Tuesday, May 31, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #5 - Scrivener's Error

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

Scrivener's Error

Fiction writers are often nuts. That's especially true when it comes to legal matters concerning writing and publishing.

Often enough there seem to be two types of writers, those who act as if they have not a care in the world when it comes to legalities (as if it is all "beneath them" or some such), and writers who just won't shut up, who sit around worrying themselves into franticness over thoughts of legal troubles.

A sensible writer should be somewhere in the middle. A writer should be aware of their rights concerning their intellectual properties (you know, the stories you write), but shouldn't drive themselves crazy fretting about this stuff. At least not unless they're in true legal trouble somehow.

Generally speaking, probably the best thing a writer can do if facing some sort of legal problems is to hire an intellectual properties attorney. Yes, it might get expensive, but remember this is your work you are dealing with and it might pay off big-time in the future.

But before we go any further, let me say right here and now that I am not providing nor offering any legal advice. This is all merely commentary.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the point of this post: Scrivener's Error.

What is Scrivener's Error? It's a blog containing legal commentary about publishing, generally from side of the writers. Who is Scrivener? I don't have a clue. Well, who runs the Scrivener's Error blog? Again, I don't know, but the pages are copyrighted by someone who identifies themself as C.E. Petit, which might be a real name or it might be French, meaning something like "this small."

Regardless, as a writer and someone who had a few university-level courses on publications law, whomever is in charge of the Scrivener's Error blog seems to know what they are talking about. However, there is a disclaimer at the top of the page stating the site is for legal commentary, not legal advice. That's a good safety net to have. Only attorneys should offer any legal advice, and C.E. Petit has not identified himself or herself as an attorney.

What can a fiction writer find at Scrivener's Error? All kinds of stuff, mostly concerning legalities with fiction or book publishing.

Every few days there is a new blog post, usually keeping the readers updated about what's going on with things like copyright law, attacks on writers' rights, how different countries and companies are dealing with plagiarism, etc. This blog pretty much covers the gamut when it comes to writing and legal stuff related to writing.

If the latest posts aren't about anything concerning you in particular, that's alright. On the bottom right of the blog are rather extensive lists of links leading to other sites that have to do with the legalities of writing and publishing. There are links to plenty of well-respected law professors, as well as links to other sites, blogs, groups and associations that are concerned with publishing and the law. There's even a link to the blog for the Supreme Court of The United States.

Obviously if you are a writer in need of legal help, the Scrivener's Error blog isn't where you want to wind up. Instead, this blog is where you can get started. If you should need an attorney concerning a matter having to do with your writing, the Scrivener's Error blog is a solid place to begin your search for such an attorney and a good place to begin learning a little about the law yourself.

Books read in 2011: No. 27 - The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Daneby Katherine Howe

Started: May 31
Finished: June 6

Notes: I bought this one for the wife recently as she'd been wanting to read it for a year or so. It deals with a modern woman who discovers she has some relation to the Salem Witch Trials. I'm not sure if this book will be a historical mystery, paranormal fiction or something else, but it sounded interesting. The wife hasn't gotten to this novel yet, but I figured I'd give it a go while she's busy with other things.

Mini review: A pretty good read. I felt it was a little wordy. Just a little. Could've lost 50 or so pages I wouldn't have missed much. Somewhat predictable, but not completely so. The history was interesting, though I already knew the basics. The story itself was probably the most predictable part, but still, not so much as to ruin the book for me. I'd give this author another chance, and I've heard she's working on her next novel.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #4 - Ralan.com

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


One of the challenges of trying to make a living, or to just bring in a little extra cash, as a fiction writer is to find places where you can sell your stories. Writers are all the time looking for new book publishers or magazines or e-zines or whatever in hopes of finding someplace that might be interested in buying one of your stories for publication.

To help with that search, there are a handful of websites out there that bring together much of the information writers need for selling. Ralan.com is one of the best of such sites.

At Ralan.com you will find lists upon lists of book publishers, magazine publishers, online sites, e-zines and other sites that are looking for short fiction, novels, flash fiction, etc. This site also features listings for fiction writing awards, anthologies, audio books, as well as some humor.

There is also a Market Notes page where you can find out some of the latest news on what's been happening with some publishers. For example, if you submitted a short story to a publisher a while back and have not heard anything within the appropriate time period, check out the Ralan.com Market Notes, because you might find out what's going on; perhaps the publisher has closed shop or is backed-up with work or something else.

Speaking of submitting stories, there is also a Response Times page so you can get an idea for how long it takes some publishers to get back to a writer.

The Writing Links page at Ralan.com is quite extensive, as well. Here you will find all kinds of links to publishers, literary agents, blogs, helpful sites ... if you can think of it, there's a good chance it's on the Ralan.com Writing Links page.

There is so much to be found at Ralan.com that you will just have to spend some time perusing the site. Ralan himself has penned some fiction work, so don't forget to check that out.

One last thing about Ralan.com: The site has a focus on speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.), but don't be fooled by that. There are all kinds of links for all kinds of fiction writers to be found here.

As an aside note: Though this article uses common parlance like "sell" or "selling" when referring to what writers do with their stories concerning stories, this is technically incorrect. Writers do not "sell" their stories, whether a short or a novel or something in between. Writers give publishers temporary rights to publish the story, but the story still belongs to the writer. Exceptions to this are the rare cases when a writer signs away all rights in a contract, which is a foolish thing to do. Who is to say your novel or short story won't become the next big thing? And if you've given away all your rights, you won't make a penny. One other exception is work made for-hire, but often in such instances the writer is writing using characters and worlds which he or she did not create.

Books read in 2011: No. 26 - High Fidelity

High Fidelityby Nick Hornby

Started: May 29
Finished: May 31

Notes: I've heard great things about this author, and I've enjoyed several movies based upon his work, so I thought I'd give him a try. Plus, I picked this one up cheap at a used book store.

Mini review: Just what I needed, a quick, fun, sort of sassy read (if the word "sassy" can be used in connection with men and men's fiction ... I'm just not sure what other word to use). Pretty much sticks to the movie version, with a handful of relatively minor changes. The writing style reminded me somewhat of a less frantic Chuck Palahniuk, which is not a bad thing at all as I love Pahalniuk's writing, but find it a little too intense sometimes. I'll be reading more by this author, I'm sure.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #3 - Nathan Bransford blog

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

Nathan Bransford, author

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space KapowNathan Bransford knows books. Once upon a time he was a literary agent for the Curtis Brown, Ltd. agency. More recently he has become an author himself, having penned the young-adult space fantasy novel Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow, a tale of a young Jacob Wonderbar who discovers a crashed spaceship and then goes on adventures with his friends in the ship. Bransford also is a publishing professional in the technology field with Cnet.

All of that adds up to quit a bit of experience.

And that experience is just one of the reasons you, a budding writer, should probably be checking out Nathan's blog on a regular basis.

But Nathan Bransford's blog is not full of posts upon posts about himself. Not at all. His posts mostly focus upon news within the book publishing industry, with a strong lean towards fiction.

Best of all, most Fridays there is a post that gathers all the major news of the week. If nothing else, beginning writers should go over to the blog every Friday afternoon to catch up on the recent big events in publishing, and with changes in technology and the economy it seems of late there are always lots of things going on in publishing.

But Nathan's blog does not stop there. On the lefthand side of the blog is a links list titled "Essentials of Publishing." Below this title are a dozen or so links that should be of interest. If you're starting out as a fiction writer, you could do much worse than checking out these links and studying the advice offered.

Still, there's even more at this blog.

For instance, there are loads more links to professional authors and others within the industry, links that can be of help in many ways as well as just being interesting.

There are also forums. Yep, Nathan Bransford has his own forums. And they are quite lively. So lively, in fact, Nathan commonly plugs some of the forum's conversations in his Friday post about publishing news.

All in all, this is a solid blog about book publishing with a focus mainly upon fiction. Check it out to learn more, and remember to follow those Friday postings.

Friday, May 27, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #2 - Kindle Direct Publishing

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

Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl TechnologyOn November 19, 2007, the world changed. Or at least the reading and publishing worlds changed. That is when Amazon released the Kindle, the first popular dedicated e-reading device. Since then there have been several more modern versions of the Kindle released as well as a growing number of free Kindle Apps that allow readers who do not have a Kindle to still take advantage of e-books.

Soon after the release of the Kindle, Amazon created Kindle Direct Publishing (originally called Amazon's Digital Text Platform). This site allows writers and publishers to upload formatted e-books and to offer those e-books for sale through Amazon.

This has created a revolution, and stirred up more than a few concerns, within the book publishing world. It has changed the technology, and arguably the economy, for book publishing.

Most importantly for writers, it has knocked away much of the old stigma of self publishing and given writers the opportunity to make their works directly available to the reader without having to go through a traditional publisher.

There are good and bad issues involving all this, but for many writers this has helped to kick off a career. No longer do writers have to wait months or years to hear back from an editor or publisher or literary agent. Now a writer can write, edit, design a cover, and make their product available to readers for feedback and money.

But the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) site offers more than just the ability to upload e-books. The site also allows the writer/publisher to keep track of sales. Transactions are recorded on a seemingly minute-by-minute basis, so you can follow sales almost as they happen. The KDP site also allows you to check on your sales daily and for the last six weeks. You can also check out your monthly statements for the last 12 months.

Most importantly for beginners, the KDP site has a sizable Community page where you can learn from Amazon experts as wells as from other writers and publishers within that community. At the beginning, you're obviously going to be a bit lost, perhaps finding the notion of creating an e-book a daunting task; that is where the Community page can come in handy by showing you the ropes. The Community page is also a place to go to for offering suggestions, placing complaints discussing issues, etc. English is the language used within most of the Community site, but there also are also now German forums within the site.

If you are a writer or publisher looking to join the e-book revolution, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is a good place to start. A growing number of writers are making good money publishing their e-books through Amazon, and with work and admittedly some luck, the same possibly could happen for you. And keep in mind that because you self publish your works does not mean you can no longer try the traditional route of becoming published.

Writers, it's a changing world. Join it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #1 - Dean Wesley Smith

This is the first post in a series of 100 which will look at websites that can help budding fiction writers with their craft and career. I will attempt to put up a new post, but that might become cumbersome, so I will try to put up a new post whenever possible. These posts are not meant to be an in depth study of any particular sites or blogs, but more of a suggestive listing for places online where fiction writers can go to learn, receive help, work on their skills and potentially create or build upon their writing career.

The Writings and Opinions of Dean Wesley Smith

Myth: You Can't Make a Living Writing Fiction (Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing)You might be asking, who is Dean Wesley Smith? And why should I be reading his blog?

If you are interested in a career as a fiction author, you need to read Dean's blog.

Don't believe me? Let's take a look at Dean's background.

Dean Wesley Smith has more than ninety novels published in print as an author. He also claims to have had more than 100 of his short stories in print. Many of Dean's books have been novelizations or tie-ins of movies or television shows, but he also has written much in worlds of his own creation. Sometimes he writes under his own name, but often enough he uses a pseudonym. If that's still not enough, Dean was also the founding publisher of of Tomorrow Speculative Fiction magazine and, in conjunction with his wife author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, won a World Fantasy Award in 1989. If you're still not impressed, there's also the fact Dean and his wife were the owners of Pulphouse Publishing. On top of all that, Dean and his wife regularly hold workshops in which they pass along the combined knowledge they have picked up in more than thirty years of writing, editing and publishing.

One would think that with all that experience, Dean Wesley Smith is someone who knows more than a little about making a career as a fiction author.

Over the last year or two, Dean has been making the transition to working in digital publishing, e-books, though not exclusively. On his blog, he regularly suggests writers should work in both print and digital formats.

Such ideas are what makes this blog so great. Dean Wesley Smith passes on much of what he has learned and continues to learn.

To that end, Dean has three series concerning writing. These series are available at his blog and, if they are not already, will eventually be available in e-book formats at least in part.

One of these series is titled "Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing," and it is a real eye opener to the fiction publishing business, especially for beginners. In this series you learn that many of the things you might think you know about fiction publishing just aren't true. For example, if you are a beginning fiction writer, you've probably heard that you have to have a literary agent to make it as a writer. But is this really true? Do you really need a literary agent? For an answer, check out Dean's blog.

Another series is titled "Think Like a Publisher." This particular series focuses a little less on writing and more on publishing as a possible business venture. And with more and more writers self publishing their own works, there is a lot of important information here of which they need to be aware. Why? Because if you are self publishing, remember that you are no longer just a writer, but also a publisher.

"New World of Publishing" is the newest of Dean's series. This series looks at the current changes in the book publishing industry. Technology has brought about huge changes in publishing over the last few years, from the way people are reading books to how publishers and literary agents are working, and even more. If you are interested in fiction writing but afraid of what all this change means, check out this series and learn a few things.

Lastly, I'd like to add that Dean Wesley Smith often posts free short stories on his blog, which is an added bonus to his regular readers.

If you are a beginning fiction writer, or if you're an old pro worried about the future, do yourself a favor and check out this blog.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 25 - Swords of Talera

Swords of Talera: Book One of The Talera Cycleby Charles Allen Gramlich

Started: May 22
Finished: May 29

Notes: Though I would not label ourselves as friends, Charles Gramlich is one of the few authors of whom I keep tabs online and with whom I have some casual banter with from time to time. He sometimes posts on my blog, and sometimes I post on his. To a large extent, more than I'm sure Charles is aware, I consider him a gentleman and a scholar, in the traditional sense and not in any modern cynical fashion. Admittedly I do not know Charles Gramlich personally, and likely never will, but he has impressed me with his writing and his online personality. I've read some of his shorter fiction, but have yet to delve into his longer works, such as this book. It is time I made the jump. This, the author's first book in what I understand to be a Sword and Planet series, sounds like a good starting-off point.

Mini review: All kinds of awesome to be found here. I'm not all that well read in the Sword and Planet genre, but I've read some Edgar Rice Burroughs ... and this is better, far better. Swords of Talera could easily be considered a modern equivalent to A Princess of Mars. All the right ticks are there ... 19th century male protagonist, unknown world, a little sorcery, monsters, alien races, female love interest and more ... yes, it's all there. But it's also all different. The world is different, as are the protagonist and the love interest, and I mean different not only in a technical sense but that they are thematically different, as well. The writing is modern, yet hearkens back to the likes of Burroughs. For anyone who is interested in Sword and Planet fiction, or any of the sub-genres of old-school pulp fantasy, you need to read this book. It's better than the originals. Burroughs would be proud, and perhaps a little concerned about keeping his throne as king of S&P fiction.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 24 - Books

Books: A Memoirby Larry McMurtry

Started: May 19
Finished: May 22

Notes: I've read a few of McMurtry's novels and enjoyed them, his Lonesome Dove being a particular favorite of mine. But not only is McMurtry a writer, he's also a book store owner. This book is a memoir of his, focusing upon his love of books, which I would hope is a particular love of all writers.

Mini review: The word most appropriate I can use for this book is "charming." It took me about 75 pages to get into it, but once I did I was taken away with McMurtry's little stories of buying and selling books over the last half century or so. And it made me a bit sad, sad that the secondhand book trade is not what it once was, that it, like many things from earlier days, is a dying breed. Still, there are a number of antiquarian book stores around, and for now I can still enjoy visiting one from time to time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 23 - Paradise Regained

Paradise Regainedby John Milton

Started: May 18
Finished: May 19

Notes: Paradise Lost is my favorite Christian literature of all time, in my opinion even surpassing the Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible in its poetics. Paradise Lost is also one of my favorite poems of all times. Unfortunately, I have heard many ill things about its sequel, this book, Paradise Regained. But of course I have to see for myself.

Mini review: Unfortunately, this poem was nowhere near as good as its prequel. On the plus side, there were a handful of good lines here, but over all not the strength and beauty of Paradise Lost. Which is unfortunate, from a Christian point of view. Paradise Lost concerns the fall of grace of mankind, while Paradise Regained is mostly about the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the desert. One would hope the poem focusing on Jesus would be better than the one focusing mostly upon Satan, but not so in this case. Ah, well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 22 - Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano De Bergeracby Edmond Rostand

Started: May 15
Finished: May 18

Notes: Other than Shakespeare and a fair number of Greek plays, I'm not a big reader of plays. That being said, I have been meaning to read this play for some time. I'm somewhat familiar with the main story, and I am somewhat familiar with the actual historical persona of Cyrano de Bergerac, but I still expect there to be much here to learn. This being another freebie for the Kindle, I realized I could no longer set aside reading this.

Mini review: The first third or so of this play was kind of slow, but most of that was introduction of the characters, so that could be forgiven. But then about halfway through, this play became hilariously funny. I truly laughed out loud at parts. The ending is sad and bittersweet, but in my opinion it is not quite tragic. Cyrano de Bergerac has to be one of the most individualistic and heroic literary figures of all time.

Books read in 2011: No. 21 - Grumbles from the Grave

by Robert A. Heinlein
edited by Virginia Heinlein

Started: May 11
Finished: May 14

Notes: I wouldn't say Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, but he is one I've enjoyed greatly over the years and I have high respect for him, especially his diversity of stories and styles, though nearly all within the realms of science fiction or at least speculative fiction. I'm often interested in how other writers work, and this is a book that to some extent focuses on that. This is a collection of letters and other notes from Heinlein, compiled by his wife after his death in 1988, as sort of a final memoir.

Mini review: An interesting read. The majority of the letters here are between Heinlein and his agent, though a number are between Heinlein and editors, or between Virginia Heinlein and others. There are glimpses into Heinlein's personal life, and just a tad of a look into his political interests. There is quite a bit here about Heinlein's working habits as a writer and his experience and interests in engineering and the military. True fans will want to read this. Writers could also learn much from this.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sometimes being an author throws you for a loop

So I'm 20,000 words into my next novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, when something happens.

My print editor contacts me and wants some revisions for other work.

Which there's nothing wrong with. This is not a blog post bitching about editors. For one thing, my editor has treated me quite fairly. For another thing, her requested changes will be an obvious improvement. And finally, I'm not a writer who usually has problems with editors anyway. They have a job. I have a job. Sometimes those jobs conflict, but in my experience most often the worst conflicts come down to one of two things, either a personality conflict between the writer and editor, or one of the two is just a lamebrain. My editor is no lamebrain, and I'd like to think I'm at least not a complete lamebrain.

I also had a recent visit to the hospital. It turns out everything is okay, even better than I would have expected. Basically, I need to get more exercise, lose some weight and get more sleep. Hey, who doesn't? I'll deal with my health issues.

All of that has happened in the last few days, the hospital visit and the contacts with my editor.

I've also been doing a lot of studying of and giving a lot of thought to Tolstoy, John Gardner and even Heinlein of late.

For someone who is not a writer, there probably are no connections in all this mess. Hell, a lot of writers wouldn't see any connections in all of this. But I do.

What do I see? To be honest, I'm not completely sure yet. But I feel a yearning for stretching my limits as a writer, in style and hopefully in quality.

So today, while getting together some files and notes to begin the work my editor seeks, I decided to set aside the 20,000 words of Ghosts of the Asylum. It's not that there's anything wrong with those 20,000 words. Not at all.

It's just that I feel a need to tell a different kind of story in a manner different from anything I've done before, at least in long form.

For me, fiction writing is not about conclusions. It is not about answers. It is about exploration. It is about questions.

And for the time being, I feel Ghosts of the Asylum isn't a tale that makes demands of me as a writer. It's more of the same. It's a safe bet. I know if I write and publish Ghosts of the Asylum, I can find a readership and make a little money with it.

But I'm yearning to go beyond that, to explore my writing in another direction.

So today I typed up 500 words of a potential novel that's currently titled The Librarian's Daughter.

It is fantasy, but it's not the normal action-oriented fantasy I'm more familiar with writing. I know the basic story already in my head. I've had this story bopping around inside my noggin for some time. But I've never been sure how to tell it. Until recently.

Which is how all that stuff above comes to mesh together for me. Between rewriting, going to the hospital, and my studies of authors whom I appreciate, something clicked in my head telling me how to tell this tale.

I'll see how things go. I'm not forgetting Ghosts of the Asylum. It is still there waiting for me to come back. Normally I work on one project at a time. Maybe this time I'll work on several projects at once.

It'll be a challenge. But that's one thing I love about all this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 20 - A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty's Ship Bounty

A Narrative Of The Mutiny, On Board His Majesty's Ship Bounty; And The Subsequent Voyage Of Part Of The Crew, In The Ship's Boatby William Bligh

Started: May 10
Finished: May 11

Notes: Though it has been a couple of decades, I've read a fair amount about the mutiny aboard the ship the Bounty in the late 18th Century. However, I've never read the captain's firsthand account of the events. A short read, and another freebie for the Kindle, I should make quick sport of this one. And perhaps it'll open my eyes a little more to the historical events.

Mini review: There was actually very little here about the actual mutiny itself, but this was still an interesting read. Most of it was about the survival of Bligh and his crew of 18 aboard a small, 23-foot boat as they sailed more than 3,500 miles to safety.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Books read in 2011: No. 19 - Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekend, Sixth edition

Increase Your Web Traffic in a Weekendby Jerry Lee Ford, Jr. and William R. Stanek

Started: May 7
Finished: May 29

Notes: I'm reading this book more for motivational purposes than anything. While I'm experienced at the basics of online marketing, it's not something I necessarily enjoy all the time, though I do sometimes. Of late, I haven't much, so maybe this book will give me some new ideas and help kickstart me into action.

Mini review: This was a very easy book to read, but I took my time with it, studying it a little every day. Unfortunately, I was quite bored. Though I don't blame that on this book's information. What it came down to was I already knew pretty much everything this book had to tell. However, I did learn a few new things and got a couple of ideas. So it was not a waste of my time.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Books read in 2011: No 18 - A Confederacy of Dunces

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES ( Penguin Red Classics )by John Kennedy Toole

Started: May 3
Finished: May 10

Amazon link: A Confederacy of Dunces

Notes: I've almost read this modern classic of Southern literature several times, and I'm finally getting to it. This is a Pulitzer winner, which truthfully doesn't hold much water for me because most prize-winning novels I've read haven't been worth it, but I've heard so much great stuff about this novel that I knew I'd want to read it. There is a tragic back story, however, in that the author killed himself in 1969, apparently because he had not been able to get this novel published. Why is it so many great writers kill themselves? Hemingway, Breece D'J Pancake, Sylvia Plath ... the list could go on.

Mini review: Worthy of a Pultizer? Not in my opinion. But I have read much worse. Over all, mildly amusing and kind of sad with one or two laugh-out-loud moments. A fair read, but I would only suggest it for those who have an interest in reading modern works that lean toward the literary.