Everybody Judges

San Tan Regional Park; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

San Tan Regional Park; Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I recently got to help judge a story contest.  I (and a few other people) were sent 10 short stories to read.  I was told to rate my top 3, pick my favorite, and rate my bottom 3.  I learned how hard it is to judge a contest.  Instead of rating my top 3, I wanted to pick at least 5, and of those, it was nearly impossible to pick my favorite.  Of my 3 favorites, 1 placed, and 1 took an honorable mention.  One didn’t even make it as a winner!  One of my least favorites took an honorable mention.

I’ve always kind of known intellectually that getting published is hard, and sometimes good stuff gets put aside for one reason or another, but knowing and knowing are two different things.  Everyone’s taste is different.

Case in point… I’m currently reading A Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon.  It was this month’s book club selection, and I like it, but it’s a little slow reading for me.  When I made this comment to my book club, someone else commented that they couldn’t put it down.

We all have different things that we like and dislike.  I love horror, and many of my friends can’t stand it.  Most of the time, I dislike comedies, which puzzles most of the people I know. Just because I don’t place in a contest or get picked to get published for an issue doesn’t mean that my work wasn’t good.  It just means that someone else’s was a little better.  Or, that it wasn’t to the taste of the person reading it.  I don’t expect to be friends with everyone, so why would I expect my work, my best reflection of self, to appeal to everyone?  It seems so simple when I put it that way, doesn’t it?

So a message out there to those of you who put your work out there for others to read.  It’s possible that your story was someone’s favorite, but still didn’t make the cut.  I don’t know about you, but that idea appeals to me.  I’m not looking to have universal appeal.  But to have someone be really passionate about my story would be awesome.

I don’t care about being famous, but I would like to have people know my name.  I want to be the answer to the question, “Who wrote that really great book?”

A Beautiful Thing

Bahamas... this picture is a mini-vacation.

Bahamas… this picture is a mini-vacation.

I’d hit a dry spell with writing for awhile, where I mostly couldn’t think of any fiction.  I tried to find ideas for stories… and nothing.  I’d try to sit down and write, and it just didn’t work for me.

It didn’t help that I’ve been busy.  I started a new job, it’s Christmas, and I’ve been sick.  But a funny thing happened the other night while I was making Christmas cookies… an idea popped into my head.  I saw these two characters, clear as day in my head.  I knew who they were, what they wanted, and why it would be hard for them to be together, even though they wanted to.  The beginning, middle, and end came to me.  They’re in my head; they talk to me during the day.  They tell me their secrets.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had something so compelling in my head, and I’m pretty excited about it.  I still don’t have time, but because it’s important, I can find time, even if it’s only 20 minutes.  I guess in some ways I’ve been blocked.  I’ve been writing blogs, but three years into it, it’s a routine for me.  I’ve never quite made the fiction writing part of my life into a routine, probably because it’s more fun than chore.

So I have a new story in my head, and I’m making new friends.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Deadfall Hotel- A Review

imagesI often read books based on knowing I like the author, and sometimes based on recommendation.  Once in awhile, I’ll choose a book while browsing at the library.  In those instances, the cover or title catches my eye.  Deadfall Hotel, by Steve Rasnic Tem, was one of those books.

I liked this book.  It’s a borrower though, not a buyer.  It’s a series of stories about a man and his daughter who are invited to be the next managers of the Deadfall Hotel.  A cryptic man named Jacob hires Richard without really telling him what the job entails or anything about the hotel.  Much of the story is left to the imagination, but mysterious references and suggestions.  Odd and dangerous things happen there.

I didn’t feel all that satisfied by the conclusion, but I didn’t dislike it either.  It’s a compelling read, and I liked it much better while I was reading it than I do now, thinking back on it.  The story is pretty well paced, though it drags in spots.  All in all, it’s a good book for evening with a big glass of tea.  If you’re looking for something new, and you like horror, this one is worth a try.