Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Week 3 Winner & Flash Fiction Challenge #4

Week 3 of the Tales of Whoa / Potato Chip Math Flash Fiction Challenge is in the books. We had a light week for entries but a lot of people stopped by to take a look and many promised to submit something in the weeks to come.

Thank you, everyone. We'll be doing this every week all year, with chance to win prizes every few months so keep coming back.

Gordon and I read through the entries and are pleased to announce that this week's winner is Jane who can be found on Twitter as @janesharp11. Congratulations! You can read Jane's entry here.



Now, let's get on with Flash Fiction Challenge #4!

This week it's Gordon's turn to host the challenge so if you'll all please make your way over to Tales of Whoa you'll find this week's prompt and challenge rules.

~ Andrew

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Crushing Dreams of Candy

Oh Internet, you've been providing us with ridiculousness for quite some time. I remember back when it was a really big deal to check on the hockey scores without having to wait for the top of the hour on the radio or the highlights on TV. We have apps for that now (thank goodness).

I remember back when, if you had to research something, you had to get up off your butt and go all the way to the library to look it up and then come all the way back home (uphill, again!) to type it up. How the local transit system and Liquid Paper are still in use is beyond me. Keep citing your sources though, and make sure they're not all Wikipedia.

I remember when you were out at the bar and an argument broke out the result was often hours of yelling and debate sometimes followed by someone getting punched in the face. Those arguments seem to have tapered off with cries of "TO THE INTERNETS!" replacing violence. I think face punching still occurs, but it's probably for old fashioned violations like hitting on someone's girl or getting mind blowingly wasted.

Finally, I remember when the Internet was pure, and innocent, and wasn't the easiest way for money sucking lawyers to bulk up on billable hours. Yesterday's ambulance chasers are today's trademark miners - and the Internet is the reason it's so much easier than hopping in your car and hanging out near the busiest intersection in town waiting for the latest saga about the car that gets crushed in front of the candy store.

See what I did there?

Yes? Very good! Please keep reading.
No? It's okay, it was subtle. Please keep reading.

As a content provider I am more in tune with copyright and intellectual property than I every thought I would be. Honestly, had I known I would be a photographer, blogger, and writer back in my youth I probably would not have spent so much time staring at my classmates test papers and assignments. In spite of those transgressions I do have a healthy respect for the creators of content and for the most part it's a black-and-white discussion. I also understand that in some cases there are at least fifty shades of grey.

I'd like to think that the insanity started with Facebook and it's ultimate desire to own every piece of information on the Internet. The day they filed for a trademark on the word "like" was a dark day for the Internet and a field day for lawyers. I'm sure other companies have marked singular, common words found in dictionaries everywhere but Facebook went the extra mile and added "face" and "book" to the list as well.

You know, I get it. I really do. Facebook doesn't want people taking advantage of their popularity or sullying the brand, but to what extent do they have to go to ensure this doesn't happen?

The answer to that apparently lies with the company King.com Limited, who on February 6, 2013 filed a trademark application for the word "candy". Special thanks to the CBC for bringing this to our attention and digging up the application status (that would have been a chore for a person much more patient than me). In case you didn't know, King.com makes the wildly popular app "Candy Crush Saga".

If you read the filing you'll see a laundry list of goods and services to which the trademark applies. To say that King.com Limited has cast a wide net would be the understatement of the year.

Some highlights:
  • "Calculating machines, Data processing equipment, namely, couplers"
  • "Microphones; Baby monitors; Battery performance monitors"
  • "Clothing... tights, trousers, under garments, underpants, underwear..."
And my personal favourite:
  • "Non-downloadable electronic publications in the nature of websites, e-books, online magazines, online newspapers, electronic journals, blogs, podcasts and mobile applications in the field of computer and video games" [emphasis mine]
What I can't figure out is whether or not the bit "in the field of computer and video games" only applies to podcasts and mobile applications or if it applies to everything in that sentence. I suppose one way to find out is to just leave this post up and wait for my cease and desist letter to arrive in the mail. 

The good news is that while the application was approved on January 22 competitors still have until February 25 to oppose the trademark. Here's hoping someone tips off the members of the 60's band The Strangeloves before things get out of hand.



~ Andrew

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge #3

Welcome to the week 3 of the Potato Chip Math / Tales of Whoa flash fiction challenge!

The rules are very simple: we give you a prompt and you write 500 words or less.

You can write in any style that you wish; just be sure to use the prompt, keep it under 500 words, write it in English, and ensure it's completely made up (this is a flash fiction challenge after all).

Next week Gordon and I will post links to the pieces we liked the best and will probably do a shout out on Twitter to those folks if they so desire. After a few months we'll compile a list of our favourites and we'll get the Internet to vote. The winner will win stuff (to be determined, but we're sure they'll love it).

Now, without further ado we present this week's prompt (thanks to Chuck Wendig who inspired this 'pick list' style prompt):

If the last digit of your house number ends in:

0 or 1 = Paranoid
2 or 3 = Thoughtful
4 or 5 = Courageous
6 or 7 = Clueless
8 or 9 = Humorous 

If your birthday is in:

January or February = Politician
March or April = Actor  
May or June = Office Worker
July or August = Scientist
September or October = Teacher
November or December = Politician

If the day of your birth ends in:

0 or 1 = Montreal 
2 or 3 = New York City
4 or 5 = Hollywood
6 or 7 = Iowa
8 or 9 = Moscow

If the year of your birth ends in:

0 or 1 = Stumbles across an assassination plot
2 or 3 = Steals something
4 or 5 = Commits a murder
6 or 7 = Falls in love
8 or 9 = Loses everything

So for me I would be writing about, a clueless actor in New York City who commits a murder.

Use the comments below to submit your work. You can submit anonymously, but if you don't leave us an email address or something you can't win.

Have fun!

~ Andrew & Gordon

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Great Expectations

This starts as a story of a writer who put out a tonne of stuff in several genres in a short period of time and didn't achieve immediate success, so, she decided to pack it in and give up on her dream.

Here are the highlights:
  • 7 books released in 2 years
    • 3 self-published, 4 with a "publisher" of some kind, and 1 book owing
  • After 2-3 years she figured she would be successful. 
    • She is not so she is quitting. Not just quitting, but pulling her stuff off Amazon and buying back the rights to the books she no longer owns
  • Meanwhile, her spectacularly thrown hissy fit Facebook post was just littered with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. 

Returning to her page several days after she thew in the towel I see that some of her friends have talked her out of it and she's going to plow through. Good for her(?) Honestly, I'm not sure what to think. It seems like I've done more research for this blog post than she did in deciding to become a writer.

Image courtesy thaikrit at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

I took a look at her website and as far as I can tell this is a simple case of mismanaged expectations. Like the kids on American Idol who have been told by their parents that they're the next Kelly Clarkson, this author had J.K. Rowling expectations when five out of six books in her portfolio are: two children's picture books, two cook books, and a book of poems.

Now, I'm not sure what her definition of "success" is, but from what I've seen on her Facebook wall, it looks like recognition is pretty high up on the list. If that's the case, then I might suggest that poetry, children's picture books, and cookbooks might not be the quickest road to success. Certainly it's possible, but: poetry world is a niche market at best, and finicky as hell; children's picture books are the most saturated genre on the planet; and unless you're actually a trained in the culinary arts or are Susanne Somers it's going to be a long, slow road to success.

How a writer defines success is entirely up to them. How anyone defines success is entirely up to them. Personally, I've set modest goals with the intent of making them bigger and better as I move ahead with achieving each one. My expectations are set modestly and I have a good grasp on the reality of the situation. I understand that my goals may be just a little bit out of reach, but that's okay. I can't think of a single successful person (by any measure) that didn't push themselves a little further. I understand that if I keep doing what I'm doing then I'm going to keep getting what I get.

Most importantly, I understand it's going to take a bit of luck.

Image courtesy Michal Marcol at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Just to be clear, when I speak of luck this is the equation I have in mind:

Luck = Preparation + Opportunity 1

Also, 
  • You only get out what you put in
  • You  reap what you sow
  • You get what you deserve
  • Karma's a bitch

Okay, maybe that last one's a bit off topic but you get the idea (plus I love that particular expression). Someone mentioned to me the other day that they found me "inspiring". Even though I was truly flattered, I had to laugh because it just so happens that I'm the laziest person in the world. I'm an excellent example of how one can achieve success but only if you allow it to take four times longer than it should.

That being said, I have more than a few successes to speak of (a couple in writing even!), and I know exactly how much time and effort I've put into achieving each one. You want to know something? If you do the research, constantly keep your eyes scanning for opportunity, and make your way to Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice) you'll be successful. It's that simple.

Image created and owned by David Samuel

But wait! You say you scribbled a few things down and didn't achieve J.K. Rowling level success on the first try? Well then, you've got two choices: pack it in or keep trying, and if you choose the latter you had better not do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. Not only will you continue to get what you get but you'll start to look a little crazy in the process.

~ Andrew


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Week 1 Winner & Flash Fiction Challenge #2

We had a great week 1 of the Tales of Whoa / Potato Chip Math Flash Fiction Challenge! We had a grand total of eight submissions - seven of which followed the instructions!

Thank you everyone for participating and to all the other people who stopped by either for a quick read or to see what it was all about. We'll be doing this every week all year, with chance to win prizes every few months so keep coming back.

Now, without further ado Gordon and I would like to present the entry we were most fond of. All eight submissions were great but Gareth Young's stood out for both of us. Congratulations Gareth! We'll send out some kudos tweets over the next few days. You can find him on Twittter @Spartagus.

Honourable mention this week goes to K.D. McCrite who took a prompt that we intended on inspiring murder and took it in a completely different direction. K.D. is such a good writer. If you have pre-teen daughters they will very much enjoy K.D.'s April Grace series.



Now, let's get on with Flash Fiction Challenge #2!

This week it's Gordon's turn to host the challenge so if you'll all please make your way over to Tales of Whoa you'll find this week's prompt and Challenge rules.

~ Andrew

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Hardest Job in the World

Okay, so the title of the post may be debatable. Certainly there are people in all sorts of professions that will argue that their job is the hardest. I've been exposed to a great number of jobs in my almost (cough cough) years here on Earth and even have practical experience in a wide variety of them. Hell, I had a job where I was promoted to cleaning toilets. Some of these jobs have been difficult.

Image courtesy vectorolie at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
There are some jobs that are done by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and there are some jobs that only a few people in the entire world are taking on. Are the jobs in the latter group harder? Not necessarily. The job might be in an extremely remote area, or there may not be any need for more than one or two of these people, or it might be a nice-and-easy but really horrible job.

The hardest though? Well, from where I sit (currently my couch), one of the hardest jobs in the world - if not the hardest - is the one performed by the people who have accepted the challenge of creating something new. These are the people who will be bringing you the next big thing for some industry or the greatest thing since sliced bread for your home. Some will be saving the world and others will be writing the novel that our children's children will be reading in school.

For obvious reasons, it's the last item on that list that spawned this week's post. With my first novel just into the re-writing and editing stage I suffer from no grand delusions that students will be discussing my work in their English classes any time soon. However, that's not going to stop me from trying. The problem, and this is where the task becomes increasingly difficult, is that there are only so many stories that can be told.

Sure, there are a couple dozen genres and probably a hundred sub-genres to choose from, but how many different stories are there?

There's the love story, the overcome diversity story, the bad guy makes good story. The coming of age story, the war story, the who done it story. The robbery, the life lesson, the superhero.

Image courtesy vectorolie at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

There are only so many stories to tell. The challenge is in telling them differently, and the hardest challenge is in creating a brand new story from scratch - the story no one has ever told before. Great works of fiction have been created by doing the latter (being the first at anything noteworthy has a way of leaving a lasting impression), and certainly any of what we would call "the classics" today are great examples of doing the former, and doing it remarkable well.

But how?

There's a great post floating around out there that quotes 23 famous people who have written famous things. These folks give their "expert" advice to the aspiring writer. There's some good stuff in there and throughout many of the quotes you'll find an underlying theme: do it your way.

Great writers seem to acknowledge that:

  1. the only way to be a writer is to write; and 
  2. every person is different. 
Therefore, every person who wishes to become a writer, must not just commit to putting words down on the page, but must commit to doing in their own style and with their own voice. They must take those parts of themselves that make them unique: the personal experiences, dreams, fantasies, and challenges - and they must create something new.

Blake Snyder wrote a great book on screenwriting that I'm currently reading. In "Save The Cat!", he breaks down every movie ever made into one of 10 genres. That's it. Ten stories. Ten stories with thousands of variations. He also tells a story about how the studio heads are always saying the same thing: "Give me the same thing, but different."

It sounds so simple, but as it turns out that's the hardest part. 

~ Andrew

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge #1

Welcome to the very first Potato Chip Math / Tales of Whoa flash fiction challenge!

The rules are very simple: we give you a prompt and you write 500 words or less (including the prompt).

You can write in any style that you wish; just be sure to use the prompt exactly as it is shown, keep it under 500 words, write it in English, and ensure it's completely made up (this is a flash fiction challenge after all).

Next week Gordon and I will post links to the pieces we liked the best and will probably do a shout out on Twitter to those folks if they so desire. After a few months we'll compile a list of our favourites and we'll get the Internet to vote. The winner will win stuff (to be determined, but we're sure they'll love it).

Now, without further ado we present this week's prompt:

"I'm not sure it was entirely necessary, but I can guarantee you there's a lineup of people behind me that will tell you he had it coming."

Use the comments below to submit your work. You can submit anonymously, but if you don't leave us an email address or something you can't win.

Have fun!

~ Andrew & Gordon

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Welcome to 2014

Happy New Year!

2014 is going to be a big one for me on a couple fronts, not the least of which is that I'll have a book out. My first novel, No Fixed Address, was finished at the end of November and editing and rewrites begin in earnest sometime in the next few weeks. If I can get it traditionally published I'll go that route, but it will be available electronically one way or another, I promise. I'm actually looking forward to my first rejection letter. Is that odd?

I'll also try to finish novel #2 (tentatively titled The Book of Good) sometime before October. I picked this timeline for a couple reasons:

  1. It will give me time to edit and polish the first novel, 
  2. It will leave me with the month of October to outline...
  3. So I can participate in NaNoWriMo again - this time to finish No Known Cure (the sequel to No Fixed Address). 
Also on the writing front, I'll be posting every Sunday again on a whole whack of topics, but with the majority touching on my experiences as an up-and-coming writer and what it's like to live and interact with all these crazy strange interesting crazy writer-type-folks. 

Courtesy Stuart Miles at http://freedigitalphotos.net 

Speaking of crazy writer-type-folks, I am happy to announce that I have teamed up with author Gordon Bonnet to run a weekly flash fiction contest! Here's the basic low-down on how it will all unfold:
  • Every Wednesday we will post a prompt; sometimes just a word, sometimes a sentence, maybe even a picture
  • Then, you leave a comment giving us 500 of your best words. It can be any genre or format that you wish but it must follow the prompt and it must be totally made up (please, let's give ourselves a break from the real world for a few minutes, okay?) 
  • The next week Gordon and I will give a shout out to the entries that we liked the best and we'll issue another prompt
  • Lather, rinse, repeat
Since both Gordon and I have blogs (Gordon's is called Tales of Whoa) what we'll do is alternate the hosting of the prompt and capturing of the comments. Don't worry though, when you come to either of the blogs there will be a redirect to the one hosting the prompt. We figured this would cause less confusion than starting up a whole separate blog just for this. Plus we would have had to come up with a fancy name for it and that seemed like a whole lot of work.

Oh, I forgot the best part! Every three or four months Gordon and I will comprise a short list of about 10 of the entries from that period and we'll put up a poll and have readers vote on which one they liked the most. After a voting period (exact amount of time still to be determined) the winner will receive free stuff! It will likely be free books written by either Gordon, myself, or someone who's graciously donated one for us to give away. 

You could win books! Not these books though, they are my daughter's.
This pic, links to posts and other fun stuff can be found on
my Facebook page 

You might be saying to yourself, "Self, I'm really interested in everything that Andrew guy has on the go for 2014. There couldn't possibly be more, could there?" 

Ah, but there is!

A friend of mine, a writer and fellow creative, D. Savannah George, posted to Facebook the result of her attempt at taking a picture a day. She got well over 200 done, and I was suitably impressed; both with the dedication it required and with the resulting art. So, in the waning hours of 2013, and prompted by a few friends on Facebook (shout outs to Dana, Terre, Sami, Eleni, and DS!), I decided I would give it a shot this year. I started on January 1 as that's the only day my OCD would allow. 

Check out my Picture a Day Tumblr blog for progress (I'll definitely take a picture every day, but we'll see if I manage to post one every day too).

That's it for now, look for the very first Potato Chip Math / Tales of Whoa flash fiction contest on Wednesday, January 8!

~ Andrew