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Pab Sungenis Posts

Writer Beware Redux – “America’s Next Author.”

There’s another “contest” out there calling itself “America’s Next Author.” They’re promising prizes of up to $5,000.00 for a winning short story.

But when you read the rules, there are some hiccups.

5. GRANT OF RIGHTS. By submitting an Entry you grant eBookMall the publication rights to your Entry during the contest and 12 months after the completion of the contest.

Umm…no. By submitting you should only be offering an option for rights, which they would exercise if you win one of the three awards. Simply by entering this contest you’re granting all publication rights (which includes all media) to your submission, whether you win or not or get any kind of compensation.

So let’s say you write a story and submit it to them. You don’t win the contest. A month later you turn around and sell it to The New Yorker for a nice chunk of change. The people running this contest can turn around and sue you for not only every penny you just earned but for statutory damages as well because you’d already granted publication rights to them by virtue of these rules.


In addition, to the extent that any moral rights (for example, the right to attribution and the right to integrity) apply, you waive (and to the extent that these rights may not be waived, agree irrevocably not to assert) your moral rights in your Entry for purposes of this Contest

Never surrender your moral rights, especially without payment. Do you see where they say “the right to attribution?” That means you give them the right to publish your work, even if you don’t get paid for it, without even identifying you as the author.

Always remember, read the rules in their entirety before you enter a contest.

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Damn the Word Processor, Full Speed Ahead.

I have a delivery date for my next novel, Brothers in Arms. My editor, Rae, wants to see a four page synopsis with all major plot points by October 17.

Rae does not understand how I write. I cannot write a synopsis to save my life. Especially for a story that is still developing. You see, I know the beginning (actually, I’ve written the beginning), I know the end, and I know a few points inbetween. But my characters don’t like me telling them what to do beyond just steering them towards where they need to be. So I have no idea what is going to happen for about 75% of the book, and won’t know for sure until I write it.

That’s how I write. It’s the only way I know to write, too.

So what can I do to make the deadline for this impossible task? Simple. I have to make it a moot point.

I have to finish the complete first draft by October 17. 65,000 words in 28 days.

An impossible task? Not at all. I wrote the first draft of Sidekick (coming out in March, and the book Brothers in Arms is the sequel to) in 28 days as well, during November 2009. Sidekick’s first draft was 68,000 words, so there’s no reason I can’t do this.

Along the side of this blog you will now find a little bar detailing my progress. Taking out what I’ve already written, I need to write 2,107 words a day to make this deadline. I invite you to join me on this tour. I will try to find time to keep everyone up to date.

Batten down the hatches, here we go.

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A grammatical question that may flabbergast you.

In the fourth round of edits on Sidekick: The Misadventures of the New Scarlet Knight (more on that later) I needed to add a sentence about how my protagonist was too shocked by the use of strong language by another character to respond properly:

I wanted to tell her that what the hell happened to me was a giant hell-beast coming out of the ocean during homeroom, but I couldn’t get a word in through all my surprise at her choice of language.

As soon as I typed that, I hated it. “Surprise” was too light a word for the emotion I wanted to convey. So I made a visit to Mr. Roget’s Neighborhood and one particular synonym caught my eye:

flab·ber·gast vt \’fla-b?r-gast\

Definition of FLABBERGAST

: to overwhelm with shock, surprise, or wonder : dumbfound
— flab·ber·gast·ing·ly adverb

I love “flabbergast.” It’s such a wonderful word. It’s not too easy to say, but it’s not enough for your tongue to trip over. It also helped that one of my comic heroes, Dudley Moore, used to perform selections from a faux-German opera called “Der Flabbergast” in his stage routines, which were hilarious. “In this number, our lovers bemoan, and bemoan, and bemoan.”

Of course, “flabbergast” is a transitive verb, and what I need here is a “state of being” noun. The easiest way to get one of them is to add “ness” to an adjective. So I took the past participle of “to flabbergast,” added the suffix, and typed “flabbergastedness.” Sounds good, huh?

Nope. MS Word flagged it as not being in their dictionary. So I did a Google search and the only “reference” source I could find listing that form of the word was Urban Dictionary, which is not the most reliable source.

So I started to wonder, what would a proper noun form for the state of being flabbergasted be? From my research these are the forms that might conceivably be grammatically correct:

  • Flabbergastment the suffix -ment forms “effect of action” nouns from verbs, so this might be the most grammatical form. But it just sounds so artificial.
  • Flabbergastity – -ity forms “state or condition” words, usually from adjectives. This might be the most natural sounding form of the word, but -ity is almost never used with verbs.
  • Flabbergastion – You can add -ion to form a noun from a past participle, but usually only with words of Latin descent. The OED says that the word is probably an 18th century invention in the Suffolk dialect of English from combining “flap” (or “flabby”) and “aghast.”

Granted, all are theoretically more grammatically correct than “flabbergastedness” since they come directly from the infinitive form of the verb instead of through the participle, but this could be a case where the improper form makes more sense and sounds better than the correct form.

If anyone wants to shed some light on this question, or just weigh in with their opinion, it will be appreciated.

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