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Ten Reasons Why This is my NaNoWriMo Year

book signingLast year I wrote a humorous blog post on the ten reasons I would not be doing NaNoWriMo.  For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  And I am fully ready for November to start so that I can begin, and finish a novel in one month.  So I thought that I would do a 180 on last year’s post and tell you the reasons why I chose this year to start.

1. You can only say NaNoWriMo so many times.

It is a lot of fun to say.  And you can only say it so many times before you wonder why you aren’t doing it.  I’ve been saying NaNoWriMo for about three years now, and I’ve yet to do it.  So the way I see it, I’ve used up my free chances to say it, and now I either have to participate or stop saying it.  I’d rather participate.

2. This is the year I am accomplishing writing goals I put off.

For two years I kept stalling on going to a WorldCon.  I missed Reno, I missed Chicago, and I almost passed on San Antonio.  But, something made me say I needed to do it this year, and I finally attended my first WorldCon.  I had such a blast that I can’t wait to get to more conventions.  It really kick started my writing in a way I had never imagined.

So, if I had such a blast with that.  Why not keep up the good work?  I’ve been putting off NaNoWriMo with so many excuses, and well this is the year.  So I am going to try it.  And I may very well like it.  And it is just the kick in the pants I need to work on some other projects.

3. The timing is right this year.

I just finished the second draft on Broken Trust and it is off to Beta Readers.  That means I currently have no writing projects that are going on for the month of November.  So it is the perfect time for me to start a new project and work on something fun.

4. Dissolution of Peace needs the sequel.

Reader feedback tells me that if I don’t get a sequel to Dissolution of Peace out soon, I’ll be strung up by my toes.  So the sequel in my NaNoWriMo project, and that could mean an early 2014 release.  Maybe…

5. I have too much stress going on right now.

On the face value, that may seem like a reason not to participate.  But, for me writing started as a stress reliever.  That was how the original manuscript for Dissolution of Peace was written.  So taking a break from some of the stress factors in my life may be exactly what I need to relax for the holiday season.

6. I have to justify the purchase of my Tablet.

I recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.  I got it for a variety of reasons, the main being use for the business and my writing.  Right now I write in my office, which eliminates a lot of writing time.  Now that I can write virtually anywhere, I can finally accomplish a lot of writing.  So I am excited about using it.  Plus, I have to justify the expense to my wife.

7. I have more staff to help me with Plasma Frequency.

November is still a production month.  Issue 9 will be released on December 5th.  But I know have much large staff to assist me, and I am recruiting more staff members.  So that means that I can better divide my attention between my writing and my magazine.

8. It is time I connect with more Writers

I need to connect with more writers, I enjoy their company and I really want to connect with more.  I missed out on a lot of chances to network when I was in San Antonio.  But, NaNoWriMo is a chance to network with all kinds of writers from all different genres and locations.  They even have regional connections so I can find a few writers in my area.  You can find my profile too and I can connect with you.

9. I plan to be a writer by career.

In order to make money as a fiction writer, you have to publish fiction.  I write novels now, though I may tackle a few shorts later, so that means writing novels.  If I can tackle a novel in one month, like I plan to do with NaNoWriMo, than maybe I can do it again in say February.  And maybe again in May, July, September, and then I am back at NaNoWriMo again.  That may seem a bit ambitious.  But if I write the first draft in one month, I figure that once editing and beta reading is done, I can publish three novels a year.  And if I can do that, then I hope that someday I can get enough books out there to be recognized.  And with that comes  a little bit of money.  And who knows in five more years, I can just focus on being what I always wanted to be… a writer!

10. I have the perfect outfit.

Last year I just simply could not figure out what I would wear to NaNoWriMo.  I didn’t know the dress code.  But this year I learned that I can come dressed whatever way I want.  They even have a store if I want to wear NaNoWriMo gear.  I’ve also lost a few pounds so maybe it won’t be so bad if I attended naked… on second thought I’ll bring pants.

 

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Getting Back on the Horse.

swearing_3421243Last week I wrote a rather depressing blog post about the ups and down (mostly the downs) of being an independent author.  It was nasty, dark, and true. But is also awoke something in me. Something that I hadn’t really had in a long time.

The writing muse.

Muses are funny is the way they come and go.  They also have a weird way of being awoken at the most interesting of times. But this little muse snuck right in and wacked me over the head with a frying pan.  I’m not sure why a writing muse has a frying pan, but it worked at getting my attention.

My writing days started way back. But the real passionate writing that I enjoyed started in 2003.  I was finding myself stressed out beyond belief.  And escaping to the world I had created, the world that Dissolution of Peace is set in, relaxed me.  It relaxed me to a point that I could sleep well and face the next day ready for those challenges.  I’d put down 2,000 to 4,000 words a day and I loved doing it.  And when I did it, I had a small hope that someone else would read it and find themselves escaping into my world to relax.  But that was never the point, the point was a lot simpler.

I wrote for me.

There was that damn frying pan to the back the head again. That was what the muse had came to lecture me about. I wrote to relax, and now here I was stressing about how to get more book sales.  I’m stressing about the very thing I used to do for fun. And if I was no longer doing it for fun, what’s the point?

Every story teller just wants to be heard (or read in this case).  And I still very much want readers to escape into my worlds and relax.  But I have always written for me first.  And fortunately this muse, and the frying pan, reminded me of that.

So I started a new novel project the next day. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t the next book in the Dissolution of Peace series.  Though I think that will be my first ever NaNoWriMo project.  I digress.

This new project has spoken to me for a while and it touches very deep on some of my own life trials and tribulations.  And, it has had me writing 2,000 or more words a day.  Yesterday alone I put down over 6,000 words. And you know what, it feels good to be writing to relax again.  It feels good to be telling a story that makes me happy, and it feels great to get back on the horse.  If I keep my focus on what I love, my books will eventually sell themselves.  And, eventually readers will find relaxation in the pages of my worlds.

The best part is, I feel better.  I feel like I can take on the world with my keyboard and computer.  And the muse has finally put the frying pan away.

And with my new positive outlook, something did come my way.  Samantha LaFantasie, another author is going to do an Author interview with me in October.  And she got me thinking.  Why can’t I post things on my blog to help out other authors?  So I will. Starting in August.  I will be posting some things for other authors.  If you want to join in, you can contact me here.  Just fill out the form and we will be in touch.

Here is what I am thinking:

1st Friday of every month: Author Interview

2nd Friday of every month: Guest Post

3rd Friday of every month: Book Review/Feature

4th Friday of every month: Author Spotlight (Brief Bio, List of Titles and upcoming releases)

This is free.  I won’t charge anyone for doing this, I just want to help promote others because that is what we should be doing.  So Please sign up to participate.  I’ll do my best to accommodate everyone.  It will likely have to be on a first come, first serve basis.  But we will see how it all goes.  So head on over and contact me.  Won’t cost you anything. It just might be what gets you back on your own horse.

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Dissolution of Peace Blog Tour

Dissolution of Peace Spring Blog Tour is official!

Book Tour Image

I am going on a blog book tour with Dissolution of Peace.  The book and I will be traveling through the virtual world to attend various blogs to spread the word about my book.  I’m excited about this since it will allow me to share a little bit about me and the book with a new audience.  You can visit these blogs and see interviews, guest posts, and book reviews.  I will be on tour from April 8th until May 13th this year!

Dates:

As I mentioned above I will be traveling blog to blog from April 8th until May 13th.  There are still a number of dates available so if you would like to get in on the tour, it isn’t too late.  There are still several open dates available.  If you want one, just go here (link) and pick a date.  Then scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see “Would you like to host this author on your blog?”  Click the link and sign up.

The folks over at Orangeberry Book Tours are hosting this tour for me.  They’ve taken a ton of the work out of it so I just get to hang out at various blogs.  While I will try to keep the listed dates below updated, for the most current dates and locations visit my Tour page.

While I hope you will go check out each blog host before and after my posts, I will be posting links to blog tour posts throughout the tour on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  So if you don’t follow me there, please do.

Terms:

Book Feature: A quick feature just announcing the basics about Dissolution of Peace

Twitter View: A interview with me over Twitter.  I’ll be off work so I am going to do my best to answer these questions live.

Twitter Blast: A collection of book quotes sent out via Twitter.  Please RT the heck out of those. 🙂

Book Review:  Just that, a review of Dissolution of Peace

Author Interview: An interview with me, posted on their blog.

Guest Post: This is a post I write for their blog, as a guest.

Tour Dates and Locations:

8th April – Book Feature at Peace from Pieces

9th April – Twitter View with OB Book Tours

10th April – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

11th April – Author Interview at Mommy Adventures

12th April – Guest Post at The Bunny’s Review

13th April – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours

14th April – Book Feature & Author Interview at The Reading Cat

15th April – Guest Post at Blog-A-Licious Authors 

16th April – Book Feature & Author Interview at Author’s Friend

17th April – Guest Post at Kindle Nook Books

18th April – Book Feature at Paws on Books

19th April – Guest Post & Book Feature at Anya Breton‘s blog

20th April – Book Feature at Book Professor

21st April – Author Interview & Book Feature at Michael R McDuffee‘s blog

22nd April – Guest Post at Books Are Magic

23rd April – Author Interview & Book Review at Pages 2 Pages

24th April – Guest Post  at Disincentive Reviews

25th April – Book Feature at Book Professor

26th April – Guest Post at Quality Reads

27th April – Author Interview at Fantasy Books

28th April – Book Feature at eInk Reviews

29th April – Book Feature at My Love for Books

30th April -Book Feature at Brainy Reads

1st May – Book Feature at Pages to Chapters

2nd May – Book Feature at Living for Books

3rd May – Orangeberry Pick of the Week & Sidebar

3rd May – Guest Post, Author Interview & Book Feature at Talisman Book Publishing

4th May – Book Feature at Gentleman Reads

5th May – Book Feature at Working For Books

6th May – Book Feature at My Love for Books

7th May – Book Feature at Aspiring Book Reviews

8th May – Book Feature at Reading My Addiction

9th May – Book Feature at Imagination in Books

10th May – Orangeberry Book of the Day – Gentleman Reads – Excerpt /

11th May – Author Interview at Up In Smoke

12th May – Guest Post at Richard Stephenson‘s blog

13th May – End of Tour Celebration post! at Flores Factor.

Blog Tour Giveaway!

This book tour will include the largest giveaway I’ve done to date.  There will be some great prizes including: Signed Paperbacks, Free Paperbacks, Free eBooks, and an Amazon Gift card.  This is hosted by Rafflecopter and there are multiple ways to enter.  The giveaway will end on May 19th.  Check back with the giveaway often because as more blogs post, more entries will be possible.  In fact, you get five entries just by entering this GIVEAWAY CODE: “E.S.S. Australia”

You can find the Giveaway on my Facebook page: CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT LINK

I can’t wait to see you all on the tour!

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Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

Novel Announcement: Volition Agent

If you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen a few teasing posts about my next novel project.  I’ve teased with a few hints, surprises, and more.  Well the teasing can come to an end, I have decided to finally let the cat out of the bag.

My next novel, titled Volition Agent, is a fast paced SciFi Thriller set in the near future.  The highly secretive Agency has a Volition program.  They take everyday people who are physically fit and recruit them as Volition Agents.  They are implanted with a control chip so that a highly trained “handler” can control their every action.  If a Agent is captured the loss to the Agency in minimal.  Agents are sent on missions from intelligence gatherings to assassinations.  Volition Agent followed Lexia, one of the agents.

Here is a tentative blurb:

Lexia Santarelli is part of a top secret group of Volition Agents.  These untrained, unremarkable, everyday people are recruited by the agency to be literally controlled by their “handler” through a device implanted in their necks.  It is an exciting life, and despite some of the annoyances, Lexia enjoys it.

That is until the Agency decides to let Lexia take the fall for a mission gone wrong.  Her link with her handler, Lance is severed.  Suddenly Lexia finds herself alone, unprepared, and hunted by the very people she trusted.

With few clues, minimal training, and an unlikely ally Lexia sets out to discover what really happened on that botched assignment.  Determined to set right the wrong she created, nothing can stand in her way.  Not even the Agency itself.

I have some great cover art for this novel, and I can’t wait to share it with you all.  So here it is:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons Photography

KIPThe cover art is shot and designed by Kristin Irons (website).  I’ve worked with Kristin before, she designed the logo for Plasma Spyglass Press. Kristin is a very talented photographer and when I explained what I was looking for she said she had an idea.  The next week was a bit of a whirlwind.  Kristin found a model, the very beautiful and talented Joy Anna, to play Lexia in a photo shoot.  She then teased me relentlessly with images from that photo shoot before showing me the image she had in mind for the cover art.  I am a very picky and hard to work with person when it comes to cover art, but she kept taking my ideas and reworking them until we came up with the cover above.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled by it.

Let me tell you why this cover is so special to me.  This is the first time I’ve had anyone “play” one of my character in any way.  Joy Anna, whose modeling pictures I had only seen briefly before this, jumped into this project head first.  I understand they captured a ton of images and I’ve only seen a few of them. As a writer, I was excited to see what might come from this.  I’ve never met, or even talked to Joy Anna but I thank her for her time because the results are absolutely amazing.

A big heartfelt thanks to Joy Anna, Kristin, and her assistant William Harris.  So many folks use stock art, or stock photos to make custom cover art.  But I have a real custom cover for this novel.  Please take a moment to check out the people that helped with this cover, give them a like, follow, or whatever else to show them some support.  Kristin Irons: Facebook, Twitter, Website  Joy Anna: Facebook William Harris: Flickr

This is the first story I have written where it had a title before I ever wrote it.  The whole idea came from hearing the word volition and it’s meaning; the ability to make a choice or decision.  So Volition Agent was an easy enough title for me to come up with.  I think it works well given the themes in this novel.

So when is the release date for Volition Agent?  One hasn’t been set just yet.  But I have a deadline of the first week of June 2013.  So expect to see it no later than this.  I hope to have it out a little sooner, but you can’t rush these things.  I’ll be sending it out for Beta Readers in the first two weeks of April.  Then my editor will get this.  I’ll be working with a new editor this time, since Robert is booked up for the foreseeable future.  As always, watch this blog, my Twitter and Facebook for updates.

I’ll leave you with a few other images from the photo shoot:

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

Copyright 2013 Kristin Irons

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Shame on You Duotrope

oh_no_you_di_int_retro_housewife_b_w_tshirt-d23504043240443180228y9d_325For well over a year, perhaps closer to a year and a half I have been very openly supportive of Duotrope.  They have offered a great service that was 100% free for users, and all they asked in return was for donations to help keep the site running.  Unfortunately, according to Duotrope, only 10% of the users donate.  As a result they feel compelled to begin charging users a subscription fee for use of their services starting January 1st.

As a business owner, I understand needing to cover your expenses.  I can’t even blame them if they want to make a profit (though they have never said they want to do this), but I can blame them for a lot of bad business choices they are making by passing this cost on to users.  Especially at the crazy price of $50 a year.

It is my prediction that this move will ultimately lead to the downfall for Duotrope.  Not because of this choice to charge, but because of how they have implemented it.  I don’t think they really have given much thought to this.  Recently they posted on Facebook that they did consider this for some time, but this has all the markings of a hastily made decision rather than a carefully thought out one.

Here is why I say “Shame on You, Duotrope.”

You didn’t consult your users for their thoughts:

The users are the life blood of a service such as Duotrope.  You need their submission stats to get the information other users come to your site to gather.  And you spit in their face by not even offering a simple survey of your users to see what options they would prefer to keep the site running.  Ads on the website, subscriptions fees, multilevel publication listings, and much more are all options that could have been put on a survey to see what your users would prefer.  It would have also given us more time to prepare for the idea of Duotrope charging.

You gave us no time to get acquainted to this idea:

The first announcements came December 1st.  Giving us one month to be prepared for this idea.  Past posts on Facebook gave no hints to this plan.  There was nothing in the newsletters to prepare us.  You sprung this on us with one month’s notice.  This is where the above idea would have benefited us all.  If you had told us three months ago that donations were down and in order to keep the site up, Duotrope was considering other options to make money.  Then if you offered a survey for user ideas, we would have known something like this was coming.

You’ll become another service trying to take advantage of writers:

Let’s face it.  Duotrope offers little more than you can already track yourself.  After all the most valuable feature to the writer, is the submission tracker.  To be honest, all you have to do is make an excel spreadsheet to do that.  I admit that the response stats, acceptance rates, and “Top Market” lists are fun.  But you really don’t need any of that information to be an author.  And if you want to find markets, Google works for free.  Ralan.com is also free.  And all the writer’s groups you are in are also free.  They can tell you about markets.  The main appeal of Duotrope was that is was convenient and free.

Writer’s don’t make a lot of money.  Lets put this is perspective here.  $50 a year means selling 5,000 words a year at one cent per word.  Not to bad, if you are a good writer.  But if you are like me, who has a lot of other projects going on at one time.  I don’t always get 5,000 words sold in short stories each year.  And considering the bulk of Duotrope’s listings don’t pay anything, there is not much chance of making any money on your $50 investment.

This puts Duotrope right in line with other rip off services, such as markets that charge you to submit to them.  There is no value in the $50 a year you will spend.  You get nothing of real value from it that isn’t free elsewhere. They are doing nothing more than tricking you into paying for something you can get for free.  That is the definition of a scam.

There are better ways to make money:

There are a lot of better ways, but they take work.  I admit that charging users is the simplest and easiest answer to their funding problem.  But there are ways that are better for their users and Duotrope in the long run.  This includes selling advertising space on their website, charging markets to list on their site, and multilevel listings.  I like the multilevel listing and website ads options best.  As the owner of a publishing company, I would gladly spend a little extra to be a “featured listing” on Duotrope.  I’d pay $50 a year to do that or even $100 a year depending on what I got for the money.  As a writer, I’d pay to have my book get an ad on the website.  The traffic I am sure Duotrope currently generates would make advertising with them a worthwhile investment.

I’m sure that if they really put their minds to it, they would find these would make far better choices than charging users.

They won’t make anymore money from this:

The reasoning behind this choice was to make enough money to run the website.  The problem is that simply won’t happen.  Read the comments on the Facebook announcements.  You will see that most of those that say they will pay, say they already donated anyway. Many say they donated more than $50 a year.  I suspect that 10% of users that donate, will likely stay the same.  That is, I think only 10% of the current users will subscribe.  And if many of them donated more that $50 a year, then Duotrope will actually lose money from this.  Even if 15% of current users subscribe, they won’t make that much more than the donations.  And by the time they reverse the decision and try something else, the damage will be done.

Statistics will no longer be reliable:

If the number of users decreases by even just 50%, the statistics they collect will be damaged significantly.  I suspect the users will decrease by 90% or more.  This will destroy the integrity of the Duotrope’s statistics.  So even if you plan to subscribe because you like the stats, you won’t get what your think your paying for.

Currently Duotrope.com represent around 30% of the actual submission to Plasma Frequency.  And that is high.  Other editors are reporting that Duotrope’s stats are only reflective of 10% of their submissions.  Imagine how much lower this is going to drop when Duotrope’s user pool shrinks by 90%.

This will change what Duotrope is all about:

Duotrope has been free for seven years.  For seven years Duotrope has been about helping writers find markets for their writing.  Duotrope now wants to be about making money.  Don’t let them fool you into thinking that $50 a year goes to running the site.  Because it doesn’t cost a lot to run a website.  I run two of them right now. Let’s look at this by using costs from Go Daddy:

Domain name: $14.99 a year, unlimited disk space hosting is $179.88 per year.  Now, assuming they build their own website (and they now have the templates all in place for every new listing).  That is all the real cost associated with running this site.  $194.87 per year, if they didn’t take advantage of any of Go Daddy’s regular sales.

What they (the owners of the site) want to be paid for is their time.  Does this make them evil?  No.  Business needs to make money.  And clearly Duotrope wants to be a business now.  That completely changes the dynamic of the site.  This will now be about paying for them to do the work required to run the site.  Something they already admit to doing part-time.  But if four users can pay the operating expenses of the site itself for one year, how much are the owners going to take in for their time?  A lot.

I don’t pretend to know all their costs.  And they refuse to tell us (see below).  Even when they did donations, it was just blind percentages.  There was no defined dollar amount to run Duotrope.  So now they plan to charge writers so they can make some money, rather than continue to be a valuable resource for writers.  Once again, this goes back to the fact that I feel they are simply trying to take advantage of writers.

Duotrope doesn’t care about the user:

This is the part that inflamed me the most.  They could care less about writers.  They’ve made that clear by everything above.  And they have practically said so.  The overwhelming majority of comments on Facebook are against this, yet they just continued to repeatedly post the same generic announcement. This morning they finally posted something more, and it angered me.  You can read the whole thing if you want, but I’ll just address what made me mad:

“The decision to become a paid service was not made lightly; many, if not all, of the suggestions mentioned on social media were considered, but in the end our current subscription model is what we determined to be the best compromise all-around. I know some of you want specifics on our numbers, our decision process, etc. While we understand your desire to know the inner workings of Duotrope, we are a private company, and our internal data is not public domain.”

Why can’t you share your operation costs with us?  User numbers?  The amount of money you are losing each month?  Is it because, as I showed above, the real costs are not all that much?  I think so.  Do they have to share this information with us?  No, they don’t.  Should they?  Considering the outcry from users, yes they should.  It is my opinion that they should give us some idea of why this has to be the way it is and why it has to happen in January.

“We knew going in that many of you would be terribly upset over the upcoming change. We are extremely sorry that this has caused you anger, sadness, and the like. However, the decision has been made, and while we are certainly not inflexible about adjusting to upcoming challenges, our subscription model needs to be allowed the opportunity to go into effect before it can be evaluated fairly. Time will tell what the future holds, but time will be allowed to pass before any changes, if any, are made to the way Duotrope plans to operated as of 2013.”

If many of your customers will be upset, and you know it, then it is not the right choice for your business.  The problem with putting something out there and evaluating it on the fly, is that the damage will be done.  If I leave, Duotrope, I won’t come back.  Even if they go back to free.  It took seven years to build Duotrope, they can destroy it in 30 days.

“This is the basic principle of quantity v. quality. As just one oversimplified example, many casual users (and we do mean many!) will report a new submission to a market and then never follow-up on it, leaving that entry as a sort of orphan in the overall data. That is the type of data problem we predict will be reduced significantly under the new model, increasing the accuracy of the statistics on listed markets. We know this is not specific enough for some of you, but we hope that over the many years Duotrope has offered its services for free we have managed to earn at least a little bit of your trust.”

When it comes to statistics you need quantity.  As I mentioned above.  A smaller statistical sample will not mean a better result. The writers that can afford this will be writers who are accepted more often than others.  Therefore the statistics will become skewed to only experienced writers who sell a lot.  Right now, it is reflective of a broad range of writers.

And don’t even get me started on trust.  We trusted you, and you are expecting us to keep trusting you.  Trust is a two-way street.  You want us to share money and trust you with it, but you don’t want to show us where the value is.  You won’t explain in depth why seven years of free service no longer works.  Trust me, I am a Nigerian Prince who wants to give you ten million dollars, just send me $5000 to facilitate the transfer of funds.  Come on.

“We have always known this decision meant parting ways with some of our users. If you will not be joining us, then we thank you for all the support, promotion and participation over the last seven years, and for helping grow Duotrope from an experiment into a mature company and service.”

A business that makes a choice knowing that users will likely leave, is making a foolish choice.  And thank you for acknowledging that you used us to grow your company into a money-making venture and then tossed us aside for the people who can pay you.

My summary:

Duotrope is moving in the wrong direction.  I can no longer recommend anyone use them.  They need to take a pause, listen to the users, and postpone this going paid idea.  They need to really evaluate the priorities of Duotrope and make choices that better follow the goals of the company.  But if the goals are to make money, at the expense of writers, which is exactly what this will be doing, I will want no part in this.  I still firmly believe that money should flow in the direction of the writer.  We writers already make so little, we don’t need this new scam sucking money from us.

Go to Duotrope, back up your data.  And track your submissions the old fashion way, with an excel spread sheet.  Then join the countless writers groups on Facebook, Twitter, and online to find new markets.  Go check out Ralan.com for market listings.  It may take a bit longer, but it will save you $50 a year you likely can’t afford to spend.

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Ten Reasons Why I Won’t be Doing NaNoWriMo

Every one in my writing communities is asking me if I will be doing NaNoWriMo this year.  For those that don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is that you start, and complete a novel in November.  It is actually a great idea.  Especially if you need a quick kick in the ass to get writing that novel you’ve been telling yourself you’d write for years.

I won’t be participating this year.  When I tell my fellow authors that, they all want to know: Why?  I can even hear some of them looking down upon me for my choice to exclude myself.  So I put together my ten reasons why I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo.  You may call them “excuses” but the word “reasons” makes me feel better about myself.  Besides, every now and then I like to put something together that is a little tongue in cheek.

1. November is a production month for Plasma Frequency:

Yep, that is right.  I run this magazine and Issue 3 has to be ready December 5th.  That means that I will be spending much of my non-day job hours working on getting Plasma Frequency laid out and ready for print.  Not to mention designing ads for the issue (you should get an ad to advertise the novel you finish during NaNoWriMo).  And since I likely will be paying for most or all of Plasma Frequency‘s stories and artwork out of my own pocket, I’ll also need to pick up some extra hours at my day job.

2. I have to work my day job.

Believe it or not my writing doesn’t pay all my bills.  I have to work a day job to try to pay my bills.  A day job that doesn’t even pay enough to pay my monthly rent.  So that also means I will be needing to pick up any extra hours I can.  Since I have to pay my rent, phone, internet, power, water, and Plasma Frequency‘s running costs.  In all, I have to put up a lot of hours at work to try to make ends meet.  Those extra hours are all hours I normally reserve for writing, editing, and family time.

3. My family needs me too.

Yep, I am throwing them under the bus here.  But it is true.  And there are a lot of family events happening in November.  My birthday and Thanksgiving being two of them.  These are often all day events in my family so that means two more lost days in the tight schedule.

And since my birthday is in November, I don’t have to do NaNoWriMo.  I think it is in the rules.  If it isn’t in the rules, than I am adding it to my own personal NaNoWriMo rules.

4. I have volunteer commitments

I volunteer on the Board of Directors for my local soccer league.  And, I coach in that league.  And, two of my three boys play in that league.  The season ends in November.  So there are two year end parties to attend.  And there is one weekend ate up to the end of season tournament.  So there are four more days that NaNoWriMo can’t have.

5. I already started a Novel.

I have already started a novel.  My second novel is already in the works.  And in NaNoWriMo you are supposed to start and finish in November.  So if I participated, I would be cheating.  And no one likes cheaters.  I could start the sequel for Dissolution of Peace, but I am not a person that can write two novels at once.  I can edit one and write another.  I can even write a short story while doing a novel.  But I just can’t do two novels at once.  It is my writing style.

6. I didn’t participate last year.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo last year, in fact I have never done it.  I don’t need to explain myself for past years, those are past years.  But, I am far to busy to start something new in November.

7. I don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed.

I get that you don’t have to have a print ready manuscript by the end of November.  The point is to have the first draft done.  But the first draft is the foundation for that final manuscript.  You have to have something to work with or the story is lost.  At least that is my opinion.  And as you can see I already have a lot of things taking up my time.  I bet I probably could still throw 50,000 words down in the time I have left, but I don’t think they would be worth the paper, or disk space, they are written on.  I would feel like I am sacrificing quality just to get it done on time because of my crowded schedule.

8. I don’t want to be another blogger spending all of November blogging about NaNoWriMo.

Every year the writing blogs fill up with constant talk about NaNoWriMo.  Or even worse, they virtually shut down for a month.  Both, I don’t wish to do.  Sometimes my schedule is so crowded that these posts are the only writing I get done for weeks or months.  And I don’t want to take a break for writing my novel, to tell you about how NaNoWriMo is going.  I’d prefer to be the destination my followers can come to read a post or two that is away from the topic of NaNoWriMo.  Don’t get me wrong, if you participate in NaNoWriMo, you may want to read about the progress of others.  I just don’t feel like blogging about it, and/or not blogging for a month.

“But Richard,” you say. “You are blogging about NaNo right now.”  To those people I say, this doesn’t count.  It is still October.

9.  I have a current novel to promote

We have established that my schedule is tight.  Well, Dissolution of Peace needs to sell.  And it won’t sell with out someone marketing it.  That someone is me.  My October sales have slowed drastically, and I hope to kick it into high gear for November and December.  That means more free time used to find reviewers, advertising, and self marketing.  Maybe even trying to set up a book signing or two.  That all takes time.  So rather then starting a third novel (just yet), I need to market the first one.

10. I have nothing to wear.

You heard me correctly.  No one wants to see me sitting around naked in my office writing a novel.  What does one wear to a virtual writing gathering anyway?  Is it a virtual black tie?  Or is virtual business casual okay?  Perhaps a virtual suit is sufficient.  That’s the thing, I simply don’t know.  And to save myself the embarrassment, I simply won’t attend.  Besides, I heard it was a Sadie Hawkins event and no one has asked me.

NaNoWriMo is a good thing

Sure, I am not attending.  But NaNoWriMo is a great event.  And perhaps one year I will be able to do it.  But that year is not 2012.  If you have time and want to do it, I suggest you check out the website.  There is no better way to stimulate your writing glands and put together something great.  If you are stalling to start writing, but just haven’t done it, NaNoWriMo is a great way to jump in.  At the very least, check it out.  Every year I do.  And as I said before, one year I will do it.

Perhaps I will have my own personal NaNoWriMo.  Who says November has to be the only month you write a novel in?  If you are like me, perhaps you make January your month, or even July.  And even though I joked about the NaNoWriMo related blogs, I tend to learn a lot more about writing when NaNo is going on than I do other times of year.  Authors are always willing to help each other out.  So even if you don’t participate, you are bound to learn something this November.

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Editing (and why you need an Editor)

I am blogging a lot later tonight because I spend my day time editing Dissolution of Peace.  Though I finally went through all my editors notes, I am not finished.  My editors made nearly 3,000 line by line comments on my manuscript and also provided me with four full pages of comments and suggestions.  I still have 70 to correct, but I made the decision to fix what was easiest first.  The points of story and character, I’ll go back and review.  It was a lot of work just to correct those other 2930 comments, but many of those were punctuation mistakes, grammar mistakes, and typos.

Grammar is a touchy issue with me.  It is also a pit fall of mine.  I’m not afraid to mention that.  But I do become incredibly grouchy when grammar mistakes are pointed out to me, especially in social settings.  And while a few simple mistakes may not ruin a story for a reader, major slip ups will.  And a pile of minor slip ups can make a mountain that becomes distracting.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, and for that reason I dreaded reading these comments.

But if grammar bothered me, I was more worried that the editor would have listed a huge amount of plot problems.  Or tell me he hated the story line all together.  Thankfully I didn’t get that.  There were even some plot points I was worried about that my editor made no comments on.

But in the end my editor caught 3,000 mistakes (in his opinion) that my three beta readers missed.  That is 3000 things that were not brought to my attention before I hired an editor.  And this is exactly why you need to hire an editor, especially for your longer projects.  I don’t hire an editor for my short stories, it doesn’t make financial sense to me.  But I will hire an editor for all of my novellas and novels.

Beta readers help you find those plot mistakes, story flow problems, and gauge overall reader enjoyment.  Editors break out the find tooth comb and check for all the little mistakes (and even some big ones).  Think of Beta readers as sand paper, they smooth out the story.  And Editors are polish, they make the story shine.

There are some things you have to look for when you hire an editor:

First, do they have any editing experience.  Don’t be afraid to ask them what they have edited.  Don’t be afraid to ask other writers for recommendations.  And do a search for information about that editor.  Check out their website and other people’s posts about them.  Ask for references.  Remember you are hiring them.

See if you can get a sample.  Many editors will provide a small sample of their work.  Some won’t but I’d suggest they do.  Even if it is just a few pages.  If not, but you know they are a good editor.  Find out what you get for the money you are paying.  Some editors charge a lot of money just to give you a summary of thoughts.  While others will offer line by line edits.  Always ask if it includes proofreading.  Some editors don’t consider proofreading part of editing.  It is semantics if you ask me, but that is why you should always check.

Find out a deadline.  Make sure the editor gives you a timeline.  Don’t dump hundreds of dollars on an editor that plans to take an excessive amount of time on your manuscript.  You may have to pay more if you want a rush on your edits, and you may pay less if you allow the editor some extra time.  Again, establish that up front.

Last find out if your editor will continue to help you if you fail to understand his notes.  Some editors charge for the markups and a separate fee if you want further opinion later.  Others are willing to help you through the whole process up to publication for no extra charge.

Tips for handling editor markups:

Just like when you get feedback from Beta Readers, the feedback from an editor does not mean you have to change something.  There were a number of suggestions my editor made, that I won’t be changing.  Most of these are a simple matter of opinion.  But, remember you are hiring an editor to provide you a professional opinion.  So if you are not sure you agree with an editor remark, look it up for yourself.  For example, my editor marked that “sickbay” should be “sick bay”.  I won’t be changing that because my research shows that many naval traditions refer to it as one word, sickbay.  So I will keep it that way.  My editor is not wrong for marking that, I just prefer it the one way.  The plus side is that by him pointing it out, I realized that in some parts of my manuscript I had it as two words.  So for consistency I fixed that.

That being said, never ignore an editor’s comments.  They marked it for a reason.  Good editors will also explain why they marked it that way.  Mine did.  I was also able to research it myself.  I learned from it and now I know a lot more than I did in the beginning.  There were a few times I thought I had done something right, but when I went and looked it up I was wrong.  Don’t ignore a comment, learn from it even if you don’t change it.

Next, bit of advice is not to be overwhelmed.  It is pretty scary when you see all those red markups on your manuscript.  At first I didn’t really want to move forward on the edits.  I was intimidated by the volume of notes.  But I told me self I’d start working my way down.  Anything that required extra thought I would skip.  I would fix all the typos, punctuation, and grammar errors and other simple fixes.  That got the ball rolling.  And soon you realize that you repeat a lot of mistakes.  For me, punctuation at the end of dialogue was a pit fall for me.  That was probably the number one punctuation fix for me.  A few spelling errors.

And a lot of repeated words.  When I started to find out my editor was marking repeated words, I was a bit mad.  I didn’t see the importance in it.  I thought it was something trivial and a matter of opinion.  But when I got back my manuscript I found that my characters “smile” a lot.  They “stated” everything.  And they “look” all over the place.  And a lot of the time I used all three of those words as a filler.  Something a simple “said” would work for.  Or sometimes the sentence could be removed with no effect on  the story.

My last tip for handling big project edits is not to read while you edit.  If I had reread my entire novel while working on the edits it would have taking far longer.  I simply went from comment to comment and corrected what was wrong.  I only read the area of the comment to get the context.  It helped me power through those thousands of comments leaving the real meat of the edit there.  I will now read through the novel and as I hit the comments left behind I can decide how to best correct those.

I don’t need an editor.

If you are writing a novel (or even a novella) you are wrong.  You may plan to publish the traditional way, or you may plan to self publish.  Either way you need an editor.

If I was submitting my manuscript to an editor at a publishing house, I’d have just submitted them a manuscript with 3,000 errors on it.  That is 3000 things the publisher will notice.  I think my current manuscript would have a better chance of being picked up simply because I correct so many errors.

If I self published my manuscript, it would have went to readers with 3,000 mistakes on it.  That could very well add up to low sales.  And the number one way a self published author gets (or loses) sales is word of mouth.  There is rarely a large marketing budget for the self published author.  So hiring an editor is the best way to invest what little money you have available to improve your work.

Every writer needs an editor.  At least one.

Who did I use?

I am sure you wonder who I used for my editor.  I used Robert Wilson, editor for Nightscape Press.  Robert is a self published author of multiple top rated novels and novellas, including the only Vampire novel I have truly enjoyed: Shining in Crimson. Robert was also an editor for Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology and is a freelance editor.  His rates are reasonable (you can contact him about that).  His work is very in-depth.  He even took time to look up facts about how military ranks are capitalized, since this was his first story that dealt with so many ranks.  I think that speaks volumes right there.  He took the time to make sure he has it right.  He provided me broad notes and line by line edits/proofreading.  As I mentioned he took the time to point out repeated words.  He did this by highlighting them a different color than the comments, and that was really helpful.  It made them stand out and I really saw how much I was using some words.  Overall, I highly recommend him.  And I will use him again (provided he can stand working with such a needy writer again).

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Muse (Where I get my Ideas)

Once people found out I was a writer, and more so now that I have this blog, the most common questions I get is this:

“Where do you get the ideas for your stories?”

My answer is always the same.  Getting the ideas is the easy part.  Taking that thought and making it into a story is the hard part.

I think the common misconception about writers is that we get the idea for a whole story in our heads in a flash of brilliance and inspiration.  It has been my experience that is not how things really work.  I have yet to have a sudden epiphany and instantly a whole story come to my mind.  It is usually one line that come to mind, or even just a fleeting thought.  Odds are you have had one too.

For example, you may have wondered “What if the sky was green?”  or “What if I could visit Venus?”  That’s all it takes for me to get started.  I start thinking about it.  How would life be different under a green sky, could it change our skin color?  Could it change the way things look around here?  I play with the idea in my head until I am either ready to write about it, or I throw it out.

That’s right, not all my ideas became stories, I’ve had to throw a few out.  Throw them out is not really accurate.  I keep a book of my random thoughts and ideas.  Since I think of them a lot at night, and have a nasty habit of forgetting by morning, I write them down.  Some have turned into stories, others are still sitting there.  Some of them joined with other ideas in the notebook and their love child became a story.

So when do I think of all these great ideas.  All the time.  At night when I am about to fall asleep.  Some come from dreams I have had.  I have to write those down in my notebook fast since I forget my dreams easily.  At the gym on the treadmill, I mull many a story idea over there.  What else am I to do walking all that time and getting no where?

Ideas come all the time.  Its the ones that stick in my head that become stories.  The ones I can’t seem to stop thinking about.  They grow in my head, until I am dying to write them down.  I have to constantly ask myself, “So What?”  The sky is green, so what?  So, I can visit Venus, now what?  As I keep asking myself what is next, the story just form in my mind.

However, that is hardly the end of it.  The next challenge is getting the idea on paper.  Developing the right way to say things; to paint a picture with my words.

What do I like to do to help me catch my muse, to keep coming up with those ideas and playing with them in my head?  Music is always a good way for me to clear my mind.  I mentioned above, the gym always works for me.  Sometimes a long drive also helps.  Some authors find reading helps them.  I tend to get wrapped up in the story I am reading, and while reading is very inspirational, it doesn’t allow me the chance to play with my own ideas.  But, I know it works for many.

So, while getting the ideas is easy, using them is hard.  That is what really takes time.  Good luck with yours, you just may have the next big idea just waiting to be developed.

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