Writing Prompt: Spaceport

Happy almost-NaNoWriMo, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Here’s a writing prompt, from the incredible Jeff Zugale:

Spaceport, Jeff Zugale

The clouds, incidentally, are from a photo by none other than John Sclazi, so double awesome. You can find more of Jeff’s awesome work on his site and art blog, as well as the comic Not Invented Here.

PS Jeff, if you read this, please draw me spaceships.

Come Out Swinging

Because, why not? Let’s just put everyone who hates self-publishing in one corner, and everyone who hates traditional publishing in the other, and have them beat the everloving crap out of each other so they will all finally shut up and we can have some actual progress. In the middle will be Hugh Howey, so he gets double beat up.

We’ll sell tickets. It’ll be grand.

I get it, though. Everyone always wants their way to work, to be the best. And, hey, that’s great. Share what works (and more importantly, what doesn’t). But I think we’re losing focus on what this whole thing is about: getting books into reader’s hands. There is a lot more too it, but those are details. When we- ‘we’ as authors, ‘we’ as publishers, editors, et cetera, start pushing agendas instead of focusing on that goal, well, this crap happens. The machine stalls, and no real progress is made.

The Platonic ideal lies somewhere in the middle, I’m sure, but no one wants to talk about that, or give any ground. If someone comes to me and says “Hey, Dean, I’ll print, distribute, edit and market your book(s) for you and here’s fifty thousand dollars (or, hell, five. I’m easy) up front and then we’ll give you fifty percent”, guess what? I’m taking it. Because damn if that crap isn’t a lot of work I don’t really want to do.

And the alternative is paying someone, and that adds up fast (this is to say nothing of choosing who to hire). And if you do hire someone(s), guess what? You run a publishing company.

If you’re ‘traditionally’ published, read your damn contract. I have heard, first-hand, not some rumor, of publishing companies not holding up their end of the bargain. If you, the author, are having to do everything yourself, then do it yourself. But if not… why the hell would you?

If something works for you, by all means, share it and talk about it. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the only way.

Writing Prompt: Lost World

Today’s writing prompt comes from Lothar Zhou. You can find more at his DeviantArt page or his site.

I wonder what future civilizations, thousands of years from now would make of the relics of our wars.

Lost World, by Lothar Zhou

Lost World, by Lothar Zhou

Six of One…

The internet does not lack for head-shaking pieces opinion pieces- half the time, I am pretty sure that is the very definition of the internet. And certainly it doesn’t lack for pieces on the present state of the publishing, to which I have contributed my fair share. But sometimes (weekly), one comes along that is BOTH, and sets itself above all the other dumbass pieces on publishing.

Here is the most recent example.

He looks smug because he is taking your money and stamping out local businesses, dumbass.

I am an author-publisher. But that doesn’t define me, as either of those things. And the fact that I can publish my own work doesn’t mean that publishing is going to die, nor does it mean that publishing is evil.

The basic premise of the article- the title in fact: “Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers”- is 100% weapons-grade bullcrap. The author instantly asserts that books are published by huge conglomerates. OK, awesome. How is Amazon better? Well, at least with Amazon we know we’ll get honest information and ethical behavior. Except, not. Amazon- unlike a later assertion- doesn’t presently have much in the way of competition, and does anyone actually believe Amazon won’t drop the 70% cut it gives authors the second they have the opportunity to do so? Maybe Hugh Howey, but relying on his opinion of Amazon is kind of like asking the North Korean Director of Propaganda if Kim Jon Il was a good dude.

All this is to say nothing of “the traditional publishing paradigm”, which the author treats as though no one buys a physical book anymore. Except physical books are ~70% of book sales. Scroll down a bit in that link- Amazon isn’t crushing publishing houses; they’re crushing bookstores. Huge conglomerates know how to make money, even if it takes them time to adapt.

Capitalism is capitalism, and nothing is going to change that. Publishing will shift, ebooks will certainly gain marketshare over the next few years, and are sure cheaper to produce than paper ones, but pretending Amazon is in any way better than the publishing companies that are out there is irresponsible and idiotic.

In Response

I sat back, incredulous, believing only that my eyes deceived me. There was no way they were interpreting the light coming from my laptop correctly. Somewhere between that glowing screen and the synapses of my brain, the signal was jumbled. Maybe the problem lay deeper, I though, and clicked refresh. But there it was, plain as day.

Five stars.

Another one.

I dare you to review this book.

I dare you to review this book.

No. Way. Why? How? Who? Questions ran through my scrambled brain, trying to rectify the words I was reading to the apparent fact that they were about words I had written.

best things from Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Firefly“*

A wonderful collection of characters and tales, seeded throughout with colorful snippets of “future history.”*

“skilled story-telling and imaginative world-building“*

“Humanities crowning achievement. A modern wonder of the world, surpassing the first seven.”**

They had to be talking about someone else. Not me. I had to know why. I gchatted my friend, Carey.

“You’ve been reading reviews again, haven’t you?”

Maybe.

“You’re an idiot,” she said, sending me a link to a ridiculous cat gif.

Really helpful. I pressed on in my righteous course. I had to find out who these people were and why they said these things. One of the reviews was from ‘Scott’, as if that would be his real name. I found him on Twitter, and from the looks of it, he likes sports (as if) and runs a blog where he gives thoughtful, balanced reviews to a lot of SciFi books. He even writes. Probably writing these nice reviews in order to get attention.

What a monster.

Maybe I’m crazy, I thought. Should I just leave it alone? But then- he lives not to far from here. An hours drive…

A couple minutes of Googling later, and I have his home and work address, phone numbers and a disturbingly descriptive account of an incident with a banana in grade school.

Obviously Carey was no help, so I tried Megan.

“Hey.”

“Don’t do it, you moron.”

“I haven’t even said anything yet.”

“Carey told me.”

“Already?”

“Yes. Don’t. Do. It.” More links to gifs, this one from that show, with the guy giving the side eye. Apparently it’s funny because his name is Dean.

They don’t understand. Don’t they get it? These reviews could make me. If people read them, they might buy my book, and I might make enough to write full-time. So I have to meet him. I have to know.

Maybe I should call first. Yeah, I’ll do that. The phone rings, his ringback tone is that damn Happy song, because of course it is.

“Hello?”

My blood is ice when he answers. What am I even going to say?

“Hi. Scott?”

“Yeah.”

The man’s nerve is not to be believed. He doesn’t even deny his online persona. Who does that? Monsters, that’s who.

“Hey, uh Scott. You write a book blog, right?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“What’s your review policy?”

He goes on about it for awhile, never even denying anything. He’s super pleasant the whole time.

The nerve of this guy.

“so, yeah, feel free to send it over. You have my email?”

Oh, I have your email, Scott.

The exchange rattles around in my brain for the next few days. I want more. I’m not satisfied. He needs to explain himself. I want him to say, “Yes, I’m Scott Whitmore and I gave your book five stars.”

I need to see him, face-to-face, man-to-man, and possibly several other arbitrary pairings. So it is, I am sitting in his driveway, holding my breath, ready for the exchange. I don’t know what I’m going to say, my mind is a cold London night in a fog as I walk up the drive. I exhale as my knuckles reach the door- the die is cast.

The door opens. It’s him.

“Hi, Scott,” I say.

“Do I know you?”

“It’s Dean.”

His face is blank. “You reviewed my book.”

“Oh! Hey! Yeah, man. I really liked it. What are you doing here?” I feel guilty for lying on the phone before. But I have to see it through,

“I… I wanted to know why.”

He looks puzzled. “I… I really liked it.”

Relief washes over me. “Oh. Cool.” What now? “How about the Mariners?”

“It was a fun season! Want a beer?”

Yeah, Scott. Yeah I do.

**NOTE: The people mentioned in this post are real, and are wonderful, and I don’t think Scott has a weird grade-school story involving a banana. Megan and Carey would send me gifs, tho**

*from real reviews of 3024AD.

**This one is not.

Introducing: The Venturess

Today, over at Nerds Feather, I introduced my new project, The Venturess. It is an ongoing science fiction choose-your-own-adventure. Every other week, a new story will be posted. Readers will then have a week to vote on what happens next, and then a week later, the next story will be posted. Head over and read the first installment!

The State of Things Address

I realize I have been mostly dormant on here, but I wanted to take a moment and catch everyone one up on what is going on.

Remember back in December/January, when 2014 was new and full of opportunity and wonder? Well, for me at least, 2014 has been terrible on pretty much every front. I won’t delve in to many details, but it has all-around been kind of a nightmare. It will come as a surprise to exactly no one that I never really fit in super well in the 9-to-5 working world, and that has caught up to me in a big way. On the plus side, it has driven home that what I want to do is write.

About that:

I have (again) changed (day) jobs in order to focus more on writing. This is freeing up a lot of time for writing, although not nearly as lucrative. But, hey: hopefully it will lead to writing actually being so. So what does that mean for you, the reader, and my getting words in front of you?

I don't really have an appropriate picture for this post, so here is Gir dancing.

I don’t really have an appropriate picture for this post, so here is Gir dancing.

Over the last year or so, I have started several projects. I dearly love 3024AD, but I don’t want that to be the only thing I write, and neither do you. It struck me that, since 3024AD is all short stories, my debut novel is still to come (which was what 3024AD was supposed to be, but it lends itself to the short story format). I will talk a little about those projects, but first the 3024AD:

3024AD: Short Stories Series One: The second edition is well on its way. The only hold-up at this point is the printing process, and I am weeding through printers. CreateSpace does a great job, but I’d rather avoid Amazon (obviously) and would prefer someone more local and/or better. So. Not exciting to talk about, unless you really like looking at proofs. Once I select one, I am at the mercy of how long it will take to print and ship them. After that, they will be in the hands of the Kickstarter backers, then stores.

3024AD: Short Stories Series Two: Meanwhile, I have been working on the rest of the 3024AD universe. I had planned on having two short story collections and one novel, but I have scrapped that. Since a lot of the stories are taking place concurrently, a novel would feel clunky. So I have re-outlined much of it, so all three main storylines will now be told in short story format. I think you will all like it.

New Project No. 1: I really dig the look and feel of a lot of steampunk stuff, even if I never really got into the whole world/scene of it. Plus, my mind always works forward, so regressing to Victorian/steam powered stuff doesn’t really fit the whole ‘write what you know’ thing. But in doodling around with it, I wrote a short I really liked, with a character I really, really liked. Instead of steam, I have looked forward to a sort of post-apocalyptic world where clean energy is prevalent. So it has light prop-driven planes, zepplins and a world trying to survive in the wake of pollution destroying the environment (I call it ‘Clean Punk’).

It’s not as much of a statement as that makes it sound. Well, maybe it is.

New Project No. 2: I’m not quite ready to pull the curtain off this one yet. But it is an incredibly fun novel, with monsters. And robots. And spaceships. Basically, it is the epitome of ‘write what you know’. (speaking of monsters, check out Sara Amundson’s Make-A-Monster. You can be a monster!)

New Project No. 3: The full reveal will be tomorrow, but here’s the short version: it’s a SciFi choose-your-own-adventure story. Best part: Totally free. It will be posted bi-weekly online, and after each post, you, the reader, will get to vote on what happens next! All the details will be reveal tomorrow over at Nerds Feather!

So that’s what’s going on with me. Thanks for all your support!

DESR

Writing Prompt: End of the Line

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but this one jumped out at me. It’s called End of the Line, by Stephen Zavala. See if you come up with anything:

End of the Line, by Stephen Zavala

Booktrack Social Promo

If you haven’t already, head over to BookTrack and check out ‘Unforgiving’. BookTrack is a free service that adds sound effects, music and ambient noise to a story. It gives it a very movie-like feel (I wrote some about it for Nerds Feather).

WOO Free Stuff!

WOO Free Stuff!

The reason I bring it up is because ‘Unforgiving’ has moved to #3 on the ‘most popular’ list over there, but still has just under 500 reads. One of the things I have seen is that very nearly everyone who has read my work enjoys it- even if they don’t usually like SciFi or short stories. As many of you know, one of the biggest obstacles in writing is getting people to find and read you- even $5 on an unproven commodity can be a hard sell. I think BookTrack, as a free service, can be a great way of turning it into a proven commodity. If thousands of people have read something, and it has a high rating, it means it’s probably pretty good, right?

So, in order to get more eyes (and, in this case, ears) on it, I’m going to run a social promo for it. All you have to do is read it, and then share it on the social media channel(s) of your choice. Once ‘Unforgiving‘ hits 1,500 reads, I’ll pick five random people* to receive a 3024AD swag pack (stickers, zipper pull, pin and, ya know, the book).

So there you have it- read a free story, win free stuff! As always, thank you and enjoy!

-DESR

*sorry, but US and Canada only

Getting Over Yourself

Allow me to present two truths:

1. No one likes being rejected

2. If you seek to write professionally, you will be rejected.

Bummer, right? It seems every day, on some form of social media, someone is bemoaning a rejection. Not that this is bad- that’s just point number one up there. But, as a writer, you know it’s coming. Even the best of the best, the most well-loved and revered authors were rejected. In some cases, much more harshly than you or I ever will be. So how do you get over it and move on?

It's not as bad as all that

It’s not as bad as all that

It starts, I think, with what’s inside. Artists are, generally speaking, kind of an insecure bunch, particularly when it comes to their own works. So when the work is rejected, that makes it sting that much more. But, as point 2 states up there, it’s gonna happen, so my advice? Expect, revel in it, and just accept that. That’s not to say you’re going to (or should be happy), but do this: when you get a rejection, set a timer of some sort. That’s your time to feel crappy about it. When that time is up, it’s over. Tell yourself to bury it and move on. Or, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal: Have another something ready to submit. Rejection from one place? Fine. I’ll submit something somewhere else. They don’t need you? You don’t need them.

Sometimes there is a silver lining as well- it is a pretty saturated market out there, after all- and most of us are eager to sign the first chance we get, be that for short fiction or some book deal. But how many stories have you heard of someone passing up an offer, and then getting a better one? So maybe the short story you submitted to the place that pays $0.01/word will get picked up by Fireside. Or you pass up a small press and get signed to a big one. Step back from the rejection, and look at the big picture- maybe they did you a favor.

Speaking of the big picture- there is simply so many people submitting to so many markets, you’re going to get left out sometime. Your work might still be fantastic, but those are the numbers. Besides, would you really want everything you wrote to be accepted? Sure, the paydays would be nicer, but what motivation would you have to improve? Would readers want all you, all the time?

So- take it in stride as best you can, and be the best writer you can and it will all (probably) work out.

-DESR

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