Friday, December 30, 2011

My secret goal for 2012

I wrote the other day about my goals for 2012, but I intentionally left out one big, specific goal. Why? Because it's a crazy goal, a crazy idea. I'm still going to try for it, but I'm not brave enough yet to talk about that goal with others (except for my wife, who has agreed to help).

This goal is nuts. Truly nuts. But I should know by the end of January if I even have a hope of accomplishing it. It's going to mean a lot of work, and yes, it is related to writing.

So, toward the end of January, one way or another, I'll be blogging about this goal of mine. I'll be letting others know if I think I can accomplish it, or if it's just a crazy dream.

Remind me, please, in case I forget. Because I'm going to be busy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing goals for 2012

Usually toward the end of a year, or at the start of a new year, I do a post about my writing goals for the upcoming year. I also usually look back at the past year, and decide whether or not I reached my goals for that year.

For whatever reason, probably my mood, I did not do such a post last year. But this year I'm going to.

First, did I reach my writing goals for 2011? As I had no specific goals, well, yeah, I must have met them. I completed a novel, a couple of novellas, a novelette, a half dozen or so short stories, etc. And then there was all the blogging and guest blogging I did this year.

So, I'm relatively pleased with 2011.

What about 2012?

I would like my output to be more than 2011. I wrote about 300,000 words of new fiction in 2011, but only 117,000 of that was for a novel, Ghosts of the Asylum. I'd like to have at least three new novels available by the end of 2012, and truth be told, I'd like to have five or six new novels available (but I don't think that's going to happen).

More than anything, I want to work on my total word output. That means putting my nose to the grindstone and writing, writing, writing. Fiction, that is. Seems I'm always writing, but I want to be writing more fiction.

I'll work on it. Not making any promises, but I have a few ideas to make myself more productive, and I hope some of them will work.

Gotta go. There's a new novel that needs some writing work done on it.

100 Sites for Fiction Writers: #95 - Funds for Writers

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Funds for Writers

Money can be a touchy subject among some writers. If you are a writer hoping to make a living from your writing, there are those who will call you a hack. If you are a writer not interested in money, there are those who will call you an elitist or a hobbyist. To me, personally, it doesn't make much of a difference. If you think you can write for money, go for it; if you prefer to write for any of a thousand other reasons, that's your choice.

But for those who do write for money, or who try to write for money, often it is difficult to find that money. That's when a site such as Funds for Writers can home in handy, because it lists and explores how a writer can make money.

Though it is not easy to make money as a writer, there are many different ways to try and make money. For instance, a writer can apply for Grants. A writer could also take part in Contests, or look to sell his or her work through the Markets.

At the Funds for Writers site, one can also search for funding by reading the site's main Newsletter, or by looking into the Small Markets Newsletter, or the WritingKid Newsletter.  If you want to get truly serious about a funds search, and you can afford $15 per year, you can sign up for the TOTAL FundsforWriters newsletter. One could also check out the site's Resources page to find books and other materials than can help writers.

And who, you might ask, is behind Funds for Writers? Site founder and editor C. Hope Clark, who has been running the site since she created it in 2000.

So don't lose Hope! There are ways to make money, and to make a living, as a writer, and this site can help. Don't forget to spend some time checking out everything Funds for Writers has to offer.

100 sites for fiction writers: #94 -

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

The website has been around for more than a decade now, reports nearly a million members, and claims to be "the largest and leading online website today." I won't argue with anyone about that, because the site seems quite popular and useful.

Basic membership is free to users, though there are levels of membership that do include fees. High levels provide more memory space for storing you writing, as well as many other perks. Make sure to Compare the differences before deciding on a membership level. Keep in mind, however, the free level will get you in the door and provides plenty of goodies for writers.

What kind of goodies? A personal online portfolio, a public portfolio URL, backups, a note pad, the ability to create and host stories, polls, Madlibs, puzzles, quizzes and more. You also get your own e-mail address, can take part in the site's forum, and can receive feedback from others. This is just the beginning, however, because there is even more you can do at

At it's most basic, is a great site to connect with other writers and readers. You can post your work, get some opinions about your work, read some others' material, etc. The site is a major social network in and of itself for writers.

Plenty of other tools are available at, and the site also offers "Gift Points" which can be used to advertise your books, to purchase items at the site's Store, or for other purposes. is one of the more extensive sites about writing on the Web, and as a practical matter it is nearly impossible to cover everything available at the site in a limited amount of space. As I'm not here to bore you with details (hopefully), you'll need to go check out the site on your own. Truly, it offers much, so you'll want to spend plenty of time looking over the site's pages to see everything it has to offer.

Monday, December 26, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #93 - Writer Unboxed

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Writer Unboxed

In 2006, writers Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton came together to create a website that would allow them to "broadcast their observations" about ... well, just about everything, especially concerning writing and books and literature. Over the years this site, Writer Unboxed, has grown, and now it hosts regular contributors who are professional writers or who work in the publishing industry in some fashion.

What one ends up with is a rather extensive blog where novelists, educators and editors and others provide their thoughts on myriad subjects, but also spill here and there about what's going on in the industry. Those with business interests in book and e-book publishing should pay attention.

But Writer Unboxed isn't just about the business end of writing. For those who are working on their craft, this site offers plenty of posts and articles that can prove helpful, such as The Secret to Finding the Time to Write, Market, Promote, and Still Have a Life by media and writing professor Jane Friedman. If you want to get slightly different perspective on books and publishing, it would be worth checking out the sister site, Reader Unboxed.

At Writer Unboxed, there is a little bit of everything for everyone, from information to humor to news to talk about everyday minutia and sometimes silliness. Writer Unboxed is not only informative, but it's also a fun blog to read, with lots of different viewpoints, almost like a smaller version of Huffington Post just for writers, without all the politics.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #92 - Writing Forward

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Writing Forward

There are so many websites out there for writers, it can be confusing to decide which one to visit regularly. For beginning writers, I think Writing Forward is a good place to begin. Why? Because Writing Forward is sort of a one-stop shop for writers, meaning it covers a lot of different information, especially for beginning writers.

Here you will find plenty about Creative Writing, including Grammar tips, Writing ExercisesWriting Ideas and Writing Prompts. You'll also find plenty of Resources and Tips. If you feel you are in need of professional help with your writing, or possibly proofreading and editing, you can always check out the Services section. There is so much here, including News related to writing, this site could be helpful to the professionals out there, as well.

If you are looking for something a bit different, you can always check out the areas on Journal Writing and Polished Writing.

For those who are not strictly fiction writers, the Writing Forward site also talks about poetry and creative non-fiction, so you don't have to feel left out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #91 - Grammar Bytes!

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Grammar Bytes!

Grammar is something all writers should take serious. Yes, there are times when the rules can be broken, but first you have to know those rules quite well to be able to break them without looking like a fool.

How do you learn the rules? Hopefully you picked up the basics in school, but if you didn't or if you need a refresher, you probably should check out the website Grammar Bytes!

Grammar Bytes! is a fairly simple site, but it's packed with information and Exercises to help you learn. Also, the site is run by Robin L. Simmons, an English professor at Valencia College in Florida, so you can trust what you pick up here as solid.

What other information can be found at Grammar Bytes!? How about explanations of the many Terms used to construct the English language? For example, if you don't know what makes up a Noun, an Absolute Phrase, or a Dangling Modifier, this site will explain it all.

Remember those exercises I mentioned? If you tend toward the old-school side, you might want to work those exercises on one of the many Handouts available at Grammar Bytes! You might feel like you are back in school again, but that's okay because the handouts are ostensibly for students. Learn about comma splices and pronoun agreement!

There are even Power Point Presentations and an extensive list of Rules concerning English grammar.

If you are a beginner or a writer having trouble with the basics of grammar, then you need to bookmark Grammar Bytes!

Friday, December 23, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #90 - ePublish a Book

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

ePublish a Book

Everyone has to start somewhere, and that includes fiction writers. Today, more and more fiction writers are doing their own thing, skipping traditional publishers altogether or working with those publishers as well as self publishing their own books and e-books. For the beginner, all of this can be a scary process. How do you get started?

To help with all that, author Patricia de Hemricourt has come up with the website ePublish a Book.

Like similar sites, here you can catch up on Publishing Industry News and legal information concerning writing and publishing. You can also look into Resources for the writer, as well as checking out the latest information about e-books and book promotion.

For writers who already have an e-book or book to promote, the site also offers a chance for reviews. So check out the List of Reviewers at ePublish a Book.

A lot of what is offered at ePublish a Book might sound familiar to those experienced with the many writing sites available on the Web, but where I feel this site shines is in its focus upon beginning writers.

Beginning writers are often worried all the time. They are concerned about grammar and spelling, formatting, technology, meeting other writers or editors, etc. etc. This is where ePublish a Book can come in handy, by explaining the confusing and unknown, and by bringing knowledge directly to those beginners.

I wish I had known about such a site years ago, because I would have found in it a treasure trove of information.

Top Six of the Same Six Award

Back in July, I was the first author interviewed by Andy Rane for his "The Same Six Questions" series, basically six questions he asks indie authors for his blog. Now at the end of the year, Andy is handing out various awards to authors he has interviewed, and I am lucky enough to be one of the "Most Popular" authors he interviewed, meaning my interview is among the top six that drew readers to Andy's site. In fact, Andy has me listed in the No. 1 spot, so I'm thankful for that and hope I've helped in some small way to help Andy with his own writing career.

Thanks, Andy! And thanks for the logo to go along with the award.

Monday, December 19, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #89 - YATopia

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.


Take eight writers, mix in a love of Young Adult literature, add some blogging elements and plenty of information for writers and readers alike, and what do you get?

The website YATopia.

At this blog, eight Young Adult (YA) writers from diverse backgrounds have come together to provide readers with news, knowledge and their thoughts about writing, specifically related to the YA scene. The mixture of writers is solid here, bringing together those who work in a variety of genres, from thrillers to romance, fantasy and more.

YA is one of the more popular sections of literature in recent times, so it is worth the time of any writer to pay attention here. And for those who already have interests and a love of YA literature, YATopia can be the perfect site for you.

But besides blog posts from the site's members, what can be found at YATopia?

There are plenty of Author Interviews, and Agent Interviews. Writers will especially be interested in the extensive list of Resources for YA Writers. And to meet the eight writers behind this site, don't forget to check out the YATopia Contributors page.

This site is so full of helpful information, any writer should spare some time to look it over.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #88 - Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

One of the most common complaints writers, especially fiction writers, have is that there is never enough time to write. There always seems to be something else needing to be done. Going to work. Feeding the kids. Walking the dog. Plus a million other daily tasks.

Now it is true many of us lead busy lives, but it is also almost always true that most of us could spare 15 minutes each day. That's where a website like Fifteen Minutes of Fiction comes in handy, by giving us tools and inspiration to write every day.

To keep it basic, you Register with the site, then each week there is a new writing Prompt assignment. Then you complete the assignment, writing something based upon the prompting. Do you have to spend exactly 15 minutes on the project? Of course not. But 15 minutes is a decent goal, especially for those struggling at finding time to write.

What else can be found at the site? Plenty of Articles about different types of writing, for one thing. You can also join in with the online chats going on at the site's Forum. Too, you can look into the Gallery to see some featured comment, to get to know some of the writing and writers to be found at this website.

Fifteen Minutes of Fiction can't solve all your problems for you, but it can be a nice goad to help you along as a writer. By reading the works of others and taking part in the site's prompts, you can help to build your experience as a writer, as well as your constancy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dreams in Shadow: Monumental Works Group anthology

Dreams in Shadow: 17 Stories All Told is a new anthology from Monumental Works Group, a gathering of speculative writers I recently joined. Within its pages (digital and print) can be found short stories and excerpts from nine authors. Included are an excerpt from my novel City of Rogues and my short story Beneath a Persian Sun. At only 99 cents for the Kindle version, this is a great opportunity to discover some writers with whom you might not be familiar.

About Dreams in Shadow: This first fiction collection from Monumental Works Group features seventeen tales of bright foreboding and dark wonder, shaped by nine authors on the leading edge of the next wave of fantasy and speculative fiction. From visions of the present day twisted through a mirror's edge of evil and uncertainty, to the far-flung reaches of epic-fantasy realms that live worlds away from our own, Dreams in Shadow offers up a wealth of innovative tales and exhilarating excerpts to challenge the imagination.

About Monumental Works Group: Monumental Works Group is a collection of professional fantasists whose collective background covers a wide range of fields and endeavors, from traditional publishing to film and multimedia; from academia to RPG and videogame design. Established writers who share a history of producing quality works of the imagination, the members of Monumental Works Group share a collective vision that places them firmly at the forefront of the next wave of fantasy and speculative fiction publishing.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #87 - Bad Agent Sydney T. Cat

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Bad Agent Sydney T. Cat

Did you know practically anyone can be a literary agent? It's true. There is no college degree or government agency or anything similar that qualifies one as a professional literary agent. Admittedly there are a handful of professional or semi-professional organizations which supposedly list "good" literary agents, but these groups are made up of agents and agencies themselves, so it's kind of like a writer writing about how good he or she is. It's not objective, in other words.

Since anyone can become a literary agent, a few years back authors J. Steven York and Christina F. York decided their cat wanted to be an agent. Thus was born the blog Bad Agent Sydney T. Cat.

To help show there are no qualifications to being a literary agent, every few days there is a blog post which proves the point. Sydney T. Cat makes all kinds of wild and crazy statements. There's nothing too serious here, just a lot of fun, though there might be a kernel or two of truth here and there.

Besides just being a fun site, how can this blog be useful to fiction writers? By opening their eyes to the very real silliness of the world of literary agents and agencies. I'm not suggesting all agents or agencies are bad or useless, but I do think it's time there was some very real regulation of some kind. There are plenty of good agents out there, but there are also plenty of bad agents, and there are few ways for a writer to know which is which.

Also, sprinkled throughout this blog are tips, advice and words of wisdom when it comes to dealing with literary agents. Chuckles abound here, but fiction writers can also learn a few things.

If you happen to be a writer with a love of animals, especially cats, you will enjoy the blog of Bad Agent Sydney T. Cat. But even if you aren't a big animal lover, you will find information here worth knowing.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 57, Books read in 2012: No. 1 - The Crippled God

by Steven Erikson

Started: December 9, 2011
Finished: January 3, 2012

Notes: Enough is enough. I've been putting off this massive novel for its sheer size and because it is the last in a series, and I'm not ready for the series to end. But it's time.

Mini review: I hate to see this series end, as long as it was, more than three million words total. I will miss many of the characters as if they were friends. I will be looking forward to future works from this author. Without a doubt, this is the best modern fantasy literature I have read in the last decade.

My thoughts on the new KDP Select, plus Facebook and YouTube

In case you haven't heard, Amazon recently announced a new digital publishing program called KDP Select, which is part of the company's more broad KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program. If you are unfamiliar with KDP, it is basically Amazon's program for allowing writers and publishers to publish e-books through Amazon.

If you are unfamiliar with KDP Select, what this program does is allow writers and publishers to make their e-books available to U.S. Prime Amazon members through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Make sense? Probably not unless you're an indie author or a publisher. Basically, think of the Lending Library program like the old-school libraries in which you could borrow books for free, except in this case it's e-books, and technically it's not free since you have to pay to become a U.S. Prime Amazon member.

Still, what this means for readers is they can pay some money and then borrow an e-book each month without having to shell out the full purchase price to read the e-book. Of course it also means the reader will not actually own the e-book, thus the e-book will only be available on their personal Kindle for a month.

Are you lost yet? Sorry. I realize all this might be over the heads of a lot of folks who are not writers or publishers. But, to be honest, this post is mainly for those who are in the know.

For writers and publishers, what does KDP Select mean for us? It opens up a potential other market, with a chance to make some more money.

Unfortunately, at least as things stand right now, there are a lot of down sides to this. You have to read the small print. Actually, I highly suggest anyone considering using KDP Select should read the small print before jumping right in.


Well, first off, if you join the KDP Select program, your e-books within the program are exclusive with Amazon for at least 90 days. If you don't understand the word "exclusive," in this case it means for at least 90 days you cannot sell those e-books that are part of KDP Select anywhere else online, including on your own website. Do I need to repeat this? I hope not. I hope the importance of this got through to you the first time.

Secondly, the money to be made from KDP Select is somewhat questionable. I'm not suggesting there is not money to be made here, but ... well, let me try to explain. If you have an e-book enrolled in KDP Select, you do not get paid the same way you do in the KDP program. In KDP, you sell an e-book and you get paid for it. In KDP Select, each month Amazon allots a certain amount of money to the program, then you would get a percentage of the program. Considering the amount of money Amazon is going to allot to KDP Select could change from month to month, and considering you are being paid a percentage instead of as a straight sale, you will never know how much money you are making or can make from month to month, at least not until it's time to pay you, and then you have to trust Amazon's word on what your percentage of sales should be.

Thirdly ... I'm not going to go into a thirdly. Just read all the fine print. Most of it does not sound very good to me, to be honest.

As you can likely tell by now, no, I am not planning to take part in the KDP Select program. I see little benefit to it as things stand right now. If the program should change in the future, I will reconsider.

I'm read several places online where some indie writers are saying KDP Select is a good thing because they're not selling at any of the other sites anyway, so why shouldn't they just publish everything through Amazon?

Why? Does one have to be a brain surgeon to figure out the why? Because it is never a safe bet to have all one's eggs in one basket. Is that simple and quaint enough for others to understand? In the long run, indie authors are much better off having their e-books (and books, for that matter) for sale at as many different venues as possible.

For example, if an e-book is placed within the KDP Select program, that means at least for 90 days it is not available at B&N, Smashwords, Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and plenty of other, lesser-known sites. Even for those who do not sell much at those sites, 90 days is a death sentence for their e-books; one is almost guaranteeing their e-book will never get any recognition at those sites, or anywhere else beyond Amazon. Which is downright foolish. Amazon is big, but it's not the end-all, be-all of e-book sales.

Now let me add here that I do not mean to disparage Amazon. I don't like their KDP Select program as it is, and I have concerns about some of their other business practices, but I don't blame the company for what it does. It's looking for new and/or other revenue models, which only makes sense for a business, especially one as big as Amazon.

However, I would like to bring up a few names: AOL, Compuserve, Netscape, even eBay.

Recognize those companies? Younger folks might not. Older folks will. Us older folks can remember a decade or more back when those companies were huge, dominate forces in the Internet world. All of them are still around, admittedly, but none (with the possible exception of eBay) are anywhere near as powerful, financially strong, popular or as useful as they once were. EBay is still the strongest of that group I mentioned, but even they are practically useless for most consumers nowadays, at least compared to what eBay used to be until about 10 years ago.

I bring up all these dinosaurs of the Internet because I see a lot of today's major players making the same mistakes those companies made a decade ago. Those older websites/companies were at the top of their game at one time, and they did certain things very, very well. Their customers loved the sites, and loved what the sites and companies did for the consumer.

But enough wasn't enough. Those companies couldn't simply focus upon what they did well. They had to expand. They had to try new things. They changed their interfaces, they brought about new products, they did a little of this and they did a little of that ... meanwhile, they moved further and further away from what they once upon a time did at the core of their business model. And eventually, over a few years, they began to lose customers.

I see this happening today, and my prediction would be the same fate awaits many of today's giants, though it might take a decade or so for it all to work out.

Every time I sign onto Facebook, there's some new change, always something annoying and usually not helpful to me as a user. What this does is make me go back to Facebook less and less.

YouTube I have already given up on. The site has changed so much recently, I practically find it worthless.

And, unfortunately, I'm starting to spot signs of Amazon doing the same things. Expanding. Reaching out. Trying new things. All while forgetting about its original mission.

Please don't get me wrong. I realize growth is good and necessary for business. I get that. Really, I do.

But when it gets to the point in which a company is no longer serving its customers, those customers will go away.

It's happened before. It'll happen again.

Just ask Compuserve.

100 sites for fiction writers: #86 - Write 1 Sub 1

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Write 1 Sub 1

Do you think you have what it takes to write one short story a week for every week of the year?

It sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? But it can be done. In fact, members of the website Write 1 Sub 1 are continually pushing for this.

The goal of the site's members is each week to complete a short story. The story can be between 140 and 15,000 words in length. You don't have to necessarily submit the story to an editor during the same week you complete it, but the ultimate goal is to get the stories out to editors and publishers and to get those stories published.

Where did the idea for this site come from? From famous speculative fiction author Ray Bradbury. Legend has it that Bradbury used to write and mail off a short story per week, so now others are trying to imitate his work ethic.

The online community at Write 1 Sub 1 is growing, with more and more fiction writers taking on the challenge. If you would like to take part, all you have to do is join the site by following it, then post a Write 1 Sub 1 badge on your website or blog. That's pretty much it. Oh, yeah, then you've got a bunch of stories to write, of course.

Once your stories are completed, if you need help finding markets for them, you can always check out the Write 1 Sub 1 listings for Short Fiction Markets and Writing Contests.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Guest post from James Hutchings: Using Creative Commons

Indie author James Hutchings has a new e-book collection available, The New Death and others, which features 44 stories and 19 poems. James has been seeking reviews of his new work, but since my reading pile is so huge (meaning it might take me years before I could get to his e-book), I suggested he do a guest post for me. You'll find it below, and though his thinking here is not necessarily unique (ie. Cory Doctorow and a few others espouse such), it is definitely rare and thought-provoking.

Many writers, whether published or just starting out, are very nervous that someone else will steal their work, whether that be another writer using their ideas in their own stories, or someone making pirated copies of their books. When I put out a collection of my writing, I specifically gave permission for anyone at all to copy my ideas, or even to cut and paste whole stories. I also contacted the Pirate Party, a worldwide network that wants to lessen copyright, and told them that I was giving anyone permission to put my ebook on file-sharing sites. In this post I hope to show why I went against common wisdom.

Creative Commons

I used a free service called Creative Commons. Creative Commons is useful for people who want to give the general public permission to use their work, but with restrictions. In my case I didn't mind people using my work for non-profit purposes, such as posting on a blog, but I didn't want to allow anyone to make money off it. Similarly I wanted anyone who used it to give me credit. I could have just listed these things myself. However I'm not a lawyer, and perhaps I would have worded it wrong so that someone could twist what I said to do more than I meant. Also I could have been unclear about what I was allowing and what I wasn't allowing. Sure, someone could email me and ask, but the whole purpose of having a written statement is so that people don't have to ask.

Creative Commons has a series of different licenses, which give permission to do different things. They're all legally 'tight', and they're all summarized in plain language. So all you have to do is go to their site and answer a series of questions, to get to the license that does what you want. In my case I used the Attribution Non-Commercial License.


That's what I did. But why? Common sense would suggest that I'm giving something away for free that I could be selling. However I believe that, in the long run, I'll be better off. The main reason is that I've seen how many people are, like me, trying to get their writing out there. Go to Smashwords and have a look at the latest ebooks. Then refresh the page ten minutes later, and you'll probably see a whole new lot. The problem that new writers face isn't that people want to steal your work; it's getting anyone to show an interest in your work at all. If someone passes on a pirated copy of my work, it might get to someone who's prepared to buy it - and that someone would probably have never heard of me otherwise. Even if they don't want to pay for what they read, I might come out with something else in the future, and perhaps paying 99c for it will be easier than hunting it down on a file-sharing site.

Science fiction writer Andrew Burt tells the story of someone who disliked his book, and to get back at him decided to put a copy on a file-sharing site. The effect was that he got a small 'spike' in sales immediately afterwards.

I also have some less selfish motives. Many people would assume that the purpose of copyright is to protect authors and creators. Leaving aside the fact that someone else often ends up with the rights (how many Disney shareholders created any of the Disney characters? How many shareholders in Microsoft have ever written a line of code?), that doesn't seem to have been the intention in the past. The U.S. Constitution says that Congress has the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Note that protecting 'intellectual property' isn't mentioned. The authors of the Constitution seemed to see the point as getting ideas out there where people can use them: almost the exact opposite of keeping them 'safe' and 'protected'.

The original idea of copyright seems to have been a sort of deal: you have an idea, and we want you to get it out into the world where it will do some good. To encourage you to do that, we'll give you a monopoly on its use for a limited time. After that, anybody can use it (it will enter the 'public domain').

A lot of people don't know that copyright used to give a lot less protection than it does now, especially in the United States. In the US, it used to be that works were copyrighted for a maximum of 56 years. Today copyright in the US can last for over 100 years. In fact Congress keeps extending the time. In practice, they're acting as if they never want ideas to go into the public domain.

This is great for the owners of 'intellectual property'. But it's hard to see how this "promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts," or how forever is a "limited time." In a sense it's a theft from the public. Anyone who publishes work has accepted the deal that the law offers, of a limited monopoly in return for making their idea known. Congress has been giving them more and more extensions on that monopoly, but doesn't require them to do anything to earn it.

It probably doesn't matter that much that Disney still owns Mickey Mouse, or that Lord of the Rings is still under copyright. But remember that these laws don't just apply to the arts. They apply to science as well. So an invention that might save lives could be going unused, because its owner wants too much money for it, or because it's tied up in court while two companies fight about who owns it.


I'm far from an expert on either the law or the publishing industry. However I hope that I've given you, especially those of you who might be thinking about publishing some writing, a different take on the whole issue of whether authors should worry about their ideas being stolen. At least I hope I've shown you that there's a different way of thinking about it, and that that way doesn't require you to just give up on making money; in fact that it might be more profitable as well as better for society.

James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and others, is now available from Amazon and Smashwords.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License.

100 Sites for Fiction Writers: #85 - Storybook

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.


Though this series has been about websites useful for fiction writers, here I'm taking a bit of a left turn. Storybook is sort of a website, but not really. Actually what it is is software that can help fiction writers structure their plots. In other words, its outlining software. But it's more than that.

Storybook allows writers to keep track of scenes, what goes on within those scenes, which characters appear in the scenes, etc. For writers who like to outline, or think they should be outlining because they have difficulty keeping track of all this information in their head, the Storybook software might be right.

What's best is that the basic version of Storybook is free. If you want the extra features offered in Storybook Pro, the cost is less than $30 as of this writing.

Storybook Pro allows you to do a few extra things, come nice touches, not available in the more basic version of the software. For one thing, extensive charts and graphs are available to help writers make better sense of what's going on within their stories. Storybook Pro also allows you to work offline with the software, so you don't have to be plugged into the Internet. With Storybook Pro, you can also download all files as plain text, which makes it available to do much of your writing right in Storybook Pro.

Obviously this type of software isn't for everyone. Some writers are lucky enough to keep track of everything in their head. But many prefer to outline, especially when working on longer, more complex projects like novels or screenplays. For those writers, Storybook or Storybook Pro are gold.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

100 Sites for Fiction Writers: #84 - Bookfessions

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.


There are all kinds of sites out there for fiction writers. Some are about the craft of writing, others about the business end. Honestly, after wading through them time and time again, some of it becomes monotonous. Sometimes a writer just wants to have a little fun.

That's where a site like Bookfessions comes in.

Bookfessions is the tumblr page for writer and avid reader Justyna. In 2011, Justyna set herself a 50 Book Challenge of reading 50 books in one year, and you can follow along to see what she read and if she met her goal.

But that's just the beginning.

What's really fun about the Bookfessions site are the confessions about books that have been sent to Justyna. As of this writing, there are 786 such confessions, many of them touching, a large number of them poignant and hilarious. The nine most recent book confessions appear on the front of the Bookfessions site at a time, being updated as Justyna receives and approves them. Readers can look at Older Post for the older confessions.

Want an example of a confession about a book? Here is number 784: "When I finish a really good book, I take a minute to sit on my bed and weep my heart out."

There are hundreds more, and a number of them will make you think and/or chuckle.

Truthfully, this site is as much for readers as it is for writers, but writers need a break from the drudgery sometimes, and Bookfessions can offer that, as well as some insight into readers' minds.
While you're at the site, you can also check out Justyna's book Recommendations or check out what books she will be reading soon.

Thoughts on job hunting and setting one's own destiny

I had been thinking about getting a job lately. You know, a real job. I don't have to. I make enough from my writing to keep the bills paid. But it's been three years since I've had a regular job job, and of late I've kind of missed working out of the home, being out among people. My thinking was I'd get some little, part-time job somewhere working 20 hours a week, just enough to help a little more with the bills and to get me out of the house.

After a few months of looking and a handful of interviews, I've changed my mind. I no longer want to get a job job.

Here's why: It has come to my attention that the workplace today is sheer insanity.

I look back upon my life, 20 years of working in an office, and now I realize most of that was a waste of my time. Other than some friendships I made as a journalist, I have nothing to show for it. Let me repeat, nothing. No, I do not have a pension because most companies did away with those. I used to have a 401 (k) but I had to cash in on that when I got laid off a few years ago, so that's gone. I guess someone could argue, "Well, yeah, but what about all that stuff you bought over the years?" You mean all that stuff I sold, gave away or junked because I realized I didn't need it anymore? That stuff?

I don't want to come off like some Occupy Wall Street protester, but seriously, I can't imagine ever working for anyone else again. In my opinion, unless one has children or has some possibility of special benefits looming (retirement or tenure or the like), working for someone else is bonkers.

Every damn job I saw, from high-end corporate positions down to the lowliest toilet scrubbing jobs, wanted someone with "high energy" and "available to work any and all hours" including weekends and holidays and getting no extra pay for it. No benefits. No chance of promotion. No guarantee of even having a job in a few months. Uh, yeah, when I was 20. I'm not 20 any more, not by a long shot. And no, I'm not willing to scrub your toilet at three in the morning for minimum wage.

Call me lazy. Call me a radical. Call me anti-American. I frankly don't give a shit. Selling one's soul to the company store is highly overrated and gets you nowhere in the long run but to an early grave.

Screw that. At my age, after what I've experienced in my life, I'd rather be homeless on the street than working my ass off to make someone else rich.

Never again. I'll keep writing.

My apologies to my friends who find themselves still stuck in the working world. I'm sorry you're there, but please, please, try to find something where you can set your own destiny. If that happens to be within the corporate world, so be it, but do your own thing.

Books read in 2011: No 56 - Old Man's War

by John Scalzi

Started: December 6
Finished: December 9

Notes: For some time I've been meaning to read this military sci-fi novel. I've read other works by Scalzi and enjoyed them, but somehow had missed this novel, his best-known work.

Mini review: A damn fine book. Scalzi at his finest. Any military sci-fi fans should read this, and even those who aren't big into the genre should love this novel. It's well written without being difficult to read, emotional with plenty of action to keep the interest high. The ending I found a little bittersweet, but then I've read novels later in the series, so I know how some things turn out later down the road.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 55 - The Price of Numbers

by Thomas K. Carpenter

Started: December 6
Finished: December 6

Notes: Why did I pick up this freebie e-book? Honestly, I don't remember. But it's a story pertaining to the author's Heron of Alexandria series, and that was possibly enough to draw my interest. I love finding new authors, so here goes.

Mini review: This was a delightful historical mystery tale, the Greek Heron here being portrayed as a sort of ancient Sherlock Holmes. For some reason this story seemed familiar to me, but I do not recall having read it before.

100 Sites for Fiction Writers: #83 - Scribblerati

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.


As a fiction writer, do you ever feel a bit lost over at Facebook and Twitter? With millions and millions of members, many of which are not regularly interested in fiction or writing or even books and e-books, such sites might seem daunting to some. Wouldn't it be cool if there was an online social network just for writers?

Guess what? There is. It's called Scribblerati.

Created by author Lia Keyes, Scribblerati sets out to be just what it claims, an online social network for writers of all genres.

As might be expected, the site contains a Forum, Chat, a Blog, and an area about Groups. To access any of these links at the site, membership is required. Also to be found here is the latest News concerning publishing, as well as information about Lia, including photos. There is also a list of Events.

Some might grouse that this site is just another a writer has to keep track of, but keep in mind Scribblerati is specifically for writers. This is not like every other social network site out there. Here one does not have to wade through millions of members to find those with similar interests. At Scribblerati, you can be assured there will be members who share many of the same interests of yourself as a fiction writer. All genres of writers are welcome, so no one should feel left out.

"Demon Chains," my latest writing project

Without much of a break, once I finished my recently released fantasy novels Ghosts of the Asylum, I jumped right into the next novel involving my Kron Darkbow character. It is titled Demon Chains. That's the current working cover there on the right.

Once I realized I was nearing completion on Ghosts of the Asylum, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I wanted to write next. A while back I was feeling a little burnt out on fantasy because I've spent almost all of the last year writing fantasy. But while working on Ghosts of the Asylum, I knew the basics of what the next Kron tale would involve. And that story kept going over and over in my head until I had the plot and the major characters fleshed out. So I kept right on chugging along with more fantasy work.

I'm 22,000 words into this story, and I'm realizing it will likely only come to about 60,000 words, maybe not even that. But this is somewhat a relief because the last Kron novel was nearly double that length.

With each novel I try to do something different stylistically, and Demon Chains is not different. I'm trying to pick up the pace quite a bit. Most of the tale takes place in only a couple of days, but a lot happens in those two days. Kron will be one tired dude once the story is completed.

That is, if Kron survives.

Ah, hell, who am I kidding. He's a serial character. He'll survive. I've got plenty of stories left to tell concerning him.

But I do know when, where and how he dies. It's just a ways off yet.

Books read in 2011: No. 54 - A Space Between (A Tale of the Endlands)

by Scott Fitzgerald Gray

Started: December 5
Finished: December 5

Notes: This little e-book is a freebie preview of a larger collection from Scott Fitzgerald Gray, a fellow member of the Monumental Works Group. I couldn't turn down an opportunity to read another member's work.

Mini review: This was simply awesome. This is the best work I've yet experienced from an independent fantasy author. There's tons of intrigue, enough action to keep my interest, magic that overlays but doesn't overtake the story, a darkness I found chilling and more. Simply well written. My only slight complaint would be that I did not care much for the characters, but then, I don't think these were characters we are meant to like.

New maps of Ursia

I recently decided it was time to update the map to my fantasy world, Ursia, and set about doing so in Photoshop. Below is the new map, one in color, the other in black and white. Click on them to see the larger versions, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Kurt Vonnegut biography supposedly a shocker

A new biography about Kurt Vonnegut has been released, titled And So It Goes. According to an article at The Guardian, this biography shows a "dark, sad, cruel" side to Vonnegut, a side that supposedly will shock the thousands (or millions) of fans who loved this man because he had a public persona quite different, one that was humanist and somewhat grandfatherly.

To be upfront about it, I'm not a Vonnegut fan. I have nothing against the man, nor do/did I dislike his writing. I respected him, but that's about as far as it went. I've only read a couple of his books, and I saw him once years ago at a reading. I don't hate him. I don't love him. But I always found him interesting.

What impelled me to write about him today, however, was that article in The Guardian. Perhaps I am the only one, but that Vonnegut had a "dark" side came as no surprise to be.

I don't mean to suggest I saw such character within him on the one occasion I saw him publicly, nor that I necessarily picked up on anything particular in his writing. But come on, have a brain for a second. Anyone who is a humanist is going to be frustrated with the world we live in and the people who populate it, at least from time to time. Someone like Vonnegut, being a public figure and an artist and aging and, etc., is going to feel such frustrations ten times over, perhaps even more so.

I don't claim to be a humanist, but I understand the thinking. Imagine a normal person who considers themselves a humanist going about their daily life. As I said, they're likely to be frustrated from time to time, especially if they keep up with the news. Now imagine that person is a public figure, one with a public persona built upon the fact he or she is a humanist. Now imagine that person is also an artist, someone who works regularly with humanism as a philosophy, for their daily bread.

I see no reason that person's frustration levels wouldn't be quite high.

In fact, I find it silly that an article or anyone might suggest otherwise, especially in this day and age. For a lot of people, there's a lot to be pissed about, whatever side of the social and political spectrums one falls onto. To suggest because someone is a humanist he couldn't possibly have a "dark" side, to my way of thinking, is just silly. No, it's beyond that. It's stupid.

Let me be clear: I am not voicing a complaint that someone has pointed out Vonnegut had this "dark" side. Not at all. As I mentioned, I'm actually not surprised by this.

What does bother me, what baffles me, is that anyone would act surprised by this.

Some of my feeling about this is because I, too, am a writer (no, I'm not comparing myself to Vonnegut). I become frustrated when others try to pigeon-hole me as a writer. I'm probably best known as a fantasy writer, and I have no problem with that, but fantasy is not all I write and it is not how I identify myself as a person.

Humans seem to have this need to classify everything, including other humans, into nice little, simple compartments. Hell, look at our politics, and I mean this worldwide, not just in the U.S. Everything, and I mean everything, is liberal vs. conservative. Sure, many nations have multiple political parties with all their different nuances, but it always comes down to liberal vs. conservative. Which is stupid beyond compare, mainly because it is so simplistic.

It's as if humans can't look at one another and expect each other to be complex. An individual is either "this" or they are "that." It is all so very junior high school as to make me want to vomit.

Looking only at other writers, I see vast complexities of character. Look at Robert A. Heinlein. The man was brave enough within one lifetime to pen both Starship Troopers and A Stranger in a Strange Land, two novels that at least by the modern political spectrum should seem opposed. There are those who might argue Heinlein was a Libertarian, but that's just another stripe of conservatism for the most part in this day and age (though admittedly there are some few liberal Libertarians ... and I'll add here I have nothing against Libertarians and am not taking sides here in any political debate).

For someone more controversial, consider Ayn Rand. The founder of the philosophy of Objectivism is usually either loved or hated. Often she is shot down as a writer because of her personal philosophy, while others raise her on a pedestal because of her philosophy. But still, though Rand definitely played up her public persona as an Objectivist, she was a more complex individual than her philosophy would seem to allow. She gave money to friends. She gave money to charities. She had friends to whom she was nice. She was not the worst human being to ever live. She was more than just an Objectivist, more than just a writer. She was a multi-faceted individual.

But that's not good enough. We have to break everything down. We have to simplify everything.

Which is what we are now doing to Kurt Vonnegut.

We should be ashamed.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

An announcement: Monumental Works Group

Recently I joined an organization of writers known as Monumental Works Group. Membership is by invitation only (sort of like a cult), and I was pleasantly surprised when Darrin Drader asked me if I would be interested in joining. It seems at least a couple of members of the group had read some of my work and didn't think it totally sucked.

Right away my mind started scheming. Here I was, a member of a secret society, one of the behind-the-scenes rulers of the universe! The power! It is astonishing! Mwahahahahahaha!

Actually, the group has a good mixture of writers, most independent, some with professional backgrounds in publishing and the role-play gaming industry. I'm glad to be a part of this group. They seem like nice people, and I already know of a few of those behind-the-scenes things in the works ... stuff that will boggle the mind! Change the way we all think about our very existences, the way we pray to the nether gods of ... okay, wait, wrong organization. I'm thinking of another group I recently joined (Azathoth, call me!).

But, to the other members of the Monumental Works Group, thank you for including me. I am truly humbled.

At least until the Great Old Ones wake.

Friday, December 02, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #82 -

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

As a fiction writer, have you ever had a question about writing that you needed answered, but you just didn't where to turn? Maybe it was a question about manuscript formatting? Or a question about the publishing business? Or maybe just a grammar or spelling question?

Sure you have. We all have.

What's different now from back in ye olden days, however, is that we have a place to go to find the answers to those questions.

No, I'm not talking about the Internet, silly. I'm talking about a website known as

Novelist, non-fiction author and editor Deborah Halverson runs this site. You can submit a question to her and she will answer it to the best of her knowledge, but keep in mind she is only one person, so of course she can't answer every single question that comes along. To help get an answer to your question, before asking it you should look through the Archives to make sure the question has not already been asked and answered.

If you need extensive help with a manuscript and can afford the fees, this site also offers Editorial Services, which can be important especially for independent authors who do not have easy access to an editor.

On a related note, Deborah Halverson is most experienced in writing fiction for the young adult market, so those with interests in that area should definitely check out Deborah's books and her site,

Thursday, December 01, 2011

2011 blog tour comes to an end

November 2011 is over, which means my blog tour promoting my new fantasy e-book Ghosts of the Asylum has come to an end.

This was my first blog tour, and I had a great time with it. I also learned quite a bit.

For instance, I learned guest posting on others' blogs for 30 days straight is a lot of work. There's a lot to keep track of, and a lot of people to keep track of. It was almost like having a real job again (ya know, instead of just writing all day). Would I do it again? Yes, I would. I would even go so far as to say I would guest blog for 30 days straight again. I might even consider doing it with the release of my next novel. I had planned ahead this time, and that helped quite a bit, but now I know to plan even further ahead. I gained experience this time, experience that should help me in the future.

Actually, originally I contacted about 40 others to see if they would be interested in hosting me. Some did not want to take part, and others I never heard from. But I hold no hard feelings for that. Folks are busy and have stuff to do, and I'm not exactly a well known author.

But a lot of strangers, people who I did not know at all, were willing to take part.

And this was one of the greatest things about my blog tour, meeting people online who I otherwise might have never got to know. For that alone, the blog tour was worth.

Now, for you writers out there wondering if a blog tour is worth it, the thing upfront in your mind is, "Well, did the tour help your sales?"

The truth? Yes. I wouldn't say the tour helped my sales dramatically, but I can say my sales for November were higher than the three months before. To me, that's progress. It's not just about money, but about readers. More readers discovered me, and hopefully they will find something to enjoy in my writing.

Star Wars memories

I got a busted nose
over this guy
when I was 11.
Technically this is not part of my November blog tour (which just wound down), but I have a guest post about my early Star Wars memories over at the site of author Darby Harn. Some of this will be old news to my regular readers (both of you), but for others it will be something new. Enjoy.

And thanks, Darby!

Novel excerpt over at Indie Snippets

Some of you might recognize this very short excerpt from my new novel Ghosts of the Asylum, but for those who don't, you can see it over at the Indie Snippets site. My Kerjim character has a little chat with my Mama Kaf character.