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.

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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.

Richard Reads: Heritage: Book Three of the Grimoire Saga by S. M. Boyce

Since I have been in love with starting new segments recently, I figured what the hell, let me start another one. This one is called Richard Reads, mostly because it sounds cool. And of course, I love to read. And maybe, just maybe, I am proud that I can read… wait what?  At this point I am simply rambling, so lets get on to the book.

Heritage-2Okay, so let me get this confession out of the way. I am a bit of a S.M. Boyce fanatic. Not in like a borderline stalker  way or anything, I just love her books. I discovered this series by following Boyce on Twitter. I think one of my other followers did a Follow Friday or something, and that’s how I found her. If I remember correctly the first book was free for a time on Kindle so I bought it (I think it is permanent free now).  I hate Kindle books but gave it a read anyway. And at that point I was hooked. I bought the paperback of both the first and second book, and the rest is history.

Heritage is book three in her Grimoire Saga. I’d strongly suggest you read books 1 and 2 first, but you could probably follow along if you started with Book 3.  I won’t go into a long synopsis of the book, you can read that anywhere. But the this book jumps right in with the main Character Kara, a human who has found herself in Ourea, a world accessed from our world through Lichgates.  Through a rather odd series of events, Kara is a Vagabond and has a powerful book called a Grimoire.

Book three starts with training. Kara’s Training, Braeden training someone, the recent Vagabonds are training, everyone is training. And to be honest we spend a number of chapters on training. This is my only problem with the book. The first two books have an aggressive story pace. A lot is happening, even between the lines. But book three starts out much slower. A little too slow compared to the other books. It became clear to me that the third book was deliberately putting things in place for the grand finale in Book 4.

But the thing with S.M. Boyce is that that even when things slow down you are not bored. As a writer there are are certain authors that when I read them I think, I wish I could write this well. S.M. Boyce is one of those writers.

Characters: All your favorites are back and still kicking ass in their own ways. The characters are continuing to grow. And I found myself thinking back to Kara and Braeden in book one, and you really see the growth. But even looking back to the start of book 3 to the end, you see there is some big time growth in these characters.  These really feel like real people. I sometimes wonder if Boyce is writing fiction, or if she has stumbled through a Lichgate and really met these people.

Plot: This is a book where the whole point is to thicken the overall plot of the saga. The book’s individual plot is a bit soft. With the training, romance, and self discovery really keeping the timeline fairly stagnant.  If you have read the first two books you will have little problem with the plot of this book, because you will see the big picture.

So here is the thing folks, this is a saga. You can’t expect Book 3 to really stand alone. Boyce does a pretty good job of trying to make sure even new readers won’t be lost. But, lets face it: You need to read the first two books in this series. Not just because I said so, but because so many other say so.  This is a fantasy series that is set up to stand the tests of time. I suspect you will see this series brought up time and time again. Boyce knows what she is doing, and you can bet I will have the fourth Paperback in hand just as soon as it releases.

Here is my suggestion. If you are new to Boyce. Go get Lichgates, the first book, free on your Kindle. Read it.  You will fall in love with it. So then go buy the paperbacks of all three books. Then take those books, read them, hold them, and fall in love with them too. And by the time you are done, you will be as in love with Boyce’s work as I am.

LINKS:

Lichgates: Book 1

Treason: Book 2

Heritage: Book 3

S.M Boyce on Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon

 

From the Editor’s Desk: New Things on the Horizon for Plasma Frequency

2013top10fictionzineIt is funny how much time I spend blogging on writing, publishing, marketing, and even just random things going on in my life. Yet somehow I don’t seem to do much blogging with my editor’s cap on.  I have touched on it here and there, but most of the time that I mention Plasma Frequency, it is about how it has kept me from writing.  It would seem that something that is taking up so much of my time deserves a bit more attention. I assume my blog followers, being writers, might enjoy hearing what is going on in the short fiction publishing world.

For those that don’t know, Plasma Frequency, in my bi-monthly speculative fiction magazine. We mostly publish science fiction and fantasy, but some horror too. We publish from just a few hundred words up to 7,000 words. And we have been doing this now for two years.  Issue 13 comes out this Friday and it makes the start of our third publishing year.  That is a big deal for someone like me for several reasons: first we got this far, second we continue to grow, and third we seem to be making a difference in the industry.

In a future blog I intend to provide some tips on how to start your own magazine, but for now I want to talk about Plasma Frequency‘s future.

Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng
Our First Issue, with Award winning cover art by Tais Teng

This is a magazine that I started in 2012 because I wanted to give authors another place to showcase their work.  And not just showcase it, but receive compensation for it.  Writing is a lot of hard work, and while doing it for money isn’t the best reason to get into writing, there should still be some compensation for it.

I wanted to start Plasma Frequency at 3 cents per word, but the funding for Plasma Frequency comes out of my pocket. So we started, and remain at, 1 cent per word.  The main question for me has always been how do we get this pay rate increased. The first year, I tried in-magazine advertising, and that didn’t work out well.  The second year I tried selling the magazine and some crowd funding.  Neither has worked out well.  Selling the issues covers about 10% of the costs per issue. The other 90% comes from my pocket. When you add in web hosting, submission services, and other operational costs (shipping, printing, postage, and much more), about 98% of the magazine’s funding comes from my own pocket.

Since my pocket book has no more room in it to add to the magazine, I spend a lot of time going over some ideas for our third year. We will still be selling the print copy and the eReader copies. That will not change, because readers have told us they enjoy those issues.  But we will be bringing the stories to our website, allowing those who want to read for free the ability to do so.  Now at first that might seem counter productive to making money, but we are hoping that increased reader exposure will also increase donations.

Asking for donations is always hard. People work hard for their money and they aren’t sure they want to donate it to a magazine. But, we hope that by reading our stories free online you will see this is a magazine worth a few bucks. And this year we are started a Patreon page.

Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens
Issue 8. The first issue with the new Masthead and the first issue sold via Amazon. Award winning art by Laura Givens

What is Patreon?  Well Patreon is a way to donate a small amount monthly to us. It can be as little as one dollar, to as much as you see fit. That is a great way to put just a little bit into the bank and it all helps.  I’ve set some goals on there for us to reach. Reaching those goals will help us to raise the pay rates.  Maybe even get to 7 cents a word for authors in our magazine. That means we can attract more writers and bring in a wide range of story styles.  That is a lofty goal, but the good thing about Patreon is that it doesn’t expire. There is no deadline to reach any of these goals.  It is just the road map to our success.

Tying in to the Patreon page, we are also establishing donor levels. You can reach these through Patreon or through one time donations.  All people who reach one of our donor levels (to be officially announced September 5th) will be listed in all issues of our magazine (print and eReader) for the rest of time.  Onetime donations are always accepted, but Patreon is a good way to reach those donor goals without spending too much.  We have started out with some basic rewards, but as we grow so will the rewards.  The editors and I have even talked about some exclusive special editions that only donors will have access too.  We’re also considering early releases to donors and other such fun perks for becoming a donor.

Do you have a book, magazine, product, or service that would appeal to the audience of my magazine?  Oh, lord that sounds like such a horrible sales pitch. We are bringing back limited space advertising.  Official rates will be announced September 5th. But there are only four spaces for sale each month.  And if you buy a space for October, you get the rest of September free!  Your ad will be on every Plasma Frequency webpage, even the home page, for the entire month.  The ad prices are affordable and you will catch people’s attention.  If we consistently sell out the advertising, we could raise the rate of pay to as much as 4 cents per word.

Now you may be a lot like me and not have a lot of money to spare. I get that.  Money is not the only way to support us. You can also share your favorite stories. You can share the Patreon page. And you can follow Plasma Frequency on Facebook and Twitter.  There are sites to review our magazine too.

But aside from trying to raise money we have some other new and exciting things for our third year.  First off we are publishing Steve Coate’s “The Great Exodus”, a six part serial fiction piece.  The first part releases with Issue 13, and it will run for six issues.  This is a great way for us to publish longer fiction that would otherwise fail to fit within our pages.

We are also setting up a more consistent issue style.  In the past I would accept stories as they came in. And when the word count limit was reached, that was that.  Well sometimes we’d have twelve or thirteen stories in an issue, and other times we’d have just six.  I now am accepting stories for the whole year.  We accept just a few longer fiction pieces (typically two per issues) and the rest will be shorter or flash.  The result will be a consistent 10 stories per issue (11 counting Coate’s serial), while also giving a good mixture of fiction length.  The readers should better know what to expect from us.

I touched on this a little bit, but aside from our six issues, we are looking into publishing special editions. Perhaps even with guest

Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng
Issue 13: Out September 5th 2014. Art by Tais Teng

editors.  We are still talking this over.  I am also thinking of handing one issue over to one of my other editors and letting them have a go in the driver seat.  I am looking forward to working those out.

Of course the Year Two Anthology is also in the works.  The editors and I are choosing our picks, and just like last year our readers are making their picks too.  Voting ends on September 15th.  Then I have to contact the winners and set up the contracts for the issue.  I hope to have it out by late October so that you can have it on your Christmas list.

We will also be archiving our old issues online.  This will take a long time as there are 12 issues worth of stories to code on to a website. We don’t use a WordPress site for Plasma Frequency.  I code it all myself. And, I am learning coding as I go.

Speaking of the website, on September 5th our new website releases. It won’t be hugely different than our site now.  But I have put the stories as the main feature on the first (home) page.  And there are other tweaks along the way.

So that is just a taste of what we have in store for the next year. If you are already a reader, I hope you enjoy it.  If you are not yet reading us, I hope you will join in.

Where have you been?

I know I have been a really bad host lately. I keep inviting people to the party, but then I never show up.  I’ve been less than active on this blog and not very active on social media either. So what has been going on?

Well, I’ve been a bit down about things. I have not felt very validated as an author and have been in one of those self induced moods where I hide from the world.  But, I’ve come back out from my cave, and I didn’t see my shadow. So I think that means I am able to break down this barrier and start working on what I enjoy. And to start, I put out this blog post.

So what have I been up to?

DetCon1

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Well, lets start with the biggest of things that kept me away.  And that is DetCon1. Most of you know how excited I was about being part of the participants for this great convention. And it was really a good time.  I got to meet some great people, break down my fear of reading in public, and even got a few great compliments.

One of the things that was so cool was I got to meet, and for just a little bit, talk with John Picacio. He is one of my all time favorite artists and we talked for brief moment before he was off to do more Guest of Honor stuff.  But, he happened to know who I was.  We’ve interacted a few times on Twitter, and I guess he seemed to remember me from there.  I also attended some of his panels, including one where he broke down how he did “Girl with Microphone”, which is one of my favorite art pieces (bottom left of the picture below is my print copy which I won at the art show!).

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I also spoke to Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld at some length after one of his panels (the day before we sat on a panel together). Clarkesworld, and Neil, have been a great inspiration to my work on Plasma Frequency. And Neil was very much aware of my publication and I was so pleased to know that. He also shared some great insight with me into his own experience in the business and I was quite surprised by things I learned from him. Needless to say, it made me feel as if Plasma Frequency was doing some good in the Science Fiction short market world and I can’t wait to push forward.

Photo by Al Bogdan
Photo by Al Bogdan

I also had a panelist on my first panel tell me that I had a “Stephen King vibe” to me. I took that to be a compliment and he seemed genuinely surprised that I had not hear this before.   Perhaps that means that I am good on these panels and can be invited back for more.  I don’t believe I have signed up for WorldCon in Spokane, so I better do that now.

I had a big fear of reading in public.  I am not the best out-loud reader and I notice if more and more as I get older. I stubble over words when I read out-loud to the kids. So I was really worried.  I did have a reading, but it was late and not many people showed up.  I went last, and many people walked out during my reading. I don’t know if that was from boredom or from it being close to the end of the panel. I hope it was the later.

Plasma Frequency

Oh, this magazine of mine. It is always on the list of things that keep me from writing, but that is a good thing. We are starting year 3 with the publication of Issue 13 on September 5th. We are making some changes to the publication this year. And just like last year we are letting our readers choose half the stories we publish in the Year 2 Anthology.  You can vote on those here: LINK.

We really need the support of our readers if we hope to continue. So we are also asking for your ideas and thoughts in our survey that is just before the story voting.  We are also asking you to pick the cover artist for the anthology.  So if you have read Plasma Frequency at all, please go complete the survey.

A Day Job

So I got one of those again.  Which is good because I was out of a good paying job for sometime.  But I have one that pays pretty good now.  I am still in physical security.  The job is boring, has lots of down time, and the hours really suck.  But, I did finally get a laptop this last week.  So I can now  make use of the down time.  Can’t do much about the bad hours right now.  It is just hard on family time, especially once the kids are back in school.  But, I will make use of the downtime to get things done that need to get done.

A new cover for Volition Agent

Volition Agent eBook

So, I finally decided I needed to do something about the cover for Volition Agent.  The original cover wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t enticing buyers either. So I had Rebecca Treadway at ATRTink redo the cover.  What do you think?  I think it is awesome while still using the model and photographer that worked so hard to get me the first cover.  Also, you can now get Volition Agent on Kindle for just 99 cents. So go pick up a copy here: LINK

Family Time

So I touched on this when I mentioned the new job.  It has meant that when I am off work, I am spending time with the family. This is because I know that time won’t be around when all three kids are in school on my days off and I don’t see them. Especially since I work 18 of my 40 hours on Saturday and Sunday.  So I have been spending the time with them exploring Washington state, our new home state.

My Health

My health hasn’t been so good as of late. I am thinking my gallbladder is acting up. I was in a lot of pain off and on while at DetCon1 and lost 10 pounds in the week I was gone.  Which is odd, considering you don’t typically lose weight on a vacation.  I can’t see a doctor until 2015, unless something changes and I can get insurance before then.   That is a long story.  But I have to have them run a whole series of tests on me, because I am also dealing with some other issues health wise.  All in all I need to make sure I take care of myself.

Feelings of Failing

I touched on this at the start of this blog.  I can’t help but feel as though I am failing at doing what I love. Writing is so much fun to me, but I am just not getting the attention of readers. I recently discovered that none of my books have even broke even. And that is a bit of a sad fact of being a self-published author.  And when you feel like you are failing is can be difficult to motivate yourself to write.  So while I have a whole list above of valid reasons that kept me from writing.  This funk is the real reason.  The rest are just excuses.

So what is coming next?

Well, finally adding a laptop to the equation should help me get back into the swing of things. I will be able to get more writing and Plasma Frequency business done when I am away from home. And that is a huge plus.  It also means I will be able to finally start putting words down on the sequel to Dissolution of Peace, which is starting to be on pace to be a lot longer of a novel than the original is.  I am still trying to think of a good series title for this series.  Any ideas from my readers?

I am trying to keep my chin up.  DetCon1 was a huge boost to that.  I think once the kids are back in school, and before the Washington rain hits, I’ll take this laptop out to one of the great state parks here and use nature as my inspiration to start putting the letters on the page again.  In the meantime, I think this blog post is a good re-connection with the writing world and I’m ready to get things rolling again.

I Call BullSh*t: Authors Shouldn’t Read Reviews

productReviewI know I haven’t been the best about blogging regularly lately. So many new things going on and so many excuses to give you.  So now, I wanted to get back into this with the regular feature I promised, but never delivered on. The I Call Bullshit series where I take things I was told starting out in writing and blow them apart.  The first one was on how I was told that social media marketing was really easy.  It is not.  This time I am going to go over a big one.

I was always told, don’t read the reviews of your work.  Just ignore them all and keep putting out books.  But that is complete bullshit. Perhaps if you are George R.R. Martin you can pass on reading the reviews, I suppose your success tells you what you need to know.  But even still, I think he should be reading his reviews too. And who knows, maybe he is.

First people tell you that everyone is a critic, and this is true. It is also true that you can’t please everyone.  Some people will genuinely hate your work and for no other reason than your style. Not every book is good for everyone. I think once you realize that, there isn’t any reason not to read the reviews.  Even the bad ones have something for you in them.

And there is the reason you should be reading your reviews, there is feedback from actual readers there. You would listen to your Beta readers if they told you they didn’t like something, you may not change it, but you would listen. So why wouldn’t you listen to the person who paid money for it? Some of that money you received.  Readers should be the reason you are writing stories. So to ignore their comments is a spit in the face of the reason you write.  Sure, you may write for yourself. Or you may write because you like to create. But if you took that writing and had it published in anyway, you did it because you wanted someone else to read it.  So you should be listening to their reviews.

Reviews, good and bad, are a precious gift. They are so hard to get.  I have had just one review on Volition Agent since July 6th of 2013. One review and a year of nothing.  Broken Trust has had just one review since itsrelease over a month ago.  And Dissolution of Peace has 20 reviews, but it has taken three years to amass that many.  So getting reviews is far from easy. I have given away free copies asking for a review in return. I have done promotions to get the book in thousands of hands through a KDP free day.  And, I’ve begged and pleaded with my friends to write a review. And it doesn’t come easy.

The point is this. Even a bad reviewer took the time. Something so many readers will not do.  They took the time to tell the author and other customers how they felt about the book. So I make sure to check them at least weekly and to read them. I do this because it is feedback. Feedback from someone who took the time to let other readers know what they liked and disliked.  It is the reviews that lead to a second edition of Dissolution of Peace, because there was consistent feedback that too many typo and grammar mistakes slipped through the cracks.  And it is the same set of reviews that has pushed me to get the sequel out.

And I am not just talking about Amazon or Goodreads reviews.  I am also talking about the blogger, the Facebook comment, the Tweet, and all the other ways that authors get a review.  We should be reading those because they speak volumes about what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong (or at least not to our reader’s enjoyment).

Because I will tell you my stance.  Getting no reviews for a full year, that stings a whole lot more than getting a sub-par review.  I am sure there are people who read it who must have liked it, but they couldn’t be bothered to review it. And that feels like I did something really wrong.

I have noticed a shift starting to happen in this “don’t read reviews” movement. That is the independent author.  Authors like me who are publishing our own work.  I am seeing more and more independent authors saying that we should be reading reviews. And I think this comes from the fact that we are typically the struggling artists who finally decided to take our work into our own hands and put it out there for the world to see. And, we are desperate to know if we made the right choice.

valid-stampThe main difference is that Traditionally Published Authors already have that validation. They have an agent, editor, and publisher that loved their work enough to put it out on shelves and stamp it with their name. Where as the independent author, the only validation that our work gets is from the readers.

But, as time passes I suspect we will continue to shift away from this idea that authors should avoid their reviews. I think it is important we listen to our readers and become better from it.

DetCon1 is Coming Fast!

If you follow me on on Facebook and Twitter, you no doubt have heard me mention DetCon1.  You may have even gathered that I am pretty excited about this.  And, it is just over two weeks away!

What is DetCon1?

The simple answer is the DetCon1 is the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).  But for those, like I used to be, who are not sure what that means, let me clarify.  WorldCon, to me, is the grand daddy of all Science Fiction conventions.  Well, when WorldCon is going to be outside North America (this year it is in London), there is also a NASFiC.

This year, DetCon1 is being held in Detroit at the Marriott Renaissance Center from July 17-20th.  If you have not thought about going, it is not too late. I strongly encourage any author, publisher, or fan of Science Fiction to attend.

Why should I go?

Last year I finally made it to my first convention. I went to Lone Star Con 3, last year’s WorldCon. I figured I’d go big or go home.  And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. I walked away with a wealth of knowledge for my writing, my business, and my reading list.  It was an entire weekend of fun and it cost me almost nothing.  A small membership fee (way less than $100), hotel and a flight.  But the things I learned made it all worth it.

Anyway, I made up my mind that I was going to go to every WorldCon I could attend.  There are two reasons this is a good idea.  First, it makes me get away once a year.  Second, WorldCon always moves around.  Thus making it a great way to see new places.  I really loved San Antonio, and I would never have thought to go there if it wasn’t for the WorldCon.

Well, as I mentioned above, this year it is in London.  And my move to Washington made it just financially impossible to go.  But even if you are going to London this year, you should also go to Detroit.  The conventions are at different times, just so those that can attend both have that ability.

But here is why you should go:

Panels: DetCon1 will have four days full of panels.  What are panels? A group, typically 2-6 people, discuss a assigned topic for about an hour.  The topics at DetCon1 are very vast. They range from Literary to Scientific, Music and Art, and on and on.  You get to hear experts, novices, publishers, artists, doctors, and other qualified individuals discuss these topics and offer their advice.  Sometimes, if time permits, you even get to ask a few questions. And many panelists are willing to talk to you after the panel, if their schedule permits.

I went to so many panels at WorldCon. And one thing I knew I wanted to do was to speak on a panel. Why? Well, like this blog, I like to help people, and I do that with my ideas and thoughts.  Panels are a great way for me to share those.  And, I applied to be a panelist at DetCon1 and they said yes! (more on that soon).

Workshops:  Where panels are more of a one way communication, a lot like a lecture, workshops are more of a two way street.  You work with others to develop a certain skill or item.  There are a number of these and they vary in type and style.  While you learn a ton of stuff from panels, you practice a lot in Workshops.  These are often intense periods since time is limited. But I love the fast learning method.

Film Festival:  I wish I had known about these earlier when I was at Lone Star Con, because I missed some good ones. Film Festivals show short films made by talented folks. The one I attended showed ten different short films in about an hour and half.  They were amazing!  This is a great way to take a break from the hustle of the convention and see some excellent media art.

Art Show: I could have gone broke at the Lone Star Con art show. And Detroit has some awesome artists.  The Artist guest of honor is one of my favorites, John Picacio.  My hope is to get a chance to meet him and maybe (finances permitting) pick up something of his.  But even if you can only look, I can assure you you will fall in love with the art at the convention.

Kids Programs: This year I am going alone. But last year I went with my whole family and the Kids programming was a life saver for my young kids.  DetCon1’s programming appears to be the same way.  Kids can only take so much adult stuff before they go nuts. Kids programming is built just for them and includes a number of crafts.

Dealers: Merchants of as much variety as you can imagine come to the convention to show and sell their stuff.  Of course you won’t leave without a book or two, but there are also shirts, comics, patches, jewelry, and other great things to buy. I don’t know what dealers will be at DetCon1, but my wallet is already opening.

Also, I discovered some great writers by browsing the Dealer room. The books are excellent and I wound up grabbing a few new names because that was the point. To experience something new.

So much more: Exhibits, Parties, Masquerade, Gaming, and so much more.  DetCon1 is certain to have some great exhibits to check out.   I missed the Masquerade at Lone Star, so I hope to attend this one (but I have a busy schedule already).  I also missed out on a lot of parties last time. I didn’t find out about them until late Saturday. So I hope that I can attend a lot more this time.

So you see, there are more than enough reasons to to go to DetCon1.  You can register online for the full four days for just $75 for adults, $25 for kids (4 and under are free!).  So if you can get to Detroit, you see the value is there.  Not sure if you want to register online, you can do so at the door too.  They also have one day memberships that vary in price based on the day.  So please, go check it out!

I almost forgot the biggest reason you all should go!

I’ll be there. I applied to be a participant this year, and was so honored when the programming staff selected me as one of their participants.  I am even more honored by how many panels they have have assigned me to.  So it would be great if a few of my fans, and fans of Plasma Frequency could come out and see me.

Please note, the below list of panels is not final. Although the programming staff say it is “done” (their quotes, not mine), these things are always subject to change.  You’ll want to check the program when you check in.

Of course when I am not on a panel I will be attending them, and also I will be around looking at all there is to see.

So here is where they have me scheduled (*again subject to change so check the final program).

THURSDAY (17th)

The Very First Thing: Story Titles

Description: How do writers choose story titles? What makes a good title? Who gets to decide what the title will be? And which comes first, the story or the title?

My thoughts: I am lousy at titles, and I have had to adapt to that failing. So I hope to get a chance to discuss how I break down my title block and finally put a title on my stories.

Time: 7pm in the Nicolet A Room*

FRIDAY (18th)

Iron Author Detroit – Late Night Edition

Description: Watch four authors compete for the title of Iron Author Detroit! Witness their efforts at turning the Mystery Ingredient Word into an SF/F short story in five minutes or less. Judge the resulting tales through the magic of the Audience Applause-O-Meter. Who will reign supreme?

My thoughts: I am the Moderator or Emcee for this one. I am excited about this one too. I love short fiction, which is why I publish them. So, getting to see four authors write a story in five minutes or less… oh man this is going to be great.

Time: 10pm in the Nicolet B Room*

SATURDAY (19th)

What am I Looking For?

Description:  Agents and editors talk about the sorts of projects that interest them individually and answer general publishing questions.

My Thoughts:  I am so honored and so excited for this panel. Obviously I will be representing Plasma Frequency on this panel. But,as of right now the other panelists are Diana Pho of Tor books, Kate Baker and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld, and Sam Morgan who is an Agent.  Now, Clarkesworld has always been a publication I have admired and has been what I aspired for by opening Plasma Frequency.  So to sit on a panel with Neil Clarke and Kate Baker. Man, I really hope they are there and that aspect doesn’t change. However, I am also excited to represent the semi-pro market on this panel. This is a good one to attend if you’ve wanted to know what it is we are publishing and why.

Time: 1pm in the Mackinac East room*

+/- a Shirt: Starting a Business

Description: How to lose your shirt (or maybe get rich) in starting a business.

My Thoughts: This one wasn’t on my initial itinerary, but I am glad they added me. Plasma Spyglass, my company, is my second business. So I am excited to talk about what I learned from my first failure, and what I know from Plasma Spyglass to be successful.

Time: 3:00pm in the Ambassador Salon 1*

Reading: Flores/Haynes/O’Riordan

Description: Richard Flores IV, Michael Haynes, and Daniel O’Riordan read from their work.

My Thoughts: Of all the items on my list, this one I am the most nervous about.  I don’t know which novel I will read from, but I am leaning towards my most recent one, Broken Trust.  Readings are a great way to hear a book in the author’s voice. That was how I discovered the Split Worlds Series by Emma Newman.

Time: 6pm in the Joliet A room*

SUNDAY (20th)

Hobbies as Research

Description: The best way to write about something is by attempting to do it. But the problem with doing this is that it can be easy to let the research take over the story. How do we balance the story with the fun factoids and tidbits we learn while doing things we plan to incorporate into our novels? How does doing it ourselves lend authenticity and credibility to the story?

My Thoughts:  This is a subject about balance. Obviously research is a big part of writing. But knowing what parts to share and what to leave out is a difficult thing.  This will be a great knowledge builder for new and experienced writers.

Time: 11:00am in the Mackinac East room*

*Remember these are the times and rooms as they are scheduled today. DetCon1 can change these, so please check your programs. And please come see me.