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What am I Reading?

I get a lot of people who email me and ask what I am reading.  Some give no reason for asking, others explain that they would like an idea of who to read for ideas in their own writing.

So I thought I would share a bit about what I am reading now.  If you want to keep up with everything I have read, you can find me on Goodreads.com.

Short Stories

Every day I read Daily Science Fiction.  They email a short (often flash length) story to me Monday through Friday.  I find it is a great short read and I usually enjoy them.  If  you don’t get them by email they do post them to their website after a bit.  I won’t review them, because that’s not the point.  I will tell you which ones I enjoyed the most.

I also read Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, but I have not received the new issue yet.

Recently I enjoyed these stories for DSF (in no particular order):

Fields of Ice by Jay Caselberg

Ned Thrall by Amalia Dillin

A Great Destiny by Eric James Stone
Call Center Blues by Carrie Cuinn
I Kill Monsters by Nathaniel Matthews Lee
Tomorrow’s Dawn by Milo James Fowler
There are many more I like, but those are the most recent.

Books

In the books category I recently finished, Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modessit Jr.  It was a great read.  My review in on Goodreads, so you can read it there.  Its the second book I have read by Modessit Jr. and his style was close to the same in both books.  I think he always an entertaining read.
I am currently reading Black Prism by Brent Weeks.  I have not read anything by Weeks, but I had not read any Fantasy is a very long time.  I saw this book and it was the first of a series and a newer release.  So far I find the story very compelling and I am enjoying every page.  I am not very far into it and it is already a page turner.  It seems promising.
Of course I list all the books I read on Goodreads, so please come by and you can keep see what I am reading now.  If you don’t use Goodreads I recommend it.  There are a ton of good ideas on there if you are looking for a new book.
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Dream Job: The process of crafting an idea into a story.

My story “Dream Job” in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction, which you can read for free here, was the first short story I had written since High School.  And, the first thing I ever wrote with the intentions of having it published.  So now that it is out for the public to read, I felt I needed to say a bit about it.  After all, there is a lot to be said for it.

I talk a lot about ideas, you can read my post about them.  I had made up my mind I wanted to be a published writer, and I though it would be best to start with a short story.  The real problem was, I couldn’t come up with a good idea.  Well, scratch that, I had ideas but I was having trouble developing them into anything.  Finally, the idea hit me in a nightmare.

If you have read the story, you know this line (if not please go read it):

“An icy cold began to rush over her body, slowly flooding around her arm and across her body. She
began to gasp for air in panic as she realized the cold-flowing blood was reaching her heart.”

That was my dream.  One line.  Thirty-seven words out of about 4,600 words.  I had a dream that someone was in the room, I was injected, and a cool oozing feeling flowed towards my chest.  And, like Samantha, I woke up feeling the cold.  It scared the shit out of me.  So much so, that I thought about it for the whole night (I worked graveyard shift at the time).

I started to wonder what might cause that feeling, which had long since passed.  I wondered how I remembered it so clearly and how would something from the dream world transfer so easily to the waking world.  Then, but the end of my day, I wondered how I could make this into a story.

The first draft of Dream Job was a disaster.  Though when I wrote it, I thought I was a master of the craft.  I posted it for my writer’s group, Hatrack River, which I had just joined.  And, they very nicely told me that my intro was cliche.  They even referred me to The Turkey City Lexicon, a must read of new writers (which I re-read all the time). I had used the “White Room Syndrome” opening… ouch.

I realized I needed a complete rewrite of the opening lines (also known as the hook).  When I did that, it took the story in a different direction (although it was was along the same plot points), and thus my second draft was a total rewrite.

I posted the new Opening for my group to read.  They told me it was still missing something.  There was not much for readers to grab on to.  I was frustrated because I thought I was was writing gold, and they were not getting it.  Of course, they were right. After I looked things over again.  I went for a third rewrite of the opening lines.

Now, this third one was troublesome to come up with.  I spent a week mulling over different openings.  And then it hit me.  My dream was so emotional to me because it happened in my own bed.  My own house.  This was my house, my bed, and my room and it was invaded by this nightmare.

BINGO!

So I put Samantha at her home, and hat it invaded.  Government Agents had always been a part of the plot, so naturally they were the invaders.  The story took a third complete rewrite, very different from the first and second drafts.  Then I posted it again on my writers forum.  I don’t know if my forum LOVED IT, but they certainly liked it.

From there it was just a few minor tweeks for Grammar (ugh… grammar cops), a bit of tightening up based on suggestions from fellow writers, and then it was out for submission.  Shortly after submitting it, I got the idea for “Death Watch” and started this process all over again.  “Death Watch” was accepted first (12 days before its big brother).

From the time I started writing until “Dream Job” went for its first submission was almost exactly two months (59 days).  From first submission to acceptance was just over five months.  I am proud of it, and to see it in print is a great thing.

The title may seem obvious to you after reading it (sorry no spoilers here, just go read it).  But, for me it was also a bit of an inside story too.  After all, writing is one of my dream jobs.  This being the first thing I wrote, it only seemed fitting.

So please, head over to Smashwords and download your free copy of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.  Read it and review it on Goodreads.  And on the topic of Goodreads, check out my Author page and become a fan.

As always your comments are welcome.

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Novels or Short Stories

I wasn’t sure what I was going to go with for this weeks blog post.  John Miller posted on my Facebook page about a survey he has out now.  Of course I had to check it out, but it got me thinking about something else.  What do people like to read?  How does an author decide what they want to write?  Is it better to write a novel, or a short?

First, lets set some definitions here:

People have trouble defining fiction length.  This seems to the widely accepted standard.  Probably the most disputed will be Flash, as the definitions seems to vary from publication to publication.  Here are the SFWA guidelines.

Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 words or more.

SFWA does not have a “Flash Fiction” definition, but I will go with what I believe to be widely accepted which is anything less then 1000 words.

As a Reader:

This is where I would love to hear for you guys.  Leave me a comment below and let me know what you like to read.  Do you like short works (Novella, Novelette, Shorts, or Flash) or do you prefer a Novel?  If so, why?

Go ahead, scroll down to the comments and let me know.  I will be here when you get back.

Thanks for you comment!

For me, I have found a recent love for Flash as a reader.  For one, I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction.  So I get short fiction (not always Flash but always on the shorter side) in my email Monday – Thursday with a longer one on Friday.   I don’t have a lot of time.  Flash fiction is a short entertaining read for me.

As I have mentioned before it is important for Authors to read.  So this is a good way for me to get a lot of reading in from different Authors.  This gives me diversity in my reading, as far as styles go.

I also subscribe to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as well as read several e-publications.

I love a good Novel too.   So I wonder if there is any advantage to one or the other.  If you are an author, read both.

However, strictly as a reader the advantage to short is growing with our impatient world.  But I think people still like a good novel.  Something they can get connected with, live in the world for a while, and really savor.

Shorts can be really moving and powerful too.  But there is a lack of time there to really bond the reader with the story. And it can be easier to read shorts when you like to read during those brief breaks in your life (doctor’s waiting room, ect.).

So my suggestion is that if you like quick stories, with a wham and bang type impact, go for the shorts.  If you like going for gold and really bonding with a story go for the Novel.  If you like both, like I do, read both.

For Writers:

I never gave a thought to writing anything other then a Novel when I started taking up writing as a hobby.  I didn’t really know anything of the craft and didn’t think there was much of a short story market.  And really it had not ever crossed my mind.  When I began my self study in writing and professional writing, I learned that speculative fiction has one of the strongest short story markets in the industry.

So I gave a short story a try.  That first short story will be featured in the upcoming issue of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.  I liked it a lot.  It allowed me to get the immediate satisfaction of writing, editing, and eventually publishing in a relatively short amount of time.  Of course short amount of time depends on a number of things.

Well, I liked writing that short so much that I wrote my first Flash piece.  “Death Watch”, which is out now on Liquid Imagination Online, did well based on what readers have told me.  I have since written a third piece which is making its rounds at markets and I have a fourth one in the editing phase.

So I have three going on four shorts completed in a matter of around ten months.  This is a lot slower then I want, and I hope to pick up the pace.  But considering I was learning the short story market at the same time, I feel I did well to get started.

In any case, lets compare this to my Novel in progress.  While I have written out two and half novels, many years ago, those where not publishable novels.  They were things I put on paper to escape stress in my real job of the time.  Anyway, I probably still have six to eight months before this novel is ready.  I think I am may even be giving myself too little time.  We will see.  Since I have not completed a publishable novel, this is really more of a guess.  Now once it is done, it has editing, rewrites, and then query.  After query, which can take forever, I then have to submit the full manuscript.  My point, Novels take a lot of time.

So what should you write?  Well write what you like.  If you don’t like to read shorts, don’t like to write them, and don’t like anything about them, then don’t write them.  If you don’t like taking time on a Novel, then don’t write that.

I write both for the same reason I read both.  I like that shorts give me imediate gratification while Novels give me the satisfaction of crafting an in depth world and a longer work.

Please don’t misunderstand me at all.  My short stories get my entire heart and sole, just the same as my novel.  Shorts can be deep and meaningful, they just don’t have the length that a Novel has.

Of course I would be foolish not to bring up the money side of things.  So call me foolish.  (Actually since I have not sold a Novel, I can’t really compare them for you).

Final Verdict?

Well in the battle over Novels and Short Stories, I don’t really think you get a winner or loser.  It is really all about what you like.  The market for both is strong.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you prefer.  Let me know if you are a writer, reader, or both.  What do you like?

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Want-A-Be Writers Vs True Writers

Just because you write, doesn’t make you a writer.

I have recently discovered that writing has this in common with Photography.  Everyone who picks up a camera, takes pictures of their family reunion, and posts them on a Facebook Page they made; calls themselves a photographer.  That is a steamy load of crap.

Photography is an art form and requires a lot more then point and shoot.  Over the years, photography has been watered down by many factors:  Easy exposure, easier to use equipment, easy digital printing, and friends/family who won’t tell them they suck.  The result has been an over abundance of people calling themselves photographers and they have watered down the craft.  Add this to the fact that photography is a misunderstood art form (that is to say most people don’t know what makes a photo art), and the true photographers are ripping their hair out.

Writing is clearly not much different anymore.  First, most people won’t know good writing if it bit them in the ass.  I am not talking about styles, genres, or your own reading preference.  I am talking about a well written story.  There are plenty of books I don’t like, but they were written very well.  It was just not something I enjoyed reading.  Writing, like photography, is a craft.  It takes time to perfect each piece (though a true writer never reaches perfection).  But most people accept anything written on the page that is must be good to get published.

Writing is getting watered down now, just like writing.   Easy exposure, digital printing, easier to use equipment, and  friends/family who won’t tell them they suck.

Easy Exposure:

Anyone can create a Facebook Page.  I have four of them.  Anyone can create a blog.  Twitter, Google+, good reads, and much more.  Don’t get me wrong these are great tools for the Author to use, I use all of them.  However, anyone can slap “Writer of…” on their page.  It makes it harder to establish the true writer’s from the hacks.

Digital Printing:

Lulu, Create Space, and a ton of other print on demand publishers have made it so anyone with an email address can publish something.  Don’t get me wrong.  This, and the e-publishing for e-readers, is revolutionizing the publishing industry.  For years publishers have excluded excellent writers based on editors opinions, agents, and other such problems.  But it has also removed the filter.  This means we are getting all kinds of utter crap out their too.  It makes it harder to know who to buy from and who to avoid.  It has also put an undeserved negative stigma on self published authors.

Easier to Use Equipment:

Word Processors, writer’s programs, easy to use publishing software, and a slew of other programs to help writers.  They are great tools, but again they enable many people to fool themselves into thinking they can write because some program keeps track of grammar errors, or characters, or chapters.  However, most want-a-be writers don’t know anything about plot threads, prose, or even when to use bad grammar.  Have you ever read a book where every character speaks perfect English?  That’s horrible, because I have never met anyone who always speaks perfect English.

Friends/Family won’t tell them they suck:

This is where you can help out.  If you have a friend or family member who writes, and they are no good at it.  Please tell them to stop.  Thank you.

Truth be told, that is hard to do.  At the very least though, please don’t tell them they are good at it.  As the saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  You don’t have to tell them how good they are.  Just don’t say anything.

The true problem here is that most want-a-be writers never show their works to other writers or join writers groups.  They assume they either don’t have to share, or they are delusional to their own abilities.

How can readers find good, real writers.

You used to have some level of trust, that if they made it to bookshelves they were at least somewhat skilled in the craft.  That is simply no longer the case.   Anyone can make their way on to Amazon.com.  How do we decipher the good from the bad?  It really is harder then you think.  Many great writers are self published.  They have great blogs, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, and more.  So how do we really tell?

Well in many cases, it is simply trial and error.  You buy a book from them, they are clearly a hack so you never buy from them again.  Or you buy their book, love it, and can’t wait to get something from them again.  But there is something you can do to help with this.

Read the reviews.  The reviews will tell you what other readers thought.  Read them carefully.  Look for items that are simple opinion versus objective facts.  For example:  “I didn’t like that the entire book takes place in space.” (opinion) versus “There was an entire section of text that was formatted in red ink for no reason, punctuation is missing, and the Point of View changes mid-paragraph.” (objective facts).  Ignore the comments that simply say “it sucks” or “the best book ever”, neither of those gives you any insight to the book.  Lastly, remember rating systems (stars or number scales) are almost always opinion based.

But you, as the reader, need to go one step further.  Write a review.  Most people don’t write reviews on their purchases, despite the fact that nearly every online retailer has the ability to review.  Write a detailed review about why you liked, or did not like, the book.  If it was because the writing was bad, point out examples.  Share both your opinions and facts.  Say you liked it because of this reason and then point out the writing is strong with believable dialogue.  A good well written review helps the Author sell more books, but it also helps other readers know if they should stay away.  Bad reviews are just as important as good ones.  So write both.

I am trying to make it a habit of writing a review on everything I read.  I write reviews on Good Reads, and on the site in which I purchased the book.  You should do the same.  It really doesn’t take much time, especially in comparison to what you spent on reading the book, and it helps everyone involved.

There are a ton of good writers out there.  It is great that it is so easy to find and buy great writing from all over the world.  The downside is that some garbage is getting in too.  Hopefully more people will help the true writers filter out the hacks.  The hacks are what have given self-publishing a bad name.

Lastly, if any of you hacks are reading this.  Study the craft, work hard at it, and chances are you can be just as good as many writers.  Like any art form, writing needs to be studied.  The true writer will study his craft constantly, the hack doesn’t take it serious enough to bother.

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Shining in Crimson By Robert S. Wilson

Today Shining in Crimson (Empire of Blood) by Robert S. Wilson was released in the Kindle Version with the Paperback and Hardcover editions set to be released October 2nd.  You can check out his website to see more about it, or visit Amazon to buy eReader version.  Also you can follow Shining in Crimson on Facebook.

Now that you can look up what I am talking about, I thought I would explain why I mention this particular book release.  Robert and I are both members of the Hatrack Writers Workshop (or Hatrackers).  In early February I came across a post in our Fragments and Feedback section in which I read an intro to a Vampire book.

Typically this is not my genre and I tend to steer away from it.  I don’t remember why I chose to read this, but I am glad I did.  I was hooked by the style of this small opening fragment.  I offered to review the whole thing.  I had not read a critiqued a novel before, but if I can help I figured I would try it.

I spent the rest of the month reading over three chapter blocks.  I offered my advice but truthfully I fell for Robert’s characters, their struggles, and the overall plot.   And I continued to push him to send me more chapters, while he continued to try to get them edited.  And, like most stories I truly love deep down, I was a little sad when it was over.    From the time I read that draft to now, I would say that I gained a friend in Robert.

It was a really good book, and I generally don’t care for Vampire stories.  Perhaps it is my limited knowledge of the genre.  Perhaps it is the way Twilight has transformed the mainstream vampire story.  I don’t know why I don’t care for the genre.  However, Robert changed my mind.  Or at least opened my mind a little.

This is not the Vampire story where the vampires are hunky men, and you have to join Team Mark or Team Sam.  This is about Hank, the Main Character who finds himself charged with a crime and sentenced to visit Necropolis, a city belonging to the Vampires now.  This is a sure death sentence, but Hank is desperate to survive for the sake of his son.

There are several plot threads to this story giving it depth and forward motion.  I found myself turning pages with ease as I hoped for the success of the various characters.  I’ll stop here.  It’s time for you to pick up your Kindle and read Shining in Crimson.

I have chosen to pre-order the paperback version which will ship on October 2nd in honor of Robert’s mother’s birthday (who passed away in 2006).  If you wish to pre-order a paperback or hardback edition you can do it here.  If you are on Goodreads you can enter to win a copy here.

At the very least, pick up the Kindle Version for only 99 cents.  It will be the best dollar you ever spent.

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It’s Not About the Money (The True Joys of being Published)

On August 31, 2011, I officially became a published Author with my Flash Fiction piece “Death Watch”  in Liquid Imagination.  This was a remarkable thing and such an unbelievable accomplishment.  I had not planned to reach the goal of being published so quickly.  After all, I had not started submitting anything for publication until March 2011.  “Death Watch” is only the second short story I have written, and the first Flash Fiction piece.  So frankly, I was over joyed to have it published so quickly.

Okay, enough bragging.  Lets talk about why being published is so much joy.  Truthfully I thought seeing my name in print would be the coolest part.  That seems to just one of many cool things I have found.  But first, lets talk about money:

The pay check is not the satisfying part at all.  In fact, I was surprised how little I care about it.  If you write for money you will be sadly disappointed.   At SFWA defined pro rates, you would have to publish eight hundred and forty thousand (840,000) words a year in short stories to make just $50,000.  And out here in California, $50,000 year doesn’t go far.

To put that in perspective, that is 2300 words a day with no days off.  Now editing, and submitting come into play.  Editing takes a lot more time than writing ever does.  And lets not forget that some of the most simple of editing changes can cause massive rewrites.  Submitting takes even longer.  You can usually only submit to one market at a time, and then you are at the mercy of the publication to respond.  Some publications take a long time, others are really fast (usually to reject it).  From the time I finished “Death Watch” to the date it was published was just over five months, and I am the exception.  Many of my fellow authors have waited years to get one story published.

So, assuming you can get 2300 words a day written, and you can get accepted by pro-rate markets, and they accept you fast; then you will make okay money in the writing of short stories.  More realistically you will try to turn out one short story a month (a goal I have not even achieved yet).  Assuming your short story falls into the normal range of two to five thousand words, you are looking at roughly $1440 to $3,600 a year.  This of course assumes they all get accepted at pro rate markets.

So if you are writing for money, sorry to shatter your dreams.  However, if you are like most of the Authors I have met you don’t really care about the money.  You find other joys in being published.  Joys and satisfactions far better than money.  For me, my goal was two things:  To share my stories with an audience that would enjoy them, and to see “By Richard Flores IV” in print.

I am here to tell you that is just the beginning.  In  less than four full day since I was published, I have discovered so many other things that are fulfilling to being published:

On the day I was published this site saw a 50% spike in traffic to this blog.  The unique views were the second highest they have ever been (the highest was the day I created it).  And people were looking at more of my blog then the home page!

WordPress reports that one of the common search terms to get to this blog is “Richard Flores IV”.  People are searching for me!  People want to find me!

WordPress also reported today that some one searched “Flash Fiction by Richard Flores”.  So not only was someone searching for me, they wanted to find more of my work!  To that person (and others looking):  I have another story due out in October in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.  I find it very inspiring to see that people enjoyed my work enough to want to find other things I have written.  That alone could keep me writing indefinitely.

Feedback!  I am getting an overwhelming amount of feedback on people’s thoughts about “Death Watch”.  People are sending me their praise, and I enjoy that a great deal.  I like to know that people enjoyed reading my story.  But even more so, I like the emails coming in telling me what they took away from my story.  People have sent me a number of interpretations that I had not planned when I wrote it.  It gives me satisfaction to know I wrote something that had a deeper meaning to my readers then even I planned.

Inspiring others to write.  Two people have told me that my talks about writing have inspired them to either write or resume writing.  That makes me feel good!

Perhaps the best part of being published is this (and it ties in all of the above):  I have readers!  After all, the real reason any of us become authors is to have readers.

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New Story Published

Today Liquid Imagination published Issue 10 of their online magazine.  They are a remarkable publication that merges artwork with stories.  I am really glad that my first published work is with them.  I hope you all enjoy it as well.

Please read Death Watch in the Micro Fiction section.  I am proud of this piece as it is the first ever Flash Fiction piece I have ever written.  Flash Fiction is fiction under 1000 words, and it can be incredibly hard to write a fulfilling story in such a short length.  I originally wanted to try it much later, but when this idea hit me it felt right at its current length.

Read Death Watch here:  Then enjoy some of the other great works in the current issue.  Please share the story with your friends and family and feel free to let me know what you thought.  Also, feel free to let Liquid Imagination know by visiting their Facebook Page.

Thanks for reading.

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The Author Who doesn’t Read

Don’t worry, I am not one of those.  In fact, it was reading that inspired me to write.  However, it amazes me how many aspiring writers who have told me they can’t read.  Not because they are illiterate, but because it “gets in the way” of their writing.  Some have even told me they don’t like to read.  Others write in a genre they never read or don’t like to read.  This really amazes me.

An Author who doesn’t read is like a painter who has never seen art.

Reading can not get in the way of your writing career.  It has to be part of it.  It doesn’t matter what you write, you need to know the genre.  This is true for many reasons.

  • Writing is an art, you can learn a lot from other prose.  You can see what you like, and what you hate.
  • Reading expands your own knowledge.  Even if you read fiction you learn a lot about punctuation, dialogue, and even a few new words.
  • If you are trying to get published you will learn what publishers are buying.  This is also true for short stories, you can learn a lot about what an editor likes by reading their magazines.  It will save you a lot of time with submissions if you see that publication doesn’t much care for your style.

Recently I noticed my reading time had fallen by the way side.  I am behind on my favorite magazine.  My solution, I bought two more books.  I have now made it a point to make time to read every day.  At the very least I read the story of the day on Daily Science Fiction.  They email me a story every weekday, and of course who can resist reading email.  I can’t.

If you hate to read, don’t write.  If you think you will get rich, you are wrong.  If you don’t read a particular genre, don’t write in it either.  You don’t know the genre, write in a genre you read.  Or , pick up a few books from the genre you are writing in, and see what they are like.  I hate nothing more than the aspiring Sci-Fi writers who think it’s all about spaceships and geeks.

Next, no matter what genre you write, for me it is Science Fiction (mostly), you need to read other genres.  I have read the classics, Romance (ugh), Horror, Westerns, and many others.  Some I have liked, others I hated.  With the exception of Romance, I have found at least one novel in every genre I have read that I like.  Even better, each of the books I read (even the Romance ones) made my Science Fiction writing better.

Last, you have to read some non-fiction too.  Writing help books, current events, even the newspaper are all good things.  Once thing about Science Fiction is that you really have to understand the workings of our current world in order to create new ones or speculate how ours might be changed in the future.

The Author who does not read, will ultimately fail.  While writing is time-consuming you have to dedicate some of that time to reading.

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