Columns > Published on November 6th, 2015

LitReactor Community Spotlight: November 2015

Are any of you gamers? If so, you know November is going to be a particularly tough month for us.

You see, I'm the sort of gamer that when I admit I'm a gamer, I feel a little shame about it. It has nothing to do with a belief that video games are a guilty pleasure. Rather, I just engage in video games to an extent that I realize I could be doing more productive things. Yet, in the space of a few short weeks, we're getting hit with a new Star Wars game, Halo 5, and my most feared nemesis, Fallout 4. It's going to eat me alive.

After I started writing, I think I gained a better grasp as to why certain video games end up distracting me for so long. As writers, we spend a not insignificant portion of our days inside of our own heads, creating and smoothing out stories. I think this is true of a lot of people, but writers in particular are looking to turn their daydreams into digestible stories, and actually dedicate ourselves to the art of thinking. We define imagination as a skill that can be sharpened and refined.

So when I buy a game like Fallout 4, what I've realized is that I'm taking the work out of creating stories. I'm given everything I need to experience a story, and all I have to do is create the story part of it. Open-world games where your decisions have a real impact, such as the Elder Scrolls series, the Mass Effect series, or the Dragon Age series allow writers to create stories without the labor of actually writing. We feel productive without actually being productive.

Is exercising that creativity without a viable product to show for it okay? I'm comfortable with it. How about you?

Anyway, onwards.

Community News

There's a thread that's only visible to workshop members, but if you've seen it, you'll see there has been a lively debate going on there about the nature of the workshop and the expectation of reciprocity when it comes to reviewing etiquette. There are a couple of things I want to say.

1) For the most part, we've done a pretty good job keeping things civil. I'm not a huge fan of drama in the forums, and am happy that things have remained relatively calm since I started managing the board. I'd like to remind everyone that we're all here for roughly the same reason, which is to get better at writing. Disagreements about how to achieve that goal are to be expected, but I'd like these forums to remain a place where writers can discuss ideas without being ostracized. If you have a concern with any member behavior, please PM me about it before taking to the forums to vent. That's usually going to be a more effective way of solving your problem.

2) I also want you to know that I have already made the higher-ups aware of the concerns that many of you have shared in that forum regarding the mechanics of the workshop, and we're currently discussing how to proceed on it. That's not a guarantee that things will be modified, or how they will be modified if we do decide to change things up, but we are examining a few different ideas at the moment. If you have thoughts to share, please feel free to contribute in the thread or, if you'd prefer, here in the comments.

You guys are a great community, and I've never really had to do much to keep things on track in the "being decent human beings" department. I appreciate those of you who are helping me out in this regard, and want to thank everyone for ensuring that discussions and debates can continue to happen without any need for administration. You rock and roll simultaneously.

Community Wisdom

I've learned not to let the feeling that I need to write eclipse the real world and people around me. I know how important it is to cultivate your craft by writing relentlessly. But I also know now that if I neglect my life and relationships, let my self-esteem go to shit, not only will I not want to put my ass on the chair and pen in my hand, but I won't know how to access emotion, won't know how to capture anything. Live life to have something to say. Then say it.

-Redd Tramp

...a tip on dialogue: have imaginary conversations with yourself. Maybe even imaginary friends. People sometimes use dialogue the way new writers cast secondary characters- just to fulfill a role. Don't do that, just talk like people talk with the invisible character next to you, see what happens.


When you write, don't forget about your reader.

-Holly Bella Toschi

In the Forums

Book Club Selection - 'The Last Projector' by David James Keaton

Have you checked out the LitReactor Book Club yet? Every month we start discussion on a new book, often by authors and publishers that have some affiliation with LitReactor. Discussion on The Last Projector by David James Keaton has already begun, so if you've read it, chime in. If you didn't make it this time around, don't worry; December's selection has already been announced. It is Sweet Nothing: Stories by Richard Lange. Check it out! The Book Club is a great place to get to know our members and become involved in the community.

Self publishing questions

Although it's technically accurate to call the self-publishing model vs. the traditional publishing model discussion a debate, we've maintained a pretty civil tone about it here on LitReactor. We have successful authors who have taken both routes, and the general consensus is that there are pros and cons to either path. However, there is little debate that the self-publishing model is a bit riskier in terms of literary success, and there are a lot of scams out there to watch out for if you're considering the self-publishing route. Luckily, someone posed the questions, and our resident gurus are on the case. If you're thinking about self-publishing your work, you should definitely check this thread out.

NaNoWriMo 2015

You probably know this already if you've spent more than an hour around other writers, but November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The idea is to write an entire novel in a single month. A lot of LitReactorerererer's tend to participate, and they've created their own thread to discuss ideas for completing the event. We're not too far into November yet, so you can still get started if this is up your alley.

Community Spotlight

Every month, I will compile a list of those who sent me their accomplishments through the form submission page and post the results. If you want in, then do something amazing and tell me about it. You get the free publicity, and I get to brag about how awesome our community members are. The order of the list is decided by which submissions I get first, so get on it!

"The Hand of God" by Joshua Chaplinksy

Josh makes a triumphant return to the Spotlight this month with a new short story publication. Dark Moon Digest is a quarterly horror magazine that has made appearances in LitReactor columns before. Last year, Max Booth listed Dark Moon Digest as an Honorable Mention in his list of the top horror magazines out there, and as I'm sure many of you know, there are few things more honorable than the work of Josh Chaplinksy. He's been having a fantastic few months lately, so give him a pat on the back (or wherever it is you prefer to pat people) and a congratulations.

[amazon 1943720010 inline]

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He has also written for TwitchFilm and He is the author of Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has/will appear in Zetetic, Motherboard, Dark Moon Digest, L’allure des Mots, Pantheon Magazine, Fabula
, and Crack the Spine. More info at

The Legend of Rhett series by Bennett Mohler

Bennett's a new name to the Spotlight, which is always exciting. After a long stretch of working and writing, it's finally paid off, and his new series titled The Legend of Rhett is being published by Wizards Keep Publishing. Starting with the first book, The Broken Alliance, the series follows Beio-Rhett on a science fiction adventure around the galaxy. Here's the Amazon blurb:

“I am only that which others see me as, and others are only that which I see them as.” Everyone knew the name Beio-Rhett but no one knew what he looked like. While he did his part during the Rebellion, Beio-Rhett was not known for being benevolent. Instead he was seen by many as a mercenary. However in a galaxy where fighting is common place, and grudges are held among nationalities for generations, it is up to Beio Rhett, his friend Dembo, and the scrupulous Sergeant Singatt to travel to distant lands and become pseudo government agents. While seemingly straight forward for Beio-Rhett and Dembo, there is more to their mission than they were prepared for. Even with joining forces, can the ragtag group combat the Masked Menace?

[amazon 0692480293 inline]

Bennett Mohler was born in 1988 in San Jose, CA. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2011 before moving to Portland to hike, write and play music, which he continues to do today.

Gordon Highland's "Finding the Light" Album Release

As I've mentioned before, I don't restrict community submission requirements, especially for our more well-known members, so long as the achievement is artistic. In this case, long-time member and featured book-club author Gordon Highland has released some work on the musical side of the artistic profession. Working under the name Flash, this was a one-man project from start to finish. He wrote and performed the music, did the editing and recording, and is now releasing it all on his own.

I'm not a music critic and don't trust myself to classify any music without my hipster glasses on, but I'll do you one better. You can just go listen to the album on his site. If you like what you hear, you can purchase the CD right from that page, as well as share the music via social media or watch the promotional video at the bottom of the page. Gordon's a bit of an audio wizard and has worked hard for this, and we couldn't be prouder.

Gordon Highland is the author of the novels Flashover and Major Inversions, as well as the story collection Submission Windows.

"The Perpetual Rhythm of Escape" by Emily Slaney

Emily is another familiar name in the Spotlight, but if you're a forum-goer, you know her by her username, voodoo_em. Her short story "The Perpetual Rhythm of Escape" was recently featured as the story of the week on the Ladybox Books site. Ladybox Books is an imprint of Broken River Books "featuring the work of badass authors who identify as women," and yes, that seems to be consistent with what I know about Emily.

And hey, even better, this story was another LitReactor baby. It was written for one of our forum contests (called War back then), then sharpened and polished with Chuck Palahniuk in a LitReactor class. I love pointing out when we find success in stories cooked in the LitReactor ovens; it's always nice to remember that this isn't just a community where writers hang about, but also a place where we get better at our craft. Well done, Emily.

Emily Slaney writes nihilistic emotional satire because she like to make you laugh before she pulls it all away. She fills her stories with snarky underdogs, broken rebels, vulnerable miscreants and beautiful darkness.

A Look to December

I know it may not be considered good form, but I do typically write these columns from beginning to end, which means that after I waxed philosophical about my excitement about video games at the beginning, I then wrote about some really successful authors in the Spotlight, and now I feel unproductive and will probably start writing again tonight. So thank you, amazing Spotlight people, for being so inspirational.

While I sit here in Kansas waiting for it to start feeling like winter, I'm looking forward to seeing the results of NaNoWriMo around here. Keep us updated, and I'll see you next month.

About the author

Nathan Scalia earned a BA degree in psychology and considered medical school long enough to realize that he missed reading real books. He then went on to earn a Master's in Library Science and is currently working in a school library. He has written several new articles and columns for LitReactor, served for a time as the site's Community Manager, and can be found in the Writer's Workshop with some frequency.

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