Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blog No-Nos

I'm going to be tinkering on the blog in the days ahead to update some pages and make some minor changes. I'm also going to do something with the blogroll page to bring it up to speed with what I'm actually reading online these days (it's mostly correct now, but I need to delete some inactive blogs and add new ones.)

While I'm doing this I thought blogging as a theme might be fun for this week on PBW, so to kick that off, here are

Ten Reasons Why Your Weblog Traffic is Down
(plus suggested solutions!)

All You All the Time: You are not only your favorite topic, you are your only topic. As fascinating as you are, maybe talk about someone or something else once in a while?

Blame Games: You update only to keep telling us that you're not blogging because of a lengthy, complicated and completely unresolved problem with you partner/spouse/ex/kid/boss/neighbor. You do have our sympathy, but we always wonder if they're posting somewhere else blaming you for the same thing. So try blogging for a week straight without pointing the finger of writing woe at anyone else.

Boxing: Everyone is entitled to their own little soap box. Clubbing us over the head with it every time we visit your blog, however, gets old real fast. Stick it in the closet by having a cause-free month of posting on your blog.

Excessive Advertising: We don't mind most advertising on blogs; I ignore it entirely. That said, if your blog takes five minutes to load because of your ads, or you allow unsavory entities to buy ad space on your blog, or we have to wade through nine of those idiot popup ad windows to get to your content? We're gone. Try reworking your advertising to be simpler, less obtrusive, and please do remove any obnoxious, in-the-face ad widgets you've been using.

Facebook/Twitter Duped: You no longer post any content except copies of your Twits or links to your Facebook posts. If anyone wanted to read this schlock wouldn't they be already following you on Twitter or friending you on Facebook? Take a vow to only post original content on your blog. Or delete the blog and stick to Twitter and Facebook.

Problematic: You natter on about your personal problems in every post, invite helpful responses (most of which end up being pretty varied and good) and then shoot every single one of them down as for some special reason unworkable for you. Which makes us think you don't want any help, Snowflake, and we're going to be listening to you do nothing but bitch for the rest of eternity. Look, all kidding aside, you are probably entitled to be miserable; lots of folks are. But when people try to help you, and you kick them out the door, how often do you think they'll come back? Try to write about something else on your blog; something that offers help to others -- and when you do ask for help, try at least one of the suggestions you're given. Who knows, it may actually work.

Selfie-ish: This is personal and not really reasonable, but I am not a fan of selfies. I don't even like the word. So if you're positing a new one every day, count on me to stay away. I'm not sure how to solve this if you're a fan of taking pictures of yourself; maybe transfer it over to Faceboook, or start a Tumblr blog just for your selfies?

Sorry Excuses: You have not posted anything for the last six months to a year except random/occasional posts making the same sad old non-specific excuses as to why you're not blogging. These include but are not limited to stall-tactic post topics like Wow, My Lousy Day Job Has Sucked Up All My Writing Time; Facebook/Twitter/Whatever Has Eaten My Brain and OMG I've Been SOOOOOO Busy. The next time you think about whining on your blog about why you're not blogging, don't. If you can't blog, shut it down. If you still want to blog, get the ball rolling by writing one new post per week about any topic except why you haven't been blogging.

TMI: Hmmmm, hard to define this one. Okay -- if you're regularly posting content that make your Mom immediately shriek in horror, it's probably going to send most of us packing. Really the only way to combat this is to make your blog private and/or invitational-only. Someday, when you're forty and applying for an important job, you'll thank me.

Untimely: You have begun the last six posts on your blog with some variation of Gosh is it already [insert month or holiday]? Unless you've been hospitalized from a near-fatal car accident, this never fools anyone into thinking you've completely lost track of time for the last half-year. Quit faking the astonishment and tell us what you've been up to while you've been away from your blog. Or jump right into whatever season it is and post something on how to help celebrate it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sub Ops Ten

Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Bundoran Press has an open call for their upcoming Second Contacts anthology: "Science Fiction is our conversation with the future. But what if we're talking with alien voices? Second Contacts seeks stories which explore what happens fifty years after first contact, for us, for them, for our shared future. The possibilities are endless — conquest, collaboration, assimilation, or, even abandonment. On Earth, in space, or on alien planets, what will happen to individuals and societies after two generations or more of staring into alien eyes?" Length: "Our preferred length is 3500 to 6500 words. We will accept stories of any length to 10,000 words." Payment: "$0.02 a word to a maximum payment of $130.00 (all figures Canadian dollars)" Query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Submission period: September 15th, 2014 to January 15th, 2015.

ChiZine Publications is now open for submissions: "We will be accepting submissions for CZP, and for our imprints ChiTeen (YA/new adult), ChiGraphic (graphic novels), and ChiDunnit (mysteries/thrillers). We're still looking for dark, literary, genre fiction that tests boundaries." Length: up to 100K; Payment: according to Ralan, "advance & royalty (varies)" No reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: August 31, 2014.

Golden Fleece Press is now open for submissions: "At the present time we are mostly seeking short submissions for Wee Tales and Refractions, and these must be age appropriate for the journal. If you have something more geared toward an adult market please still submit to be in early consideration for a future project. General and Refractions short submissions should be between 1000 and 5000 words, Wee Tales submissions should be between 600 and 2000 words. We are always seeking new novel, novella, non-fiction, or serial projects." According to Ralan they pay $50.00 for the short fic; query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

The Novel Fox is seeking "talented authors who desire a publisher that takes an active role in all aspects of the book selling process, including helping the author refine the story, producing a polished and professional finished book, and aggressively marketing the book post-publication. If you are an author interested in partnering with The Novel Fox, please closely review the below information and instructions on submitting your manuscript." What they're looking for: "action/adventure, fantasy, military/espionage, science fiction, thrillers/suspense, and young adult." Length: "The preferred word count for novels is generally in the range of 70-110 thousand words, or 50-75 thousand words for young adult." Payment: "For novels, The Novel Fox pays advances starting at $1,000, with 10% of the advance payable upon execution of the publishing contract. Advances for shorter fiction are determined on a case by case basis. Generally, royalties are 30% of The Novel Fox’s gross receipts for digital book sales and 20% of gross receipts for physical book sales." [PBW notes on rights: "The Novel Fox requires exclusive universal and derivative rights for the life of the copyright with every publishing contract, subject to certain reversion rights."] Query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Panverse Publishing has an open call for their upcoming Panverse Four anthology: "Pro-level novellas of between 17,500 and 40,000 words (wordcount is firm). Stories should be Science Fiction (any flavor), Alternate History, or Fantasy with a discernible science-fictional foundation (aka Science Fantasy--think Zelazny's Lord of Light). We'll also look at Magic Realism and Fabulism. The story should be original and unpublished in any medium, including web publication. Depth of characterization will count for a lot--however clever the idea, if we don't care for the protagonist, we'll bounce it. We like stories that instill wonder. Subject matter is pretty wide open. If we care, can't put the story down, and find no big holes in the plot or worldbuilding, you've got a good shot. Panverse is especially open to new writers." Payment: 50% of net royalties. Query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: Sept 30, 2014 or when filled.

Pithy Pages for Erudite Readers would like to see "...stories that will make you think, cry, ponder, laugh, renew your subscription and recommend Pithy Pages for Erudite Readers to friends, acquaintances, and the stranger on the bus." Length: "Short Stories must be fiction of 3000-5000 words (will accept but not pay for words up to 6500);
Flash Stories must be fiction of 400-1000 words (may accept a few more if relevant to story but will only pay for up to 1000 words)" Payment: "Short Stories - .05 per word (maximum of $250.00); Flash Stories - $0.05 per word (maximum of $50.00)" No reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details.

Pop Seagull Publishing has an open call for their upcoming Love, Time, Space, Magic anthology, and would like to see: "truly romantic stories with a science fiction or fantasy flair, especially where love is a potent force in the lives of the characters. Love can be as long-standing and life-changing a force as time, space, or even magic… so send us your biggest, boldest love stories!" Length: .5-10K, Payment: "For short fiction we are currently paying 1 cent per word, plus three free copies of the book and a discounted rate on future purchases." Query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: December 20, 2014.

Pop Seagull Publishing has another open call for their upcoming Robotica anthology, and would like to see: "SF or Steampunk Short Stories between 500 and 10,000 words" and "Wow us with your take on the intersection between eroticism and robots or other artificial life forms! This could take the form of a look at robotic self-replication, humans in love with robots, robot courtship, or anything your imagination can come up with! Just take ‘Robotica’ and run with it. We’re not necessarily looking for pure erotica, but more solid science fiction that examines the intersection of sexuality and robots in a unique way. Having said that, have fun with it! If a sexy, sexy scene suits the story, go for it." Same payment as previous antho, query on reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: March 2015.

Shock Totem e-zine will be opening for submissions on August 1st, and would like to see "Fiction: We consider original, unpublished stories within the confines of dark fantasy and horror—mystery, suspense, supernatural, morbid humor, fantasy, etc. Up to 12,000 words (firm). Flash and Microfiction: We are interested in tightly woven flash fiction, 1,000 words or less, and microfiction, 200 words or less." Payment: Pay: 5¢/word (max $250) +copy. Reprints okay (pays 2¢/word for these), electronic submission via offsite form only, see guidelines for more details. Reading period closes November 30th, 2014.

Here's an open call from Christina Escamilla Publishing for their upcoming SF anthology: "When it comes to the future, the possibility is seemingly endless. This is the focal point of the “Welcome to the Future” anthology. Your future may be filled with new and innovative technology like flying cars or hoverboards or it could be a place where technology has become the dominate species. Perhaps your focus is instead on a positive and uplifting utopian or a dark and bleak dystopian. Whatever your vision is – I want to hear about it!" Length: 2-8K; Payment: $100 + 2 copies. No reprints, electronic submission only, see guidelines for more details. Submission period: runs from July 30th until September 15th, 2014.

All of the above ops were found among the marvelous market listings at Ralan.com.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sorry, No Fairy Dust

Over the last couple of weeks I've received a ton of requests for cover quotes, so as a public service I'd like to clarify some things:

I cannot make your book an instant bestseller. I wish I could, because I'd have a lot more friends in the industry. To be honest, no one can, and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. Do right by your readers by writing the absolute best book you can, and you'll have the same shot as anyone else.

Cover quotes from me have ended up on some books by unknown (or relatively unknown) authors who went on to become huge bestsellers. This resulted in a lot of weird rumors. Whatever you've heard, these successes had absolutely nothing to do with me. I have zero book magic, and no fairy dust to sprinkle on your work. Anything that I've quoted in the past is a book that wowed me, plain and simple. If they went on to go platinum, that's on the publishers and authors, not me. Me ordinary non-magical writer chick.

If I don't know you, sending me your manuscript attached to your e-mail will have one result: your e-mail will be deleted unread. This is not me being hateful and part of the worldwide conspiracy to prevent you from embracing your much-deserved fame and fortune; this is me thinking you're some jerk trying to infect my computer with another virus.

Having your editor or agent or writer pal who knows me ask me to read your manuscript will not improve your chances of getting a read or a quote out of me. Nothing will. Unless you have a million dollars you want to pay me as an upfront reading fee; then we can probably work out something. Only I don't want to burn in hell so never mind.

And finally:

I put up this notice on the About PBW page a couple of months back, but since no one seems to be reading it I'll repeat it here: at present I am not reading any manuscripts from anyone for cover quotes.

Again, this is not because I'm mean, or heartless, or I'm trying to hoard all the fairy dust. Aside from the fact that I have no fairy dust, I can't. I admit, I'm very picky about what I quote because my readers do pay attention to what I endorse, and I don't want them wasting their money on a ho-hum read. Also, reading manuscripts for quotes takes up time when I could be taking care of my family, writing, having a life, etc. so I have a preset limit of how many manuscripts I'll read in one year. Unfortunately this year I reached that limit in April.

I apologize for any inconvenience this causes, and thank you in advance for understanding my situation.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Writer Blues

Why are writers prone to depression? According to Denise Mann and her video and article here on the subject, there are only a couple of causes: isolation, rejection and self-inflicted misery.

As a writer who has been dealing with actual, diagnosed clinical depression since my teens (search PBW with the word depression and you'll pull up a dozen or so pieces I've written about it) I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all explanation for the source. All writers are different, and while statistically speaking we may be more likely to deal with depression than non-writers, I think the causes are just as individual. In my case, depression has absolutely nothing to do with solitude, which I happen to like, rejection, which is just part of the gig, or misery via the writing. Being a writer fights depression for me, and the work has always helped to pull me back from the brink (and on more than one occasion, dragged me back out of the abyss.)

If you are a writer dealing with depression, you're definitely not alone, and there are a lot of options out there to explore. Many of my colleagues have gone into therapy and/or found medications that help them cope. There are also spiritual alternatives like prayer and group discussions that for some can be very effective. Nothing beats having a writer pal to privately vent to, either -- in the writing community, that may be the most popular form of depression self-help.

Aside from the work, I have a lot of weapons in my own organic arsenal against depression: walking, sewing, music, gardening, cooking, journaling, art and reading are the big guns, as most creative or outdoor activities are. Having arthritis limits me more than most people, but I've never let it stop me from pursuing what makes me happy (and doing something that uses your hands, according to this article, may be a very helpful way to battle depression.) For minor bluesy moments I have meditation, calming herbal teas or that relaxing hour of soaking in a hot bath.

I know I can change my mood through most creative activities, and I think it's a positive step to do something you really love, even if you don't feel any interest in it in the beginning. I can't count the number of times I've sat down to quilt when the blues had me wanting to do nothing, and felt immediately better within a few minutes. If you are struggling with depression, I think possibly the worst thing you can do is nothing.

What are some of the ways you writers out there cope with depression? Let us know in comments.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Of all the places we visited on our road trip Maine made the biggest impression on me; I already have two stories outlined from my experiences there. This short film by Jon Roemer (contains background music, for those of you at work) captures many of the reasons this farthest northeastern state will brilliantly shine in your memory:

Maine Shimmer from Jon Roemer on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: To save everyone from having to jump around to different parts I'm going to post my story with the previous work on it included, so click here for the updated In the Leaves novella (for those of you who have been following it, the story picks up with new additions beginning at today's date mark on page 10)

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Writer on the Road

Being a writer on an extended road trip means bringing along things to make you forget that you're leaving behind your writing space, your WIPs, etc. Most of the time this is a good thing (we all need a break from our writer junk) and it's all waiting there when we get back.

For this trip I decided it was high time I got warm and fuzzy with my e-reader, so I left all my physical books at home. I planned to download and read whatever I liked on the road. Actually I was a bit nervous not taking any books, because what if something happened to the e-reader? I'd be stuck watching television every night on the road, which for me actually qualifies as torture. So technology had better save me, yes?

Nope. I jinxed myself. On the first night of the trip my e-reader locked up and wouldn't download anything; I couldn't even open the books I already had stored on the damn thing. Fortunately there was a BAM nearby the hotel, so off I went to shop. I was never able to get the e-reader working, either, so I picked up more books whenever I spotted an interesting indie bookstore, and ended up with this haul in total:

I generally don't buy this many hardcovers, but wherever we stopped I tried to pick up at least one book from the staff-recommended shelves. Booksellers along my route really like expensive literary and crime dramas, it seems. I decided to give Lee Child and Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling wearing her mystery dude suit) another try. I also bought some paperbacks by my writer pals just in case all the newbies-to-me sucked. I finally get why everyone loves Lee Child, and while his Jack Reacher reads like a Tom Cruise on steroids -- maybe that's why he got the role in the movie version -- the outlandish story lines are entertaining. I do think his editor should take a weedword-whacker to all the shrugs and nods used as macho dialogue replacements in his stories, as they get tiresome pretty fast.

I made mostly good choices, too, I think. As I reported from the road Delicious! was pretty awesome, and I'd say the worst read was the Mystery Duded Rowling novel, through which I mostly winced. My take away from that one was, if you want to settle some scores with the literati, best do it in a dignified Salon article rebuttal -- not your fiction.

I also picked up some local and regional news/mag publications whenever I could find them:

The USA Today came from the hotel, and I bought the magazine, but the others were freebies. These can be fun to read when you're traveling, and often quite helpful, too. We found one of the nicest B&B's we stayed at on the trip via the magazine.

Aside from the malfunctioning e-reader, this is all the writer & art junk I brought with me:

My packing rule was, if it doesn't fit in the cigar box, it stays home -- and that really works to keep things to a minium. I did write in my travel journal almost every day of the trip, and painted or sketched every day in my watercolor journal, so they were good choices.

What do you writers out there take with you when you travel? Let us know in comments.