Thoughts on Magazine Publishing

I recently had a story accepted by SciFan Magazine and though they have yet to release my story in one of their issues, I did start reading their magazine.  One of the things I came across this post of theirs.

It got me thinking about my time publishing Plasma Frequency and the struggle it was to come up with funding from time to time. Magazine publishing is a hard market to stand out in, and I’d like to think that Plasma Frequency stood out in a positive way.

I said it all the time, but I really did have a great team of volunteers behind the magazine and, though I funded it, I was only a small part of the process.

The point of all this:  I miss publishing.

I miss reading awesome stories from talented authors.  I miss losing sleep over whose story I’d have to reject.  I miss the awesome editors I worked with to put out the magazine.  I miss the way we tackled author feedback.  I miss post shares of the favorites and the author shares of their work.  And I miss collecting each issue.

It is hard to publish a magazine.  It is not easy.

First, there are a shitload of magazines out there.  And for each shitload there is a fuckton of good ones.  So many of them already have established reader bases and your only hope to find readers is to advertise to them.

Marketing a magazine isn’t easy at all.  First, most magazines don’t make a whole lot of money if any.  They rely on either the editor’s income, donations, or in magazine advertising.  Selling issues is hard enough as it is because so many good magazine publish their content 100% free online.   Then you have to find target an audience and get readers.

Now before anyone gets excited, I am not bringing back Plasma Frequency.  Even if I do return to publishing, it will be a different magazine all together.  Or maybe anthologies??  I’m not hinting at anything… honestly.

I think the point I am trying to make is to take time for your genre’s magazines too.  Read them, share them, donate if you want, but take the time to read magazines too.  We need new markets to join and we need them to mature.

10 Things I’ve Learned After 7 Years of Blogging

Today, according to WordPress, is my 7th anniversary of blog writing (nearly 6 with this blog).  I started this blog because I got my first story sale with my short story Death Watch, which was published by the good folks over at Liquid Imagination.  Originally my blog was my website, and though I have since separated the two, a lot of people still find me through this blog.

When I started out, I really didn’t know what to expect.  And seven years later, I still really don’t know what could happen.  But here are at a few things I have learned since starting out.

1 – Getting traffic to your blog is hard.

It took me a long time, a really long time, to gather up any type of blog traffic.  I tried funny posts, writing posts, life posts, and mixtures of all three.  What I learned is the topics don’t really matter, it just takes time to start showing up in search results and for people to come to your blog looking for certain content.  Which leads to number two.

2 – Pick a topic for your blog

Pick a topic for your blog and stick to it.  Does that mean I don’t blog about life? No.  It just means that the general topic of this blog is books and writing.  I love the movies, video games, and hockey.  Sure I mention those in my blog, but I don’t think I’ve written blog posts on those things.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to write on other topics, but you’ll get a better following if your blog has a theme.

There are exceptions to every rule.  My post, Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington is not writing related at all, but it is the only post that gets a hit at least once per day.

3 – If getting traffic is hard, getting a following seems impossible.

For the longest time, my family were my only followers.  It look a long time to work up to a decent following and to keep them following.  There are a lot of ways to get the regular following and keep them, and many of those are involved in these things I’ve learned.  The truth is, no advertising ever worked.  The only followers I ever got were from reading a post of mine and liking it enough to follow the blog.

4 – Losing followers is very easy.

People stop following a blog for many reasons.  The most common, you offended them.  Society has placed a lot of weight on being offended, as if it really means anything.  I’ve lost followers when they found out I’ve got LGBT characters in my novels. I’ve lost followers because I’ve mentioned I own guns.  I’ve lost followers because I made a Trump joke.  You will also lose followers if you don’t blog in a while.  I lost most of mine during my two year hiatus.

5 – You can’t please everyone.

So you may be thinking that you should sterilize your blog from any possibility of offence.  I tried that in the beginning of my blogging days.  Hell, I used to try that in the start of my writing days.  Well, fuck ’em. People will get offended by what you say.  If they don’t, does your writing carry any real passion anyway?  As I said above, people think being offended means something.  It doesn’t.  What I have learned is that more people appreciate the honest writer connecting with his audience than they do a sterilized blog.  You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.

6 – Listen to your audience.

Many of my blog post ideas come from blog comments or my social media.  I’m not saying you need to ask them what to blog about next, though you can a time or two.  But pay attention to what they are saying about your blog.  As a self published author, I noticed many of my readers were talking and interested in that aspect.  As a result, I wrote Self Publishing, a post in which I explored what Self Publishing was all about.  It took more work than most of my posts do, but it was also the most successful post.

7 – Read and connect with other bloggers

You really need to read and connect with other bloggers.  For one, you will see what is trending and discover what other bloggers like you are doing.  This will let you know if the topic you want to blog on is over-saturated or that it is of no interest to anyone.  But also you can work with others to do guest posts and other connections to attract their followers to you and your followers to them.

8 – Guest posts are great.

Guest posts are a great way to drive followers of others to your blog.  For a long period of time I was doing an author focus blog series that allowed guest posts from other authors.  It drove new eyes to my blog that may have otherwise not visited.  Don’t expect a ton of new followers from it, but you just might get someone poking around your blog for other stories.

9 – Don’t expect your blog to be a revenue stream.

I’m not sure I have made any book sales from people who came to read my blog.  In most cases it is the other way around.  People have come here after reading my work.  Some to complain, but most because they liked what they read and wanted to see more.  Also, ad riddled blogs suck to read (of course we have no control over the WordPress ads).  One ad maybe, or sponsored content is okay.  But some blogs read so heavily of sales pitches that they become no fun to read.

Also, don’t overly self publicize on you blog. It isn’t wrong, but it is a fine line between content and advertising.  The point of a blog is to connect with your audience, not sell them shit.

10 – It is okay to blog for yourself.

It is absolutely okay to write a blog for yourself with no aim to gain followers.  You might accidentally acquire a few anyway.  But not every blog has to be for fan connection or to gain more readers.  Some can be for the hell of it.  You can have as many blogs as you like too.  The choice is yours.

BONUS: We’re all full of shit.

Here is a bonus thing I’ve learned, everything on the internet about how to write a great blog is full of shit.  This one included.  What worked for me may not work for you.  Lord knows I read a lot of crap, that when I tried it, did’t work for shit.  More to the point, articles with things I’ve learned titles are there to help you see what was learned.  You can use it, or you can toss it.  The choice is yours really.

It is your blog, write what you want, but I’ve shared what I’ve learned.  Your results may vary.

Book Release: Illusion of Victory

I am so excited to say that the sequel to Dissolution of Peace is finally here!

I am very excited to finally get Illusion of Victory out to you.  Many of you have been eagerly awaiting this sequel in The Serenity Saga.

Here is the back cover blurb:

IoV 3DCaptain Christina Serenity is back from the dead, in a manner of speaking. Everyone believed that no one survived the devastating attack on the Earth Space Ship Australia. That is, everyone except Roger Mathews, the traitor that launched the attack. But the four survivors have grown tired of seeking revenge and have returned home to face the consequences of that choice. 

The Zercowans are losing interest in fighting Earth’s war and demand some type of action against the threats that face their people. But after several tough decisions, Serenity learns that the term ‘enemy’ isn’t so clear and she no longer feels strong enough to handle the weight of war.

Can Serenity maintain the illusion of strength long enough to gain the victories Earth desperately needs? Or have the pressures of war and revenge already destroyed her?

Flores Factor

You can get the book on Amazon in Paperback and for

 

 

Kindle.  You can also order the paperback from Createspace.

There are also some other exciting new things to share.  My new website has launched.  I also had this awesome logo created.  Please take a moment to go check out the site and see the new site.  I plan to update some of the information in the “about” section soon.

So what is next on the writing agenda.  I think I am going to dive right into Book 3 of The Serenity Saga, which will be titled Revelation of Secrets.  These characters are ready for more, and I don’t want to keep you fans waiting too much longer.

As always, you can support my work by sharing this blog and all things Flores.  Happy Reading!

The Male / Female Friendship

03a93992827bf5b99c1a8d41e46b3e7bAs I make my immersion into writing again, I’ve begun rereading some of my old novels.  I reread Volition Agent because it is a short novel and I wanted to get back into it.  But then I read Dissolution of Peace with the hope to get the sequel out later this year.  I also got to thinking about Broken Trust.

Now, I mention these novels for more than just a quick plug for myself, but also because I happened to notice a theme here.  All three of those novels, though less so in Volition Agent, show the Male / Female Friendship.  And not just a casual friendship, but a close bond often becoming best friends.

And since June 8th was National Best Friend Day, and I have a female best friend, I thought this was a great topic to discuss.

I think this theme is largely because of my own life experiences.  I find myself getting a long with females more than males.  I have some good male friends, but, of my closest friends over the years, most of them have been female.

But it is funny how in real life the Male / Female friendship is so complicated.  You have to deal with jealous significant others, rumors, and a level of social stigma that imply the friendship isn’t possible.  As a straight male, I’ve had this issue many times over and it has even kept me from ever having a good friendship.

The thing is, there is no reason a man and a woman can’t be friends.  Society has this absolutely wrong and it drives me nuts.  I could go on a long rant about this but I won’t because I want to stick with the writing part of this.  (Besides, I am fairly sure many will see the rant behind the topic.)

So here are some of my tips, both from real life and from writing, on how to have successful coed friendship in your novel.

Attraction is Okay

It is absolutely okay to have a level of attraction there.  It is natural to develop a bond with someone and get a little attraction involved too.  Attraction is normal and personally I do think all of my female friends are attractive women.  Remember attraction isn’t just physical appearance either.

In Dissolution of Peace, Janice’s first impression of Mike is that he isn’t that good looking of a man.  After developing a very close friendship with him, her perception of his appearance changes.  They have a friendship forged in their protection of each other and as that trust grows she just begins to see him differently.

The point here is that attraction comes in a variety of forms and it is normal and possible to find a friend of the opposite sex attractive and not “make the moves” on them.

Banter and Flirting are not the same thing

My wife often teases me that I flirt an awful lot.  But my banter with my friends is often mistaken by outside eyes as flirting.  And maybe by the very technical of definitions it could be seen that way.  But I don’t think of it as the same thing.

When you develop a friendship bond with another male, to give each other shit it is perfectly normal and acceptable.  The exact same words can be said to a female friend and society says, “ohhhh they want to hook up.”

Again, the point is that there is no reason your male and female friendship can’t exchange banter.  You shouldn’t have to second guess your words with true friends and neither should your character.

Compliments are Okay

This one is insane to me.  I tell my male friend, “That shirt looks sharp.” And it is just a compliment.  But I tell a female friend that those jeans are amazing and next thing you know the rumors start up.  Why has society done this?

Compliments to your friends shouldn’t be awkward and they should be part of any healthy relationship.  Not just compliments on appearance either.  Compliments on hard work, success, a new significant other, or anything about their life should be included.

Friends hang out

If two friends go get a slice of pizza and see a movie, it is hanging out.  But a male/female friendship is treated different.  These two decide they want to go to a movie, and now it might be date.  That shouldn’t be the case at all.

While I think it is great for friends to hang out with the significant others involved too, there isn’t any reason a friend should have to include them all the time.  It is okay for a male and female friend to go and hang out alone.  It is not a date.

Jealousy

Jealousy is a real emotion.  I am jealous often and easily.  It doesn’t mean anything more than that I feel left out or not as important.  I recognize that.

My wife is very supporting of my having female friends, she even claims to not be jealous. And while I know very well that my wife trusts me and doesn’t get jealous near as easy as I do, I know she is human and thus gets jealous from time to time.

I am not just talking about the jealous significant other, though, in my experience, that has been the most damaging to friendships I’ve had.  There is also jealousy between the friends. It is okay to be a bit jealous that your friend has dedicated their time to something other than you.

Jealousy can be just a fleeting thought or a raging storm.  But it is a part of any healthy friendship.  It is how far the jealousy goes that really matters.  Jealousy can by a nasty catalyst for disaster, so the line is fine.

In Dissolution of Peace, Serenity finds herself a bit jealous of Janice and Mike’s friendship.  This isn’t because she is worried Janice with steal Mike, but because Mike and Serenity have to hide their relationship while Janice and he are able to hang out in the “open” and more often.

Imagination

I put this at the end for a couple of reasons, but one of those is the fact that it is probably the most awkward of the dynamics of a male and female friendship.  But also, our imagination is often one of the things we keep secret the most.  But I don’t do that because it isn’t healthy for any relationship.

First is the dream realm.  Why we are so scared to share that we dreamed about someone of the opposite sex is beyond me. We are hardly in control of our dreams but we somehow feel responsible for them.

The most awkward can be the sexual dreams simply because this is your friend and now you’ve imagined them in a sexual scenario.  I always tell my wife all my dreams, even these, and she seems appreciative of the fact that I can share these with her.  I’ve never shared these dreams with the friend I was dreaming about.

This is because of two society stigmas. Sex is not to be talked about and then the female male friendship is taboo.  I have one friend I do tell when she is in my dreams regardless of the content.  She doesn’t seem to mind, in fact I think I could tell her anything and maybe that’s why we are close friends.

In fact she told me that she read that sexual dreams about someone means you want to get to know them better.  Don’t know if that is true, but sexual dreams are normal and often have little to do with sex.

Next is the day dream.  I think this normal too.   The imagination running wild thinking of what life might be like if you dated your friend.  I’ve more than once commented to a friend that, “If we dated you’d drive me crazy because…”  This is often in response to helping them with a relationship problem, but it does reflect that I’ve given it some thought.

When you are close to someone, I feel it is normal to let the mind wander to thoughts of people in different roles in your life.  Life without someone, with someone in a different way, getting closer to someone one, and so on.  When I met my newest friend, I often had day dreams about what my life would be life if we’d become close friends.  Now, I can’t imagine life without this person.

There are scenes in both Volition Agent and Dissolution of Peace where characters think about if they would be able to date their friend.  They don’t act on those thoughts, but they are there.

Real Life Inspiration

The bottom line, when writing any relationship it is important to draw from your own life experiences.  Mine tell me that the male and female platonic relationship is very possible and in my fictional worlds it is even seen a little bit as normal.  Because I see it as normal and acceptable. Society has made it something it isn’t.

The truth is, that I didn’t even notice this theme in my writing until I reread some of my work.  It just came out to the paper because that is what I know.

I hope you got some value from this post to apply to your own writing, but in the end write what works for your story.

Happy writing.

 

Don’t Read Your Own Work After Publishing It

IMG_20130406_142102_592That is what I was told when I started writing.  Never, ever, ever read your work once it has been published.  Just don’t do it.  If you do, you will open a rift in time and space that even The Doctor won’t be able to stop.  Children will weep in the streets, entire cities will be lost, and Trump will be elected President of the United States.

It is another one of those “cardinal sins” of writing that seems to have just caught on and stuck.  The reasons are endless, but when you really get down to it, I am not sure what the point of this law of scribes is all about.

Perhaps it is the worry that you will cringe at your prior work and never write again.  The whole, I am the worst writer in the world and I need to stop.  Or maybe it has to do with the endless revision cycle that many writers can get into.  I’ve warned of this in the past.

Maybe it has to do with the look forward, not back, ideology.  This idea the progress only happens if you look to the future.  But if you don’t know your past, what is the point of the future?

That’s why I am of the mentality that reading your past work is actually a really good idea.  I promise the children will be fine, there will be no rifts in time, and no cities will crumble as a result of you reading your past published stories.  I am also pretty sure that Trump and reading have never been related.

Let me explain why it works for me.  I think you will see that, like most rules of writing, individual preference is really key.

One:

It helps me to find my muse again.  I have a terrible time with my muse.  She, like the writer she inspires, likes to travel.  The problem is she never takes me with her and never returns without me having to hunt her down.

Sure, she calls every now and again but she never seems to return until I start reading my work.  It is like she stops and goes, wait we wrote that shit.  We are pretty bad ass, lets do this shit.

Two:

It reminds me.  I have a terrible memory.  I need the reminder of what my characters were doing and what exactly I edited out before.  You see, when I write a story the story sticks.  And I forget that I cut our a scene, or that I changed a character’s gender.

My novels live in my head.  The world is continuing to go on well after I stopped writing the story, and when I go to write the sequel I don’t always remember where I stopped.

Three:

It builds my confidence.  This is especially true when I read my short stories.  I always go back to the publication that published them and read them again.

It reminds me that I am good enough to be published.  That someone else read my story and loved it enough to put into their publication.  It lets me know that I can do this, that it is worth the time out of my day to write something.  A lot like reading my reviews, I find it a reminder that other do want to read what I put to paper.

Four:

If I won’t even read my novels, why should anyone else? I know that is really silly sounding, but I believe it.  If a novel I wrote isn’t worth the time for me to read, and reread, then why would others read it once.

I suppose this comes from my leadership mentality.  I’ve worked as a leader in my day job for so long and I’ve always believed that I shouldn’t expect my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do.  And I guess the same goes for my readers. I wouldn’t expect them to read anything I wouldn’t read.

It may be four simple reasons, but they are the reasons why I will read what I write even after it has been published.  I don’t feel like my worlds have to die as soon as I put them to paper.

There really are not any rules for writing, your method is your own.  Feel free to break a few of them every now and then.  You just might find that you’re better for it.

My Blog is Caked in Dust, but Despair Didn’t Win.

I haven’t written a blog post since October of 2015, a few months shy of two years.  That was only one of two posts I wrote in 2015.  They weren’t about anything too substantial, but they were important to me.

I haven’t written anything of any consequence since January of this year.  It was one chapter in a new novel project that I’ve been attempting for ages.  Prior to that, I hadn’t written a thing since around this time in 2015.

My Twitter account, and my Facebook, have been a deserted land where I occasionally tweeted to a business that provided poor service.  Truth be told, I am not sure the last time I was on Twitter.  And those that know anything about me, know that I was on Twitter a lot.

Now I preface with all this information in preparation to defend myself as to why I have not been writing.  The very reason that I feel the need to defend myself it the very reason things got this far out of hand.  What I realized was that I don’t need to defend myself.  Quite frankly, I could have just started up with a random blog post and been done.

I watched this video on YouTube the other day.  I’ll link to it if I can remember how to do that after so long away.  I’m not one of those people that spends hours a day watching YouTube, but I do have a couple of folks that I must see all their videos.  One of those people is Meg Turney.

This video, where she talks about her “weird” days, was an amazing gut check to me.  Meg is great in that she refuses to label it, she just hasn’t been herself lately.  I respect that, in fact it is what made it speak to me even more.

Labels tend to throw off people and even cause people to shy away from facing facts.  When someone says, “That sounds like depression.” Or, “That sounds like anxiety.” Or, really any other “that sounds like…”, my first reaction is to say… “I’m not depressed.”

It doesn’t matter if I know that I am. This need to defend myself, as if I have been accused of stealing a co-worker’s lunch, takes over my thought process. I don’t know why.  I think it is the label itself.  Why does society feel the need to label people? Labels are a method of classification, and if you don’t fit it the boxes laid before you, you’ve got some explaining to do.

Meg didn’t bother to label.  Read the video comments though. You’ll see that people immediately took to the need to label what she described.  Some did it under the idea that they were helping, others did it just because she asked them not to, and others did it because it made them feel smart.  And who knows, some just wanted the attention of someone as awesome as Meg.

I’m digressing from the point here.  So back to the gut check.  Meg, a role-model of sorts to me, described some of what I have felt since early 2016.  Just not myself.  But furthermore, she didn’t defend herself.  She just explained herself.  And I thought to myself, I need to do that.

I don’t have to make a blog post that defends why I just couldn’t bring myself to write.  I was scared of that.  I was scared to break through the problem and start doing what I love again.  I was worried I’d somehow need to defend myself to someone.

Of course, I don’t have a ton of fans like Meg does.  I have a hard-enough time getting my friends to read my work.  But I digress again.  The lack of fans didn’t make the need to defend any less dominate.  But after seeing that video, I decided I wouldn’t defend.

But I felt like I still owed some type of explanation.  And while that may seem like a sort of defense, and maybe it is, I still feel the need to say something.

In late 2015, my wife shared some news with me that spiraled me into a sense of being lost.  I didn’t know what was real anymore.  I had a lot of doubt and I just felt hurt.  I didn’t really know where to go or how to approach this.  One friend essentially vanished from my life during the period of time.  Another friend told me to be glad it wasn’t worse.  It was sort of a “shit happens” response.

The goal of this post isn’t to get into great detail, but it took a good four to six months to really start any type of recovery.  The only reason that recovery has since hit was because I met my best friend.  She is an amazing human who seemed to know what to say to help me, a big difference from knowing what I want to hear.  I’m grateful for that, and I am certain she saved me.

During that time, I had no choice but to close Plasma Frequency Magazine.  At this point I just wanted to hide.  I’d let a lot of people down, twice.  First with the initial closing and then with the second closing.  So, I hid.  Now, that does sound like I am heading down the path of defense.  But let me say that I was lost without the magazine.  I was the first time, and again this time.  I was devastated.  Publishing that magazine was extremely important to me.  Add that to the blows in my personal life, and I just couldn’t face anything publishing.

Next, I fell behind on the mortgage.  While I was able to save the house, I felt like failure.

The company I worked for constantly told me they’d be lost without me, but then didn’t appreciate me.  This particular division has grown too much and has lost the company way.  So, I changed departments.  After all, I love the company.  Even better, I was now going to work with my best friend.  Great, right?

Well my old boss is a lying little… person.  He praised and then snapped.  He pitted supervisors against each other to get information.  He made false promises, including raises and such, then didn’t deliver.  My friend and I knew well enough to just talk to each other and I laid low and did my job.  But I got frustrated that he was one way with me and another with her.  And one day he really ticked me off, so I started looking at job boards.  After all, as they say, people quit managers not jobs.

That was how I wound up at the job I have now.  This job pays me more, I have more responsibility, and I am well respected there.  I absolutely love it.  Accept for one problem, I now feel like I’m losing a friend.  We don’t talk much, at least not vocally.  Texts here and there, but no calls and not hanging out. When you go from daily lunches with someone to the occasional text, it is hard not to plummet a bit into doubt.

But now I here, finally blogging again.  Finally putting some words on paper.  And if I can “explain” why I stopped, I damn well better explain how I started.

So, think of this feeling of despair as a pit.  I fell into a very dark pit when my wife and I started having some trouble. The world was continuing to say, “Fuck you, Richard.”  The word was throwing more dirt in the hole, trying to bury me alive.

Many days I thought, what’s the use.  Many times, I thought about writing again and thought, no one cares if I write again or not.  At the time, I did not realize this, but the dirt was filling up the hole but I could use the little positives in life to climb on top of that dirt and get closer to the top.   Crap, I sound like a really shitty Facebook meme.

I had a best friend who dove into the hole after me, before we were even remotely close.  She makes little comments, as if she knows how to deal with my feelings, that help me battle the demons I face.  When I put up my shield and say, “Sorry to bother you, but…” She says, “You never bother me.”  So many other people ignore my defensive lines, and she catches every one and tells me it is fine in her own way.  She isn’t afraid to call me out, but also knows when it is just fine to make it clear she knows what I mean.  I mentioned I broke the writing stalemate in January of this year, and that was due to a thoughtful Christmas gift from her.

Despite the hard times with money, I took the time to use the dirt to figure out a way to be successful.  Until yesterday, I did not have internet in my house for nearly a year.  I still don’t have trash service, instead we take our trash to a free disposal place.  And I made it a point to bring a week’s worth of lunches to work to resist the urge to eat out.

I had a toxic boss and so I used the chance to find an even more amazing job.  I found a job that pays considerably more, has better benefits, and the management is amazing.

And now, at this point I was just out of reach from exiting this pit of despair.  But I couldn’t get there.  I just couldn’t.  I get these feelings that no one loves me, even though I know that has to be false.  I get this feeling that my best friend doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.  And I get this feeling like I am a burden.  No matter how much I knew these things are not true, the feelings still come.

All these things just kept me from pulling myself up and out of the ditch.  I’d planned to give up on writing.  I really did.

And then Meg Turney decides to share her video and her experience.   It didn’t matter that her experience was a few days and mine was almost two years.  It spoke to me and lifted me that extra foot I needed to grab the edge and pull myself out.

Am I cured? Fuck no.  I won’t ever be.  But I’m out of that pit and that means that I can face some of these spots in my life a little easier.  I can make myself do what I need to do.  And now, here I am writing a blog post for all of you.

So, thank you Meg for that last push.

Thank you KN for knowing what I need to hear and for knowing how to translate the guarded Flores language.  I hope someday you cut back on the work and increase your time for friends, I’d hate for us to drift apart.

Thank you to my wife.

Thank you to my fans who did message me and ask about Illusion of Victory.  I am sorry, I’ll make it happen soon.

I know this is long winded and dry, but if I can speak to just one person the way Meg spoke to me, it will be worth it.

I’ll blog again soon, for now I have some novels to write.

Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington

One year ago today I took the leap of faith and moved from California to Washington. I’d never lived in a state other than California, so this was a jump into the new. Even more shocking was the fact that I had nothing lined up out here. No job, my wife’s job transfer was still a maybe at best. But I did it anyway.

When I packed up the moving truck I didn’t even have enough gas money to get to Washington. I slept at a rest stop until my wife’s next paycheck came through and finished the trip the next day.

So why did I pick Washington? Well there is a number of reasons for that. The first was because I have wanted to move to Washington for some time, I’d come up here to test for a job years ago and loved it. The second was because it was cheaper to live here than in California but the jobs in my field paid around the same. And finally, it wasn’t so far away that having family visit would be financially impossible.  Those were the main reasons.

But leaving a state you were a resident of for the first 32 years of your life is a big step. And like most things we do in life, lessons are learned. So, to go along with my one year anniversary in this state, I thought I’d share some of them.  Some of these have to do with Washington itself, and some have more to do with making a move out of state.

1. The Traffic in Seattle is insane.

I learned real quick that one thing everyone in Seattle does is complain about the traffic, then we promptly go back out in that mess the next day. It is just what we do. And it amazes me that a state with so much rain would have so many drivers that have no clue how to drive in the weather. But if you mention that to a Washingtonian they’ll tell you it is because of all the people from California.  Finally, any commuter that travels the I-5 knows about the Variable Speed Zones. I learned that when it says 60 MPH, it is really 50 MPH. 50 MPH means 40, and Any anything less than that means you’re stopping.

2. It doesn’t rain all the time, but there is always a chance.

Coming from California where there is such a major drought, I was ready for rain. Rainy weather is my absolute favorite weather and so this was the climate for me. Despite what people think, it doesn’t rain here every day. But if you check the weather there is always some percentage of a chance of rain. I never once saw it say 0% chance of rain. And the time of year doesn’t matter for the rain. But the great thing about it is rain never ruins anyone’s plans out here.

3. The Science Fiction and writing community is big out here.

Now I haven’t dived too much into this one. But I’ve noticed that a lot of writers have been following me on Twitter and Facebook that are from this area. Book shops are all around. And the library system is really good. This is something I hope to explore a bit more.

4. There is so much to explore.

There are something like 17 state parks within an hour drive from me. In the first year I think I’ve got to 10 of them. There are forests, beaches, lakes, and recreation facilities. Out door recreation not your thing? There are museums, architectural items, shopping, amusement parks, Pike Place Market, sporting events, and much more. Many things to do that are free or low cost. For example, $30 gets you unlimited yearly access to the Washington State Parks.  And I just love all the rivers, lakes and water falls. And of course the sound is right there. I still haven’t been to so much of the stuff around here, I’m not sure I’ll run out anytime soon.

5. Your family and friends won’t visit as much as you think.

First off, my family and friends may take this as a jab a them, but it isn’t. As I mentioned above, I moved here because of a number of reasons, one being still pretty close to California. I am about 12 hours drive away, an hour and a half by plane. But there are other factors then travel time that play a role. Cost being one of them. The other is just time.  When you’re around the corner people can drop in for a few hours to visit. But when you are twelve hours away, they need to block off a few days to do that. That isn’t always practical for everyone. The one annoyance I will say, your family will expect you to come visit them though. So far I’ve been asked to come to California for three separate trips in 2015.

6. Emergency Preparedness is important.

Sure, I admit this is true everywhere. But in California we don’t tend to take the threat of earthquakes very serious. And maybe Washingtonians in general are the same way with their storms, but as some one that moved to this state it opened my eyes to the need for emergency preparedness. For one, the storms take out the power all the time. Flooding is always a possibility. And there is the very real threat of volcanoes.  I think the point here is that the change of perspective can open your eyes to the things you’ve taken for granted.

7. You can’t run from your problems.

I’ll admit that the thing that pushed me over the edge and made me move here was a run of bad luck with jobs in California. It hasn’t changed here. I, in no way, regret moving to Washington. But I have realized that a move will not fix the problems you have.

8. The world is a big place.

Travel is important, but actually taking roots in a new place is an eye opener. The world, and even different states, have different ways of doing things. You may not think they are all the best way, but seeing a new way to do things is good for anyone. It is important to expand your horizons and take risks. There are somethings that California does that I like better. But I am quickly finding there are things in Washington I like a lot more. And as I expand my travel locations, I am finding that there is a lot to see in this country and I hope to get to all of it. But it leads me to want to expand my view to a worldwide one.  And I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.

Where Has the Hopeful Future Gone?

shrugYesterday I finished reading Heinlein’s Space Cadet. Oddly enough, a science fiction fan as myself, had not read that one yet. So when I saw it at my local library I snatched it up to have a read.

As of late, I have been reading a lot of newer fiction by both new and established authors. I also read tons of science fiction shorts both in published magazines and in my own submission pile. But after reading Space Cadet, I realized there is something about older fiction that I enjoy.  Of course the science in most older fiction novels doesn’t stand up to what we know today. But the great authors tell a story that can stand up to the fact that the science is out dated. Heinlein is one of those authors.

But it wasn’t the old science that brought back the nostalgia of the classic science fiction, it was the hopeful future. Sure there are a lot of classic novels in this genre that portrayed doom and gloom. Or even a dystopian landscape. But the classic SF of its day looked to the stars with a lot a hope and wonder. They saw the possibility of life on other planets, humans spreading throughout the stars, and the survival of the human race long after Earth was no longer a safe home.

There is a lot of fiction out there today that portrays the doom of the human race. We are oppressed, wiped off the Earth, a victim to our own technology, or just plain fucking everything up. Where has the hopeful future gone?

Don’t get me wrong, there are some outstanding stories that explore the darker side of our future. I certainly appreciate their message, story, and even the self reflection on what our society is. But is there no good in the world anymore? Is there really no hope for our future? I can’t imagine that, even being the pessimist that I am. It is one of the reasons even my post-apocalyptic novel, Broken Trust, focuses more on the rebuilding of society than simply surviving the end. This pessimist wants to see things work out eventually.

Of course, here in America the overall excitement of space travel and exploration is somewhat muted. Compare the shares of Kim Kardashian’s ass with a champagne glass to the news of a successful mission to land a probe on a comet. A mission that was launched over 10 years ago! It is disgusting to see what we think of as a priority in the news, let alone in science.

Science seems to have been suddenly forgotten. Where is the next space race and why is our government not hyping it? Where is the possibility of the human race traveling the stars? When was the last time man traveled outside of a low Earth Orbit? This sudden lack of interest in spending money for manned exploration of space is part of the reason our genre has seen a decline in space epics that are positive.

We get our news from a thousand outlets around the world, all with their own spin on it. And damn it if the news isn’t depressing. And why is that? Because people would rather tune in to multiple homicide report than one about the newest scientific break through.

The point is this, the trends right now both in fiction and reality is the doom of the human race. The “what is this world coming to” story. And this is where I think we, as fiction writers, are failing to perform our duty.

Of course when writing a story you want to sell it, so naturally we tend to follow the trends. Furthermore, you want to entertain readers with a great story. But a really excellent piece of fiction doesn’t just tell a story, it shapes the person who reads it. It encourages the reader to think, to explore their own minds, and to see a future that just might happen.

So why are we writing stories that show the end is coming? We need to get to our keyboards and tell stories of rebirth, space travel, hope, and success. It is time science fiction went back to tackling the hard questions about our future. It is time we shaped the next generation of readers into thinking that the world can be changed, and that there is so much more about our universe that we have yet to tap into.

And, I am going to put my money where my mouth is on this one. A couple months ago, my editorial staff and I at Plasma Frequency talked about doing a theme issue. Molly Moss and Alexis Hunter, two of my reading editors, had this idea. They wanted to do an “anti-apocalypse” themed issue. I absolutely loved the idea. Like I said before, there are a lot of great stories exploring the darkness in humanity, the end it coming or has come, but I wanted to see hope. Naturally since Molly and Alexis came up with the idea, I gave them editorial control over this future issue.

There is a special call going to this issue, you can find it here.

Let me stress that I am fully aware there are still stories of hope out there. And I know that. But you can’t deny the trend towards the oppression of humans and/or the apocalypse. So as you get ready to write that next novel or short story, how about you reignite the passion of the people. Bring back the Hopeful Future.

Plasma Frequency – Rift & Fundraising

I don’t usually do a lot of reblogging. But Eleanor Wood had some very nice things to say about Plasma Frequency that I had to share.

Panoply

It’s official… ‘Rift’, my flash story that appeared in Plasma Frequency last year, has been voted into their Year 2 Anthology. Little Rift is going out into the world all over again! I’m delighted it’ll get another chance to be read far and wide, and it’ll be sharing space with a whole bunch of terrific stories from Plasma Frequency‘s second year of publication. It’s due out next month, so watch this space.

As it happens, there’s other Plasma Frequency news afoot. They’ve just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to pay their authors pro rates of 6¢ per word. That’s a big jump from their current rate of 1¢, and they need your help to make it happen. They’re hoping to raise over $15,000 by mid-November, which will allow them to claim much-deserved pro magazine status and pay their writers accordingly.

I’ve said it before, but I’ve been…

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From the Editor’s Desk: The Cost of Running a Magazine

money bagsThere is a cost to just about every business. What surprises me is how many people don’t realize the costs of running a magazine. There is also an assumption that running a magazine is a money making venture, and for most of us it is not.

This was something I was surprised to learn. I knew that my magazine had lots of costs. I pay the writers. I pay the cover artist, I pay Submittable to manage our submissions and GoDaddy to host our domain. There are printing costs, shipping costs, and the cost of office supplies (to print and store contracts). There is a lot of little costs in running a magazine. And I haven’t even talked about marketing expenses.

But I thought I was one of the only people trying to run a semi-professional magazine around my day job. And I thought for certain those that own the professional markets didn’t have to work a “real” job just to make ends meet. But I learned different real quick. What’s rare is finding a market that pays for itself and the owner doesn’t have to work a day job. I’m the common one.

I am not trying to discourage anyone from starting a magazine. But what I am saying is to be prepared for the costs. Don’t expect to get rich with an overnight success. Expect to put in a lot of work, and money, if you want to make it. And, in the interest of transparency, I’ll break down my current costs.

Writer Payments:

I currently pay authors 1 cent per word (and I will be getting to how I plan to increase that below). I budget 25,000 words in each issue (over 10 stories) and there are 6 issues in a year. Total $1500

Artist Payments:

I currently pay $150 for cover art for six issues a year. Total $900

Web hosting and Submittable:

Now, I am lucky. Submittable has raised their rates, but I am grandfathered in so I have the old rate. That is until I need to upgrade (which will be very soon). So right now I pay $10 a month for that.   I pay another $9 per month to host Plasma Frequency‘s two domains which cost me $15 a year each (not to mention another fee on that).  Total: $258

Miscellaneous:

There is postage, printing costs, proof copies, and office supplies. Total $400 a year (YTD 2014)

Grand Total: $3048

Now you notice that I have left off marketing. To be honest, other than my trips to the conventions, I don’t do a lot of marketing. I need to do more, and so that will no doubt be in my future budgets.

Now I bet some of you are thinking $3,048 a year isn’t all that much. And for some it may not be. But, lets not forget I have had to come up with that through two job losses and a move from California to Washington. Add that to the fact that, like most Americans, I live paycheck to paycheck. I have no savings account, no retirement account.  I am raising three boys who love to eat (and they haven’t even hit the teen years). So, $3,000 is a lot of money for us.

And, YTD for 2014 when it comes to magazine sales and subscriptions I have made $326. Not even enough to pay for one issue.

So why bother with running a magazine?

I absolutely love doing it. When I say this is a passion of mine, I can not begin to express how short the word “passion” falls in describing how I feel about this magazine. I get such joy out of publishing short fiction. And that is just it.  If you want to run a magazine, you have to understand that it is a labor of love, not a get rich quick plan.

In fact, I don’t care if Plasma Frequency ever makes money. Yes, someday I would like to pay my all volunteer staff for their hard work. And maybe is ten years, I’d like to see enough from it that I don’t have to work anymore. But will I even be swimming in money because of a successful magazine? I doubt it, but I am okay with that. I just want Plasma Frequency to be successful.

Successful Defined

2013top10fictionzineI want Plasma Frequency to gain a loyal fan base, and maybe even publish some award winning fiction. Personally, I think we already have some huge talent that submit to us. With each issue it gets harder and harder for me to pick stories. And I love that. But in order to achieve more success, I need to invest more money into the magazine. The problem is, I am out of money. Sure, I can keep maintaining our one cent per word, and maintain our current level of success, but I feel I owe it to those I publish to push harder and continue to strive to make Plasma Frequency a household name in science fiction and fantasy.

So how do you get more money?

We’ve tried a lot of things. I stopped giving away our issues for free so that people would buy more and we would make more, but we didn’t.  And my main goal has always been to get these authors and their stories to readers. So that is why I’ve gone back to free by making the stories free to read online. And while I won’t make money that way, the web traffic to my website tripled on the first issue we did that (Issue 13).

I have a Patreon Page up. And we have advertising on our website. But those things need time to ramp up. And I am ready to push Plasma Frequency into the professional publication level.

Professional?

There are many definitions for the word professional. I certainly think I have a professional publication, and professional staff. But, I am referring to rates we pay our authors and artists. I mentioned above that I pay one cent per word. That is the absolute bottom of the barrel in the semi-pro pay rate range. Professional pay rates start at 6 cents per word. And that is where I want to take Plasma Frequency.

That takes money, right?

kickstarterExactly. And that is where I am hoping others in the community that I hold close to my heart will come in and help us out. I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise just over $15,000 by November 15th. With that, I will be able to use $10,000 just to pay authors and artists more money starting in January. If funded, I would pay authors 6 cents per word and artists $200 for cover art.

Does that mean I won’t be spending my own money? Oh, no. I will still be spending my own money. That will free up money for me to spend on marketing Plasma Frequency.

I’m scared.

I am scared to death this won’t reach funding. The moment I launched the project the anxiety hit me. I have big plans for this magazine, and for two and half years I’ve wanted to see it start paying professional rates. I am scared that others don’t have the same passion for Plasma Frequency that I do. I just launched yesterday and (at the time of this blog) four other people also want to see this succeed. That is great. I am hoping for ten by the end of tonight, it is a lofty goal but we need the supporters. The more people get behind this and start sharing it the better we can be.

If you are a member of the writing community, especially the short fiction one, you no doubt no the importance of a new paying market. There is way, way more quality fiction out there than there are places to publish it, even fewer that pay above 6 cents per word. And when Plasma Frequency started, we gave them a place to be paid and published. Now we want to give writers a place to be published and paid a fair, professional wage.

I really hope you take a moment to check out the Kickstarter. We have some great rewards, including a story critique from one of our editors for just $7. But even if you just have three dollars left over after paying your bills, we would be happy to take it. And you can know that we will put that money to excellent use.

And please remember, I publish Plasma Frequency for all of you in the science fiction and fantasy community. I hope you enjoy it.