Guest Post

HAVE A BOOK TO PROMOTE? Lyrical Pens welcomes guest posts. Answer a questionnaire or create your own post. FYI, up front: This site is a definite PG-13. For details, contact cj

Saturday, January 31, 2015

New releases coming down the pike

cj Sez:  NEXT SATURDAY, February 7, 2015, my friend, Dean James, is having a book signing for the hardcover version of ARSENIC AND OLD BOOKS, one of the books in his cat in the stacks mystery series.
The signing is scheduled to take place at 5-6:30 p.m. at the White House Hotel in Biloxi, MS.

Everyone is welcome to stop by and chat with Dean (who writes as Miranda James) and have some fun. Check out the reviews on Amazon at

Next comes Carolyn Haines’ BOOTY BONES, a Sarah Booth Delaney mystery that will be out in paperback on February 15. Carolyn plans to be at the White House Hotel for Dean James’s book signing and expects to join in the fun. She says she’s also going to go ghost hunting, because, and I quote, “I think this wonderful, historic old hotel will be an excellent setting for my next creepy book.” She writes her creepy stuff under the pen name of R. B. Chesterton.

Check out BOOTY BONES at 

Dean and Carolyn's novels are enjoyable reads, and that kind of excellence doesn’t happen overnight. These two Gulf Coast authors have honed their craft over the years and continue to work hard at putting out their very best effort for their readers.

One of the blogs I follow is that of author/editor/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer, Hope Clark at  Her “Funds for Writers” blog has been on the Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers list every year since 2001. Anyway, Hope says: “Writing well takes time. It isn't an instinct. You are not born with it. You do not accidentally write a stupendous tale. You develop this talent with hard work and a crazy number of hours invested in making your craft better.”

That means all writers, but especially aspiring writers, need to participate in workshops, critique groups, conferences, and READ in the genre you write. Before a writer can develop his/her own writing voice, (s)he must read the good work of other published authors.

Now, to inspire you to look at your own WIP, here’s another famous first line: 

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. —Paul Auster, City of Glass (1985)

Be sure to check out the new “Meet The Author” widget on the right side of our page. Lyrical Pens will soon post info about more local authors' new books with a smidge of info about them or the book.

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Poetry and Prose Contests

Early in the year, my inbox is jammed with new contests - some with fees, some not - which is a good way to test our writing mettle. Dust off those manuscripts you've been meaning to share with the world, revise and revise, send them to your critique buddies to give you more to think about, and ENTER A CONTEST.

What's the worst that can happen? You don't win.

What's the best that can happen? You win.

What happens whether you win or not? You are learning the craft of writing and what a high it is!

I have not vetted any of these, so be sure and check them out thoroughly before sending your money.

The 2015 Frost Farm Prize
The Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, and the Hyla Brook Poets invite submissions for their 5th Annual The Frost Farm Prize for metrical poetry. The winner receives $1,000, publication in Evansville Review and an invitation. Deadline: 04/01/2015. Fees: $5.

Open to all poets who have either never published a full-length collection of poetry, or who have only published one full-length collection, and who currently reside in and have had residency in one or more of the following states for a minimum of 24 consecutive months: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia. Deadline: 04/15/2015. Prizes: $1,000. Fees: $25.

Zero Bone Poetry Prize
Named in honor of the distinguished American poet Emily Dickinson, the Zero Bone Poetry Prize welcomes submissions of unpublished, original poems. First prize is $200. Deadline: 02/28/2015. Fees: $2

Poetry on the Lake invites poets to submit poetry on the theme, "Wining & Dining or Fasting, Thirsting, Hungering, Starving." First prize is €400.00 and Silver Wyvern. Deadline: 03/31/2015. Fees: €12

The Peseroff Prize
Breakwater Review is proud to announce The Peseroff Prize: publication and $1,000 for a single poem. The Peseroff Prize honors Joyce Peseroff's work as a poet, teacher, editor, innovator, and mentor. Deadline: 05/01/2015. Fees: $10

The Cowles Poetry Book Prize
The Cowles Poetry Book Prize is an annual competition in honor of Vern Cowles, a man who loved literature. Send 48-100 pages of poetry--any style or theme. First prize is $2,000 and publication. Deadline: 04/01/2015. Fees: $25.

Common Ground Review Poetry Contest
Send 1-3 unpublished poems under 61 lines, a brief biography, SASE and a $15 check made out to Western New England University. First prize is $500. Deadline: 03/01/2015. Fees: $15.

I have not vetted any of these, so be sure and check them out thoroughly before sending your money. 

Wag's Revue Winter Writers Contest
Wag’s Revue is accepting submissions for its 2015 Winter Writers Contest in fiction, poetry, and essays. First prize is $1,000 and publication; second prize is $500. Deadline: 02/28/2015. Fees: $22.

Writer Advice's 10th Flash Prose Contest
WriterAdvice seeks flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction running 750 words or less. Enlighten, dazzle, and delight us. Finalists receive responses from all judges. First prize is $200. Deadline: 04/21/2015. Fees: $15.

2015 Prime Number Magazine Awards
Prime Number Magazine (a Press 53 publication) announces the 2015 Prime Number Magazine Awards with prizes and/or publication for top three entries in Poetry, Short Fiction, and Creative Nonfiction. First prize in each category is $1,000. Deadline: 03/31/2015. Fees: $15.

The Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction
The Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction invites writers to submit previously published or unpublished stories. Length should not exceed 1,000 words. The winner receives $1,000 and publication in The Lascaux Review. Deadline: 03/31/2015. Fees: $10.

The 2015 CBC Creative Nonfiction Competition
The Creative Nonfiction Prize includes memoir, biography, humour writing, essay (including personal essay), travel writing and feature articles. Grand prize is $6,000. Deadline: 03/01/2015. Fees: $25.

The Lakefly Writers Conference Writing Contest
The Lakefly Writers Conference is hosting a short story writing contest which will award the first-place winner with a cash prize of $100 for the best fiction or flash fiction story. Second-place receives $100, and third-place receives $50. Deadline: 03/15/2015. Fees: $0.

The Stella Kupferberg Memorial Short Story Prize is a writing competition sponsored by the stage and radio series, Selected Shorts. Entries should be 750 words or less. The winning writer will receive $1000 and a free 10-week course. Deadline: 03/15/2015. Fees: $25.

The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) sponsors the annual Artist Fellowship to recognize Mississippi writers and artists of quintessential work in their field of specialty. MAC will award a stipend of up to $5,000 in a variety of creative arts categories. Deadline: 03/02/2015. Fees: $0 

Leapfrog 2015 Fiction Contest
The 2015 Leapfrog Fiction Contest invites writers to submit adult novels, novellas and story collections; YA and middle-grade novels, minimum 22,000 words. First prize is publication contract with advance. Deadline: 05/01/2015. Fees: $30.

Annual Gival Press Novel Award
The Annual Gival Press Novel Award invites writers to submit previously unpublished original (not a translation) novel in English, approx. 30,000 to 100,000 words. First prize is $3,000 and publication. Deadline: 05/30/2015. Fees: $50.

May the force be with you!  Mahala

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Writerly miscellaney and BOOTY BONES

cj Sez:  First let me plug a friend's book, "BOOTY BONES."  Author Carolyn Haines is a prolific (and fantastic) author of more than seventy books, and this one is from the Sarah Booth Delaney (and Jitty the ghost) mystery series.The paperback version is arriving on Amazon  Feb. 15, and pre-orders are being taken now. Check it out and place your order at: 

So far, I’ve managed to "somewhat" keep my writerly resolution. I’ve written something almost* every day. I sat down at the computer and keyboarded clever dialogue and scenes (ha!) into my work-in-progress, even if it was only for thirty minutes. My next goal is to write a consistent hour. (*I missed a couple of days but made up for it by writing extra time the next day.).

How are all y’all (I read somewhere that "all y’all" is the plural of "y’all") guys doing with your writing so far this year? 

I know Mahala’s post recommended that writers not make resolutions, but I tend to think the opposite. I may not keep the resolution, but I feel guilty when I don’t . . . especially after I’ve told “the world” that I would do something. Feeling guilty makes me write more often than I would had I not made the resolution. (Does that make sense?)

This afternoon, I spent an hour or so finding definitions to some of the verbiage in Charles Krauthammer’s book, Things that Matter.  I absolutely love learning new vocabulary. His collection of published columns is chock full of new information for me. Most of the words I understand within the context of the sentence, but I still want to know what the word means, exactly. Such searches have been a favorite pastime for as long as I can remember. My prize for winning the 6th grade spelling bee was a Webster’s dictionary with my name engraved in gold on its blue cover. I wore the thing out. (For all you twenty-somethings out there, Dictionary and its cousins, Encyclopedia and Library Card Catalogue, are the generic ancestors of Google and its second cousin, twice removed, Wikipedia.)

Okay, time to quit and get to the task of reviewing the manuscripts of my fellow critique-group members. We meet tomorrow afternoon.

To inspire you to look at your own WIP, I’ll leave you with one of Elmore (Dutch) Leonard’s famous first lines: 

Chris Mankowski's last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb."—Freaky Deaky (1988)

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Peculiar Writing

Have you ever gotten a book that won a list of impressive awards, maybe the Pulitzer Prize, and found it utterly boring and laborious to slog through? That has happened to me far too many times. Years ago, I thought I must be missing some major cell that the “smart people” were given on a day when I stepped out of the room. Thankfully, that hasn’t’ been my thought process for many years. I am a well-read person; one might say an avid reader at two or more books a week. I write book reviews for several publications. I teach creative writing. My little gray cells are not the problem.

There must be an incentive to write these incongruous missives, perhaps new authors of similar books are ceremoniously inducted into the exclusive club of their predecessors in a cloistered, circular room sans windows. The opulently decorated room can only be accessed via an intricately carved ebony door, opened by an ancient key entrusted to the Sovereign Ruler of All Things Obscure (SROATO). Wearing burgundy velvet, hooded robes, surrounded by burning candles, they are inspired by music in a minor key such as Chopin’s Nocturne in C Minor. With heavy crystal goblets of red wine at the fore, this royal court of authors quietly peruse each others work. They meticulously count the twisted and trifling phrases, transcendent trickeries of punctuation and grammar, and the “aha” plot factor (which must be missing to keep them in the game) of each book. Detailed records of each author’s achievements are recorded on papyrus pages in the Book of Absurdities, which is housed in a steel lined marble coffin, the location of which is known only by the SROATO and their Deputy Liege. Closing a meeting, this council of confusion effusively commiserates over golden plates of caviar on toast points and mushrooms stuffed with crab, aided by a voluptuous Chardonnay to end their foray into the enigmatic world of letters.

Not too long ago, I read another book in this genre of confusion, Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow (2009). Based on a true story of Homer and Langley Collyer in 1940s New York, Doctorow, as he is want to do in his books, including City of God (2001) and Andrew’s Brain (2014), took me through the maze of his story with purpose, albeit a miasma of disjointed words and sentences. Fortunately, his books rise above the norm, and his plots often mesmerize me into a state of altered consciousness. I could have sworn I was time traveling with Homer and Langley and Andrew, altogether comfortable experiences. Yes, Doctorow can be obscure, but predominantly he is literary stylist whose works of historical fiction mystify and intrigue my reading taste buds.

If you enjoy peculiar writing styles, brilliant stories in which it is difficult to ascertain what the author is saying along with no quotation marks or chapter numbers, lush adjectives and adverbs that twine through the corridors of your mind and lash you deeply to the story line, and endings that make you want to quickly find the nearest non-fiction book to read more about the people immortalized, by all means read Doctorow’s tomes.

And one day, one of us might catch a glimpse of one of these erudite authors cloaked in burgundy, perhaps ask them over a book signing how their stats compare to the other authors in the inner sanctum, those alien beings who challenge our thinking.