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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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

20140717_111418[1]

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!).

20140720_101912[1]

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.

 

I Call BullSh*t: Social Media Marketing is Easy

Dung-heapI’ve decided to start a new regular post call “I Call Bullshit”.  In these articles I will take  common themes, rules, myths, and legends about writing and publishing, and I will call out the bullshit behind all of them.  Call me the Mythbuster of the writing world. Unless that violates some copyright, then just call me Richard.

Anyway, one of my favorite sayings is, “I call bullshit.”  Why? It has so much more of a punch than, “I don’t think that is true. ”

This time around I tackle the myth that Social Media marketing is easy.  You wouldn’t believe how much I heard this starting out as a business owner, and now as a writer.  And on the surface it sounds easy.

Here are some of the things I have heard:

All you have to do is post a lot and people will follow you and buy your products.

Once you have followers, the word will get out about your projects.

If you write engaging articles, people will continue to read your blog.

Getting followers is easy.

Well, I call bullshit.

I am not a social media expert, and I think anyone who claims to be an expert better have some concrete evidence to this title.  But, I have used social media for my old security business.  And I currently use if for my writing, and for Plasma Frequency.  I am constantly on social media, not just for business but for personal use too.

First, simply posting doesn’t attract followers.  You have to post things that either engage your audience or entertains them.  And you have to get them to like it enough to share (or ReTweet or ReBlog) it to their followers.  And it has to be good enough that their followers than choose to follow you.  This can be excellent articles, a hilarious Tweet, information that your audience might enjoy, or anything like that.

Again, that sounds easy, but it isn’t. Lets look at my author account on Twitter.  I’ve been on Twitter for going on three years.  Not a long time, but I have almost 4,000 tweets in that time.  Or,  roughly four tweets a day.  That doesn’t sound like a lot and compared to others, I am a novice.  But, even still I can only think of maybe twenty tweets that actually gained mass popularity and directly resulted in adding one or two follower.  I know of only three tweets that directly brought on 10 or more followers.

Now, my blog on the other hand does tend to attract more followers with each post.  I usually get one follower for every three to four posts I make.  But, I have had some posts, such as my self publish one, that brought on a ton of followers.  And my articles on writing tend to draw more attention that my promotional posts (I’m getting to that).

I haven’t had a a follower of Facebook is ages.  Facebook is becoming the vast wasteland of social media marketing.  And I will get to that soon.

Now, posts resulting in purchases…. I hate to tell you this.  But I can not account a single sale on any product to Social Media posts.  Not one.  For one reason it is hard to measure that.  I am sure people see my book is out and go buy it.  But my guess is most of those people were going to buy it anyway because they know me, or know my work.  They just needed the reminder it was out now.  But, how many people have read this blog and decided they wanted to buy my book?  There is no way to really know that.

I will say, as a big time consumer of books, I have never seen a promotional post by an author I didn’t know and decided to buy it.  My promotional post I mean “Here is my book link.  Please go buy it.” Followed by a link.  Any why not?  Well that is a lot like a hard sale.  Imagine walking into the car dealership, which is already a hard sell location, and the first think the salesman said to you was, “Here is a car, please buy it.”  You probably would leave.  And I doubt you would buy the car, you know nothing about it.

The same is true in social media.  You need to get people to buy your books because they like what you have to say.  That means they like what you post on your blog, the Tweets you post, the Facebook things you share.  And then, only every now and then, you give them a reminder that you have a book out.  Or you integrate reminders through out your posts.  I often reference my books and my magazine in posts.  But not in a “Buy me now” way, but in an example or a causal reference.  Like product placement on TV.

And that takes a lot of work.  I go back through my blog posts to add these links you see.  I have to constantly update my website and blog to show relevant books.  And even still those only result on a few clicks.

Promotional posts are not outlawed.  There are several promotional rules out there.  Some say the one-in-three rule, or the one-in-five rule.  I personally use the one-in-ten rule.  That is that one in ten of my tweets or Facebook posts are promotional.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I count my tweets.  It is a general rule of thumb.

Lets say you are lucky to have a vast amount of followers.  I certainly don’t.  But maybe you are lucky.  You may actually be unlucky.  Here is why:

Facebook has stacked the deck against authors, especially broke ones.  It is a game of percentages. Not all those people will see your posts.  Not even half of them will.  Not even a quarter of them, unless of course you pay for that.  Promote your post and it will pop up everywhere and to everyone, even people not following you. But it comes at a price.  Of my last few posts on my Author Page, only 2.5% to 8% of my followers saw the posts I made.  On Plasma Frequency’s page it was a bit better, 9% to 41%.  Note, the 41% was on those posts that were shared by others (like when an new issue releases and all the authors share).

So here lies the problem with Facebook:  Getting Followers, and getting those followers to see what you post.  The solution, and the only one I know of, is to pay Facebook.

But I am a small press that doesn’t make a profit.  My books are not making a profit yet either.  I am unemployed, trying to make a living off of writing.  I don’t have “extra” money to pitch into a Facebook campaign.  And even if I did, a little research will show you that there are plenty of people who didn’t get much for their money.  And what would I have to pay to get all my posts seen all the time? My wallet just started crying at the thought of it.

You may be thinking Twitter is the way to go.  Sorry, to tell you that simply being free has not solved the problem.  Getting followers can be easy.  Follow a shit-load of people and so many will follow you back.  Then, I know people who go back and unfollow all the people who don’ follow back… I call bullshit on that too, but that is another topic.

Anyway, I see people with 5k followers and following 5k people.  I follow 400 people on my account.  When I go on Facebook, I can go back for an entire day and read all the post from a day.  Maybe it would take an hour, or two tops.  Go on Twitter, I can read Tweets for four hours, and only get about 3 hours down my timeline.  There are so many people out there shouting on Twitter that things get lost.  Some of my favorite Tweeters are constantly missed by me.  I find myself skimming over my timeline and bypassing any tweet with a link in it.  Anything that sounds like “buy me”.

And that got me thinking. If I am doing that with 400 people, what is the person who follows me with 5k other people they are following.  I can guarantee they are not reading Tweets by a small time author with sarcastic humor.  So while Facebook will tell you that they are not showing your posts to everyone.  Twitter is showing it to everyone, but I contend that just as few are actually reading what you Tweet.

And, WordPress tells me how many views I get on each article I write.  None of them add up to all of the followers I have.  In fact of the last ten posts, the readers number worked out to about 25%, on average, of my follower count.  And that is just the ones that clicked the link.  Not that actually read the article.

And if that is the case, simply having followers does not mean they are hearing about your projects.

Write engaging articles, Tweets and posts, and people will read what you write.  Well, what the hell is engaging? You can answer that for yourself, but not for other people.  It sounds easy.  Just write about writing.  Sorry, but every independent author and writer out there is putting out self help articles on their blog.

So what makes yours stand out from the crowd?  Your personality.  Certainly the fact that this feature has “bullshit” in it will mean some readers won’t read it.  But, it is also giving this article a bit of my own style.  Regular readers know that I tend to have a rambling, sarcastic, and sometime crass humor in the topics I write about.  Every single one of my blogs oozes with my opinion, and that gives it my own flair.  You can get my information anywhere, but my opinions and humor you can only find from me.

All that still doesn’t mean new followers.  They have to find your blog, Twitter, or Facebook before they even decide if they want to read what you say.  And while WordPress does well to attract new people to my articles, the rest is up to me.  It isn’t easy.  And, I can write one really good article, but not everyone is going to read it.

Finally, getting followers is easy.  Three years I have been fighting my way up to getting good quality followers.  And you see, that is the real trick here folks.  Getting followers is easy.  You can get thousands of egg avatar followers on Twitter, but those bots aren’t reading shit you write.  You can use programs to gain more followers, or be part of “Team Follow Back” and get thousands of followers quickly.  But they are not reading what you say, and that defeats the entire point of everything you’ve been working for.  Why write at two thousand word blog, such as this one, if no one reads it?  Why keep tweeting away when no one is reading them?  That is not an effective social media marketing strategy.  That is a scam of trying to make yourself look popular in the hopes that you might get more followers based on your perceived popularity.  It won’t work.

There is only one way to get quality followers on any social media platform.  Time.  Develop a strategy and stick with it.  Modify it as you find out what works, and keep plugging away.  I certainly get more hits to my blog now than I did three years ago.  My interactions on Twitter have gone up.  But it takes a lot of hard work.  Why do think major companies hire social media team members to manage their pages?  Because it takes a full time marketing team to really work on it.  And let’s face it you are only doing it part time around all the other jobs of being a writer, publisher, and/or editor.

To say social media marketing is easy is complete bullshit.  Like all marketing, it takes time, strategy, know how, and hard work.  It also takes the added step of being social and being yourself.  There is nothing easy about it.

Being an Artist in Tough

frustrated_writer_200I’d like to start off by reminding people that writers are artists too.  This seems to get forgotten for some odd reason.  We think of painters, sculptors, photographers, graphic artists, and even musicians as artists.  But for some reason people don’t think the same about writers.  Writers are artists of words.  We paint pictures in your mind.  We sculpt characters into life.  We make music with our plots.  But, as any artist knows it isn’t easy to be an artist.

First, most people assume art is a hobby.  I’ve touched on this before in other posts.  But it really aggravates me how many people refuse to see my art as a potential career for me.  We are a corporate world.  We see a nine-to-five, cubicle bound, TPS report filing job as being “real” work.  If you think you want to be an artist when you grow up, expect to be frowned upon by friends and family (unless they too are artists).  Not all of them, no.  But you would be surprised how few of them will really truly support your work.  They will see this as a hobby.  They will see it as something you do when you are not working.  They won’t understand your desire to do it full time, it is foolish to expect to make money from creating art in your basement.

Which leads me to my second point.  Making money in the arts is hard.  Of all the artists out there, I think musicians and actors (performing arts) are one of the few to regularly command big bucks.  But even only a fraction of the performers out there hit the “big time”. If you paint, you probably won’t make a lot.  I’ve certainly made it clear how hard it is to make money as a writer.  From others in the arts, I have seen that it is hard to make money in most of the arts.  And to make good money someone has to “discover” you.

Hitting the “big time” is rare in the arts.  The reason is that you have to be discovered.  You have to find your niche and get someone’s attention.  Not just anyone’s attention either.  But the attention of the “movers and shakers” of your particular art.  If your a short fiction writer, that is one of the big time markets.  If your are a novel writer that is one of the traditional publishers out there.  This is if you really want to be the next big thing.  But, most artists out there want to be found.  And so many of them are shouting “pick me” to the people the hope will “discover” them.  I’ve seen a lot of excellent talent give up because they just can’t be heard among everyone else that needs attention.

Of course, you can simply publish your own art.  I see this in more than just writing.  Painters and Sculptors will sell there work online, or attend art shows.  Writers can now self publish with relative ease.  YouTube has allowed movie makers and performers to reach a large audience.  Just about all art forms can “self publish” in one way or another.

No matter if you self publish or get found, you will have to promote your own work.  That is the bigges pain in the ass of all this.  I struggle with it all the time.  You will beg for reviews, sales, mentions on on other blogs, and ask all your friends to please help you get the word out.  You will quickly find that most of your friends and family, or even your social media followers, will not do much to help spread the word.  Most of them won’t even bother to click the link you posted.  And even more will simply start to ignore you because of you are over doing it.  If you are expecting your friends and family to buy and review your art, don’t hold your breath.  So few people take the time to review anymore, your friends included.  You’ll count on your friends to support you.  Give you an opinion on your work.  Don’t do it.  Trust me, you have friends that will repost everything you say about your art.  But not nearly as many as you thought.  And so few of my friends have ever purchased anything I’ve written.  And those that have, less than half (maybe less than a quarter of them) have written a review.

You’ll try to advertise.  But finding the right audience is a talent that can be hard to perform.  You’ll have to attend conventions, art shows, and much more simply to get the word out.  And all this takes away from your time spent creating art.

You will also hit a lot of rough patches in your quest to make your art a career.  You’ll get a bad review.  You’ll have a lack of ideas.  You’ll get depressed and think you can’t possible make your art a career.  You’ll reach out to your friends for support and they’ll ignore you.  Or tell you that “they don’t read”.  You’ll get rejected by your favorite venues.  You’ll get rejected by a mentor or someone you looked up to.  Someone will bash you for your technique.  Someone else will say you lack the education to pursue your art career.  You’ll get so down that you’ll think you were foolish to ever give art a serious try.  You’ll think it is time to give up on this and focus on getting a “real job”.  You’ll cry at night because you just wanted that acceptance letter so bad, and you were shot down.  You’ll be heart broken because you hoped your closest friends would read your work and they don’t.  You will hit a point where you realize walking away is the easiest thing to do.

And that is when you have to make choice.  But, if you really are an artist to your bone you will realize that, no matter how easy it seams, you can’t walk away.  You will have a moment when you realize that even though it is tough, you know you have what it takes to be the next big thing.  You will realize that art was always something more than a career to you.  You will rise up and make the choice to push forward.

You will still be hurt when the people you love don’t see your art as more that a “hobby”.  But you will network and make additional friends that enjoy the same art you do.  You will make the effort to learn how to use social media without driving your followers away from over promotion.  You’ll learn how to advertise.  You’ll find conventions, and shows, and other ways to get your book noticed by the people that really matter.  You’ll learn that the “movers and shakers” certainly have an important part in the art world, but they are not who you create your art for.  Your art is for the people who want to see it.

You will work to put out more of your art so that while you may not make much per piece, you’ll have a wide variety of art to choose from.  You’ll also realize that money isn’t the real reason you ever made art in the first place.  And you will get back to making your art for yourself and let the money come second.  You’ll realize that you may have to work for years before you get discovered and that is okay.  You may need to work your day job and work on your art on the side.  But you won’t care anymore because you are still creating.

The rough patches will always come.  I hit them still all the time, even when I try to be rational about it.  But you will also hit some great times.  You will get excellent reviews.  You’ll have a moment of pure inspiration.  A friend you never expected will show up with a kind word and a helpful tip.  You will get an acceptance letter.  You’ll find a new mentor.  Some one will tell you how your work inspired them to try it. You will be reminded of why you really wanted to be an artist.

And that is the moment you will realize that being an artist is tough, but you can’t imagine doing anything else.

2014: Looking Ahead

10310_wpm_lowresSo it is 2014, though I am still a bit in denial about that, and now is the time everyone puts up new year posts.  I guess I will too.  There is a saying, “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” I always thought that was kind of a silly saying.  I mean if everyone is doing it, there has to be a reason for it.  So at the very least I’d start gathering some facts.

None of that has to do with 2014, I don’t foresee any massive bridge jumping events in the near future.  In fact, I am not very good at predicting the future.  If I was, the Sharks would have already won the Stanley Cup years ago.  So while I say I am looking ahead, I am really just planning ahead and hoping it all works out.

I’m not much for the resolutions thing.  The meaning of resolution has been perverted over the years, and the definition really should be changed.  Now a days a resolution is a plan you make in January and break by February (March for the diehard folks). Personally, I am so sick of the lose weight and eat better resolutions.  There are no points for originality there.  And the gym advertising that starts in late December and runs through February kills me.  Undoubtedly the gyms make money hand of fist with people who buy memberships in January and never use the gym again after April.

I do like to make plans for the new year though.  A plan sounds better.  And everyone know even the best plans go to shit real fast.  So when your “plan” gets all jacked up, it was expected all along.  I never feel nearly as guilty when my plans fail as I did when my resolutions failed.  That being said, one of my personal plans for 2014 is to lose some weight (yeah, I know what I just said).  So far so good.  Even with the holidays in the way, I’ve lost almost 12 pounds in December.  I have no plans for a gym membership though.  My new apartment has a fitness center on site, so perhaps once all the resolvers have given up, I can start using the treadmill there.  Of course, a walk around the block is also free.

I have a number of personal plans for 2014, but that really wasn’t the point of this blog.  This blog was more about what I plan to do in the writing and publishing aspects of my life.  That is why most people read my blog.  Actually the truth is I don’t really know why most people read my blog.  I’m not even sure how many people bother to read past the few corny jokes.  So I suppose if you’ve made it this far down my blog, I owe you some good solid blogging.  But, as my credit rating suggests, I rarely deliver on what I owe.

broken trustMy first goal for 2014 is to release three novels this year.

Three.  The past two years I’ve only released one a year.  And many writers were surprised I had time to release them that fast.  So three is a pretty lofty goal.

Here is what stands in the way: Broken Trust is already way behind schedule.  So at this point a March release seems impossible.  My editor, who I love to work with, is also very behind.  I’m guessing May before that one comes out.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is slow going.  I’ve been hitting a lot of stumbling blocks on that one.  Hopefully the ball gets rolling on that one.  And finally, I don’t have a solid novel idea in place for the third novel this year.

Here is why it can happen: Broken Trust is almost ready right now.  So I just need to get it rolling through the process again and it will be ready for release. All the cards are in place.  The sequel to Dissolution of Peace is being written and once I find my groove, I can tear out a lot of words per day.  For that third novel, I am playing around with a Volition Agent sequel (though I hadn’t planned on one).  Volition Agent was always planned to be a stand alone book.  But I am thinking about writing more about Lexia.  I do also have plans for a third novel in the Dissolution of Peace story line.  And I left Broken Trust open for a sequel as well.  But I also have ideas in their infancy for other novels.  One, could be an elaboration of my first short story “Death Watch“.

My second goal is to increase the pay rates at Plasma Frequency.

I had really hoped to do this in 2013.  I wanted to push hard to triple our rates, but the goal was just out of reach for a number of reasons.  But, I learned a lot in 2013 about the business and have made some changes.  This year I hope to go from 1 cent to at least 2 cents by the end of 2014.

Here is what stands in the way:  The funding is the biggest challenge.  I still fund about 95% of the operating costs for the magazine.  And not that I am out of work I can’t afford to increase those costs.  Also, increasing our readership has been harder than I expected.

Here is why it can happen:  We recently started charging for our electronic issue.  We’ve seen a slight reduction in electronic subscriptions but we did see an increase in print subscriptions.  Amazon gives us more exposure and that has resulted in a steady increase in readership.  We’ve also seen an increase in social media interactions and reader feedback.  All this means Plasma Frequency is on the up and coming.

My third goal is to start speaking at Conventions.

After attending Lone Star Con 3 this year.  I knew I wanted to speak at these convention panels.

Here is what stands in the way:  I don’t have much “cred” to get convention programmers to consider me.  That is the hardest part.  I also have to have the money to get to many of these conventions.  I’m still learning what conventions there are and when they are.

Here is why it can happen:  I’ve already applied to DetCon to participate.  I am already going there and I keep hoping they will contact me for at least one panel.  I’ve also started looking into all the other conventions out there.  Also, I am confident once someone gives me the chance I’d be really good at it.  I love public speaking.  And, as my blog reflects, I love sharing my experience and knowledge with others.

My forth goal is to expand what I do.

I want to be a writer.  I don’t want a day job anymore.  Of course, I need one.  Writers rarely make major amounts of money.  But my hope is to expand what I write and what I publish so that writing become more of a substantial source of income.

Here is what stands in the way:  The odds.  Making a lot of sales on my books is tough.  Also, to make more I need to write more.  And funding so I can publish more is also a challenge.  Plus, once I get a day job that gets in the way of writing time.  Also, it can be hard to write new things when you are so used to what you already write.  I write Sci-Fi.  I’ve considered non-fiction recently but fiction is what I know so that is a challenge in itself.

Here is why it can happen:  If I keep writing, the sales are bound to happen.  The more books I put out (hopefully 3 this year) means the more I have to sell.  Also, in the coming weeks Plasma Frequency will be announcing a plan to publish longer fiction.  As far as non-fiction goes, that is what I blog.  So I suppose that if I put my mind to it I can find a topic to write a non-fiction book on.  Though with my current publishing plans, the non-fiction book likely wouldn’t release until 2015.

So those are my plans for my writing career in 2014.  Now to see what actually happens.