How I Used Writing Contests to Skip over the Slush Pile (via )

I'm blogging at PassionateReads.com today on how to use contests to motivate your writing and get in front of editors.

How I Used Writing Contests to Skip over the Slush Pile Like many writers, whenever I saw a falling star, all my wishes were for getting that first publishing contract. It is such a long road from those first words on a page to published novel. You hear the stories of how other writers submit to dozens of publishers before they get that first break. With average response times of six months to a year, and everyone saying no simultaneous submissions, you could be as old as as one of those falling stars … Read More



Gift to the World from Playing for Change

Playing for Change is an organization that brings the world together through the music of talented street musicians. They travel the world compiling each artist's contribution to an individual song and the results are moving. The world's most gifted street musicians join John Lennon to bring you Imagine as their holiday gift to the world.

This post is a contribution to G-Mans Friday Flash 55. I'm bending the rules a bit here. It's 55 words, not a flash story but a Flash video. Happy Holiday's 55 gang. Drop by and G-Man's site and see what others posted.




Nightfall puts another day to bed.
I meditate by the fire,
Letting judgments float up,
and away, in curls of smoke.

Beside me the orange tabby purrs.
The earth slowly turns toward tomorrow,
Drawing a blanket of stars around us.
We watch from the safety of our illusions.


This post was written as a contribution to Three Word Wednesday. Check out what others wrote or try one of your own.


Guide to Building Backups in the Cloud

Ghetto Backup


Friday I suffered catastrophic data loss on my favorite laptop. That means that all my files were corrupted and I had to reinstall all my software. Normally, this would be a tragedy, but I have moved away from keeping my files on a computer hard drive, or at least only on a computer hard drive. One reason is the change in the ways we can access the Internet. I might use any of half a dozen internet capable devices, each running a different operating system, on a given workday. Because the Internet was designed to allow different computing platforms to share information, it makes sense to put the information where all your devices can access them. While my computer screen remained frozen on the same blinking row of dots I was able to flip open the cell phone and get out a blog post.

So with my recent close call in mind, I thought I'd share my guide to free online resources that saved my skin when the laptop ate a years worth of work.

Operationg Systems


Free to use, you create an account at the website (just the basic facts registration is nice). You get an easy to navigate desktop with the basic tools of an office suite, plus a web browser and a few accessories. Why do you need a web browser in a site that you access from a web browser? If you're using a device that doesn't support multitasking it comes in handy​.


If you're using the Web-based version of Jolicloud, you have to use the Chrome browser. It's the only downside I see. Not that there's anything wrong with Google's browser, but not all devices will run Chrome.   You can access applications like Google Docs, My Writing Nook, Dropbox and Box.net. There are more applications than I have time to list, but check it out.

Office Suites


Zoho ​is an online version of all the typical applications you find in an offic suite. I've used the notebook app that saves web clippings the most. I was using this to write today's post when my wireless connection dropped. I'm happy to report my entire document was there when I logged back in, not a word lost.

Google Docs

I use this for collaboration. I've never been terribly fond of this as a word processing tool​.

My Writing Nook

This is a stripped down wordprocessor. It writes text only, gives word count, dictionary and Thesaurus look up, and document organizing by color tabs. Thats it. That's enough. It's perfect for writing a rough draft from anywhere. I don't own a device that doesn't run some version of My Writing Nook. I grab my writing time in small bytes. A hundred words here, two hundred there. This app lets me add to my word count wherever I am.

File Storage

Dropbox - This is the heart of my backup system. All my important docs go here.  I started using it to have way for me to  access my files when I switched between using Linux and Windows on my computer. I could access Windows files from Linux but not the other way around. Dropbox automatically syncs between all my devices as soon as I add a file.


This is a file storage site and provides the same features  as Dropbox, but more file space in the free version. I use both.

I won't say  I didn't lose any data due to the computer crash, but I didn't lose anything irreplaceable. Between viruses and hardware failures data loss is a fact of life. Using cloud computing services reduces the magnitude of the loss and gives you a virtual work environment you can log into from other devices  when your  computer is down.


Friday 55: Sidetracked


I was going to write Sunday, but there was a motivation to ponder.
Monday the werewolf dropped in (see Wednesday's post).
Tuesday the wizard school (see Wednesday).
Thursday I accidentally deleted half my house.
Today, disk failure.
I'm not giving up. I will write today, by cellphone.
There's a phone in my hand. Look closer. See?


This post was written as a contribution to G-Mans. Flash Fiction Friday 55. Stop in and see what others wrote.


Message from the Metaverse to Three Word Wednesday


This is not fiction. I'm reasonably sure it's not fiction, but the lines between what we call real and unreal get blurrier each day.

It started like every morning. I was preparing to chain myself to my desk and get some real writing done. I had purchased a new writing desk to inspire me and was dragging the box into my office when a message popped up on my laptop.

"How are you today?"

I didn't recognize the name attached to the IM and sorry to say can't recall it now. If your brain had to twist itself around the kind of experiences I was in for, you'd forget a name or two as well. Anyway. I responded to the message with the usual pleasantry, something like "fine" or "lovely" and waited for the fellow to expand on why he was getting in touch. He didn't. After a long pause I asked where I knew him from.

"We've never met, but I have a problem only you can help me with."

Another long pause. Clearly he was working up to asking something big. I gave another nudge. "Okay..."

"I was repositioning my building and your tiger gut stuck under the foundation. Could you please come and remove it?"

I don't know how you accidentally get a tiger stuck in your foundation, but knowing Ean I was fairly sure it was his fault, poor thing. "I'll be right there, can you tp(teleport) me?"

Now, I know you're thinking this has to be fiction, but I don't think so. Really. Stick with me and you'll see. You can't make stuff like this up.

A teleport offer popped up on the screen and my viewer poofed me to the guy's location which turned out to be right next door to my Passionate Reads Cafe. The owner of the structure turned quickly away when I materialized. I'd slipped into the skin and clothing of the character I was going to write about just before I unpacked the desk, so I had on a black suit skirt and jacket and Allie's long silky black hair instead of my usual cascade of red curls. The blouse was a crisp business white, but what had him turning away was the disheveled rumpled effect, the skirt askew, a tear in the side, a missing button on the blouse revealing a lacy black bra underneath. I looked like a woman called away from an intimate and rather hot encounter. It was too late to change, so I soldiered on, pretending there was nothing unusual about my attire.

Ean was indeed wedged under the foundation of a large industrial looking structure, his back half hanging out and his tale twitching in agitation. I attached a dematerializing beam with a click of my mouse and Ean was transferred to safety. I then sat through a brief pitch to sell me a telephone system. See, this has to be real. What fiction would include a sales pitch here? Not mine!

I eventually returned to my office and unpacking the desk. The instruction sheet began with a thank you for my purchase and suggested I visit a certain location to pick up free manacles to go with the desk. Now usually when I say I'm going to chain myself to my desk, I'm speaking metaphorically. The play on that metaphor intrigued me. I had to check it out before I got down to the business of writing. Recalling my attire, I stripped down to bra and panties, snatched the first packing box labeled shorts (I just moved here and my life is still in boxes)and picked a nice crop top to go with. When I turned around, I saw a neighbor pacing back and forth on his deck, directly across from my window. Now, I'd been here a month and the houses around me were always empty so I hadn't bothered with putting up curtains yet. I shrugged it off, told myself he probably didn't see me change and beamed to the location of the promised manacles. As it turned out, the costume change wasn't needed. I materialized in a beach locker room that insisted I must disrobe before proceeding onto the nude only, female-only beach.

Okay, I have nothing against other people going nude, but me? I peaked under the door -- it sat high like the doors on bathroom stalls. The promised manacles were in a display box under a tree a few feet way. All I had to do was slip out of my clothes, run over, grab them, and run back. So I did. Ok, I couldn't resist going swimming in between those steps.


Once again back at my place, I really was going to sit down and write. Movement out the window caught my eye, the neighbor was still on his deck, pacing, stopping occasionally to glance at my place. I thought I should probably introduce myself to the first neighbor to show up in a month. I invited him over. After small talk he showed me how he could shapeshift into a werewolf. Now that was just too cool. He was a magnificent wolf and when he invited me to meet his pack...well, who could resist? He took me to a club in a werewolf city, hopped up on a platform with a pole and started to dance.

"Right click," he said. I clicked my mouse and he morphed into a built guy wearing only a g-string.

He laughed. "I meant right-click the pole."

"Sorry about your clothes," I said. I really wasn't that sorry about the demise of his outfit -- the new view was ...inspiring-- but I figured it was the polite thing to say.

I clicked on the dance pole and after a brief view of tilting ceiling, then tilting floor, I was up on a stage pole dancing with a werewolf. Who knew there was such a thing as couples pole dancing? A lady wearing a skimpy black latex outfit, drifted by and slapped me on the butt. The werewolf kissed my toes when I propped my foot on his shoulder. Superman swooped in and took a seat at the foot of the stage. I promised myself I'd get back to that new writing desk in the morning. Good thing I picked up those chains.


The next morning I dropped by the Passionate Reads Internet Cafe for coffee to revive me while I worked on a new blog post, but a quick check of email revealed there was the matter of that programming class I'd signed up for. I'll blog just as soon as that's over, I decided. The class was taught by a demon with 3 horns and was attended by, among other beings, a small dragon and a talking dog. I learned to make a box, make it fly, and make it spin in circles. I'm still trying to master making it stop spinning. The demon said programmers are wizards, code is the spell you cast, and this is your first lesson in making magic. I wish she'd been around to teach my C++ class in college. I might have given it more effort.

Nope, didn't make it back to the writing desk that day either. So you see why the blog has been a little lean lately. I'm all moved in over at the new place and determined not to let werewolves and demons lure me from my desk-- not too often anyway.

I know you're thinking this is one of those dog-ate-my-homework tales. But it's true. I've set up housekeeping in the Metaverse and if you need to see to believe you're all welcome to pop in and see me anytime. If you need any help getting there, just IM or tweet. On Yahoo messenger I'm nara_malone and it's http://twitter.com/nara_malone on twitter.


This post was written as a contribution to Three Word Wednesday, by an avatar typing at a computer made of pixels, in a cafe made of pixels, and posted to a blog via Internet in the real world. Nara Malone believes she's the author of this post -- fairly certain.