Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Definition of Success

Let's start with the literal.  According to Merriam-Webster "success" is:

  • the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
  • the correct or desired result of an attempt
  • someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds
I often wonder about success when it comes to my writing.  At what point am I supposed to consider myself a successful writer?  According definition option number one I still have a ways to go having none of those three listed things.

But according to definition option number two I may stand a chance.  "The correct or desired result of an attempt" kind of gives me a lot of leeway, doesn't it?  

I suppose I would have to be able to define what it was that I set out to do.  In this way, my teaching the violin is much easier to define.  I wanted to be a successful teacher.  A full studio of students that are able to play said instrument makes my personal validation easy.  But writing...?

To be honest, I'm not sure what I set out to do.  I suppose I started out because I wanted to make some money off of the stories rattling around in my head and hard drive.  Boy was I kidding myself.  If someone had told me from the start how much money it took to be SELF-published I'm not sure I ever would have started.

But I did.  And I'm hooked so too late now!

So to answer my original question: I suppose I am a successful writer by my own small standard (emphasis on small).  I set out to make money and I am.  Not very much but it's better than the $0 I was making before I started out.

I have to keep reminding myself of these small successes because, frankly, a writer's career path is a slog.  There are no promotions and certainly no bonus seasons.  You start paying a few bills with your royalty money and then read an interview by JK Rowling who has literally made billions.  How can I say that I'm successful compared to her?

But I can be successful without billions (though billions would be nice).  I'm accomplishing the goals I'm setting out to do and anything anyone else does is beside the point.    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review of "Tuning In," short story by Jayne Fordham



Summary:
Canan Jones turns twenty-five and wants nothing more than to bury his painful past and enjoy his birthday celebrations. But when Canan receives an intimidating phone call from a man who knows his secret demanding he work for an underground government agency in Sydney, Canan fears his skill will be exploited. Canan has the ability to tune into the emotions of other people and his skill increases in strength daily.

Initially refusing to accept the job offer, Canan realises it may be the only chance he has to obtain answers to his past. To what lengths will Canan go to to piece together the fragments of his traumatic childhood?

Tuning In can be read as a standalone short story or as a precursor to Intuition (Book One of the Elite Series).

Review:
This story introduced an interesting concept but failed to deliver.  It reads like a prologue to a larger work more than a standalone story.  There's a cast of characters introduced, a problem presented and then... the end.

It's a shame because what I did get to read about this character was intriguing.  There's a hint of supernatural powers that make for a fun adventure.  But even short stories must present the reader with a complete concept.

2.5/5 stars
Reviewed by Alain Gomez

Buy this story on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Would Give Myself 4/5 Stars

One thing that amuses me is how incensed artists (writers included) get over their art.  Trust me, I do it too.  I'm no saint.  Art is a highly personal thing.  The term "brain child" very aptly summarizes the situation.  So it's only natural that we become defensive when our creativity is questioned.

The thing is, our creativity is never the thing in question.  And that's something that took me a long time to really process.  The sheer fact that I'm even trying to create something makes me creative.  So when I receive a critique of my work the feedback is not about my viewpoint.  It's about how well I conveyed that viewpoint.

To put it another way, say I were a sculptor trying to make an elephant out of clay and it turns out looking like a blob.  I show it to someone and that person says it looks nothing like an elephant.  The issue is not about my mental vision.  It's my job as the sculptor to acquire the necessary skills with the medium to convey what I want to convey.

Easier said that done.

It's so important that writers learn how to be self-critical.  If you were reading your own story, what would you rate it?  Looking back at some of my older work, I would give myself a 3/5 stars.  Amusing stories but underdeveloped.  This October will be my fourth year writing and I'm just now getting to a point where I feel like I could be scraping the edge of 4/5 stars.

Will I ever reach a personal rating of 5/5 stars?  To be honest, I really don't know.  It also doesn't matter.  What's important was that I have come to terms with the fact that this is a journey, not a destination.  There's always room for more improvement.


Monday, June 30, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

A special thanks to Keith Darrell for inviting me to participate in this blog tour! Be sure to check out his blog at: http://www.keithbdarrell.com/

On to the questions!

What am I working on?

Currently I'm working on wrapping up a young adult science fiction series.  Books 1-4 are out.  Number 5 is in the works!

The series is called the Uxel Herum Saga and it's a coming of age story that takes place in a science fiction universe I created called Muzik Chronicles.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I would say the main thing that makes the series stand out is the path to power my main character takes.  I'm a music teacher and a martial arts nerd.  I combined those two things and created "The Tuning System."  People who practice it learn to control their own natural vibrations and use it as a way of affecting their surroundings.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I love it.

Pretty simple.  But it's true.  The scifi that I write appeals to an extremely niche market of readers.  So it's certainly not for the purpose of making money.  Scifi sparks my imagination in a way that very few other genres do.  It makes me think outside the box.

How does my writing process work?

It's sadly boring.  My only real "rule" is that I have to write a minimum of 800 words every day.  How or when that gets accomplished seems to fluctuate depending on how much other crap I have going on that day.

I used to outline my story before I started writing but I found that everything went a lot smoother once I threw that out the window.  I jot down a few general concepts and then just go for it.  Too rigid of a structure makes it difficult for characters to do their thing. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Website Addiction Problems

It's not what you think.  I'm not addicted to websites.  I'm addicted to designing them.

I go through strange phases where I won't touch a website at all.  Years could go by.  And then I'll find a new website design program or a blog host will offer a new set of templates and then... Pandora's box.  It's simply no longer enough to have one website looking nice for one business.  Suddenly life would be drastically improved if they all were looking nice.

There's probably some sort of psychological analysis you could do here about latent control issues.  Especially considering that time and effort may be put into a site that gets zero traffic anyway... yikes.

But since I like to put a positive spin on things I will say that this has made me fairly internet savvy.  A good trait to have if one happens to be pursuing a career as an independently published author.  It's not a bad addiction to have.  I probably should just not stay up until 3am feeding it....

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Concept Behind "Glory: The Uxel Herum Saga" by Alain Gomez



So I'm going to try something new with these "concept" blog posts.  If you find out about the story through this post, mention it in an email and the first five people will receive a complementary copy from an e-store of their choice.

Anyway... the adventure continues with Uxel!  Uxel continues to realize her true character in being captured by the Imperium and forced to design a set of special tuned ships.  The task is way beyond her but her but in doing so she learns what she truly values.

Originally I planned on this story arc spanning five books and it still will be.  But I've really be liking how Uxel's character is developing.  So I'm thinking of continuing her "saga" by later making another five book story arc that takes place several years after this one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fiction Arcade

My name is Alan Shelton, and I am a newly minted publisher of online short stories. I hang my hat at a website called Fiction Arcade (www.fictionarcade.com), and - thanks to the kind indulgence of Alain - I'd like to make a shameless-but-brief plug for it.

Fiction Arcade is YouTube crossed with iTunes, but for the short story. We provide a convenient platform where anyone can upload their work for free (a la YouTube), and we allow them to sell it for less than a dollar (a la iTunes). These two elements didn't mesh well in the days before omnipresent social media and online micropayments, but now they work like gangbusters for video and music sites. So why not short fiction?

Fiction Arcade is based on two premises: 1) that traditional publishers don't price short stories correctly and 2) that great stories get recognized and rewarded through a positive word-of-mouth feedback cycle.

Regarding the first premise, even other online publishers typically won't go below 99 cents. That's fine for a novel or even a novella, but for a six page story? A lot of readers might balk at that. But what if the price was, say, 20 cents? Admittedly, that's 80 cents less per sale for the author, but it's also potentially a lot more sales.

As to the second premise, consider YouTube. Sure, 99% of its offerings are junk, but there are a lot of gems to be mined from that remaining 1%. Besides, one person's junk is another's treasure. You may not think Skifcha the dubstep cat (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMnasxSxfl8) is all that entertaining, but I find it to be the pinnacle of human achievement. And people share what they like. A few downloads become a few dozen become a few hundred and so on.

But just like with any publisher, Fiction Arcade can only succeed if it attracts quality stories which in turn attract readers. So in order to entice authors to 'invest' their stories in Fiction Arcade, we're running a series of monthly competitions between May and December with a total cash prize pool of $9,000.

Each month from May to November, the most popular author in that month's genre will receive $250 as will the most popular author on the site overall. In December, the most popular author in each genre will receive $250, while the three most popular authors on the site overall (from May to December) will receive $1,750, $1,250 and $750, respectively.

Popularity in this case means story downloads and ratings. This turns readers into judges who vote with their pocketbooks. Thus, regardless of whether an author wins any prize money, all story downloads translate directly into royalties for the authors. Furthermore, stories remain available for download as long as the author wishes. The idea is to ensure that all good stories provide a return to their authors.

We've already awarded our first $500 in prize money for May to an up-and-coming sci-fi writer named Jacob Aldrich. The June contest is now underway, and there are still six months more after that. Come and help us grow Fiction Arcade so that Fiction Arcade can help grow the market for short story authors!

In addition to our main site (www.fictionarcade.com), you can connect with us through our Facebook writers' group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/fictionarcade/), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/fictionarcade) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/FictionArcade).