Meet the 'Grand LM Fiction Challenge' Judges (2017)

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    Meet the 'Grand LM Fiction Challenge' Judges (2017)

    Meet the 'Grand LM Fiction Challenge' Judges (2017)



    Have you ever gotten that feeling that you were meant to be or do something? For me, that something was writing. It started as a coping mechanism after the sudden and tragic death of my sister, aged just 19 years, and back then I never imagined that it would open the amount of doors it has.

    I started my first novel in 1998, finished it a year later, and I've written numerous since. During one of the worst periods of my life, writing helped me escape to a place where I could make anything happen with a simple press of a key. The thought that it would ultimately be of any use never really occurred to me back then, but shortly after finishing novel #1, I realised that I had a passion for language, which is rather ironic since I barely managed to scrape together an F in my GCSE English exam.

    Fast forward twenty-odd years and thirteen novels, one of which was traditionally published in 2013, and that grade is a distant memory. The passion I developed for language culminated in my going back to school in 2008. Eight-and-a-half years of part-time study later, two of those spent in a Adult Access course to gain the necessary GCSE and A-Level grades to be granted permission to undertake a degree, I have attained a first-class BA Hons. degree and Master of Research (MRes) degree, both in English literature.

    Of course, none of those qualifications are necessary for one to become a writer. I went back to university not because I wanted to learn how to write, but because I loved writing. These days, I tutor students in the language and fart around with a number of ongoing projects. I am predominantly a writer of thrillers, many of them military themed, but I have dabbled in everything from horror to speculative fiction, from western to post-apocalyptic, and I have a deep affinity for dystopian works (my favourite being We, by the Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin, closely followed by A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess; I could name more, but we'd be here all day).

    I have two projects on the go: a military thriller in which a group of soldiers are framed for the murder of an acting U.S. president; and a post-apocalyptic horror novel about a chemical compound that fosters regenerative qualities in those who consume it and was created by the British for their troops in Northern Ireland, but which is left behind when they are withdrawn from the island. The compound is ingested by a group of rabid dogs, but it was never meant for animals, and the result is a mutation in the construction of the ingested compound and a group of creatures that in turn infect everything they come into contact with.

    When I'm not writing, I may be found either reading (I read everything save romance), exercising in my home gym, tutoring, or playing fetch with my dog, an adorable border collie/Labrador mix that I absolutely spoil rotten. Lucy is so well thought of that when it's time for her to be washed, because she's an outside dog and roams the fields on the farm, she not only gets her own tub, but I also hooked up the shower in my gym so that I can put a hose on it, put it out the window, and fill her bath tub with hot water.

    What qualities do you feel make a good Grand Challenge Judge?

    The ability to understand that there is more to good and great writing than adhering to the contemporary buzzwords that are so often trotted out as paragons of absolute infallibility and brilliance. Yes, in this case they won't be named, but you know what I'm talking about. I believe that a good judge should know that interesting, intriguing, and inspiring writing is not entirely predicated on one's use of these techniques, but on the ability to create a story that draws one in, characters who enrich the experience, and a voice that makes one sit up and take notice.

    Without giving too much away, what are the basic elements you look for in a story?

    I don't need to be hooked on the first line, but I would like to be given a reason, other than my obligation as a judge, to keep reading the entry after the first paragraph. For me, that ultimately comes down to a number of things, none of which I intend to share here.

    When I'm reading that story that draws me in and ticks most, if not all, of the boxes that I laid out in my first answer, I feel a tinge of regret when the presentation sadly does not marry with the story itself -- because I know that I can't award the score I want to award due to the writer not thoroughly proofing the piece. I hate doing it, but it's a matter of principle.

    I'm not going to drop your score to ridiculous levels, but please proof your work. There's even a 10-minute grace period to edit an entry after posting it.

    Which of the classics most inspire you and why?

    I have a weird relationship with the classics encountered in high schools and colleges the length and breadth of most countries. I like Faulkner and Hemingway and Steinbeck, but I think they receive too much attention sometimes, and I often think that being told I should like them is the reason why I do.

    We shouldn't be told what to like. I, for instance, like obscure classics that a lot of people would never have heard of. I'm a fan of John Brunner's work (specifically The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar), having been introduced to it by one of my fellow judges for this competition, actually.

    I like Yevgeny Zamyatin (specifically We) because the man was practically the godfather and granddaddy of dystopian fiction.

    I have an affinity for overpopulation fiction, such as Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! It's something becoming more and more relevant with our ever-expanding world population figure.

    I like John Wyndham and Jack London and Franz Kafka and Mary Shelley and Alan Dean Foster . . .

    I go to car-boot sales and charity shops and purchase novels that almost no one has ever heard of, but now this is getting a tad long-winded.

    Terry D

    Hello Terry, can you tell us something about your published works, and where to find them?

    I've published three books: My first was a vampire novel called The Legacy of Aaron Geist, the second is my crime thriller, Chase, and the third in a collection of macabre short stories entitled, Reflections in a Black Mirror. All are available in print, or e-versions at

    For an audio-book, which famous person would you wish to narrate your stories?

    If any of them were made into an audio book I'd like to have Sam Elliott read them. He's got a great voice and my wife has had a crush on him for decades.

    Without giving too much away, what are the basic elements you look for in a story?

    Now to the meat of the matter. When judging flash fiction I'm looking for primarily one thing; a complete story with all that entails. To be a story, a piece needs to fit all the criteria: characterization, setting, tone, mood, action (as in movement of the story-line, not necessarily ninja attacks and bombs going off), and change. I don't prefer one style, or tense, or POV over any other, but the writing should grab me in some way. Be creative.

    There, now I've just spent 64 words telling writers how to spend their 1,000. It's not an easy task. I wish everyone good luck, and I'm looking forward to reading the entries.



    Duane makes marks on blank pieces of paper and wields a piece of wood with wires on it. He is a self-taught college graduate and communicates through the ether.
    He writes weird fiction, strange songs, and a thrice-weekly column about the Chicago Cubs. His stories have appeared in a great many places, both online and off. He has at present one self-published ebook, about to go into a second edition with a new title, new stories, format, and deadtree options. More books are coming – three more are planned for this year, and he is the editor-in-chief of a weird fiction anthology called Test Patterns, which is in crowdfunding stage. He has somewhere around 500 mostly progressive rock tunes posted in various places on the internet.

    His Amazon page is here:
    His Goodreads page is here:
    Test Patterns GoFundMe and information:
    Before Crazytown, first edition:
    Cub Tracks column:
    Lots of music:

    Duane can also be reached on Facebook ( and Twitter (
    The titles due this year are Monochrome (Before Crazytown II), The Forgotten God (chapbook and ebook), Fear and Loathing In Innsmouth (novel), Nightmare Grove (themed collection).

    What qualities do you feel make a good Grand Challenge Judge?

    Impartiality, the ability to recognize a well-told story, and the facility to explain why something works (or doesn’t work).

    Without giving too much away, what are the basic elements you look for in a story?

    I look for smoothness of flow, which denotes that the author took the time to work out the nits and/or has the talent to produce professional-grade product.

    Which famous person would you choose to narrate your stories for an audiobook?

    Ooo. I’ve had several short stories read by MorganScorpion on YouTube. She has a great delivery. But she’s not famous. Maybe Henry Rollins, who has a terrific voice and feel.

    MJ Preston


    MJ Preston’s debut novel: THE EQUINOX, published in 2012, was a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Awards and rated a solid straight horror novel by a reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly.His second novel: ACADIA EVENT, published in 2015, was inspired by his time running the world longest ice road, as an ice road trucker, in the Canada’s Northwest Territories. It was also met with praise, including an endorsement by Gregory L. Norris, a screenwriter for Star Trek Voyager and writer for the Sci-Fi Channel. Norris called Acadia Event, ‘an Epic read and personal favorite.

    He is now hard at work on his third novel: Highwayman, a thriller, which is forecast to be published in late 2017.

    Along with a number of short stories published in anthologies, MJ Preston is also an artist who does his own cover artwork. He also dabbles in photography and hosts a Podcast called: THE QUIET ROOM which promotes books, writing, writers and publishing.

    Along with this he is producing a quarterly short story paperback called Dark Passages which will include a number of known and up and coming writers in North America.

    He resides in Alberta, Canada with his wife, Stormy and pet beagle, Dexter.

    Visit him online:
    His website:

    What qualities do you feel make a good Grand Challenge Judge?

    Generally, if you’re open to bribes, that’s a good place to start. I am a Connoisseur of Ale, keep that in mind, folks. Okay, just kidding, but having an open mind and a sense of humor doesn’t hurt. Understanding that people have entrusted with their work and that you owe it to them, to be honest, and fair in your assessment.

    What aspects of judging do you enjoy the most?

    In all honesty, I have never been a judge, so this will be a new experience for me. I think I will enjoy the experience, especially when Sam and I sequester ourselves to the bar. There is a bar? A place for us judges to hang out and drink excessively? I’m pretty sure somebody said there would be booze involved in this gig. There better be!

    What are your views regarding the best strategy for publishing?

    Best strategy? First, get it written. Then, polish it. After that, let it rest and while it’s resting, go write something else. When you have given ample time, go back with fresh eyes and polish it again. Also, try to be original in your writing, or as original as possible. Publishers aren’t looking for a clone of Fifty Shades or Hunger Games, the market is oversaturated with knock-offs and with the exception of vanity press or self-publishing traditional publishers don’t want it.

    Depending on what or how you want to publish, there are so many avenues that you can take, but prepare yourself for rejection. It’s part of the game. Rejection is not the end, so thicken your skin and keep submitting.

    Kyle R


    Kyle Richardson lives in the suburban wilds of Canada with his encouraging wife Michelle, their rambunctious son Kai, and a staircase that Kyle seems to be constantly tumbling down. He writes about shape-shifters, superheroes, and the occasional clockwork beast, moonlights as an editor at Meerkat Press, and has been working on his first novel for so long now, his wife has resorted to ultimatums. He made his short-fiction debut in Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology and has since sold stories to both Daily Science Fiction and his enthusiastic mother, at exorbitant rates.

    Without giving too much away, what are the basic elements you look for in a story?

    A character (or characters) I can connect with is paramount for me as a reader. Beyond that, things like a creative setting and a unique premise might get a few extra gold star stickers, but they're not required. Having a sense of direction and purpose is also a nice touch that I appreciate.

    Which of the classics most inspire you and why?

    These days, I'm more into exploratory, contemporary fiction than the old tried-and-trues, but if I had to stick to the Vintage Books section, you'd find me perusing the stories of Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, and C.S. Lewis. I'm a fan of their knack for poeticism and that raw, almost childlike wonder that seemed to pulse through all their works.

    Last edited by ned; February 17th, 2017 at 03:15 PM. Reason: it's Lisa with an S - not Liza with a Z

  2. #2
    Good to see some top notch judges for the Grand LM.
    Check out our showcase
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  3. #3
    With a lineup of judges like that, winning isn't the prize--the quality feedback is the real incentive here.

    "Life is a risk; so is writing. You have to love it." ~ Richard Matheson

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by J Anfinson View Post
    With a lineup of judges like that, winning isn't the prize--the quality feedback is the real incentive here.
    Exactly, Jake!
    Check out our showcase
    Hidden Content
    Hidden Content
    or check our my personal blog Hidden Content


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