Monday, December 5, 2011

Welcome, Readers!

Hello. Thanks for dropping by!

Up until now, this blog hasn't been overburdened with visitors.

But I've provided some links to it in the two free e-books I just released, so I expect that maybe there will be some occasional traffic now.

If that's indeed how you found this place, you're most welcome here.

If you're curious as to what I'm putting out next, lately I've been working on a novelette called The Dreaming Game, which I expect will weigh in at about 15,000 words or so. I'll release it as a 99 cent e-book just as soon as I finish it.

I'm not sure when that will be. I should have the first draft completed in a couple of weeks, but I may want to put it away for a bit before I do the final revision. I was hoping to have it ready for the Christmas Season, what with its explosion of new e-reader owners and all—but hopefully a few of them will still be downloading books in January or February.

After that, I have some other story ideas that are bubbling inside me—but if I get any positive feedback on Saviors of the Galaxy, maybe I'll buckle down and finish that novel first, before I do anything else.

Unfortunately, I'm prone to procrastination. But if there was ever a time for me to put my nose to the grindstone, I believe this has got to be it

I've already basically done the cover for Dreaming Game, though, so at least that won't hold things up. I may change the color of the graphics. Or perhaps not.

Here, take a gander:

Like several other of the covers I've done, it was made with the Windows 98 Paint program and an old version of MS Power Point (or Powerpoint, or however you're supposed to write it).

For the most recent cover (the one I did for Incident on Sugar Sand Road, a short story), I upgraded to the Windows XP Paint program, but as far as I can tell it's identical to the earlier version—I had to switch computers a couple of months ago, otherwise I'd have stayed with Windows 98.

I'm on one hell of a shoestring budget, if you should happen to wonder why I've chosen this whole route.

I was a lot happier with the Saviors cover before I released it, to tell you the truth. If you've read the book you probably figured out by now that the green fuzz on the buildings is vegetation, but I do have to wonder—what do people who haven't downloaded the book make of it? And the colors, which looked all right as a bitmap file, seem to look a little yucky as a PNG file.

Whatever. Anyway, right now I'm happy with the Dreaming Game cover. As soon as I release it I may decide it's too weirdly abstract or something, but I was trying to create an image that would look interesting as a thumbnail—which is how most people will first see it—and I wasn't worried about making it look realistic.

Overall, I'm having a lot of fun with my foray into electronic publishing.

That's not really reflected in some of this blog's posts, I'm afraid. I've been guilty of pontificating about e-publishing vs. traditional publishing when the fact of the matter is that I'm just another opinionated writer jumping on that viral bandwagon because Indie publishing feels so very right for me.

I've already detailed the reasons why—but there was no need to keep making an issue of it, was there? I'm just one among many aspiring writers who got trampled in the rush over the years, and I've blogged about that too. I live out in the middle of freaking nowhere, and I've never even set foot in New York (unless JFK airport counts), and it was just plain silly of me to imply that I had intimate acquaintance with the ins and outs of the publishing world.

Anyway, I'm happy with the way things are going right now. There's room for all of us, after all. Isn't there?

Happy Holidays, everybody.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Gradient between Science Fiction and Fantasy

What is Science Fiction? What is Fantasy? What do they have in common? How are they different?

You might as well try to write a grammar book. What is a verb?  Define it, please!

Okay, whatever.

Back when people were living in caves, if Ugh the storyteller came up with a neat little tale about how those fluffy white things in the sky were sentient beings of some sort, and how when they darkened and poured down torrents of water it meant this thing or that thing, the tribe gave him a chunk of meat to eat even though he hadn’t been involved in the hunt.

That was a pretty good deal for Ugh. If he was a thoughtful person maybe he really believed his story was possible. Perhaps he was actually engaged in honest speculation. So let’s call him the prototypical science-fiction author.

On the other hand, maybe Ugh was a mystic who truly believed the clouds were departed spirits or whatever. So was he a fantasist, then? Well, if you allow the concept of "spirits" into your worldview in the first place, is it really mysticism at all? I would answer no. So Ugh should be considered a mainstream author in that case.

And in fact, since the estates of ancient cave dwelling authors aren't protected by current copyright law, you could legitimately riff on one of his old stories without fear of consequence: Cloud People—Today's Generation. 

Ah, but you know that clouds aren't sentient beings, don't you? Then I'm sorry to tell you this, bub, but you've just moved into the fantasy authors' ghetto. The welcome wagon will be along to visit you shortly.  

Now, at some point, some bright soul in Ugh's tribe probably noticed that water evaporates in the sun. And sooner or later people will generally notice that fog and mist feel wet, and that they both resemble clouds. So eventually the tribal consensus would have been that clouds are a form of water.

But as long as nobody could prove it, well, we'd still have some wiggle room.

Nevertheless, if Ugh's grandson had continued the "sentient cloud" series a generation later, when everybody finally "knew" that clouds were made of water, he'd probably also have been labeled a fantasy author.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

I recently saw a great article by Lois McMaster Bujold on this subject (it was on the CD-ROM that was included with Cryoburn). She opined that science fiction aficionados were seeking a "sense of wonder", whereas fantasy buffs were looking for a "sense of the numinous".

She's written some great stuff in both genres, so I'm inclined to listen to her.

Now, she didn't say this, but it seems to me that the "sense of wonder" people are basically in awe of the natural universe but don't care to have dogmatic explanations shoved down their throats. Which means their ranks will include atheists (who are quite the dogmatists themselves, ironically enough), agnostics (some of whom could go either way), and a large group of quite sensible people who intuitively have faith and are open to amazing possibilities.

Conversely, I think the "sense of the numinous" folks are more in awe of the very fact of existence itself, and are a little less blown away by its outward manifestations.. They wish to find something they're longing for rather than to discover something new.

What something? Again, their ranks will include many sorts of folks, and their answers to that question will vary all over the map.

There, is that all vague enough for you?

Obviously, the two fandoms aren't mutually exclusive. There are people who like both genres.

As far as that goes, lots of scientifically-minded people have a mystical/religious streak. I fall into that category myself. And I definitely like both genres.

How about you?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In this brave new world of indie publishing, obviously there will be many more stories published then there were under the old system. They will be written by writers in various stages of development and with wildly varying degrees of flair. We all know it's inevitable.

Readers and critics may be more understanding then we think. We've at least got enthusiasm and passion going for us, and people may pick up on that. Hey, slush could become fashionable. It might even become an area of study.

Stranger things have happened. If things do turn out that way, remember—you learned about it here first.

I can think of at least one precedent for my prediction—The Eye of Argon

But I digress.

In my home genre of science fiction, there have been many tides of fashion over the years. I'm betting we'll soon be revisiting a lot of them.

For example, once there was something called New Wave. In its heyday (the mid-to-late-1960s and the early 1970s) it indeed seemed novel and exciting. I won't attempt to define it, exactly, but there was a certain psychedelic stream-of consciousness aesthetic to a lot of it, and literary pretensions absolutely abounded—but they were good-hearted pretensions, all in all, and a lot of good stuff got published. Some writers were pigeonholed as New Wave whether they embraced the movement or not (which was probably good for them commercially), but others felt left out who needn't have doubted their own coolness. It was a heady time.

There are probably at least a few writers who still wish to mine that particular vein of ore. And now they can all be published.

Then there was that whole "Del Rey Books fantasy gravy train" back in the 1980s. That was when Tolkien-style fantasy became viable as a separate genre in its own right (to the point where the Science Fiction Writers of America changed their name to the Science fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, thus cleverly keeping their acronym), due mainly to the vision of one Judy-Lynn Del Rey, who was surely as influential an editor in her own time as John W. Campbell was in his.

Even now a boatload of fantasy writers are doubtless waiting in the wings—including some younger ones inspired by Tolkien's timeless tale who missed that early-80s tsunami of stuff the first time around—and they're all hoping we'll love them. Some of them could even attain their desire.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Cyberpunk at this point, but I'm durned if I have a lot to say about it. On the whole, I think it took itself too seriously, but I have to acknowledge the sheer brilliance of William Gibson, and the Cyberpunk aesthetic has certainly been an influential one, even on me—George's databand in Saviors of the Galaxy owes something to Cyberpunk, I think (although I first encountered the concept of 'jacking in' in Samuel R, Delany's Nova, way back in the New Wave era). But I have to admit I resisted reading Cyberpunk solely for the sake of its supposed importance. Which probably means that I missed out on some good stuff.

Might there yet be a few Cyberpunk authors out there hoping to wow us all with their visions?  What do you think?

I'll give one final example of an SF trend (though I could probably think of others): Starting in the early 1960s there was a vogue for something you might call Science Fantasy. Examples would include Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight series, Ursula K. LeGuin's first novel Rocannon's World, many of Andre Norton's novels including the Witch World series, Leigh Brackett's Ginger Star trilogy, and Frank Herbert's Dune series.

There. I've finally gotten around to what I actually wanted to talk about. I don't know how fashionable Science Fantasy might be at the moment, but it's the sort of thing I want to write. And I'll have more to say on the topic in my next installment.

Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Writing as a career

Fred Pohl once remarked; "The good news about writing as a career is that the income curve is asymptotic. The bad news is that it starts at zero." It wasn't till the early '90s that I started making enough money to actually live on and support my family—Lois McMaster Bujold, in an interview that appeared on

I'm sharing this quote because it touches on the careers of two people in the topmost rank of my pantheon of admirable writers.

Frederik Pohl, in his memoir The Way the Future Was, recounted that he felt like a failure during the first year of his first marriage, but that certain things he wrote that year continued to earn money over the course of his lifetime, and that in retrospect he realized he'd spent his time more wisely then he knew.

Ms. Bujold informs us it was almost a decade before she could earn a comfortable living as a writer. Yet I can't think of another SF author in the last thirty years who has had a more enviable career than she has.

One thing they have in common is that neither of them gave up.

Food for thought, that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Look to the Future, part 3

Okay, so I'm a published writer now, in the sense that my first book is available to the public.

So far, it has sold just one copy on Smashwords (so you could also say I've already made my first buck in this business). And as of midnight tonight [this particular paragraph was written on Tuesday, August 30], it will have been out for two whole weeks, officially.

But I didn't choose Smashwords because I expected a lot of sales there. I chose it because I was broke, and they're a free service.

And because of all the places they'll eventually distribute my book to. It's actually a pretty amazing deal they're offering.

They're very up front about your financial prospects with them, including the fact that their own retail operation is very small potatoes. 80% of your sales, they hasten to assure you right at the beginning, will come from retailers other than Smashwords itself. Keep your expectations low, they caution you, Many authors never even sell a single book, they point out.

Fair enough. But still--I'm human enough to have entertained fantasies of being an immediate breakout phenomenon with unprecedented sales right off the bat.

Sigh. Okay. So that didn't happen.

But my book has now qualified for the Smashwords Premium Catalogue, which means it will soon be distributed to Barnes and Noble, the Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, and--by the end of the year--Amazon. And then there's Stanza, which seems to be a way for people to read books on their cell phones--not that I can see why anybody would want to do that, but if Stanza can earn me a few extra bucks I will gladly go along with the gag.

None of this stuff is totally instantaneous. My book has already appeared at Diesel ebooks, but so far it isn't available anywhere else (besides Smashwords), although it's been distributed to Kobo and should show up there any minute now.

I looked at my Smashwords account page earlier this evening, and my book won't be distributed to anybody else, though, until the end of this week.

So. Not instantaneous, but not unreasonably delayed, either. In my opinion.

Reports of sales won't be instantaneous either, and neither will royalty statements. But Smashwords does pay out royalties four times a year, which is much better than traditional NYC-based print publishing ever managed. And likewise, data about sales seems to be on a much faster track than it generally was with traditional publishing.

As fascinated as I am by all this stuff, none of it is really under my direct control. So what am I doing to secure my future?

Writing like mad, that's what.

Anyway, I'm planning to write like mad. Just as soon as I give my trailer a good cleaning. And wash my truck.

Oh, and I mustn't neglect maintaining my presence in the blogoshpere. Gotta keep my name out there, and all that. And there sure are a lot of interesting blog convos going on right now.

Maybe too many.

Still. The best way for me to move forward is to write, publish, and repeat--a formula I first encountered on Kris Rusch's website. So that's what I'm going to be doing.

Soon. Any day now.

At some point I'll also take the opportunity to learn more about computer art and graphics, because I do feel compelled to keep on creating my own covers.

Likewise, there will come a time when I'll need to embrace learning what it really means to be publisher as well as writer. Smashwords is certainly my home base for now, but somewhere down the line it might be advantageous for me to deal with all the various sales outlets directly.

And then there's the POD option. CreateSpace or Lightning Source? I'll need to check that out, because eventually I also want to offer a hardcover print version of my book, on Amazon, at least, since POD makes it so very possible for indie writers like me to do so.

And one of my own personal priorities will be marketing to libraries. How to do that? I'm confident that the quality of a POD book these days will be more than acceptable to potential buyers. But how exactly does one go about cracking the library market?

Wow, I've still got a lot to learn.

But I won't really need to know how to create a spiffy cover, or to make my hardcover edition attractive to librarians, until I have written--at the least--two more actual additional books.

So. Write, publish, and repeat. Let the buyers and readers find you in their own good time. And let the chips fall where they may.

That's the strategy I'll be embracing.

For now.

Just as soon as I can finish cleaning out my truck.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Look to the Future, Part 2

There was a very interesting post on Joe Konrath's blog yesterday. I'm still in the process of absorbing all the implications it raised.

In a nutshell, the only constants in this publishing dance we're all engaged in are writers and readers. Everything else is variable.

That had already occurred to me, actually.

It's perfectly true that things are always changing. Two months ago I had only the very faint hope that I might someday sell something to Tor or Baen. Today I already have my first e-book out, and it's just been approved for the Smashwords Premium Catalogue. Which means it'll be available on quite a few websites other than Smashwords soon, including Apple, Sony, Barnes and Noble, and a number of others. If Borders was still in business it would be available there, too, and by the end of the year it will also be available on Amazon. I don't have to do anything further to facilitate any of this. It's already a done deal.

Now, some writers are apparently afraid that all this great new stuff will change suddenly or go away entirely.

Well, yeah, things always go away. We don't have any control over that. Smashwords could go bust tomorrow. Amazon could drop their royalty rate from 70% to, let us say, 10%. There aren't any guarantees. Like I said, that had already occurred to me.

I don't think any of that is very likely right now. But what do I know? Let's just say nothing would surprise me.

I do think it's silly for writers to wring their hands and worry themselves over stuff they can't change. I think they're fixating on the wrong thing. They're focusing on how they get published, when they should actually be focusing on how they find, build, and continue to reach their potential readership.

It's not too soon to prepare for change, of course. That's why I'll be going back to Joe Konrath's blog today and trying to fully absorb all that was said there yesterday.

I'm a huge beneficiary of the largesse of strangers right now. Smashwords has let me put out my e-book, my way (that's their slogan, in fact) to occupy virtual shelf-space alongside everybody from Stephen King and John Grisham to Mary Shelley and Katherine Stockett. For free. Blogspot has given me this very website, also for free, where I could even sell things if I wanted (like e-books—mine, and maybe yours; someday we might not even need Smashwords or Amazon).

These things are assets. I'm grateful for them. And as long as I've got them, I intend to take advantage of them.

That's all for now. Thanks for dropping by.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Look to the Future

Let me repeat something that's already been said elsewhere: publishing is moving into the future at lightspeed velocity.

Writing and storytelling? Not so much. These ancient and honorable arts remain durable, though they may soon take radical new forms—but if you're a practiced practitioner thereof, trust me, you're still gonna be in demand—even if you ain't that all that radical.

But on the business side, wow, I feel like a spectator at an insanely rapid sporting match where the rules keep changing daily and new players can join the game at any moment. You may not even notice them until you collide with them unexpectedly.

A heck of a lot of stuff has happened this week.

John Locke, of whom I'd never heard before a month ago, and whose work I have not yet had a chance to read, just got an Indie writer's dream deal. He keeps all of his e-rights, and all of his more traditional other rights, and Simon and Schuster will print, distribute, and promote his books in paper form. I don't actually know if he got an advance (probably), or has to submit to editing (that's optional, I'm guessing, but he might want to take advantage of that), or if they'll supply the cover art (almost certainly, but he probably retains the final say-so), but any way you slice it, that seems like a really good deal to me.

It's just that I really didn't think such a thing was possible. I thought we were all lined up over here, and they were all dug in over there.

Just shows what I know.

But I'll damn sure be keeping it in mind. I'd like to have a print publisher someday, but I don't want to give up my e-rights. And I'll bet I'm not the only one who feels that way.

I'm reminded of an interview with musician Steve Miller that I saw in Guitar Player magazine back in the 1970s:

"--but what we did was we really revolutionized the contract. Everybody wanted us; we had we had three major companies really bidding for us. They could see that we were better than most of the bands that were around at that time. So we negotiated for about ten months, and we got all of our studio costs, half the advance, a five album contract; we were given complete control over pictures, advertising, anything they did on us. It had to be approved by us, which was unheard of then. Plus, we got a really hot royalty. We were making twice what the Beatles or the [Jefferson] Airplane were making on royalties. Then we turned around and just gave it away to Quicksilver [Messenger Service] and everybody else--[we] said, "Hey, this is what a contract is." Because it was my attitude that record companies had always historically cheated musicians."

In other news, Smashwords has finally announced that they'll be distributing to Amazon by the end of this year.

For me, these are welcome tidings. The next item on my agenda was going to be investigating what it would take to publish on Amazon—I'm aware of their "Amazon Direct" option, but I don't yet know the specifics (though I'll certainly investigate the matter when I can find the time)—but my gut tells me I'm better off just focusing on my writing now, because there's no way I can have my next book ready for publication any sooner than late November anyway, and if Smashwords is at last ready to put my books on Amazon, I'm just as happy to let them.

So for now, I'm thinking, the future looks bright.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Left Brain, Right Brain

I'm adopting a several new approaches to my writing—or at least I'm thinking about doing so.

In the past, I've always just jumped right in and started writing. This is the approach Stephen King recommends in his book, On Writing, and it seems to be the way Robert A. Heinlein worked, as well, as documented in Grumbles from the Grave—but it's certainly not the way every writer works, and it may not even be the way most writers work. I wonder if anyone's ever taken a survey?

Sometimes, in my case, there has been a kind of pre-planning document that came first, where I sort of told myself a bit about the story in order to get it clear in my mind (or at least enough about it to get started), and sometimes, later on, when I've gotten stuck I've had to do a similar bit of writing about the next part— the part I was having trouble focusing on—in order to continue.

More often, though, I've actually started with worldbuilding and exposition and so forth before I even had much of a story.

Saviors of the Galaxy is a case in point. In the first draft, the conversation between the human and the alien he meets in a bar was considerably longer then what it wound up being because the human was explaining what the hell he was doing way out in that part of the galaxy to me, as well as to the alien. Once I had it all straight, I was able to cut that scene considerably.

And it may still be too long—it just might be a little too much infodumping to lay on a reader all at once. In the end, I decided to keep it because I felt it was interesting infodumping, and because I felt I had whittled it down to a bare minimum, but I don't think I'll be doing much of that sort of thing in the future.

If you want to see what I'm talking about first-hand, the first 35% of my book Incident on Sugar Sand Roand and other stories is free for anyone to sample, and it includes the scene I'm talking about. If you care to take the time, I'd love to hear what you think.

Anyway, what I think I'll be doing from now on is making the pre-planning document (a sort of mutant hybrid between a synopsis and an outline, with lots of cryptic notes to myself) a definite first stage of any serious project, and putting a little more work into it.

I did just exactly this recently, during the week I was without a computer. First I wrote (on paper, with a pen) quite a bit about the universe the story was going to be set in. This was satisfying to the creative side of my brain, and I generally did this at night.

The next morning I would look at what I had come up with, and if I felt that warm creative glow I would continue—but if I didn't, I would look at what I had with a more critical eye, checking for lapses in logic or continuity or whatever. This was satisfying to the analytical side of my brain, and it's something you have to do at some point anyway. Better to do it before you've gone too far down a wrong turn, I've come to think.

Next I wrote a bit about my characters. I had hazy, vague notions about them, but they came into sharp focus once I'd written a little bit about them—a cave girl and a barbarian swordsman, from two different cultures—and three or four paragraphs apiece was all I needed to write.

Then came the story itself, and this is really the first time I've tried to think one through in advance. I'm not talking about plotting, a story, or structuring it so much as discovering it for myself for the first time—in essence, it's a really abbreviated, condensed first draft that I'm talking about here. Writing is creative, in my way of looking at things, and plotting is more analytical—and I agree with Stephen King that it's not exactly trustworthy.

Thinking about it all and setting it down, though—telling myself the story, in other words—was again satisfying to my creative half.

But toward the end I got a little stuck for a bit. The girl, Teshua, and the barbarian, Denegor, had reached Denegor's home city, and Teshua was out of the predicament that had driven the tale up until then.

At this point I started to flounder a bit. What came next?

I flirted with the idea of having Denegor sell Teshua to a brothel—but really, I wondered, what was the point? He's a barbarian, to be sure, but he's not really such a bad guy...

That was when I found myself involuntarily switching gears again from creative to analytical. It's not something you want to do in the same writing session, usually, or at least that's how I feel about it, but this time it was helpful; I was able to clear the blockage that was stopping me. The theme of the story, I realized, was hope. Poor Teshua has been driven from her home into a big wide scary universe she has some mistaken notions about, but she never gives in to despair. Why not?

Because she has hope. It's internal, and the loss of everything else in her life doesn't take it away. Of course she can never rely on anything outside herself again, and that does include Denegor—but it's also true for him; and Teshua realizes this whether he does or not.

At that point I was able to come up with a much more satisfying conclusion to the whole segment.

What I'm going to do next is transcribe the story in detail from the notes I've written so far. There will be enough new things to discover, I believe, that it will be fun. I think it will go fast and that I'll probably be able to do it in a warmly creative sort of mood.

And then I'll just leave it alone for a bit.

See, that's another thing I'm changing about the way I work. No more endless tinkering. I still have some early drafts of Saviors of the Galaxy and they're not really that much tighter or better than the finished product, in spite of the fact that I've been fiddling with that story for years. This is in itself a sort of revelation. There are passages I altered a dozen times, to the point where I probably wound up changing it back to what I had in the first place. That's just silly.

As far as I'm able, I've come to think it will be a good idea to keep the two halves of my mind separate, and work on different stages of the work on different days.

So that's what I plan to do. Thanks for taking the time to read, and thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Having Passion for Something You Do

Way back in 1976, as I recall, I read an article in Guitar Player magazine about the founding of Alligator Records.

 It was a Blues label, and at that time Blues as a musical form was at its lowest ebb ever. African-American music was still alive and kicking, but it had grown slick and commercial. There weren’t that many black musicians back then who wanted to be involved even with 1960s-style R&B--much less the blues—because they mostly wanted to be part of that polished “Philadelphia Sound” (think of The Commodores, featuring Lionel Ritchie—or of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes). Or, failing that, they all wanted to jump on the Disco bandwagon, God help us.

Young white American musicians of the era weren’t too keen on the Blues, either. The Ramones from NYC were the prototype, but Punk Rock--imported from the UK—was all the rage, as I remember, and the blues-based psychedelic hippie jam bands of the 1960s were scorned and abandoned.

Alligator Records, based out of Chicago—for many years itself a bastion of the Blues—was formed when its founder, Bruce Iglauer,  noticed that there were still a lot of Blues cats practicing their craft at small clubs in the Windy City even though their music wasn’t “trendy” any more. They were playing out every night for small audiences because they loved it, and they didn’t care about “making it big”. They just wanted to play their music.

They had a passion for what they were doing.

Blues music is of course much healthier these days (as is the jam band scene, now that I think of it), and some of those musicians are still going strong. They’ve had respectable careers doing something they loved because they followed their hearts.

Fast-forward to the present.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the blogosphere of late, checking out the blogs of indie writers like myself. One refrain I’ve heard repeated over and over again is how excited so many of us are about the opportunities that now lie before us.

Some writers are overjoyed to release their work to the world for free. That’s a beautiful thing right there, and I’m glad for them.

Others of us are hoping to derive some income from our work somewhere down the line, but one thing we all share is a passion for what we’re doing.

But those are topics for another day. Because, right now, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite computer tech—the guy who just saved my ass--a young man named Jesse Warne.

Here’s somebody else who’s got a passion for what he does. When I asked him how he got started in computer repair, he told me he read a big thick book about A+ Computer certification when he was 14 years old.

And never looked back.

He installed the hard drive from my old computer into a slightly newer computer that was light-years ahead of what I’d had before. He offered me so many options that my head grew dizzy. Any glitch in the path was promptly countered by a wizardly click into an obscure corner and some well-placed lines of type. I was very impressed.

If you live in Western North Carolina, Jesse’s services are available for hire. Overnight service or in-home, virus removals, custom PCs, upgrades, networks, and consultation. This is a very articulate young man who really knows his stuff, and I highly recommend him.

His business slogan is Best Rates; Guaranteed Services; Fast. Marvelous, don’t you think?

A lot of computer repair people are just in the business because they completed a course, or it seemed like a good direction to follow, or they thought it might be a good career path.

Jesse’s a computer tech because it’s a calling of his heart. That’s the sort of person you want fixing your computer, because he knows way more solutions then somebody who’s just going through the motions. 

Visit his website at                     

And do tell him that I sent you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My book is available at Smashwords!

Finally! Looks like my little roadside pop stand is open for business at last.

Take a peek at my book here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Decisions, decisions

I've been making quite a few of them lately, most of them connected with my ongoing journey as a writer.

Earlier this year I was just a lifelong writer with a number of unfinished works-in-progress. There was one in particular I felt pretty good about, a novel called Saviors of the Galaxy that was about two-thirds of the way done.

I was in no particular hurry to finish it, although I'm sure I'd have gotten around to it eventually.

Because--according to the 2010 Writer’s Market--there were only 3 major SF publishers that would look at an unagented manuscript anyway.

I had tried to get a novel published once before, in the mid 90s (when there were many more places where you could submit your work) and I had found the process to be somewhat discouraging, even then.

You sent your novel off to the first publisher on your list. And then you waited.

(Actually, even then few of them would look at a complete manuscript--they wanted to see a "proposal": three chapters and a synopsis. Or, wait a minute, some of them wanted to see a query letter first.

All the writers whose work I admired had lived in a world where you could submit your stuff "over the transom" (so to speak) with some reasonable expectation that it would be given a cursory glance, at least, so the query letter thing and the synopsis thing didn't sit too well with me--but I figured, hey, that's what we're faced with these days, so I'll just have to deal with it.)

The waiting was something you simply had to accept. It would be "unprofessional", you were told, to call them up after six weeks had gone by and politely  ask them if they'd even gotten the thing.

And we all bought into that. We had no choice.

Publishers were "inundated", we were told. It was like we content providers were inflicting some sort of plague on them.

Only when you finally got your manuscript (or proposal) back were you free to then try the next publisher on your list. And start the whole dreary waiting process anew. Because you had to try them one at a time, you see. Simultaneous submissions were not only frowned on, they could get you blacklisted.

In his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card, bless him, tried to make a distinction between simultaneous submissions (not okay, as he admitted) and simultaneous proposals (perfectly all right, he opined), but I was told in no uncertain terms at an SF convention by an editor for Baen that the publishers didn't see it that way. And that you could get a bad name in what was really a pretty small community (New York SF publishing) if you took Card's advice.

When you exhausted all the possibilities on your list, you could start submitting to smaller publishing houses, or try to find an agent (but we were repeatedly told not to bother an agent unless you'd had something accepted somewhere).

I saw all of this as my only path to publication.

Now fast forward to June 17, 2011. That was the day I first learned about indie publishing, when I discovered a new indie publishing board on a writer's forum I frequently visit.

That was when I made my first decision, to forget about traditional publishing and go the indie route. As I said in my very first blog post here, that decision took all of five minutes to make.

My next decisions were to release my first e-book as soon as I humanly could, and to make it an anthology of short pieces I had written over the years.

I'm perfectly well aware that no traditional publisher will release a book of short stories by an unknown writer these days. But I decided to go with what I had on hand, and that decision felt right to me.

Next was my decision to do my own cover. That wasn't so much a decision as a forced necessity--I don't know any artists and I have very little money. But I do have a bit of artistic ability, I think, and I actually rather like what I finally came up with.

Some people may think it's laughable, or that it sucks, but them's the breaks. I'm satisfied with it for now, at least, and nobody has any veto power in the matter.

Then I had to make a decision about the price.

There's been a lot of discussion about price on various blogs, and I was mainly interested in it because it wasn't an abstract debate to me, it was a real actual decision I was going to have to make.

The topic has been more or less beaten to death at this point, so I'll spare you the details of my ruminations. I finally settled on $1.99  as an introductory price, but I'm keeping my options open.

It's been a great deal of fun, this whole journey. And I'll be releasing my first e-book very soon, just as soon as I can get certain computer issues ironed out.

Meantime, thanks for dropping by. 


Friday, August 5, 2011

Disaster Strikes!

I'll look back on it as a bump in the road, I'm sure, but my old computer crashed the other night, and apparently no other computer in existence can read the backup floppies I made on it periodically. Talk about your unpleasant surprises.

The Word file of my first book is on its hard drive, the anthology that I was going to submit to Smashwords, as are the 40,000 words or so of the novel I was going to resume working on, and the cover I had already created for it.

On reflection, those are the only things I truly need to retrieve, and my niece's boyfriend is a computer whiz who assures my sister-in-law it shouldn't be much trouble to sort things out.

In the meantime I'm taking the advice of the several indie publishing gurus I admire, and continuing to write. On paper. With a pen.

(I'm able to continue blogging using the computers at my local public library.)

 Oddly enough, I'm enjoying myself.

I went through something like this once before, actually. I used to write on a Brother WP3700 Word Processor with a monochrome monitor, and about a year and a half ago, the cable between the monitor and the main unit went flooey.

No question of replacing it. Have you tried to buy a monochrome monitor lately?

I lost a great deal of the work saved on floppies in its proprietary format that I had done over the years.

Now I'm recreating one of the projects I regretted losing the most. It's all coming back to me, and that's exciting.

It won't be the book it would have been then, I don't think. It will be a better one.

So, all things considered, I'm not unhappy with the situation.

Monday, July 25, 2011

On change in general and the closing of Borders in particular

I'm saddened by the closing of Borders. It seems to me they were a beautifully conceived operation. But unexpected changes took them unawares.

Tell me about it.

It's ironic, but speaking as an aspiring science-fiction writer, change has never been my friend. In the 1980s, when I began seriously contemplating writing as a profession, I used to purchase copies of Locus on a regular basis (if you're an SF writer and you're not familiar with it, you really should be).

In those bygone days of yore, I would often read about promising new writers getting advances in the low five figures.

(The lowest five-figure possibility is $10,000.00 nothing to sneeze at, even today!)

I was greatly heartened by this information. I assumed the situation would remain stable, awaiting the day I could get my act together.

Alas, it was not to be.

There's no need to rehash the whole sad story here. I don't even understand it how all happened. Suffice it to say that advances grew smaller and the number of places where you could submit unagented manuscripts shrank steadily.

You can still catch a break. J. K. Rowling did. But the chances are against it. You'd think nurturing new writers would be considered good business practice, but apparently it's not a priority these days. Everybody's got other things on their minds.

A lot of us have had blinders on, with no choice but to hope for the best. But it's hard to ignore the truth. A crap shoot when nobody's rooting for you is a fool's game.

I'm gonna miss Borders. The publishers will miss them too. Fewer places to buy books means fewer books will be sold. They've hardly started to feel the repercussions, I'm sure.

Another thing I did in the 1980s was purchase all of Robert A. Heinlein's YA novels, the ones I had loved in my youth, in paperback. I got 'em at a grocery store in south Tampa. They were there to buy, so I bought 'em.

You see, it used to be that you could find SF books anyplace they sold paperbacks and magazines. Then things changed, and there was a preponderance of Star Wars and Star Trek books. I don't know how those decisions happen, but that's the way it was.

That's not the way it is now. Now there's nothing. My local grocery store in Hendersonville, North Carolina has a little clone of a big box bookstore in it, half an aisle with books and magazines and chairs to sit on. Paperbacks and hardcovers and magazines, and a nice little wood parquet floor. Somebody spent some money on that setup.

But there aren't any SF books there. Or SF magazines, for that matter. Just top selling writers like Stephen King and Catherine Coulter. That's all you can find there.

No mysteries or westerns, either. You know, I kind of miss westerns.

(There's not even a section for westerns on smashwords. Oh, I know, there's a section for historical fiction. But still.)

I miss record stores, too. I miss browsing through racks of CDs. Fuck that, I miss browsing through racks of vinyl LPs.
Those days are long gone.

Borders had a respectable selection of CDs. That's another reason to miss them.

I'm not up on how music consumers get their fix these days. Digital downloads, I presume, but I've never learned how that works. I just know the world has moved on.

I remember being absolutely stunned when the big record store chains closed down. The closing of Borders is just a new version of that changeover. The world has moved on again.

But indie musicians and indie writers now have unprecedented access to their audiences. That's a good thing. I recognize that, even though I still feel like a stranger in a strange land.

It's called serendipity. Nobody planned it. Nobody said hey, let's give all those creative people a break.

But until they figure out a way to close the floodgates--and I'm sure they're busy thinking about it--we've got a window of opportunity.

Let's take advantage of that.

Even as we shed a tear for the way things used to be.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

More on the "Tsunami of Crap"

I saw that piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. The one that got Rusch & Smith so fired up. I found it an enjoyable read, actually.

I pretty much agreed with him all the way down the line. I just don't see what all the fuss is about.

The title was the most irksome aspect, and, as Ms. Rusch speculated, it might have been foisted on him by an editor.

Otherwise I thought it was an affectionate and humorous look at indie publishing.

I'm aware that somebody stumbling on this blog might think I'm delusional. A long-time unpublished writer is about to release some of his old stories that never sold in an e-book with a goofy-looking cover, and he's all excited about it. He seems to be expecting good things to come of it.

Yep. That sums it up.

I'm one of the people traditional publishing has "protected" you from.

I thought the comparison to American Idol was spot on. Do I really need to point out that it's a popular show with lots of fans who have no wish to be "protected" from it?

And some talented folks have gotten a start there. The same thing will happen with Indie writers.

And I might even be one of them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My first typewriter

It's been more than 45 years since I got my first typewriter.

I was maybe eight years old, and I received it, I believe, for Christmas one year.

It was made by the Marx toy company, and it was called a 'Marxwriter'--but it was no toy. It was a fully funtional typewriter and I wrote many a story on it.

Well, I guess I should be honest here--I started many a story on it. In those days I had a habit of not finishing any of the projects I began. Honestly, I don't think I knew how.

I stall have some of the pages I wrote on it. Time permitting, I may even share some of them here--they're pretty funny.

Oh, the Marxwriter only typed in caps, but it did have a shift key and all kinds of characters and symbols. Way more than a regular typewriter.

I recall that thing with a great deal of fondness. What a lovely present for my parents to give me! Thanks, Mom and Dad.

When I got to be about thirteen I read somewhere that editors wouldn't take manuscripts typed in caps, so I stopped using it and started borrowing my Dad's.

I recall that now with sorrow. I wish I'd remained faithful to that little machine.  I mean, it's not like I was submitting anything anywhere anyway--in fact, it was right around then that I stopped writing altogether; I didn't take it up again until I was almost thirty.

I wish I still had my Marxwriter. It would be an honored, treasured possession.

Goodbye, little Marxwriter, and thanks for the memories.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting there

There's a bit of a learning curve involved, but I'm slowly getting there.

My first book is in a Works word processing file at present. It's all one font, all one size, and all justified to the left.

As I understand it, this will be important when I transfer it to Word.

I'll eventually be able to center the story titles, put them in boldface, and have them be in a slightly larger font size. Other than that, I'm keeping it simple.

I tweaked the cover a bit today; I made the graphics darker, slimmed down the little aliens and gave them some upper body mass and made their faces less cartoonish (not that it matters much at the size most people will view them at) and I put the small tree on the left behind the saucer. Made it darker, too, which also helps make it clear that the tree is some distance away from the larger one. And of course it makes the saucer more prominent; in the first version it looks like it's hovering over the water.

What's left for me to do is to read the smashwords style guide carefully, and also a book about MS Word that I've already checked out from the library. (I do all my writing in the Works word processor but I'm going to use Word to prepare the final file.) And to transcribe most of one story, and to finish another one. Then upload it to Smashwords. It should all happen this week.

The title, as you can see, is Incident on Sugar Sand Road and other stories. The blurb is already written.

The contents of the book will be:

Saviors of the Galaxy
This is a condensed version of the first section of my upcoming novel of the same name. This will be my ongoing series, about a mixed crew of sentients who travel around the galaxy in an old starship.

Incident on Sugar Sand Road
This one is humorous; it's set in 1989, the year it was written, so it's something of a period piece. I sent it to Omni (yeah, I told you it was old!) and got a nice letter back from one Robert K. J. Kilheffer saying that he did find it humorous but that it wasn't right for Omni, and that it was too long.  That's the only feedback I've ever gotten from an editor. Ever. And yes, the version I'm publishing is the drastically shortened version.  It was rejected by most of the other SF magazines before I wised up and took his advice. I even submitted it to Century, a magazine Mr. Kilheffer also edited, and he was kind enough to say he remembered it and still liked it, but that it wasn't right for Century either. Oh, well! I've always had a certain fondness for it. So now it gets to be the title story of a collection.

Farewell Message
This is from the opening chapter of a novel I wrote in the early nineties. I finished it but never submitted it anywhere; I'm not sure why. I'll be taking another look at it soon to see if I want to publish it now. (I love that I suddenly have that option and that freedom!) The premise I actually still find interesting, so it's still alive somewhere in my writer's heart. The title I slapped on it was Moons of Exile, and that's probably the title it will appear under. The only copy I have access to is on paper, so this is the one I'll be transcribing.

Deus Ex Machina
This is set in the same universe as Saviors of the Galaxy. I think an early version of it may still be at Forward Motion.

Holy Warfare
This has languished on the hard drive of my old computer for almost a decade, unfinished. It's the one that starts with the explosion! This is the only actual writing left for me to do--come up with an ending for it.

Three of these stories have appeared in rough draft on the Forward Motion website for writers. A lovely place, that.

So. Like I say. Getting there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Here's the cover to my first ebook

Hopefully it will be appearing on Smashwords sooner rather than later...

So what do you think? Should
I lose the little purple guys? Feel free to comment...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why some people are in such a dither about indie publishing

It's exciting that we now have the opportunity to share our writing with the whole entire planet.

But it's hardly revolutionary.  I mean, for many years now the world wide web has been making it possible for folks to publish web pages about their cats, or vintage color TVs, or the merits of various regional beers--or whatever else sprang to their merry little minds.  You could spend the rest of your life reading all that shit...

What's different is that now we can charge for the products of our fevered brains. That's what's gotten some folks so upset.

It's all about the money, honey...

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Wacky World of E-books

It's early days, yet.

The presence of E-books in popular culture is only going to increase.

As a science-fiction writer, I suppose it's part of my job description to make predictions.  So here goes:

For one thing--speaking as a baby boomer who's old enough to remember betamax video recorders and quadraphonic sound--they haven't really reached the typical mainstream consumer yet.

Well, there could be varying descriptions of the TMC, I suppose, but trust me--a majority of TMCs are waiting for two things right now: a compatible universal format for all e-books, and more affordable hardware.

I predict those things are coming.  Then we'll see the E-book phenomenon really take off.

And yet, E-book sales at Amazon are already greater than old-fashioned book sales!

If you're a writerthe revolution has arrived. It's sort of obvious. 

But some people don't welcome its coming.  They think (and rightfully so) that if anybody can publish a book just because the want to, that lots of people will. 

And that most of these books will suck.  As J. A. Konrath says, they're worried about a "tsunami of Crap".

To an extent they're right. Let's admit it--a lot of self-published fiction won't be very good (just trying to face the facts here, folks--this doesn't apply to you!).

So what? 

So there are enormous new opportunities for readers and writers, that's what.  I personally fail to see the downside.

I've always felt a lot of traditionally published books were sucky crap anyway.  Why should e-publishing be any different?

I love what Kris Rusch has to say about this:   "The slush pile isn’t some growing, breathing, horrible thing to be avoided.  It’s a tower of hope, of dreams".

It used to be editors who looked at the slush; then they stopped, and supposedly the job was passed along to literary agents.  But now most of them don't look at it either.

Basically, nobody's been looking at it.  Which is why it's so damn hard to break into publishing these days.

So now the readers get the chance to wade through our slush.

They don't have to.  But some of them will.

And I say, thank God somebody's finally taking an interest.

Readers are people who like some books but dislike others.  Editors are people who dislike some books but (hopefully) like others.  Oh, and they get paid for it.  That's all.  End of story.

Maybe somebody out there has written a series of novels about a Vampire Starship Captain.  And every editor who's seen it has passed on it.  (Some of them might have gotten a kick out of it privately, but passed on it anyway because--well, let's not go into all that just now, okay?)

But there might be a few readers out there who would enjoy something like that.  Enough so that maybe now some new writer can make an honest living, and a bunch of readers can scratch a peculiar itch most folks don't have.

Win/win for everybody!

I mean, what's the harm?

Gotta love it...

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's like having a new career, all of a sudden

It's the career I've always dreamed about, too.  Writing for a living.

Dean Wesley Smith recently blogged about the amount of time it takes to write four novels a year.

It comes to something like an hour and twenty minutes a day.

I'm a little slower than Dean, probably--and I do love tinkering and revising, which he sort of advises against--but I imagine I could do three novels a year if I spent two hours a day at it.  Probably.  Even factoring all the time it takes to clean my computer screen.

The thing is, with indie publishing, it's a done deal.  If I just apply the seat of my pants to the surface of the chair and the tips of my fingers to the keyboard, I will produce a product to be offered for sale right alongside Stephen King and John Grisham.

That's heady stuff.

I can write whatever I want.  However much I want.  I can write utter crap and put it out, with no one to stop me.

No one to stop me.  That's an amazing thing.

I've no intention of writing utter crap, by the way.  Just in case you were wondering.

No, if I hope to receive an income from this work, it strikes me that I'd better do the best damned job I can possibly do.

Now, I'm not going to make a habit of blogging much about my personal life here, but today I'll make an exception because it's germane to my topic.

I'm in my late fifties, unemployed, and I live in a trailer park in North Carolina where the newest trailer is well past thirty years old.  I can't afford internet access so I use the computers at the public library.  I get food stamps and unemployment but I'm behind on my rent, and believe me, it's a source of anxiety.  I have 8 cats that I love a lot, but when one of them gets sick I can't afford to take them to the vet--I was going to call the humane society and ask if there was someplace I could take Sugar when she was sick, and if there had been nothing available I'd have tried to work out something with a veterinarian--but obviously, there aren't any guarantees in a situation like mine.

I used to make a sort of modest lower-class living as a ceramic tile mechanic before the economy imploded and the housing market went to hell.  These days I can't even get on at Wal-Mart--I tried.  My last job was working in a factory for minimum wage, and as an English-speaking person I was in the minority.

I've been writing for years, and I've watched in dismay as the number of places you could send an unsolicited manuscript steadily shrank.  And now, as I understand it, the world of traditional publishing is in such a state of upheaval that I might as well not bother with them anyway just now, even if I were so inclined.

So is it any wonder that I greet the world of indie publishing with a great deal of joy and hope?

I've thought long and hard and carefully how I should proceed, and it feels right to me that my first e-book will contain five pieces of my best short fiction, the oldest of which was written in 1989, at an introductory price.

I love it that I'm free to make a decision like that!

I think it's very possible that my income from the book will at least match what I was making at the factory--and I'll be working three or four hours a day sitting down, instead of twelve hours on my feet.

Why wouldn't  I want to be an indie writer?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Things are in flux.

Kristine Kathryn Russch is really doing an extraordinary service for writers.  Check out this post on her blog.

Even though I'm a new unknown writer, I still have preconceived notions about things.  They're generally based on years of reading puclications like Locus and the SFWA bulletin

In the 1980s, for instance, new writers sometimes got book advances in the low five figures.  Some of them, anyway.  It was possible.

I always kind of felt I could use some of that action.

Now, since about 2004, I might as well have been living on a deserted island.   I moved to Gainesville from Orlando that year and I could no longer find those publications.

Oh, but I'd occasionally buy a book like The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction.  (Seriously--I'm not making that up, there really was such a book.  It was a useful, entertaining read, too.)  In it I learned that publishers still wanted to see manuscripts that looked like they were produced on typewriters.  Which was no doubt true at the time, but I accept it as graven in stone forever.

Another thing I "learned" in those days was that you couldn't make a living with short fiction; it was wise to concentrate on novels.

Many people still think that.  The news that it's not true hasn't gotten out yet.

God bless Kris Rusch.

So obviously it's a new ballgame.  Many people in the industry are hurting now.  Not just writers--editors and agents too!

Oh yeah, that reminds me, another thing I accepted as gospel:

You have to get an agent.  Can't get anywhere without one.

Now I'm really quite leery of them.

But the more I think about it, the more I like that I can be my own publisher.  It's fun.  I can do whatever I want.  Release a book of old short stories.  Publish that long novella about the amphibious serpent who didn't understand why humans wanted to base a religion around him--some people liked that one, but everybody said the subject matter and the length  (40,000 words) counted against it.  It's be silly to send it anywhere, they said.

I myself felt it was a little offbeat, and kind of preachy in spots--but if I took that stuff out, I removed the story's heart. So I never wrote the ending.

Well, I'm sure gonna write it now.  Because these days, heck, if I released it for 99 cents I'd get something  for it--and something's a lot better than nothing.

Besides, I always kind of liked those characters.  Now at least a few folks will meet them, and I'll at least get some pocket change.

Maybe a whole lot more.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A bit of backpedaling

Yesterday's rant against the publishing industry was maybe a little over the top.

It doesn't really do to demonize anyone.  Or any institution, for that matter.  So I hereby apologize for any bad vibes I may have broadcast.

I've socialized with editors at Science Fiction conventions.  They're generally nice people.  I certainly didn't mean to cast any aspersions their way.

That doesn't mean I've changed my opinion!  The editors aren't in control of their companies these days.  The bean counters are.

When I read on her blog about the contract shenanigans they tried with Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I was stunned.  The woman used to be editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction, for crying out loud! If they'll pull that sort of crap with her, I can't help but think they'd chew me up and spit me out without a second thought. Or pretty much any of us.  It's dismaying.

And that business about the e-book royalties? That's just horrible.

But I gather SFWA are looking into the situation. So thank goodness for that much. Maybe sanity will eventually prevail.

But all things considered, I'm glad to be an indie writer right now.

Still, I'm wishing everybody in the business well. Peace and love, people, peace and love.

Just wanted to get all that off my chest.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remembering Sugar

I recently lost a little cat that I loved a lot.

Her name was Sugar. She was a fluffy little yellow thing with unique beautiful eyes.

Sometimes, with cats of the opposite gender to their people, there can be a real flirty aspect to the relationship.

It was like that with Sugar. She loved being cuddled and fussed over, and she'd make these sensuous little cooing noises while it was going on.

Then suddenly she didn't want to stay inside, which was out of character for her. And it seemed to hurt her to be picked up.

When I let her out for the last time, I wondered if I was doing the right thing.  I vowed to keep her in next time whether she liked it or not, and get her to a vet.

But I haven't seen her since.

When it's time for cats to leave this world, they go fast.

Good-bye, little thing.  I'm grateful for the time we had.  It was fun.

I love you.

A turning point

At this point in time I have very little faith in the New York publishing industry.

Some of you, I know, will spring to their defense.  There's a segment of American society that always sticks up for the powerful in knee-jerk fashion whether it's in their best interests to do so or not.  (Case in point: the number of people who got indignant and upset when it looked like there might be a public option for health care--because the poor downtrodden insurance companies would have had to compete with the government!!)

Now, I personally have about as much confidence in the moral integrity of Big Publishing these days as I do in that of stockbrokers, oil companies, bankers--and insurance companies.

Which is to say, very little at all.

I formed this opinion largely after reading the blogs of industry insiders like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith,  Michael Stackpole, and J. A. Konrath.

Check it out. Things look pretty grim in the world of Big Publishing these days.

It hasn't always been that way. Maybe someday it will change back to the way it used to be (a few lawsuits down the road, I'm thinking). Maybe it won't.

But for now, at least, I'm steering clear.

Who am I, you may ask, to sit in judgment on an entire industry? Some little pipsqueak unpublished writer?

I'm somebody who has become leery of doing any business with them, that's who.

Now, pardon me for pointing out the obvious, but every successful writer was an unpublished aspirant at first. Without exception!

Writers provide the content that publishers are in the business of selling. Without them there would be no publishing industry.

I mean, duh!

Whether or not I'm any good at my craft has no bearing at all on the validity of the point I'm making here. Which is:

For too many years the tail has been wagging the dog. We've acted like they were doing us a favor to publish us when in fact they couldn't have stayed in business without us.

And now, suddenly, we can compete with them on surprisingly equal terms.

Why shouldn't we do that?

What obligation do we have to help them preserve their outmoded business practices?

None that I can see.

I've been writing for years, and I've been steadily improving all the while, I think.   I'm finishing up a science fiction novel that I feel is the best thing I've ever done. Up until a week ago, the game plan was to send it off to one of the few publishers who will still look at unagented manuscripts.

No more.

So you see, it's not like I don't have any options. I could continue down the traditional path (and I really think the new book would have stood a good chance in New York) if I wanted to.

I don't want to.

It's a turning point.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A beginning

Okay, hello out there, all you people reading this!  Welcome.

My name is Michael Edward Walston, and I'm a science fiction writer who is about to embark on a voyage into the realm of indie publishing.

I've been writing for years, and I've seen the number of markets where new writers without agents can submit their work shrink steadily.  Like many others, I have found this to be discouraging.

Then I discovered  This is a website that allows you to publish a book in electronic form--for free--and then charge people for downloading it.  You can set the price yourself, or even give it away for nothing.  If you do charge for it, Smashwords keeps 15% of the take--and they also provide a free distribution channel that allows you to get into other online stores. The ones available change from time to time but they currently include the Apple iBookstore, Sony, Kobo, Borders, Diesel and others--and word is that Amazon will soon be included too.

Offhand, I can't remember the last time my thinking about something changed so drastically in such a short time.  It took maybe five minutes to decide I wanted to go this route instead of continuing to bash my head against the brick wall of "Big Publishing".

I'll have much more to say on this topic in future posts.

Stay tuned.