Category Archives: Contests

Post 1000: How on Earth Did We Get Here?

The Westin with arrowAs near as I can recall, the Fictorian blog was birthed—at least in idea form—on March 20, 2010 in the lounge of the Westin Hotel in Pasadena. (See photo to pinpoint more or less the exact spot.) A group of writers had assembled for the first annual Superstars Writing Seminar to learn about the ins and outs of the publishing business. We were a big group of strangers with a whole lot of high-flying ideals.

I’d like to think those ideals haven’t gone anywhere, but that big group of strangers doesn’t exist anymore. Alas, we are currently a big group of friends and trusted colleagues.

Of course, none of us went home from that seminar ready to start blogging. It took just over a year to get organized. Our first blog post, “The Benefits of Holding Hands,” went live on March 30, 2011—and it goes like this, courtesy of Fictorian alumnus Nancy DiMauro:

Writers help you stay motivated and hold you accountable. It’s like having an exercise or diet buddy. After all, who can understand the ups and downs of writing better? Writers need to network, commiserate and, well, get honest feedback about what they write from others who are wrestling with the same questions…

I don’t know if Nancy set out to write a mission statement, but this one would certainly do the trick. Four and a half years later, and one thousand posts, it still holds true. The Fictorians is about writers holding other writers accountable, keeping them motivated during the many and varied troughs of the writing life, and helping them to network.

All of these years later, the names and faces have changed, but none of the original Fictorians are at the same place in their writing careers than when they started. Without question, this blog has helped us to grow and stay connected with our tribe.

So, one thousand posts. Four digits. A really big part of me can’t believe we’re here. I’ve read somewhere that the average blog lasts two years or less. If that’s true, we’re beating the odds—and that’s largely due to the fact that we’re doing it together. Holding hands, so to speak. It’s not easy to keep an online presence going day after grueling day. With the Fictorians, it’s pretty effortless. When everyone makes a small commitment (one post month, loosely), it’s not hard to fill up the calendar with great content.

Well, perhaps you’ve noticed that we’re really very extremely excited about our 1000th post. It’s a big deal, a big milestone, so we figured, why not throw a little party? That’s why we’ve been giving away books all month. Seven last week, seven this week (it’s actually thirteen, since one of the prizes this week is a seven-book bundle), and fourteen more as the month rolls on. These are books we’ve written, books that our friends and guest bloggers have written, and even books that our mentors have written. There’s a lot of good stuff. For more details, click here, or simply log in to the Rafflecopter interface to your right.

Our celebration isn’t all about the giveaways, though. For over a year, we’ve been working behind the scenes to bring you this upgraded site interface. It was ready just in time for this month, the most pivotal of months. We hope you’re enjoying it so far!

If you’re a writer and you’re looking for a tribe, consider us in your corner. Read and comment on our articles. Get in touch with us. And if you’re really serious about doubling down on your writing career (and we’re all hoping the answer is yes), then consider signing up for the Superstars Writing Seminar. That’s right; the Fictorians are still around, and so is Superstars, going strong into its sixth year. There’s no better place to fulfill the above mission statement.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, whose third volume, The Law of Radiance, has just been released. He specializes in both hard and soft science fiction and lives in the vicinity of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

August Giveaways: Rules

By Colette Black and Evan Braun.

As I (Evan) mentioned in my post yesterday, we’ve got giveaways coming up. Lots and lots of giveaways. This is a writing blog, so it should surprise no one that we’re mostly giving away free books. But there’s more to it than that, of course! So how do you win all this great stuff? Well, that’s easy, and Colette is here to explain it to you.

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Starting today, we will have a new set of giveaways each week. They will last one week, until midnight EST of the following Sunday. Every week we’ll have new prizes, including but not limited to: eBooks, gift cards, signed paperback books, cash prizes, etc. We will have seven prizes to win each week. More details are available on our website’s right sidebar, under “Giveaway Celebration.” Just go to the sidebar and click on one of the entry forms, then follow the actions available (for example, leaving comments on our posts, sharing and talking about our posts on Facebook and Twitter, etc.). Some actions are worth more than one entry, and some actions can be done more than once during the week.

Winners will be notified within 48 hours of the end of each week and requested to rank prizes in their order of preference. The first-place winner will receive first choice, second-place will receive second choice of prizes still available, and so on. Because we’ll have seven winners, we hope that everyone will respond quickly so we can distribute the prizes as soon as possible. If someone doesn’t respond within forty-eight hours, we will be forced to withdraw them from the contest and award their prize to another entrant.

We have so many amazing gifts, and people can win more than once, so we look forward to a fun month of prizes and great posts as we celebrate the special occasion of our 1000th post next week on Wednesday, August 12. Good luck to all, and to all a good August!

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Thanks, Colette. Before I go, I wanted to give a rundown on the great prizes available during Week One. Check out the box in the right sidebar for more information on these books and authors:

  1. Mary Pletsch: Tesseracts 18: Wrestling with the Gods (anthology)
  2. Colette Black: Noble Ark
  3. Evan Braun: The Book of Creation: Book One of The Watchers Chronicle
  4. Nathan Barra: One Horn to Rule Them All (anthology). This very special prize comes with a crocheted purple unicorn!
  5. Travis Heerman: Heart of the Ronin
  6. Sam Knight: A Whiskey Jack in a Murder of Crows
  7. Teyla Branton: The Change

Let the games begin!



Good Omens Gone Bad: Why I Shouldn’t Be Writing

A Guest Post by Aaron Michael Ritchey

I recently read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and it’s about dreams, or more precisely, the following of dreams, the wretched path that narrows, and the splendor of the vision. As you follow your dreams, Paulo writes, it’s important to notice omens along the way.

Omens, as in messages from the gods, or God, or the big bright Whatever in the sky. In pursuing my own writerly dreams, I’ve had omens, I guess, maybe. I’m a hugely dramatic man, and the only omens I care about are either engulfed in flames or splattered with the blood of sacrificial virgins.  I want impossible-to-ignore omens, dammit, crows that caw my name, and if I don’t get the cawing, it doesn’t count.

As you can guess, I’m disappointed much of the time. I can easily discount every single omen I’ve been gien on my writer’s journey. And I can point out to you, in exquisite detail, the omens my fellow authors have been given. Sure, the crows caw their name, but not mine.

Let’s talk about my first good omen. My dad had a friend who worked for the Modern Language Associations, you know, the MLA. They were to the English language as the KGB was to communism. Nobody messed with the MLA. My dad gave his friend a story to read, and she loved it and praised my talent. It was an omen. Or was it? She was my dad’s friend. I was sixteen and fragile and she was probably just sparing my feelings. Screw that omen, it doesn’t count.

In high school my stories were chosen to be in the literary magazine. That’s an omen, right? No, I had to vote for my own stories in order to win, and Pat Engelking always beat me. No omen for me!

A year after college, I finished my first novel. I gave it to a friend. He cried reading it. Omen, yeah? No, that first book was so bad that my wife couldn’t read it. And I dedicated it to her! The crows sat in silent scorn in the trees outside my house.

I wrote an epic trilogy after that, and my audience doubled to friends loving my work, but it still doesn’t count. I still wasn’t published.

Then? Eight books later, my lucky thirteenth book I’d written, The Never Prayer, not only was a finalist in a writing contest, but a publisher wanted to publisher it! Omens galore! Hide the virgins, the dagger is thirsty tonight!

I didn’t win the contest, and the publisher went under. As in glug, glug, glug. Going down three times, and coming up twice. No omens.

But my second book, er, fourteenth book, Long Live the Suicide King, found a publisher, and I got a strong Kirkus Review!  Not just strong, glowing, put on your sunglasses. That’s GOT to be an omen. Kirkus, son, they don’t mess around.

But I’ve read other books that got glowing Kirkus Reviews, and those books were iffy. Some downright bad. Not. An. Omen.

Elizabeth's Midnight Final smallBut what about my last book I published, Elizabeth’s Midnight? Omens? Another good Kirkus Review (Indie, so it doesn’t count), more good reviews on Amazon (blah, blah, blah), and even fan mail. Am I rich and famous? Am I hanging out with Lady Gaga? Do editors read my work and say, “Sorry, man, I’d like to edit it, but it’s too damn good.”

No. No omens.

So yeah, that’s me. I’m a small-minded, ungrateful, hateful little man. I’ve never had a literary agent. I’ve never been signed on by the big six, or five, or one. I’ve not been chosen by the elite.

For me, and this is only for me, my omens come in small packages, and I have the freedom to recognize them as omens, or discount them and be the lead kazoo player in my own pity-party band.

For me, I have to work to believe in my omens. Omen #1? My wife loves my books and is willing to spend money on them. That, my friend, is a bush on fire. She’s a frugal, level-headed sort of woman, and if she didn’t think I could make it, we wouldn’t be spending the benjamins.

Omen #2? My daughters read Elizabeth’s Midnight and loved it. If my wife is frugal with our money, my daughters are even cheaper with their literary praise.

Omen #3? I’ve had fan moments, where actual people, who have read my book, looked at me in wonder. I’ve gotten fanmail. Not a lot, but what I have gotten? Astounding.

The last omen? The only omen that really counts? I WANT TO WRITE BOOKS. I want to write a lot of books. If the good Lord didn’t want me writing, he wouldn’t have given me the desire to create stories. That is the crow cawing my name.

I have been chosen because I am choosing, choosing to write books and get them published, by any means necessary.

Omen enough for me.


2Author_Pic_AMR_2014 MediumAbout the Author:

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King. Kirkus Reviews called his latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, “a transformative tale for those who believe in magic and in a young girl’s heart.” In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters. Visit his website at


On Motivation and the Quest for “It”

A Guest Post by Kary English

Somewhere between 25 and 30 years ago, I gave up on writing. I was fresh out of high school, and my dream career was to be a fantasy writer. I’d written two or three short stories, a play and the first pages of a few novels.

We didn’t have Duotrope or The Grinder back then, so I dutifully bought myself a copy of The Writer’s Market and sent off a few submissions–all of which were soundly rejected, though a particularly kind editor encouraged me to keep writing. My final submission was to a quarterly contest for new writers that I’d read about in the back of an anthology. Surely this would be the one.

Nope. Rejected.

Clearly, I didn’t have it, whatever “it” was, so I gave up. I stopped writing and focused on college and career, marriage and motherhood.

But the thing is, I never really stopped writing. Oh, sure, I stopped writing stories intended for publication, but I wrote lots of other things instead–academic papers, classroom handouts, book blurbs, textbook chapters and anti-bullying materials. And whenever my tabletop gaming group met, I wrote up our sessions as if they were stories.

Then the Great Recession hit, and I lost my job. To make ends meet, I started writing columns for Yahoo! in the areas of news, politics, travel and gossip. It didn’t pay well, but it was fun and it got me back into the habit of writing every day. Not long after, stories started pressing their noses against the glass again.

Maybe, I thought, I could give this writer thing another try. I checked out recent issues of Analog and Asimov’s to get a sense of the field, and I hit the internet to see if that contest was still running.

The contest was Writers of the Future, and not only was it still running, but it had become one of the best ways for a new writer to gain recognition in a crowded field.

So I sat down and wrote my first story in nearly three decades. When it was finished, I sent it to Writers of the Future.

A few months later, boom. Semi-finalist.

My placement earned me a few paragraphs of feedback, and that’s where I discovered that finalist selection had come down to my story and one other, and the judge had chosen the other story. It wasn’t a win. Heck, it wasn’t even a finalist, but it was close enough that I knew I was on the right track, that whatever “it” was, maybe I had a little of it after all. And maybe if I kept writing and worked on my craft, I could acquire more of it.

That semi, combined with contest’s quarterly structure, gave me the motivation I needed to write regularly.  Over the next eighteen months, I attended several workshops and wrote six more stories. Every time I sat down to write, I mapped out the elements of craft that I’d be working on in that particular story. For one of them, it was fast pacing and a convincing male POV. For another it was a complex, non-linear structure and an ending that would make the reader cry.

Those six stories garnered four professional sales, a ghostwriting contract, a Hugo nomination and three finalist placements in WOTF, one of which went on to win. And this from a writer who thought she didn’t have it.

In the process, I also figured out what “it” is.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged in this business, and discouragement can strike at any level, from the newest aspirant to the seasoned bestseller. It–that thing you have to have to get anywhere in the writing world–isn’t talent or contacts or good ideas. It’s perseverance.

You write, and you keep on writing no matter what happens. Rejections, family obligations, your day job, moving, job loss, depression–keep writing. Take a break if you have to, but come back as soon as you can.

On the Writers of the Future Forum, we tell hopeful writers that there are only three ways out of the contest, but the advice applies to writing in general, too.

1) You win.

2) You pro out.

3) You stop entering.

Number three is entirely under the writer’s control, so don’t quit. As long as you don’t quit, you’ve narrowed the possibilities to #1 and #2, both of which lead to a career in the field. If you do quit, come back, even if it’s been decades since the last thing you wrote.

It worked for me, and that means it can work for you, too.

About the Author:Author
Kary English grew up in the snowy Midwest where she avoided siblings and frostbite by reading book after book in a warm corner behind a recliner chair. Today, Kary still spends most of her time with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. To the great relief of her parents, she seems to be making a living at it.

Kary is a Writers of the Future winner and Hugo nominee whose work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Grantville Gazette’s Universe Annex, Writers of the Future, Vol. 31 and Galaxy’s Edge.