short story and leave a review on the website from which you bought it.

Introducing:  A RED THING by Joseph Zieja, a dark fantasy short story

"A red evil has fallen upon the world. The Maji Benkara, demons who crave sensation and pleasure not accessible to them in their ethereal forms, must possess humans to achieve a vicarious life. They rule with magic, with fear, and with cruelty - but they need a willing host to do it.

"A Red Thing" follows one man's journey through the dissolution of his humanity as a Maji Benkara takes control of him and uses his body to wreak havoc. The lines become blurred between a conscience lost and a power gained, and he must fight every moment to retain some shred of the man he once was."

Now that I'm all excited, go buy my story!

Yours,

Joe

Ready, Set...

Are you ready?!

Within the next few days, I plan on launching my self-publishing career, opening with a salvo of four short-stories.  They'll be selling for a paltry sum on your favorite literature websites, as soon as I can win the battle against Formatting.

I hope you come out and support me!

More to come (maybe tomorrow),

Joe

The Curse of the Honorable Mention (And Other Updates)

I received a very exciting piece of news last week:  My story "The Wild Wizard's Win" was chosen as an Honorable Mention in L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest

For those of you unfamiliar with the contest, Writers of the Future is the premier contest for budding authors of speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy).  Winners of this contest include Patrick Rothfuss, Eric James Stone, Eric Flint, David Levine, among other extremely successful authors.  So it was a pretty exciting thing to know that judges like Orson Scott Card, Kevin J Anderson and David Farland thought my story was worthy of recognition.

Regardless of the bit of pride and esteem that brings me, it was a bit of a bitter sweet moment.  I'd been waiting almost 4 months, watching the WOTF forums pile up with people reporting their rejection notifications and wondering if my story would be among them.  With each passing day, I started to look at my phone more and more, waiting for a call that might tell me I was in the final ten.  Alas, my only reward is a certificate and some minute bragging rights.  But I'm still pretty happy about it.

The funny thing about this particular contest was that I submitted the story almost as a joke.  A novelette of over 15,000 words (making it basically unpublishable in any periodical because it's too long), The Wild Wizard's Win is a flippant, whimsical tale of a totally inept wizard who enters into a sorcery competition.  His friend, the real protagonist of the story with no magical ability whatsoever, attempts to fix the competition in the wizard's favor so that he can take some of the prize money.  The story is utterly ridiculous, though it did receive a personal rejection from Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine -  the holy grail of fantasy periodicals.  I had absolutely, positively no expectations for the story, yet here I sit, an honorable mention to my name.  I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned here, but I don't quite understand it yet.

Now that I've make my mark on the competition in a small way, I actually hope to never win it.  Why?  WOTF is a competition for amateur authors; once you attain a certain quality of publication credits, you become ineligible as a contestant.  I hope that I can break into the market before I win.  The contest runs every quarter, though, so I'll be submitting even as I work toward my overarching goal.  We'll see how it goes.

A trip to Hawaii and some other life events have taken me away from writing and this blog for a while, but life is slowly returning to some semblance of normal.  In the interim, I also got another piece of exciting news.  I've been invited to WORLDCON - one of the largest amateur/professional writing conferences in the world - as a panelist.  Unfortunately it has absolutely nothing to do with my accomplishments as an author; they want me to give some presentations and participate in panels as a member of the military, giving authors the opportunity to pick my brain as they attempt to integrate realistic military scenarios into their fiction.  99% of writers have never served (99% of America, really), yet a lot of people want to write about it.  Even the internet doesn't give you the opportunity to research what it's like to be in the military, to live that life.  Hopefully my experience and limited expertise can be useful - and hopefully I can do some serious schmoozing while I'm there.

Once I get more details and the clearance from Public Affairs to talk about my work in a public setting, I'll post them here.  If you're going to WORLDCON in Chicago this year, feel free to come to a panel!

Aside from that, it's time to focus on getting back on the horse and galloping my way to a few odd contests, another novel, editing In the Shadow of Legends and trying to land an agent to represent The Last Scion.  It's a daunting list of tasks, but if there's one thing I've learned about trying to break into this business it's that I can't be scared by the amount of work ahead of me.  I just have to keep typing, keep learning, and keep submitting my work to people that might buy it.

I invite you to follow my blog  (or invite others, if you're already following) if you're at all interested in my journey.  Writing can be a lonely and discouraging business, and it's always nice to know that I have some folks cheering for me.

Until next time,

Joe

Somebody Set Up Us The (Book) Bomb

Today, April 19th, we are conducting a Book Bomb for the Writing for Charity Anthology!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Yeah...the BOOK bomb!"][/caption]

If you haven't read my previous posts, one of my stories ("The Wicker Warrior") was accepted into the Writing for Charity anthology.  The e-book is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  We're conducting a "book bomb" today in order to try and get mass purchases of the book and boost the book's Amazon ratings.

This means 2 things for you.

1.  If you want to read some great stories and you want to help a charity that gives school supplies to children, go and buy it!

2.  SPREAD THE WORD!  The whole point of a book bomb is to get the word out to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time possible.  Post a link to my blog post on facebook, twitter, Google Plus.  Draw it in graffiti on the wall of a port-a-john.  Get a tattoo of the WHOLE AMAZON LINK on your arm.  However you can help spread the word

The book can be found here.  You can also find out more about the organization and the charity here.

Thanks to everyone for your support!  You have no chance for survive - make your time!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="320" caption="It's true. You don't. SPREAD THE WORD!"][/caption]

Cooler by Association

I'm getting published in something I'm not getting paid for!  And I'm excited about it!

Writing for Charity is an annual event that started in 2008 in Salt Lake City with the express goal of raising money for - you guessed it - charity by inviting aspiring authors to attend a conference in which professional authors will help them polish their manuscripts.  It's a wonderful cause - authors typically aren't on the short list of primary charity contributors, and the fact that professionals are willing to donate their time and efforts for this is nothing short of inspiring.  This year it was hosted by the Rock Canyon Writers of Utah and the Children's Literature Association of Utah on St. Patrick's day at the Provo Library in Provo, Utah.

In conjunction with this conference, they put forth an open call for submissions for an anthology which will be sold in e-book format.  The premise sounded so fun that I couldn't help but write something.  Basically, you had to take the old Three Billy Goats Gruff story and twist it - retell the story, have a spinoff, write a sequel, whatever you could come up with.  So, as with most of my stories, it started with the "what if" question:

What if the goats, after they deposed the guardian under the bridge, established a tyrannical Goat Empire and subjugated the trolls?

You'll have to donate to charity and buy the book if you want to read the rest of the story, but the editors liked it enough to select it for publication.

I'm excited about this for two reasons.  One, I get to use my skills as a budding author to contribute to something bigger than myself.  That's a great opportunity, and I'm elated to be part of it.

Two, aside from open submissions, they put out a call to famous authors to contribute as well.  That means my work is going to appear next to Hugo Award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells.  I never thought that would happen.  Not that I think I'm in the big leagues, or anything, but it's nice to be able to say that I'm a bit cooler by association.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Mary at Life, the Universe, and Everything.  She's a wonderful gal, and both she and Dan are part of the team that does Writing Excuses, a great resource that I recommend every author check out (especially those who write speculative fiction).  It's an honor and a privilege to share a table of contents with them.

Keep an eye out for the anthology!  I'll post it when it comes out, and you can find out how the Wicker Warrior deals with the evil Nannie Longbeard.

Ciao for now!

A Couple Of Strange Career Turns

The last couple of weeks seems to be the time when I sort of stare blankly at my computer and say, "Whaaaaa?"

It all started after Save the Date was released.  I was outrageously happy with the way the production turned out, thanks to the folks at Dunesteef, and a few nice comments on their forums gave me the warm fuzzies that every author likes to hear.  I got to listen to it on my way home from the beach during a business trip to California, and it really made the traffic suck much less.

A few days later, I got an email from an unassuming gentleman in Japan.  That's right, Japan.  A member of the Able School of English had liked my story so much he wanted to use it as a piece of the school curriculum.  I can only assume, therefore, that he wanted to teach his children a.) how to make themselves the outcasts of society, b.) how to enchant a calendar or c.) how to avoid being killed by a hoard of Mayan warriors.  These are the only things I think are educationally valuable about that story.  Needless to say, I am flattered.  It means that not only am I international, but that my strangeness will be talked about in languages I don't understand.

I got an email from the Dunesteef folks shortly thereafter requesting an unbelievable amount of voice acting talent:  one line in two stories.  Seriously guys, you think my days are 25 hours long?  Thanks to my dear friends Jen and Steve Lerud and Lakeview Studios, I was able to cut the lines in a few minutes and send them away.  The first one, "The Question" is available on the Dunesteef Website - I'm the man who rushes into the bar and shouts about "Doc Z." being on television. Could this be the first recording in a long career of voice acting?

No.  But it's fun, and I'd love to do it again.

There are also a few other career moves I'm in the process of making, but I'm not quite ready to talk about them just yet.  Not everything in my life has to do with writing.

Pity, that.  Maybe someday.

"Spoons" Goes to Print!

I just received word from DailyScienceFiction that "Spoons", as part of the DailyScienceFiction:  Year One anthology, is going to be printed and bound in a no kidding, real live book!

Since there's a push for all the authors who go to Worldcon this year to sign, I am assuming the book is going to be published sometime in the mid to late summer, but you never know with this sort of thing.

Hooray!

A Nice Little (Essentially Meaningless) Surprise

YouWriteOn.com is a UK Council of the Arts funded website where authors upload the opening chapters of their novels, and through a give and take review process receive anonymous feedback from other authors.  The books are all rated, and at certain intervals throughout the year books are passed on to professional editors from top publishing firms for a special critique and edit.  It doesn't guarantee publication, but it certainly gets your name out there.

The Last Scion has done extremely well on this site.  I wasn't really expecting much, since its a website with thousands of authors submitting thousands of pieces, but a few months ago The Last Scion reached #3 on the book list!  That was nice, but also a thing of transience.  Books are constantly shuffling back and forth on the list, falling 20 places in an instant.  The Last Scion ended up  staying for a few months in the top 15.

But then...

I opened the novel profile today after not looking at it for a while and saw something that REALLY got me going.  The Last Scion made #6 on the Best Seller list of 2011!  Now, that doesn't mean that it sold anything, or it received any professional attention, but this list is reserved for the best books on the website of all time.  It does, however, mean that it will probably be looked at for the overall best book competition of 2012, and it means that I was ONE PLACE away from receiving a professional crit at the end of the month in which it appeared.

Like I said, without some attention to go with it, it's essentially meaningless.  But it's nice every once in a while to have your writing appear in something that shows high praise that's not because someone who knows you read it and doesn't want to hurt your feelings :)

NaNoWriMo 2011 in Review

Well it's over.  NaNoWriMo came and went, and thus the beginning (well, nearly half) of my novel In The Shadow of Legends was born.  It's been a good run, and I don't plan on stopping here.  Let's take a look at the month as NaNo saw it.

[caption id="attachment_159" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="Figure 1: NaNoWriMo 2011 Statistics (Click to Enlarge)"][/caption]

Ah yes.  That's a good looking bar graph, if I do say so myself.  I topped out at just over 90,000 words, and I'm pretty happy with that.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I wanted to break 100,000.  I've done it before, but this year it just wasn't meant to be.  Despite the idea behind NaNoWriMo, it's taught me to slow down a bit when I'm writing.  The prose that comes out when I'm concentrating is a lot better than the stuff that comes out when I'm racing,  like in my first draft of The Last Scion.  That monster was a 150,000 word book written in 34 days, and I definitely saw the results of that after I went back to edit it for the first time.  My goal for In the Shadow of Legends is to take a bit more time, write a bit slower, and make a better first draft that won't make me wail in despair (and run out of red ink) when I go back to edit it.

November held a lot of interesting things in it other than NaNoWrimo.  In looking at the way my writing statistics shaped out, I noticed a couple of anomalies in the slope of the curve.  If I kept a consistent writing pace and followed the minimum word requirement to finish on time, I should have seen an equation that looked something like x = 1667y, where x is the total word count and y is the number of days.  Instead, at the beginning we had a more x=700y curve, but shortly thereafter followed by an exponential increase, something to the effect of x=500y2.  After performing a detailed analysis, I came up with the following (click the picture if you can't read the notes).

[caption id="attachment_160" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="Figure 2: Causality Analysis (Click to Enlarge)"][/caption]

See?  There is nothing that can be solved by simple scientific observation.  I think everyone can benefit from this sort of analysis.

Anyway, the novel isn't done, and therefore neither am I.  This, right now, is shaping up to be about a 200,000 word novel (around the size of a Twilight book, or one of the latter Harry Potters).  I'll post a bit more about my experiences writing this book, and compare them with the experience of writing my last few, another time.  For now, I think it's time for  a well-earned rest.  Oh, and work.  Have to go and do that, too.

"Crumbling Butterflies" Released!

My short story, Crumbling Butterflies, has been released by NewMyths at www.newmyths.com.  This month's cover art was inspired by my piece.

I hope you enjoy!

"Three Kisses" Released!

"Three Kisses", my third place winner in Absent Willow Review's short story contest, has been released on their front page with the other two contest winners.  Check it out at http://absentwillowreview.com/ !

In addition, I've updated the links to Pill Hill Press' It Was A Dark And Stormy Night anthology, which contains my short story "Welcome to Deadtown".  Check out the publications widget to the right for more info.

"Welcome to Deadtown Released!"

As part of Pill Hill Press's anthology, It Was a Dark and Stormy Night:  A Collection of Horror Parodies, my story "Welcome to Deadtown" has gone to print.

If you're interested, it is currently available at Amazon.com in kindle format or BarnesAndNoble.com in print.  If you prefer Amazon and prefer print, the anthology SHOULD be available in print on Amazon in a little while, as well as other online bookstores.

"Three Kisses" Takes Third Place In Contest!

I've just been notified by Absent Willow Review that my short story, "Three Kisses" has been awarded third place in their short story contest, landing me $25 and my ninth publication.  It's scheduled to appear sometime in August.

In other publication news, "Spoons" is scheduled to appear on Daily Science Fiction on August 15th - I'll post the link when it hits the website.  Also, "Welcome to Deadtown", a contribution to one of Pill Hill Press's anthologies entitled A Dark and Stormy Night, is available on their website, http://www.pillhillpress.com/shoppe-anthologies.html.  It will be available shortly on Amazon.com as well as other online booksellers, and I will post those links as soon as they make it to the markets.

Back to writing!  I'm roughly 70% through a substantial rewrite of my latest novel, The Last Scion.  I've never actually added something to work - I'm always cutting - but with the speed at which I composed the rough draft (34 days for 150,000 words), it ended up being a very skeletal structure.  I've so far added 20,000 words, and there's probably more to come.  I hope I'll end up with an engaging novel and not an outline.

Been A While

Well, I can't be blamed.  I've spent most of my summer traveling around Europe, and I'm not done yet.  Something had to give.  Everything gave, for a bit.

I'm back for at least 5 days this time, and I'm feeling creatively refreshed and ready to go.  I have several daunting projects ahead of me.

First, I am going to be going through the next revision of The Last Scion, which I will then begin querying to agents. In the meantime, because working on only one thing bores me, I'm working on the worldbuilding and concept stages of two other novels.  The first is the first book in a trilogy that's tentatively named "The Deicide Trilogy".  I'm excited about that one because I'll be mashing together a couple of different concepts in a world that's decidedly huge.  The second is what I believe will be a one-book fantasy called "In the Shadow of Legends", based off an idea I got while doing some ancestry hunting in Italy.  Thanks, Grandpa.

I have several pieces out right now, including a couple of submissions to the Machine of Death anthology.  If you haven't checked out that quirky collection, I highly recommend it.  Submitting to it was a bit out of my genre, but once I read the premise I couldn't resist.  I did manage to sneak some fantastical elements in there.  We'll see if they bite.

One of my favorite pieces called Welcome to Deadtown is going to print in an anthology by Pill Hill Press here in a couple of weeks.  I'll post when it's available.

In the meantime, I've purchased a giant dry-erase board to hang in my office.  I hope to act like a mad scientist and madly scribble on it at 4 AM when the ideas are refusing to let me go to sleep, but my wife will probably just come down and draw a cartoon on it to fill the blank space.  I'm hoping for the mad scientist thing.

"Lines of Steel" Released!

Absent Willow Review has just released Lines of Steel as part of their June issue.  Oddly enough, this piece was in the middle of what I call a "hopeless" stage when it was accepted -  I was just about ready to trash it.

Hope you enjoy!

 

http://absentwillowreview.com/

"Crumbling Butterflies" Release Date Pushed to September

I've just been notified that Crumbling Butterflies will not be released at NewMyths until September, but for a pretty cool reason.  The editor wants to do a cover based on my story, and the artist needs more time.

"Spoons" Accepted for Publication!

I just finally got word that DailyScienceFiction has decided to publish my flash "Spoons".  This marks the first story for which I am being paid an official professional rate!

Strangely enough, Crumbling Butterflies and Spoons - my two best payrate stories - were both written in the most non-writing-conducive circumstances ever.  Crumbling Butterflies was the first flash I ever tried, written in 15 minutes in a Starbucks in the middle of Alabama on a whim.  Spoons, on the other hand, was written while I was at work...and supposed to be doing work.   I'm not sure what that says about my writing.  Maybe I need to keep a day job so that I can break the rules and write during it.

By the way, if my boss asks, I wrote "Spoons" at home in a comfy arm chair with fuzzy slippers on.

"Lines of Steel" Accepted for Publication

Hi everyone,

My short story, "Lines of Steel" has been accepted for publication by Absent Willow Review.  It will appear in the June 16th issue, and marks my first work ever eligible for royalty payments at a professional rate, should it be chosen by the editors to appear in an anthology.  Part of the choosing is done by readers' votes, much like The Treasure Fish, so I'll be counting on you to help out when it goes live!

-Joe

Vote for "The Treasure Fish" at Moon Drenched Fables for Best Story!

Hello everyone,

"The Treasure Fish" was the first piece of writing I ever published and has since appeared on Moon Drenched Fables' website.  Each issue holds a contest for "Best in Issue", the winner of which receives a small cash prize ($10, don't get too crazy) and fame beyond all fame.  To vote for "The Treasure Fish", assuming you've read it, go to the link below and leave a comment saying something to the effect of "I vote for the Treasure Fish".

Thanks for voting!  I believe voting will close when the next quarterly issue comes out in June.

http://moondrenchedfables.wordpress.com/best-of-the-issue/

-Joe

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