Monday, July 19, 2010

"Uncovered" Short Fiction Contest (featuring Stephen Parrish)

Welcome to the summer Clarity of Night contest!! I'm ready to COOK! You too?

Excellent! Today we welcome Stephen Parrish and his debut novel THE TAVERNIER STONES to the C.O.N. contest family. Stephen has graciously agreed to co-host and hang with y'all. Our theme and our contest photo are inspired by him. In his novel, lost jewels of incredible value called the Tavernier Stones capture the imagination of the world when one turns up clutched in the hand of a famous corpse (well, he was famous before he was corpse, that is). The discovery sparks an intense race to find clues leading to the other stones. Are you ready for adventure? Are you ready to ROCK?? (Yeah, I hear you groaning.)

Jason: So Steve, do the Tavernier Stones really exist? Can you tell us where they are? Um, exactly?

Steve: In a sense, yes, many of them do exist. They're just not all in one place, as my novel would have it. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier sketched the 280 carat Great Mogul Diamond in 1665, and it hasn't been seen since. As early as 1642 he reported the weight of the Great Table Diamond to be 242 carats. He even made a model which he sent to a prospective customer in Surat. It, too, has disappeared.

The Mirror of Portugal was a 30 carat table-cut diamond stolen from the French Crown Jewels during the revolution. No one knows where it is today. The whereabouts of the Pigot, a 49 carat oval-shaped diamond, has been a mystery since the 19th century. Likewise the Florentine, a 137.25 carat yellow double-rose, first described by Tavernier. And the Nizam, a dome-shaped stone of 277 carats.

Some large stones might have entered private collections where they remain secret, either for the sake of security or in adherence to insurance policy requirements. So gemologists and museum curators continue to hope that one day the world's most famous missing diamonds will reappear on the market—before disappearing again.

Jason: The shapely legs of some hotties in your novel wield all sorts of dazzling powers. What notable powers do your legs have?

Steve: I was a sprinter on the track team in high school. 220 and 880-relay. I didn't have enough burst for the 100 or enough endurance for the 440. Sometimes the race isn't to the swift, nor to the strong, but rather to those who find their niche between the two.

But the more interesting answer is metaphorical. I was turned down over 200 times, by publishers, agents, and literary journal editors. I don't think the number is particularly high, yet I keep hearing about writers who quit after a dozen or so rejections.

A dozen? Such writers have no endurance at all.

Jason: On a more serious note, the Tavernier Stones stand for something much deeper. In each of the searchers, they represent a missing piece, an unresolved question, or something unfulfilled. What would your Tavernier Stones teach you if you finally held them?

Steve: First, the novel is really about figuring out the definition of home. "Everything you take for granted," is how I like to put it. Unfortunately early readers thought the story should move quickly and conventionally and not be bogged down by "issues." So a couple of characters I adored, a man and a woman who found each other, rather than treasure, were cut. I believe writers should listen and respond to criticism, right up until the time their inclination to say "no" becomes an inclination to say "hell, no."

What would the stones teach me, if I held them in my hands? That I've been working all my life for the day when I have enough wealth to rip a new asshole in one of the problems facing the world. That is, after all, what treasure is for. We could use a lot more of it.

I encourage everyone to give THE TAVERNIER STONES a try and support all our blogger/novelists.


But before we get to anything else, I want to alert past contest participants that this contest will follow a different format. Because of the large number of entries last time and the fact that these prizes are BIGGER, only members of the Forties Club (who score at least 40 out of 45) will be posted here. I'm not thrilled about that, but my only other choice was to limit the number of entries and not give everyone a chance. If you score less than 40, I'll let you know with a bit of feedback. Of course, you're free to post your entry on your own blog.

Scoring will be conducted by Jason Evans only. Final judging of the Forties Club entries will be done jointly by Jason Evans and Stephen Parrish.

The Challenge and the Prizes:

Here's how the contest works. Using the photograph above for inspiration, compose a short fiction (or poetry) piece of no more than 250 words in any genre or style. Send your entry to me by email at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com before 10:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 28th (Eastern Time, United States). I'd prefer attachments formatted in Microsoft Word (please see the format request below), but if you have something more exotic, you can paste the text into the body of an email. Forties Club entries will be posted and indexed.

Now for the goodies. Thanks to an anonymous donor who loves writing, the prizes have been PUMPED! Serious money is up for grabs:

  • 1st Place: $100 Amazon gift certificate and a signed copy of THE TAVERNIER STONES
  • 2nd Place: $50 Amazon gift certificate
  • 3rd Place: $35 Amazon gift certificate
  • 4th Place: $30 Amazon gift certificate
  • 5th Place: $20 Amazon gift certificate
  • Readers' Choice Award: $40 Amazon Gift certificate and a signed copy of the THE TAVERNIER STONES
  • $15 Night Owl Prize (chosen at random from the entries not posted)

But this is about more than prizes. I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to meet and interact with your fellow writers. Our different perspectives, styles, and skills shine when we all start at the same place. It's a great opportunity to learn from each other.

  1. 250 words maximum.
  2. Titles are optional, but encouraged. Titles do not count toward your word count.
  3. One entry per person.
  4. Any genre or style is welcome. If you choose to submit poetry, you must have narrative movement within the poem if you wish to compete with the prose pieces for the prizes.
  5. You grant me non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide electronic rights to your entry. All other rights remain with you.
  6. Scoring will be conducted by me, Jason Evans. For an explanation of the judging criteria and scoring system, click HERE. For specific guidance on winning, click HERE. You can also read the winning entries from past contests.
  7. Please provide a name for your byline. If you have a website or a blog, let me know the address, and I'd be happy to link your site to your byline. If you don't have a website or blog, feel free to include a short bio. A bio does not count towards your word count.
  8. At the close of the contest, I will give the date and time for the announcement of winners.
  9. The Readers' Choice Award is awarded by vote of the contest participants. The entry with the highest number of votes wins. The rules for this portion of the contest will be posted after the entry period closes.
  10. Public critiques in comments are encouraged, but must remain respectful. I reserve the right to delete comments and ban participants who do not abide by the collegial spirit of Clarity of Night contests.
  11. For prior contests and their results, see the links on the sidebar.

What Stephen Will Be Looking For in His Judging:

When I read flash fiction I look for an "aha!" moment---that point, usually in the final lines, when I get it. There isn't enough time in flash fiction to take more than a passing interest in the characters. A good flash piece chronicles a small slice of a longer story. The smaller the slice, the better.

I agree with all of Jason's "Forties Club" criteria: show don't tell, shun adverbs and adjectives, etc. I would also suggest that you speak in your own natural voice, rather than try to affect one. "He glanced apprehensively at the ominous gray sky" might seem harmless enough, but you wouldn't use such a sentence if you were telling the story around a campfire. Read your piece out loud. If something sounds unnatural to you, it'll sound unnatural to us, too.

Also, anytime you use a dialogue tag, follow it with a period. Otherwise you'll risk committing what I call Square Dancing With Dialogue: "No, thank you," he said, turning away, shaking his head, his hands in his pockets . . . (Do-si-do your partner, then prominade, now alamande left . . .).

Finally, be true to yourself, even if it means ignoring everything Jason and I say.

Format Request:

These are not rules, and I will not reject an entry which does not conform, but if you follow them, my work in running the contest is much less. For that, I will be eternally grateful!
  1. Single space lines, and double space paragraph breaks.
  2. No tabs or indents for new paragraphs.
  3. If you have italics in your text, please code it for html by putting a begin italics code <> where it starts and an end italics code < /i > where it ends.
  4. Although it's rarely used, handle bold <>< /b > and underline <>< /u > the same way.
  5. Write your title at the top of the document left justified in title case (first letters capitalized). On the next line write your byline left justified (example, by Jason Evans). Add two blank lines, then begin your story.

I declare the "Uncovered" Short Fiction Contest officially open!!


Anonymous said...

You are both quite, quite mad. Here's to a hella two weeks!

Mona said...

I like the reference to India In the first Para :D

My reaction to getting to hold those stones will be "O No, I hope none of these is having an adverse effect on me!"

A Typical Indian reaction!

(Diamonds don't suit me!)

Erratic Thoughts said...

I guess i will be a silent reader this time...I am too chicken to take a dive in this one... :-s
What you create here is lunacy I plan to join in from the next time...:):)

Tabitha Bird said...

Awesome. I am nervous, but maybe I will have a go this time :)

Aniket Thakkar said...

@Erratic Thoughts: Come on, take a plunge. I wrote a god-awful story the first time. But the critical comments really did help. Here, too even if we don't make it to the forties club, I'm sure the feedback would only help us get better. Its a win-win.

@Jason: I admit I'll be disappointed if I don't make it to 40's club. But now, I think its a good chance to write a narrative post to get your feedback. I know I have much better chances with dialog but I narration is my Achilles heel and I want to overcome it. Hmm. But I could always ask for your help after the contest too. *Thinking what to do*

Over all, I agree this format would bring more readers to the forties club, something they rightfully deserve. But could you provide a post where participants who didn't make it can post links to their entries on their blogs? I for one would love to read them too.

strugglingwriter said...

Sounds like a good plan.

A question. Will you be judging for the 40s clubon the fly then and posting them or will there be no entries posted until the contest is closed?


Anonymous said...

Aerin, yes. At least for me, that is.

Mona, I love hearing about those bits of cultural differeces.

Erratic Thoughts, lunacy, yes. :) You may want to do it nonetheless.

Tabitha, don't be too nervous. :)

Aniket, that's a good thought. I need to think about how that might be done.

Strugglingwriter, I'll be judging and posting on the fly to keep the contest evolving.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this sounds exciting.

Laurel said...

Yay! Yay!

@ Aniket: Dialogue is so ferociously hard and you do such a good job with it. I can't imagine you having too much trouble with more narration. Anybody that can tell a whole story through dialogue can definitely handle the form that works for us mere mortals!

Can't wait to start seeing entries.

Anthony Rapino said...

Woo! I always love these contests. Even when I don't have time to enter, i love coming by and reading the stories. Good luck every one!

Rohan Hood said...

I so wish to join the shining 40s this time around after two attempts. Hope the stones do the trick for me...

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I've blogged about your contest & Stephen's novel. Best wishes! I've posted it on Facebook & Twitter, too...spreading the good word!

I'm working on a story for a deadline that's about the same time, but I'm going to try to work on this one, too. I was thrilled that "Body & Soul" made an Honorable Mention in your "Silhouette" contest.

A lovely photo, Jason; and congratulations to Stephen on the release of his novel.

jjdebenedictis said...


I'm so excited. This is the first time I've entered. I hear all the cool kids do it!

laughingwolf said...

rats... so many tales will go unread, but you gotta do whatcha gotta do....

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Pretty interesting diamond histories...not that the actual diamonds would be bad either I suspect. LoL

Precie said...


It has begun! (cue "Mortal Kombat" theme music)

Thank you to Jason, Stephen, and the anonymous benefactor. CoN contests always, er, rock. And I look forward to the 40s Club entries!

Mona said...

Steve is right. I think when I am ready to get my first book published soon, I must think like,"I am ready to get my first rejection slip" :D

RA said...


I'm new to this, but would like to try. :)

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hmmm ... let's see if I can come up with something "shocking." I look forward to reading the entries. I, for one, love the rule change.

Unknown said...

Great contest so far Jason! I don't know though, the picture is pretty daunting. *chewing fingernails*

Dottie :)

Wolf Lahti said...

I was directed here from another site and have a bit of microfiction I'd like to enter in the contest - but because I am new here, I'm having trouble finding information on just what the Forties Club is and how to attain membership.

Anonymous said...

Wolf, the "Forties Club" is just my name for those who score at least 40 out of 45 in my scoring system. All you have to do is send your entry. Nothing else is required.

Mike Robertson said...

Sorry to be unobservant or dense, but HOW do we vote for Reader's Choice?

Anonymous said...

THIS POST has the rules and instructions.