I liked your story, but Courier? Oh My G…

In publishing, especially online, we find a great pool of practices and expectations. Tab this way, not that way. When one sent out publications in paper, the manner in which one indented ones paragraphs couldn’t be less important. Now, though, the vagaries of electronic formats, .doc, .docx, .rtf, sounds like some kind of military codebook, but as long as you get that one piece right, everything else is cake. Don’t like the margins? Slide the mouse over there. Boom! Don’t like the font face or size? That control there lets you put it into whatever size you want. Seconds of work, and yet some editors, perhaps weighed down by moveable type blocks, discard works at the drop of a hat for formatting. Formatting, for which, as I went on about in a post last year, there is only an illusion of a standard.

The real kicker, though is that after all this hoop-jumping and managing to produce your art in Times New Roman size 12 with one inch margins, using slider bars to set paragraph indents (not to mention the actual making of the art, the idea, brainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing and polishing)… it’s not their policy to contact you unless they want your piece. That is the equivalent of breaking out the good cologne, actually ironing your shirt and pants for once, digging out the suit coat you haven’t worn since that one friend got married, showing her the town on a whirlwind tour of your favorite nice restaurant, a walk in the park, dancing and drinks, and having her climb out the bathroom window instead of telling you it’s not working out for her.

Oh, hey, you’re still here, yeah, back to the writing thing. No response to a submitted piece is just downright rude and passive aggressive, not saving anyone’s feelings. If you don’t have the time to send me even a two line form letter, you don’t have time to run a publication. I have a hard time culling the list of publications to which I submit, but your door I will gladly never darken again.

In happier news, the quarterly compilation from Mad Scientist Journal with my story, Beginning Botanist’s Guide to Lair Defense, is up on Amazon and Amazon UK and Smashwords. I’ve also been tapped to write a pulp circus novelette which will appear later this year and the table of contents for Emby Press’ Dark Monocle, an anthology of steampunk monster hunting has been released. My story, Spirits of the Season, will appear there soon.

Capes & Clockwork anthology of Steampunk and Superheroes

This is just a quick post to alert reader to my latest publication. The eagerly awaited anthology, Capes & Clockwork, available both through Amazon and B&N, is now available! My story, Aeolus, Chiron and Medusa was partly an experiment in voice and a foray into steampunk. It is not my last, however, as I have a steampunk monster hunter tale coming out through Emby Press and I will be working on other pieces soon.

Currently, I’m trying to polish up a scifi adventure tale on a very different planet, with nary a human in sight, a tale about food and the circle of life, a threshold-crossing tale of terror beyond the veil, and a Queen fighting extraordinary odds to keep her civilization in tact, or at least allow it to survive. It’s a busy month, hopefully the start of a busy an successful year.

And a Happy New Year

Here we are at the start of 2014, and here I am with the obligatory New Years blog post.

2013 was a year of firsts for me, from my first fiction sale to my first pro sale to my first child. It was also the first year I lost NaNo, and while that hurt, it was worth it. I worked on my short fiction, worked for some quick money to keep the family afloat and took care of my son.

2014, I hope, will see more sales, including pro sales. I have some pieces already drafted, outlined, etc. I hope that they will be as well received as my earlier pieces and that I can make real progress on putting out a novel or two. I’ve also started taking my knowledge base more seriously, taking free online courses through a number of outlets. I hope that these will both improve my writing and my ability to make physical things. In that vein, I hope to build myself a home foundry and start casting aluminum pieces for gaming and other purposes.

I have a number of resolutions, from getting back into karate to laying off the Facebook games again (when I began focusing on writing, I gave up on that distraction, but caught up again near the end of last year.) and setting a certain rate of production for myself. Of course, these all come in second to teaching Oliver some basic sign language and keeping him fed and all.

My story “All the Pretty Colors” and a related interview came out in Crossed Genres last night and “Aeolus, Chiron and Medusa” my steampunk superhero story should be available in Capes and Clockwork any day now.

And so I set out, shining a light on new worlds and lives, including my own.
All the best to you an yours in 2014!

Happy Winter!

Happy Solstice, Christmas(time) etc to all of you out there in Internetland!

So it seems as though my will they/ won’t they crisis is averted with regards to Crossed Genres in the coming year. They have received enough new subscriptions that they have decided they can resume printing through June. My story comes out in January, so I look forward to that. I’m also working on a couple of submissions for future issues.

I’ve entered my first writing contest in years. Winners will be announced at the beginning of the month. I also expect some stories I sold earlier in the year to anthologies to be coming out very soon. I’ll you know ;).

For now, I must prepare for my son’s first Christmas, including a Christmas party with friends today and visits with family next week. I also have a stock stuffer for all of you. I’m working on a few winter-/ Christmas-themed short stories for release direct to the Internet next week. What is your platform of choice? Kindle? Nook? Let me know and I’ll try to make it happen.

State of the Stuff, Dec 3, 2013

On the writing front, I have made my ninth sale, putting me one away from my goal of ten for the year. I’ve also entered a contest, something I hadn’t done previously and am looking at writing an essay for the Ladies Home Journal essay contest. Either they’ll be reasonable and allow submissions from males or my submission will be protest against sexism. The rules don’t explicitly ban men from entering, though the descriptions in some places assume female writers.

While indie writing is up, with the advent of the ability to self publish without use of a vanity press, magazine subscriptions continue to fall. As someone hoping to sell stories to these magazines, I have a vested interest in their continuation. Thus, I request anyone who likes to read science fiction or fantasy to go out and subscribe to Crossed Genres magazine. While they will be running one of my stories in January, their survival through next year is put in jeopardy by a dearth of submissions. This would be a shame for not only are they a wonderful magazine, but they go out of their way to publish and interview new writers instead of always publishing old standbys.

This situation is exacerbated by the (relatively) recent news by the SFWA that their requirements for joining will be changing. In a move we haven’t seen in almost a decade, the minimum pay requirements for a market which counts toward ‘professional sales’ will be increased mid-2014 to six cents a word, up from five cents a word, effectively re-defining the ‘professional market’ range for all fiction. Read more on that here. To some, this may sound like a good deal, much like raising the minimum wage. Sadly, it just puts more demand on small publishers to pay more or be left out of the ‘professional’ category, relegating them to the kids’ table, or forcing them to pay more and thus raise the cost of their magazines which have likely already seen a drop in readership in recent years.

Back on a more personal note, life is busy. I’ve just failed NaNoWriMo for the first time ever, after ten consecutive wins. I’d always been able to ‘make time’ by putting other things on hold- not watching as much TV or playing games, etc, but this time around, it was not possible. I did start, and I did get to cheer on a group of friends, new and old in their endeavors, so I got some of the fun, but only a small fraction of a book in the end instead of about half. The next month will be interesting as I navigate even more holidays and try to get a few more pieces out there. As always, thanks to editors who can take the time to give useful feedback and thank you all for reading!

It’s a bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a steampunk superhero!

In preparation for the impending release of Capes and Clockwork, the Steampunk superhero anthology, we’ve done a series of interviews.

I sat down over the Internet with Alexander S. Brown earlier this month to discuss the upcoming collection, his take on Steampunk and his approach to writing.

J: How did you find out about Steampunk? Or what was the first Steampunk story/novel/etc. you read?
A: I found out about Steampunk through author J. L. Mulvihill. I didn’t really comprehend Steampunk until I read Tales from a Goth Librarian by Kimberly Richardson.

J: What interested you in writing for Capes and Clockwork?
A: I became interested in writing for Capes and Clockwork at an extremely early stage. With the Dreams of Steam books and Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, I learned that I enjoyed writing Steampunk. So when I found out there was another Steampunk anthology, I was instantly attracted to the project. When I found out superheros had to be included, I was literally hooked. Although I am not big into superheros, I do enjoy the essentials enough that I have always wanted to create a superhero of my own. This anthology allowed me to experiment and grow.

J: Are you working on any other Steampunk stories? Or do you plan to soon? Or do you have any others out there you’d like to tell us about, provide a link to?
A: I have Steampunk stories in the Dreams of Steam books and Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells. Until recently, I only wrote about specific characters that I recycled into multiple stories. These would be my Xavier Hess stories. I would eventually like to write a story where Hess meets with my superhero. I think those two forces coming together would be fun.

J: Do you incorporate magic/superpowers in your Steampunk? Or try to keep things as focused on technology and basically as realistic as possible?
A: It depends on the submission call. I enjoy writing magic-based Steampunk just as much as technology-based Steampunk.

J: Do you think society would be better off having developed steam power and never having used petrol/petroleum products?
A: Possibly so, it would definitely be less expensive to run steam power vs electricity and gas in this economy.

J: How much do you write each day/week?
A: I write close to 25 to 30 hours a week. Most days its 4 to 5 hours per day.

J: That’s quite a chunk of time. Do you have a routine when you write?
A: I do. Before I write, I normally sit down to enjoy some personal time. I clear my mind and relax and after about thirty minutes to an hour of doing this, I dive into my writing.

J: Do you have a special way of generating story ideas?
A: First, I pick a subject, then I consider how I can make this subject original, and finally I work out all of the fine details.

J: What are you working on now?
A: I am currently editing the sequel to Southern Haunts: Spirits that Walk Among Us. This sequel, Southern Haunts: Devils in the Darkness, is an anthology composed by editor Louise Myers and myself. I recently finished a vintage Halloween collection called The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out which I believe Pro Se Publishing is going to grab. I have my manuscript, Looking Glass Creatures, in the hands of Seventh Star Press, and I’m outlining the sequel to my novel Syrenthia Falls for Dark Oak Press.

J: How do you use social media in regard to your writing?
A: Social media is the way of any modern day author. It allows authors to interact one on one with their readers. It allows them to reach out to other states and countries by doing nothing more than sitting at their computer.

Thanks for the interview, Alexander. Readers can find additional interviews with other authors from this collection here and here.

Breaking on Through

This has been a great year for me in many ways. I now have a son, I get to stay home with him most days and watch him grow, and I have finally started to apply myself to my writing. I sold my first piece, the first piece I sent out this year, right off the bat. I was flabbergasted, but I knew I’d earned it. The few stories I’d sent out previously had been incomplete or lacked polish. But I had been determined to publish something this year and I set myself to that goal from story one. I went through probably six or seven drafts on that first piece, needing it to be the best it could be.

Of course I knew it couldn’t last, as no one sells everything they write unless they’ve made a huge name for themselves. I was right in this, but I did get some helpful feedback on that second story and I think I’ll be reworking it at some point. I’ve been too busy chasing calls for anthologies and themed issues, though, deadlines haunting and taunting me. I’ve made some decent progress.

Last night, though, I received an email I truly didn’t think I’d see in this first year. Of course, this isn’t really my first year writing. I’ve been telling myself stories since grade school and writing down (at times) coherent stories since junior high school or so. I’ve been hardening myself against rejection, and even sent out a few pieces I ‘knew’ wouldn’t make the cut because something was a bit off, even though I couldn’t place the issues. Others, I felt were very good pieces, but perhaps I’d aimed too high as I did back in college when I sent some of my first submissions to places like Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

Thus, I opened a response email from a pro market online magazine expecting to see the usual, “We really liked this story, but it just doesn’t fit into this issue/ we can’t use it at this time, best of luck placing it elsewhere.” I hoped to see some kind of feedback I might use to hone or redirect the story, but while I had psyched myself out, this story was indeed ready for prime time. I am very happy to say that I have had a story accepted by Crossed Genres magazine for their Second Contact themed issue, due out in January of 2014. This is my first professional sale, for which I am grateful and excited on a number of fronts and which I hope will be the first of many.

In other writing news, I’ve done some interviews for the upcoming Capes and Clockwork Steampunk Superhero anthology in which I have a story, “Aeolus, Chiron and Medusa.” I’ll be posting interviews I’ve conducted and links to those in which I’ve been interrogated soon.

I would also like to point out that my Mad Scientist story also went live Monday here! It’s free to read.

State of the Stuff, Oct 1, 2013

My, how the weeks and months speed by when sleep is a rare commodity! Writing and updating this blog have slowed down, but I’m popping in to announce that an anthology, Longest Hours, Thoughts While Waiting (Amazon link), also here (B&N link) is out from Silver Boomer Books with my story, Raptors of the Deep. Also scheduled later this month is an instructional guide at Mad Scientist Journal which is a site posting stories based around… mad science! Experiments, pseudoscientific papers, etc. It’s fun. I’ll post again on or about the date, but it should be the 21st.

Preparations for NaNoWriMo have begun, while work on Knife Money has been slow. While I have a couple of markets I’ll be pursuing for short stories, these will be taking a backseat until the end of the year, in favor of noveling and editing.

During that time, though, I have a couple of additional pieces due out, a steampunk superhero tale and a faerie story about a type of fae called ‘stroke lads.’ While most of my shorts ache to be expanded into longer works, I’ve done some work with this latter and it may end up on the rack soon.

Exposing Myself

There is a somewhat disturbing trend these days, of taking media for granted. Once-respected newspapers fire photography departments and send a new team of interns with cellphone cameras to grab their visuals. Pretty much anything on the Internet is assumed to be free for use or modification. Of course, this also extends to the long-standing tradition of abusing cheap labor in favor of paying fair wages, especially to those who know their craft and its worth. Unlike the interns, those just starting out, they are known and also know that ‘exposure,’ that is getting their names out there, isn’t pay.

Exposure doesn’t keep you warm in the winter, cool in the summer, get you to work, buy you lunch or cover your medical bills. Beyond that, many of the places who undertake this approach to persuading the unwary to use their creative skills on a company’s behalf for no compensation don’t have that great of a distribution in the first place. Exposure is limited if no one is looking.

Of particular interest to me in this vein is the group of small publishers who are so poor that they can’t pay their own fees on sites like Submittable or just generally want to milk authors for their cash as well as their words. If you can’t support the charges for a service, the purpose of which is to make accept a large flow of submissions easier… You probably don’t have enough submissions to warrant using that site.

Sure, some people write because they love it, and they have a day job which needs to supplementing to get by. Bully for them. I do love writing, at least parts of the process, but I also need to try to make a bit of money in the process. Per an argument made by the folks over at Stop Working for Free on Facebook, and to come back around to my opening remarks, the more people provide content for free, the less it is valued, by the publishers, by the readers and viewers, by society. The farther we go down that road, the fewer people will be able to find work creating art in any form.

This is how we get to Hollywood. The true artists get edged out by those who can mass-produce crap cheaply or worse, for free. Would the Sistine Chapel be visited today if someone just slapped a couple of coats up there because nobody cared enough to support Michelangelo as an artist and they hired their nephew to throw some color up there because he was cheap? How many of the great works of art and literature would have been created if those who made them had to do so after a long day in the office or hanging off the back of a garbage truck?