Tag Archives: fiction

Weird Antho Angst

It’s not the waiting the kills… it’s the waste.

One of the more common ways of getting into the writing business and building “street-cred” is to peruse the calls for submissions on sites like Duotrope.com, Ralan.com, and Submission Grinder. Those sites are great for providing loads of opportunity. The problem is that many of the themes listed are pretty specific. Most of them run along the weird paths of cross-genre or niche topics that are hell-and-gone from the mainstream.

Sure, it can be fun writing a story about zombie porn or purple unicorns, but it’s also exceedingly risky. And yes, I have a buddy who is in a zombie porn antho called 50 Shades of Decay, and I just had a story come out in a purple unicorn anthology titled One Horn to Rule Them All. I can say with confidence that the quality of stories in these off-the-beaten-track collections is on par with mainstream fiction, and can be even better as a result of the topic.

The problem stems for the fact that once you write the story, you have to wait weeks or even months to hear back on whether you made the cut. That’s the same as with any short story submission, certainly, but with one of these, the bar is sometimes a bit higher than “normal” fiction. With regular fiction the bar is established and fairly well understood by the community. With non-traditional anthos, however, you not only have to write a good story, you must more accurately discern the tastes or intent of the editor or publication putting out the call for submission.

It can be like trying to hit a kangaroo from orbit with a drunken koala.

(Just let that visual sink in for a minute).

Now, if you make it in, great. But statistically speaking, the odds are that you won’t make the cut. That’s where the real pain comes in. If your story isn’t selected, you have one to six-thousand words that you’re going to play hell placing elsewhere. I mean, what are the odds that Asimov or Fantasy & Science Fiction want something that was written specifically for someplace else? It can be done, but those are pretty long odds, especially if the story wasn’t good enough to make the cut for the antho.

There are no easy roads into the business, and while weird anthos are one of them, you may want to go with the more mainstream topics when you’re first starting. Once your writing is cleaner and you’re placing stories more frequently, or even at will, then it’s time to hit the weird stuff.

The $80 Million Bank Heist (you’ve probably never heard of)

I’m a sucker for a good bank heist flick and I enjoy crime drama television, though I started to notice that many shows reflect similar stories to those in the news. After Bernie Madoff, a number of series had an episode about a billionaire hedge fund guy screwing over an everyday Joe in some sort of investment scheme. There have been other examples where these series use popular and current news in their episodes like a kidnapping, a missing spouse, a serial killer, and so on.

I enjoy reading and watching fiction that is based in reality. I like it when a story takes me to the uncomfortable edge of “what if”.

And so I keep a look out for those fantastical stories that only reality can tell, vested in irony and karmic justice, or those dramatic tragedies superseded by the ultimate protagonist. Reality is awesome and I’m grateful to be a part of it. But sometimes it can be too strange to be believable.

BanditsI love heist films like Ocean’s 11 or Bandits; Inside Man was awesome. Maybe it’s because I can imagine just for a moment, the “what if.” Not that I’d ever rob a bank, but what if I tried, could I get away with it?

I was asked to spend a couple years researching and helping with a case involving an $80 million dollar bank robbery. Yes, million and that figure alone puts the story into my NOT very realistic category.

Well it wasn’t one bank; it was actually more than two dozen banks. Believable now? What if I were to tell you that this bank heist didn’t involve guns or hostages? It didn’t involve get away vehicles or hideouts or even a crew of specialized talent. Boring?

It was one guy that exploited a connection. From what I could tell, the “robberies” happened from 2002 through 2009 when he was eventually arrested by the FBI.

To make the story even more unbelievable, the banks wired him the funds. You see, they thought they were participating in loans made to a billionaire and other landowners.

As an example, one gentleman borrowed from our bank-robbing friend, roughly $6 million using some property in Hawaii as collateral. The heist involved oversubscribing the loan, meaning that this bandit reached out to four different banks to subscribe the loan that he had made to the land owner, indicating that each bank would be in first position (and of course he failed to disclose that three other banks would be just as involved and just as clueless to his scheme). The four banks wired some twenty four million combined unaware that this same individual had transacted with many other banks on many other properties in the same manner. He used some of the funds to make payments on older fraudulent loans so that he could keep the Ponzi scheme going.

He lived large for a number of years and I imagine that there are still some funds yet to be accounted for. I’m sure he’ll be watched closely when he’s released, but the writer in me wonders if there isn’t a closing twist in this tale involving a cache of money on a private island somewhere. What if?

I’ve read numbers as low as $60 million and as high as $135 million, but the court documents and FBI seemed to settle on $79.9 million. What’s a few million among friends?

At the end of it all, he was sentenced to 72 months in prison, I believe half of which was due to not claiming some of the monies on his income taxes that he transferred to his personal accounts. You don’t want to mess with the IRS. They expected their piece of the heist totaling more than $500,000.

I find it interesting that a man who robs a bank of $5,000 could easily spend a couple decades behind bars while someone that defrauds institutions of $80 million might serve just a couple years with good behavior assuming he pays taxes on the money he’s embezzled.

So I’ve thought about writing the tale but it seems to be stranger than fiction.






World of Warcraft: The Fiction Addiction

My name is Quincy Allen, and it’s been three days since my last login. Okay, okay, so that’s a lie. I logged in last night, but I won’t apologize for it.

Now that I’ve outed myself as one of those “lamentable” adults who dabble in MMOs, let me tell you why. Like a lot of writers, writing is not my only gig. I’m a tech-writer by day, operate a small but growing book design business by night, and do my writing in the wee hours as time permits. That means that I need to decompress from time to time. Slaying damn near any mob that gets in my way is a perfect way to accomplish it.

What can I say? It’s better than going Postal. Some people play golf. Some watch sports. I’m currently working my way towards the Pinnacle of Storms in order to slay Lei Shen who threatens all of Pandaria. Lei Shen’s power derives from ancient Titan technology, and the Titans were a race of elder gods who deemed the life of Azeroth unfit to breathe.

Over my dead body.

World of Warcraft has been a perfect environment to let off steam for someone who appreciates good storytelling and kilometers-thick back-story. WoW arguably has the most exhaustive canon of any game out there, and it creation goes all the way back to the game’s incept in 1994 in the form of Orcs and Humans. From those meager origins, a worlds-spanning history going back over 10,000 years has been born.

In many respects, that’s what has kept me playing WoW. There’s an almost never-ending sense of discovery as the main storyline unfolds for the players, and there are hundreds if not thousands of side-stories woven throughout the environment to keep someone like me intrigued.

There’s a lesson for all writers in what Blizzard has accomplished with their flagship product. History. If you’re writing contemporary fiction, then your history is written for you, and you can draw from that. If you’re writing alternate history, fantasy, or even future sci-fi, then you should do at least some work in creating your own canon. I can give one example that I use in the novel I just wrapped up.

It’s steampunk fantasy fiction set in the Old West. A half-clockwork gunslinger with magic-imbued mechanical limbs must protect a 15th century vampiress from being sacrificed to raise a demon army. Simple enough, but the obvious question is, where the hell did the magic come from?

That part wasn’t as simple. I wanted to make the presence of magic in the Old West at least plausible in my head, so I had to alter history. Granted, this tidbit of data isn’t explained in the series I’m referring to, but it is revealed in another series I’ve started, which takes place in the same universe. Essentially, I had to assassinate a 13th century Pope in order to have magic exist in the Victorian era.

Having done so opens up a wealth of possibilities in my writing and gives my rather critical notion of plausibility a leg up. Basically, I can believe in my own “invention” and build upon it as I see fit with cultures, characters, and histories that all have that single changed moment in history as their foundation. All roads lead to Rome, as they say.

This is a technique I recommend for all writers. While your story takes place “now,” you should have a strong understanding of “what came before.” Not only will this make your story richer, it will give you virtually limitless destinations that all have the same look and feel, because they all derive from the same point of origin.

If you’re writing the fantastic, then take some time to sketch out the timeline around your story. Know what’s going on in your world and have at least a moderate understanding of its history. Empowered with this knowledge, you’ll find that the depth of your storytelling increases by a factor of, and the creation of both sidelines and spin-offs is that much easier to write.




P.S. If you run on Kil’Jaeden, keep an eye out for a DK named Moondawg.