Friday, April 19, 2013

Quests, Curses, & Vengeance: A Shootout Origin

A few weeks ago, I revealed the fantastic cover to an upcoming Martinus Publishing anthology, "Quests, Curses, & Vengeance."  Now, I'd like to explain its creation, and why it is going to be a large collection.

Since the beginning of March, I have been running a "writing shootout," which is part-contest and part-writing exercise.  The origin of my series of "shootouts" comes from my experience with Pill Hill Press.  Years ago, I was invited to participate in one of these fun competitions, though it was a far different format than the one I'm currently using.  It started off by pitting writers from two different small presses against one another.  We wrote stories head-to-head each round, and whoever scored higher (based on points awarded by fellow writers) won their "shootout," and moved on to the next round.  This went on until only one team was left standing.

Later on, the format changed, putting everyone on a single team.  The players judged each other's stories each round, and competed for 3 rounds to see who would rack up the most points.  This was a little tenuous for several reasons.  One, the players were scoring their competitors, so there was always the temptation to be overly critical on other people's stories.  Two, there was no written scoring guideline, so points were arbitrary.  This was all well and good for a lighthearted game among friends, though very unscientific.

A couple of years ago, I was given the opportunity to host the last two Pill Hill Press shootouts.  By doing so, I implemented a new "team" structure, to help eliminate the conflict of interest involved with scoring.  People were assigned to review & score the stories from the other team, whose stories they were not competing against.  This also allowed us to have a "finalist" round, where the top-scoring writers could compete head-to-head for the win.

Unfortunately, the last PHP shootouts ended without a prize.  In the past, shootout winners were often given gifts from participants, and on occasion shootout stories would get published in various anthologies.  It was kind of a let-down that the ultimate winners (congratulations to A.D. Spencer and Scott Taylor, respectively) didn't get more than a symbolic pat on the back.  After doing two PHP shootouts in this manner, I resolved to make sure the winner of my third shootout would get more than praise for their trouble.

This is where "The Temporal Element" came alive.  Planning my Summer Shootout 2012, I decided the winning story in the final round would get published.  The winning writer would have a publication credit to their name, if nothing else.  I'd always wanted to do a time-travel anthology, and this gave me an excuse to assemble it.  I proposed the anthology idea to Hall Brothers Entertainment, and they jumped at the chance to publish it, so I went ahead with the shootout, touting a "publication prize" for an anthology that was to be announced.  The rest is now history.  Robert MacAnthony pulled out a victory, with Edmund Wells coming in a close second.  Both of their stories were accepted into the anthology.  A third finalists, John Kratman, also wrote an intriguing time-travel story that round, but he felt it wasn't ready for publication.

Now, finally getting to "Quests, Curses, & Vengeance," last December, as I started Martinus Publishing, I decided that it would be nice to do something different with the shootout process.  I felt this could be a good way to set up a special anthology, to tailor the writing prompts to fit an overall theme, and create an entire book from the stories written during the contest.  Since March, 14 different writers have been doing just that, crafting stories based on Quests, Curses, and Vengeance.  The finalists are currently weaving their last stories for the contest, and the ultimate winner will be decided next week.

As it sits, there are going to be a lot of stories in the anthology.  Out of the 42 different stories created during the 3 regular rounds of the shootout, over 30 of them will be part of the anthology.  Some of the stories need serious editing, while some will need little more than a quick polishing.  Either way, it's going to be an exciting collection.

I hope to have the tentative table of contents ready in the next week.  It's going to be a big one, that's for certain.


  1. Yeah, had no idea that this was going on. Though that was probably for the best.

  2. Sounds like it will be a pretty immense collection! :)