Blog

174 Articles

Exercise

I think I am going to deviate a bit from my usual topics of writing and talk about exercise.  I have to say I have a few people who have got me thinking about my own health and exercise.  A post by Michael McDuffee (here) got me thinking about my own health issues, weight issues, and how to change it.

Watching my kids play their first season of soccer these past few months reminds of the time when I used to be in shape.  For those that don’t know, soccer is played in two 45 minute halves.  I used to play a game and referee three or four in a day.  That is a lot of running.  Of course, now I would be lucky to run to my fridge and back without getting winded.

Me in 2000

Of course, that didn’t last.  It didn’t last for two reasons:  Diet and Exercise.  I kept eating fast food.  I love that crap and I keep eating it.  It was fine as a young man because I exercised more than enough for the calories I was taking in.  But, when I got out of High School, I stopped Soccer.  So, I also stopped exercise.  I had a job where I spent my days walking.  But I slowly was promoted to a job that required I spend more time behind a desk.

Fast forward to June 2009, I was 275 pounds and gaining.  I was also getting sick to my stomach all the time, to the point of being to sick to work.  It was a job I loved so I didn’t like missing the work.  But also, I hated getting sick.  The Doctors still have no answer for it, other than my weight.  And while it is now a manageable issue, I still have this issue.

Me 2009 at the Ribbon Cutting for my business.

My response in 2009 was to cut out a lot of things from my diet.  I gave up fast food.  I stopped drinking Coke (my favorite, and I still miss it now).  I was drinking almost exclusively water.  I also participated in yearly walk for education.  And it was working.  Within around six months I was down to 255 pounds, and a few months after that I was down to 245.  It was great.

Me at the 2010 VPEF Loop the Lagoon Walk

Well, that was June 2010.  For some reason, I tried to eat fast food again.  Big mistake, because it didn’t make me sick.  So guess what I started eating.  Well here we are now, December 2011, and I am 272 (as of this morning).  And, guess what is getting worse.  My health.  Like back in 2009, I am feeling yucky way more often.

I have a gym membership, but I haven’t been in nearly three months.  I get very upset with my lack of motivation on this topic.  I want nothing more than to lose the weight and feel healthy.  But, I just can’t get my but in the gym.  I just can’t seem to give up the foods I love (though I still haven’t had a Coke since June ’09).  People tell me the trick is not to give it up, but to use moderation.  But, I am not sure I know the meaning of that word.

I have a friend, Jeanne, who talks of going on runs and hikes.  I’d love to be able to go hiking but I could never keep up with most of my hiking friends (including Jeanne) because they are at another level.  The running life style is something that always has intrigued me.  I’d love to be a part of it.  But for some reason I lack to the motivation.

I have always preferred exercise with friends.  I like the company, and I also like the knowledge that someone else is depending on me to be there.  It makes “canceling” had for me.  I don’t like to miss out on anything.  Another friend of mine, Allen, is a gym fanatic.  But again, he is far above my level.

These are all just excuses.  I know this.  I just have to go to the gym.  I need to eat better.  I know it.  After all, what am I paying for?  I suppose the real purpose for this blog was to motivate me in a way I know how.  Writing about it.

It is that time of year for New Years resolutions.  So, my resolution is to change my diet and hit the gym.  Fingers crossed that this time next month, I will have already be down the right path.  I’ll update you all then!

0 views

Quality Versus Quantity

Recently there was a post in my writer’s forum on Robert A. Heinlein’s Rules for Writing Speculative Fiction (Appeared in his essay On Writing Speculative Fiction in 1947).  The poster argued that the rule; “You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” was no longer a valid business practice in today’s market.  His argument is sound, and I have already blogged on my thoughts on the rewriting circle several times (mentioned here), so I don’t plan to do into it.

But it did involve lengthy discussion about the need to constantly rewrite and ensure you put out high quality work.  The argument was that, in the 1950s, there were so many pro rate markets that there was far more demand then supply.  Therefore established authors (and new ones) could quickly turn out a high amounts of manuscripts and be able to sell them.  So I thought I would elaborate on the quality versus quantity debate

Quantity

If you throw darts at a target, one at a time, you might hit the bulls-eye but it may take a while.  But, if you throw 1,000 darts at the target, surely one of them will hit the bull-eye and quickly.

Obviously, simple statistics would show that the more works, you put out the more likely you should be to get published faster.  And the slower you put out works the longer is should take.  But, if there is one thing I have learned, math has little place is art.

But the truth is you have to submit works to ever get them published.  And very few people are ever satisfied with one published work.

Quality

If you take time learning how to throw a dart.  You study how darts fly, how to aim, and the correct throwing techniques.  Then you take that one dart, and throw it at the target, you are more likely to hit the bulls-eye.

There are a lot fewer pro rate markets out there. It would be a good idea to understand the craft, and write well, before you cast your dart.  However, when is a manuscript ever perfect?  I’ve never written one.

But the truth is you have to write well, and edit them well, to ever get published.

The Debate

So do you throw 1000 darts or cast that one best shot?  I think it is a bit more complex then that.  After all, you could throw 1000 darts and they all miss the bulls-eye.  Or you could spend years studying darts, only to miss that one best shot.

There is really a fine balance between the two.  If you throw one dart a year, you won’t hit the target much (maybe with blind luck) but you also won’t get better.  But if you throw darts regularly, slowly you will get closer to your bulls-eye.  You need to submit often and you need to do a few rewrites.  How many?  Well that depends on your target.

I think the first thing you have to do is define your bulls-eye.  If it is just getting published, then there are a ton of markets.  If you want some type of payment, there are still a lot.  And, if you want a pro-rate payment there are only a few.

This is why I use the Darts analogy.  Because I think you should have a target, with a bulls-eye in the middle.  That bulls-eye is you best case scenario, the big deal for you.  Mine looks something like this:

So, make your target.  After all you need to know what you are aiming for.  Always aim for your bulls-eye.  You may not hit it, but keep throwing those darts.  Throw your darts often enough that you learn each time, but not so fast that you sacrifice accuracy for the odds.

0 views

Holidays are Coming

That’s right folks, we’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving.  Santa will be here before we know it and I am already running out of time and money.  I enjoy this time of year.  I like the weather.  I like the excitement in my children’s faces.  And, I like the big feasts.

This year I am cooking my first Turkey and having the whole family over.  I am not sure how I feel about that, but I am sure I will do fine.  I love to cook, but its a lot to cook.  Worst of all, my wife will be working so I won’t have much support.  However, I am looking forward to getting together with the family.  Of course, once they are all packed in my house, all bets are off.

I won’t be doing the Black Friday nonsense.  I spent five years of my life working in Malls providing security for all those people converging on malls in hopes of getting some stupid toy.  No toy is worth trampling a crowd of people.  All those years of dealing with the Black Friday crowds, and the worst of the people there, has spoiled me from ever wanting to deal with it again.  So I will lock myself up in my Black Friday bunker, devour left overs, and sleep all day.

In the first part of December, I will emerge from my bunker and start shopping.  It won’t be any better.  There will still be crowds everywhere, but I prefer that to internet shopping.  I hate spending my money had waiting for things to arrive.  But it is more then that.  Shopping at your local stores provides money for your local economy, provides jobs, and is an all around better thing.  So I shop in stores, with rare exception.

After I get all the shopping done, it will be time for Christmas Eve Dinner.  Growing up we always did dinner on Christmas Eve.  I am sure my mom didn’t want to spend any time cooking while we were all playing with new toys.  I think I will be hosting my own Christmas Eve Dinner this year.

The best part of this Christmas is that I won’t be traveling anywhere.  You see, since I married my wife, I have had to travel to my family’s house, then to her family’s house.  They don’t live far apart, but man is it still tiring.  Then with the kids, it meant trying to cram three kids worth of toys in one car and driving home.  But not this year.  This year, they can all come to us.  I am spending that day sitting in my sweats and watching my kids play with all their new stuff.

No matter what religion you are, and what holidays you celebrate, the holiday season is about family.  It’s a time to enjoy your family and the little things in life.  So when you are stressed out in the traffic, long check out lines, or traveling all over town for that special gift; remember none of its important in the grand scheme of things.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and I will see you all next week.

0 views

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.
0 views

Titles

I have a small confession to make:  I hate coming up with story titles for my writings.  I can never think of a good one. I even struggle to name many of these blog posts.

I think it really boils down to a problem naming things.  I had trouble naming all but my oldest son (since he is named after me it was easy).  I had a hell of time picking a business name I liked (when I was in business), and now it plagues me when I try to name my stories.  Its exactly the reason I could never use a pseudonym

I am not sure why this is.  Perhaps the permanent nature of a name is what concerns me.  After all, once the story is published I have to call it by that name for the rest of time.  With titles, its also about getting the readers attention in some way.  I think it also boils down to wanting to find one of those great titles I see in publications.

So with a bit of self exploration, I decided I would look into the purpose of a title.

The title names the story for recognition and ease of description.  Can you imagine if every time I wanted to talk about “Death Watch“, I said “The story about the guy with the watch that tells him when he will die.”?  I can’t imagine doing that.  But that is probably the most basic of reasons for a story title.

But, lets face it you are attracted to more unique titles.  When I browse the crowded book shelves of the book store (you know that place you can get real books at) or look at short stories, I am always attracted to the titles that are different.  But different is a relative term.  Obviously you don’t want to use the title “The Computer”, but “The Computer Code” would draw my attention.

But also your title shout be appropriately named.  You will want to avoid names that may imply a different genre then the one you are writing.  For example, you may not want to use “Princess Tales” as the title of a story about the Starship Princess’ voyages.  The story title implies something different.

I love double meaning titles, though I have not picked one.  “The Computer Code” is a good example.  Computer code is a common topic for the IT department, but the Science Fiction reader will know right away, that you are not talking about 0 and 1.  Perhaps that is part of the story, but Code likely refers to something completely different, like a Code of Conduct perhaps.  Its a bit different then what I mentioned above because the title is still fulfilling its promise in the name.  Where as “Princess Tales” isn’t really a double meaning but is rather promising something different.  A thin line perhaps, but a line none the less.

I hate long winded titles.  “Greg Branson: The Millionaire Who Never Spent a Dime” is an insane title to me.  Its long, awkward, and often people shorten it anyway.  Of course that is my opinion, and I have nothing to back that up, as many people have been professionally published with such titles.

And of course, even though I have seen it forgotten, the most important thing is that your story title has something to do with your story.  I don’t think I could have called “Dream Job” something like “The Car Chase Chronicles”.  That is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is, a title is part of the promise you make to the readers.

Tips:

Really only you can name your story, but asking for opinions is great.  You may have to ask directly because in all the critiques I have gotten, no one ever has mentioned the title.  So ask people what they think of the title when they read your work.

Don’t delay writing a story simply because you don’t have a title.  In fact, almost everything I have written got the title after it was finished.  Like I said above, I have so much trouble committing to a title, so I’d never write anything if I waited.

Keep a sheet of paper near your computer.  Titles have often hit me while I am typing out a story (or even these blog posts).  Having a sheet of paper to scribble down a title you think of can be as valuable as your story ideas notebook.

Often that initial thought that brought the story to your mind, may make a good title.  Both “Dream Job” and “Death Watch” are named for their story idea source.  “Death Watch”, came from the idea of how a device that would tell us when we died might influence our choices in life.  “Dream Job”, came from a nightmare I had.

So I hope you have a better time with titles then I do.  If you do have an easy time, share your tips below for those poor writers (like me) that struggle with naming our precious tales.  I always look forward to the comments.

1 view

Video Games and Story Telling

I haven’t mentioned this much, maybe a few posts here and there, but I love video games.  Like many people in my generation, I have grown up with the video game industry.  As it has grown so have I.  I started with Mario on the NES, and this week I began playing Battlefield 3 for my PC.  That is a lot of growth in a short amount of time.

Just like writing, I don’t have as much time for games as I used to.  In life, you have to make time for the things you love to do.  So I make time for the games when I can.  And, of course, when a new game I love comes out (such as Battlefield 3) I tend to spend a lot of time with it.  And, while getting my butt kicked last night, I thought a lot about my uncontested favorite video games: Tomb Raider.  It got me thinking about a different aspect of video game evolution.  So this morning, I figured I better get this blog out now before I started in on the Battlefield.

Its easy to notice the evolution of graphics, controls, consoles, or even the sheer size of the games.  But, story telling has almost become a requirement in the video game world.  Take a look at the original Mario Bros., a game that is still great today, but really tells a limited story.  Scroll Right and save the princess.  The story has since grown, so that even the newest Mario games have a far more detailed story.

But stories have gotten even more important in the over all game play.  Characters’ stories are often crafted and even the slightest of changes are contested by the fans.  Katie Fleming, the Queen of Tomb Raider Fandom, recently hosted a Youtube video debate on the changes to Lara Croft’s character bio.  I mention this because it demonstrates the affect of story telling on today’s games. This was a very passionate debate by loving fans to Lara and the Tomb Raider franchise.  There is true love there for the character and her story.

People can now get even more immersed in the game world by an entertaining story, a creative world to be explored, characters you care about, and a protagonist you love to hate.  Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?  The same recipe for a good story has now become the recipe for a good game.  Games have become more about being playable stories then just a game.  I have spent many nights up late playing one more “level” just to find out what happens next in the story.  Just as I have done so many times with the pages of a book.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7GVSx7yMaA]

I think the evolution of gaming in the direction of story telling started early.  Almost all games had a story of some sort.  But, it has become so important now that even games like Battlefield 3, that are primarily played for their massive multi-player interaction, have ensured they have a story to go with their game.  Picking up a gun and shooting other players has no longer become good enough for most of the gamers.

With the development of another Tomb Raider in the works, story telling comes to the forefront again.  Almost all the buzz about this game has been about the story:  The reinventing of Lara (again) for our playing enjoyment.  I have not heard much talk of graphics, moves, or controls.  The talk has been about Lara’s new look, the story of Lara’s past, and the world she will be stuck in.  The same things I talk about (and look for) in a good book.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN7_8Yholm4]

In fact, video game characters have made the move into other story telling medium as well.  Of course you have movies like Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, and Prince of Persia.  Tomb Raider had a great run of Comic Books.  Some have even made their way into novels.  In fact, if the right people are reading this I should note that I would love to write a Tomb Raider Novel (HINT HINT SHAMELESS PLUG).

As a writer you may have considered writing a novel, a comic book, or even a movie.  But the world of video games offers another chance for story telling.  And, video gamers can be the most fun and challenging group to write for.  We love our games, their characters, their worlds, and the story they have to tell.

Now if you will excuse me, I am needed on the Battlefield.

0 views

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.

0 views

New Short Story Out

Today Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction published Issue 1, which features my story “Dream Job”.  I am excited about this publication for two reasons:

First, this is the first short story I have written since my choice to be a published writer.  I did write a short story in High School that people seemed to like, but its long gone.  So really, I consider this my first short story.  I am blessed that it was published.  I know many very talented authors whose firsts are still awaiting the acceptance letter.

Second, it was chosen to be in the first issue of a new publication.  This may not seem like a big deal, but when a magazine starts up, there is a lot of pressure to be good (if not great).  Editors have to choose the stories they publish in their first issues carefully, as they set the bar for the entire publication.  That doesn’t mean publications don’t grow and become better.  It just means that you want to make a good first impression when you start up.  So I feel privileged that “Dream Job” was chosen to be among those stories that represent the start of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.

The Editors have also chosen to provide the electronic copy of their first issue free on Smashwords (Kindle, Nook, PDF and more).  It is also available on the Amazon Kindle Store for 99 cents, but I am sure you would prefer free.  So please, click here and check out “Dream Job” as well as the other works published in Issue One of Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.

Then come back here and let me know what you thought of the story and the Characters.  I would love to hear from you.

0 views

Marketing for Writers 101

A Brief Self Help Guide for Writers

One of the things that I failed to understand when I started out as a writer, was that writing is a business.  And if you want any business to succeed, you need to market it.  I don’t think many people understand the importance of writers to market themselves.  It is one of the only ways you will gather readers, reach out to your readers, and let them know when new works are coming out.

You may be thinking that you won’t need to market because you plan to publish in a traditional fashion.  You may assume the publisher will handle all the marketing.  Or you may simply think your works will sell themselves.

Well, I believe you are wrong and you can do so much to promote yourself for little or no money.

Social Media

Social media offers the best way to connect with your readers and fans.  If you are not much for technology it is relatively easy and helps.

You really need a presence on the three major Social Media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages so all three is almost a must.  Also, you need to use them.  I try to post something each day.  I certainly check them every day.

Facebook:

With Facebook, you really need an Author’s Page.  Pages are separate from your Facebook Profile.  Creating one is easy, relatively fast, and pretty effective.  You can visit my Page to see what they look like.  You may even want to create a separate page for a book you may be working on, or recently published.  Robert S. Wilson has one for his book that you can look at as an example.

Why use an Author’s Page instead of your regular Facebook Profile.  Well for one, you may not want to share personal matters, photos, and friends with your fans.  Second, it is far easier for your fans to click “like” then it is for them to send a friend request and wait for your response.   Third, Facebook offers a TON of tools for pages that help with promotion.  Tools you simply don’t get with a standard page.

You can create a page by visiting any page.  In the top right corner there is a link that say “Create a Page”.  Once you have a page post links to your other accounts on social media.  Also, post information about upcoming releases and the like.

Twitter:

I never found much interest in Twitter.  But at the advice of other writers I made a Twitter Account for myself.  I have found it far more fun then I thought it would be.  I have more followers on Twitter then I do on my Facebook Author Page.  I think Twitter gets its appeal because anyone can follow anyone.

Setting up and account is easy.

Use Twitter to share all sorts of things.  RT (Re-Tweet) posts that you like.  Reply to Tweets you like.  Here is a little help with Twitter from one novice to another:

“#” is a hash tag.  It is used to make searching for posts on a particular topic easy.  People add it to the tweet to help with searching.  Keep the terms together versus spacing out words.  Example “#amwriting” would be used; not “#am writing”.

RT is Re-Tweet.  This usually is used if someone replies to a tweet and wants to put it to context.

Example: “I wish I had ur motivation. Can a walk to the fridge count as cardio? RT @megselizabeth86: Cardio and legs. Yay. Gonna be sore as hell tmrw.”

And last, as you see in the example above is the @sign.  It represents the profile mentioned.  @Richard_Flores4 is mine.  When people mention you, this allow their followers a quick click to see your profile.  It results in great exposure.

Some will tell you to do your best to get a Re-tweet or a reply for major celebrity/business page just to get the exposure to a lot of potential fans.  I don’t go that far.  But I do reply to celebrity posts as appropriate.  I mention profiles when it is appropriate to.  And I always try to give a shout out to fellow authors.

Google+

I think this will be the most difficult for the social media novice.  I consider it the love child of Twitter and Facebook.  It does have a lot of the best of both worlds.  You can post things to the public or just to certain circles.  My fellow writers are in one circle, family in another, friends in another, and those I am just following in a fourth.  Once you understand it, and Google has good videos on it, you can start sharing certain posts with certain circles.  Or you can share with all your circle, or the general public.

Google+ is probably the one I use the least.  Mostly because I don’t have many people on there.  But, that is changing over time.  The one major disadvantage to Google+ is that they are taking down profiles that are not “real”.  While I support removing fake profiles, this may pose a problem for those authors that use Pseudonyms.  I don’t use one, so I don’t know how hard they are being on it.

Website

You need a website.  I have one right here.  I choose to combine my Blog and my Website.  Its free to use WordPress, Blogspot, and most other blog sites.  It gives you a free web presence and combines a blog.

Eventually, I will have my own .com, but for now this works.  And all of the social media sites let you place a link to your website on them.  So there is some good cross promotion of your sites.  Here are some things your site should have:

Blog:

You should have  a blog too, even if you have your own .com.  Your blog can be hosted on your own site or separate from it.  Just make sure the two are linked together.  Blogging can be fun, it gets you writing for one.  It also inspires discussion and hopefully inspire new authors.  There are whole articles on blogging and what you need to do with your blog.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Pick a schedule and make sure to post something on it.  For me it is once a week.  For some it is once a month.  It just gives people a chance to know when to look for new posts.
  2. Announce new posts on your social media sites.  This will bring readers.
  3. Allow comments.  Allow commenting to encourage discussion.
  4. Have a Follow tab.  This allows people to set up email alerts when you post something.
  5. Establish some blog rules.  Having some rules will ensure there is less backlash should you have to remove a comment.
  6. Use HTML tags so people can click the word, and see what you are talking about.
  7. Respond to the comments you get.

About Me:

You need an about section on your website.  Tell a little bit about yourself.  This allows readers to know if they found the real you (Imagine how many Richard Flores there are in the world).  It also establishes some of your qualifications to blog on the topics you choose to blog about.

Bibliography:

Put a Bibliography down if you have works published (or have publishing dates for them).  Put links to purchase them and/or read them if you can.  Think of it like your resume.

Contact:

Put a way to be contacted.  Most blogs have a contact us form you can use so you don’t have to share your email if you don’t want.  Also you can link your social media there.  Facebook and Twitter have profile badges you can add to your site homepage.  WordPress even has widgets to use for that too.

Pictures:

In the world of websites, people like to see pictures.  So I urge you to add visual elements to your site.  Its something I still work with all the time.  I also think you need your picture up on the home page.  People like to see who they are talking to.  But that is more of an opinion of mine.

Store:

Put a store up on your site of some kind.  Even if it is just links to Amazon.com’s listing of your book.  I don’t have any books out yet, but when I do, you can rest assured there will be a store up.

Links:

Put up links to other bloggers you enjoy, sites you use regularly, and to other writers you enjoy.

Examples:

You have see my blog as one example of a Wordpess site.  Here are some others:

Robert S. Wilson’s Blog on Blogspot.

Michael R McDuffee and Karen T. Smith uses a blog format on a .com

Orson Scott Card and Jeffrey A. Carver have more elaborate web sites.

Now What?

You have the web presence now in Social Media and with a Website.  Best yet, it can all be done for free.  Now how do you draw attention to yourself.  Well, that requires the real work.

Cross Promote:

Get together with your fellow writers and share their sites.  Share them in blog posts when you can (as I have done here), link them in your social media site, announce when they have books coming out, share their sites in your LINKS page, and promote them as much as you can.  You will be surprised how many will do the same for you.

Comment on other posts:

Comment on blog posts, twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Use your pages to make these comments and drive readership to you.  Reply to all the comments you get.  People like to be acknowledged and it gives everyone a sense of participation.

Link your website on everything:

Put a link to your website on everything within reason.  Any comment form that asks for it, any profile you fill out, add it as a signature to your emails, and post it for your friends.  The more you post it the more clicks you might get.

Brag:

Tell everyone everywhere of your site.  Writer’s Groups, Facebook Pages, Twitter, and other places.  Just make sure you don’t violate Terms of Service and get flagged as SPAM.

Network:

Networking is big business.  Its also hard work.  When you meet new people, you have to be willing to admit you write.  I do it almost every time I meet new people.  I let people know any time the topic comes up.  Go to conventions, writers workshops, and any other place where writers are gathering.  Put together some simple (and usually very affordable) business cards.  Pass them out like candy at every convention, workshop, and function you attend.   Have your name, website, and contact information on there.  You never know who’s hands it will fall into.  Word of mouth is the biggest advertiser out there.

Advertise:

If you have some money to spend, you can advertise your Facebook Page, website, and more.  There are some cheaper ways then others, but this cost money.  If you self publish a book, you may want to spend a bit of money on advertising.  But the rule I always follow for advertising is this:  Never spend more on advertising then you would make if someone buys what you’re selling.  That is to say, if you make $1 profit on every book you sell don’t spend $2 per flier to advertise it.

Summary:

There is obviously many avenues for marketing your work.  Each of these I mentioned could be a whole course of study by themselves.  My hope is this will bring you to a good starting point.  Get you going, and then you can fly on your own from here.

Questions, Comments, or more?  Feel free to comment.

0 views

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?

0 views