Robert Swartwood Does Not Live Here Anymore

He’s moved to Please feel free to visit him there.

Buh-Bye, WordPress

… at least in terms of hosting, that is.

So I finally did it. I’m the proud owner of a spanking new domain name, which, as you can guess is as follows:

Please update your blogrolls, links, Google Readers, whatever it takes so that you don’t miss a single word of my over-excited ramblings.

As you will see, the layout is very different. I grew to like the appearance of this blog a lot, but I wanted to do something different for this site. Still, I’m not quite in love with the current theme. It could change. Then again, I could fall in love. It’s almost like a romantic comedy, except there’s no Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan.

See you on the other side.

The Men Without Faces …

… came for his father just after dinnertime.

That’s the first line of my story “Incomplete” which is featured today at Every Day Fiction.

Go check it out.


In other news, our hermit crab Sid passed away today. He’d had a bad molt and had become lethargic for quite some time. Then, suddenly, pieces of him started falling off. We noticed a claw here, a leg there. We figured that was it.

Then, late last night, my wife noticed he had fallen out of his shell. She got real close to terrarium and — even she doesn’t know why — tapped the glass.

Sid moved.

She screamed.

We spent about an hour trying to do what we could for him. Putting him in water, trying to put him back in a shell, whatever it took.

But he was just barely hanging on.

So we took him to the vet today and had him put down.

Sad day to say the least.

“Incomplete” is dedicated to you, buddy.

Drum Roll, Please

Before we begin, I again want  to thank everyone who either entered the Hint Fiction Contest or mentioned it on their blogs/websites/Twitter/Facebook/etc. Each and every one of you helped propel this thing to a new level and I am forever grateful.

Now let’s get to the winners.

First, the random drawing. When I initially thought about doing a second contest to help spread the word, I figured maybe a half dozen people would enter. Instead 22 people entered, and that’s not counting those who just mentioned the contest on their blogs for the hell of it.

So 22 names in the hat for a random drawing to win a trade paperback copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008.

I wrote each name on a separate Post-It, folded each into quarters, put those quarters into a hat, shook the hat up, and then I had my wife pick, and she picked …

David Miller!

Congratulations, David. E-mail me your contact info and we’ll ship the anthology off to you posthaste.

Now for the main event. As a reminder, all entries were read blindly. We had 207 entries. Gay and I narrowed those 207 down to 40. Then we narrowed those 40 down to 20. It was no easy task. We agonized over each pick. After all, the top twenty will be included in the eventual anthology published by Norton, so we needed them to be outstanding (for more insight, check out this post).

And so we picked our 20, sent them to Stewart O’Nan, and waited for his reply.

Well, folks, he has replied, picking three winners and three honorable mentions. Of the top three winners he had this to say: “I liked those three because they feel like they could open up in a bunch of different directions, all of them tantalizing.”

That’s the idea here with Hint Fiction, giving just a bit of a much larger, more complex story and forcing the reader to fill in the rest.

So now, without further adieu …
Continue reading ‘Drum Roll, Please’

And They’re Off!

I’ve finally narrowed down the top 20 and forwarded them off to Stewart O’Nan. It’s in his hands now.

It feels like the contest ended months ago when it’s really only been about two weeks. I apologize for that. But, well, now that the secret of the anthology is out of the bag, I hope you’ll understand. This is a big deal, and I wanted to make sure the stories picked for the top 20 are the very best they can be.

Now you’re probably wondering how we narrowed down the entries.

First, though, I need to discuss what Hint Fiction is — or rather what it’s become.

Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s six-word story — “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” — Hint Fiction is a story of 25 words or less that suggests a larger, more complex story.

Got that?

We received a good number of entries that were quite well done. Beautiful language, almost poetic in their execution.

But they weren’t stories.

Some were very good stories, but they somehow managed to be self-sustained. Which, to be honest, is no small feat. It’s quite impressive, but it’s not Hint Fiction.

Hint Fiction is not objective. If you write a 100-word story, that’s a drabble. A 50-word story, that’s a dribble. But if you were to write 25-word or less story, that doesn’t necessarily make it Hint Fiction.

The keyword in all of this is “hint” — you need to ask yourself, what are you hinting at? What is the bigger picture?

The thesis of the anthology, I’ve decided, is to prove that a story 25 word or less can have just as much impact as a story 2,500 words or longer.

That, of course, will all depend on the individual reader.

One interesting point to bring up is that there were some contest entries I loved at first. Gay loved certain entries at first too. But we may not have loved the same ones, and we talked about them, saying what worked for us and what didn’t. Nine times out of ten, we were able to see the other person’s point of view.

Or there were some stories that, on the initial read, were fantastic. But the more we read them, the more we began to see problems. Remember, one of the biggest challenges here is word choice. The idea of the story may have been brilliant, but the writer either rushed it or didn’t fully understand what she or he was doing and, because of that, took a misstep that ultimately hurt the story.

We wanted stories that we could love.

We wanted stories that could be read different ways.

We wanted stories that we could keep returning to and that would keep surprising us.

We came up with twenty.

Three will be picked winners.

Here’s wishing all of you good luck.

P.S. Sometime over the weekend I will start going through and deleting all the contest entries. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to keep the contact info for those in the top twenty — even now as I write this I don’t know who those writers are yet. There were so many great stories, I figure it’d be a shame to keep them stuck in the comments section of this here dusty blog. Send them out into the world. As far as I’m concerned, they were never officially “published” though I’m sure one or two editors may see it differently. That’s up to you, but I just wanted to give a heads up to you gambling types, so you can make your bets for who will be placed in the top three.

Jack Kilborn And Blake Crouch Want To Murder You

Well, okay, they don’t want to murder you, but they definitely want to thrill the pants off you.

As some of you may remember, author Joe Konrath made this little piece of cyberspace the very first stop on his blog tour back in March. Every day since then he’s been promoting his horror novel AFRAID, which he’s published under the pseudonym Jack Kilborn. Recently he finished up a drop-in signing where he drove up the east coast, stopping at just over 200 bookstores. He even passed through my area last Friday and ended up crashing at my place, where we drank expensive micro-brew and talked shopped into the wee hours of the morning.

Now Joe (or Jack) has teamed up with author Blake Crouch for a special collaboration called SERIAL. Here’s more from Joe’s blog:

Remember the twin golden rules of hitchhiking?

# 1: Don’t go hitchhiking, because the driver who picks you up could be certifiably crazy.

# 2: Don’t pick up hitchhikers, because the traveler you pick up could be a raving nutcase.

So what if, on some dark, isolated road, Crazy #1 offered a ride to Nutcase #2?

When Blake Crouch (DESERT PLACES, ABANDONED) and Jack Kilborn (AFRAID, TRAPPED), face off, the result is SERIAL, a terrifying tale of hitchhiking gone terribly wrong. Like a deeply twisted version of an “After School Special,” SERIAL is the single most persuasive public service announcement on the hazards of free car rides.

Beyond a thrilling piece of horrifying suspense, SERIAL is also a groundbreaking experiment in literary collaboration. Kilborn wrote the first part. Crouch wrote the second. And they wrote the third together over email in 100-word exchanges, not aware of each other’s opening section. All bets were off, and may the best psychopath win.

F. Paul Wilson says, “SERIAL reads just like a Crouch or Kilborn novel: Full speed ahead, no flinching, no blinking, no brakes.”

SERIAL contains the novella, SERIAL, a Q&A with Kilborn and Crouch, author bibliographies, and excerpts from their most recent and forthcoming works: Kilborn’s AFRAID and my ABANDON.

And finally, a note/disclaimer from the authors:

SERIAL is a horror novella written by two of the most twisted minds in the world of horror fiction.

But just because it is 100% free doesn’t mean you should automatically download it.

This is disturbing stuff. Perhaps too disturbing.

If you can handle horrific thrills, proceed at your own risk.

But if you suffer from anxiety attacks, nervous disorders, insomnia, nightmares or night terrors, heart palpitations, stomach problems, or are of an overly sensitive nature, you should read something else instead.

The authors are in no way responsible for any lost sleep, missed work, failed relationships, or difficulty in coping with life after you have read SERIAL. They will not pay for any therapy you may require as a result of reading SERIAL. They will not cradle you in their arms, rock you back and forth, and speak in soothing tones while you unsuccessfully try to forget SERIAL.

Yes, it’s free. But free has its price.

You have been warned.

To check out the novella, click here. (SERIAL is located under “Book Extras” in the bottom right-hand corner of the page; you can download it either as a PDF file or there’s also an ePub version of the book — the Sony eBook Reader format.)

And if that isn’t good enough for you, there’s even more free stuff to give away.

The first five people to leave a comment saying what their favorite horror movie is of all time will receive a free copy of AFRAID by Jack Kilborn (sorry to all my readers on the island of Mypos, this mini-contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada because the publisher will be shipping them direct).

Hint Makes History

Sometimes things just happen, you know?

Not to be cliché, but had someone told me two months ago that Hint Fiction would be has big as it’s become, I would have told them they were crazy (keep in mind at that point the idea of Hint Fiction hadn’t even entered my brain). Then if that same someone had told me THIS would happen, I probably would have dragged them off to the loony bin myself:

From Publishers Marketplace:

Blogger and writer Robert Swartwood’s HINT FICTION: an anthology, consisting of very, very, very, very short stories that cannot be more than 25 words, to Amy Cherry at Norton by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group.

Yeah, so that’s pretty neat, huh? I’ve been sitting on this secret for almost three weeks now — the second day of the contest the publisher contacted me and my agent about possibly doing an anthology of Hint Fiction. As you can imagine, I was stunned. Am STILL stunned, to be honest, but, well, here we are.

Now a quick Q & A session:

I submitted a story to the contest. What does this mean for me?

Well, if you submitted to the Hint Fiction Contest, there’s a chance your work may appear in the anthology. Last week Gay and I narrowed down the 200-plus entries to 40. Tonight we’ll be narrowing those 40 down to about 20. Those 20 or so will be going to Stewart O’Nan; he’ll pick his top three, but all 20 or so will be included in the anthology — that is, of course, if the writers of those entries will agree to giving permission to having their stories included.

But what if my story isn’t picked?

Don’t be discouraged. At some point in the future we’ll have an open window for submissions. I don’t know when, exactly, but you might as well start working on your stories now. Like the contest, writers will only be able to submit up to two stories. And like the contest, it won’t matter who you are or where you’ve been published or what master’s program you graduated from — we are judging the stories solely on quality and quality alone.

If my story is picked for the anthology, what do I get?

You means besides the pleasure of being in an anthology published by friggin’ W.W. Norton? Well, I’m not quite sure yet. Most likely it will be a contributor’s copy. So if you’re not cool with that, save us time and don’t submit.

That’s it for now, folks. Much more to come.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.