Challenge Me: FFM 2017

Once again, my friends (and foes, and passing acquaintances, and those I have yet to make the acquaintance of): here is a chance to WIN FABULOUS PRIZES and MAKE ME A SLAVE TO YOUR WHIMSY. Your wishes, dear readers, shall be my commands.

That’s right: Flash Fiction Month begins in less than a month.

[Obligatory explanation, as always: FFM is a month-long challenge to write a piece of flash fiction, fifty-five to a thousand words long, for every day of July. I’ve participated for the past three years, and I intend to make this a long habit. Give it a go, if you like! FFM is fun, rewarding, and an excellent way to push your limits.]

Last year I crowdsourced an additional challenge to carry me through the entire month, which resulted in a whole lot of murdering people with shovels (good times, good times). I promised I’d do the same again this year if it went well. I also said I’d choose two challenges this year instead of one: I’ve since decided against that, partly because the response last year was decent but not overwhelming, but mainly because one of last year’s challenges went “ALL the challenges” and if that comes up again it really won’t combine well with, well, anything. So we’ll do this the same way we did last year. To wit:

Rules

Absolutely anyone may enter. You do not need an account here or anywhere else: as long as you have some way of communicating your challenge to me, anonymously or otherwise, I will accept it.

Here are some avenues through which you can reach me:

  • Comment on this post, anonymously or otherwise (this does not require an account).
  • Comment on this mirror post on DeviantArt.
  • Note me on DeviantArt.
  • Challenge me on Twitter.
  • Hunt me down, lurk behind some bushes, and shout your challenge at me as I walk past.
  • If you happen to have my email address or be on speaking terms with me in person anyway, or regularly communicate with me in any other fashion, that option is certainly open to you as well.

(If you choose an anonymous method of communication (and I can’t reliably get back to you) but do not wish to be credited anonymously, please include whatever information you’d like to have included; also, if you have a deviantArt account, keep in mind I’ll need to know what it is in order to distribute that part of the prize if you should win.)

You may issue as many challenges as you like. You may also add your vote to an existing challenge (the winning challenge will be chosen randomly: this will increase its chances), or modify an existing challenge by adding or changing criteria. (Keep it to one vote per person per challenge, please. I will enforce this as far as I am able; don’t exploit the loopholes of anonymity.)

I will reject challenges only if I feel that the challenge is undoable (by, for instance, being incompatible with the actual rules of FFM) or in conflict with the spirit of the event. Please stay away from fanfiction challenges or ones that involve each story throughout the entire month having the same specific length; pretty much anything else is valid!

Your deadline is noon (Central European Standard Time) on June 30th. There will be no leniency. Winner(s) should be announced by that afternoon.

Fabulous Prizes

You stand to win:

  • Official credit for the challenge in whatever form you’d like, from complete anonymity to a name and a link, both in the eventual ebook collection and on the stories themselves.
  • Up to 500 DeviantArt points, if you have an account.
  • The grim satisfaction of watching me dance through your arbitrary hoops, knowing I am but a puppet upon the strings you have laid.

Complicated technical details on who wins what in which fringe scenarios are available on last year’s post; I haven’t included them this time because it’s all sort of long and boring to read through, if admittedly important to have worked out in advance. Last year’s rules on that still stand.

Challenges So Far

  1. Every story must include a fictional fictional character.  ~Damon L. Wakes
  2. Every story must feature the word ‘glamorous’.  ~TheCrazyTarantula (deviantArt)
  3. Each Sunday’s story must shockingly recontextualise each Saturday’s story.  ~joe-wright (deviantArt)
  4. Every story must begin with the last word of the previous story. The 31st story must end with the first word of the first story.  ~ilyilaice (deviantArt)
  5. Do at least one of all the “important varieties” of twist endings as seen here.  ~ilyilaice (deviantArt)
  6. Each story must be connected to the one before it in some way, shape or form.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  7. Each story must include a piece of cutlery.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  8. Upvote #3.  ~Domaex (deviantArt)
  9. Upvote #3.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  10. Upvote #4.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)
  11. Every story must feature something edible (or something usually inedible that gets eaten anyway). Bonus – story 3 and 14 must feature pie in some way.  ~squanpie (deviantArt)

Thank you, and happy challenging!

Within Blank Pages

NaNoWriMo is just about over, this time with great success! This year I’ve written a little horror game called Within Blank Pages. It really is more of a game than a story this time around: very adventure-game-y, very puzzle-based: an attempt to work around some of Twine’s weaknesses in that regard, and I believe a successful one. Thanks go to both Damon L. Wakes and jdeyke for influence and inspiration!

I could write quite a bit about the process and all, but I’ll leave you to enjoy the game. I would like to show you one last thing, however. Remember that incredibly inspirational graph from the halfway point?

nanograph

How’s this for an inspirational graph?

Yeah. Validating the .html file gives the wordcount a bit of a boost.

I think we can count this one as a win.

NaNo 2016: Mid-Month Check-In

I never meant to make NaNoWriMo a habit. Last November I wrote Between the Trees, which turned out quite well but was not a novel, not 50k words, and not finished until December; this year it took me until the 1st of November to even consider having another go, until the 2nd to commit (on a bit of a lark, in honesty), and until the 5th to actually make any sort of start. Nothing like a slow beginning to put on a bit of pressure, eh?

words-per-day

That straight line there, way up above my daily wordcount? That’s the par.

What an astoundingly inspirational graph, eh? Eh??

Well, it’s been one of those months in which I spent half a night at the hospital instead of writing or sleeping, my time and concentration keep scattering, and WWII films have suddenly become frighteningly topical (I recommend Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl – The Final Days)). Still, I’d like to finish this project on time: so, in the hope that doing so will motivate and inspire me, I thought I’d share enough details to get you all excited (or at least help to keep me accountable).

This year, once again, I’m using NaNo to write a Twine project; and once again, I’m doing something experimental new and interesting with the format. I’m pushing this one more in the direction of game instead of story, which means less for what it will look like than it does for how to develop it: I’m suddenly having to think in terms of puzzles and solutions rather than decisions and consequences as I plot, which is slowing me down quite a bit. I’m hoping I’ll be able to speed it up a bit once things start to fall into place.

(If I’m going to make a habit of this NaNoWriMo Twine thing, I hope next year I’ll have the sense to write a nice straightforward linear branch-and-bottleneck story. Also, to come up with an idea in October.)

I’m not necessarily aiming for 50k words. I’m certainly not aiming for a novel. But I am aiming for a good and complete Twine game complex enough to impress, and I aim to finish it by the end of November. Look forward to the finished thing!

Thank you.

Audio Version of “Hunger”

I’ve been meaning to put out a few audio stories for quite some time: now, at last, the time has come. I give you “Hunger”, presented with a cool accent and with handy text for easy reading along.

I’ve altered my voice slightly (mainly in order to keep those of you who like to assign gendered pronouns guessing), but the cool accent is authentic. It is also pretty much optional, so feedback on the relative coolness/comprehensibility of the accent may have an effect on any future audio stories. (A Twitter survey confirmed my assumption that cool accents are worth a slight loss in comprehensibility, but the very low response rate mostly served to confirm that I should probably work on my Twitter platform. Perhaps I ought to upload more humorous biscuit packages.)

Please enjoy!

Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors

I’d just like to quickly announce the release of Phantasmical Contraptions & Other Errors, an anthology of steampunk stories edited by Jessica Augustsson. There are two of mine in there, as well as several by a number of authors I admire: if you’re at all interested in steampunk (or would like to be), please do have a look at it! The collection is available from Amazon US here and from Amazon UK here.

Thank you, and enjoy!

Palalgia is out!

palalgia

This year’s Flash Fiction Month collection, Palalgia, is now out on Smashwords!

I’ll admit it’s a bit of an awkward title, in that pronouncing it may cause some confusion (I have determined that the G must be soft, as in nostalgia), but it seemed appropriate given the high volume of shovel-related deaths in here (thanks again to Amelia Mackenzie). Palalgia is a word I’ve stitched together from my basket of spare root words and suffixes, meaning: pain or suffering inflicted by shovels. There’s quite a lot of that in there.

If you’ve already read and enjoyed my FFM stories this year, the e-book promises an easy way to keep or share them. If you’ve yet to read them, the e-book promises a comfortable way to do so. Also there are a few extra skulls in there.

This FFM series is growing year by year: they’re starting to look really nice together.

borrowed strength ephemeron palalgia

Speaking of books:

Here are a few other books (not by me) which you might find interesting:

Damon L. Wakes is crowdfunding his novella Ten Little Astronauts on Unbound. Ten Little Astronauts is a sci-fi murder mystery: essentially, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in space. I confess I have not actually read And Then There Were None. I have, however, had a look at the available preview of Ten Little Astronauts, and I am heartily intrigued! If you are also intrigued, consider taking a look at it and perhaps helping it to make it into print. You can find more information here.

Kelsey Williams has written an anthology of nineteen dark stories: The Tomorrow Garden. Perhaps I should not be recommending books I have not yet actually read, but I’ve been fairly impressed with her work lately, so it seems that The Tomorrow Garden is worth checking out! You can find more information here.

And finally: Kicking and Screaming, edited by A. T. Douglas, is an eclectic anthology of short stories with proceeds going to charity. I haven’t actually read this one either, but I have read one story which made it in, and I quite enjoyed that one story: so at the very least, it has intrigued me.

 

Thank you, all!

FFM 2016 Write-Up and Features

Another July has come and gone: another Flash Fiction Month has been conquered.

It’s been an  interesting month [double space intentional]. I’ve had quite a few obstacles to work around this year: first of all MillieBee‘s excellent shovel challenge, which I hope I’ve completed to her satisfaction as well as everyone else’s (it did turn out less humorous than anticipated, but then so did the entire month); then, the fact that I spent the first two weeks of July abroad and thus had to do most of my writing in the second half of the month; and finally some personal issues over the first week and a half or so that I was back, which effectively crippled my ability to think creatively or analytically until about the last week of July. As you might imagine, this put a bit of a damper on my ability to write for a while there.

Despite all of this, I have written all 31 stories, answered all 14 challenges, and committed all 10 shovel-related murders: which, especially considering the circumstances, is a feat to be celebrated. It has had some interesting effects, though. Most noticeable is the average tone of the stories, which is frankly a lot darker and heavier than the last two years. I generally try to produce a balanced mix of stories (some humor, some horror, some fairy tales, some sci-fi, some fantasy, some realism; some serious stories, some silly stories), containing a little bit of something for people of every taste: that hasn’t happened this year. The surrounding darkness has dragged even my most serious attempts at humor into either morbidity (well, morbid humor is still humor, at least) or accidental poignancy. This is partly due to the shovel challenge, which does encourage lethal violence (quick challenge for those who’d like one: write a story in which a shovel causes a person to die non-violently. I dare you.), but in greater part it’s because of the creative/emotional/logical block which sealed me away from humor – and innovative thought – for much of the writable portion of the month. Again, I’m actually quite impressed with myself for finishing at all under the circumstances: and all the more so because I’ve had a surprisingly positive response to stories written under these conditions. Apparently I did actually manage to write humor a few times in there, despite an inability to feel it.

I’ve since broken through that block, by the way, and I’ve made something of an effort to rescue the tone of the collection in the past week (with mixed results). Having to catch up, and thus writing stories out of order, has actually been extremely lucky in terms of balance: it means the lighter stories are a bit more scattered between the darker ones, doing something to break up the clump of horrible doom.

More surprising has been the effect on the overall length of my stories. It’s something of a point of pride for me to include at least one 55-word story and at least one 1000-word story each year (mainly for the sake of absolute accuracy when I write something along the lines of ranging from 55 to 1000 words into the blurb of the collections), and last year (when I was also traveling for the first part of July) I ended up writing quite a lot of 55ers in order to catch up more quickly; but this year I have written – shall we count? – eleven 55ers, and seven stories with a wordcount over 900 (with three complete 1kers in there). Over half the month consists of “outliers” with extreme wordcounts, and despite those eleven 55ers I fully expect a higher total wordcount this year than last.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. The many 55ers at least have an obvious source: when one must write several stories a day, they go a lot more quickly if they’re extremely short. What I don’t know is how a creative block resulted in a lot of stories that were just about as long as possible. It is a mystery!

I’ll be beginning work on the e-book collection forthwith: it should be ready within about two or three weeks, judging by the last two years.

In the meantime, here are some FFM features! I’ve still quite a bit of reading to catch up on, but here are some of my favorite challenge-day stories:

Day 1: the community mash-up challenge.

Per joe-wright‘s instructions, ThornyEnglishRose combined Beatrix Potter with Vietnam in “The Tale of Kitten Clamber”, to jaw-dropping effect (no lie: my jaw quite literally dropped. Then, I had no warning).

Day 4: the historical figure challenge.

Many of these stories had the unfortunate tendency not to make much sense without foreknowledge of the historical figures in question, which – given that they were, per instruction, necessarily little-known – was generally crippling. Not so with “Land’s End” by joe-wright. While it draws heavily from reality, the story functions alone. Beautifully written historical fiction at its finest.

Day 6: the 1800s sci-fi challenge.

Restless Bones” by WizardandGalaxy is about dinosaurs: which, really, should be all the review it needs. For those philistines who are not immediately swayed by a mention of dinosaurs, though, I’ll also say this: it’s fantastic to visualize, and timely on at least two different levels.

Day 8: the jargon challenge.

I know this day was a realism challenge, but hey, I like speculative fiction. This might be why I like C-A-Harland‘s “The Dunes Have Eyes” so much. While it doesn’t actually include any speculative elements (thus neatly falling within challenge parameters), it certainly hints at them. It also handles the slang/jargon element a lot more smoothly than many responses to this challenge: the jargon feels natural, rather than sticking out or looking shoe-horned in.

Day 11: the mystery 369er challenge.

Awakened” by Oreramar takes this challenge in a unique and fantastical direction. The changing points of view really work in this one, especially for the final section.

Day 13: the random 3d12 challenge.

Summer Habits of Dragons” by LadyBrookeCelebwen is hilariously written, and really showcases the importance of voice: especially in an epistolary piece.

Day 15: the colorful post-apocalyptic mythology challenge.

I love IntelligentZombie‘s “Bunker Baby” on several levels, and for several reasons. There were a lot of elements to this challenge, and she incorporates all of them in a way that is not only seamless, but astoundingly unique: a situational-irony punchline that isn’t funny, a drastic tone shift that doesn’t belie or betray what comes before. The world-building in this piece is excellent, with a graceful incorporation of the disparate mythologies. The style is such that the many mentions of colors don’t stand out. Truly, I am impressed.

Day 18: the anachronistic disaster challenge.

SCFrankles can always be counted on to take something in an unexpected direction, and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is no exception. Clever, imaginative, and (of course) amusing.

Day 20: the surreal humor challenge.

Worst Invention Ever” by distortified is surreal without collapsing into nonsense and definitely humorous. As is so often the case, it’s the voice that makes this one.

Day 22: the collaboration challenge.

IntelligentZombie was one of the many, many people with whom I collaborated for this day. Her “Razor Blade Man” is scary and sensual: it combines sex with horror (without getting into anything unsavory: refreshing in its own right), which makes for a surprisingly effective combination. Hers is probably my favorite portrayal of the shared character within our squad.

Day 25: the interactive fiction challenge.

It is (or ought to be, at any rate) a well-known fact that I love interactive fiction; it should be no surprise that this was one of my favorite challenges, and that reading through the other entries was a special treat for me. It may come as a surprise that my favorite among them was one of those that broke the format. “Page 5: The angels are here. Don’t-” by IntelligentZombie is horrifying and delightfully meta, taking advantage of the format it breaks in the best possible way. (It’s also fanfiction, but it’s that best kind of fanfiction: effective even if you’ve never seen Doctor Who. All you’re really missing is the punchline.)

Day 27: the 55er challenge.

Totentanz” by KiriHearts is beautiful and poetic, using its 55 words to their best effect.

Day 29: the David Bowie challenge.

SCFrankles is best known for her humor – and indeed, “Midlives Crisis” is not without its punchline. Nonetheless, I find it interesting and thought-provoking on a serious level. There’s a fascinating concept in there.

Day 31: the poison challenge.

I loved this challenge for the huge variety of responses it encouraged. ilyilaice drank a corked bottle of effervescent liquid, several petals floating within, which led her to write “Wild White Roses”: a story which seamlessly blends two vastly disparate tones, to hilarious effect.

 

Thanks to the Hydra in charge of Flash Fiction Month; to everyone who participated; and to everyone who’s been reading along. It’s been a great FFM as always, complications aside. Looking forward to next year, and I’ll see about getting that collection out soon.